Will gas bills be higher?
Potentially, yes. The stated purpose of the takeover attempt is to generate
additional revenue for the city. Officials have publicly claimed that
they can operate the system more efficiently, but they have no factual
basis for that claim (at present, they don't even know what the purchase
price of the system will be, much less the actual operational expenses).
Then there is the question of gas supply: What provision has the city
of Collinsville made for this winter's natural gas requirements? Natural
gas prices continue to escalate. ONG has already secured its customers'
requirements through a combination of fixed-price and market-index based
contracts, in addition to volumes available in storage. Will Collinsville
be forced to buy at market prices during the peak consumption months?
Then there is the
issue of price regulation. Oklahoma Natural Gas Company's charges for
the delivery service it provides are regulated by the Oklahoma Corporation
Commission. If the system were taken over by the city of Collinsville
, the municipal government would be free to set pricesand increase
themas it pleased.
And what about the
level of service? Will the city of Collinsville be willing to bear the
expense of new or replacement customer service lines, as ONG does? Will
there be payment options, such as an average payment plan or a preferred
due date? What about 24-hour emergency service?
Will the system
No one questions the dedication of Collinsville 's city employees. But
the proper operation, monitoring and maintenance of a natural gas distribution
system with 40 miles of pipeline serving 1,872 accounts requires a much
greater commitment of resources that simply assigning the work to two
employees who already have other responsibilities. Oklahoma Natural
Gas Company has hundreds of employees in the region to handle service
calls, maintenance and inspection. That is their fulltime job, and they
are highly trained and experienced. If service were ever disrupted for
any reason, these employees could be quickly mobilized to ensure the
safety of residents and the resumption of gas service with the least
possible inconvenience to customers.
Do other cities
operate gas systems?
Yes, some do. Typically, they are systems that were built by small communities
themselves; none were formerly a part of Oklahoma Natural Gas Company.
In fact, in the interest of public safety, ONG has been requested by
the Oklahoma Corporation Commission to take over some poorly-maintained
systems operated by municipal governments.
afford the purchase?
Like many other communities, Collinsville is experiencing budget shortfalls
and is implementing cutbacks. Officials cite the advice of financial
advisors who insist that the ONG system could be purchased without
imposing an additional tax burden on citizens. But residents are being
asked to sign a blank check because neither city officials or the financial
advisors yet know how much the ONG system will cost. Collinsville
could be required to take on millions of dollars in new debt. To expect
a small gas system to be profitable enough to service that amount of
debt and provide the additional revenues the city is seeking is unrealistic.
(Proponents of the takeover have circulated campaign literature that
falsely states that ONG purchased the franchise from another operator
because of its profitability. In fact, ONG assumed responsibility for
the Collinsville system from another utility also owned by Tulsa-based
ONEOK, Inc. for operational reasons; there was no purchase.)
If the citizens of Collinsville reject the gas system takeover plan
when you cast your votes on August 9, it will not mean any disruption
of your present service. It will simply mean that the city and Oklahoma
Natural Gas Company can resume negotiations for a new franchise. Collinsville
can be assured of continued reliable natural gas servicea vital
requirement for future growth and economic development.