The January bill.



Anybody who has electric heat knows the first full month of winter brings with it the first full month of heating costs — and the resulting hefty bill.


The January bill.

Anybody who has electric heat knows the first full month of winter brings with it the first full month of heating costs — and the resulting hefty bill.

But, January 2009 electric bills were even worse than usual in the Milford area.

Not only did a rate hike announced two months ago start showing up on bills, but a cold snap at winter’s start sent heating costs even higher than usual.

“Consumption for that period was higher than it’s been in a long time,” City Manager David Baird said.

Pamela Scott, a resident of Brightway Commons, said her January bill was almost $350, higher than she’s ever seen it for that time of year.

“I saw it, I talked to nine other people who saw the same thing,” Scott said.

Even owners of unoccupied apartments felt the pinch, with one reporting a bill that was $100 more than the previous month.

“Someone said something in church about it, and I didn’t know what to say,” fourth ward council member James Starling said. “This electricity is getting outrageous and people can’t pay.”

The higher rates are particularly hard for low-income individuals and families to absorb into their budgets.

“We get assistance with our rent or our electric every month,” Scott said. “And $100, that’s a lot of money.”

Along with the cold weather, costs also increased thanks to a rate hike by the Delaware Municipal Electric Corporation, which buys power on behalf of Milford and seven other cities.

According to Baird and DEMEC representative Kimberly Schlichting, a rate increase that DEMEC approved almost two months ago took effect with this month’s bills.

That led to a small, but noticeable, increase in the amount it costs Milford to buy power, and in turn, led to a higher cost being passed on to electric customers. How much gets passed on is up to the city government, though.

“We’re a wholesaler; How an individual member sets its own rates and deals with cost increases is completely up to them,” Schlichting said.

Milford was the one city that voted against the increase. At a January council meeting, City Manager David Baird, who represents Milford on the DEMEC board, said he didn’t think the hike was in proportion to the cost increases DEMEC was actually seeing at the time. Nevertheless, majority rule means the city has to abide by the more expensive prices.