Natural gas customers in Plattsburg take to social media after seeing gas usage spike in January, Mayor Dave Schauer points to volatility in the gas market
BY BRETT ADKISON | EDITOR CLINTON COUNTY LEADER
Many natural gas customers in Plattsburg this week were shocked to receive higher bills, with many noting on social media that their billed gas usage had doubled or tripled from the previous month.
On Thursday, Plattsburg Mayor Dave Schauer said that the city hasn't noticed any inaccuracies in the gas meter readings for the previous month, but rather he pointed to the volatility of gas prices and a major change in the way the City of Plattsburg has to purchase gas, which came after last February's major cold snap.
Mayor Schauer said that the City of Plattsburg uses electronic reading to gather gas usage figures each month, and that the city has measures in place to ensure their accuracy and avoid misreadings. He added that when meters are read and the data is entered into the system, if a home's usage is out of line with it's historic usage – while accounting for the time of the year – that home is red flagged and crews will reread or check the condition of the meter.
Residents were also dismayed to find that the regular monthly meeting of the Plattsburg City Council – and an immediate chance to bring their concerns over gas usage to the city – had been canceled due to a lack of items for council business. The Clinton County Leader reported on the meeting cancellation in its February 10 edition.
Mayor Schauer said Thursday that the lack of business items was, in part, a result of City Administrator Greg Harris and Assistant Administrator Jeremy Zimmerman being on administrative leave. They're on leave while the city investigates complaints of an unsafe work environment at city hall. Mayor Schauer said that two of the council members would have been unable to attend, and the council agreed it was best to cancel the meeting.
Mayor Schauer said if there needs to be a special meeting to address the gas bill issue, he would entertain it and take it to the council. He suggested that anyone with concerns with their gas bill contact city hall, where they can answer any questions and schedule meter rechecks if the customers request it.
Mayor Schauer explained Thursday that prior to last winter the city had a contract in place with its gas providers which allowed the city to buy gas at a stable rate. But he said that went out the window of February 2021 with the extreme cold temperatures throughout the county, which prompted gas providers to declare an emergency. The city was then hit with a $700,000 bill for gas purchases made that February. Schauer said the bill is being contested in litigation but until there is a decision, the city has to pay for it.
He said the city took out a three-year, no interest loan to pay off the bill.
This year, the city has to purchase gas at a varying rate. Schauer said that the recent charge for gas was $12 per decatherm, while the same unit last year at this time was $8. He said the city's rate structure for customers is broken down into three areas – a minimum charge, an administrative charge, and the actual cost of gas – which forms the customer's overall bill.
Catch The Clinton County Leader next week for more information on the situation.
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