City delays action to lower gas bills, repair annex

Published 11:44 am Thursday, October 11, 2012

About 20 City of Vicksburg employees previously reporting to the City Hall Annex will have to wait until at least Friday to find out when repairs will allow them to return to their offices, and 10,000 residents will have to wait for an unknown time to find out if and when they will see a decrease in gas bills announced last week by the mayor.

Meeting Wednesday, the Board of Mayor and Aldermen declined to act on either of the issues.

Mayor Paul Winfield said the board will meet at 10 a.m. Friday to approve a contract with DirtWorks of Vicksburg to repair the roof that has caused most of the eight departments in the annex building on Walnut and South streets to move.

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City Attorney Lee Thames said the board delayed approval Wednesday because negotiations with DirtWorks were continuing. The board renewed its emergency declaration for the annex, which has been closed since Aug. 29.

On the promised gas-cost decrease, Winfield declined to state a reason for no vote Wednesday and when asked if the gas issue would be decided during Friday’s meeting, he turned to North Ward Alderman Michael Mayfield.

“I’ve been ready to do this; we’ve discussed this as far as we can go,” Mayfield said. “If it’s not Friday, it will be our next meeting or the next one.”

Asked again this morning, Winfield said the gas issue was not on the agenda “because it slipped my mind.”

Some gas bills in Vicksburg run into the hundreds of dollars during the winter months.

The board is scheduled to meet Friday, Monday and Oct. 25. Winfield had said the new rates would go into effect Nov. 1.

City officials had been considering reducing the price of natural gas since mid-April, when natural gas prices dropped to below $2 per thousand cubic feet, or mcf.

The board on April 25 delayed reducing gas rates until May 7, and then until June, but there was no further discussion on the rates until Oct. 2, when Winfield announced gas rates would be reduced by 5 percent.

His announcement followed an email from Howard Randolph, president of Utility Management Group, the city’s gas consultant, that the company was able to reduce the city’s cost of gas by 5 percent, from $7 per to $6.65 per mcf.

Randolph estimated the city could realize a savings of about $250,000 per year from the reduction, depending on the weather and the cost of gas.

He said Utility Management bought gas for the city from Conoco-Phillips, the city’s gas supplier, for November, December and January at a locked-in price, meaning the city will pay that price even if the market price changes. He said gas still must be bought for February and March.

He said the gas was bought at an average price of $3.35 per thousand cubic feet. The price for November gas closed at $3.47 per mcf Wednesday.

City officials on Monday said DirtWorks was the low bidder to repair the annex roof, but would not release the contract price pending negotiations.

Moss Construction of Vicksburg also submitted a bid.