The topic of propane heated up the discussion at a public hearing before the Tisbury selectmen on Tuesday May 15.
John Rymes of Rymes Propane and Oil, a New Hampshire based company, wanted permission to store propane on property owned by Goodale Construction, off High Point Lane, and after a long discussion, he got it.
As he laid a blueprint of the plans before the selectmen, Mr. Rymes said he’d like to have “a pretty simple setup to start with” – steel containers, one delivery truck, and one crane truck on the property. The steel containers would hold up to 16,500 gallons of propane.
Mr. Rymes said his company plans to use the High Point Lane facility for up to two years. “By then, we will really need a much larger facility,” he said. “I’m shocked as to how much need there is for a larger facility.”
Mr. Rymes said that the family-owned business he and his brothers run became interested in selling propane on the Island because of high prices. “We’ve done a lot of market research out here and found that propane prices are probably higher than we’ve ever seen in the entire country, definitely the highest I’ve ever seen,” he said.
He told selectmen that when he discussed the prices with his brothers, “they thought that I had made a mistake, that prices couldn’t be that high.”
Mr. Rymes said his family owns the company. “I’m not just a manager at some branch,” he said. According to Mr. Rymes, approximately 100 residents have already told him, “Call me as soon as you get on the Island. I want to be your first customer.”
Bill Straw, Tisbury’s Cape Light Compact and Cape and Vineyard Electric Cooperative representative, began the public comment period. “I’m certainly in favor of this; I would like to see the competition,” he said. “My concern is the facility’s protection for a terrorist attack, in the event something catastrophic does happen.
“What is the protection against my walking on there and putting a device on the site to blow it up?”
Mr. Rymes said that although his company’s current plans do not include security cameras or guards at the facility, the plans do meet state safety regulations. After two other comments on the same issue, Mr. Rymes said, “I would be willing to put up security cameras.”
Representatives of two potential competitors, Vineyard Propane manager Cliff Karako and John Rancourt, Island Propane Inc. senior vice president and general manager, also attended. Mr. Rancourt criticized the proposed location, because of its proximity to overhead power lines.
Mr. Rymes said he’d thought of that and that tanks would not be allowed by code to be located under the wires. His proposal is also currently under review by the Martha’s Vineyard Commission.
In a phone interview with The Times yesterday, Mr. Karako, who attended the hearing, said. “Anybody that wants to do a start-up says they can come in and act as a miracle worker,” he said; then added, “Competition is always good.”
On January 12, Vineyard Propane’s parent company merged with AmeriGas, combining the two Island suppliers.
AmeriGas Partners of Valley Forge is the largest propane distributor in the country and provides gas to 1.3 million customers through 1,200 propane distribution facilities in the United States.
Prior to the merger, Vineyard Propane was the larger supplier on the Vineyard. As a result of the merger, AmeriGas now serves approximately 87 percent of the Island’s propane customers, according to Mr. Karako.
In a phone interview with the Times yesterday, Mr. Rymes said of the limited suppliers on the Island: “no competition,” and, “The margins they are charging are outrageous.”
Mr. Rymes said he would be able to charge “substantially lower rates than what are currently offered,” because he “operates a leaner business with less overhead costs.”
This week, an Island customer with a company-owned or leased tank consuming 1,000 to 1,500 gallons of propane is paying $3.70 per gallon at Vineyard Propane, $3.60 per gallon at Island Propane, and $3.90 at AmeriGas, according to information obtained by phone calls to the three.
At the conclusion of the public hearing, Mr. Israel and selectmen Jeff Kristal and Jon Snyder approved Mr. Rymes’s application for a fuel storage license, with the condition that he install security cameras at the facility.
In other business, the selectmen approved a request from Vineyard Warrior Triathlon organizer Matthew Brackman to hold the road race event on September 9, pending approval from the fire and police chiefs. They also approved the amount of $111,819.51 as the town’s excess levy capacity for fiscal year 2012, as recommended by the Board of Assessors.
At the recommendation of police Chief Dan Hanavan, who was absent from the meeting, the selectmen approved the appointment of traffic officer Alexander Mark and traffic officer/crossing guard Robert Lehman until June 30, 2013. The selectmen postponed approving Chief Hanavan’s request to appoint Jeremie Rogers and Ryan Natichione as permanent police officers until their next meeting, so that he could be present.