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Utility bills high in Jackson due to weather, wind and rate change

When Jackson residents opened their latest utility bill, many found that their bill had doubled or even tripled over the course of the month. Jim Roach, Jackson City Administrator, said usage rates were up around 50 percent, which corresponded to a unusually high bill.

Roach said the difference was mainly due to the weather and lower than average temperatures during the bill’s date range. He added that the temperature drop lined up almost exactly with the beginning of this bill’s date range, causing the usage to be considerably different to last month.

“It was pretty mild early in December and then all of a sudden, it started to get unusually cold, and it has stayed that way,” Roach said.

The period was especially atypical due to strong winds combining with the cold temperatures. Roach said wind has a greater effect on usage than many realize.

“The wind brings the wind chill down, and it blows in around your doors and your windows and drops your temperature,” Roach said. “So the wind is an important factor along with the actual air temperature.”

New utility rates also took effect with the Feb. 1 bill, raising electric, water and sewer rates 2.1 percent. The residential electric rate is now 0.1080 per kWh.

Roach said the rate adjustment was not a major factor in bills being high this month and the annual change is based on the consumer price index. The CPI is established by the state in the summer and the city then uses that index when budgeting for the upcoming year.

“It’s a inflationary adjustment so we don’t fall behind and have to have a huge increase every few years,” Roach said.

The rate adjustment is similar to past years, which Roach said ranged from 1.5 to 2.5 percent.

Roach added that people are charged their actual usage, so using their heat less will have an effect on their bill. The city used to have to estimate usage if they could not access the meter for any reason, but no longer estimate now that they access electric usage through radio signals.

He suggested customers review their thermostat settings and improve the insulation of their homes in whatever way they can. Plugging energy leaks with weather stripping and caulking, turning off electric heaters when changing rooms and moving furniture away from the colder outside walls can help lower your electric bill.

Roach said he is hopeful the worst weather for the winter is behind us, and he understands why customers are concerned with their latest bill. Those with additional questions about their utility bill can contact utilities@jacksonmo.org or call the Collectors Office at 573-243-4404.

Jay Forness covers education, county government and community events for The Cash-Book Journal. He graduated from Southeast Missouri State University with a degree in multimedia journalism and has lived in Jackson for the past four years. He can be reached at cbjedit@socket.net.

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