HOBART — Snow covered the ground Tuesday in Hobart, but the city was still looking green.
Hobart showed its commitment to using environmentally friendly methods to operate the city as it unveiled new compressed natural gas, or CNG, fueling pumps that have been installed just outside of the municipality’s new CNG-compliant maintenance garage.
The more than $2 million investment in the project will lead to cleaner air and several other benefits, officials said.
The proposal to convert to CNG vehicles came from the city's Public Works staff about six years ago, and Hobart purchased its first CNG truck in 2013. It now has three CNG vehicles.
Compared to diesel vehicles, CNG-fueled trucks emit 25 percent fewer greenhouse gases and produce less noise.
Mayor Brian Snedecor explained a recent situation in which Hobart’s diesel trucks had trouble operating during frigid temperatures, but the CNG vehicles ran without problems in the cold.
Hobart previously had to travel to Gary or Hammond to fuel its CNG fleet. Public Works Director John Dubach said that took more than hour each day.
With the establishment of Hobart’s new filling station, the Public Works Department can operate more efficiently.
The station includes 13 pumps, and it can be expanded if needed.
Ryan Lisek, South Shore Clean Cities project manager, said Hobart was one of the first to participate in the organization’s Green Fleet program, and Hobart is setting a strong example of how communities can help the environment through their operations.
“I like to be the poster child for these type of initiatives,” Snedecor said.
The fueling station cost about $600,000, and a Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality grant from the Federal Highway Administration funded 80 percent of the cost. South Shore Clean Cities assisted with the acquisition of the grant.
The former maintenance garage was about 50 years old, had rotting walls and was a fraction of the size of the current facility.
The municipality was unable to maintain its CNG vehicles in the previous garage, but the new CNG-compliant building can accommodate them.
The $1.45 million facility includes many safety features, including a sensor that will automatically open garage doors and recycle the air in the garage if it detects natural gas in the air.
While celebrating the completion of the filling station and new garage, Hobart officials said they aren’t taking a break from pursuing additional green efforts.
Johnny VanVleet, head mechanic of the Public Works Department, said there are plans to retrofit two of the city’s existing diesel trucks with CNG engines. Hobart also looks to acquire more CNG vehicles in coming years.
The city also hopes to see more municipalities, utilities and businesses pursue similar projects to help the environment.
If entities plan to convert to CNG trucks, Snedecor said he would be willing to negotiate agreements so they can fuel at Hobart’s facility.