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County’s gas bill spikes after cold blast
Reserve funds tapped to cover higher gas bill
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The February cold snap put a chill on Barton County’s budget with the month’s gas bill over 15 times higher than it was in January, County Administrator Phil Hathcock told the County Commission Monday morning.

Following the arctic blast, county’s portion of the over $23,000 bill was $21,267.10. This covers the Courthouse, Sheriff’s Office, Detention Facility and the Health Department.  

“As you might recall, in February, it became bitterly cold,” County Administrator Phil Hathcock said. “It’s been in the media that natural gas prices spiked during that time due the high demand, and the county was not immune to those spikes.”

Earlier this month, the county received its February bill from WoodRiver Energy, which provides the county’s natural gas. To put it in prospective, he said the January the bill was $1,381.36 for the county buildings. In February, it was over $23,600. 

“We certainly could pay this out of the general fund budget, it will not cause any violation,” he said. “However, I feel it prudent not to put an undue burden on the general fund budget and other budgets in the county.”

He suggested they pay it out of capital improvement. The total costs that we would pay would be $21,267.10 after other entities that utilize county office space pay their portion of the bill. 

Basically, he said, this pays for the expense out of the county’s reserves, or savings, rather than out of the regular operating budget.

The county basically has two savings accounts. Capital improvements usually use for things that are building related, and equipment replacement which is used to buy vehicles and things like that. 

In this case, the capital improvement fund would be utilized, Hathcock said.

“That is a good reason have some savings,” said Commissioner Shawn Hutchinson, District 3.