Two winters ago, Tyna and Nathan Dyar were shocked when their monthly electric bill doubled, jumping from $50 to $100 to heat a small two-bedroom trailer in Hiram even though they had all new appliances and relied on kerosene and propane for all their heating needs.

Frustrated, Tyna called Central Maine Power to complain, but also to look for answers.

“She was told it was our appliances and our kids were playing too many video games,” Nathan said. “When my wife told them the only child in the house was a year old and the appliances were new, (CMP) couldn’t tell her why the bill went up.”

The monthly CMP bill for the trailer topped out at $300 a month in September 2018.

The bill went down last fall after they moved two hours north to an old six-bedroom farmhouse that has been in Nathan’s family for more than 200 years. They had held their breath when they got the first electric bill. If it cost them $300 to power a small trailer, what would it cost them to power and heat an old farmhouse?

The answer that came in their first month’s bill shocked them: just $60 a month.

The good news didn’t last. The monthly bill for the Strong farmhouse escalated, first to $100, then $200. When Tyna pressed CMP, the company refused to discuss it until they agreed to a repayment plan – $250 a month toward the past-due Hiram bill and all new Strong charges each month.

“I told them no way, I wasn’t paying that and I was contacting the PUC,” said Tyna, whose husband then followed up with an official complaint. “I then stopped getting bills for a few months. When I called, they said it has to be the mail person not delivering it because they mail them out every month.”

The couple can’t afford the repayment plan. This spring they got a disconnect notice.

She paid $230 toward the $460 back bill to avoid disconnection, but things got ugly fast, Tyna said. The billing representative told her that not everyone is lucky enough to get help and that what she and Nathan really needed to do “was go get jobs.” When Tyna told her they both work, the representative hung up on her.

When Tyna reported her experience, CMP told her they would look into it.

“No help at all,” Tyna said. “It’s only getting worse.”