City of Milford announces error found in utility bills

 

MILFORD — About 6,000 residential utility customers in Milford were overcharged for electric usage during the summer months this year, City Manager Eric Norenberg announced Thursday.

“We had heard some grumblings or people expressing concerns about people having higher than normal bills over the summer,” Mr. Norenberg explained.

In response to concerns heard from the public, city officials began searching for answers.

“We found it in the last place we looked,” Mr. Norenberg said. “I hope the customers will realize that we’re trying to be accountable with their dollars. If we find an error, we’re going to correct it.”

A discrepancy in residential electric rates was discovered by city staff late Friday afternoon once they realized an earlier version of rates were used in an ordinance passed by the Milford City Council, instead of the finalized rates as presented by a rate consultant.

Mr. Norenberg says the city immediately began working to fix the error.

Residential customers were billed approximately seven percent more than originally expected during the billing periods which ran from June 1 until Sept. 30, costing “a typical customer consuming 750 kWh monthly about $10 each month during the summer billing period,” a press release from the city read. Commercial and industrial rate users were not affected.

“We sincerely apologize for this mistake. We will make this right and reimburse all customers as soon as possible,” the city manager said. “For some people, the $10 will mean something. For others, it will be the principle.”

Some residents, however, expressed disagreement when they heard the news of the error Thursday.

“Seven percent more? [A] $600 bill, up 50 percent from last year, and we are not running our hot tub this year. This is outrageous,” Natalie Baker said in a Facebook comment.

Mr. Norenberg said concerned customers can contact the city to discuss individual situations. He said the goal, however, is to see a decrease in rates over time thanks to a three-year rate design implemented in 2017 and the use of new smart meters throughout town.

According to the press release from the city, “The summer 2018 rates should have been less than the summer of 2017. The summer rates scheduled to go into effect in June 2019 will also be lower.”

The rates are expected to decrease over time due to newer technology allowing employees to read and diagnose meters online instead of in person. This will, according to city leadership, save on money, employee time and wear and tear on city vehicles.

But, in summer 2018, the rate didn’t decrease as expected because of the error found last week by city of Milford staffers.

“City staff is actively working with the billing system provider to calculate the refund due to each individual customer based on their electric usage during the summer period. Depending on their billing cycle, residential electric customers that were overcharged will have refunds appear as a credit on bills arriving later in October or in November. Any customers that disconnected service during this period will receive a refund by check,” the press release stated.

The council will revisit electric rates as an ordinance to fix this error is introduced at their next meeting to be held Monday, Oct. 8 at 7 p.m. at City Hall. No action will be taken by council during this meeting.

A special Milford City Council meeting will be held Tuesday, Oct. 9 at 6 p.m. at City Hall to vote on the ordinance. Council will then hold a workshop meeting Monday, Oct. 22 at 6 p.m. to hear an update on electric services, rates, smart meter installations and other developments.

Jennifer Antonik writes special reports for the Delaware State News

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