Archive for Wednesday, January 31, 2001

Gas bills result in customer conservation

January 31, 2001

The latest natural gas bill has created similar reactions across town a little bit of shock, followed by the lowering of thermostats.

"We were just floored," said Mary Jane Chubb, 1210 9th Street, about her household's latest natural gas bill, which was $465. The bill before that was $203. "It was real high. A year ago it was $180, which I realize is no comparison, because it was not as cold.

"I thought it would be $300," she said. "Needless to say we are living in a cooler house now."

Chubb said the thermostat, which is normally set between 68-70 degrees, is now at 65 degrees or less.

"The only time we turn it up is when we have company over. We are burning a lot of wood in the fireplace and we are wearing a lot of sweaters," said Chubb, who also closed off a room in the house.

The Baldwin school district lowered its thermostats from around 72 degrees to 68 degrees following Christmas break. Parents and students were notified well in advance of the change. It was even suggested that students may want to dress in warmer clothes, or in layers.

Deb Ehling-Gwin, assistant principal at Baldwin Elementary School, said more teachers than students are donning warmer clothes.

"I have not heard kids complain about the cold, except about how cold it is outside," she said. "But they want to be outside for recess."

Because it is the oldest building in the district, Ehling-Gwin said some classrooms just stay warmer or colder than others.

"The temperature in this building is difficult to regulate," she said. She said the northern rooms are chillier, and there are areas of the three-story building that consistently stay too warm.

Overall conservation by staff is being stressed at BES and all schools. Lights are turned off when the classrooms are empty. Blinds on the north side of the BES building which tends to remain cooler are closed at night. Blinds on the south side of the building remain open to provide additional warmth.

"We are reminding people to conserve in the ways that are possible," Ehling-Gwin said.

The school district budgeted an additional $40,000 for its heating bill this year. Even though that is double of last year's budget, Supt. James White said it may not be enough.

Baker University is keeping its thermostats steady at 68 degrees. However, other conservation measures have been taken, or are planned.

"We are taking a hit, but we have done things to help us save energy," said Bob Layton, vice president of financial services at Baker University.

Like the school district, the university was purchasing its natural gas from Mountain Energy, which declared bankruptcy in the fall. The university is paying higher prices for natural gas from a branch of Kansas Gas Service.

With Mountain Energy, Baker was paying $2.08 per unit of natural gas. Most recently, the university paid $5.64.

"You might say our gas bill has more than doubled," Layton said. "Our price fluctuates with the market."

Layton said the university doesn't have a central way of controlling each building's temperature. Instead, the university relies on staff to be energy conscious.

"We have to depend on our people to keep the thermostats down," Layton said.

He said thermostats remain around 68 degrees in campus buildings, including residence halls.

"We do have people living here," he said. "We try to keep them comfortable. They are essentially our customers."

The university is seeking ways to become more energy efficient, and is consulting with a local energy management group.

Layton said the new student apartment buildings are the most efficient buildings on campus. Other buildings, such as Denious Hall, could benefit from installation of new windows and other energy conservation measures.

"We plan on doing some serious conservation measures," said Layton.

Chubb is hoping next month's gas bill will be more reasonable, especially since the Kansas Gas Service has requested a rate decrease.

"That's good news," she said. "Hopefully it will be better next month."

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