Argonia looking into skyrocketed gas bills

Published: Mar. 30, 2021 at 11:32 PM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - More Kansans are opening their gas bills and wondering how they will find the money to pay. The city of Argonia says most of its residents are seeing bills in the thousands for just one month.

On a warm spring day in Argonia on Tuesday (March 30), people around town still feel the impact of February’s cold snap. They tried to prepare to avoid natural gas bills beyond what they could afford.

“We turned our thermostat down to 65 during the day, 60 at night to try to conserve. It didn’t help,” said Argonia resident Ken Bradfield.

Bradfield couldn’t believe what he saw when he received his February gas bill last week.

“Our gas bill this month was $2,297,” he said.

Bradfield said he feels lucky that he’ll be able to pay it.

“We are fortunate enough that our COVID relief checks will cover it,” he said.

But others in town say they don’t know how they’ll come up with the money to pay the city, which provides natural gas in Argonia.

“For gas itself, not including the rest of our utilities, it was $2,284,” said Argonia resident Shelby Dirks.

Dirks said her family will struggle to pay off the bill.

“I stay at home. I don’t know how we are going to pay for it,” she said.

The city said it’s worked nonstop to try to find a solution.

“We have lawyers trying to prove this is price gouging,” said Argonia City Clerk Tara Pierce.

Pierce said during the cold snap last month, the average cost of natural gas the city buys went from $3 a unit to nearly $700, causing the city to take out a loan from the state treasury.

“Our gas bill for our gas purchases is $85,000 a year. In the month of February only, our bill was $300,000, which is more than our entire budget for every fund in our city,” Pierce said.

She said the city will offer payment plans to whoever needs it.

‘As long as they are going to make a payment, we will work with them,” Pierce said.

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