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Independence church worries gigantic gas bill will force it to close its doors

INDEPENDENCE, Mo. -- Eldon Prawl is deacon, assistant treasurer and, at times, even preacher at Faith Missionary Baptist Church in Independence.

“We don’t have a pastor at the moment, “ said Prawl. “We are trying to get one.”

The congregation, of which Prawl has been a member since 1972, operates on a shoestring budget. Its income comes from the offerings and tithes of its 10 active members. So you can imagine the shock when this month’s gas bill arrived.

“It just blew me away,” said the soft-spoken Prawl, a retired high school shop teacher.

A typical monthly bill gas bill for the church is $70. This month’s bill? $2,597.

“That’s more than a whole year, probably two years,” said Prawl, who immediately started checking for leaks in the church’s two furnaces and water heater.

“We found a real small one that goes into the valve for one of the furnaces,” he said. But a leak that small – you couldn’t even smell it – wouldn’t explain a bill 25 times larger than the church’s normal gas bill.

When Prawl called MGE to let them know there must be some mistake. Could it possibly a problem with the new meter MGE installed last month, Prawl asked.

He was surprised by the response.

“She told me they couldn’t get anybody out here until the 30th,” Prawl told Problem Solvers last week. “The 30th? That’s almost two weeks. I say the bill is due Friday.”

It’s a bill he said that’s so large it could force the church to close its doors.

“We can’t handle that much payment,” Prawl said. “That’s the bottom line.”

That’s why he called FOX 4 Problem Solvers, hoping we could get answers from Missouri Gas Energy before the bill comes due. We called MGE. A few hours later, MGE called Prawl with some good news. He could just ignore the bill until the gas company determined why it was so high.

A company spokeswoman told Problem Solvers that MGE has yet to find the cause of the problem, but acknowledged the sky high bill might simply be a math error.

All potentially good news and a possible answer to Prawl’s prayers.  We’ll let you know what happens.