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April 25--WILKES-BARRE -- Expecting a fight with City Hall, Robert Smalls found an ally when City Council on Thursday held off on a vote to approve a proposed natural gas main running next to his house on North Washington Street.
The resolution on an easement for the installation of a 12-inch main by UGI Penn Natural Gas Inc. was removed from the agenda of council's regularly scheduled meeting so assistant city attorney William Vinsko could change language regarding how close the line would be to Smalls' house.
"I just want to make sure this is tightened for our protection and Mr. Smalls'," Vinsko said. The changes should be ready for the next scheduled meeting on May 15.
As written, the resolution states the utility will pay $10,500 for the easement to install the pipeline on city property and prohibit construction of buildings or permanent structures within 10 feet of the main. But the proposed route places the main under Oakley Lane with seven feet of Smalls' house, reducing the buffer zone for him.
Smalls pointed out that last year UGI agreed to pay $1 million to settle a case with the state Public Utility Commission regarding an improperly repaired main near the Sheetz gas station along state Route 309 in Wilkes-Barre Township that could have led to a disaster.
Before the meeting, Smalls said, he had called the PUC about approval for the project. "They weren't able to find out where the approval came from," he said. Smalls asked that the resolution be tabled or voted down by council.
But Edward Dunlap, manager area engineering for UGI Utilities Inc., explained the PUC was notified of the project and took no exception to it. "They have a copy of the plans on it," he said.
The route for the new main was selected to have the least impact on the levee that runs through the Brookside neighborhood, Dunlap said.
The existing main that runs under North Washington Street has "reached the end of its economic life," Dunlap said. It will be purged of natural gas and capped, making it dormant. Most of the 14,000-foot proposed main runs on city property. Oakley Lane is a public right of way and not part of the easement.
Still Dunlap and Bob Lamson, with the survey and right-of-way sections with UGI PNG, agreed to the delay and to meet with council to walk the members through the proposed project. They said they hoped to begin construction by late spring or early summer.
In other business, council authorized city officials to enter a three-year contract with Excalibur Insurance Management Services Inc. to act as a consultant for the city's self-insured workers' compensation program. The annual fee will not exceed $10,000 and expenses would be capped at $600 a year.
Council also authorized city officials to enter a three-year contract with Excalibur for workers' compensation claims adjusting services. The fee will be $21,600 for basic services. In addition, the company will charge $23,400 annually for services dealing with claims that are more than 2 years old from the date of accident or occurrence.
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