2005-05-20 / News

Island Park Commission Considers Installment of Propane Tank

British Landing Site Under Consideration By Ryan Schlehuber

British Landing Site Under ConsiderationBy Ryan Schlehuber

  • In an attempt to supply Mackinac Island with propane by safer means, Steve Autore of Autore Oil Company of Cedarville has asked Mackinac Island State Park Commission if he could use or lease a parcel of land near British Landing to store a 30,000 gallon propane storage tank. The Park Commission, though not favorable to it at first, is contemplating the idea.
  • Speaking at the Park Commission meeting in Lansing Wednesday, March 23, Mr. Autore explained that a large holding tank on the Island that will provide propane for the entire Island will minimize the number of trips from the mainland needed to bring over a tanker truck and will reduce wear and tear on the dock and roads, which were not designed for heavy equipment.

    Mr. Autore said a centralized tank and a custom-made propane delivery vehicle equipped with a tank and hose that can reach propane systems from the street would eliminate using smaller propane cylinders.

    The Park Commission’s legal advisor, James Riley of the Michigan Attorney General’s office, said he is not sure the Park Commission has the authority to lease land to a private company. Mr. Porter said with the exception of public utilities, the Park Commission does not lease land to private companies unless it is a franchise that provides a public service. Mr. Riley asked that he have more time to research the issue.

    The Park Commission does lease land to SBC Ameritech and Edison Sault Electric.

    Mr. Autore suggested that the best place for his facility would be near the park’s gravel storage area across from its state dock at British Landing. He proposes an above-ground tank on a piece of land measuring 250 feet square. Mr. Autore said the tank would be 40 feet long and 10 feet in diameter and would hold up to 30,000 gallons of propane. The tank and its piping could be camouflaged by trees, he said.

    Businesses and homes on Mackinac, according to Mr. Autore, use 35,000 gallons of propane a year, excluding Mission Point Resort, which provides for its own propane. The resort has two 30,000 gallon propane storage tanks on site. Propane is delivered to the resort at its own Beaver Dock.

    Under state regulations, said Mr. Autore, the tank can only be filled up to 85 percent capacity, so it may need to be refilled three times throughout the year.

    Mr. Autore said he is also assembling a custom-made refill tank that will be horse-drawn and equipped with a long hose that eliminates the system of hooking and unhooking separate cylinders to refill business and residential propane tanks.

    Autore Oil Company took over as the Island’s supplier of propane last year, replacing AmeriGas.

    Ninety percent of propane delivered on the Island goes to businesses downtown to heat fudge kettles and cook stoves, although some Park facilities, like the Governor’s Residence, use propane, as well.

    Propane is much less expensive for cooking than electricity, said Mr. Autore, and cooks like the temperature control propane offers.

    Most, if not all, of the Island’s propane is now delivered to Arnold Transit’s main dock downtown, which could be disastrous in the event of an explosion, said City Engineer Dennis Dombroski, who attended the meeting.

    “To paraphrase comments from our fire chief, Dennis Bradley,” he testified, “if you take a map of the Island and mark on that map with a pencil the worst possible place to store propane on the Island, you couldn’t pick a worse place than the Arnold dock. You’ve got dozens of propane tanks being handled there on a daily basis, you’ve got thousands of people coming on and off the boats, and the proximity of the dock downtown makes it a major, major problem.”

    Mr. Dombroski said Mr. Autore’s plan has the blessing of both Mr. Bradley and Island Mayor Margaret Doud.

    Mackinac State Historic Parks Executive Director Phil Porter said it could be a revenue maker for the Park Commission, something the Park Commission could use since it must generate $1.49 million by October 1 to make up for a budget cut proposed by Governor Jennifer Granholm to shore up a $770 million state budge shortfall.

    Commissioner Bob Traxler said the Park Commission must be extremely cautious with the road and the British Landing scenic surroundings, especially since tourists regularly ride bicycles around the Island state highway 185.

    “It’s becoming a tourist roadway,” he said. “It seems, if we are to consider this at all, that the burden is on the provider (Autore) to assure us with engineering drawings and surveys that it will not diminish the scenic features and safety of the roads.”

    Commission Chairman Dennis Cawthorne said the commission will study the issue, but he has reservations.

    “I’m not enthusiastic about locating this at British Landing for a number of reasons,” he said. “The gravel pit isn’t an attractive site as it is. I’m very sympathetic to the safety concern regarding propane, but it would be nice to find some alternatives.”

    He proposed storage at the city’s solid waste facility near Wawashkamo Golf Links.

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