Some Winchester Citizens Still Concerned About Natural Gas Bills

By Benjamin Cox on March 27, 2021 at 12:14pm

Some Winchester residents are still struggling to pay gas bills left over from the February natural gas price gouge. The City of Winchester was able to receive a 1% Illinois Finance Authority loan for $395,000 for a term of three years to pay off the city’s balance to its natural gas supplier for February’s natural gas usage.

The city approved a plan that will allow residents and businesses to repay their February bill in 33 interest-free installments by charging an extra 3% on top of their month’s bill. While it will allow the city to repay its IFA loan within its 3 year term, some residents, wishing to remain anonymous, have told WLDS News that some low income residents are still unable to pay their bill. Residents who are on a bill pay program with the city or are on fixed income have worried and are becoming frustrated they are going to get extremely behind with the hike. Those on bill pay have also asked for fuller transparency in the billing processes made by the city for utilities. The State of Illinois’ utility shut off moratorium ends on Thursday this coming week.

Mayor Rex McIntire, in a press release issued on March 16th, says that the city is hoping to receive money at some point in time over litigation accusing natural gas suppliers, like Panhandle Eastern of price gouging and over speculation of the market to purposefully drive profits after winter storms put a vice on the natural gas supply due to shutting down natural gas suppliers and refineries in southwest Texas.

McIntire has stressed in multiple city council meetings that in the event that the city receives any restitution from the gas industry or financial assistance from the government, that Winchester’s natural gas bill payers would be made whole and that the restitution or financial assistance would be passed on to bill payers.

McIntire expressed optimism about the situation in the Scott County Times this week despite some criticism over the situation, saying that 130 individuals and businesses opted to pay their February balance in full. According to McIntire, Winchester’s gas supplier said that Winchester had smaller rate increases during the crisis than many surrounding communities. The City of Pittsfield’s February bill was said to come in over $1 million for the month of February.