Some Bamberg residents say they feel duped by Union Gas after learning the gas line they paid for would be reinforced, allowing other residents to tap into it at no extra cost. Residents were initially told there was a limit of up to 30 households, but then the system was reinforced to provide capacity for new customers. Feeling misled, a delegation from Bamberg aired their frustrations at a Wellesley council meeting Monday night. There are two reasons why pipes are expanded into a system. One comes from customers directly asking for a gas line to come into the area, and the second is to reinforce systems that already exist to make sure the customers get the gas they need and don’t have a system failure. The latter was the case for Bamberg.
The area south of St. Clements was connected to the natural gas grid in the mid-90s, and has undergone five expansions since then over the past 17 years. In each case, the expansion was related to new construction, and paid for by individuals.
“It feels as if we were misled under false pretenses right from the beginning,” said Melanie Martin, a resident of Bamberg “We were told if we didn’t connect we weren’t going to get it, so we had to join or do without because there were no plans to reinforce it or add new lines. Now our neighbours who were given the same opportunity as we had to join the gas line are given the opportunity months later without the fees we paid.” The Bamberg installation was completed in 2010 and those who signed on at the time split the cost of construction. They were told this was a very sensitive system with limited capacity.
“We cautioned that the capacity constraining system would eventually require reinforcement, which at that time would provide additional gas supply and anyone along the route without gas would have access,” said Peter Brazolot, a representative for Union Gas. “All areas have internal growth which occurs at different rates. Gas availability in any area is affected by growth within the area: growth upstream of that area and downstream of the area looking for expansion.”
After the completion of the initial project, Union Gas was advised last fall by their engineering group that the pressure in the pipeline had fallen below design requirements and that the company would need to reinforce the system to ensure reliability of service.
New customers were unable to connect until the spring when Union Gas had the line completely energized. “The problem is I was told several times that is was our chance: if we don’t sign up now we are not going to get a chance to do that,” said Terry Janzen. “Within a few months of this we were told there was gas coming down from Wellesley and anyone can now sign up – that has been very frustrating and doesn’t seem fair to those that signed up.”
“The system was out of gas by the time the expansion had gone through and conversations occurred over years not just a couple of months. We started this back in 2009, and we knew that at some time we would be reinforcing this system and that people have paid for the line and others will join for free potentially. We did have discussions that reinforcement will come, we just didn’t know when – it all depends on how quickly a community grows,” said Brazolot. “We spent $180,000 connecting both ends up and it was money that we did not receive anything for: hopefully we were going to have some customers join on. It was an expense to secure the system to make sure everyone had gas.”
The residents feel there is a timing issue here: the short timeframe between being told there was a limit to the number of customers that could sign up and the reinforcement that gave others the opportunity to tap in for free.
Brazolot admitted this has never happened before, saying anyone looking at the situation may see it as unfair but Union Gas “had a reinforcement that was required to make sure that the customers they had on the system were going to get their gas and there were five expansions to get to this point and each of those groups paid a considerable amount of money.”
Mayor Ross Kelterborn told the delegation that the township was not getting involved, saying it was a dispute between Union Gas and its customers.