South Charlotte

Tensions rise over gas line

Monroe has purchased or is condemning rights of way for a 43-mile natural gas pipeline that will cut through its sister town of Fairview.

But some Fairview property owners aren't happy.

They don't like the way Monroe has handled negotiations. Some think the price is too low. Others believe the pipeline is unsafe, or that Monroe officials are not dealing in good faith.

“Nobody's been listening to us,” said Paul Scoggins, who has had a piece of his land along U.S. 601 condemned. “They just think we're dumb country boys. They can think what they want, but right is right and wrong is wrong. I'm hot about this.”

Monroe officials say the pipeline will save money. They also say, because of federal standards, the pipeline is one of the safest ways to transport energy. And they say they hired an independent firm to appraise land to make fair offers. Don Mitchell, director of Monroe's Energy Services Department, said the city has spent a little more than $2.39 million. Some condemnations still must be settled.

Monroe City Manager Craig Meadows says, “One of the big misunderstandings I've heard is there is a difference between what (a jurisdiction) offers for rights-of-way use, versus purchase property. We're not looking to buy, we're looking for the right to go across the property. People ask for the sales price. We're not purchasing the property. It still belongs to the owner.”

The $24 million pipeline will allow Monroe to tap into a major interstate gas line in Mooresville that runs from Texas to New York. Monroe's line would travel from Mooresville through Cabarrus County and generally follow U.S. 601 south into Monroe. Cabarrus and Iredell counties are independently negotiating rights of way with landowners in those counties.

The route brings the pipeline through the middle of Fairview.

“The city feels strongly that this pipeline will benefit natural gas customers in Monroe and the surrounding area,” Meadows said. “…It secures a supply of natural gas. We're looking at the ability to control the destiny of our gas system and provide a higher level of services for our citizens.”

Monroe is in the third year of a five-year contract with Piedmont Natural Gas. The pipeline could be complete by the time that contract is finished. Mitchell said the city hopes to examine bids next month and start work early next year. Monroe pays $210,000 monthly to Piedmont gas. Mitchell said the new line will cost $200,000 per month.

“That doesn't seem like a lot of savings, but that's not all of it,” he said.

With the new line, Monroe could almost triple the amount of natural gas available in the county. Fairview will be one of the new towns to gain access to natural gas.

“That was spelled out during the negotiations; we tried to hide nothing,” said Fairview Mayor Richard Williams. “That's one of the advantages. That's hard to understand when you don't want it to begin with. But as time goes on, if some want to tie on, they can do that. But I certainly respect the right of those who do not want it.”

Scoggins said he bought about an acre of land from a neighbor a while back. He said he paid $8,200, and the land had a tax-assessed value of $50,000. Scoggins said he was offered a little over $4,000 for an easement on frontage property along U.S. 601. When he refused, his land was condemned.

“I don't object to the line, I object to the way they're doing it,” Scoggins said. “I've got a fence along that road that would cost more to paint than what they're offering.”

Monroe has purchased or is condemning rights of way for a 43-mile natural gas pipeline that will cut through its sister town of Fairview.

But some Fairview property owners aren't happy.

They don't like the way Monroe has handled negotiations. Some think the price is too low. Others believe the pipeline is unsafe, or that Monroe officials are not dealing in good faith.

“Nobody's been listening to us,” said Paul Scoggins, who has had a piece of his land along U.S. 601 condemned. “They just think we're dumb country boys. They can think what they want, but right is right and wrong is wrong. I'm hot about this.”

Monroe officials say the pipeline will save money. They also say, because of federal standards, the pipeline is one of the safest ways to transport energy. And they say they hired an independent firm to appraise land to make fair offers. Don Mitchell, director of Monroe's Energy Services Department, said the city has spent a little more than $2.39 million. Some condemnations still must be settled.

Monroe City Manager Craig Meadows says, “One of the big misunderstandings I've heard is there is a difference between what (a jurisdiction) offers for rights-of-way use, versus purchase property. We're not looking to buy, we're looking for the right to go across the property. People ask for the sales price. We're not purchasing the property. It still belongs to the owner.”

The $24 million pipeline will allow Monroe to tap into a major interstate gas line in Mooresville that runs from Texas to New York. Monroe's line would travel from Mooresville through Cabarrus County and generally follow U.S. 601 south into Monroe. Cabarrus and Iredell counties are independently negotiating rights of way with landowners in those counties.

The route brings the pipeline through the middle of Fairview.

“The city feels strongly that this pipeline will benefit natural gas customers in Monroe and the surrounding area,” Meadows said. “…It secures a supply of natural gas. We're looking at the ability to control the destiny of our gas system and provide a higher level of services for our citizens.”

Monroe is in the third year of a five-year contract with Piedmont Natural Gas. The pipeline could be complete by the time that contract is finished. Mitchell said the city hopes to examine bids next month and start work early next year. Monroe pays $210,000 monthly to Piedmont gas. Mitchell said the new line will cost $200,000 per month.

“That doesn't seem like a lot of savings, but that's not all of it,” he said.

With the new line, Monroe could almost triple the amount of natural gas available in the county. Fairview will be one of the new towns to gain access to natural gas.

“That was spelled out during the negotiations; we tried to hide nothing,” said Fairview Mayor Richard Williams. “That's one of the advantages. That's hard to understand when you don't want it to begin with. But as time goes on, if some want to tie on, they can do that. But I certainly respect the right of those who do not want it.”

Scoggins said he bought about an acre of land from a neighbor a while back. He said he paid $8,200, and the land had a tax-assessed value of $50,000. Scoggins said he was offered a little over $4,000 for an easement on frontage property along U.S. 601. When he refused, his land was condemned.

“I don't object to the line, I object to the way they're doing it,” Scoggins said. “I've got a fence along that road that would cost more to paint than what they're offering.”

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