THE BERLIN ELECTRIC UTILITY DEPARTMENT PRESENT:
“Your Rights and Responsibilities” as a customer of the Town of Berlin’s Electric Utility
This information is being provided to you in accordance with the Code of Maryland and Regulations (COMAR 20.30.04.01 through .05)
Dear Berlin Utility Customer,
The Town of Berlin, its Mayor and Council on behalf of, and for the benefit of the citizens of Berlin, own, operate and maintain municipal electric, water, wastewater and storm water systems.
Berlin’s electric, water and wastewater services are provided to approximately 3,500 customers without discrimination to age, sex, racial or ethnicity, economic class or location.
For almost a century, Berlin has owned and operated its three utilities in support of the Town.
We’ve earned a reputation for providing fast, personal service, at a low operating cost, combined with high service reliability.
By keeping our costs low we are able to better attract and keep businesses thus keeping our local economy strong.
All “Income over expenses” are returned to the Towns electric utility, thus helping to keep utility rates lower.
This pamphlet is a summary of both your Rights and Responsibilities as a customer and owner of Berlin’s electric, water & wastewater utilities. Additional information can be found in Berlin’s Charter, Ordinances and the Berlin Electric Tariff, as filed with the Maryland Public Service Commission and in regulations issued by the Maryland Public Service Commission. These documents are available for inspection during normal business hours at both the Berlin Town office and the office of the Maryland Public Service Commission. This information may also be found via online at Berlinmd.gov and webapp.psc.state.md.us.
We hope that you will find this pamphlet useful and recommend that you keep it handy for future reference.
Comments or ways to improve the content or presentation in this pamphlet are always welcomed and encouraged.
The Mayor and Council of Berlin, Maryland
Mayor and Council
Town of Berlin
10 William Street
Berlin, MD 21811
BUSINESS HOURS: 8:30 A.M. to 5:00 P.M. Monday through Friday (Excluding Holidays)
Phone: 410-641-2770 (BUSINESS HOURS)
Phone: 410-641-1333 (WEEKENDS AND OFF-HOURS)
Applications for service, whether for a new or transfer of an existing service to another name, must be made in writing on a form available at the Town office. Once signed, this application becomes a written contract between the Town and the customer, subject to the terms and conditions set forth in the Berlin’s Ordinances and its Electrical Tariff, as approved by the Maryland Public Service Commission (MPSC).
If requested by the applicant, the Electric Utility will accept more than one individual customer name on the application for service. All persons listed on the application must be listed on the lease or deed and are subject to the terms and conditions of Berlin’s Ordinances and Electric Utility Tariff.
Residential and Commercial utility applications are available on our website.
- New Service
Service to new locations will be rendered only when bills for service to the same customer for the same class of service has been paid in full. Only two types of service, residential and non-residential, are recognized. Service to new locations will not be rendered until all conditions of the Berlin’s Ordinances and Utility’s Electric Rules and Regulations have been satisfied.
The Town may reject an application for service if the applicant does not meet all applicable requirements under the Code of Maryland
Regulations (COMAR) 20.50.04.01-2A through 2E. The reasons for rejection under COMAR are as follows:
- Failure to pay an outstanding bill or the un-disputed portion of a disputed bill for prior residential service.
- Application made in a fictitious name.
- Application made in the name of an individual who does not live at the premises to be served, without disclosure of the individual’s actual address.
- Application made in the name of third party without informing the Town of that fact or without bona fide authority from the third party.
- Misrepresentation of a material fact or failure to disclose a material fact in the making of an application.
- Connection of service to a residence where a co-occupant has failed to pay an outstanding bill for residential service.
- Connection of service to a residence where an individual is attempting to assist another occupant of that residence to avoid payment of the occupant’s prior outstanding bill.
