When he first bought a little soft-serve ice cream shack, Jason Curtis was too busy to think about his power bill.

The seasonal Skowhegan shop is small, only about 600 square feet, but it is jam-packed with freezers, refrigerators and soft-serve machines, so Curtis expected that he would have to write out big monthly checks to CMP during his May-through-October season.

But when he started to pay attention in the winter of 2017, Curtis was surprised by a $900-a-month electricity bill.

That was 50 percent higher than a typical monthly bill for the previous shopkeeper, who had run the shop throughout the 2015 season. Curtis hadn’t changed the equipment or made any changes to shop operations, so he had expected the electricity bill to be about the same.

“That’s crap,” Curtis said. “Absolutely nothing different, but a bill that was half again as much. Crap.”

When questioned, Central Maine Power suggested that Curtis upgrade his appliances, or the wiring to the building, which is almost 70 years old. But Curtis does not have the money to do that, at least not yet, and doesn’t think a single season can justify a 50 percent higher bill.

He also doesn’t understand why he still gets a bill during the winter that ranges from $15 one month to $80 the next, even though his shack is closed and everything inside except for a single freezer is unplugged, turned off at the main breaker box.

Since opening, he has swapped out all traditional lighting for LEDs, unplugs everything but the freezers at night and consolidates inventory so he can unplug anything he’s not using. That has brought his average monthly bill in the summer down to $750.

Upset, Curtis filed a complaint with the Maine Public Utilities Commission, but he said he has not gotten any help. With a new commercial business, he had to pay a $2,500 deposit to CMP when he first opened that he will only get back if he doesn’t miss a payment for five years. So he can’t not pay, either.

“I’m an ice cream shop. Of course I need power, or I’ll lose all my product,” Curtis said. “What are my choices? They’ve got my deposit. If I miss a payment, I’d lose it, and they’d probably just take the part I’m disputing out of that. Basically, CMP is holding my business hostage.”