By Michael G. Maness
CHESTER – Chester Mayor Robert Poynter had a rough day Monday, Dec. 5, before they convened the city council meeting that evening.
Poynter had been in communication with Civil Engineer Nicholas Hoelscher, of Goodwin Lasiter and Strong in Lufkin, who had been overseeing the bidding process for their long-awaited grant work, but things did not turn out as hoped.
As Poynter informed the council, all the bids came in well over their budget, which would have necessitated the city add several tens of thousands to the cost of work Hoelscher had worked up for the bids. Therefore, Hoelscher recommended not accepting any bid. Quite frustrated, Poynter outlined his concerns and instructed Hoelscher to make clear that they did not want any bid over their budget. Why that was not clear all along was quite perturbing. Poynter voiced the frustration of the entire council over having spent so much so far, and, if they had to cancel all at this late date, they would have pay the Feds even more. The message seemed to be clear, and Hoelscher said they would rework the specs for the work on Bell Street and Ballpark Loop.
In an even longer dialogue, Poytner had asked representatives from Magnum Gas in Shreveport to come and explain how the Chester Gas Company reserves worked. Ronny Young and Greg Dorris came and gave quite an education. Dorris, director of transportation and marketing, explained the ups and downs of a volatile market, where prices for gas fluctuate daily. Chester has the ability to maintain about 2,500 dekatherms in reserve, where one dekatherm is about 1,000 cubic feet. Chester customers use about 10,000 dekatherms a year. If Dorris can purchase a 1,000 for reserve at a low price, than Dorris can issue from that reserve during times when the price skyrockets, saving the city money.
Dorris spent almost an hour answering questions and addressing billing. At the close, the city felt it wise to agree with Dorris on maintaining a reserve. Young suggested the city adjust their billing and meter reading to coincide closer to the way the supplier bills, which was from the first of the month to the first of the next.
After Magnum Gas left, the council spent a good deal of time on reevaluating and double-checking their profit and loss versus their billing.