The city of Bexley is dropping out of a natural-gas consortium that it has belonged to since 2004.

The city of Bexley is dropping out of a natural-gas consortium that it has belonged to since 2004.

Bexley, Dublin, Gahanna, Grandview Heights and Upper Arlington announced March 26 that they were dissolving the consortium following a winter when the group's negotiated prices were much higher than the local, regulated utility, Columbia Gas of Ohio. The natural-gas consortium provides fixed-rate gas contracts for 24,139 households.

Service director Bill Harvey said his most recent figures indicate that about 2,400 (about 60 percent) of Bexley's 4,000 households are participating in the consortium, whose contract runs through October. Customers automatically will be switched to Columbia Gas unless they choose to sign up for a fixed-rate or a variable-rate offer from another provider.

Harvey said Bexley could get back into the consortium should the Columbia Gas rates spike, but he doesn't anticipate doing so at this point.

There was no competition for Columbia Gas when Bexley joined the consortium, Harvey said.

"Now there are several companies that provide fixed-rate pricing for residents," he said.

The rates are so low it doesn't make sense to continue the consortium, he added.

Mayor John Brennan said the consortium originally resulted in some savings for residents because the supplier's rates were lower than Columbia Gas. However, the rates recently were not as good as eight different suppliers, he said.

The consortium, called the Central Ohio Public Energy Council, has been active since 2005. Voters in each of the cities passed ballot measures to join. Gas has been provided by Dublin-based IGS Energy, which worked through a third party, Columbus-based American Municipal Power.

According to The Columbus Dispatch, the current fixed rate of 83 cents per 100 cubic feet of natural gas, which began in January, is the lowest in the group's history but still roughly double the price offered so far this year by Columbia Gas. The Columbia Gas rate on March 29 was 55 cents per 100 cubic feet.

"It is a variable rate," Harvey said of the Columbia Gas rate. "It might be low now but might go up if we have another hurricane."

Columbia Gas' price is unusually low because of a general downturn in commodity prices and quirks arising from the company's switch to a new system for buying its gas, The Dispatch said.

tstubbs@thisweeknews.com