Lansing hosts public hearing on aggregation referendum

2013-04-07T00:00:00Z Lansing hosts public hearing on aggregation referendumGregory Tejeda Times Correspondent nwitimes.com
April 07, 2013 12:00 am  • 

LANSING | Village officials who want local residents to give them permission in Tuesday’s municipal elections to negotiate a group rate for utility bills brought in a consultant to address the concerns of residents who had questions about electricity aggregation.

Sharon Durling, of the Northern Illinois Municipal Electric Collaborative, spent about 40 minutes at a public hearing to answer questions from about 30 local residents who showed up at the municipal court complex, 2710 170th St.

In electricity aggregation, a municipal government negotiates with a utility provider on behalf of its residents, with the aim of getting a group rate that would allow individuals to pay less for their electric bills than they are now paying as individuals.

Under Illinois law, a government must get voter approval before it can go through the process, and Lansing officials have the question on the ballot for the Tuesday municipal elections.

Village President Norm Abbott admits this makes Lansing one of the last governments in the area to address the issue. Communities such as Calumet City, Dolton, South Holland and Chicago Heights got voter approval last year and have already negotiated lower rates.

But Abbott said he thinks Lansing benefited from the wait, in that village officials were able to watch the process as it worked in surrounding communities.

“We let them do the homework for us,” he said.

Several residents had questions about exactly how much their bills could be reduced, and if it was possible to get out of the group rate if, for whatever reason, it did not work to their benefit.

Durling said that exact rate reductions are not known now, but said that several other communities have seen residents experience utility bills as much as $175 lower per year.

She also said there are opt-out procedures for those who do not want to be included. She warned some people may get calls from companies trying to persuade people to sign up for their own utility rates under the assumption that it is part of the official aggregation process, when it is not.

“Should you get a phone call from ABC Electric that asks for your ComEd account number, I’d suggest you do nothing,” Durling said. “You should keep your ComEd number as big a secret as your Social Security number.”

If Lansing voters approve aggregation Tuesday, officials from NIMEC, which has been hired by Lansing to handle negotiations, will try to put together the lowest rate possible.

In Calumet City, voters approved the concept in the November elections, and a new rate was approved in March that takes effect this month.

Durling could not say exactly when a new rate would be in effect in Lansing. “Mid-summerish, to be specific,” she quipped.

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