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    There’s no shortage of voices weighing in on a Penelec request for a rate increase that would add about $20 to the average monthly bill.

    The State Consumer Advocate, the Coalition for Affordable Utility Service and Energy Efficiency, and Harborcreek Township’s Ken Springirth all filed paperwork in opposition to Penelec’s first proposed distribution rate increase in 28 years.

    A handful of Erie residents added their thoughts Monday to the evidence that the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission will consider before ruling on the rate request. About 60 people attended a pair of public hearings held Monday in Summit Township.

    A decision on the rate request made by Penelec parent company FirstEnergy is expected in May.

    Springirth, a veteran of numerous utility rate cases, wants the PUC to rethink its timetable.

    He called Monday for the PUC to delay the process, citing Erie-area residents’ difficulty examining the FirstEnergy paperwork filed in August. Customers were invited to examine the documents at a local Penelec office, but Erie doesn’t have one, he said.

    Scott Surgeoner, a spokesman for FirstEnergy, said after the hearing that the rate increase is substantial.

    “All we are trying to do is try to match expenses with revenues,” he said, noting that the rate increase covers expenses such as employee wages, utility poles and trucks.

    Most of those who testified Monday took a different view of the rate hike.

    Denice Manus, of Erie, said she and her mother already are struggling to keep the electricity on.

    “There is no way I can afford or my mother can afford an added $20 a month,” she said.

    Michael Simon, of Erie, testified that a rate increase will force him to make tough decisions.

    “It will take away medicine or not going to the doctor,” he said.

    Springirth said there’s evidence FirstEnergy is in good shape financially, citing a report that says the company’s chief executive earned more than $23 million in 2012. “The big question is what does the utility really need, not what does it want,” he said.

    Springirth urged the PUC not to go too easy on the utility.

    “If they get an easy ride through this case, they are determined to file more,” he said.

    Denise McCracken, a PUC spokeswoman, said she was pleased with attendance at the hearings in Erie.