Natural Gas on its Way

By Kirk Winter

The politicians turned out in force in Fenelon Falls for a very important provincial infrastructure announcement.

Monte McNaughton, the provincial Minister of Infrastructure, was flanked by City of Kawartha Lakes Mayor Andy Letham, Deputy Mayor Doug Elmslie and Ontario's Minister of Labour Laurie Scott.

The Infrastructure Ministry promised to commit $12.3 million to assist natural gas service being brought north to Cameron, Cambray and Fenelon Falls. Approximately 2,000 homes will hopefully be hooked up by late summer cutting heating bills for an average home by 50 percent, and some businesses by 66 percent.

Local MPP Scott spoke glowingly that this was an example of making rural Ontario more competitive, creating jobs and putting money back in the pockets of local taxpayers.

Mayor Letham thanked the Province, and hoped that this extension of availability was just the beginning of an extensive network of gas lines throughout the City. Letham emphasized that good things happen when various levels of government work together.

Fenelon residents contacted by The Kawartha Promoter were excited by the announcement, but wary of the cost of converting from electric or wood to natural gas. One individual, who requested anonymity, said he had been quoted over $20,000 by a local HVAC company to retrofit his ductless home into one that could support a natural gas forced air system. He continued by sharing that apparently those with a propane furnace will find the conversion relatively painless, but for all others the cost could be substantial. He hoped there would be funding from the province available for those who want to convert to natural gas.

We also contacted a number of local HVAC providers who insisted in speaking off the record, and while they all agreed that extending natural gas to Fenelon Falls was a worthwhile program, they cautioned local residents regarding their ability to keep up with the demand for new furnace installations.

One larger firm, located in Lindsay, said they are already booking into fall 2019 for HVAC installations, citing a lack of trained installers as their biggest issue.

Apprentices have been lured by much higher wages in Durham Region, and many have left the City after achieving their gasfitters certification. Another firm, which is evenly split between HVAC and plumbing, is encouraging all of its plumbers to get their gas ticket in anticipation of a business boom over the next 2 to 4 years.

One local propane hauler contacted me earlier this week very upset that his own tax dollars were being used to undercut his livelihood. This propane provider was concerned the new availability of natural gas could cost his company upwards of 33 percent of his current business.

Only time will tell how far natural gas goes, but Mayor Letham did mention at the last Council meeting that he hoped Bobcaygeon was next for access to natural gas after the Cameron/Cambray/Fenelon project was completed.

Local NewsDeb Crossen