Salamanca residents charged up over high electricity bills

SALAMANCA, N.Y. (WIVB) – Residents of Salamanca are steaming mad over their heating bills and are circulating petitions demanding an investigation into what they feel is price-gouging tactics.

One reason the bills jumped so suddenly in one month’s time is the affected townsfolk are heating with electricity, which is the most expensive means of heating your home or business, and temperatures remained consistently low. But that is only part of the story.

Salamanca Mayor Carmen Vecchiarella and other city officials are getting an earful from city residents, who heat mostly with electricity and are finding their electric bills are often more than double last year’s bills.

Salamanca is one of about four dozen towns in New York that supply their own electricity to homes and businesses. A similar situation has unfolded and Springville, and as is the case there, city officials say they are powerless to bring down those big electric bills.

The city gets an allotment of low-cost hydro-power supplied by Niagara Falls, but after that is used up, they have to buy electricity on the open market, which can get get expensive.

“Probably the consistent that we always paid for power was about $500,000. This month it was about $1.2 million. Therefore everybody’s bill doubled-plus,” Mayor Vecchiarella said.

Though that has many residents charged up, city utilities manager Keith King says the overall power bill for the year will still be lower than in other towns.

“A lot of our residents still have a lot of electric heat. Of course, some homes around town are not well insulated. It all contributes to the problem,” King said. “Is electric heat still a good deal for Salamanca? No. Plain and simple, electric heat is not a good way to heat your home, I don’t believe.”

He also dispelled what he calls the myth that the Seneca Allegany Casino might be putting a drain on the city’s power supply. He says it is simply not true.

The mayor says some residents who may struggle with this electricity bill may qualify for HEAP.

“We heard that people who are on electric are qualified to apply for HEAP, and that deadline is probably coming soon,” he said.

To apply, visit your local department of Social Services or call 1-800-342-3009.

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