Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 10.djvu/506

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than 3s. 9d., call for the appointment of three commissioners to reduce the price. And a company may call for a like commission to raise the price if 3s. 9d. will not pay its allotted dividend.

With regard to the manufacture of gas by municipalities, the commissioners say that the best argument in its favor is, that about fifty cents per 1,000 feet of the gas sold must be applied to the payment of dividends to stockholders, while "a much smaller amount than this, at the low rate at which money could be hired by the city, would be sufficient to pay interest on the capital, and at the same time allow a sufficient amount to be laid aside, in the form of a sinking-fund, to entirely liquidate the debt in a few years." However, "as a rule a city cannot manufacture gas as cheaply as a private corporation, since it is almost impossible to avoid the influence of politics on any city undertaking." Concerning the Philadelphia works, which is the most notable example of municipal manufacture in this country, the commissioners speak as follows: "Notwithstanding all the disadvantages arising from political influence in the management of these works, we find the profits for the year 1875 to have been $793,244.12; and after deducting for interest on the bonds, etc., the sum of $302,986.21 went toward the increase of the sinking-fund, which, on December 31, 1875, amounted to $2,470,193.93, while the whole amount of outstanding bonds is $5,400,000; thus leaving only $2,929,806.07 to be provided for, when the whole works, costing nearly $14,000,000, will become the unencumbered property of the city."

The conclusions arrived at by the committee may be summarized as follows: That although Boston is supplied with gas of excellent quality, at a lower price than most other cities of the United States, the same could be made much cheaper than it is, by the use of naphtha or petroleum as an enricher, but it is doubtful whether the appliances for using that substance could be employed by the Boston company without paying a considerable royalty, or becoming involved in lawsuits for alleged infringement of patents, which are, however, of doubtful validity; that the "Gwynne-Harris" and "Lowe" water-gas processes offer fair prospects of success, and should be carefully watched and studied; that the existing companies in Boston, and other cities in Massachusetts, should be granted monopolies in their several districts, subject, however, to the supervision of a permanent Board of State Commissioners, similar to the Railroad Commissioners, and to a full annual publication of their entire business, and be required to keep their gas at all times up to an illuminating power of sixteen candles, free from sulphuretted hydrogen, and from more than twenty grains of sulphur and five of ammonia, per 100 cubic feet; and, finally, that the authorities of the city of Boston should be empowered by the Legislature to erect works and manufacture and supply gas to the citizens in case any company which, by the terms of its charter, is not subject to legisla-