Archive for Thursday, January 18, 2001

Natural gas prices up 51 percent

January 18, 2001

Francis and Bernice Born are waging war against the high cost of natural gas prices within their own home. The couple uses their wood-burning fireplace to heat their house. Fortunately for the Borns, their alternate heating method has kept their heating costs low so much their gas-burning furnace rarely came on during December.

"We burn wood and ours hasn't come on too much except for a few times," Bernice Born said. "We've been heating it with an insert in our fireplace. Our last month gas bill was around $18."

To be exact, $17.44. But, not all Eudora families are as fortunate as the Borns.

Jim Bartling, manager of public affairs for Greeley Gas Company, said the price increase for January is almost 51 percent.

Bartling said the increase was due in part to utility company procrastination and a simple case of supply and demand.

"Most of the utilities didn't fill their storage at (early) 2000 because gas prices were too high," Bartling said. "They expected prices to drop. It didn't happen. It got to a point where they had to fill storage and as they scurried to fill the storage then prices went up."

Bartling said there might be hope for lower prices around the corner. Gas rig counts are up in Kansas and economists are predicting the price will lower, he said.

"There's no agreement as to how (the prices) will go," Bartling said. "Whether they'll go back to the early 2000 prices, we'll just have to wait and see."

While the industry waits, Eudora residents struggle to deal with high gas prices.

Helen Sommer was surprised to

See Natural gas, Page 5A

have such a high December bill. Sommer said this was the first time she's ever had a $100 bill and is concerned about what future bills will be. Feeling the effects of cold winter, Sommer has made paying her gas bill a top priority.

"That has to be paid first," Sommer said. "I'm from the old school. I don't go out and get paid and do a lot of things before the gas bill is paid."

There may be some solutions to help aid paying those costly bills, ensuring a warm house to come home to.

Bartling said Greeley Gas provides a budget payment plan that breaks up the yearly cost into equal monthly payments. By making arrangements with the company and getting on the program, the chances of disconnection are lowered if a customer can't pay a monthly bill.

"The main advice we give to our customers is to communicate with us," Bartling said. "If they can't pay their bill, we want to work with them. Just because you can't pay the whole amount doesn't mean you can't pay something."

For those on fixed incomes, there are also other options.

The Douglas County Red Cross offers Project Deserve for customers on social security, disability or over age 60. The program administers funds to eligible recipients made available through customer and utility company donations.

Office manager volunteer and volunteer coordinator Stephanie Jackson said the Red Cross is allotted a fixed amount of money per quarter, so residents should apply soon.

"We have six appointments each month and they are usually completely filled," Jackson said.

The program not only helps customers pay some bills, but also helps residents budget money. Any money given out through the program is given directly to the utility companies.

Anyone interested in Project Deserve, administered by the Douglas County Red Cross my call Jackson at 843-3550.

Bartling suggested other ways to keep homes as energy efficient as possible, thus reducing energy costs:

Change the furnace filter every month.

Check to make sure the furnace is functioning properly.

Adjust vent openings so rooms are warmer that are being used and keep vents closed in rooms not being used. If a room contains a water pipe, keep it open to reduce chances of freezing.

Rearrange furniture against inside walls.

Seal and insulate openings where heat may be leaving.

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