Property owners who have rental units MAY elect to have the electric service disconnected AUTOMATICALLY to a rental unit upon the Utility’s receipt of a written request for a final billing by the tenant. The property owner or an authorized agent of the property owner MUST sign an “ELECTRIC SERVICE DISCONNECT” release form that lists each rental property subject to automatic disconnection. This form releases the Town of Berlin from liability for damages resulting from the automatic disconnection.
Applicants for service must furnish to the Town suitable rights-of-way necessary for the construction, maintenance and operation of a line or system. These rights-of-way will also grant the Town the right to trim and/or clear trees and other obstruction as it deems necessary. The applicant for service must obtain or grant these rights-of-way at the applicant’s sole expense, whether or not they must be obtained from a third party or from the sole applicant.
The cost of extending the Town’s existing lines or installation of equipment necessary for the service will be borne by the customer.
Maryland law requires that anyone planning to dig in an area where a public service company may have underground facilities must notify Miss Utility, a free utility locator service, at least 48 hours before excavation begins. Striking an underground utility line can cause death or severe personal injury, service interruptions to customers, equipment damage and can create a safety hazard.
Service applications, whether for a new or transfer of an existing service, are subject to the rules and regulations set forth in Section III for security deposits.
- Temporary Service
Application for temporary service will be under the rate classification for that service and will be billed as such until permanent service is connected to the premises. A deposit sufficient to cover the cost of installation and removal of the Town’s equipment and facilities may be required in addition to the normal security deposit.
Temporary service is available for thirty (30) days and re-application may be required each thirty (30) days thereafter. The temporary service will expire if the building permit issued for the premises expires under the definitions set forth in the Town’s Building Code.
- Rental Property
It is Berlin’s Electric Utility policy NOT TO AUTOMATICALLY disconnect the electric service to a rental property upon receipt of a written request for a final bill from a tenant. This policy is designed to save the property owner a reconnect fee, keep power available for cleaning or repair of the vacant property and to protect against damage caused by severe weather. The property owner will be billed for energy usage during the property vacancy period, unless a release form is signed by the owner or authorized agent of the owner and the power is disconnected. The electric utility will attempt to notify the property owner and/or the owner’s authorized agent, by phone and/or by letter, upon receipt of any request for a final billing at a rental property, all property owners and/or authorized agent should insure the Town has both up to date records of their rental units and current notification information.
The Town may require a cash deposit from a customer or applicant for residential service to guarantee payment of bills for service. That deposit will be equal to either two-twelfths of the average annual bill or minimum $150.00. An additional deposit may be required in special circumstances such as a temporary service or service which requires a large investment in materials.
A new deposit may be required on all disconnected accounts before a reconnection is made, when that service has been terminated for non-payment.
The Town may waive the security deposit if the applicant demonstrates a satisfactory credit rating in accordance with the provisions set forth in the Town’s Electrical tariff. Upon the applicant’s request, the Town will allow an installment plan for the deposit as follows: 1/2 down of total deposit and the remaining balance within 30 days. Failure to pay remaining balance could result in loss of service.
The Town will review all deposits annually and shall automatically refund the customer’s security deposit with interest accrued at the prevailing rate as set by the MPSC, provided the following conditions have been met:
A. Residential service: customer has paid the last twelve (12) monthly bills without having had a delinquent balance on more than two (2) occasions, never having had service disconnected for non-payment and is currently not in arrears.
B. Residential service: customer is sixty (60) years old or older and provides satisfactory proof of age, requests the return of the deposit, and meets the requirements in COMAR 20.30.02.05.
C. Non-Residential service: customer has paid the last twelve (12) monthly bills without having had a delinquent balance on more than two (2) occasions, never having had service disconnected for non-payment and is currently not in arrears. Has never presented a bad check for payment and has no detrimental credit information within the last two (2) years and is not currently in arrears.
