Ocean Pines Hoping To Restart Natural Gas Talks

BERLIN – Ocean Pines Association officials have reopened contract negotiations with Sandpiper Energy, the company expected to bring natural gas to the community.

Though contract negotiations between the two parties stalled this winter and Sandpiper has since moved on to other areas of the county as a result, members of the Ocean Pines Association Board of Directors voted to ask General Manager Bob Thompson to get them started again.

“I think Bob stepping in is the best chance we have,” said Tom Terry, a member of the board of directors.

Terry was one of several board members working to negotiate a contract with Sandpiper Energy. He believes the negotiation process will be smoother with Thompson, rather than a group of directors, representing the board.

“It’s tactical,” Terry said.

The association has been working with Sandpiper Energy, a subsidiary of Chesapeake Utilities, to convert the community from propane to natural gas. Though natural gas is now available in Berlin, officials in Ocean Pines haven’t been able to reach an agreement with Sandpiper Energy. Officials from the company did not return a call for comment this week.

“We’re getting to a point where it’s time to get it resolved,” Terry said.

Issues that have prevented the association from reaching an agreement with the company have involved right of ways, which the association maintains ownership of, as well as franchise fees. Terry said the process was complicated by the fact that Ocean Pines was a homeowners association and not a municipality.

“Not much progress has been made,” Terry said. “Bob has been brought back in to be the lead to see if things can get back on track.”
Thompson said the board hoped to see progress this summer.

“They’ve given me 60 days to see if I can get any movement,” Thompson said.

Terry says he’s optimistic that the parties can reach an agreement.

“I fully believe that will happen,” he said. “Ultimately we both want it. Sandpiper wants to come and we want them to come.”

Last week Ocean City Public Works Director Hal Adkins reported Sandpiper’s original plan was to start with conversions in Ocean Pines and once that was complete move to West Ocean City and then to Ocean City.

“Something fell apart with Ocean Pines. I think it is still under negotiation, so they just headed into West Ocean City and they’re done. They are anxious to start on the next location, which is Ocean City,” he said.

About The Author: Charlene Sharpe

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Charlene Sharpe has been with The Dispatch since 2014. A graduate of Stephen Decatur High School and the University of Richmond, she spent seven years with the Delmarva Media Group before joining the team at The Dispatch.