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 Post subject: Schuylkill County, Reading Anthracite now working together
PostPosted: Wed Jul 01, 2009 5:37 pm 
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Schuylkill County, Reading Anthracite now working together

BY BEN WOLFGANG
POTTSVILLE REPUBLICAN & HERALD
July 1, 2009

A lot can change in a year.

Last summer, Schuylkill County and Reading Anthracite were on opposing sides of a lengthy public debate centered on heating sources in the county courthouse and prison.

As of Wednesday morning, those past differences appear extinguished, with Reading Anthracite submitting the low bid for coal at both buildings - $130.95 per ton.

"Business is business," county Commissioner Frank J. Staudenmeier, a Republican, said Wednesday afternoon. "I don't think there were necessarily hard feelings between us. There were some concerns, obviously but, it is what it is."

Reading Anthracite's proposal was one of two bids opened at Wednesday morning's county commissioners meeting. The other bidder, current coal provider Roy Manbeck, Frackville, offered a price of $148 per ton.

With the low bid, Reading Anthracite is expected to get the contract, Commissioner Francis V. McAndrew, a Democrat, said Wednesday.

The pending agreement seemed unlikely a year ago.

Last summer, county officials flirted with the idea of using natural gas heat in county buildings, rather than coal.

The idea, while touted as cost effective, was harshly criticized by Reading Anthracite President Brian Rich and several other coal proponents.

In the end, county officials decided on a $2.6 million energy deal with PPL. The deal includes flex boilers which can burn either coal or natural gas.

The deal is estimated to save Schuylkill County $1 million over 15 years, officials have said.

McAndrew said Wednesday that last summer's debate could be attributed to a series of misunderstandings.

The plan, county officials have said, was never viewed as a way to boot coal out of the county courthouse or prison. Instead, the energy proposal was focused solely on saving money.

After multiple proposals last year, officials decided PPL's flex boiler system would be the most effective cost-saving plan for Schuylkill County.

The natural gas side of the equation is also moving forward.

At Wednesday's meeting, county engineer Lisa Mahall asked the commissioners to approve a $151,400 agreement with UGI Central Penn Gas Inc., Reading. The contract, with an advance construction cost of $35,540, would allow UGI to begin installing a natural gas line extension to the courthouse and prison.

UGI took over operations of former PPL natural gas lines in October 2008, following a $268 million deal between the two, according to PPL spokesman George Lewis.

Initially, county officials said PPL planned to install the gas lines at no cost to the county, with the amount of gas Schuylkill County would buy justifying PPL's construction expenses.

UGI said "no dice" to such a deal after taking over the gas lines, Mahall told The Republican-Herald on Wednesday.

Joe Swope, UGI spokesman, said Wednesday that Schuylkill County will pay only the $35,540 for construction costs. The remainder of the contract, he said, will include natural gas pumped to the courthouse and prison.

Mahall said if the county doesn't use as much gas as it pays for this year, the leftover money will be credited to next year's bill.

She also said the original energy plan had been refigured to account for additional natural gas line costs.

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