D. Forty-five (45) days after account closure.
E. Four (4) years of service without having had service disconnected for non-payment in the last two (2) years.
Interest will begin to accrue from the first day of the deposit or from the date of the last installment payment, at a per annum rate established by the Maryland Public Service Commission. Interest shall be paid at the time the deposit is returned. Interest will cease to accrue either:
- The date service is terminated, or
- The day the deposit is applied to the customer’s account
If your electric or water/sewer service is interrupted because of bad weather, or if you note downed power lines or water line breaks, you should call: Monday through Friday, 8:30am-5:00Pm at 410-641-2770 or nights, weekends and holidays 410-641-1333.
If you have electrical safety concerns or observe anything unusual please do not attempt a repair without consulting a qualified electrician and the Town’s electrical department and reporting your concern. Before calling the department please check your fuse or circuit breaker box first to see whether a fuse has blown or a circuit breaker has opened. There may be a charge for service calls that fall outside of normal working hours and the Berlin Electric Department cannot perform interior service work.
- Water & Waste Water:
In the event you have a water leak or see excessive water ponding in your yard. Contact the office immediately. We will send out one of our service technicians to assess the issue and disconnect the water if necessary. DO NOT ATTEMPT TO DISCONNECT SERVICE YOURSELF; ATTEMPTING TO DISCONNECT OR RECONNECT SERVICE IS PROHIBITED AND CAN BE PUNISHABLE BY FINES.
- Turn off notice for service
In the event that the town needs to perform some type of maintenance work or replacement of equipment, for both the electric or water department adequate notice will be given to affected residence in the form of a written notice or person to person contact.
Bills will be submitted on a monthly basis. The minimum and maximum number of days for which Berlin will bill a customer at Berlin’s regular monthly rates for service will not be less than 25 days or more than 35 days. Final bills will be computed on the basis of final meter readings and actual consumption.
Your electric meter is a rugged, highly accurate device which records the usage of electrical power. Before it was installed, your meter met the accuracy specifications required by the Maryland Public Service Commission. Throughout its service life, meters are tested on a routine basis to insure that they are operating within the specified limits set by Maryland laws and regulations. Accuracy levels are derived from the primary standards set by the National Bureau of Standards.
Sample bill (bill form may be different than that shown, but codes and abbreviations remain the same):
- Billing date: This is the date that we print the bills.
- Account: This is the customer’s account number.
- Amount Due Now: This is the amount due by the due date on your bill.
- Amount after date: This is the amount due if you are past the due date.
- Due Date: day bill is due.
- Service address.
- Read Dates: This will give you the time period that the bill covers. Example: This bill covers month of August.
- Service types.
- Days between reads.
- Total paid or past due.
- Total of current bill.
Residential rates, as all Rate Classes offered by the Town of Berlin, are approved by the MPSC. The Residential rate (Class 1) in effect at the time of this printing is as follows:
- Residential Electric Rate Schedule (Class 1)
Usage / @ Rate (Summer & Winter)
First 500 KWH / KWH X PCAC * 9.892
Over 500 KWH / KWH X PCAC * 8.465
Minimum bill: $4.60 per month (Customer Charge)
Power Cost Adjustment Charge (PCA or PCAC) applies to all KWH above.
- Water and Waste Water Rate Schedule
Rates in the Town of Berlin are established by ordinance. Please contact the office to obtain the current rate schedule.
Currently, Town of Berlin uses only one (1) season for billing purposes; summer and winter rates are the same.
Berlin generates a portion of the electricity it sells to its customers. In this way, Berlin customers can enjoy the cost savings benefits of both “peak shaving” and buying “wholesale” power.
The cost of fuel which Berlin must use in its generation plant is subject to variations from time to time. This variation in fuel cost can cause the cost of purchasing electricity from outside power companies to vary as well. The Power Cost Adjustment Charge (PCAC), is a calculated dollar amount per KWH to be added to or deducted from the customer’s billing each month, reflecting the increase or decrease in the fuel cost of generating or purchasing power that can be passed on to the customer. The Maryland Public Service Commission reviews the PCAC calculation and collection on a monthly basis.
