FREMONT - The town of Fremont has been in a standstill with Northern Indiana Public Service Company (NIPSCO) since 2016 regarding their access to natural gas.
Multiple community members said NIPSCO has limited Fremont in the amount of natural gas they will provide to the town.
NIPSCO made no official statement when asked, the reasoning they gave Fremont Council members was Fremont has no additional capacity and is the last stop on their line.
NIPSCO told the town of Fremont it would cost them upwards of $60 million or more if they wanted NIPSCO to provide them with more natural gas for complete infrastructure remodel.
The price tag is unattainable for both the town of Fremont and Steuben County.
As a result, Fremont’s current businesses and residents are being forced to go towards more expensive alternatives like electric and propane, and prospective businesses and residents are considering elsewhere.
Many business owners are concerned and confused why the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC) are not stepping up and forcing NIPSCO’s hand.
The theory seems to be the fact that NIPSCO is owned by NiSource Inc., one of the largest utility companies in the United States.
NiSource is publicly traded NASDAQ exchange and is the only Indiana based utility company (Merrillville, Ind.).
What should be at this point be a state issue is being controlled by a regional monopoly.
Indiana State Representative Denny Zent said he has, “tried numerous things on his end.”
Zent believes there will not be progress until Fremont is given power from the municipalities in Indianapolis.
“You think they’d be working for the people,” said Zent, “but it appears they are working for the stockholders.”
Steuben County has stepped up and tried to help Fremont find a resolution on the natural gas crisis.
Isaac Lee, Steuben County Economic Development Corporation's Executive Director reached out to NIPSCO many times. He was promised a resolution by NIPSCO but was never given one.
Lee reported in 2020 that Steuben County was home to 34,500 people with a labor shed of 340,000 people.
From 2016-2020 Lee believes the county has lost $3.5 billion in revenue and 2,500 jobs to the area as a result of NIPSCO’s antics.
The situation is hurting every aspect of growth in Fremont.
Fremont Community Schools, the highest rated school district in Steuben County, is struggling to grow despite the Indiana Department of Education recognizing Fremont as an “A” School Corporation for the past 5 years in row.
The housing market is scarce nationwide, but it is devastatingly low in Fremont preventing families with children from moving to the town. The town has a recorded seven homes for sale as of July 2022.
Fremont’s town president Chris Snyder said NIPSCO told the town they could not build more than the equivalent of 10 homes a year and that building 10 would be pushing their capacity limits.
Factories within the town are unable to expand and therefore are planning to expand outside of the town and even the state.
Cardinal IG of Fremont’s Manager Michael Connell said they cannot grow in the ways they would like because of the lack of natural gas.
Connell said, “NIPSCO is really letting down their company base.”
Another factory in Fremont, Cold Heading reportedly spent $15 million on an expansion only for NIPSCO to refuse to provide them with natural gas.
Fremont businessman Jack Musson owner of Musson Builders fears Fremont is on its way to turning into a ghost town if something is not done.
All things considered; Fremont appears as an essence to the crossroads of America.
The town sits on the very northeastern corner of Indiana and touches both Michigan to the north and Ohio to the east.
U.S. Interstates 69, 80 and 90 all pass-through Fremont.
The town features Wild Winds Buffalo Preserves, Yogi Bear's Jellystone Park, outlet mall The Shops at Fremont, vast majority of Pokagon State Park and numerous lakes including Clear Lake, Snow Lake, Barton Lake Marsh Lake and the northern half of Lake James.
Fremont, the town with so potential for growth, is being hindered by their local natural resource company.