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Residents See Red Over Electric Bill Hikes

Do you notice a hike in your electric bill?

Greenport residents are outraged over electric bills they say have spiked even higher than expected.

The bills, said Greenport resident Bill Swiskey, have gone up approximately 80 percent.

"The average bill  almost doubled. This is not the $8-10 dollars the mayor forecast," he said.

The recent bill that was received by village residents, Swiskey said, reflected an uptick in the purchase power adjustment portion of the bill of about 80 percent.

Swiskey has asked Mayor David Nyce if the rate hike was instituted "illegally."

Swiskey has reached out to the New York Power Authority for clarification.

He added that the village has not responded properly to village customer complaints.

Swiskey also demanded that NYPA provide an explanation for each charge stated on the NYPA bill to the village dated Oct. 15, "since the Village of Greenport is unable  to explain them."

Nyce promised village taxpayers that the increase it would cost the average residential customer no more the $7 to $10 dollars a month, Swiskey said.

"Well, in less than two months in, that cost is almost doubling the average energy charge portion of the average residential electric bill.  The only answer they can provide to my inquiry is, 'The bill is the bill.' I think that the village needs to provide a clear explanation of how this could happen. Every rate payer should withhold payment of this bill until that explanation is forthcoming."

Next, Swiskey said, the village posted a notice on Monday at 4:15 p.m. about a special meeting to be held on Tuesday at 5 p.m. to discuss a contract matter.

"This short notice technique is used in most instances to prevent any meaningful public participation. Mayor Nyce got the board to vote to approve some correspondence that he had with NYPA way back in August; the letter was not provided to the public as part of the agenda, as required under the open meetings law. We can only guess he was referring to the letter responsible for the huge spikes in electric bills lately," Swiskey said.

Swiskey has written to both the village and NYPA with a freedom of information law request, asking that he be given access to all related documents. Patch has also requested copies of the documentation from the village.

Nyce and village officials did not respond to requests for comment.

Earlier this year, the increase on the electric bill had some seeing red.

A letter to residents was posted on the Greenport Village website. Dated August 14, 2013, the letter discussed a purchased power adjustment.

"The operations of the Village's electric department have not changed, and the base rates are remaining the same," the letter read. "However, certain long-term transmission contracts will expire on October 31, 2013. Similar contracts, used in the delivery of your purchased power, are more expensive. These contracts are necessary to protect the electric department's customers from the high transmission costs caused by the State's deregulated market for electricity."

The letter went on to say that beginning in August, 2013, the purchase power adjustment would increase in both residential and commercial bills for a 28-month period.

"In an effort to ease the impact on our ratepayers, the end result is a cost 'pass-through' with an expected average monthly billing increase for the next 28 months" of:

$7.75 to $10.69 per month for residential customers and

$25.12 to $39.77 per month for commercial customers.

The letter also stated that the village was continuing to work with the New York Power Authority to identify other options to help ease the burden on electric customers.

The letter had some calling for answers.

"On the average residential bill this amounts to a 10 to 15 percent increase in electric rates," Swiskey said. "What are the facts surrounding this move? At the minimum, there should have been a full-blown public notification and hearing to explain and answer questions. I don't believe posting it as small link on the village website meets that obligation. I think this increase should be delayed until these actions are taken."

Greenport village residents get their electricity, water and wastewater services from a facility on Moores Lane near the high school.

What do you think of the electric bill increase? Share your thoughts with Patch.
Gary M Charters December 11, 2013 at 12:55 PM
Our PPA adjustment went from $9 to $39 an increase in that line alone is around 380%. I have contacted the NYPA and have not yet received and answer. The Village is not good with public relations so I wouldn't waste my time contacting Village Hall!
Lisa Finn (Editor) December 11, 2013 at 09:52 PM
This comment was submitted by John Saladino: "Green energy park, Arbor day award, 2012 water report, hurricane preparedness, just to name a few items prominently displayed on the Greenport Village website. The Mayor and Village Clerk Pirillo apparently did not feel the fact that every single ratepayer's electric bill was almost double this month was worthy enough to be explained on the Villages website."
Gary M Charters December 11, 2013 at 09:57 PM
To add insult to injury our PPA this month was $77.00, the explanation was the Village got a high bill from NYPA which is billed as a flat rate and passed on to the customers, supposedly the Village bill from NYPA was in excess of $190,000.00. I wonder how this happened now but never happened before. Somethings rotten in Greenport!
Lisa Finn (Editor) December 11, 2013 at 09:57 PM
This comment was submitted by Bill Swiskey: "Attached is a letter that appeared on the village site on 12/11/13. They are talking about shutting down portions of the village for up to 30 minutes to test feeder circuit breakers. I guess the Mayor's favorite engineer has never taken the time to study the various circuit maps of the village. Basically how electricity is delivered to each part of the village. If the engineer had he would have realized that there has existed long before David took office what is called a loop distribution system. Basically any feeder circuit can be connected to another EX. 1 to 2 by closing a switch at a tie point in the field then the breaker to either 1 or 2 can then be de-energized and removed for service. After the breaker is serviced it can be reinstalled and energized and the other breaker removed, serviced, reinstalled and energized and the tie switch opened. NO outages need occur, I can only say that someone doesn't know what they are doing in the village. I appreciate your and the Patch's interest on these issues. William Swiskey P.S. I sent this to each trustee, the mayor and lawyer also NYPA so if something bad happens because of this mess they will have no deniability. Following is the letter, dated Dec. 10, 2013. Dear Village Resident or Business Owner, The Village of Greenport will be conducting testing of our Electric Plant switch gears on December 18th and 19th, 2013. Our residential testing is scheduled to be conducted during the day on December 18th. We are scheduled to conduct the testing for our commercial and business district early in the morning on December 19th, during non-peak hours. The service interruptions will last approximately 30 minutes per event. At the end of testing of the individual feeder breakers, the main breaker will be tested, which will result in a brief loss of power Village-wide. We apologize for any inconvenience, and are working consistently to ensure safe and efficient power distribution throughout the Village. If you have any concerns or questions, please contact the Utilities Department at: 631-477-0248, ext. 214. Sincerely, Derryl Baumer Engineering Aide
Lisa Finn (Editor) December 12, 2013 at 10:25 AM
This comment was submitted by John Saladino: "If what Mr. Swiskey says is in fact true, the engineer that the Village relies on is obviously unfamiliar with the system that is in place in the Village. This is the same engineer that has caused our power plant to be inoperable since it's multimillion dollar upgrade. He is the same engineer that for the last six years was supposed to train and has not, an operator for the power plant. Instead when there is a looming emergency, the Mayor hires him to stand by in case the the plant needs to run (for standing by for hurricane Irene for one day the Mayor paid him $15,000. It's hard for the average citizen to understand why Mayor Nyce continues to rely on such an unreliable and sub par vendor."
Gary M Charters December 12, 2013 at 11:18 AM
It's always easier for someone like Mayor Nyce to pay these high prices especially when it comes to OPM, (other peoples money). I wonder if he would spend a nickel of his personal money for this engineer?
forward thinking December 20, 2013 at 07:07 PM
the village needs a manager for a mayor preferably from "outside " the incorp. vill. that way no self interest. when nothing is addressed only the "worst" is happening ... the shutting of main breakers for 30 min is acceptable but the inrush of the power surge could "weld" the breakers contacts and render the future safety inadequate. especially the ampere draw on starting motors can be 5x the normal operating amp'. ws was right shunt the circuits.

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