Mt. Vernon Register-News

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April 22, 2014

MVTHS talks high gas bill

MT. VERNON — Mt. Vernon Township High School officials Monday took an in-depth look at the reasons behind the district’s unusually high natural gas bill for the month of February.

The bill in question, for roughly $29,000, comes from the district’s new gas provider, Constellation.

Jeff Haarmann, a managing partner for Affordable Gas & Electric, made a presentation on the bill to the MVTHS Board of Education Monday night. AGE is the district’s agent for the natural gas contract.

Haarmann said the high bill, though “shocking,” should not come as a surprise considering the state of the market this winter in terms of skyrocketing gas prices and record usage.

“This is a winter that was beyond winters,” Haarmann said. “The guys that we talked to in the markets are saying that they will be looking at this winter and the effects that it had on prices similar to the way (Hurricane) Katrina did several years ago.”

MVTHS changed its natural gas provider late last year. Its former provider was the firm Centerpoint, which billed the school district on a variable, month-to-month basis. These kind of bills are based on the market price of gas.

In mid-December, the school district signed a 24-month contract with its new provider, Constellation, which offers fixed rate billing. By this time, however, gas prices had spiked and it was no longer feasible for the district to lock in rates for that winter.

As a result, MVTHS was still subject to a fluctuating variable rate during the season.

Constellation couldn’t take over the district’s natural gas account until Feb. 1, which was much too late to do anything about the gas situation, Haarmann said.

“We’re already in the middle of the polar vortex that’s got gas prices spiking through the roof, that’s got storage being depleted,” Haarmann said.

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