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Electricity rates rising again

(11/3) Thurmont's electric rates are going up a little faster and a little more than expected.

The Thurmont Town Commissioners heard an update about their electric rates from Drew Van Dopp with Downes Associates who told them that the town's electric rates would have to be adjusted sooner than expected and at a greater rate than estimated earlier this year.

"We thought these increases were going to happen in January, but they are going to happen in October," Van Dopp said.

He pointed out that the town has made attempts to minimize the impact of the increases by phasing in the rate increases and signing a long-term contract with its power supplier. The town also sought to delay the increase but was turned down by the Maryland Public Service Commission.

So the first increase went into effect in April.

'That was I imagine a jolt for a lot of folks," Van Dopp said, but he added that despite the increase, prices had remained competitive.

However, unexpected charges from both the town's old power supplier and its new supplier pushed costs outside a 3-percent buffer. These charges are what brought about the early adjustment.

Commissioner Wayne Hooper said, "The timing's no good. We're coming into a cold period and we're having to do this mid-stream."

The increase, which will be seen in the electric bills going out this month, amounts to 15.6 percent. This means a bill that was $89.72 for 1,000-kilowatt hours will now be $103.75.

In January, the annual adjustment is expected to increase the rate another 1.2 percent. This will increase the cost of 1,000-kilowatt hours will be $104.92.

"These monthly costs, though more than what they have been in the past, are still competitive compared to investor-owned utilities in the State of Maryland," Van Dopp said.

The total effect of the three increases will be 47 percent over what it was at the beginning of this year.

Commissioner Glenn Muth said, "It seems like we have no choice."

The town has been promoting a number of assistance programs that could help people cope with the increases.

"Citizens have told me they use these programs and they have helped them," said Commissioner Bill Blakeslee.

Information on the programs is available at the town office, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., (301) 271-7313.

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