PORTSMOUTH – Last November, the citizens of Portsmouth voted down a ballot measure (1,451 to 1,697) to join in an electric and gas aggregation program which would created a buying group, theoretically allowing them to better negotiate prices for electric and natural gas services.
The idea of aggregate programs is not new to the United States. Thousands of cities, towns, and villages across the countries do similar things in the hopes of lowering the bills of taxpayers. Now, council is considering adding the measure to the ballot again in hopes that the citizens reconsider.
“AEP’s rates are going up,” said City Manager Sam Sutherland. “That’s a fact.”
Aspen Energy, an energy consulting firm out of Dublin, Ohio, is leading the charge this time around. The firm services 14,000 commercial and industrial clients across the country. However, some on council including 5th Ward Councilman Joey Sandlin see the ballot initiative as an uphill battle.
“I think we will see resistance at the ballot box,” remarked Sandlin.
Second Ward Councilwoman Charlotte Gordon questioned if council could bypass the ballot initiative and simply pass the aggregation program themselves by a vote.
“In Delaware, Ohio, the city council just voted and passed this without going to the ballot,” said Gordon. “Is that an option for us? AEP’s rates are jumping in June. We would pass this by August, get it on the November ballot, and it wouldn’t take affect until the first of the year. The citizens should have a choice…but I’m wondering if it needs to go to the ballot when residents can opt in or out.”
Mayor Sean Dunne and 3rd Ward Councilman Andy Cole supported the ballot measure.
“Anytime people’s utility rates are affected, they should have a direct say,” said Dunne. “I’m for putting this on the ballot. At the end of the day, the public is the boss. If they choose to oppose it, that is their choice.”
“There’s probably never a time when something comes to us, where we could put it on the ballot, where I’ll think its not the right way to go,” said Cole.
All of council seemed to be in agreement, however, that more aggregate firms should be contacted about potential partnerships.
“It would be great to hear from other companies,” said Dunne. “This is good, not best. But good is not the enemy of best.”
Dunne says the ballot measure would have a little less than 50% chance of passing in his view.
“There was a lot of misinformation spread last time…so we need to fix that and let people decide when they hear the correct information.”
Council agreed 6-0 to put the issue on the next city council meeting agenda for a first reading in two weeks.