A local rants and raves Facebook page exploded last week as over 50 residents responded to one man’s post in which he reported that his utility bill for August had spiked, increasing by almost 40% from the month before, and asked if anyone else had noticed a similar trend.
The comment section was conflicted on the issue as some, like Becky Hoff Dike, who said her bill increased 30% in August, were also confused about the utility rate increase.
Others, like Bruce Hammond, admitted that they’d received a higher bill last month but blamed their increased usage of water and electricity in the hotter season.
“Yes, mine went up because I want it cooler in my house and use extra water,” he commented.
In about 75 comments (and who knows how many replies), the Gillette ranters and ravers were unable to decide where the raised rates were coming from.
Meanwhile, City of Gillette Utilities Director Mike Cole offered an explanation.
“In total,” Cole explained in a phone interview Monday, “everyone’s bill increased by $5.14 in May.”
According to Cole, the city increased the base rate for water by $1.10 and raised wastewater by a set $4.04 back in May. These two values were simply added to residential bills rather than multiplied by usage rates and then added, he said.
The total increases should have accounted for around 2-5% of the average resident’s utility bills, Cole added, claiming the 40% upticks reported could be caused by other variables as well.
Cole said the best way to lower a utility bill is by examining each individual bill closely.
“A lot of people look at their total billing price and are really shocked to see increases, but if you break down your bills and consider your usage, it usually starts to make sense,” he said, adding that utility bills are known to spike around the summer months due to lawn irrigation and constant air conditioning in homes.
“By looking at your bill, you’ll see how much electricity, water and wastewater you used,” Cole reiterated. “From there, you’ll be able to decide what to cut back on.”
He recommended a timed air conditioning system to monitor the electricity while no one is home, he also encouraged families and individuals to try a new watering schedule for their lawns or gardens to decrease water usage.
For some in the community, Cole’s “summertime spike” explanation didn’t seem applicable, with several citizens claiming they hadn’t increased their usage in August and still saw a dramatic increase in their bills.
For this, Cole recommended a conversation with customer service.
“If you’re seeing your prices randomly jacked up and you can’t find an answer why, just let us know,” he advised. “We’ve seen broken irrigators that were spraying under the ground instead of on the grass and things like that.”
Cole said the City of Gillette routinely performs service calls to fix any issues in residents’ homes that could be causing their bills to rise.
“There are a number of things that could be wrong,” he said. “But, if you examine your home and decide what you don’t need, or what isn’t working, we can help you go from there.”