Business owners, political leaders pressure Central Hudson over utility billing concerns

Some Hudson Valley business owners joined with Rep. Pat Ryan Friday at Poughkeepsie City Hall to call on Central Hudson Gas & Electric to fix outstanding billing issues that have cost the businesses thousands.
The fight between the Poughkeepsie-based energy provider and local and federal officials began two years ago with odd overcharges on bills.
Central Hudson officials said the errors on customers' bills were due to a rough transition to a new billing system.
Fast forward to Friday.
Some customers are still trying to resolve overcharges amid the company's efforts to raise electric and gas prices by 16% and 19%, respectively.
"It's been really difficult," David Amato – owner of Savannah's Restaurant in Kingston – said of his billing problems. "I was never really able to rectify it."
Amato said that in early 2022 the restaurant's monthly utility bill suddenly tripled from about $5,000 to $15,000; in the following months he was charged about $10,000 a month.
The high bills are one of a few reasons prices at Old Savannah's have increased, he said.
Amato said he then received several bills in a span of days stating Old Savannah's had received several credits toward its account.
One bill summary covering September 2021 showed that after the credit, Old Savannah was ahead on payments by $69,503.06.
Another for March 2022 showed the restaurant ahead by $32,140.11, and a June 2022 bill showed Old Savannah ahead by $14,604.60.
Having received the bills at around the same time, Amato was not sure what to think, except that subsequent bills showed he still owed money.
"It's a total of about $100,000 in credits," Amato said, "which was just on paper. I never actually received the credit. I still got my bill the following month."
Without a clear resolution, Amato continues to pay the monthly bill of about $10,000 to avoid the power being cut off to the popular creekside restaurant.
Amato joined Rep. Pat Ryan, Assemblyman Jonathan Jacobson and Poughkeepsie Mayor Yvonne Flowers in City Council to call on Central Hudson to fix its billing issues and to decry the company's efforts to raise electric and gas prices.
The company is now arguing with the New York state Public Service Commission over the price hikes in court.
Several companies and non-profits have filed motions in opposition of the increases.
"They are proposing massive rate hikes of 16% and 19% right at the time when people across the Hudson Valley can least afford to see their utility bills go up," Ryan said.
Central Hudson spokesperson Joe Jenkins said the company has increased staff to help fix billing issues that started in 2021 when the company changed billing systems.
Jenkins said the company's top leaders have tried to meet with Ryan about bills Ryan still has problems with.
"We have reached out to Congressman Ryan's office on several occasions to sit down with him and show him what we're seeing on our end with the current status of the bills of the customers that he sent us," Jenkins said during an in-person interview Friday. "They've not been amenable to that option up to this point."
Ryan acknowledged Central Hudson has resolved some billing problems with increased staff, but said his office continues to receive complaints.
After asking a Central Hudson billing expert to review Old Savannah's account and without violating privacy policy, Jenkins said the billing issues have been resolved and the restaurant's monthly bill is based on meter readings, not estimates.
Jenkins conceded the process "generates frustration and confusion," but that almost all accounts with erroneous charges have been rectified.
He said there are about 300 such accounts with unresolved billing errors, far less than 1% of all Central Hudson's customers.
Other reasons for price increases include volatile supply prices which the company does not control, Jenkins said.