The City of Winchester heard from municipal and state leaders about extremely high natural gas bills coming to residents last night. The City of Winchester said that the cost of purchasing gas for last week from February 13th through the 18th totaled $387,000. In figures presented last night by the City Council, in contrast, the price of the week of February 1st through February 5th cost the city just $6,900. Mayor Rex McIntire told the crowd of 15 residents that the situation was unprecedented.
MxIntire noted that a similar polar vortex that swept the country happened in 2011, but it did not adversely disrupt natural gas consumption nor did it raise prices as exponentially high as they did during this past week. McIntire called the nearly 300% increase price gouging at its very worst.
McIntire invited State Senator Steve McClure and State Representative C.D. Davidsmeyer to address the city about what the plans are at the state level to help the dozens of rural municipalities who operate their own natural gas utility.
McClure says that Governor J.B. Pritzker has a loan program he is going to unveil today:“It sounds like it would be low interest loans, I’m not sure what the details are if they will be for municipalities or for individuals. So I’m going to have to reserve judgment as far as what I tell people until I get the details. I appreciate the Governor’s leadership on this. He realizes it is really important for all of us particularity in rural Illinois. I look forward to being at the press conference and hearing his details, but at the same time we also have to get some federal relief here. In my opinion the Attorney General in the states that have been affected, they should file lawsuits against these companies for what is happening right now on this natural gas issue. This time of year we are seeing near record low temperatures for the time. What are people supposed to do, they can’t afford their bills. It is outrageous we need to do something about that and I think there are steps being taken.”
Davidsmeyer says that the whole process of relief for everyone is in a holding pattern from Illinois down to the State of Texas:“We’re all on the same page as far as working together and making sure our two communities have the stop gap methods that they need, to get by until hopefully greater later options come about from the federal government. Those are discussions that’ll have to be had along with the discussion of what the emergency dollars come in to Texas, we’ll just have to see.”
McIntire and City Attorney John Paul Coonrod says the city is going to wait until a large group of litigation is filed against Panhandle Eastern Pipeline and other companies due to the unnatural price jump during the event. McIntire says that all efforts will be exhaused to recoup money to the city who will ultimately be at the mercy of their natural gas supplier’s price demand. McIntire says that the one benefit to the crisis is that several cities along the pipeline are in a similar situation and are going to work together to find a solution.
The City is working out how to best handle the natural gas utility payments for city customers, as many details were said to be worked out in the coming days. They worked into the late night in executive session. This story is developing. WLDS News hopes to have more information about the effect this will have on Winchester natural gas bills and how the city is hoping to proceed with customers who are unable to pay the higher bills due to the pricing event.