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February 17, 2006     Cape Gazette
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February 17, 2006
 

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8 - CAPE GAZETTE Friday, Feb. 17 - Monday, Feb. 20, 2006 Continued from page 7 rate increase. In 1999, I was the AARP repre- sentative on the electric deregula- tion Consumer Education Work Group. There were representatives from Delmarva Power, Delaware Electric Coop, as well as, power companies from outside Delaware. I don't recall any of them saying that they would not be interested in bidding for busi- ness in Delaware. Letters to the editor and talk show calls are filled with calls to throw out the incumbent members of our General Assembly. We should all realize that not all of the incumbents were in office when the deregulation bill was passed. Voters should consider how effec- tive and responsive their General Assembly members ihave been to improving life in their area and in the state. That same approach should be good for all other elect- ed officials from municipal to Federal. We should leave the name calling to the elemen. school playgrOunds and base our voting decisions on the issues and the qualifications of the candi- dates. Walter Berwick Seibyville Family thanks Ileebe Our family is very thankful and appreciative of the Beebe Medical ER Team who attended our moth- er Harriett I. McChing on Feb. 4- 5..-We wish to thank Dr. Joydeep Haldar and staffers Shelly, Diane, Karen, Betty, Lisa Made, Rick and Chris. The team did every- thing possible in a, professional and compassionate manner to administer appropriate care and to value dignity in her death. The Lewes Community and other neighboring towns are fortu- nate to have such a devoted med- ical team working at the hospital. Also, we wish to thank the Rev. Bill Hopkins who joined us in the ER. His prayer and words of encouragement are greatly appre- ciated. Additionally, we extend our thanks to the Ocean View Police Department: Chief McLaughlin, Sgt. Heath Hall, Corp. Kristen Miller, Ptlm. Walter Johnson, Pfc. Mark Burton, Pfc. Lewis Kester, Pfc. Marion Miller and Pfc. Justin Norman, and Adrian. Thanks for your many acts of kindness. Also, we greatly appre- ciate all the efforts of the Millville Volunteer Fire Company and Jim Cina and ambulance crew mem- bers Brandon Rogers and John Watson. Our communities are for- tunate to have many wonderful public servants who are always ready to provide help and support in our tragedies and sorrow. Harry, Luray, Asher, Aaron andChristina McClung Bubba is, safe and sound On Jan, 29, we arrived home to find that our black Labrador retriever, Bubba, had unexpected- ly wandered off from our property in Midway Estates: We would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who helped in the search for him. After a long, sleepless night on our part, he was found safe the next morning in Dove Knoll. It is very comforting to know that our neighbors would be willing to go out of their way and help someone in need. We really appreciate everyone who came out and lent a helping hand. Louise and Gigger Bailey Lewes Dennis Forney photo Robert Baker is a grand champion truck driver who spe- cializes in flatbed competition. Barefootin' Continued from page 7 his trip to the top - several times as grand champion - has always started with regional competition. "I compete with drivers for CCX, Yellow Freight, Wal-Mart. The winners at the regional level then go onto the nationals. This year's is back in New Orleans. I've decided not to compete this year. I really don't want to go down there and see all of that devasta- tioa." Baker said his championships have come mostly in the flatbed category. While he started out his truck-driving career with his own rig after leaving the mil!tary 34 years ago, the last 16 years Baker has worked for Roadway. All of my driving now is between Dover and Rehoboth Beach," he said. 'What keeps me close to home." Given the amount of traffic and congestion in and around those destinations in the summertime, Baker doesn't have to work real hard to keep his championship skUts sharp. Lawmakers debate variety of bills to halt electric rate hikes By Bridin Reynolds Cape Gazette contributor" The abrupt announcement of 59 percent electric rate hikes by Delmarva Power has spawned significant action in the Delaware General Assembly. Some compli- mentary, some contradictory, the myriad bills are certain to top the agenda in both chambers when lawmakers reconvene in March. "I never imagined any issue that could knock the $2.7 million DelDOT deficit off the front burner but here it is. This is and has to be the hot issue," said Rep. Joe Booth, R- Georgetown. BOOTH Booth, a prime sponsor of several past energy bills, said he is in favor of re-regulating the power industry. "I have generally been critical of regulatory com- missions but in this case I view it as the best option." Delaware's House Majority Leader Wayne A. Smith, R- Brandywine Hundred-North, called for such action this month in reaction to the rate hike, sched- uled to take effect in May. "This is a huge disaster and, obviously, a