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Sugar Hill mulls natural gas for fleet

SUGAR HILL -- As a member of the nonprofit Municipal Gas Authority of Georgia, Sugar Hill has been managing residents' natural gas cost for years.

At Monday night's monthly meeting, its city council decided to explore another way to save money with natural gas.

The council appropriated $5,000 to study the feasibility of powering city vehicles with natural gas, instead of gasoline. Specifically, the council voted to allow City Manager Bob Hail to enter into a contract with consultant Wise Gas Inc. of Westin, Fla., which will perform the study.

Hail said initially powering some, then potentially all of Sugar Hill's estimated 60 vehicles could save Gwinnett County's third largest city up to 40 percent in fuel cost, as well as reduce green house gas emissions nearly 30 percent.

"We need to look at alternative forms of fueling our fleet," Hail told the council. "They're on the road every day protecting, cleaning up, mowing, etc.

"What this will do," he added, "is tell us if it is feasible, a good investment to start converting to natural gas vehicles."

If Sugar Hill winds up converting vehicles, it's likely to start with meter readers' small ones and the like, then ultimately its larger utility vehicles. If profitable, Hail foresees at some point buying natural gas vehicles, and potentially building a filling station for city vehicles and even residents' cars. He said the city might some day share such a station with the county.

Hail said Wise Gas has performed similar studies for 10 members of the gas authority. He said consultants will visit Sugar Hill for three days for on-site investigation and interviews, as well as engineering and construction review to create the analysis.

Hail said that, as one of the authority's 71 members comprising an estimated 175,000 gas users, Sugar Hill will receive a 23 percent discount on the study's cost.