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Mohegan Commons sees big savings with natural gas heat

By Claire Bessette

Publication: theday.com

Published May 31. 2012 12:00PM   Updated June 01. 2012 12:00AM

Norwich — Four months after hooking into an extended Norwich Public Utilities natural gas line, the Mohegan Commons affordable housing apartment complex has seen nearly half of the expected annual savings for heat and hot water, officials said Thursday.

Complex owner Vesta Corp. and NPU officials held a press conference Thursday to herald the fuel cost savings as compared to oil heat. The complex should see additional savings in lower maintenance of the new equipment and fuel efficiencies, said Joshua Greenblatt, Vesta vice president of property management.

The complex at 40 E. Baltic St. has 182 affordable housing apartments, some with subsidized rents and some set at market rates for affordable units.

NPU crews also visited all 182 apartments and installed energy-efficient lights and water-efficient faucet fixtures, Greenblatt said.

Greenblatt said the natural gas line became operational in December. Heating and hot water costs dropped from $100,000 during the first four months of 2011 under the old oil system to $52,000 in the first four months of 2012 with the new gas line. He said the savings should keep rents stable.

Vesta pays utilities costs for the complex, and they are second only to the mortgage payment in annual operating costs. Vesta’s energy efficiency coordinator last year recommended converting the heating system to natural gas.

The conversion project cost $675,000 and took about four months. Greenblatt said tenants only lost heat and hot water for about one day during the conversion project.

The request came as NPU is working on a $3 million natural gas line expansion project throughout the city, paid for through a referendum bond approved by voters in 2010. The entire cost of the bond is being paid by the new customers hooking into the line and not by any increase in rates or through city taxes, NPU officials said.

Bill Dewey, NPU construction foreman, said Thursday morning that the line to Mohegan Commons on East Baltic Street was extended from nearby Mohegan Park Road at a cost of $250,000.

NPU is asking the City Council for a second $8 million referendum bond in November to continue extending the natural gas line under the same terms. The cost of the bond is covered by the increased natural gas revenue to the municipally owned utility and not by either taxpayers or ratepayers, NPU spokesman Mike Hughes said.

The new customers pay the same rates as other customers, and a portion of their payment covers the bond payment, Hughes said.

c.bessette@theday.com


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