Demand for security deposit has long-time electric company customer seeing red

LACONIA — On the heels of reading that Eversource had suspended its policy of requesting deposits from customers in arrears, Al's Auto Service on Court Street, which has been a customer of Public Service Company of New Hampshire — and its successors Northeast Utilities and Eversource — for the past 21 years, was surprised to receive a request this week for a deposit from the company.

Lauren Collins, speaking for Eversource, explained yesterday that the practice of requesting deposits from delinquent customers was suspended until April 1, 2016, but only for residential — not commercial — customers. She said that she was not authorized to comment on the circumstances of individual customers, which in the case of Al's Auto Service appear puzzling.

Al Raper explained that his company has two accounts, one for each of two adjacent buildings at 300 and 304 Court Street. He acknowledged that neither of the bills due on September 1, one of $88.24 for 304 Court Street and another of $46.84 for 300 Court Street, were paid on time. However, on October 8, both bills were paid with checks of $188.24 and $146.84, consisting of what was owed on September plus $100. Moreover, on October 22, the bill of $229.30 due October 30 was paid in advance.

Nevertheless, on October 21 Raper received a request for a security deposit of $260, on the account for 304 Court Street, which was dated October 13 and postmarked October 15 only to be received six days later. He was told if the deposit was not paid by October 29, the electricity to 304 Court Street would be disconnected.

Alternatively, Raper could enroll in Eversource's auto-pay system and have his monthly bills withdrawn from his checking account 21 days after the billing date. Or, the deposit could be paid in three equal installments. Or, his payment could be guaranteed by a third party. Or, he could purchase a surety bond from an insurance company and mail a copy to Eversource. The utility would keep the deposit until bills were paid on time for 24 consecutive months, when it would be refunded with any accrued interest.

Raper insists that his accounts are not only current, but that there are outstanding credits on both and sees no reason to post a deposit.. "They have more of my money than I have of their electricity," he said.

Raper said that he tried to speak with someone at Eversource, but was unable to reach a representative of the company. Meanwhile, Robert Fisher, a Republican from Laconia serving in the New Hampshire House of Representatives who has taken an interest in Eversource's policy of requesting deposits, referred Raper to the New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission (PUC). Raper said he spoke with someone at the PUC who simply assured him the utility was entitled to request the deposit.

Fisher intends to introduce a bill that would address such situations by prohibiting utilities from requesting deposits from customers whose accounts are current in anticipation that they may make late payments or fall into arrears in the future.

30,582: festival organizers hope to eclipse world jack-o-lantern record

LACONIA — Can the first ever Laconia Pumpkin Festival establish a new world record for the most lit jack-o'- lanterns in one place?
That question will be answered when results are in at 8 p.m. on Saturday when the final tally is announced. The festival has been registered with Guinness in an attempt to break the world record of 30,581, which was set in Keene in 2013.
Amanda Bullerwell, the local volunteer in charge of the count, says that the count will take place during a five-minute span starting at 6:50 p.m. when teams of counters, each in charge of one section of downtown, will tally up the number of unlit jack-o-lanterns.
That number will be subtracted from the total number on display in the downtown area, which will already have been determined prior to the start of the lighting of the jack-o-lanterns at 4 p.m.
''This is the first time I've done this,'' says Bullerwell, who works at Titeflex and whose husband, Ben, is a partner in Wayfarer Coffee Roasters in Downtown Laconia.
She says that she has been to the Keene Festival several times and was glad to see it find a new home in Laconia.
''This is a good spot for it and I want to see it be a success,'' says Bullerwell, who signed on in April as a volunteer and says that she has been impressed with the enthusiasm being shown in the community for the festival.
Some unsolicited assistance showed up early Friday afternoon at Rotary Park, where Bullerwell was overlooking the placement of jack-o-lanterns, when Laconia High School students in Jon Myers' exercise and nutrition class pitched in to place some of them on stands.
''This is good for Laconia. I'm glad to see it here,'' said Leah Stivali, one of the students, a sentiment echoed by Ciara LaGarde, who said that she liked the festive atmosphere being created.
Welcome centers will be open at several entrances to downtown where visitors can log in their carved pumpkin or arrange to carve a pumpkin at the Community Carving Center at the Bank of New Hampshire.
Volunteers there were gutting some 4,000 pumpkins and were halfway through that amount Friday afternoon according to bank spokesperson Tiffany Benton.
''There's a lot of excitement here. There's even a marriage proposal that will be going up on display on the big tower.'' she said.

Meredith liquor store will remain open

MEREDITH — By reversing its decision to close its established store at Olde Provnce Commons, the New Hampshire Liquor Commission has ensured that Meredith will remain a wet town.

When the commission announced that a new liquor store would be opened in New Hampton on Rte.104 near Exit 23 on I-93, it indicated that the Meredith store would be closed. However, Joseph Mollica, chairman of the commission, said yesterday that the commission "determined that the Meredith area remained a strong market and therefore a viable home for an New Hampshire Liquor and Wine Outlet. Although Jacksn's Star Market left Olde Provnce Commons, Ocean State Job Lots opened in its place, ensuring that the plaza would remain a shopping destination.

Mollica said that the goal of the commission is to maximize the revenue from liquor and wine sales, the net profits from which contribute to state general fund. In locating stores, the commission weighs a number of factors, including annual sales, proximity to other outlets, demand in the market, traffic counts and operating costs. In 2014, record sales returned $642-million to the general fund.

The New Hampton store, which will operate in 12,000-square-feet where the Tedesch Food Shop operated, is expected to open late this year or early next.