FREDERICK -- The poor quality of service from the Potomac Edison power company dominated comments at last night's public hearing on its proposal for a rate increase.
About 40 people attended the 45-minute hearing, telling Public Service Commissioner Claude M. Ligon that they are unwilling to pay more for service when Potomac Edison is unwilling to upgrade its service.
"Instead of reinvesting earnings into a better quality product, PE has regularly increased dividends to stockholders and used their ability to raise dividends to support higher stock prices, which reward investors amply with a rate of return of over 6 percent," said Al Chaffman of the Countryside Electric Consumers in Mount Airy.
Countryside Electric formed in August after the company refused to reimburse customers for appliances damaged during a power surge June 5. About 400 customers lost property that contained microchips, such as computers, satellite disks and microwave ovens, Mr. Chaffman said.
"Since Nov. 24 last year, I have experienced more than 45 power outages," said Jack Thomas of Thurmont.
Potomac Edison has requested an average 7.5 percent rate increase to compensate for inflation, said company spokesman Joseph Elliott. The increase is expected to generate $23 million to cover increased operating and maintenance costs, he said.
However, Joe Swope of Boonsboro said the increase will be 11 percent for homeowners because businesses get a lower rate.
Potomac Edison's territory in Carroll County runs from Big Pipe Creek near Taneytown to the Frederick County border. It has more than 9,000 Carroll customers, primarily in Taneytown, Union Bridge, New Windsor and Mount Airy.
Its Howard County territory covers a northern strip from Woodbine west to Montgomery County.
The Public Service Commission will have another public hearing on the rate increase Dec. 10 in Hagerstown, Mr. Ligon said. The final decision is expected in February.