GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP — In search of relief from escalating propane prices to heat their homes, a group of residents is calling on the township and South Jersey Gas to bring natural gas service to the area.

Dick Price, 74, is a permanently disabled veteran on a fixed income. During the winter, he can expect the propane bill to heat his home on Odessa Avenue to cost about $600, he said.

Price said he isn’t the only one feeling the pinch of propane prices and the apprehension of the cost this coming winter. There are about 15 houses on his street, and his neighbors also want to become utility customers.

There has been discussion among neighbors who are deliberating moving out of the township because of a combination of the cost of propane and taxes, Price said.

“The cost of propane is way out of line, and we’re looking for some help. There’s also the lack of any type of communication from the township to the public. It’s hard to find out unless you have some sort of connection to someone,” he said.

Price spoke of the work South Jersey Gas is doing in other areas of the township. He said he is concerned the utility is going to sidestep residents on his street.

Deputy Mayor Tony Coppola said the biggest problem is that propane is much more expensive than having natural gas delivered to your house.

With propane service, the customer has to pay up-front and has to be able to swallow a one-time expensive hit, which makes it difficult for people to have a budget, Coppola said.

“I know there are other people in the Germania section in the west area of the township, (in addition to those in) the Pomona section, and these people don’t have natural gas. It would be a financial gain for residents, because ... propane is as much as twice the cost as natural gas,” Coppola said.

Daniel Lockwood, spokesman for South Jersey Gas, wrote in an email Thursday that Odessa Avenue residents have inquired about natural gas service, but the utility hasn’t seen anything official from the township regarding this to date.

South Jersey Gas is in the early investigative stages and doesn’t have a timetable for extending gas service to Odessa Avenue, Lockwood wrote.

The utility is extending the gas main on South Cologne Avenue to serve part of Herschel Street with natural gas, Lockwood said.

As part of a feasibility study, South Jersey Gas is canvassing the area to gauge interest from residents about receiving the service, he said. That activity is taking place in and around Drosera Avenue and along South Cologne Avenue near the Cologne Fire Hall, he said.

Most township homes without access to natural gas are on property that was once farmland. As Galloway began to grow, a large number of people also remained on well water and septic tanks, with no utilities except electricity, Coppola said.

Township Manager Arch Liston said it was almost impossible to determine how many homes are heated with propane, because some use electricity and they don’t have to notify the township if they switch over.

“Bringing natural gas to the rest of the township is a huge infrastructure improvement, and streets have to be dug up, but we’re advocating doing it. The cost wouldn’t be upon us. It would be on the gas company,” he said.

On Thursday, Price said it was just another day in the neighborhood as two propane trucks drove down the street to service homes. He has spearheaded a campaign to bring the utility to his area and has collected signatures on a petition from residents on Odessa Avenue to present to South Jersey Gas.

One of those signatures belongs to Mayor Don Purdy, who lives on Odessa Avenue.

Purdy said those on his street are in dire need to switch to natural gas because of the lower fuel price.

The cost to convert homes is a big expense for the utility, Purdy said.

“A lot of people on the western end converted from oil heat to propane, and the cost has continued to increase. In the winter, I could be spending between $800 to $900 a month, and I bet it would go down to about $250 or less if we converted to natural gas. I know if residents do petition to get natural gas, they will bring it out,” Purdy said.

Lockwood said South Jersey Gas also is canvassing in Port Republic, where the utility has been approached by and met with officials about extending natural gas service. Moving forward, there will be sales-team members in Port Republic pursuing potential customers, he said.

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