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Townsend man among group protesting Unitil rate hike, service

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FITCHBURG — Three years to the day since the devastating ice storm of 2008, a group of concerned citizens gathered outside the Unitil office on John Fitch Highway to show that they haven’t forgotten what many in the region suffered following that storm.

For those on hand Sunday, the promises of new legislation following the ice storm haven’t been kept and nearly a dozen protesters raised signs outside the utility company’s Fitchburg headquarters, with passing motorists showing their support with the honking of car horns.

“I just want what I’m paying for,” Townsend resident Bill Biswanger said. “I’m sick of the the poor service and high rates. We want to have a choice of who we get service from.”

Biswanger — who, like many, turned to a generator following the ice storm and faced increases in rates later — likened the situation to being told what kind of vehicle area residents must buy. He pushed for municipal choice on electricity.

“If I want to buy a Ford, I can. If I want to drive something else, I can,” he noted. “Why can’t we choose who provides our electricity?”

Lunenburg’s Carolynn Luescher recalled going “a long time” without electricity after the 2008 storm. That prompted her to join the Lunenburg Utility Task Force and to join in the protest Sunday afternoon.

“Not a lot has changed since then,” Luescher said. “The legislation that has been passed has had no real impact. It’s important to show solidarity with our neighbors and we need a utility company that is motivated by service and not its shareholders.”

Cathy Clark, of the group “Get Rid of Unitil,” said that putting together a protest in short notice may have had an effect on the number of people who came out, but the message was as strong as ever.

“We’ve seen rate increases without any change in service,” Clark said. “The legislation that was supposed to help never did much. It’s a reminder that we’re not happy with how things are and we want change.”

— Nick Mallard

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