The months-long dispute between the German Village Society and Columbia Gas of Ohio over natural-gas meters could be near an end.

The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio has set a hearing date for Nov. 13, at which each faction will present final arguments about relocation of natural-gas meters in the historic district.

The hearing is similar to a courtroom proceeding, in which both sides will present testimony, submit evidence and be subject to cross-examination, said Matthew Schilling, spokesman for PUCO.

The hearing is typically followed by other proceedings, such as briefs being filed by the parties, Schilling said.

The five-member commission then will make its ruling, though there is no timeline for that decision, he said.

The Nov. 13 hearing was scheduled Sept. 20 after a mediation attempt failed Aug. 22.

"We appreciate the PUCO setting a timely hearing date and we will continue to work diligently toward a resolution of this complaint," said Nancy Kotting, the German Village Society's historic preservation advocate.

At issue is the society's claim gas meters located on a building's exterior pose a safety risk and damage the character of the historic district.

Columbia Gas has countered that placing meters outside is safe and is a matter of convenience between the public utility and its customers.

Columbia Gas is wrapping up a gas line-replacement effort affecting 112 residential and business customers.

Its intention is to eventually relocate all interior gas meters to the exterior of properties throughout the state.

Sarah Parrot, attorney examiner for the PUCO, in her latest entry, noted the "GVS may prosecute the complaint on its own behalf in its capacity as a customer of Columbia.

"With respect to other affected customers, GVS states in the complaint that several German Village residents have authorized GVS to represent their interests in this case... .

"However, it is not evident from the pleadings that these residents are also members of GVS, which is a prerequisite for GVS to even seek to establish its standing to bring the complaint on their behalf."

Parrot further directed that, during the course of the current proceeding, Columbia must "implement an enhanced leakage inspection program for the project area."

"Columbia shall also install and maintain vents in proximity to the old cast iron main to mitigate any possible migrating leaking gas from the old cast iron main," Parrot wrote.

gseman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekGary