Scott Leedom, Manager of Public Affairs for Southwest Gas Corporation, provided an update to the Mesquite City Council on the company’s progress towards bringing natural gas service into the city at the council meeting on Tuesday, April 25. The company anticipates regulatory approval of its application with the service being available “sooner rather than later.” Photo by Barbara Ellestad.

If you’re one of those Mesquite homeowners who much prefer cooking dinner with natural gas-based appliances rather than electric stoves, don’t run out and get all new appliances just yet.

At the Tuesday, April 25, Mesquite City Council meeting, representatives from Southwest Gas provided a progress update on bringing natural gas pipelines to the city promising the service will be available sooner rather than later but mostly for businesses and future home construction.

Explaining that line extension funding policies have worked against bringing natural gas service into Mesquite for years, Scott Leedom from Southwest Gas said the passage of Nevada Senate Bill 151 in 2015 changed all that. Previously, all costs of line extensions had to be funded up front making the multi-million dollar investment nearly impossible. SB 151 allows alternative cost recovery methods that can extend the pipeline costs over a number of years.

James Stein, also with Southwest Gas, said the company is exploring two extension routes from the Kern River pipeline that runs about 14 miles northwest of the city. The most favored route comes through Lincoln County on the north side while the other route follows the I-15 corridor from the south. New natural gas pipelines will be looped around Pioneer and Mesquite Boulevards and into Sun City Mesquite and the Mesquite Technology and Commerce Center.

Stein cautioned that the new service will probably not be extended into existing residential areas because of extremely high retrofitting costs. He said it’s more likely the natural gas service will be made available to future new residential home construction and commercial businesses.

While the timeline presented to the council looks like it could be years before the service is available, Amy Timperley with Southwest Gas said much of the work will be done concurrently thereby reducing the time it will take to build the service’s infrastructure.

The company will file its request to provide natural gas service into Mesquite with the Public Utilities Commission Nevada (PUCN) within 30 to 60 days. PUCN has 210 days to act on the application. “Once we get PUCN approval, we think the actual construction will be pretty quick,” Timperley said. “We are going to do everything we can to get this moving as quickly as possible.”

Stein said that while the application review is underway, the company is exploring the possibility of creating a virtual pipeline that will allow Southwest Gas to begin providing service while the permanent pipeline is under construction. The virtual pipeline would use compressed natural gas tanks in the interim. He said that while the idea is expensive, it can be done.

Rachel Dahl, president and CEO of Mesquite Regional Business, presented the organization’s required report to the council at Tuesday’s meeting.

She said MRB is currently working with nine active client projects that are in various stages of development and progress. “We hosted three site visits from companies last month and anticipate one of those closing a deal and locating here by the end of summer – they will employ 10 people. We will host a company from Maryland in late June on a site visit that is looking to build a west-coast distribution facility of 200,000 square feet and employ 100 people.”

Dahl said the REV group that’s building a 76,000-square foot recreational vehicle service and support center on West Pioneer Boulevard will break ground on Aug. 1. The company plans to employ 65 people.

She said MRB is undergoing an IRS audit of its 2014-15 fiscal year with internal audits of other fiscal years planned afterwards. “While not a convenient thing to have happen, the process of the [IRS] audit has provided us the opportunity to review extensively our financial and administrative records and processes,” Dahl said.

The council approved new procedures and guidelines for public comment during all city-sponsored meetings. “This new policy will provide substantive guidelines for the public,” Councilman Dave Ballweg said. Ballweg sponsored the agenda item. “We are not trying to limit the public’s right to free speech.”

The new policy allows for public comment on each individual agenda item as its being presented and not just at the beginning and end of meetings. It disallows commenters from making disparaging remarks about other people except for public officials.

A public hearing to change city ordinances and allow convenience stores and gas stations to sell liquor was set for May 9. Currently those retail outlets are limited to selling beer and wine only.

Councilman Brian Wursten said he was uncomfortable with the change. “I feel like we’re trying to take care of just one business at this point. I’m not real warm and fuzzy about this at this point. I certainly hope we get plenty of comment from other businesses this will affect and that they let us know how they feel about this. I think there are other options,” he said.

He was referring to the convenience store being built as part of the 333 Eagles Landing travel center at the I-15 Exit 118 interchange that wants to include liquor sales as part of their outlet.