Wallingford to suspend CMEEC refund payments at end of month temporarily

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WALLINGFORD — The Electric Division is pausing refunds to customers from the town's CMEEC arbitration settlement agreement after the September billing cycle.

“It looks like the remaining amount, after what we're estimating to credit in September, will not be enough to credit all the customers in October,” Tony Buccheri, Electric Division general manager, said Tuesday, “without spending additional dollars outside of what’s available from CMEEC, so we're monitoring it.”

That means customers won’t see a credit on their October bill. Buccheri said officials are working on calculating the amount left and determining how to proceed.

If the refund had continued, the available funds would have been depleted and money from retained earnings would have been needed to cover the difference, estimated to be $50,000 to $90,000.

Ratepayers have been receiving a refund on their electric bills for the past year, a share of the $3.67 million cash payment from the Connecticut Municipal Electric Energy Cooperative (CMEEC).

After the September payment, the Electric Division will have paid out between 93 percent and 95 percent of the total credit amount.

The town settled a lawsuit against CMEEC in May 2019, ending a five-year legal battle in which the town sought to recoup overpayment to the electric energy cooperative.

CMEEC purchased power for Wallingford until 2014, after which the town contracted with Energy New England.

All ratepayers in Wallingford and part of Northford serviced by the Electric Division have been receiving a monthly credit of 0.6562 cents per kilowatt hour, which for the average residential customer came to a monthly credit of $4.92, or $59.04 annually.

The Public Utilities Commission unanimously approved the refund on Sept. 1, 2020, with plans to administer the refund over 12 months beginning in October 2020.

The money for the refund came from the Electric Division's cash reserves.

Buccheri gave an update to the commission Tuesday.

From October 2020 through August, the Electric Division has credited customers a total of $3,157,571 — an average of $287,000 per month, he said.

The refund settlement credit remaining is $512,429. Using a two month average, the September credit is estimated between $280,000 and $330,000, which would leave a remaining amount of $180,000 to $220,000.

The remaining amount of the refund settlement won’t be enough to cover the October and November credits to customers, estimated at $272,757 and $252,901 respectively.

Public Works Director Richard Hendershot said it was “a high compliment (to) staff for keeping an eye on this and catching it before all the horses got out in the barn.”

LTakores@record-journal.com203-317-2212Twitter: @LCTakores

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