Utility Company To Survey Fenwick Resident On Natural Gas

FENWICK ISLAND – Town officials voted last week to authorize Chesapeake Utilities to send out a survey regarding the expansion of a natural gas line.

Last Friday, the Fenwick Island Town Council voted 6-1, with Councilwoman Janice Bortner opposed, to allow Chesapeake Utilities to send out a survey gauging the communities interest in a natural gas line expansion into town.

“They are currently bringing a main line to Route 54 and Route 1 to support Ocean City and they are exploring branching off of that and serving our community,” said Councilman Richard Benn, chair of the town’s infrastructure committee. “All this is is we are going to allow them to send out a survey that lets them use the town seal. They have found out in the past when they have done this survey, having the town seal on there, along with their company logo, gets more people to respond to it.”

In June, Chesapeake Utilities representatives came before the town’s infrastructure committee to discuss the company’s plans to bring an eight-inch pipe down Route 54 and into Ocean City. As part of that project, officials said they were seeking the town’s interest in expanding the line into Fenwick.

Officials noted the Delaware Public Service Commission requires Chesapeake Utilities to conduct a survey of the town’s residents. To that end, representatives told committee members they were seeking permission to send out a survey letter, which would give the company access to the town’s mailing list and letterhead.

“We would get a lot better idea of what’s what as far as the possibilities of extending the main,” Chesapeake Utilities’ Steve Ashcraft said at the time.

Benn told councilmembers last week the survey was just that, a survey.

“This is not about approving them,” he said. “We’d have to talk about franchise licenses, connection fees, all types of other things, before this moves forward. This would just allow them to send the survey using the town seal to get a better response.”

Councilwoman Natalie Magdeburger questioned if town staff would be able to review the survey.

“Would you be in a position to review the survey before they place our seal on it, just to make sure the language would comport with what you think is appropriate?” she asked.

Benn said he believed it could be reviewed by either the town solicitor or town manager.

“I’m sure we can request that,” he replied.

During public comments, resident Amy Kyle said she opposed the use of the town seal on the survey letter. She argued it could be misconstrued as a sign of endorsement.

“Given that it’s not really consistent with our sustainability plan, I think there’s a higher level of consideration that needs to be given,” she added. “Is there any reason to start installing new natural gas infrastructure when what we desperately need to do is electrify and stop burning stuff?”

Benn, however, argued in favor of sending out the survey.

“This is a survey, it will give people a chance to pipe in and make those comments …,” he said.

After further discussion, the council voted 6-1, with Bortner opposed, to authorize Chesapeake Utilities to send out a survey letter, with clarification that the town was not endorsing the proposed expansion.

“I’m uncomfortable with it,” Bortner explained. “Something about it doesn’t sit right with me.”

About The Author: Bethany Hooper

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Bethany Hooper has been with The Dispatch since 2016. She currently covers various general stories. Hooper graduated from Stephen Decatur High School in 2012 and the University of Maryland in 2016, where she completed double majors in journalism and economics.