Gas expansion plans underway
The process has been slow but local leadership is hoping that a dream to bring natural gas service to the east side of Kemper County may not be that far away from becoming reality.
The Kemper County Natural Gas District was passed by the Legislature in 2014 and activated by the Kemper County board of supervisors in February 2019. An interim board of six members was named handle the business of the board until it was ready to start serving customers.
That board is made up of James Granger Sr., William “Bill” W. Clay, Michael J. Dudley, Robert “Bobby” E. McDade, Dwight D. Jackson and Mickey E. Stokes.
It is envisioned that a gas line beginning near the TVA electricity plant on Highway 16 east of DeKalb would connect with a Tennessee Gas pipeline that services the plant. It would run along Highway 16 to Scooba and then run to a county-owned site south of town that has drawn interest in the past as a possible site for an industry.
Meanwhile, existing potential customers would include East Mississippi Community College and possibly businesses and homes in town that are now using butane tanks for gas.
Having natural gas service in the area could also open the door to potential economic development said Craig Hitt, president of the Kemper County Economic Development Authority.
“Having natural gas on that side of the county is our goal,” said Hitt. “I was talking to a group about the old woodyard area south of Scooba and was able to say we have plenty of electricity with a substation right there. We have AT&T fiber running up and down Highway 45. The Porterville Water Association has water available to the area. Once we have gas, all of the other utilities are there. We have rails, four-lane highway, water and electricity. We think it is a game changer for us.”
The first priority will be doing an engineering study and getting the fixed cost on doing the work. Hitt said it is estimated that it will cost $3.5 million to do the project.
The gas district received $750,000 from the Legislature last year, money that shepherded to the gas district by state Sen. Sampson Jackson.
Hitt said the district is in the process of applying for a $250,000 grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission.
“We have been approved in the pre-application,” Hitt said. “We have to have some engineering work and some estimates to send in on the full application. But they have been very good to us. I feel confident.”
In the meantime, the district will have to get property easements.
“We have been verbal commitment from TVA that we can use their existing right away but we have to revisit the landowners,” Hitt said. “That process will be underway soon. Individuals with the gas board, along with the engineering group will be getting in touch with landowners. Most of it is timberland.
“We are asking for engineering work to begin so we could have a design. We hope to have it by end of the year, We could pursue additional grant money but we need the engineering piece to be a