Customers say I&M rate hike proposal too much to pay

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – Indiana Michigan Power said it’s a need, but customers said it’s greed. Dozens of people spoke out against a proposed rate hike by I&M. It could mean customers will be paying about a dollar more a day.

Most everyone agreed, it’s just too much to pay.

“This rate hike is only to benefit AEP, and the poor decisions they have made,” Customer Andrea Hamman said. “Flat out greed.”

Dozens of people in a room of more than 100 were sworn in at the Grand Wayne Center Tuesday night. The public hearing about a proposed rate increase is technically a legal proceeding held by the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC)  which will ultimately rule on if the company will get a rate hike or not.

“Is it going to have an impact on customers? Yes,” Indiana Michigan Power President and COO Toby Thomas said. “We know that. As we look at what we need to continue to do to deliver our product in a safe and reliable manner this is what we believe is necessary.”

The proposal is a 19.7 percent increase. That’s about a dollar a day. Plus it would raise the flat rate for residential customers from $7.30 to $18.

“One dollar a day is also $30 a month,” Customer Brian Flory said. “It’s $365 a year. For some people that’s a month’s car payment for a substantial amount of mortgage.”

While many here talked about what the increase would mean for those who are living paycheck to paycheck, others criticized what the money would go toward. I&M said it’s needed for maintenance and operational costs which include infrastructure improvements, new meters, and construction projects at Southern Indiana’s Rockport coal plant.

“I’m a steward of the earth, and if this rate increase were to go to protecting the environment and investing in clean, renewable energy I’d be on board,” Hamman said.

I&M said the project at Rockport will allow it to transition to clean energy, but a lot of customers want it shut down.

The IURC will rule on if a change is accepted or not by this spring. If it is approved the first increase would go into effect on July 1, 2018.