Despite intense opposition from disgruntled customers, the Maryland Public Service Commission has granted an $11.3 million rate increase to Potomac Edison, the power company that serves western Carroll County.
The increase -- the company's second in three months -- was approved last week, the company said in a news release yesterday.
The request for the increase drew strong criticism at commission hearings in November from customers who said the company has not provided adequate service.
Company officials said the increase includes $2 million for adjustments to comply with federal Clean Air Act Amendments. Potomac Edison originally requested a $23 million increase.
"Unfortunately, the commission did not allow the level of power station maintenance that we considered necessary and requested," Potomac Edison President Alan J. Noia said in a prepared statement.
The commission also approved an anti-pollution surcharge increase of $2.2 million in December.
Company officials said customers using the average 1,000 kilowatts of electricity per month now will pay monthly bills of $66.99 rather than $64.35.
Countryside Electric Consumers, a group of Mount Airy Potomac Edison customers, said at the November hearing that the company had not upgraded its service to protect customers from power surges.
The group formed in August after Potomac Edison refused to reimburse customers for appliances damaged during a power surge June 5.
"It's disheartening, of course," Countryside member Alan L. Chaffman Jr. said yesterday about the increase. "We're still looking into some other avenues" in search of reimbursements.
Mr. Chaffman said he and Countryside founder Jack Aellen sent letters to the Public Service Commission after the Nov. 25 rate increase hearing and were dissatisfied with the response.
"Frank Fulton, director of consumer assistance and public affairs of the PSC, sent us a rather interesting note which explained there wasn't a thing he could do with us," Mr. Chaffman said. "He said everything he found was within the guidelines, that Potomac Edison was not negligent and that, unless we wanted to hire a lawyer, we were on our own.
"We kind of expected that with that response they [the commission] would go ahead and grant the rate increase."
However, Mr. Chaffman said Countryside members feel their power service has improved since they complained publicly.
"There have been considerably fewer outages than there were last summer," he said.
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.