By Naomi Klouda
Job requirements: Top notch engineer possessing ability to oversee large-scale projects. Must be able to direct work for citywide coordination of several crews. Interact with local mayor, city manager, public works director and angry customers. Keep the peace, get the project done on time and on budget.
If a job description looked like this, would anyone respond?
The man who meets that description is Chet Frost, the project manager now in place for Enstar’s Homer office. He and his wife moved to Homer knowing his job here would last from two to three years. But, it’s part of a continuing journey for Frost, who has handled large projects all over the state.
“These are interesting projects and a unique thing,” Frost said. “The logistics to put it together are broad. We’re really excited to be here.”
Frost started at the age of 18 in Alaska. The Oregon native worked the summer of 1975 for Marine Transportation, making deliveries in coastal Alaska. After he earned his engineering degree, and a master’s in project management, he worked three years for the Alaska Village Electric Cooperative installing renewable energy projects like the giant wind turbines dotting the tundra villages. He has worked the past four years for Enstar, most recently overseeing construction of the Liquified Natural Gas storage facility.
In Homer, the office at 345 Sterling Highway, beside Pho and Thai Restaurant, is a hive of activity. Property owners are encouraged to sign up now for the service, so that Enstar can do its accounting to schedule them for hooking into natural gas. The project is moving at a quick pace, with crews currently cutting brush along the state’s right of ways on a segment of the Old Sterling Highway.
The office is staffed by Frost and assistants and serves as headquarters for the crew of workers clearing the path for the trunk line from Anchor Point to Homer. A contract has already been signed for the work at Kachemak City, with contractor Clark Management. That company starts with a survey for right of ways, then is scheduled to start on right of way clearing before birds nest, by May 15.
The Homer bid still hadn’t been awarded, but was expected to finish up this week, Frost said.
“The question we’re asked most is ‘when will we be hooked up to natural gas?’” Chet said. “We’re taking applications now. The advantage is it gives a person a chance to talk and see the equipment, to look at the maps and see when their place will get service.”
Equipment is kept at the offices to help customers visualize. The pipe going into the ground is an eight inch diameter High-Density Polyethylene, while the distribution lines to the homes are thick two-inch pipes of the same material.
They also display a natural-gas powered outdoor grill to show the possibilities for eliminating propane. The outdoor meter setup and piping is also on exhibit to help customers locate the areas of the homes most suitable for installation.
Frost plans on a highly coordinated endeavor when the contractors start their work. It will involve consulting daily or weekly with Public Works Director Carey Meyer and his staff. The public will be receiving updates. The city administration also has a link-in with Community Economic Development coordinator Katie Koester, who also communicates with the public. And anyone with questions is encouraged to visit the Enstar offices to get answers.
The project begins from an existing line in front of the high school in Anchor Point that starts at the Anchor Point regulating station on North Fork Road. From the tie in point on that line, it travels down the west side of the Old Sterling Highway to its intersection with the Sterling Highway and takes a cut up West Hill Road, across Fairview Avenue, and then drops down onto East End Road and continues out to Kachemak City.
The line is expected to be built through the summer with construction to be substantially complete by September, and they will be hooking up residences and businesses as soon as gas is available.
Communication will be key, Frost said.
“I’ve been really impressed with the Homer people we’ve been working with. They are friendly, out-going, intelligent, informal, have a good grasp of the issues and it’s fun to work with them,” Frost said, speaking of those in coordination with him. “We have to listen to everybody, and we have to address everyone’s concern as best we can.”
Even though a busy summer is ahead to finish as much as possible before the snow flies, Frost said overall he hears an excitement about the opportunity to lower fuel bills.
Buildings like the Islands and Ocean Visitor Center, operated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, will finally cut its fuel bills. As costly federal cuts are made, the choice between funding fuel or employees make for painful work, Director Steven Delehanty has said.
“The majority I’ve spoken with are excited to have alternatives,” Frost said.
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