- Associated Press - Sunday, November 20, 2016

NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - North Little Rock leaders are deciding whether to overhaul, scrap or sell off its glitch-prone compressed natural gas station just five years after the facility was celebrated by dozens of city officials, business owners and alternative fuel proponents who attended the facility’s debut.

“It’s not doing as well as we’d want,” Mayor Joe Smith told city aldermen last week. “After the first of the year, there’s a really good chance we’ll have to make some big decisions to spend the money to update it, or mothball it.”

The station near Interstate 30 opened in 2011 and was the only public, city-owned station in Arkansas. The city of Little Rock followed suit in 2014.

The CNG station cost more than $725,000 to build. Leaders used more than $258,000 in taxpayer money to pay its share of building the facility. Remaining money came from state and energy company grants.

City leaders are now faced with unloading the problematic station to another company or investing about $250,000 to overhaul it, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported (https://bit.ly/2g8nrqY ). The city has been talking to at least one company about buying the facility.

“It’s been in constant repair for almost four years now,” City Chief of Staff Danny Bradley said. “We’ve had the manufacturer in multiple times to repair it. Three years ago, a dispenser went out, and we replaced all of the dispenser system.

“We need some direction from the City Council on whether they want to make an investment in the station or sell it,” he said. “I don’t see the City Council just voting to abandon it, but it’s an option they can consider.”

Compressed natural gas had been popular as a less expensive fuel alternative, but as the price of gas and diesel fuel have recently dropped, the price gap has significantly narrowed.

“With petroleum prices having gone down, there’s not as much financial benefit to run CNG,” Bradley said.

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Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, https://www.arkansasonline.com

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