By Carey Restino
If inviting the governor of the state, along with the borough mayor, your elected state rep and dignitaries from the city to witness hooking up to natural gas seems a little excessive, that’s probably because you aren’t facing energy bills like South Peninsula Hospital does.
Hospital Chief Executive Officer Bob Letson said the hospital has been promoting the natural gas idea since it first resurfaced several years ago and with good reason. The hospital estimates it will save some $200,000 a year just by the flipping of a switch to natural gas.
“We definitely tried to promote the idea,” Letson said. “We knew it would have some big savings for the hospital and the community.”
A ceremony marking the switch to natural gas will be held Thursday at 2:30 p.m. at the hospital with dignitaries and community leaders attending. Letson said the latest word is the hospital will then hook up to natural gas for real with Gov. Sean Parnell turning on the service.
“It’s supposed to be the real deal,” Letson said. “It’s fortunate the governor will be in town that day.”
Parnell will be in Homer on Thursday to participate in the Governor’s Picnic, along with many of his staff. The picnic will be held from 4-7 p.m. at the Karen Hornaday Park.
Letson said the hospital’s total bill for fuel and utilities is approximately $1.2 million, a good chunk of the entity’s $48 million budget. It’s a number that has increased in recent years, he said.
“We are always looking for ways to contain it or reduce costs,” he said.
Converting the hospital to natural gas didn’t cost as much as one might expect, he said, because when the hospital expansion project got underway, those choosing the heating system had the foresight to install boilers that were fitted to accept natural gas at some point.
“Some people did some good planning ahead,” Letson said.
Letson said since the hospital is a nonprofit entity, any savings realized by converting to natural gas will be passed on to those who work at and use the hospital.
“If there are any extra funds, that goes right back into employee benefits and operations of the hospital,” he said. “It all goes back to the community.”
The natural gas pipeline, which is currently in its final stage of its first phase of a two-year construction schedule in the Homer area, brought ENSTAR gas from Anchor Point using a 22.3-mile trunk line. Property owners in the Homer area were charged around $3,283 to bring the gasline to town, a cost, which doesn’t include the cost of retrofitting your home with natural gas appliances or bringing the natural gas line to your home from the street line.
Even so, many in the community, especially business owners, said the cheaper energy costs would be a boon to their bottom line.
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