The amount that results from this calculation is the PCAC applied to each kilowatt hour used and is shown on your bill each month.
In accordance with Maryland state law, an Environmental surcharge is imposed on all electricity generated in the State of Maryland. The funds derived from this surcharge pay for programs to determine if potentially attractive sites are environmentally compatible for electric power plant use and the acquisition of approved sites by the state for resale to utilities which require additional generation plant capacity.
The MPSC determines the applicable surcharge for each of the electric utilities in the state for each fiscal year.
Your electric meter is read on or about the same time each month by a Berlin Utility Department employee. If there is a condition such as a locked gate, unfriendly dog, poor weather or obstruction that prevents the meter reader from getting to the meter, your reading will then be estimated. The meter reading estimate will be based on your previous usage rate, the number of days in the present billing period and the weather. Any estimated reading is noted as such on your bill. Estimates, by nature, may either be too high or too low. Consequently, estimated bills will be in error as far as actual electrical usage is concerned. Errors resulting from estimated meter readings will be corrected with the next actual reading.
You can avoid estimated bills by:
- Trim shrubs and brush in front of your meters
- Avoid building decks, enclosed porches or rooms around meters without having the meter relocated.
- Keep gates unlocked and dogs away from the meter reader’s path to the meter.
Your bill is mailed by the 10th of every month. The total bill is due upon receipt and must be paid by the “DUE BY” date shown on the sample bill, to avoid any late charges.
Payment may be made by mail, on the website (berlinmd.gov) or in person at the Town Hall office. When paying by mail, please send a check or money order. DO NOT SEND CASH IN THE MAIL. Please include your account number on your check or money order.
When paying in person at the Town Hall, please bring a copy of your bill with you or have the account number available for reference. ALWAYS OBTAIN A RECEIPT from the clerk when paying cash. We accept cash, checks and credit cards (Visa & MasterCard).
For the convenience of our customers, a drop box mail slot is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. When using the “drop box” be sure to include your bill and account number on your check or money order. Payments received after 4:40pm will be processed on the next business day.
PLEASE DO NOT SUBMIT CASH PAYMENTS WHEN USING THE DROP BOX.
Checks received in payment of bills rendered for, but not limited to, electric service, customer deposits, and reconnection charges, which are returned to Berlin unpaid by the customer’s bank, will result in an additional charge of $28.00 plus amount of check. If a Customer has two returned checks over a twelve month period, the Town reserves the right to request payment in cash, money order or credit card.
You can verify the accuracy of your bill by determining the number of kilowatt hours for which you are charged. You may request a copy of the rate schedule at the Town Hall office. With the rate schedule you can apply the rate to the number of kilowatt hours used to verify your basic charge for electricity usage. Follow these steps to verify your bill:
Multiply the energy rate for your class of customer shown on the bill times the number of kilowatts hours (KWS) used.
Multiply the power cost adjustment charge (PCA) times the number of kilowatt hours used. This may be either a positive or negative rate.
Failure to pay your bill by the end of the business day on the “DUE BY” date specified, will result in a 1.5 % late charge being added to your bill beginning the very next business day after the “DUE BY” date. An additional 1.5% will be charged for each month thereafter. Penalty and Interest charges may be charged up to a maximum of 5.0% per COMAR 20.30.03.01.
Residential Customers are qualified for the Budget Billing Plan (BBP) after one year of continued usage and a maximum of 1 penalty event.
The average monthly payment is calculated by totaling the previous twelve months usage and dividing by twelve. Current rates are then applied to the average usage level.
It is the responsibility of the Customer to contact the Town office by June of each year to be considered for the BBP.
At the end of eleven months of BBP, the Town will calculate the amount of “true-up” necessary to balance the Account. A note will then be sent with the Customer billing explaining the excess “true-up” billing, in cases of under-collection, or the credit to be applied to the Customer’s bill, in cases of over-collection.
