MAHOPAC, N.Y. - A proposal by New York State Electric & Gas (NYSEG) to increase its rates nearly 22 percent over a three-year period has raised the ire of the Carmel Town Board, which has written a letter to the state Public Service Commission (PSC) protesting the utility’s request.

Councilman Frank Lombardi raised the issue at the board’s voting meeting earlier this month and called the rate-hike request “offensive.”

“It is incumbent upon this Town Board to speak on behalf of the residents,” he said, calling the number and duration of power outages over the past several years indefensible. “Any time there is a [slight] wind, the residents at Lake Casse  [lose their power]. Same thing for a large section of the hamlet. I would like the board to send a letter out opposing the rate hike due to the difficulties experienced by a lot of the residents here in Carmel.

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“While it’s not all their fault, there is a lot that they could be doing to prevent some of the outages we’ve had,” Lombardi continued. “I really don’t understand why even when there’s a little bit of wind a place like Lake Casse is always out. It’s not right and it’s not fair. For [NYSEG] to ask for a 22 percent increase under these circumstances is offensive.”

Supervisor Ken Schmitt agreed, saying the Town Board has written letters to the PSC in the past protesting proposed NYSEG rate hikes.

“We did it post-Sandy,” he said, recalling the 2012 tropical storm, “and we did it with the nor’easters. I think [NYSEG] needs to be held accountable. We have to hold their feet to the fire. This rate increase they are proposing is really an insult to everyone who lost their power during the last two or three storm events either because the system is not hard enough or because of actions that they have not taken. Remember, NYSEG is owned by a foreign entity and they’re concerned about their bottom line. But I agree with Frank; something needs to be done.”

NYSEG’s rate hike proposal was filed on June 22; it would establish new rate plans for the company’s electric and gas delivery services for three years from May 1, 2020, through April 30, 2021; May 1, 2021, through April 30, 2022; and May 1, 2022, through April 30, 2023.

As levelized over the three-year rate plan, the revenue increases for NYSEG’s electric business are $45.68 million in the first year, $84.77 million in the second year, and $88.56 million in the third year.

State Sen. Jen Metzger (D-Rosendale) said a nearly 23 percent increase translates to an average increase of $10.20 a month on electric bills. That “would place an unreasonable burden on [NYSEG customers], is entirely unacceptable, and must be rejected,” she said.

The senator said that the increase would raise the rate of profit of the utility to 9.5 percent, which she said was one of the greatest contributors to the rate-increase request.

Lombardi asked that the board’s letter to the PSC state that it is being sent on behalf of all the town residents.

“It’s not just us five (board members), but 40,000 other customers who don’t really have a choice [where] to get their electricity from,” he said. “They have a monopoly on it. So, this is perhaps where our voices can be heard.”

The letter, obtained by Mahopac News, was addressed to John Rhodes, chair of the Public Service Commission, and reads:

“On behalf of the residents and business owners of the Town of Carmel, I am writing to express my opposition to NYSEG’s proposed rate increase of more than 20 percent over a three-year period.

“The residents of Carmel deserve better service and support from NYSEG. The abnormal frequency and length of power outages are occurring at a rate that is not acceptable.

“The Public Service Commission, which regulates NYSEG and other utility companies in the state of New York, should direct NYSEG to make immediate upgrades and improvements to its infrastructure (hardening its delivery systems) to withstand future weather-related events.

“No rate increases should be considered or approved until NYSEG had demonstrated that they have made significant improvements to their operating system in an effort to reduce the frequency of outages and significantly lessen the duration of power interruptions.”

The letter was signed by Supervisor Schmitt.