SOMERS, N.Y.-Dozens of residents in Somers have seen their electricity bills from New York State Electric and Gas increase dramatically in the last month, angering customers who’ve been dealing with frequent outages and what town leaders say is poor customer service by the utility.
“NYSEG chose to do a rate increase…in January. People’s bills doubled, tripled and quadrupled,” Somers Supervisor Rick Morrissey said. “In January, we had some of the coldest weather we’ve had in a long time, so electric usage went up tremendously. NYSEG rates did the same thing; as demand increased, the price went up. There were 22 days in January where NYSEG’s supply rate was in the double digits.”
The Somers Record put a call out on Facebook asking residents to share their thoughts on the rate spike and more than 30 responded with tales of outrage.
“Over the weekend I opened my NYSEG bill and it was unbelievable to me,” Elizabeth Swezey said. “I live in a Heritage Hills’ one-bedroom and the bill was $720 and change for the month. My last bill was $68. Fortunately through social media I heard other neighbors complaining about this.”
Swezey said she was able to call NYSEG and have the charges spread out over several months, but still feels the price increase is unfair.
“I’m shocked,” Swezey said.
Others wondered where the money was going, because there have been more outages than usual in Somers and North Salem.
“To add insult to injury, not only have we had to endure constant outages, although, fingers crossed, I haven’t had once since Christmas Day, now they’re going to charge us double for it,” Heritage Hills resident Ernesta Del Negro said.
June Berman Berliner said she believed there was an error on her bill when she first saw it.
“My bill went from $207 to $953,” Berliner said. “I live alone and am out of the house working most of the time. Impossible.”
Maria Andrea Laverde said she filed a complaint with the New York State Public Service Commission because her bill was $960 for January.
“NYSEG called me to try to talk me into dropping the complaint. No way! I’m not letting this go,” Laverde said.
Tina Sferra said her bill went from $275 to $1,079 and LouAnn Bocchino Streeter said her bill went from $99 to $488.
“Something has to be done,” Streeter said. “I called and got the same answer everyone else here did. What will next month bring?”
Dorinda Haskela called the situation “disgraceful.”
“How can this utility think this is OK?” Haskela asked.
A secretary for Morrissey said the town has been “inundated” with calls about the rate hikes.
Morrissey, along with North Salem Supervisor Warren Lucas, filed a formal complaint with the state Public Service Commission about the utility’s inconsistent service and failure to communicate about issues.
“Additionally, we met with NYSEG’s President/CEO Carl Taylor to discuss recent outages, their slow response times, shortage of manpower, and I mentioned the recent rate hikes, which added insult to injury for ratepayers experiencing frequent power outages,” Morrissey said. “A future meeting is planned with NYSEG to drill down exactly what infrastructure improvements will be made in Northern Westchester out of their $1.3 billion 2018 capital budget.”
He encouraged customers to also contact the New York State Public Service Commission to file complaints.
In response to a heavy volume of calls, Kathleen Abels, community outreach and development manager for NYSEG’s Brewster Division, issued a statement on Friday, Feb. 9, calling the high fees a “hopefully temporary supply rate increase.”
Abels said the rate spike “has had the greatest impact on residential customers on our day-night rate,” which includes those with electric water and electric water-heating homes.
“Supply rates fluctuate both up and down,” Abels said. “Customers should assess whether or not they are saving money on an overall, annual basis with the day-night rate.”
Abels said NYSEG created a new page on its website to address the issue, found at http://nyseg.com/coldtemps.
The site says customers may see an increase in their bills due to ongoing low temperatures that may have increased usage, thereby increasing the market supply price of electricity.
The utility lists a number of ways customers can get assistance with their bills: through budget-billing, -payment arrangements, home energy assistance and customer meter reading, which provides an actual bill instead of an estimated reading.
Customers can also contact the customer relations center at 800-572-1111 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Tom Bartley contributed reporting for this article.