You may not have a delinquent amount owed in the current month to qualify as a new BBP and you must not allow your budgeted amount to become delinquent to stay on the plan. Berlin has the right to stop Budget Billing should you allow the Budgeted amount to become delinquent.
XVIII. MARYLAND ENERGY ASSISTANCE PROGRAM (MEAP) & (USPP) UTILITY SERVICE PROTECTION PROGRAM COMAR 20.31.05
The Utility Service Protection Program (USPP) is designed to assist low-income families during the winter heating months. Customers who are interested in the USPP must first apply for the Maryland Energy Assistance Program (MEAP).
Upon receiving notification that the customer has been approved for an MEAP grant, the customer will be eligible for participation in the USPP.
Conditions of MEAP:
- The MEAP does not cancel any portion of an electric bill.
- Customers must make monthly payments in a timely basis under terms of these Rules and Regulations.
- Customer is responsible for bills even while accounts are on hold for MEAP and USPP pending funds.
- The Town will provide at least one warning notice that payment is past due and that non-payment of two consecutive bills will render the customer subject to termination.
Conditions of USPP:
- The USPP does not cancel any portion of an electric bill.
- Customers must make monthly payments on a timely basis under terms of these Rules and Regulations.
- Customers not complying with the terms are subject to termination.
- The Town will provide at least one warning notice that the payment is past due and that non-payment of two consecutive bills will render the customer subject to removal from the USPP program and service termination.
How to apply for MEAP assistance:
Customers may contact the local Office of the Department of Housing and Community Development which handles the MEAP program.
The office is located at:
520 Snow Hill Road
Salisbury, Maryland 21801-0430
The USPP will be offered prior to November 1 of each year.
Additional assistance information can be obtained per request at the town hall.
Berlin’s termination policy is governed by the terms of the Berlin Electrical Tariff which governs the rates and other terms of service that Berlin may offer its customers. Termination of electrical service is also governed by the Code of Maryland Regulations (COMAR) 20.31.01 through 05 the following is an outline of those regulations:
Berlin can disconnect your service UPON NOTICE and in accordance with other state restrictions on termination for any of the following reasons:
- Non-payment of bill
- Non-payment of security deposit
- Denial of access to Berlin owned property on your premises.
- Failure to comply with rules set by the MPSC or agreements with the Town of Berlin
Berlin may disconnect your service without notice for any of the following reasons:
- Unsafe electrical conditions deemed hazardous by Berlin electric personal
- Presence of equipment that adversely affects other customers or their service
- Tampering with Town owned equipment such as meters or poles even if they are located on your property
- UNAUTHORIZED USE OF SERVICE IN ANY MANNER INCLUDING DIVERSION OF ELECTRICITY TO BY PASS THE METER
Processes for disconnection and reconnection of service:
Per COMAR 20.31.02.05 fourteen (14) days prior to disconnection of service for non-payment, you will receive a “Letter of Termination” this notice will contain the following information:
- Name, address and account number
- Date of service disconnection
- Minimum amount due to avoid disconnection
- Reconnect charge amounts
- A rights and remedies statement and how to obtain assistance
Disconnection of service will normally be performed between the hours of 8:00am and 3:00 pm and only when Berlin personnel are available to reconnect service once the problem or payment has been resolved.
Your service will be re-connected within a reasonable period of time after the condition or conditions causing the disconnection, up to and including payment, have been resolved. Reconnection orders or request outside of normal business hours can result in a reconnect fee and are at the discretion of the utility director.
You may request the Town of Berlin to arrange an alternate payment plan or extension for repayment of your outstanding bill before the date of disconnect on your notice.
Failure to meet the terms of any negotiated payment plan will result in service disconnection. If services are disconnected, all charges will be required in full plus any reconnect fees before services are restored. Additional deposits may also be requested.
If you or a member of your household is elderly, handicapped or seriously ill you should notify Town of Berlin immediately before your 7 day notice expires.
