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      Propane shortage hits hard on small suppliers

      Bob Peltola, supervisor at the Settlerâ??s Co-Op in Bruce Crossing, has been on the phone non-stop the past six weeks, scheduling propane deliveries to his customers, which span from Copper Harbor to Watersmeet to Covington and everywhere in between.

      He said he typically gets 9,500 gallons of propane from his distributor in Wisconsin every day, but the nationwide shortage has reduced the deliveries to every other day.

      "The shortage, the high demand, and the severe weather weâ??ve had is putting us two to three weeks behind, just like other distributors, I imagine even the bigger companies," said Peltola.

      He said he is only able to give his customers 100 gallons of propane per delivery, which doesnâ??t even fill the tank for most.

      Prices have risen from $1.35 per gallon in the summer to a staggering $3.50 a gallon, and the additional $350 for a propane delivery is a large sum on top of other monthly costs.

      â??The beginning of the month, we got our electric bill, and that was $500 for a month,â?? said Bruce Crossing resident and Settlerâ??s Co-Op customer, Mary Lou Driesenga. â??That was a big shock. That was up about $150.â??

      Driesenga said though her home is equipped with a wood stove, she mostly uses propane, and 100 gallons will only last her family about a month.

      â??We not only use the propane for heat, but we use it for hot water, for cooking, and for our dryer,â?? she said. â??Weâ??re going to turn the heat down, weâ??re going to put the timers on for the showers, kids, and weâ??re going to use the Crockpot a little bit more.â??

      Peltola said not to let your propane dip below 20 percent full and reminds everyone to be patient as they make their way around to customers.

      â??Please keep an eye on your gauge because we will be there, but weâ??re running a little late,â?? he said. â??All of us work together on this, and hopefully Mother Nature will cooperate down the road.â??

      Peltola said there are many organizations that can help with paying energy bills, including St. Vincent de Paul, the Gogebic-Ontonagon Community Action Agency , the Michigan Community Action Agency Association , and Michiganâ??s Thaw Fund program.