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Kanawha to explore propane and natural gas vehicles

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Kanawha County officials are exploring both compressed natural gas and liquid propane as alternate fuels for county vehicles.

And they're getting industry leaders to help foot the bill.

The Kanawha County Commission already bought one Chevrolet Tahoe that runs on compressed natural gas, and is considering buying other alternative-fuel vehicles when they buy new cars and trucks.

County commissioners Kent Carper, Hoppy Shores and Dave Hardy were ready to vote at a regular meeting Thursday on a $17,000 project to build a slow-fill compressed natural gas-filling port at the county courthouse. But T.J. Meadows, business manager for IGS Energy and CNG Services, offered to give the county a filling station for free. IGS is pushing for more natural gas-powered technology in the state.

At the same meeting, Bret Chandler offered the county part of a $500,000 federal grant to convert vehicles to liquid propane if the county will consider converting some cars and trucks to that alternate fuel. Chandler is managing director of the investment company Propane Fuel Technologies LLC, but also works with CleanFUEL USA, a national company pushing propane technology.

Carper said there's no reason for the county not to look at both forms of alternate fuel. Both natural gas and propane can be tapped and refined in West Virginia, and within the county's borders.

"Why shouldn't we burn our own gas?" Carper asked. "We're importing oil."

Hardy agreed.

"Look out, oil companies," he said. "If this catches on, watch the price of gasoline go down. It's competition, and I like it."

Commissioners will look at converting several cars and trucks to natural gas and several to propane to see what advantages each system offers.

Steve Sluss, legal counsel for the assessor's office, said the assessor's cars rarely leave the county, and would be good candidates for conversion. County officials are also considering converting a maintenance truck and a van that transports people to and from mental hygiene hearings.

Also Thursday, county officials announced a courthouse reorganization that consolidates several jobs that are being done by different departments. "We just moved a few people around," Carper said.

The moves include promoting Maintenance Director Steve Neddo to planning and maintenance director, with a salary adjustment from $45,900 a year to $60,000, and moving Planning Director Dave Armstrong to economic development specialist. Armstrong's salary will go from $57,650 a year to $50,000.

Armstrong has been planning director since 2008. "It's a positive move," he said.

Also Thursday, commissioners approved an emergency $6,500 ammunition purchase for the Kanawha County Sheriff's Department. The purchase includes 1,000 rounds of .38 Special ammunition, 2,000 rounds of .40 caliber ammunition, 10,000 rounds of .223 full metal jacket and 5,000 rounds of .223 soft point ammunition for the department's AR-15 rifles.

There is currently a run on ammunition brought about by talk of federal gun control legislation, and law enforcement officials are afraid they will soon have trouble finding ammunition if they don't buy it now.

Reach Rusty Marks at rustymarks@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1215.


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