Local customers of Atmos Energy will be receiving upgrades to their service as part of a continuing project to replace bare steel and other aging infrastructure in the local community.

Kay Coomes, the company's manager of public affairs, said 116 customers on Walnut Street, Central Avenue, East 18th Street, Oak Street and Falls Lane will be affected by improvements that will include the replacement of about 8,000 feet of pipe on those streets.

Coomes said the work should begin soon and will continue through next September.

She noted that the efforts are part of a pipeline replacement program that was approved by the Kentucky Public Service Commission in 2009 for its service territory in Kentucky.

The commission is the governing body for Atmos Energy, which is a public, natural gas utility serving 37 counties in Kentucky, including Christian County. Coomes said an estimated 12,000 customers are served in Crofton, Hopkinsville and in Nortonville in Hopkins County.

She noted that the utility wants to let its customers know about the upgrades and will give plenty of notice when it goes into a neighborhood. Coomes said Atmos is appreciative of the community having patience and understanding as the company works through the process.

Workers will be completing upgrades on service lines that run from the street to each customer's house, replacing bare steel throughout its system and any aging services lines.

Coomes said the upgrades are a result of Atmos' mission to be the safest natural gas provider.

"It's making our system, the community system of natural gas, safer and more reliable," she noted of the upcoming work. "We want to be the safest provider of natural gas."

Coomes said the upgrades will be done at no cost to the customer; she noted that rates get adjusted each year, and a small increase in rates beginning this month will allow for the replacement of the pipe. Coomes said the increase will add 90 cents to the total bill.

She said her company will work one-on-one with its customers, letting them know when work will begin at their homes. Coomes said there should be no outages other than on the day the work is completed. If the customer is home, the gas will be turned back on then.

If no one is home, a tag will be left on the door of the home, and service will be resumed when the customer calls. Coomes said Atmos won't do any work customers don't know about.

She also noted that the utility doesn't anticipate any road closures because of the upgrades to the service lines and will work closely with local officials if there are closures.

Robert Flick, Hopkinsville's operation's supervisor, said Atmos Energy is committed to the safety and reliability of its system.

"It is our No. 1 priority," he said. "We are continuing to replace pipe in different parts of Hopkinsville, and we will begin (this work) in the following weeks."

Reach Tonya S. Grace at 270-887-3240 or tgrace@kentuckynewera.com.

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