Utility Likely To Continue Exclusive Service To Berlin

BERLIN – Eastern Shore Gas will most likely retain its gas infrastructure franchise from the town of Berlin, after the first reading of the franchise renewal resolution at Monday night’s Berlin Town Council meeting.

The franchise agreement grants Eastern Shore Gas the exclusive right within Berlin’s town limits to provide propane gas through underground pipelines, as well as conversion or storage of natural, liquefied petroleum or artificial gas.

Other gas providers can sell propane gas to Berlin customers, but cannot use or install underground pipes in order to do so. Under the franchise agreement, that right is reserved to Eastern Shore Gas.

There is nothing new in the agreement, Berlin Administrative Director Linda Bambary said Monday night.

Eastern Shore Gas has been selling propane gas in the town of Berlin since the 1940s, General Manager Steve Ashcraft said.

Over the last six years, the gas company has spent $1.6 million in capital improvements, specifically to re-pipe the entire town. Steel gas mains have been replaced with strong plastic throughout the town of Berlin. The annual piping survey revealed no problems this year, according to Ashcraft.

“This June we found no leaks at all,” said Ashcraft.

With the new polyethylene pipes in place, the company will no longer need to inspect or survey their infrastructure every year and will change to a five-year rotation for pipe inspections.

While gas pipes do not yet extend through the entire town of Berlin, the franchise agreement requires Eastern Shore Gas to install gas piping whenever the town of Berlin does road or utility work that tears up a street without gas access already.

This forestalls the need to tear up the street just to install gas piping when new customers ask for service.

“We’re obligated to extend the main,” Ashcraft said.

The gas company is also obligated to install further piping when requested by a customer, at a rate of 250 feet per customer. If this is not feasible, the franchise agreement requires Eastern Shore Gas to install a tank at the customer’s property.

The agreement also requires the gas company to notify the public adjacent to piping installation or other work.

The council will vote on the franchise renewal on Aug. 25.