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PUC to update public on upcoming bill hikes

Staff photo by Fritz Busch NUPU is warning the public to expect big hikes to utility bills after the cold February spell.

NEW ULM — The New Ulm Public Utilities Commission (NUPUC) will hold a special work session Tuesday to provide information on the recent natural gas price increase due to the polar vortex.

The work session is scheduled for 3 p.m. in the City Hall Chambers before the regular PUC meeting. The work session is intended as an informational meeting to explain the recent jump in natural gas prices.

Earlier this month, New Ulm Public Utilities (NUPU) warned residents their gas bills for February could be the highest in years. Natural gas prices are increasing across the country. When temperatures drop, customers turn up the heat in their homes, increasing the demand for gas.

The recent cold polar vortex is worse than previous cold spells because it is reaching into Texas and other southern states where wellheads are located. This is further cutting off the supply of natural gas.

NUPU Director Kris Manderfeld said this was easily the worst spikes in gas prices in the last two years. At the start of February, gas was $3 to $5 per MMBtu. By mid-February, it was $157 per MMBtu.

Manderfeld said the work session was to update the commission on how and why gas prices were increasing. The work session is intended as an information meeting.

The work session will be live-streamed on YouTube. The public can attend by phone or listen through Zoom. The public can attend the work session in person but will be required to wear a face cover and observe social distancing.

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The regular monthly NUPUC meeting will be held following the work session. The commission will consider authorizing the city to accept the contract revision from Western Area Power Administration (WAPA) to fix the energy and demand deliveries to New Ulm using May 2015 to April 2016 loading period chosen by New Ulm Public Utilities.

The PUC will also review change orders related to the transmission pole replacement project. This project replaces the wood poles with steel poles. During the rebuilding of the original design project, new items for construction were uncovered. The 69 kVA rebuild project has uncovered some undersized conductors that should be replaced. The change order cost is $13,000.

A second change order is for labor and materials. The change order is for $41,295.51 from Hooper Corporation for labor and materials.

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