Chamber Energy Program Can Help You from Being Slammed

Having the ability to choose which company you buy electricity from for your home and business provides the opportunity to find the best combination of price, product, customer service and consultative experience that can give you peace of mind while you save money off monthly bills.
 
Unfortunately, providers have been contacting local businesses, including members, with misleading information and/or aggressive sales tactics. Some of these businesses have even been signed up with a new supplier without their consent, an unprincipled activity known as “slamming.” Slamming involves switching your retail electric provider without your permission. Businesses usually don’t find out they have been slammed until they get a bill from a different electric company.
 
The Chamber and our partner, OnDemand Energy, have received calls of confusion and concern and wanted to warn all members that these tactics are taking place in the area. If your business has inadvertently or unknowingly been switched, OnDemand Energy can assist you in reversing the situation to avoid any fees.
 
To avoid being slammed, do not provide any account information to unknown callers. Also, if you are being solicited by someone using aggressive tactics, get their name and contact information and provide it to the Chamber. As the managers of the Chamber’s energy program, OnDemand is prepared to assist with any uncertainty or questions regarding your current enrollments and rates. Contact them at 1-866-699-9968 with any questions.

Chamber’s Residential Electricity Program Protects Customers through Cold Spikes!

While this winter’s record cold temperatures have unfortunately resulted in huge increases in electricity bills for homeowners on variable rate pricing programs, the ChamberChoice Residential Program has provided residential consumers with some of the lowest fixed residential rates offered in Pennsylvania. Residential consumers, who have taken advantage of the low rate program from ChamberChoice, have continued to lock in savings during the cold weather and avoid the huge bill increases being reported across the State of Pennsylvania.

Any Pennsylvania residential customers that is currently on a variable price program can switch and take advantage of ChamberChoice ‘s low fixed rate Electricity Program to lock in savings regardless of weather extremes. Join with over 25,000 ChamberChoice’s residential customers that have already saved millions of dollars to be protected from the next Arctic Cold Spike. Simply visit OnDemandEnergy.com, click the Residential Button and apply for your fixed low rate. Or call OnDemand Energy at 866-699-9968 to speak to a program representative.

“ChamberChoice proudly partners with Pennsylvania Chambers to provide employee benefits, business insurance and energy solutions to Chamber Members,” said Sam Weber, President of the Chambers of Commerce Service Corporation. “We are pleased to extend our successful energy program to residents throughout the communities in which our Chamber Partners serve. We have designed our Residential Program to deliver the lowest overall costs in Pennsylvania while minimizing market risk that is associated with our competitors variable pricing offers.”

The ChamberChoice Residential Program is managed by OnDemand Energy Solutions and supplied by FirstEnergy Solutions.

Congress Passes Flood Insurance Bill

On Thursday, March 13th, the Senate approved a bill passed earlier in the House of Representatives which reverses some reforms to the National Flood Insurance Program passed in 2012 and slows down rate increases for homeowners.

House Resolution 3370, the “Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act of 2013” emerged as the most popular reform package after months of discussion in Congress. This action is in response to reforms passed in 2012 to address the $25 billion deficit of the NFIP. The “Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012” resulted in premium increases of 25% per year for subsidized residential and commercial policy holders, affecting approximately 770 policies in Columbia and Montour counties. If a subsidized property was sold, the premium would increase to the full, actuarially-based rate immediately. Local insurance agents and lenders expressed concern that premium increases of 4x to as much as 10x the prior rates would result in properties becoming non-viable and abandoned.

This legislation, which the President is expected to sign, would repeal the property sales trigger for rate increases. Subsidized premiums could not be increased by FEMA above 15% per year for a certain class of residential properties and above 18% for most primary residence properties. Policyholders that overpaid would receive a refund from FEMA.

Commercial policyholders would not see any relief as a result of H.R. 3370. Premiums would continue to increase 25% per year to the actuarially-based rate for commercial and secondary residence policies. Additionally, to help pay for the more gradual increases in premiums, a $250 annual surcharge would be implemented for these properties. The surcharge for primary residential policies would be $25 annually.

Representative Lou Barletta and Senators Casey and Toomey voted in favor of H.R. 3370. The Chamber has been in communications with the offices of each of these legislators to discuss the implications of rate increases on local communities and to express disappointment that commercial policyholders would be unfairly burdened through this legislation due to the disparity in rate increases and surcharges. Long-term solutions for communities need to include mitigation planning and assistance from the Federal government.

FEMA would be required to complete an affordability study within two years of the bill becoming law and minimize the number of policies with annual premiums that exceed one percent of the total coverage provided by the policy.

