An emergency command center will be in a portion of the basement along with police department lockers, mechanical and electrical areas and storage space.
The top floor is labeled as future space. The mayor said this area will be left mainly vacant for future research and development work with the private sector.
The center will be energy self-sufficient with an adjacent natural-gas powered generating station that will provide more than enough electricity to operate the facility. Excess electricity produced by the generator will be put in Kentucky Utilities’ electrical grid in a trade-off deal with the city, Girdler said.
Monday’s workshop at The Center for Rural Development was informational and the council took no official action. Ten of the 12-member council were present, and although the meeting was open to the public, only one interested observer attended.
“If all goes well with city council, the project will be advertised for bids in about 90 days and a contract award should be let by mid to late summer,” Girdler said.
Somerset has a bountiful supply of natural gas. A pipeline extending westward to a Texas Eastern Transmission Corporation terminal in Casey County also has a connection with Tennessee Gas Transmission Corporation. The mayor said plans are to reconnect with Columbia Gulf Transmission, giving the city access to three national gas transmission distribution systems.
Somerset made a major step into 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.
Recent discussions have been held with East Kentucky Power Cooperative, wholesale electric supplier to South Kentucky RECC and 15 other electric cooperatives in Kentucky, about switching Unit 1 at John Sherman Cooper Power Station at Burnside from coal to natural gas. Somerset would supply the natural gas to Unit 1 which would consume more than all of Somerset Gas Service’s current customers.
Federal environmental regulations reportedly will force Unit 1 to reduce emissions in the near future. A scrubber and related air-cleaning equipment has recently been added to Unit 2 at Cooper Station.
“We’re like an interstate pipeline,” said Girdler, alluding to the city’s expanding natural gas business. “We run high-pressure pipelines ... we have no choice but to change our operations to protect the public.”