Higher heating costs bring chill to tenants

by Kevin McCahill

Winter has sent an icy kiss in Minnesota’s direction, which is bad news for students hoping to save money on utilities.

Winter heating costs are increasing along with the global need for crude oil and natural gas. Students now must dig deeper into their wallets to cover the extra cost.

Jim Eischens, property manager in the University area, said he expects to see heating costs increase 50 percent to 70 percent this winter.

He said the winter weather will make this season bleak for property owners.

“(They’ll) probably just go broke,” he said. “It will be that bad. There is nothing you can do.”

Eischens said he will send e-mails to his tenants asking them to be conservative in their natural gas use, though his request may not prevent a higher bill.

“We’ll request (that they) be conservative,” he said. “Whether they do it or not, we’ll never know.”

University Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Richard Pfutzenreuter said that because housing costs have already been budgeted for this year, students in residence halls won’t be assessed extra costs this winter if prices skyrocket as expected.

Instead, if costs are greater this year, a higher price will be assessed for students next year.

“In the short term, we are not expecting any changes (in costs),” he said.

University President Bob Bruininks and the Board of Regents will discuss the issue at their board meeting next week, Pfutzenreuter said.

Landlord Jason Klohs expects to see costs increase considerably.

“I’m worried about that,” he said. “(Heating) is going to be quite a cost.”

Utilities are built into the rent of the building run by Klohs, who added an energy-efficient furnace and windows to help keep costs low.

“I’m proactive with energy costs,” he said.

He said he wanted to be energy efficient so he doesn’t lose money in the long run.

Klohs also has a clause in the renter’s lease that says if utility costs run above 10 percent of the average cost, then students must cover the extra.

“When kids aren’t paying the bill, then they don’t care and take 10-hour showers,” he said. “It’s an issue, but the big issue is that kids don’t notice it until it hits them in the pocketbook.”

The University Extension Service advises students to keep their windows and doors sealed to avoid heat leaks and to use extra blankets instead of turning up the thermostat.

Some students, such as mechanical engineering sophomore Dave Elsmo, plan on spending the winter with extra blankets.

“We’re avoiding turning on the boiler,” he said of the Marcy-Holmes house he shares with four others. “We’ll use it as little as possible and bundle up.”

Psychology junior Laura Radley said utility costs are included in her rent for her Uptown apartment, so she wasn’t concerned about the higher costs.

First-year aerospace student Dan Poniatowski said he plans to use fireplaces instead of the furnace.

“We’ll keep cold the places we don’t use,” he said.