To the Editor of MilfordNow
On Friday, February 19, 2016 6:00 p.m. a hearing was held on a proposed rate increase by Twin Lakes Utilities, Inc. (“TLU”), a water utility providing service to 115 customers in Sagamore Estates (“SE”), at the Shohola Township Municipal Building with Administrative Law Judge Eranda Vero presiding. From the PUC, “The proposed rates would provide an increase in annual revenues of $195,287. Under the proposal, the total monthly bill for an average residential customer using 2,500 gallons of water would increase from $52.73 to $188.26, or by 257 percent.” The PUC voted 5-0 to suspend the request and hold hearings. http://www.puc.pa.gov/pcdocs/1395192.pdf
The meeting started 15 minutes late because the attorney for TLU failed to appear on time. Attorneys for the PUC and the Office of the Public Advocate were present, along with about twenty SE residents and ten concerned citizens. Shohola Township Supervisors George Fluhr and Greg Hooper were present, as was a member of Lisa Baker’s staff. There were no opening statements and the meeting proceeded to accept sworn testimony.
Andrew Zilber spoke of a long outstanding problem regarding a leaking hydrant and damage to his water line and foundation. He complained that this is an example of poor customer service. John Troyan, the VP of the SE Property Owners Association (“SEPOA”) testified regarding the limited income of the SE residents and explained that the proposed increase would cause extreme hardship. Kevin Dowd b), the Treasurer of SEPOA objected to the increase on three points. First he echoed the issue of the economic hardship on SE residents, many being on fixed income or low income employment. He also pointed out that adding $1 million dollars in capital expenses and expecting 115 customers to foot the bill is unfair, unrealistic and practically irresponsible on the part of the water company. Finally, if the customers with money decide to apply for a variance and drill their own well, the company may find that only people unable to pay the massive water bills they propose will be left. This will reduce revenue, increase delinquent accounts, and potentially cause the failure of the utility to the detriment of the residents.
Anthony Ciuffreda, President of SEPOA, gave a history of the Sagamore Camp and the poor state of the water system. He requested relief as a part time resident, in that the monthly base rate was very high and there was a $50 charge for shutting off or turning on the system at the customer valve. Keith Decker complained of unsafe practices in water repairs carried out by TLU and noted they seem to waste money. Glenn Mir-Pointier noted that TLU seemed unable to add him to the customer base in a timely and satisfactory manner. Jonathan Mcelhaney also testified that he was not added for eight months and found the current prices to be higher than in other communities in Shohola and also he found his water pressure to be unacceptable. Suzanne Cestare and other residents complained of frequent water outages and poor customer service.
The meeting adjourned at 8:15pm and further hearing will be held in Harrisburg, with a ruling expected on or before August 17, 2016.
a) Kevin Dowd is a retired Wall Street professional with thirty years’ experience in Brokerage Technology, Operations, and Administration, mainly in transaction processing and accounting. He is the current Treasurer of SEPOA and resides full time in Sagamore Estates.
b) This letter and my testimony were as a customer of TLU and NOT as a SEPOA Board member. About 1/3 of Sagamore Estates residents are not TLU customers.
Submitted by: Kevin Dowd, Shohola