Officials with two south suburban villages Tuesday approved having the issue of electricity aggregation appear on their ballots as a referendum question for the upcoming April 9 municipal elections.
Village boards in Lynwood and Sauk Village both voted to put the issue in the hands of voters. Under aggregation, villages can hire companies that would negotiate with utility companies on behalf of all their residents.
The theory is that by negotiating for all residents in bulk, a lower rate can be obtained – thereby allowing local residents to pay less for their electric bills.
While some municipalities such as Calumet City, Chicago Heights and Dolton approved the concept in November, Lynwood voters have twice rejected the idea.
Village President Eugene Williams said Tuesday he hopes this time local residents will realize the potential benefits and will support the concept. It failed during elections held in March and November 2012.
Williams said he has heard from many residents who said they did not understand what aggregation was about in previous elections, and he said village officials will send out several mailings in coming months to try to educate residents about the potential benefits of aggregation.
“We will do a better job of getting the word out to our residents that this is a good thing,” Williams said. Trustees approved putting the referendum question on the April ballot by a 5-0 vote, with Trustee Bill Lebeter absent Tuesday.
“We seem to have a lot of people who like to come out and vote 'no' on issues,” Williams said, adding that village officials have not committed to any particular aggregation company to negotiate on their behalf.
In Sauk Village, acting Village President David Hanks said municipal officials would conduct at least two public hearings about aggregation between now and Election Day, although neither hearing has been scheduled.
Village Trustee Enoch Benson IV questioned why trustees themselves had not discussed the issue more thoroughly before being asked to approve a referendum question, even though Hanks claimed that discussion on the issue took place in December.
Benson abstained from voting, while the other trustees approved the referendum question by a 5-0 vote.
Sauk Village and Lynwood will not be the only area communities to consider the issue this year. Lansing village officials previously approved offering a ballot question on the issue for the April 9 municipal elections.
Under aggregation, supporters have said that homeowners in communities that approved the idea have been able to save as much as $300 per year on their electric bills.
But residents who, for whatever reason, do not want to be included in any aggregation negotiations do have the option to exclude themselves — although the “opt-out” process for individuals comes after communities approve a referendum on the issue.