Infrastructure grant application declined

By Michael-Allan Marion, Brantford Expositor

SCOTLAND - Brant County council and the head of a community group seeking to expand the natural gas line network out of the village of Scotland are disappointed that a provincial ministry has turned down an application for a grant that would make the project feasible.

But they say aren't giving up. Instead, they will work on another approach to get the line built.

Brant County council agreed last May to a request from Frank Borghoff, the leader of a group of property owners on the outskirts of the village, to have Mayor Ron Eddy pen a letter to Union Gas, expressing its support for a proposal to get the utility company to apply to a natural gas grant program run by the Ministry of Infrastructure for funds to help with the construction of a line to go out from the village.

It would go from Simcoe Street, along Bishopsgate, Fairfield, Maple Grove and Thirteenth Concession roads.

In all, the line would pass by 31 properties on its 4.5-kilometre route. It would service homes, small businesses and farms.

Eddy received an unfavourable response letter this month, which was put in council's December meeting package.

"Unfortunately, the project you support was not among those selected for funding," wrote Elizabeth Doherty, director of the intergovernmental policy branch, which includes the infrastructure ministry.

"The intake was highly competitive. Applications representing over $500 million in proposed funding were received for the $100-million program. As a result, a number of projects could not be funded."

The letter was a "great disappointment" for Borghoff.

"We're surrounded by gas distributors and we're stuck in a pocket that has no gas lines," he said.

"This government doesn't support rural interests. This is just another example of it."

Borghoff said he is looking at an option of getting all the relevant property owners together to pay upfront for the line, which is estimated to cost $200,000 and find other programs to recover the cost.

The response also chagrined Coun. David Miller, whose ward includes the Scotland area.

"We're extremely disappointed," he said in an interview.

"Natural gas is the cheapest form of energy. It would make small rural businesses more competitive because often heating expenses are a major component of a business's overall production costs.

"We have to keep our ear to the ground for the next opportunity. Hopefully we won't be disappointed again."

The Ontario Federation of Agriculture and affiliated federations in Brant, Haldimand and Norfolk counties have maintained a lobbying campaign for the province to expand the natural gas network into rural areas for the past three years.

They say they intend to make a concerted pitch during the next provincial election in June.


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