Jackson County approves plan to pay unanticipated $174k gas bill from winter chill


FILE – This Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021 file photo shows power lines in Houston. The Biden administration is taking steps to protect the country’s electric system from cyberattacks through a new 100-day initiative combining federal government agencies and private industry. The initiative was announced in April by the Energy Department. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Jackson County lawmakers approved a plan to shift money to pay for a massive gas bill left over from the February freeze.

The Jackson County Legislature unanimously approved the transfer of more than $174,000 to cover a gas bill owed by the county’s family court.

It’s the first time in more that two decades that has happened, according to the court administrator.

“The family court has been purchasing natural gas, wholesale for over 20 years. Over the past five years we have actually saved the county in excess of $1 million dollars, had we been purchasing it through Spire or the Missouri Gas Company. However, this year in 2021, in the month of February, there was an extreme freeze in the state of Texas,” Theresa Byrd, Deputy Court Administrator, told the county legislature Monday.

That freeze in Texas caused a power shortage that impacted millions of people. The shortage also caused prices to soar.

The county has a contract with a company called Constellation. The contract includes a clause where the price of the gas supplied may fluctuate based on the market. The February storm in Texas caused dramatic price increases in the entire region and caused Family Court’s invoice from Constellation to increase to the amount of $181,202.12.

Byrd told county lawmakers that family court could cover the bill with funding in its budget. Some of the money comes from funds that were not used to pay for travel because of COVID-19 restrictions. The remainder was to be used to cover expenses for youth in private residential placements after a COMBAT grant covered that cost.

County Administrator Troy Schulte said that Family Court is the only agency in Jackson County that buys gas wholesale. Because of that, it’s the only department that experienced an extremely high bill.

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