Beverly balks at new utility discount proposal

Beverly residents might have to wait up to a year before having another opportunity to join in a program to lower their electric bills.

For several months, village residents and businesses have received mailings offering a savings on electricity by having power supplied by another company in addition to the utility they have been dealing with for years, such as American Electric Power.

The aggregation program allows residents to take advantage of group purchasing in order to secure lower rates.

During the June 12 village council meeting, the council voted 3-to-2 not to put an initiative on the November ballot that, if passed, would enroll the village as a whole in the aggregation program unless individual households opt out. Deadline for placing an issue on the ballot is Aug. 7.

By providing residents an opportunity to vote on having the village as a whole contract with Volunteer Energy of Dublin, residents could have saved at least two cents per kilowatt and would pay about six cents per kilowatt hour, said Beverly Mayor Rex Kenyon.

Kenyon said the village already had switched to Aspen Energy for village facilities and rates have been reduced from seven or eight cents per kilowatt hour to about six cents per killowatt hour.

An average residential bill for April for 1,577 killowatt hours at eight cents would run the customer $126.16 for that month. At six cents, the customer would pay $102.35.

Some residents they didn’t have time to research the matter.

“I decided to stay with AEP,” said Holly Webb, of Fourth Street in Beverly. “I work three jobs, and I have two kids. I don’t have a lot of time. It’s not a priority.”

Belpre has had a agreement with the Columbus area’s Volunteer Energy since 2011, and it took several years to get the city behind it, said Fred Holmes, director of municipal aggregations at Volunteer Energy.

Volunteer Energy will meet with Belpre residents again on June 24 to discuss both electrical and gas aggregation.

“Council needs to be comfortable with it before they decide,” Holmes said.

No one with the city of Belpre was available for comment Tuesday.

Marietta voters approved an electric aggregation program in May 2011, while in November of that year voters in unincorporated areas of Washington County voted against an electric aggregation program. All the programs allow people to opt out.

Holmes said the savings could be deeper because of the village’s buying power.

Council member Beth Kenyon and Jim Ullman voted yes, meaning they were in favor of putting the initiative on the ballot.

“I wanted to give everyone the opportunity to vote on it,” Ullman said. “I wanted to leave it to village residents instead of me.”

Village Council members Kandy Baker, Mary Jane Tullius and Jay Arnold voted against placing the initiative on the ballot.

Arnold said he voted no because people have been making decisions individually since October, when information about the program was mailed out. The other issue, he said, was the elderly who might be confused by all the letters and all the choices.

“Why force something on someone when they voluntarily have made a choice?” Arnold said.

“I think it’s going to confuse the older residents,” Kandy Baker. “Even though we had an open meeting about it, and no one attends … If they wanted to change they would change on their own.”

Rex Kenyon said the village does plan to offer the ballot initiative until “we get a new council” sometime in 2014.

“It’s a shame we didn’t give the citizens the opportunity to save some money, but it’s council’s decision,” he said.