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Cities approved for financial relief following freezing cold in February

Published: Mar. 16, 2021 at 10:31 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Alma is one of the more than 50 cities in the state asking for financial help after seeing their gas bill go up more than $600,000.

February’s sub-zero temperatures left the town with a sky-high bill. They normally would pay about $55,000 according to the City Council findings, instead it was more than $656,400 dollars.

The city hall meeting Tuesday night gave people the chance to speak out.

City of Alma Superintendent Michael Slobodnik said, “Most everyone had questions on why was it so high compared to what it normally is. We did our best to communicate that this was coming but still it’s still quite a shock to everybody.”

Kansas State Treasurer Lynn Rogers announced Tuesday that 53 local communities already applied and were approved for a total of $69,519,697.04, or 69.52% of the total available funds, in low-interest loans through a program created specifically because of the situation.

The City of Alma was approved for $501,451.

“Our bills were higher than that. We took money out of reserves to help cover this so that other towns have an opportunity to get this money as well,” said Slobodnik.

Alma isn’t alone. 13 News continues to cover the situation of towns struggling with higher bills than expected.

“This is a problem that is statewide and really region wide. Oklahoma, Texas, everyone is dealing with the same issue. It was at times a lively discussion but we did our bet to answer everybody’s questions,” he said.

Slobodnik is hopeful the loan, which residents will pay back over the next four years, will put the town in the right track. He said if they need more than four years, they will work with them to get it settled.

“Like our school districts and any others, we will work with them as long as we need to.”

He said the city is exploring possible changes in its gas operations to avoid similar problems in the future.

He also urges people to contact state representatives at the local, state and federal level for help.

“Talk to anybody and everybody you can so this never happens again because it’s not a position I or any of our city council wants to be in ever again,” he said.

Cities had the opportunity to ask for a loan for both natural gas and electric. Alma asked for a loan only for natural gas.

Garden City and Winfield are the only two cities that asked for more than $10,000,000.

for the full list of cities approved for loans, click here.

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