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City residents freeze up over gas prices

Nancy Synnott, who said her gas bill doubled this month, makes a transaction at Vicksburg Water and Gas offices Friday. (The Vicksburg Post/MELANIE DUNCAN)

[01/02/01] With temperatures plummeting, Vicksburg residents are fretting over escalating bills for natural gas.

“I’d hate to have to start burning charcoal inside to heat my home,” said Nancy Synnott, a customer of Vicksburg’s gas department.

Since November, Synnott’s bill for natural gas to heat her home on Patton Street has gone from $38 to $69, in part due to the rising price of gas across the nation and an increase in city rates.

“They said it was because of a rate hike in the price of gas,” she said.

Last October, a rate cut was passed to offset increases for city water and sewer rates. The cut had reduced the amount city residents were charged for service by $1.55 per 1,000 cubic feet of gas.

The 1-year break in gas prices expired automatically and as of Dec. 1, city customers reverted to paying the 1999 rates.

“I think it is going to get worse like with gasoline prices,” said Daniel Allen, whose bill went from $69 to $90 this month after the rate change went into effect.

While not everyone’s bill had gone up as much since the rates increased, Grove Street resident Aleeta Summers said her statement went from $57 to $131 in December.

“I’m going to be scared to look at it next month,” she said.

Across the nation, people who depend on natural gas and propane as a source of heat are struggling with skyrocketing prices following a decline in supply and a sharp rise in demand.

Although the price the city pays for natural gas has not yet been passed on to customers, the price the gas department pays has gone from $1.98 per 1,000 cubic feet last year to $5.86 this month.

“I don’t know if there’s anything (the city) can do about it, but they should look into it,” Synnott said.

Mayor Robert Walker said the city is trying to negotiate a set rate for natural gas and that other proposals would be presented to the city board next month to help offset rising costs.

“If there is something we can do to contain rates, then we will look at it,” Walker said.