A warmer winter could push heating costs down further in McLouth
by Dennis Sharkey
Natural gas prices have been on a downward trend for the past two years and it is expected to continue.
In McLouth gas customers pay a base rate of $15 that includes 1,000 cubic feet of gas. Each additional 1,000 cubic feet costs $7.25. Chalfant said he expects the trend to continue this winter.
“People’s heating bills this year ought to be darn comfortable,” Chalfant said.
The city adjusts customer’s rates on a monthly basis if needed and rates could fall farther.
According to Chalfant gas prices jumped as high as $14 per 1,000 cubic feet during the winter of 2008-2009. However, the next winter rates dropped to $8.50. Last winter rates were slightly lower. Chalfant said prices could drop to as low as they have been in eight or nine years.
Gas rates are calculated by putting a flat cost fee on top of the purchase price of gas. McLouth customer rates fluctuate based on the city’s purchase price.
Chalfant credits more supply for the trend in lower costs. He said the development of natural gas fields and storage fields have created a greater surplus of supply. He said fracking technology has also increased supply.
Another factor for the increase was the 2005 hurricane season. Speculation led to drive prices up because of a perceived shortage of supply.
“Storage fields are fuller than in the past,” Chalfant said. “After all was said and done they realized that they weren’t as short as they thought.”
McLouth like many other cities belongs to a pool that purchases gas at bulk rates. In the past about a third of all gas was purchased in the summer months because it could be purchased at a cheaper rate and be put into storage. However, the last couple of summers have brought higher seasonal prices.
“We didn’t see the big winter spike last year and we don’t anticipate seeing it this year,” Chalfant said.
In other actions:
• Trash collection rates will increase for McLouth residents beginning in January.
SM Ball Waste Disposal owner and operator Shawn Ball met with the council last week to request a 40 cent increase to monthly rates from $11.90 to $12.30 a month.
Ball attributed the need for the increase to increased landfill rates and fuel costs. His contract with the city ends next September.
Mayor Keith Meador heaped praise on the service Ball has provided to the city. He said complaint calls have stopped since Ball took over service in 2010.
Councilman Harlan Woodring said that he believed the request was reasonable.
• The McLouth City Council discussed an annexation issue pertaining to a portion of K-16 Highway west of city limits.
The city had annexed portions of land that contained the cemetery and an area north of the highway. However, it was believed that the highway was not included in the annexation.
Chalfant reported that the Jefferson County Appraiser’s office agrees with city attorneys that the highway was included in the annexation and that nothing needs to be done.
The city limits now extend to the edge of the cemetery.
Chalfant said the city would not be moving the city limits signs. The Kansas Department of Transportation is responsible for sign placement.
• A city ordinance allowing a cell phone tower to be constructed was approved by a 3-2 vote, although in a peculiar manner.
Councilman George Bowen voted against the ordinance even though he voted in the affirmative to approve the conditional use permit at a prior meeting.
On the other side, Councilwoman Barbara Hasemeier voted in the affirmative for the ordinance after voting against the approval of the conditional use permit.
• City Police Chief Marcus Koch reported that two juvenile suspects who were arrested for allegedly spray painting graffiti on downtown buildings are now going through the prosecution process.
• Koch also reported that a car had been impounded and the search was on for a suspect in a case involving the bashing of mailboxes on Saturday, Nov. 19, or Sunday, Nov. 20.
• The council approved the purchase of new narrow bandwidth radios for the city and fire department. Radios for the city will cost about $1,400 and radios for the fire department will be about $1,100.
Federal regulations require all entities to switch to the new radios by January 2013. However, Jefferson County will be making the switch in June 2012.
• The council approved the purchase of a sewer cleaner for $14,500. The city’s current machine is a 1963 model. Chalfant said parts for the machine are becoming harder to find.
• A discussion about an ordinance that addresses UTVs was continued to the next meeting.
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