City to test alternative fuel source
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Mar 12, 2014  |  Vote 0    0

City to test alternative fuel source

Stratford Gazette

Jeff Heuchert

The following decisions were made by the Finance and Labour Relations committee on March 3 and still require final adoption by council.

Three city owned pick-up trucks will be converted to run on compressed natural gas in an effort to reduce operating costs while also cutting down on the amount of harmful emissions being released into the air.

The vehicles – one each from the fire department, public works and community services, will run on dual fuel, meaning they can switch between regular gasoline and natural gas. The vehicles will be evaluated under different operating conditions to determine their longterm viability.

“This is a test more than anything,” said Fire Chief Rick Young, who noted the payback on the vehicles varies from three to six years, depending on their use.

The conversions will be done by Hi-Tech Auto Care of London at a cost of $6,000 per vehicle, and will be paid for out of each department’s vehicle reserve account.

Last week council members approved the work on the vehicles pending the completion of a compressed natural gas filling station in Stratford, which is expected to be up and running at Core Fuels Ltd. on Lorne Avenue East in about a month.

Young said the city will pay approximately 50 cents per cubic metre of compressed natural gas, compared to $1.20 per litre of gasoline.

New Rotary lighting

The city is moving towards LED lighting at Rotary Complex arenas in response to rising energy costs.

The existing electrical systems at the two rinks are comprised of 21 1,000-watt metal halide fixtures. They do a good job lighting the ice surfaces, but with energy prices expected to jump as much as 20 per cent over the next five years, staff have been investigating cost-effective ways to minimize the amount of energy required on a regular basis at the sports complex.

Forty-two LED lighting fixtures will be purchased from Delviro Energy of Toronto at a cost of $47,458. Installation will cost an additional $15,000. The total project cost will be funded through the community services facilities reserve, and will be paid back in installments over the next three years.

“I’m glad to hear this. I think it’s a great move,” commented Coun. George Brown at last week’s council meeting.

According to a staff report, the new system will be superior to the existing lights not only in terms of energy consumption but will also require less maintenance. The LEDs are also expected to improve service delivery during power fluctuations as well, since the lights come back on immediately after an outage. With the current lights there is about a 15 minute delay.

No tax break

Councillors are taking a hard line stance with a resident who was asking the city to waive penalty and interest charges amounting to $83.56 after he missed a property tax payment due to the city’s holiday hours.

According to background information, Malcolm Angus arrived to pay his taxes on Dec. 31 around 1:30 p.m., but City Hall had closed at noon. He returned on Jan. 2 to make his payment in person.

The city charges penalty and interest on the first day of each month, so Angus’s January bill arrived with the extra $83.56.

The resident argued the city did not advise him that the office would not be opened until 4:30 p.m. as usual. He also noted that had he put his payment in the mail or mail slot at City Hall on Dec. 31, the money would still not have been deposited until Jan. 2.

While providing the tax relief received the support of the Finance and Labour subcommittee, the idea quickly fizzled when it was considered by all members of council last week. Only Coun. Kerry McManus and Mayor Dan Mathieson supported the original motion.

McManus said she felt the circumstances were exceptional in this case, and felt an exemption was a “reasonable accommodation.”

In arguing against it, Coun. Bonnie Henderson said there are other alternatives for people including paying their taxes online, and noted she was concerned about setting a “dangerous precedent” that could lead to similar requests down the road.

City corporate services director, Andre Morin, said tax exemptions of this nature do not come up often, but noted unless there is a good reason that it should be considered, “we never write off the interest.”

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