By BRIAN BOHNERT
Columbia Gas of Ohio hosted a public meeting Tuesday evening highlighting the company’s current pipeline-replacement project taking place in Fostoria.
Those who have noticed a slew of neon vests and orange cones along a stretch of North Countyline Street over the last couple of weeks were invited to attend the open forum at 5:45 p.m. Tuesday in the Municipal Building as representatives of Columbia Gas outlined the extensive project, which is scheduled for an early-August completion date.
The company began work April 16, closing the easterly northbound lane of Countyline Street between North and Elm streets in order to replace cast iron pipes with new, specially-designed plastic lines for enhanced durability underground.
Michael Schwieterman, construction services manager for Columbia Gas, said the new pipelines will have a longer shelf life and a better ability to flex with changing soil conditions. Their only weaknesses, he said, are direct sunlight and digging equipment that could cause damage.
With that in mind, he said he urges anyone wishing to dig into their property after the new lines are installed to first call Columbia Gas so any damage to plastic pipes can be avoided.
Much of the work along side streets has been done through directional boring, a trenchless method of installing underground pipes; but, crews working on Countyline Street itself have had to resort to “open cutting,” he said.
Schwieterman, who attends these presentations every time Columbia Gas announces a project, fielded many questions from concerned residents Tuesday night, with most pertaining to the placement of residential gas meters.
“The two questions I get most at these presentations are ‘Where is my meter going to go?’ and ‘How much is this going to cost me?'” he said.
Fostorians with gas meters in their basements will soon be visited by representatives of Columbia Gas and Mid-Ohio Pipeline to move the equipment to the outside of the home. All work will be done by a scheduled appointment with a brief consultation showing various locations on the property where the meter can be moved, he said.
“Anyone who comes knocking will have (a name tag),” Schwieterman said. “If they don’t, turn them away.”
The project, which came at a cost of $1.6 million, is part of a 25-year, $2 billion investment across the state to systematically upgrade all Columbia Gas pipelines. Schwieterman said the company has replaced roughly 160 miles of pipe per year since 2009, with all steel pipes set to be removed from Ohio streets within the next 15 years.
Once the project is complete, Schwieterman said Columbia Gas will begin paying property tax to the city on the pipelines, which will most likely go toward the local school system. As far as how much residents have to pay toward the work, he said everyone in Ohio has already been paying $5 a month since 2009 towards the statewide initiative so all residents of the state can share in the cost equally.
During the public meeting, Mayor Eric Keckler said he has received very little in the way of complaints regarding property damage and impeding of traffic flow along Countyline Street and the surrounding areas.
Schwieterman said any and all disruption of residential property and sidewalks during construction will be replaced by Columbia Gas at no cost to the resident. Residential hookups to the new pipeline system are set to commence in roughly three weeks, he said.
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