It looks like electric rates will go up in the Chambersburg borough by more than 11 percent

August 29 – In a unanimous vote at last night’s meeting, the Chambersburg Borough Council decided to look at the suggestion of raising borough electric rates to 11.3 percent in order to add to the coffers of the electric department. 

Allen Coffman, borough council president, said, “First of all, I didn’t think it would be a unanimous vote. That surprised me a little bit. Second of all, the reason number one was picked is because it builds the electric reserve back faster than any of the other four. As a matter of fact, two of the other remaining ones ran a deficit in which area we’re trying to build some money in it. So I’d rather have the pain now. On top of that, I don’t know that anybody’s going to forecast what the power rates are going to be in two, three, four, five years from now, but my bet is it’s going to up, especially with the war that we seem to have on natural gas and knowing that’s where most of our energy is coming from today is being generated by the use of burning natural gas. So I think the power rates will continue to go up. But I’m not going to make any predictions.”

The 11.3 percent will be in the first year and after that, it tapers down, but it will still be an increase every year after that. 

There was no discussion on the vote. 

Coffman said, “I thought that item would take more time than it did, too. But you have to look at it. Everybody had that same information to look at for about two weeks to mull over it and to try to come up with a reasonable answer and I guess that’s what they did.”

Pat Ryan of NewsTalk 103.7FM added, “I think another selling point that is being lost here, if it’s 11.3 that you’re raising, first off, this is not a done deal yet. This is just we’re moving forward to get some attention on this. You still have to make a vote on it. But, if it’s 11.3 in year one for residents that use the borough for their electricity, what does it go to in the following years?”

Coffman said, “It looked to me like it went 11.3, 3.9 and to 2.3 then to 5.5 percent for the last two years. So it drops off significantly after that first year bump.”

Ryan said, “Even that number could go lower. You have an option if things change dramatically, you have an option to not even raise if you don’t want to. Every year you have a chance to review that and revise it if you need to, right?” 

“That’s right,” Coffman confirmed. “I don’t think we would get into legal documents beyond the first year. That’s something that’s going to get reviewed every year. There’s no reason not to review it.”

Luminest made a presentation to council last night for the borough to be a pass through for a couple of grants for projects in town. 

One grant is for $1.5 million and another one is for $347,000. 

Coffman said, “As far as the pass throughs, yes, we’ve done those before, with no problems and they always are written that there is no liability to the borough, but apparently these grants cannot go directly to an end user. So we’ve done it before. I didn’t think there’d be any question whatsoever about that last night.”

A few buildings in town will be rehabilitated with that money. 

Six percent of the project will go to the borough for administration fees. 

Ryan said, “That’s 90,000 of my dollars and the flippant attitude there of other people’s money and the borough getting a six percent cut. What exactly happens for that six percent, $90,000?”

Coffman said, “That’s where all the paper comes behind this thing. We’re involved with the paperwork flow as well. So I don’t think that that’s anything other than what we’ve done as a standard in the past.”

“Ninety-thousand dollars?” Ryan asked. 

Coffman said, “It’s a percentage of whatever the total value is. Sure, as it goes up, the percentage will make it a larger dollar value. It’s not a flat fee.” 

Ryan continued, “Six percent of a grant going to, who exactly has the charge of doing the paperwork and how much paperwork is it that gets $90,000 worth of that money that probably could go to nails, paint, carpet, I don’t know maybe helping the actual people that you’re trying to transition out of prison instead of maybe it’s $10,000, maybe it’s $15,000 instead. I don’t know. It just seemed like an enormous amount of money that’s going for somebody to push a piece of paper from one side of the desk to the other.”

Coffman said, “Well, I can tell you in dealing with some of these state grants that we’ve worked with for different projects, it’s unbelievably complex with the amount of paper they like to move. It’s not the borough that wants to move this paper. It’s a state or the feds that need to have the paper. It’s just incredible. I know, electronic signatures, reviews on things like that, I’ve been amazed at what I call inefficiency with that. We didn’t create that inefficiency, we’re just trying to follow the rules.”

Ryan said, “Well, maybe we wouldn’t be so flippant about other people’s money when we’re tossing around six percent to the borough.”

Michele Jansen of NewsTalk 103.7FM noted, “Then multiply that out times all these grants across the country. Again, not blaming the borough for this. This is the kind of ridiculousness we get with money moving from the government back to us, usually money that starts with us or money that we’re obligated to pay back in one way or another.” 

“Let’s not forget whose money it is in the first place,” Ryan said.

Another topic that came up last night was housing. 

Coffman said, “There was a lady there who talked about housing, and she also talked about weather change and how that weather change was causing things to cost more. But the one big factor she left out of that was inflation. Inflation is, who do you talk to, it might be seven, eight percent, whatever it is nationwide. That’s a huge chunk. You’ve got to talk about inflation when you’re talking about prices rising.”