AOG questions Roland’s need for own gas utility

Since Roland has announced plans to develop a municipal gas utility system, a senior official for Arkansas Oklahoma Gas Corporation (AOG), which has provided service for more than 50 years, issued a response this week that “AOG remains “committed and will continue its services to the town.”

In a printed statement, Fred Kirkwood, senior vice president of customer services for AOG, said “For more than 50 years, AOG has provided safe and reliable natural gas service to the town of Roland. We remain committed to that work and to continuing service to its many businesses and community members.”

“At AOG, safety is our top priority. We've shown that through our long-time safety record in Roland and our other service areas. As a natural gas utility has been in service for more than seven decades, we understand firsthand the challenges, costs and tremendous expertise that goes into running a reliable and safe natural gas system. Based on that experience, we are troubled and concerned by town's proposal to duplicate services by installing a new natural gas system before full diligence is completed and crucial details are fully understood.

“Over many years of service with AOG, Roland natural gas customers have supported the development of the existing natural gas system. According to a recent article, it's our understanding that if the town builds its own system, taxpayer dollars for all Roland citizens—not just natural gas users—will be at stake. It's essential that these costs not be incurred without more information and thoughtful discussion within the community.

Kirkwood also added that “At a minimum, thoughtful consideration should be given to upfront and ongoing costs, the expertise required in safety, operations, regulation, gas procurement, and the potential risks and work that come with maintaining a safe and reliable system.

“As the town considers its options, we hope it will take advantage of the expertise we have built to ensure its decision is made with full information and transparency. As this conversation continues, we look forward to answering any questions our customers may have and hope to be a resource for the town.

“We have—and will continue to be—a proud member of the Roland community and look forward to continuing to serve the area for many years to come.”

Roland Town Administrator Monty Lenington said he was aware of the statements made by AOG and issued his own comments.

“We are in receipt of the Press Release submitted by AOG, via Fred Kirkwood, Senior Vice President of Customer Development, whereby AOG states its concern about safety and due diligence by the Town.  In response, the Town wants to assure the public that an engineering company has been engaged by the Town to study and design the system for the Town,” Lenington said.

“The company has designed gas systems for area gas companies and the Town has done due diligence on rates, design and safety.  Therefore, AOG’s concerns are misplaced.  The Town has engaged industry experts to address all of the issues being raised by AOG.  Although AOG has serviced the area for a long period of time, the infrastructure that exists in the Town consists of outdated lines and equipment.  “In addition, the rates being charged by AOG are among the highest in the State of Oklahoma.  AOG had allowed their franchise agreement with the Town of Roland expire, and so the Town of Roland has the opportunity to develop a new gas system with the new lines and meters that will be placed at buildings in accordance with new industry standards.”

Lenington said the engineer for the project will be in attendance at the Roland City Council meeting on March 13 to provide an update on the project.

Sequoyah County Times

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