Down County Public Utility Commission officials tentatively approved a sweeping 167% rate hike for Down County Gas, Electric, Phone, Cable & Internet Company (GEPCO) customers this afternoon pending a public hearing on the decision. The increase, which GEPCO officials maintain is necessary to offset litigation and onerous regulatory requirements, had been stuck in political limbo while CEO, Aubrey Bancroft, fought federal price-fixing and racketeering charges in Hormel. But his exoneration last Thursday, and subsequent donation to the Committee for A Just Down County, Judge Lambert’s PAC, set the stage for what many are calling “the mother of all rate increases” and is sure to meet widespread opposition.
If approved, the average residential customer will pay more than twice the amount already being overbilled. Some may pay even more. A family of four in a one-bedroom shack with a wood stove, analog TV and a couple of lamps, could easily see their monthly bill rise to $300. Those with more energy-intensive appliances, like toasters, could pay up to $500 per month.
Babs Stricklen, owner of the Pig In A Poke in the Flubug Turnaround, says it’s nothing short of an outrage. “This is what happens when you have a monopoly. GEPCO runs everything in this town…the gas, electric, phone, cable, internet. If they asked for a 1,000% increase they’d probably get it. I say, ‘enough is enough!’”
Clay Butler agrees. “These guys is as greedy as unleashed hogs an’ we just ain’t gonna pay their bills. I’ll buy me a generator an’ burn hog grease or emu drippings if it comes down to it. Hell, we’ll storm their damn offices!”
Others like Carlton Dickwadd, owner of the regional Dem Bones restaurant chain, are more circumspect. “No matter how you slice it, energy these days is a rock solid bargain, especially at inflation-adjusted prices. Just look at Lincoln. He couldn’t get electricity at any price!”
A hearing on the rate increase is scheduled for Sunday, March 8th from 2:00-2:30am in the Down County Public Utility Commission basement on Government Way in Balto. Tickets are $15 at the door.