mistake. Delaware's families are going to have great difficulty in shouldering a rate increase of almost 60 percent. They shouldn't have to," said Smith. No support for credit Booth, and Rep. Pete Schwartzkopf, D-Rehoboth Beach, concur but said they are less inclined to support a more recent, companion House propos- al to create an "Affordable Energy Credit." Speaker of the House Terry R. Spence, R- Stratford, announced this week, a bill suggesting that the state pro- vide $250 in assistance for each of the utility's residential cus- tomers. Utilizing state funds, the 10- month program would provide a $25 per month credit to each resi- dential electric customer. Schwartzkopf said, "I am not quite in favor of giving $76 million to DP&L. Are we going to con- tinue that sup- port every year? The credit does not address the SCHWARTZKO underlying problem." Delmarva provides service to 280,000 homes and a co-op serves an additional 63,000 rural custonlers. The co-op would receive a smaller credit of $100, resulting in $76.3 million total state costs for the affordable energy credit program. Under the proposal, a line item deduction for the "affordable energy credit" would be included on each monthly bill, commenc- ing with their June 2006 state- ment. In support of the bill Spence said, "This credit would be cou- pled with legislation mandating that Delmarva Power phase-in their rate hike." Spence described the intent of the proposals as a means to defray the cost of the expected rate increase while giving Delaware electric consumers a chance to acclimate. 'Tm aware that this is a lot of money, but I also believe the General Assembly has a duty to our citizens to deal with this threat to their financial welfare I believe that by making some of our larger agen- cies find increased effi- ciencies, delaying some nonessential projects and SPENCE using unen- cumbered cash, we can fund this.' .... With an estimated state budget of $3 billion for Fiscal Year 2007, Spence's assistance proposal would constitute approximately 3 percent of the budget. Smith is backing both bills. "The rate hike proposed by Delmarva is too big of a hit to take all at once, especially for seniors on fixed incomes. Phasing in the increase, combined with the affordability credit, will moderate that impact," said Smith. Delmarva Power entitled Under current law, Delmarva Power is entitled to seek a rate hike now that a 1999 rate freeze is expiring. In that legislative session, Delaware lawmakers and former Gov. Tom Carper deregulated electric utility rates for commer- cial customers and capped resi- dential rates for four years. Subsequently, the caps were to be removed and residential rates were to be deregulated. The Public Service Commission extended the caps another three years that produced the" seven- year period of rate caps during which residential rates were not raised. According to Smith, lawmakers at the time felt that allowing busi- nesses and homeowners to shop for electricity service, in much the same way they purchase phone service, would incite competition and possibly lower prices. The expected competition never materialized. Smith said, "The failure of the marketplace to foster competi- tion, combined with this year's upsurge in energy prices, has cre- ated a potential rate increase that is going to be onerous for many Delaware families." Delaware Treasurer Jack Markell is critical of the bills. "We need to look at the underly- ing reasons why competi- tion never developed. In some ways MARKELL the caps them- selves were a disincentive to any competition," said Markell. Speaking directly to Spence's proposal, Markell said, "One flaw is that it does not differentiate from those who are quite wealthy and those who truly need the assistance. Also, we have to think more long term." Deregulation a plus Delmarva Power, formerly known as Conectiv contends that Delaware consumers did benefit from deregulation. Following the deregulation, customers' rates were cut by 7.5 percent and those reduced rates were frozen for seven years. According to the PSC, the arti- ficially low rates created by deregulation saved Delmarva cus- tomers a total of $1 billion. As proposed legislation man- dating that any Delmarva Power electric rate increase be gradually phased-in is debated in the General Assembly, additional bills aimed at immediate relief are also in play. These include a proposal spon- sored by Booth to provide supple- mental appropriations to the Department of Health and Social Services to promote the Low Income Housing Energy Assistance Program and the Weatherization Program. School aid sought Additionally, Sen. Nancy Cook, R-Dover, and Rep. Joe DiPinto, R-Wilmington are spon- soring a measure, SB 242, to appropriate $5 million to the state's school districts and charter schools in efforts to help handle with unexpectedly high energy costs in the current fiscal year. Successfully passed by the Senate, the bill awaits action from the House Appropriations Committee. Said Booth, "This is the first order of business, and we have to think of both the short term and long tenn. "We cannot allow this tmcer- tainty to be the inheritance of another generation."