Essex County residents expressed concerns about a proposed monthly increase to their hydro bills during a public meeting Thursday night.
The meeting, hosted by the Ontario Energy Board, was held to discuss an application by E.L.K. Energy to hike their distribution rate by $3.50 per month.
"That $3.50 increase is required for succession planning into the future," said Mark Danelon, a representative of the utility company. " As well as the new programs that the government has rolled out. To try and implement those in a reasonable and efficient fashion."
Counting nickles and dimes
Wayne Borcher was one of about 30 customers who attended the meeting. The Belle River man explained he's had his cable shut off, his phone plan halted and has even had to cut back on the groceries he buys for his family all because of increasing costs.
While $3.50 might not seem like much to some, when you're counting your change to get by each month it's a huge cost, Borcher said.
"The cost of utilities, water, gas pumps go up, even fruit goes up," he said. "Everything is literally going up except for what I work for. So it's coming down to the nickle and dime. "
E.L.K. Energy serves about 12,000 homes in Essex, Lakeshore and Kingsville. Danelon said the company heard what customers were saying during the meeting, but asked for patience as the electricity sector works through a period of transition.
Understanding how rates are calculated
Senior legal counsel for the OEB Kristi Sebaji, said the focus needs to be on finding a balance between what's needed to keep the hydro system in good shape and maintaining reasonable rates for customers.
Public meetings, such as the one held Thursday, explain to customers why a company might need to raise costs, she added.
"No one likes increased rates but I think when they better understand what's going into it, I think it helps them understand where there bills are coming from."
If approved, the rate increase would show up on customer bills for the next five years, starting in May.