Residents and officials object to ‘sharp and sudden’ utility increases

Milford. Those who spoke at a public hearing on Monday said residents and small businesses have already suffered grievous financial hardship as a result of the pandemic, and that is unreasonable at this time for Pike County Light & Power to increase natural gas bills by 17.3% and electric bills by 19.7%.

| 10 Feb 2021 | 04:02

Pike County Light & Power (PCL&P) filed a request in late October that would increase its annual operating revenues by approximately $1.933 million, or 24.7%, for electric, and by $262,000, or 16%, for natural gas.

Under the company’s proposals, the total monthly bill for a residential customer using 674 kilowatt hours of electricity would increase from $103.90 to $121.90 (17.3%), while the total monthly bill for a residential heating customer using 80 cubic feet of natural gas would increase from $93.57 to $111.97 (19.7%).

“Pike County families and small businesses simply cannot bear the financial burdens of these sharp and sudden increases,” said Chair Matt Osterberg on behalf of the Pike County Commissioners at telephonic public hearing held by the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission on Monday. He urged the commission to implement “more reasonable rate increases to occur incrementally over a longer time period to help ease the strain.”

County government alone would have to spend about $10,000 more a year to continue basic operations at the Pike County Administration Building, Osterberg said.

He said he understood that PCL&P may be facing increased expenses, and that it needs to compensate its employees and upgrade its equipment. “But during the time of a pandemic and considering the economic struggles that it has wreaked on many people in our community, we believe the pause button must be pressed on these requests by PCL&P,” he said.

Spotty service, weak community support

Milford Mayor Sean Strub told the commission that the borough’s commercial district is made up of mom-and-pop stores and independent contractors that have been “profoundly hurt” by the Covid-19 pandemic. The average age in the borough skews older than elsewhere in Pike County, with many residents living on fixed incomes, he said.

Strub said the level of service is wanting. ”When Corning Gas bought Pike County Light & Power a few years ago,” he said in his statement, “we were promised an improvement in service, as well as a continuation of a level of support for community organizations and events Pike County Light & Power had long sponsored,” he said in his statement. But, he said, PCL&P has cut back its community support, and spotty service has driven residents to depend on generators.

Milford Borough Councilmember Joseph Dooley “noted the preponderance of homes with generators in Milford Borough and I agree with him,” said Strub. “I’ve never seen a community with so many homes requiring generators to ensure a continuity of service.”

Strub thanked Osterberg and others who spoke at the hearing, including Charles Gillinder, Milford Borough Council President Frank Tarquinio, Milford Borough Councilmember Joseph Dooley, business owner Vaughan Hansen, Milford Borough residents Daniel Wolfe, Anthony Provenzano, Fred Weber, John Cicolella “and a number of other folks from Matamoras and elsewhere.”

In Pike County, PCL&P provides service to approximately 4,800 residential and commercial electric customers, and approximately 1,200 residential and commercial natural gas customers.