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Longview officials to weigh feasibility of natural gas

By Richard Yeakley
June 24, 2013 at 11 p.m.

City of Longview staff members are considering switching to CNG trucks if council members agree to a comprehensive revamp of the city's sanitation collection system.

The proposal, which the City Council will consider during the city's budget process, calls for a fleet of eight new Heil Multipack vehicles, which provide rear-load and automated side-load trash pick up, to be leased or purchased.

City spokesman Shawn Hara said the city is considering purchasing vehicles capable of running on the less expensive, cleaner compressed natural gas.

"The short of it is the vehicle costs more up front, but then the potential savings in the long run is there," he said. "The thing that would have to be considered is would there be the fueling stations to make it feasible."

Dwayne Archer, Sanitation and Fleet Services manager, said at a Friday news conference announcing the plan, that a new Heil Multipack could cost about $276,000. Adding the ability to run on natural gas would increase the price by about $37,000, to about $313,000.

Matt Russell, director of marketing for Independence Fuel Systems which has built a compressed natural gas station on Eastman Road near Interstate 20 and has plans to build two more in the Longview area, said the company was pleased the city of Longview is considering the move to natural gas.

"We are excited about the city and local governments getting interested in this product," he said. "When we are done, we will provide service to all three corners of Gregg County, by a station in north, southeast and southwest Longview ... We will definitely cover all the needs for the city and the county."

Russell said Archer was scheduled to tour the Independence Fuel Systems station on Eastman Road today.

The value of converting to the alternative fuel are remarkable, he said.

"There are all sorts of advantages. The vehicles will last longer because you are burning a cleaner fuel," Russell said. "It is better for the environment and you are helping out the local economy, because the gas used comes from gas producers in East Texas."

Natural gas is also less expensive than gasoline or diesel fuel. Russell said the company's Eastman Road station currently provides fuel at about $1.74 per gallon equivalent, about half the price of regular unleaded gas.

"It's a smart decision as far as maintenance goes ... the only concern we have is infrastructure," Archer said.

Another question to be answered is whether the city would need to invest in its own CNG fueling station at the sanitation facility, a move that could ease use.

"Regardless of which direction we go, we will look at a slow-fill station at the facility, the stations would give us the backup if we need it," Archer said.

He added that a slow-fill station, that would allow vehicles to refuel overnight, would cost, on average, $140,000 to install.

The city of Longview does not currently operate vehicles capable of running on alternative fuel, Hara said.

Gregg County also is not yet operating fuels on compressed natural gas, although one vehicle can run on propane, said Gregg County Judge Bill Stoudt.

Stoudt said as the county approached the fiscal year 2013-2014 budget, it would look to retrofit several vehicles for the alternative fuel.

The public will have a chance to give input on the city sanitation proposal during three meetings and one online meeting before it is presented next month to the City Council.

Informational meetings about the proposed changes will be at City Hall at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, July 9 and July 25. The city also will conduct a question-and-answer session on its Facebook page.

The proposal will be considered as part of the city's budget process in July and August. If approved, the changes would take place sometime in 2014.



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