$8.5 million facility will house city hall offices, natural gas hub
By BILL MARDIS, Editor Emeritus Commonwealth Journal
An architect’s rendering of Somerset’s proposed energy center and city hall shows an impressive structure that will enhance the eastern part of downtown and bring to fruition a major step in the city’s plans to become an energy hub of Kentucky.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Community Facilities Program has approved an $8.5 million loan to build the center. Mayor Eddie Girdler said this week advertisements for bid proposals to construct the facility will be published next spring.
The energy center will be located at the corner of East Mt. Vernon and College streets across from the existing city hall. Front of the three-story structure will be fashioned with circular glass. It will face west, overlooking the downtown area.
The computerized hub will contain monitoring equipment for the city’s vast natural gas pipeline system as well as city hall offices. The existing city hall and the adjacent utilities building to the north will be torn down and the space used for parking.
The center will be energy self-sufficient. An adjacent natural gas powered generator will provide electrical power for the center and more. Excess electricity will be put in Kentucky Utilities’ grid in a trade-off deal with the city.
Girdler and members of Somerset City Council believe natural gas is the fuel of the future, and Somerset has a plentiful supply. In addition to a pipeline built during the 1970s to eastern Kentucky gas fields, Somerset has a gas pipeline to a Texas Eastern terminal in Casey County that crosses two interstate pipelines.
The city is in the process of replacing its 75-car fleet with vehicles that use natural gas. A compressed natural gas service station pump is being prepared for public use at the City of Somerset Fuel Center on Chappells Dairy Road.
The pump will be open 24/7 and accept credit cards. Girdler expects the facility to attract numerous natural gas vehicles to Somerset to this first-of-a-kind facility in Kentucky.
“Natural gas is being promoted as the energy of the future,” Girdler said. “Somerset’s natural gas business has grown to the point where we can make a major impact on Kentucky and the United States.”
The mayor predicted the city’s natural gas expansion will create as many as 2,000 jobs in the region. This was a factor in the USDA’s approval of $8.5 million for the project.
The loan will be repaid with natural gas revenues and no taxpayers’ money will be involved, Girdler said.
Also, the mayor emphatically said this week “ ... there will be no increase this winter in natural gas rates for consumers.”