AMBERG - A propane shortage that affected Northeast Wisconsin this past winter is fresh in many people's minds.In many areas, prices more than doubled. People stayed warm any way they could.The shortage was blamed on a number of issues, including farmers using more propane to dry wet crops, a pipeline shut down, and the harsh winter conditions across the midwest.The supply has since recovered, and prices are down.State propane officials are asking people to check their tanks, and get them filled soon.At the Ace Hardware in Amberg, owner Bob Mathis says the winter propane shortage almost put him out of business."We were down to a gallon, when we got some gas," said Bob Mathis, Mathis Ace Hardware owner.Mathis and his family are ready this season."I got a contract for next year. I went with a new company, and they've been taking care of a lot of people around here," said Mathis.The Wisconsin Propane Gas Association recommends customers call their propane dealer and get what it calls a summer fill."Make sure you've got a contract signed with your dealer. Make sure you have a sense of how much propane you are going to use. Make sure you're ready for fall," said Brandon Scholz, Wisconsin Propane Gas Association Managing Director.AmeriGas serves 20,000 customers across Wisconsin. Almost two-thirds of those have contracts."We offer fixed-price programs, where customers can lock in the price today, and it will not change throughout the winter, regardless of what the market does, so they are assured of supply and a fixed price," said James Marshall, AmeriGas Operations Vice President.Marshall says contracts may not be for everyone. Customers may choose to avoid an agreement if they believe the price of propane will drop during the season.Larry Suzawith used wood and propane to heat his home over the winter. He is considering a contract."Usually you can lock in at a decent price, and hopefully nothing happens like last winter. You get the gas you paid for," said Larry Suzawith, Amberg.But others say people are still catching up from last year's bills."If you have the money to fill up, now is the time. It's back down to $1.60 a gallon, but many people are having to dig out from the winter. I think it's going to be a long summer, working their butt off so they can make next year's propane," said Verlyn Giguere, Amberg.Many propane dealers say they will start accepting applications July 1.Early indications show increased demands from farmers again this fall.
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