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I&M customers speak out about proposed rate increase at public forum

NOW: I&M customers speak out about proposed rate increase at public forum

SOUTH BEND, Ind. --- A proposed rate increase for Indiana Michigan Power customers would tack on an extra 75 cents per day to a typical consumer’s bill.

A hearing was held Thursday at the Century Center in South Bend for customers to share their thoughts and concerns about a proposed rate increase and most of them were not happy. The forum is the first of three being held across the state and will influence the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission’s approval of the proposed rate increase.

A massive plan announced by I&M in May to create a “smarter energy grid” for the state proposes an 11.75 percent rate increase for customers. I&M officials said this increase is necessary to advance the state’s energy structure.

“This is a process that we go through when we are seeking a review of our rates and in this situation we are seeking the opportunity to invest $600 million dollars over the next two years to really enhance our customer service,” Brian Bergsma said, I&M’s Director of Communications and Government Affairs.

The rate increase also factors in a $4.50 raise in I&M’s service rate from $10.50 to $15 a month under the proposed plan. I&M officials predict an average increase of about $20 per month for a typical customer.

Many customers expressed outrage at the proposed plan at Thursday’s forum. Rebecca Strand of South Bend said she is only hoping the power company listens to the community’s concerns.

 “I wouldn’t be upset about them upgrading their grid and upgrading their systems but I feel like that should be a business expense, something they should budget for, not something that should fall back on the home owners,” Strand said. “Whatever price they give us, we have to pay. So they could listen to us but is it really going to do any good? I hope it does but I guess I feel like kind of it’s not going to.”

If the rate increase is approved by the regulatory commission it would take effect in 2020.

Residents who could not attend Thursday’s meeting can submit their questions or concerns to Indiana’s Office of Utility Consumer Counselor by August 13 by mail or online at www.IN.gov/OUCC. Click the “Contact Us” link on the page’s left side to submit a written comment or email uccinfo@oucc.IN.gov.

There are also two other public forums planned in the next week in Indiana:

Monday, July 15 at Ball State’s L.A. Pittenger Student Center in Muncie; @ 6:00 p.m.

Tuesday, July 16 at Purdue-Fort Wayne’s Walb Student Union; @ 6:00 p.m.

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