- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 9, 2008

HAGERSTOWN, Md. (AP) — A utility company’s shipment of compact fluorescent light bulbs to its 220,000 Maryland customers caused headaches for small-town postal workers who had to deal with thousands of unexpected packages during the peak holiday season.

Allegheny Power sent the two-bulb parcels to its Western Maryland customers to promote energy efficiency. Spokesman Todd Meyers said Monday that the bulbs were supposed to arrive by late November. But a supplier glitch, combined with the company’s ignorance about the workings of some post offices, generated resentment instead of good will — at least among postal employees.

Managers said they had to pay workers overtime to unpack large cartons filled with boxes of bulbs.

“Ours came in on skids, and this office is too small to handle skids,” Kami Hoffman, officer in charge of the Boonsboro Post Office, told the Hagerstown Herald-Mail. The office serves about 3,000 customers.

“They came in waves,” said Jay Jones, customer-service supervisor at the post office in Hagerstown, population 39,000. He said workers had to individually scan more than 30,000 boxes of bulbs, and some carriers made extra trips to deliver them.

The bulbs intended for the 760 postal customers in tiny Funkstown bore residents’ street addresses instead of post office box numbers. Funkstown has no home mail delivery, so workers had to put the P.O. box number on each box, clerk Tammy Staley said. “It took some time to do all that,” she said.

Mr. Meyers said the company, a unit of Allegheny Energy Inc., of Greensburg, Pa., will be more attentive to details if it expands the promotion to its service areas in Pennsylvania, Virginia or West Virginia.

“We’ll use these lessons learned,” he said. “We will make sure that when we do this, if we do this in the future, we’ll explore some of these things that became an issue.”

The bulbs aren’t free. Allegheny Power is adding a monthly surcharge of 96 cents to its Maryland customers’ bills for one year — $11.52 in total — to pay for the program.

A state legislator said yesterday that he will introduce a bill that would prohibit utilities from sending customers unsolicited light bulbs and adding the cost to their monthly bills.

Delegate Kevin Kelly, Allegany County Democrat, said he was outraged by the promotion.

The program was approved by the state Public Service Commission.

Mr. Meyers said each bulb will save customers $1 a month in energy costs and should last about seven years.

The compact fluorescent bulbs are part of a campaign to alert Marylanders to the state’s rising energy consumption and limited transmission capabilities. Mr. Meyers said that if each Maryland household replaced one incandescent bulb with a compact fluorescent bulb, the annual energy savings would be enough to light every household in Annapolis, the state capital, for 3.3 years.

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