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Gas bill hike looms for Chambersburg

February 19, 2001

Gas bill hike looms for Chambersburg



By STACEY DANZUSO / Staff Writer, Chambersburg


CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Chambersburg residents will pay about $200 more on their natural gas bills over the next two years to make up for a nearly $1 million shortfall in the borough gas department.

The formula the department uses to calculate customers' bills did not keep pace with radically rising gas prices, said borough gas Superintendent Jim Crowley.

Although customers have been seeing higher bills this winter, the charges didn't keep up with what the borough was paying out for the cost of natural gas, he said.

The borough wants to use a new formula for the rest of the year and for 2002 to recover the loss and attempt to prevent a repeat problem.

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The new formula would tack on about $75 this year and $125 next year for the average residential customer, Crowley said. Businesses will also be affected.

"Over time, the borough will recover the costs," Borough Manager Eric Oyer told the Chambersburg Borough Council Wednesday.

Customers now pay about 83 cents per unit of gas. That would increase to about 90 cents per unit in March if the council approves the new formula.

"We realized we were falling behind in the fall, but we entered totally uncharted territory toward the end of the year," Oyer said, when council members asked why it took so long to realize the problem.

He said staff expected that natural gas costs would plateau and the borough would recover some of its losses.

"We thought the cost couldn't get this high," Oyer said. "We wanted to see if this was an aberration, and anomaly, of the way it is."

Crowley said that while gas prices began rising earlier last year, a drastic jump came in November.

"The problem is how fast this is happening. About $408,000 of the deficit came in November and December," he said.

January's bills bumped the total up to $900,000

"Customers have been underpaying for this period of time," said Tom Finucane, borough solicitor. "Something needs to be done - the sooner the better."

With no end in sight to the rising prices, the council will vote on the proposed formula change at its next meeting Feb. 28.

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