BERLIN – Two years ago the Town Council was told that there was no way to get a fair deal for the town electric company rate payers unless they committed to a long term power purchase agreement. This week the mayor and council voted to seek a new shorter term deal after two years of paying well-over market value for electric.
Mayor Gee Williams said the town has “every expectation” that town electric bills – including commercial bills – will drop significantly after June 1 or as soon as a new agreement is in place. “We’re more than cautiously optimistic,” Williams said.
The new rates will be negotiated after the town joins the PJM, a company that “coordinates the movement of wholesale electricity in all or parts of 13 states and the District of Columbia,” according to its website.
Although the town will join PJM at a cost of around $15,000 the rates will be negotiated through a reverse-auction process wherein bidders drive the price down. Although the reverse auction wasn’t the method endorsed by the Berlin Utility Commission (BUC) it was the method recommended by Dwight Davis of engineering company Booth and Associates. Booth and Associates was retained by the town to consult on how to solve the high electric rate problem.
BUC chair Erik Quisgard, though he and the rest of the commission recommended against the reverse auction said that he believed the cost difference would be negligible.
“We have several options and many of them will return a good result,” Quisgard said. “It’s a good time to be in the market for power.”
The council also elected to request a proposal from Customized Energy Solutions, a company which specializes in managing transactions with PJM. The consultants will cost around $10,000 but both the BUC and Booth and Associates felt the estimated cost was worth the probable return.
The town also approved an extension to Schuster Properties, a company trying to build a subsidized housing project for low income seniors. Schuster Properties has been waiting for government funding to come through and expects the paperwork within the next 60 days.
Finance director Lynn Musgrave told the mayor and council that because of the storms at the end of last month the meter readings for residents’ water bills had to be estimated and the electric bills were read a few days later than usual.
As a result electric bills might appear a little higher than normal and the next water bill might include a correction either up or down depending on how close the estimate was. She said a note detailing this issue was included on the bills.
The council approved a request from Grow Berlin Green to apply reminder stickers to town storm drains reminding people that what goes into the drains goes into local waterways. The stickers were provided by the Surfrider Foundation.
Grow Berlin Green director Steve Farr said the group will be looking for volunteers to apply the decals, which are the same as have been applied to Ocean City’s storm drains, in the near future.