It’s a tale of two cities — one with a happy ending.
Somerset Mayor Eddie Girdler and Ferguson Mayor Allen Dobbs both told the Commonwealth Journal this week that their respective municipalities had struck a deal to help provide cheaper utility bills for the smaller hamlet.
Girdler said that contingent upon approval by both town’s city councils, Somerset will now be responsible for the entire scope of Ferguson utilities — water, gas, and sewer.
“We do their water now,” said Girdler. “In essence, the City of Somerset will assume total responsibility and control over their utility systems... Right now, we wholesale to them and they pass on the additional costs. This way, they will be able to drastically reduce the cost of natural gas.”
Somerset will pay Ferguson a set amount each month — approximately $60,000 — that serves as payment for leasing or purchasing Ferguson’s existing system. The figure reflects the revenue that Ferguson is making from its utilities currently.
However, the new plan will mean a 25 cent per dollar reduction in gas rates — that effectively means a quarter off of the overall bill — which means more money in the pocketbooks of Ferguson citizens.
“Anytime you can give residents a reduction in their utility costs, it’s a good thing; anytime you can help them save money, that’s a good thing,” said Dobbs. “We’re pretty excited about it.”
The benefit to Somerset is a streamlined system that will help them conduct business better through greater efficiency.
“Right now, we already do billing. We help with a lot if not all of their utilities,” said Girdler. “This will make a uniformity of services being provided. It’s less costly for Somerset.
“It will be a great cost savings to every customer in Ferguson, and it will make it easier for us to operate,” he added. “It’s going to really benefit Somerset because that spreads the cost around to more customers and reduces the cost to everyone.”
Girdler said that he and Dobbs started working on the plan about four or five months ago.
“We get together and discuss the needs of the cities,” he said. “Both of us came to the realization that we would be better served (through this plan).”
Added Dobbs, “We have a good working relationship (with Somerset).”
Dobbs noted that he researched the idea a few years ago, “but the way the Somerset transmission lines run, any other city would have to cross their lines and would be charged a rate to do that. It would be hard for anyone else to come in here and undersell Somerset on natural gas costs.
“Things have worked out ... for the betterment of the citizens of the City of Ferguson,” he added.
Girdler said the cities hope to have the plan in place by the beginning of September, and will be working to get everything done in preparation for that this month.
“We’re trying to put this in place before it gets into fall or winter,” he said, “because most people will get the greatest cost savings from the reduction of their natural gas rates (during colder months).”