All hands were on deck as phones rang off the hook in Eagle Mountain Monday with residents complaining about sky rocketing utility bills, some a couple hundred dollars more than normal.
The steady stream of calls spilled over into the afternoon, said city spokeswoman Linda Peterson.
Residents were calling to find out why their meter read for gas or electricity was higher than they expected it to be.
The cause of the problem spurs from a meter signal transmitter in the ground that wasn’t working properly, possibly because of the extreme cold. The city confirmed the meters were manually reading from homes properly, Peterson said, however, the signal transmitter wasn’t sending the information to a handheld device — which now has been sent in for repair.
Jana Bishop, who has lived at her home for seven months, expected a rise in cost because of the colder month. But after seeing a nearly $150 jump in one month and seeing her electricity and water costs also go up she was confused. She and her husband keep their thermostat at 65 degrees in the day and 62 degrees at night.
“You expect a bit of a jump, but when you are being that stingy on your heater ... it is certainly frustrating,” Bishop said. “I feel like I can’t go any colder than that.”
She says the drastic change in one month is what may be cause for alarm by residents concerned about a possible clerical error.
Charlotte Ducos didn’t think twice when her January Eagle Mountain utility bill was a few dollars more than in December, because it was a record cold season. It wasn’t until the city began informing residents they might see a spike in the cost of their bill because of a transmitting malfunction that affected two-thirds of the city.
The city notified residents by email and social media that some resident’s bills would have an estimated bill based on December and next month would jump a lot after true meter reads for January were added.
“I was looking for a spike and it wasn’t there.” Ducos said adding she believes her bill was an estimated bill.
“Finding out about the billing issue made more sense to me than the bill I got,” Ducos said, adding that there was nothing that showed her bill was an estimation.
The city apologized for not sending a notice of the meter collector problem in residents February bills.
Ducos said she thinks the city would have better suited by making residents aware, but can also see why they didn’t.
Mother Nature was to blame for the major increase in utility costs, according to the city. Although some residents on the city’s Facebook page said they saw a massive increase in their electric bill and not the gas bill.
January is typically the coldest month of the year, but this year was the coldest month recorded at the Salt Lake International Airport since 1949, according to the National Weather Service.
Eagle Mountain does not have a privately owned utility company. When the city incorporated it took out bonds to pay for its own utility infrastructure, because private companies weren’t interested in servicing the rural area. Now even if a company was interested because the city has grown in population it would have to pay off the city’s $51 million bonds.
The increase of usage has gone up everywhere because of the colder than normal winter, according to Questar Gas.
The statewide utility service company says usage for them was 30 percent higher this January compared to last year.
“It is definitely significantly more gas usage than the previous January,” said Questar spokesman Darren Shepherd. The utility company, which services 930,000 homes and businesses in Utah and southwest Wyoming, hit a record with about 11 days of pushing more than 1 million decatherms of natural gas to customers. On January 15 it hit a 24-hour record of 1.2 million decatherms.
“The previous year we didn’t hit one day,” Shepherd said.
What’s a decatherm?
Decatherm (Dth) – It is a unit of measurement for heat, equal to 1 million Btu (British Thermal Units).
If residents have bill questions, they may call 801-789-6627, email email@example.com, or visit in person at City Hall.