Community Welcomes Home an Olympic Hero

Join local the local community and give a big welcome home to 2014 Winter Olympics Men’s Luge competitor and Berwick native, Jayson Terdiman.

OLY-2014-LUGE-DOUBLES-TRAINING

A welcome home parade for Jayson is scheduled for 1:00 pm on March 1, 2014 in Berwick. Defender Fire Trucks will depart from Fuel Fitness, escorting Jayson and his family through town and up Front Street. 

Line the sidewalks, wave the flag, and cheer him on as he travels to the Berwick High School Gymnasium where he will speak, answer questions, and be honored by the Borough and State.

The Chamber would also like to recognize our Program Director, Amy Shortlidge, and Chamber Board member, Team Terdiman sponsor, and owner of Fuel Fitness, Marc Nespoli, for devoting their time to help organize the pep-rally last week and for assisting with the welcome home parade.

Other Chamber members who sponsored the pep-rally: First Keystone Community Bank, Knorr Hauling and Nespoli Jewelers.

For more photos, information and event posts, visit the Team Terdiman Facebook Page. Congratulations to Jayson and all who showed their support!

 

 

 

 

Chamber & Visitors Bureau Moving Forward to Form Partnership

The Columbia Montour Chamber of Commerce and Columbia-Montour Visitors Bureau are moving forward with plans to combine the operations of the two organizations in order to increase the value of membership and improve service to the communities in the two counties.

While the Chamber and Visitors Bureau will continue to exist, a new organization will be created. The staffs, operational resources and memberships will be combined within this new organization. The partnership will represent approximately 600 area businesses and organizations with the hope of attracting additional members as well as other partner organizations with similar missions.

The two organizations have been examining ways to work together more effectively since February, 2011. An early outcome was the establishment of a Joint Governmental Affairs Committee (JGA); an advocacy-focused partnership. Via a model grassroots advocacy process the JGA seeks to influence decision-makers and prompt actions that contribute to the benefit of their collective membership and the communities they serve.  Events the JGA has sponsored include candidate forums and an annual breakfast with Congressman Lou Barletta and the Commonwealth’s Revenue Secretary.

In the fall of 2012, members of each organization as well as Commissioners from Columbia and Montour counties were asked for their input on a potential partnership through a series of focus groups and surveys. “Our members made it very clear that they value the missions and individual brands of the Visitors Bureau and Chamber,” said David “Otto” Kurecian, Executive Director of the Visitors Bureau. “This partnership structure will ensure that our missions are not lost or diluted, while enhancing value to members and allowing us to more effectively serve the region.” The Visitors Bureau will retain control of the room tax revenue for the purposes of tourism enhancement while both boards will continue to meet to identify and oversee strategic priorities.

The partnership will maintain office locations in Berwick, Bloomsburg and Danville, with the possibility of adding customer service locations. The two main offices of the organizations will be consolidated into one facility to be identified. This new location will allow for operational efficiencies and provide space for future growth.

The formal proposal was unveiled to members in the Fall of 2013 with a series of Town Hall meetings held followed by a poll of both memberships to gather member feedback. The positive response to the poll exceeded 93 percent, according to Fred Gaffney, Chamber President. After reviewing the poll results, the boards of the Chamber and Visitors Bureau voted in January to move the process forward. A task force will be working with staff and sub-committees to formalize the operational details of the partnership with the hope that the final plan will be approved by members in mid-2014.

This process has been facilitated by Heather Feldhaus, Ph.D., with Bloomsburg University’s Center for Community Research and Consulting, and Chuck Laudermilch, retired Bloomsburg University professor.

“We have been following a very deliberate process to engage members and ensure that a partnership will meet our intended goals,” said Gaffney. “We thank all who have participated in this process thus far, and while we still have many details to work out over the coming months, it is very exciting that we are in the final stages of making the partnership a reality.”

The Task Force that has been working on this proposal is seeking the expertise of members to work on specific areas the partnership. Volunteer engagement is critical to finalizing the plan in a timely manner. Individuals are needed to help research and recommend a consolidated office location. Those with human resource experience are being asked to assist with combining the two staffs. And member input is being sought on how to best combine and execute the many programs, events and other benefits offered by the two organizations. Members interested in lending their skills to this process over the next few months should contact Fred Gaffney at the Chamber at 570-784-2522 or fgaffney@columbiamontourchamber.com, or Otto Kurecian at the Visitors Bureau at 570-784-8279 or kurecian@cmvb.com.