You must provide the town with the proper certification of that household members qualifying condition BEFORE the disconnect date shown on your notice in order to qualify for an extension.
Under MPSC rules, a certification of disability or illness is valid for only (30) days and DOES NOT EXCUSE you from paying your bill. Neither does it excuse you from future disconnections after (30) days have expired. The certification is only for the purpose of avoiding a termination of service that could be life threatening while you make the necessary arrangements to pay for the charges that you have incurred.
If you dispute your bill or the date proposed for disconnection, contact Berlin immediately. Berlin will make an immediate investigation upon request.
Until the dispute has been resolved, Berlin will not deny you service if the dispute portion of the bill is not paid. However, any undisputed portion must be paid for service to be continued.
If Berlin is unable to resolve the dispute, you may file a complaint with the MPSC at the following address:
Maryland Public Service Commission
6 St. Paul’s Street, 16th Floor Baltimore, Md. 21202-3486
TTY for the hearing impaired 1-800-201-7165
Hours are Monday-Friday, 8:00AM-5:00PM, Except Holidays
Berlin will not disconnect your utility service for non-payment of bills between November 1 and March 31 UNLESS an affidavit is filed by Berlin with the MPSC no less than 72 hours prior to the disconnection date.
The affidavit must certify the following information:
- Name and address of the customer
- Evidence that the customer has been notified
- Date that personal contacted or attempted to contact customer
- Reason for disconnection of service
- If customer is a participant in the USPP
- That the disconnection will not pose a threat to the life or health of the customer
- That the amount past due is greater than $50.00
- That a copy of the affidavit is also being forwarded to the local administering agency of MEAP
Inquiries or complaints concerning your service or billing should be directed to the Town of Berlin Customer service department, either in writing, by phone or in person. Please provide a phone number at which you can be reached so your concern can be handled quickly. Berlin pledges to give you a prompt, thorough and courteous reply to your concerns.
The Town of Berlin offers to all homeowners free of charge: “Energy Audit” The Energy Audit is a thorough inspection of your home for effective insulation, windows, heating ductwork, lighting and electrical.
Upon recommendation of the Mayor and Council, the following repairs and/or replacement of Items will qualify for eligibility for a credit of up to $260.00 credited to a customer’s electric utility bill:
- Adding, replacing or repairing home Insulation
- Repairing air duct leaks
- Sealing of windows
- Weather stripping
- Caulking pipes
- Insulation of water
- Sealing of light switches and receptacles
- Adding a storm door
- Replacement of windows with energy efficient windows or storm windows
The following is a partial list of items which will not qualify for eligibility for a credit to a customer’s electric utility bill:
- Replacement of air conditioner
- Replacement of washer and/or dryer
- Replacement of water heaters
- Replacement of stoves
- Replacement or installation of fans
To be eligible for a credit of up to $260.00 on the electric utility bill, a customer must:
- An inspection must be performed and the work verified by Town energy audit specialists or an outside auditing firm.
- Obtain all proper building permits prior to commencing any work or repairs.
- Present all paid receipts evidencing funds spent by the customer for materials and labor.
The credit is a one-time only credit, available to a specific property one time only. The credit will be applied to a customer’s electric utility bill in the following manner:
In the event a customer who meets all other criteria for a credit and has spent between $1.00 and $500.00 on labor and materials, the customer’s electric utility bill may receive a credit for up to 60% of the total spent. In the event a customer who meets all other criteria for a credit has spent more than $600.00, the customer’s electric utility bill will receive a $250.00 credit.
Distribution Charge (PCA) – the cost of moving electric from your local substation to your home or business
Universal Service Program – a charge on all customers bill to fund the state program that helps low income customers pay their electric bills
MD Franchise Tax – utilities are required to collect this tax and remit to the state of Maryland
Environmental Surcharge – required by the state, these funds are used by the state to fund environmental projects
Total Electric Charge – this is the total charges for your electric service includes both usage and delivery charges