BERLIN – Town officials have approved a franchise agreement with Sandpiper Energy.
At last month’s meeting the Berlin Town Council voted 3-1, with Councilman Zack Tyndall opposed, to approve an agreement with Sandpiper Energy.
“It’s a renewal with some minor modifications of the franchise that we’ve had that goes back to the days when it was called Eastern Shore Gas,” Mayor Gee Williams said.
Following a public hearing in which no one commented, Tyndall questioned the proposed agreement.
“What is the reason we’d provide an exclusive agreement?” he said. “I’m just trying to gain clarity.”
Williams said that while in years past agreements such as the one the town had with Sandpiper Energy had simply been “renewed, renewed, renewed,” they were now being reviewed carefully before each renewal.
He explained, however, that the proposed agreement was an update of the one the town previously had with the natural gas company and was nothing unusual.
“In reality, if this franchise was to cease then the new franchise operator providing natural gas service to the town would either have to buy all the pipes and infrastructure that allows this to happen or it would have to be removed and replaced,” he said.
Williams added that he wasn’t aware of any issues with Sandpiper Energy.
“In this town we have received very few complaints or problems regarding natural gas service,” he said.
In an interview after the council’s approval of the agreement, Town Administrator Laura Allen said the town had simply renegotiated the agreement it had had with Sandpiper for years. The updated agreement clarified certain issues and included an administrative fee to be provided by the company.
“It’s not going to have any radical impacts but it’s a better agreement in terms of the work they do in town and making sure it’s constructed to town standards,” she said, adding that it was similar to the contracts Sandpiper Energy had with other municipalities.