City’s natural gas initiative spawns training program
By HEATHER TOMLINSON, CJ Staff Writer Commonwealth Journal
The city’s expanding alternative energy business has spurred a pilot program that will train young people for the ins-and-outs of natural gas technology.
“It (the training program) is something Somerset and Pulaski County can be proud of,” said Somerset Mayor Eddie Girdler during Monday’s Somerset City Council meeting.
Girdler said the Kentucky Department of Education recently approved a pilot program that will offer vocational training in natural gas technology to high school juniors and seniors.
The program is the culmination of two years of work on the part of Girdler, those with the Pulaski and Somerset school systems, the Pulaski County Area Technology Center, and Somerset Community College.
High school students will earn dual high school and college credits to go toward a natural gas technician program.
“We’ll start here, then expand state-wide,” said Girdler.
This newest announcement of a program that is still in its early stages comes as the city prepares to bid out a massive construction project on an energy center that will serve as a hub for the city’s services and a monitoring station of its natural gas pipeline.
The 36,200 square-foot structure will be located on what is now a city parking lot at the corner of East Mt. Vernon and College streets. Estimated cost of the energy complex is $8,496,000. Somerset has been approved for an $8.5 million loan through the United States Department of Agriculture’s Community Facilities Program to develop and construct the ground-breaking energy hub.
City hall offices will be located on all three of the above-ground floors. The city clerk’s office, city staff, Somerset Police Department offices, conference room and public use spaces, including a drive-through, will be on the first floor.
The center’s second floor will have the technology center and engineers’ offices as well as space for city police department detectives and planning and zoning department.
An emergency command center will be in a portion of the basement along with police department lockers, mechanical and electrical areas and storage space.
“They (those who earn the natural gas technician degrees) can take these certificates and/or diplomas in the U.S. and get great jobs,” Girdler said.
Girdler said he’s hopeful the program can get underway in the fall.
“It’s a great feather in the hat of Somerset and Pulaski County,” Girdler said.
Somerset joined the natural gas business during a shortage in the 1970s. The city borrowed $4.5 million from Farmers Home Administration and built a natural gas pipeline into eastern Kentucky. Transmission of natural gas from previously landlocked producers ended frequent shortages in Somerset and has proven a financial success.