FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE)- Northeast Indiana residents and Fort Wayne Community Schools presented their concerns about Indiana Michigan Power’s (I&M) proposed rate increase at a public hearing Tuesday.
If approved, the request would raise a monthly residential electric bill for 1,000 kilowatt hours (kWh) from $141.91 to $163.02 if and when the proposed increase is fully implemented. Under the utility’s request, the monthly residential customer service charge would rise from $10.50 to $15. The monthly service charge for most small commercial customers would remain unchanged at $19. The change would raise rates in three phases, with increases taking effect: when a Commission order is issued, on May 31, 2020, and on Jan. 1, 2021.
At the public hearing, held at Purdue Fort Wayne’s Walb Student Union, many stepped up to the podium to express their concerns to the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC) .
Jim Kofski was one of them and said the raise would make people have to choose between their essential needs.
“They made a billion and a half in profits and now they want people to have to make a choice between medicine, food, and paying the electric bill, and sometimes the medicine loses. ” said Kofski. “It’s not right.”
Fort Wayne Community Schools also made a statement at the event. FWCS Coordinator for Energy Management Jim Cotter Jr. spoke, explaining that the rate hike would cost the district more than $400,000 a year.
“Ten full-time teaching positions is what that $400,000 is equivalent to,” said Cotter. “But it also then, just across the board, to raise teacher’s pay, to create more opportunities in the classroom could be affected by this increase.”
Indiana Michigan Power says the increase is important to maintaining infrastructure and continuing to provide service.
“We have infrastructure in place that is World War II era, and we’re not only looking to rebuild that for the resiliency of the grid, but to do it in such a way that helps not only our customers today, but their sons, their daughters, their grandchildren for decades to come,” explained I&M Director of Corporate Communications Brian Bergsma.
The Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor (OUCC), the state agency representing consumer interests in cases before the IURC, is reviewing I&M’s request to increase rates and is scheduled to file testimony on August 20. While the case is under review, the OUCC will continue to consider written comments from the utility’s residential, commercial, and industrial customers through August 13, 2019.
Consumer Services Staff
Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor
115 W. Washington St., Suite 1500 South
Indianapolis, IN 46204
All written consumer comments must be submitted no later than August 13, Consumers with questions about submitting written comments can contact the OUCC’s consumer services staff toll-free at 1-888-441-2494. A final order in the case is expected in March 2020.