ST. CLOUD -- The Public Utilities Commission held a public hearing today (Friday) on the proposed Xcel Energy fee increase.

More than 20 community members gathered at the Lake George Municipal Complex to voice their opinions.

Of the seven hearings held throughout the state, it was the highest attended. A total of 12 people voiced their concerns, all in opposition to the proposal.

Xcel Energy is asking for a $286 million fee increase which would cost the average customer approximately $110 more per year.

Xcel's Rate Case Manger, Deb Paulson says the increase is needed to keep providing good service and keep the system reliable.

St. Cloud community member, Richard Studer says he opposes the fee increase on moral grounds.

The Minnesota Department of Commerce financial analyst, Dale Lusti issued a statement saying Xcel's request should not be approved. He says, "Our investigation to date has concluded that over $191 million or 67 percent of the $286 million rate increase proposed by Xcel Energy should be rejected...In addition, we conclude that Xcel's revenues will be higher than forecasted by the Company, diminishing the need to increase rates."

Today was the last public hearing scheduled. You can still send in your comments on the proposal through E-mail and U.S. mail now through April 1st.

The Public Utilities Commission will be evaluating whether the increase, rate and return is reasonable. A cross-examination hearing is scheduled for April 18th.