The vice president of the German Village Society Board of Trustees has resigned because of the ongoing rift between the Society and Columbia Gas of Ohio.

Bill Curlis, who has served on the board several times for a total of than 20 years, aid he is exasperated over the Society's decision to explore hiring an attorney to fight the relocation of natural-gas meters from the interior to the exterior of 122 houses and businesses.

Curlis, a one-time president of the Society board of trustees, said the Society cannot afford to fund a legal crusade to "fight a losing battle."

"I think it's a fool's errand that they're on and they're spending money they don't have to fight that battle," he said.

Curlis' resignation, effective immediately, was submitted at the board's May 9 meeting. It was accepted.

Heidi Drake, Society president, said board members "were very sorry to see (Curlis) go."

"We definitely feel we are in a David vs. Goliath position, but in our role as a board we need to do as much as we can to advocate for the community, which is what we're doing," Drake said.

Columbia Gas of Ohio is expected to begin work this summer on gas-line replacement, which also will include relocating meters. The overall plan is to move all gas meters outside structures throughout Ohio according to company officials.

They said it is a matter of safety and convenience for residents and workers, who have to periodically inspect the device.

Society officials, however, do not agree and March 15 they issued what they termed an historic preservation alert, "based on a potential adverse economic impact on the district, an anticipated negative impact on the historic character of our National Register of Historic Places-listed historic district and related safety issues due to the density and urban location of the district."

Drake said the Society board is unified in pursuing the advocacy work already done by Nancy Kotting, the Society's historic preservation advocate, and Shiloh Todorov, German Village Society executive director.

The costs associated with such an endeavor are not known, Drake said.

Society officials have approved exploring litigation with one firm for advocacy work rather than more costly litigation, she said.

Curlis said the Society's primary concern is aesthetics and it is using safety as a faulty premise when natural gas is among the most heavily regulated industries.

"The simple fact is they are ugly," he said of the meters. "There's no question about that. Put a plant in front of it if you don't like it. I don't like them either."

Columbia Gas has rejected the Society's request to conduct an independent study of the safest location of meters, said Kristin Begg, spokeswoman for the public utility.

"As an operator and regulated utility, we follow state and federal guidelines," Begg said.

"Under these guidelines it is the responsibility of the operator -- Columbia Gas of Ohio -- to ensure the meter is placed in a safe and readily accessible location.

"We remain committed to working directly with our customers, the property owners, to identify the safest location for their natural-gas meter, while also being mindful of the aesthetics of the community," Begg added.

"We would never place a meter in a location that we did not feel was safe. As we move to a medium-pressure system in German Village and in neighborhoods across the state, in most cases the safest location for the meter is outside."

gseman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekGary