City Utilities – Natural Gas Department: A Look At The Inner Workings of the City

Part One of a Series

By Becky Jane Newbold,

Managing Editor

Several weeks ago, I had the opportunity to sit down with Bobby Barnes who leads the Hohenwald Natural Gas Department. Such a busy guy!  Even during our brief interview he excused himself to answer a call from his men on the streets.

Learning a bit, I understand Bobby worked for the Dana Corporation prior to coming the City of Hohenwald during the administration of former Mayor Bob Burklow.  

Many here remember the day Hohenwald’s last, largest employer announced the doors would be closing.  For people like Bobby, starting over was a huge undertaking.  When he realized a position right here in his hometown was available, he jumped in.

To assume the job would be easy would be incorrect.

Day to day chores include repairing whatever is broken on top of maintaining 3,100 gas meters in the city.  To break it down, there are 41 miles of steel pipe and approximately 37 miles of polypipe.  

In the last two years, 2,290 811 One Call Locate calls have been answered, 676 work orders and 104 gas inspections.  Odor complaints answered number 214 and rectifiers at five locations have been checked monthly.

Two regulator stations, one on Linden Highway and one near Triangle gasoline station, also require cleaning and painting annually.

Natural gas enters the system at 700 pounds of pressure.  Regulator station one breaks it down to 145 pounds, station two, to 45 pounds then household regulators break it down even more to four ounces of pressure.

Each year 214 values throughout the system must be turned and greased.  

Also in the last two years, the City has added 85 new services and repaired 249 leaks.  Mandatory leak surveys are performed on the entire system once every four years.

The City of Hohenwald has extended service beyond the City limits, most recently five miles out to Howard Switch Road, Sickler Road and along Buffalo Road. 

The purchase of equipment, such as a Freightliner truck with trailer, Ditch witch with a plow and a new mini excavator have increased productivity.  The Ditch witch can plow two inch line into the ground, Barnes explained.  “This machine can put 500 feet in the ground in an ideal situation in less than one hour.”

City workers are in the process of changing out gas meters, updating to a newer version of auto read meters; 700 so far.

“In all departments, we have raised the level of efficiency and productivity,” Mayor Danny McKnight said during our interview.  “I push, push, push.  We may take a few steps back on occasion, but we are making progress,” he continued.

“We have accomplished a whole lot,” Barnes added.

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