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Some Columbia residents receive high utility bills following dangerously cold weather

Resident paying their utility bill at City Hall on Feb. 26th
Resident paying their utility bill at Columbia City Hall on Feb. 26th


Some Columbia Water and Light customers have seen large increases in their monthly utility bills.

It comes after dangerously cold temperatures moved into Mid-Missouri late last month.

A viewer who wishes to remain anonymous told ABC 17 News their new utility bill was more than triple from the previous month. The viewer said the new bill came in at $1,600 when they typically pay $300-$500 a month in the winter.

Public Information Specialist for Water and Light, Matt Nestor, said the rise in utility prices is mainly because of the recent cold weather.

"We saw our temperatures were 30% lower than an average February and the demand for energy rose," Nestor said.

Nestor said the subfreezing temperatures around the area had recently really driven up prices. He believes with the upcoming warmer weather, bills should level out.

The viewer told ABC 17 they live in a mobile home park on Rangeline Street and heat their trailer with space heaters during the winter.

One recommendation Nestor had for people trying to keep bills low was to leave the thermostat at a constant temperature.

"We recommend setting your thermostat in the mid-60s and not turning it up or down a lot during the day so that it remains a consistent temperature and that puts less stress on the unit," Nestor said.

Nestor said that Columbia Water and Light has two assistance programs for residents in need of payment assistance.

The HELP Program assists low-income families with children in the home. According to the city's website, this assistance is limited to one time per year and five times within a lifetime. 

The CASH Program assists low-income senior citizens and people with disabilities. Both programs have certain eligibility requirements:

  • Must be a permanent resident of Boone County
  • The household's income is at or below 150% of the federal poverty level
  • The utility account must be in the applicant’s name
  • Only members of the applicant’s household are eligible for assistance

The City of Columbia's website says utility assistance will only be provided for active electric and water accounts. It said other utility assistance may also be available from other organizations.

The City of Columbia Utility prices are set by an ordinance and how rates are calculated for customers can be found here.

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Meghan Drakas

Meghan joined ABC 17 News in January 2021.
The Penn State grad is from the Philadelphia suburbs where she interned with several local TV stations.


1 Comment

  1. We don’t know if this is a valid complaint or not. Mobile homes have a well deserved reputation for being energy inefficient, to varying degrees depending on their age. They are much more efficient now than in the past. Apparently the complainant uses electricity as their sole source of heat, which is by far the least efficient, and most costly way of acquiring it. Any thing that produces heat from electricity is a major cost item to operate. They are designed to use as much energy as they can until their target temperature is met. I wouldn’t suggest that a 300% increase is justified by the cold, but it does make me suspicious of the claim.

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