Residents Upset About Proposed E.L.K. Energy Rate Increase

A rate increase for E.L.K. Energy customers is being met with frustration.

Close to 50 residents filed into an Ontario Energy Board meeting Thursday night to voice their concerns about the proposed $3.50 per month increase.

E.L.K. Energy, which services nearly 12,000 customers in Essex, Lakeshore and Kingsville, has applied to the O.E.B. for the increase which would impact customer bills for the next five years.

Resident, Wayne Borcher, says a dollar here and there adds up in the end.

"$3.50 doesn't sound like a lot, but the town wants its tax increase. So does the utility. So does the water. Gas at the gas pump goes up. Food goes up. Everything is literally going up except what I work for. So it's coming down to the nickel and diming now."

Mark Danelon is with E.L.K. and says even with the increase it's still one of the most efficient utilities in the province.

"We're one of the most efficient and lean industries in the province. We have the second lowest rates in all of Ontario for residential customers as well as small business customers. And even with this rate application, we still plan to be in Group 1 which is the most efficient utilities in Ontario."

Danelon adds the increase is needed to keep the utility sustainable going forward.

"That $3.50 increase is required for succession planning into the future. Not only upgrade our system, but maintain it in order to prevent outages, in order to provide our customers better service when outages do happen."

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E.L.K. Energy hosts a meeting about its proposed rate increase (Photo by AM800's Zander Broeckel)

But Borcher says it's getting harder and harder to pay the bills.

"At one time I would have regarded myself as an upper-middle class person. I'm approaching lower-middle class now and my salaries and wages have been dropping. It's just never gone up as fast as everything else. I'm not exaggerating when I say my cellphone has been cut, my cable has been cut voluntarily because that's where we're going. We are cutting what we can cut you know? Food and the groceries, nothing is bought anymore unless it's on sale."

Danelon says customer feedback means a lot, but the increase is needed.

"We hear exactly what the consumers are saying. We feel for the customers having increases continuously, but ultimately we feel that this increase is needed to continue to provide the great service that we provide our customers now and into the future."

E.L.K. will now go before the O.E.B. for a hearing.

If approved, the increase would go into effect May 1, 2017.