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I-Team: Island house with no power gets record-high CMP bill

Island power problem (WGME photo)

STATEWIDE (WGME) - The I-Team investigates more confusion and questions from customers of Central Maine Power.

How does a seasonal cottage, on an island, with no power for months, get a record-high bill?

Siblings Dick and Sue Walker have spending summers on the island off the coast of Maine for decades.

"When there's something wrong this is the place a lot of people go, " Dick Walker said.

But now there's something wrong here.

"Do you think there's any way this bill for $423.19 is right?" asked I-Team reporter Jon Chrisos.

"No, not a chance," said Sue walker.

The island had no power for five months--from the October windstorm until it was restored the end of March.

Yet the Walkers received a bill from Central Maine Power showing usage for three of the months when there was no power. The bill even shows a large spike in February.

"There was no power. To me it's false because we don't have power to the island at all so there's no power here. How can get you a spike? A power spike when there's no power," said Dick Walker.

It's the latest in a series of complaints from customers about their record-high bills.

State regulators are right now investigating the company's metering, billing, and customer communications.

CMP spokesperson Gail Rice admitted the company made multiple mistakes.

"We apologize for the billing error, which was based on incorrect usage estimates. There was a unique set of circumstances involved, including errors on CMP's part for both estimating usage and recording it," Rice said in an e-mail to the I-Team.

"I would definitely say there's a problem," Sue Walker said.

The I-Team pointed out that nowhere on the Walker's bill was there any indication the usage was an estimate.

In fact, the bill says the meter was read on March 1, 2018, showing more than 1,848 kilowatt hours were used in February 2018.

"Most estimates are marked with an asterisk, but this one was not. The data was entered without the correct coding to indicate it was an estimate, so it showed as a meter reading. This was human error," Rice wrote in an email answering follow-up questions from the I-Team.

In a previous interview, Rice explained how estimates are calculated.

"We estimate the usage and that gets estimated based on the same month the year before," she said.

So we looked at the Walker's bill from the year before.

February 2017 showed 0 kilowatt hours were used.

"On the rare occasions that we need to estimate usage, it is customary to base estimates on prior year’s usage. That did not happen here, due to human error," Rice said.

The Walkers say they just want to get this taken care of so they can get ready for summer on the island.

"We're starting to open up now; we need to get this settled," Dick Walker said.

The Walkers were initially charged more than $400 for those five months when there was no power.

They've now received a corrected bill for about $90 for the monthly minimum charges.

"We sincerely apologize for the trouble and inconvenience this customer experienced due to our errors, and we are committed to making things right. We are also reviewing our processes in an effort to prevent this type of error from recurring," Rice said.

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