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Teller County residents forced to ration propane as deliveries arrive weeks late

CRIPPLE CREEK, Colo. (KRDO) -- Ever since Bill Hartzer moved to his mountain house in Cripple Creek in 2021, he's had delivery delays with his propane provider AmeriGas.

Hartzer moved from his ranch in Texas to the mountains near Cripple Creek. The previous homeowner was rented a 1,000-gallon propane tank from AmeriGas to heat the house, and Hartzer had no option but to continue using the tank.

Since moving in, Hartzer had to fill the tank twice. Both times Hartzer said AmeriGas’ delivery was weeks late.

“Delivery is supposed to be within seven days and then that becomes two weeks or three weeks,” he said.

Hartzer’s propane tank is vital for heating his house. It's used to heat the boiler and send hot water through the floors of the house. It also powers his backup generator whenever the electricity goes out, which he says happens a dozen times every year.

“When a lot of your heat and your whole home generator all run off of propane and of one particular tank, it kind of gets concerning,” he said.

Hartzer’s propane tank has run out while waiting for deliveries. In those instances, he said he uses the fireplace and electric heaters to warm the house.

“Having to run the electric heaters does cost a fair amount,” he said. “It brings our electric bill the next month up a couple hundred dollars.”

This isn’t just a problem for Hartzer. Residents throughout Teller County have complained about their AmeriGas propane deliveries being delayed.

One resident in Florissant told 13 Investigates they’re bringing electric heaters and blankets to their neighbors, whose propane is nearly out.

And the issue extends throughout the country. Late AmeriGas propane deliveries have been reported in California, North Carolina, and Virginia. The problem is such a concern there is even a Facebook group for complaints.

When AmeriGas eventually delivered to Hartzer, employees told him the company has a shortage of drivers. 13 Investigates reached out to AmeriGas for comment and hasn’t heard back.

Hartzer said the solution starts with better communication. He said any customer service calls are sent to an overseas call center and that talking to an actual AmeriGas representative is nearly impossible.

AmeriGas has an automatic delivery program. When a customers' tanks hit 20% capacity, they are automatically scheduled for a refill. But Hartzer said it doesn't work. When no delivery is scheduled, any customer that calls AmeriGas to schedule a delivery is charged $7, Hartzer said. And any expedited delivery costs $350.

“When there's going to be a delivery the next day and then two days later, it still hasn't happened, that's when it becomes frustrating,” Hartzer said.

Hartzer has no other option but to stay with AmeriGas. Local propane providers in Teller County told him they won’t deliver above 10,000 feet. But he said he is learning how to work with AmeriGas’ system and requesting deliveries sooner than usual.

“When we start requesting delivery, we understand that it might take up to a couple of weeks to get it,” Hartzer said.

The state Attorney General's office told 13 Investigates if residents are experiencing significant delays that they should file a complaint at StopFraudColorado.gov.

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Quinn Ritzdorf

Quinn is a reporter with the 13 Investigates team. Learn more about him here.

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