During fall 2013, West Point Joe Bartos was the first person in Town to hook his home up to natural gas - using Virginia Natural Gas.

Longtime West Point resident Joe Bartos is the first homeowner in Town to run his house on natural gas.

Virginia Natural Gas (VNG) first expanded its natural gas distribution system to serve West Point's RockTenn paper mill last year, which was "designed to support economic development and keep pace with the region's growth," said VNG spokesman Duane Bourne.

This summer, VNG started constructing a gas line from its station at 14th Street to the West Point Public Schools complex on Thompson Avenue. The school project was completed in August, and opened the door to residents along its path to consider switching to natural gas – natural gas is currently not available to all West Point residents, only those along the gas line's route.

The notion of equipping his 1970s-era home on Thompson Avenue with natural gas came to 72-year-old Bartos after watching VNG construct the gas line in front of his house.

"I saw them working on the gas line every day, so I went outside and asked them about it. They said they were putting a line to the schools," he said.

"I wanted Virginia Natural Gas because it's a little bit cheaper [than propane] and the line came right here by the house, anyway."

Interested in bringing natural gas to his home, Bartos called VNG and spoke with Residential Conversion Account Executive Lorraine Miller.

Soon after, Town residents received a VNG questionnaire about natural gas. For Bartos, it was a no-brainer.

VNG recently installed a gas meter next to Bartos' garage, and earlier this week, a team from Peninsula Heating and Air, in Hayes, hooked the gas line from the meter to the garage and into the furnace, which formerly used propane.

"Propane prices have gotten so high that I was only using it when I had to," Bartos explained. "Propane is up to around $3.30 per gallon."

"I knew that if the mill and the schools are using natural gas, it must be saving them money, and would be cheaper for me in the long run."

The natural gas line isn't the only change that Bartos made to the home's heating system. In 1996, 25 years after he acquired the home, Bartos removed the baseboard heating units and replaced them with the propane furnace.

Propane was $0.83 per gallon at the time, he said.

According to Bourne, Virginia Natural Gas customers spend on average about $836 annually to heat their homes with standard equipment. That compares to $2,761 for propane, $1,489 for electricity and $2,049 for heating oil.

Since he made the switch to natural gas, Bartos has noticed a constant stream of traffic stopping to ask him about having natural gas in his home.

"I've heard that a lot of people and businesses in West Point want it," said Bartos. "Some may even be in talks with VNG."

Although Bourne could not comment on which residents and businesses are interested in natural gas, he did confirm that "a number of residents in the West Point area have expressed interest in converting their homes and business to clean and affordable natural gas."

Like Bartos, Bourne also has reason to believe that Bartos won't be the only West Point resident with natural gas.

"In the future, we hope to continue expanding our natural gas distribution system to serve more customers," said Bourne, who added that VNG be featured in the Crab Carnival Parade on Oct. 6 and have an information booth set up for potential customers.

For more information on VNG, visit http://www.virginianaturalgas.com.

Martin can be reached by phone at 804-885-0040.