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SonRise granted delay in electric transition

Nonprofit has until Nov. to make move from Delmarva Power over to town services

Berlin officials on Monday agreed to delay until November the last step of transitioning the SonRise Church complex on Main Street to town electric, from Delmarva Power.

By Marshall Gabell, Intern

(April 12, 2018) SonRise Church was granted an extension on the electric service agreement that will see the nonprofit religious enterprise transition to Berlin Electric, migrating over from Delmarva Power.

During the Berlin Town Council meeting on Monday, officials from SonRise asked to postpone their agreement to join Berlin Electric’s network until Nov. 1 because of unforeseen changes in the original intentions for their 10026 Main Street property, adjacent to the Maryland State Police Barracks on Route 50 in Berlin.

“We were going to demolish one of our buildings and subdivide our land,” property manager Neil Helgeson said. “And then we found out the infrastructure cost more than what we could sell those lots for. So, now we are going to keep that building.”

“We’re asking for about a seven-month extension, so we can have time to raise funds and purchase an electric transformer,” he added.

After purchasing the complex in 2016, SonRise expected to divide the land into commercial interests to earn extra revenue.

However, after recognizing costs were too substantial, the church was forced to alter plans to add a hotel and restaurant to the property. SonRise now expects to use the area as a central hub for teenage ministries and rent out office space to small businesses.

“Right now, we don’t have water or sewer connected to that building [near Route 50],” Helgeson said. “But it is in our plans to do that. We are looking to make it into a place for youth ministry and potentially leasing some office space from it.”

The electric agreement was postponed because church officials said they were unable to purchase a new transformer to allow for power service their building.

The Town Council voted unanimously to approve the delay with one member, Councilman Dean Burrell, absent. A vote on the matter was delayed from a previous meeting because no representatives from SonRise Church were present.

The request was not made because the municipality’s rates are higher than Delmarva Power or other electric companies.

“We deal with a myth that we have the highest electric rates in the land,” Mayor Gee Williams said. “That is not true. I hope I live to see the day when people stop thinking we have the highest electric rates around.”

Electric Utilities Director Tim Lawrence provided a memo prior the meeting, comparing Berlin Electric’s rates to Delmarva Power and Choptank Electric Cooperative, the two leading power agencies in the region.

According to Lawrence, Berlin Electric customers spent on average $128.88 per 1000 kilowatts, while Delmarva Power consumers paid $152.00 for the same amount of power. Choptank Electric’s clientele spent $136.84 per 1000 kilowatts, he said.

Although costs are lower now, that was not always the case in Berlin. Lawrence estimated the cost for town residents in 2008 to be about $178.97 per 1000 kilowatts.

“Down the road, I think we will be able to save the church and others a lot of money,” Williams said.