Edinburgh to correct utility billing issue impacting small businesses

Daily Journal file photo

The Edinburgh Town Council discusses a matter before them on Feb. 26.

EDINBURGH — Edinburgh’s electric utility has been undercharging some customer’s utility bills for years.

“We don’t want to talk about this one, but we need to,” Superintendent Stephen Clark said at a town council meeting Monday.

Edinburgh’s electric utility charges residents based on the tariff code based on the type of each customer’s service and how much demand they have for electricity. There are about eight different tariff codes in the town’s ordinance, documents show.

Customers who fall under the Tariff EL 4 General Power Service haven’t been charged a demand charge as town ordinances say they should have been, Clark said. Customers who fall under that category are small businesses using less than 300 kilo-volt-amperes, or KVA. No residences fall under this tariff, he said.

An ordinance establishing the demand charge and rate changes has been in the town’s code, but hasn’t been properly enforced until now. The ordinance, which was adopted in 2009 and amended several times since shows Tariff EL 4 customers should have been charged a $5 per KW demand charge when applicable.

“It’s not an ordinance that we created,” said Ryan Piercefield, the town council president. “They just didn’t enforce it. So, we’re following rules every step along the way.”

Clark doesn’t know why the demand charge hasn’t been enforced in the past. However, the town has taken a loss each month the charge hasn’t been collected, he said.

Clark estimates the town has been losing at least $33,000 a month for years because of the lack of enforcement. There are no plans to collect back charges, he said.

“We’re not going to be going backward because No. 1, I don’t have all the accurate information and No. 2, shame on us for not catching this earlier,” Clark said. “But going forward we need to fix it,”

A letter to affected customers will be sent informing them of the enforcement of the demand charge, officials said.

This change will be on top of Edinburgh’s recently approved electric rate increase of 10% across the board. The new rates went into effect this month and will be reflected on May bills.

Prior to raising the rates, the council hired a firm to study the utility’s finances and determine how much rates need to be to prepare for growth and pay for upcoming big projects such as a new substation and replacing outdated poles.