The City of Winfield has incurred $10 million in natural gas costs through the previous six days as sub-zero temperatures gripped the area, leading the city to look for ways to mitigate the financial fallout.

“The cost of this event to our community has been one that we have had very little control over. We are seeking every avenue of relief as this is an insurmountable cost for us that, without relief, will be felt for years to come,” Winfield city manager Taggart Wall said in a letter to the community, which was posted on the city’s Facebook page and emailed to the CourierTraveler.

The city’s typical annual natural gas purchase is for $1.6 million, with a typical daily index of less than $3 per 1 million British Thermal Units (MMBtu). Wall said beginning Feb. 13 the daily index on the city’s pipeline soared more than 100 times the norm. That, compounded by extreme rises in demand, led to an all-time high of $428/MMBtu on Feb. 18.

City officials have taken measures to mitigate costs, including encouraging residents to use less natural gas and requesting school closures.

“As wind-chill temperatures dipped as low as minus-31 degrees, our No. 1 priority has been to maintain the flow of natural gas to our homes, hospital and businesses. This decision was made to preserve human health and property assets. Those were balanced against our local economic welfare and people’s need to also go to work and for our factories to survive as well,” Wall said. “That process has been a tenuous one. The majority of our natural gas usage is consumed in our homes.”

The city has little control over the natural gas issues, and is seeking every form of relief possible, Wall said. This includes consulting with legal experts, legislative lobbyists and Kansas Municipal Utility leadership, as well as continued contact with state and federal leaders. Citizens are also encouraged to contact state and federal authorities about the impact of high natural gas prices, as well as to keep conserving natural gas.

Contacted by phone Thursday, Wall said the city will continue to work with customers to pay utility bills like it always has, and the community will work together to find a way to solve the problem.

Asked if the increased demand drove up costs, Wall said that is a question officials are asking providers themselves.

“As the situation continues at the time of this communication, we do not have the full scope of this impact to our community and cannot give details yet on how these costs will be passed on to customers. I can assure you that, together with our local elected officials on the City Commission, we will be working continuously on a plan to balance the impact of this now evolving and devastating financial situation,” Wall said in his letter.

Winfield mayor Greg Thompson said Thursday that the city is doing everything it can to address the situation. While the situation is very serious, it is also very early, Thompson said, and officials are still determining what they can do. Thompson said Winfield is not the only utility provider in this situation.

Residents posted to the city’s Facebook page about the issue. Some asked about how costs might be passed down to customers, while others appreciated being informed about the situation.

“Great job of keeping the community updated pretty regularly! Bad news is not what we want to hear of course, but it certainly beats not being informed or not be given some advanced notice of what is yet to come,” Connie Vick said.

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