Council committee split on electric aggregation offers

Heated debate left Marietta City Council without consensus Wednesday during Special Utilities Committee.

The legislative body had previously heard two presentations from competing electric aggregation offers – one from the city’s longstanding energy broker Tom Bellish, with Buckeye Energy Brokers, and the new entry by Luke Sulfridge with the Southeast Ohio Public Energy Council.

The two offers had comparable prices but different in lengths of contract for locked electric generation rates (approximately half of an electric bill each month).

Councilwoman Cassidi Shoaf asked clarifying questions of the new offer, specially concerning what impact joining SOPEC, as a council of governments, would have on the city’s local control.

Sulfridge replied that the city’s potential participation with SOPEC would require multiple steps, first to join the organization akin to the city’s partnership in Buckeye Hills Regional Council, then to agree to the bylaws of SOPEC after holding two public hearings, then to become a signatory of the SOPEC charter.

He said that the city would be able to either participate in the joint rate brokered for the SOPEC cities and villages as a whole, or negotiate a deal of their own each year or contract period.

Councilmen Geoff Schenkel and Mike Scales noted they both liked the business model of returning cost overages to the cities which participate in the purchasing power of aggregation.

But when Sulfridge updated his financial offer Wednesday to compare rates more closely with Bellish’s last offer given earlier this month, Special Utilities Chairman Mike McCauley objected for ethical reasons.

“This $42,000 looks like a bribe,” McCauley noted of the SOPEC offer to add community grants to the city for any cost overruns drawn in revenues from electric billing.

The initial proposal Sulfridge gave the legislative body shared not only the endorsement of Marietta Main Street for SOPEC, but also included a two-year proposal to fund a second position in the downtown nonprofit.

Following the meeting Councilman Bill Gossett said having both an endorsement by the downtown nonprofit and being on the receiving end of the proposed community grant of $21,000 also raised a red flag for him.

Budget and Procurement Director Bill Dauber (formerly serving as assistant safety-service director under the last mayoral administration) also called for fair play under the procurement process Wednesday concerning the price comparisons for electric aggregation.

As a compromise, no decision between the two brokering offers was agreed upon.

Instead, an additional meeting will be scheduled by McCauley at a later date.

Councilman Mike Scales asked that all proposal material be provided to members of council for review in advance of that meeting.

Employee Relations

Council also met for an executive session of Employee Relations Committee, advancing for legislation the creation of one new permanent position and expanding a part-time position to full-time.

Members of the legislative body did not voice whether they were in consensus for the creation of the two positions.

The legislation will introduce the addition of changing Rob Emerick’s part-time parking attendant position to full-time and would make a temporary clerk stenographer part-time position a permanent part-time role also under the direction of the city police department.

The separate ordinances will be introduced at the next regular business meeting of the legislative body on March 5.

That same meeting, scheduled for 7:30 p.m. will also play host to the final readings of Ordinances 11-19 concerning changes to parking ordinances and the reintroduction of parking enforcement by chalking tires.

Council is next scheduled to convene Monday at 3 p.m. to discuss allocation shifts for city budgeting in the body’s finance committee. That meeting is scheduled to occur in the second-floor conference room of 304 Putnam St.

Council’s regular business meetings occur in room 10 of the Armory, 241 Front St.