By Dan Harkins
DEBARY - Florida Public Utilities will soon build a 1,200-square-foot classroom that will turn its natural gas and propane distribution center at 450 S. U.S. 17/92 into a training center for all of its employees.
The new center will be behind the company's office building and parking lot on the site, just south of Benson Junction Road.
"What we're trying to do here is construct a training facility for employees to visit us statewide," said Johnny Hill, the DeBary facility's manager, "and to work with local law enforcement for them to have adequate training to serve the community."
DeBary city commissioners voted 4-0 to usher in the expansion, which also includes the installation of two fuel pumps that will dispense compressed natural gas - an alternative fuel that's cheaper and burns cleaner than gasoline.
Companies like UPS and FedEx and many municipalities are transferring whole fleets of vehicles to the technology, which requires a conversion to a "bi-fuel vehicle."
"This fuel alternative is fascinating," said Commissioner Chris Carson. " I've seen some numbers. ... It's almost half o the fuel costs. It's a huge impact and I think it's our future."
As far as the training facility, it can only mean more visitors to DeBary, Mr. Carson said.
"I believe they'll go above and beyond, " he said, "as far as keeping the property in top shape and safe and secure."
Adjacent to the new classroom, FPU also plans to build large pits containing pipes with compressed air - not gas - for hands-on training at sealing leaks in gas lines, said Rebecca Hammock, the city's planning administrator.
A new driveway will be constructed further north of the office building for trainees to gain access to the training grounds.
FPU began serving Floridians in 1924.