News

Enumclaw may see drop in gas rates

By Kevin Hanson-The Courier-Herald

Anyone heating a home with natural gas is acutely aware of the roller-coaster ride rates have taken during the past five or six years, from the noteworthy increases following Hurricane Katrina to the relative calm of the past 12 months.

The news is good this time around, as the city of Enumclaw has locked in a rate structure that appears to keep things fairly calm for the next three years.

City Administrator Mark Bauer said there might even be a drop in rate in the not-too-distant future.

“My understanding is we will be recommending a rate decrease,” he said, adding that a decline in rates - if approved by members of the City Council - could come in November or January at the latest.

“It's nice to be able to turn things around,” Bauer said.

Council members had authorized Public Works Director Chris Searcy to lock in a rate, if something favorable turned up on the open market.

The city presently pays $9.06 per decatherm for its gas supply, which originates in the American Midwest.

Under the terms of a three-year deal, the city will pay $7.56 for the 12-month cycle beginning in November, then pay somewhere in the neighborhood of $8.25 for each of the following two years.

There's a noticeable difference, of course, between what the city pays for its gas supply and what it charges its customers. There are a variety of costs associated with getting the gas supply into Enumclaw, directing product through a maze of individual gas connections and paying workers to maintain the system. The gas is provided through a north-south pipeline that gets as close to Enumclaw as the Seventh-day Adventist Academy in Auburn; the city owns the line that gets the gas into town.

The city bills customers on a “per therm” rate. For example, the city now pays it supplier 90.6 cents per therm and bills gas users $1.36 per therm.

The City Council will address possible rate decreases during the coming months as part of its effort to develop a 2008 operating budget.

Kevin Hanson can be reached at khanson@courierherald.com.

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