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Electric aggregation campaign to start soon : News : Oswego Ledger-Sentinel : Hometown Newspaper for Oswego and Montgomery, Illinois
Electric aggregation campaign to start soon
Referendum for Boulder Hill, other unincorporated areas on March 18 ballot

by Matt Schury

2/13/2014

Information about electric aggregation could be coming to a mailbox near you if you live in the Boulder Hill Subdivision and other unincorporated parts of Kendall County.

Chris Childress, of Progressive Energy, said the company will soon begin marketing the aggregation process to voters in the coming weeks.

Voters who live in unincorporated portions of Kendall County will be asked on the March 18 primary ballot if they would like to participate in electric aggregation.

If the referendum is approved it would allow the county to seek competitive bids and enter into service agreements for the electric power.

The program, as authorized by the Illinois Power Agency Act, promises to lower the monthly bills for ComEd or Ameren customers The referendum question would not be asked of a small portion of residents of Big Grove Township who get electricity from the Corn Belt Energy Corporation.

This is the second attempt at asking voters of unincorporated Kendall County to approve electrical aggregation. The referendum failed to get enough votes to pass in 2012.

Most municipalities in Kendall County approved the practice two years ago including Oswego, Yorkville, Montgomery, Plano and Newark. Residents of those cities and villages have said they are already saving money on their monthly electrical bills.

"We think that maybe the unincorporated group maybe took a wait-and-see approach because it was so new last time but the water's safer here now," Childress said.

In November the board approved a consulting agreement with Progressive Energy to obtain bids on electrical rates on behalf of residents. The pact also says Progressive will help market and promote the referendum.

The contract with Progressive includes answering residents questions and concerns about aggregation of electricity prices. For more information residents can call 1-800-856-3404 or go to electricaggregation.org

Childress said Progressive will begin promoting electric aggregation with a robo call in the coming weeks, as well as informational door hangers and yard signs.

The Kendall County Board is expected to vote on sending an informational letter to unincorporated voters next Tuesday. The board will also decide if they want to issue the letter on county letterhead, Childress said.

Board member Judy Gilmour has supported aggregation in the past but has been advised not to give her opinion on a pending ballot question. She said that she would be supporting sending the informational letter out to the voters to help them make a decision.

"He's (Childress) doing what he can but we as board members, after we voted to put it on the ballot ... we're not supposed to express any opinion even as a county," Gilmour said.

According to the contract, Progressive was supposed to conduct at least two public information sessions in Kendall County prior to the primary election. Childress said he isn't sure those will happen in the coming weeks. However, if the referendum passes, Progressive is also required to hold two more public information meetings that will include explaining how the public can opt out of aggregation.

The contract sets a goal for Progressive to find an electricity supplier by May.

Progressive will be paid in the form of a broker fee paid by the selected electric supplier approved by the board, under terms of the pact.

The referendum question will read:

"Shall the County of Kendall have the authority to arrange for the supply of electricity for its residential and small commercial retail customers who have not opted out of such program?"

Childress explained that while the board has been advised by the State's Attorney not to take a position on electric aggregation they can inform the public, which is the point of the letter.

He estimated about 33,000 registered voters will see the letter and hopes they vote to approve the referendum. Looking at election returns, Childress said the largest areas to vote down the referendum in 2012 were Boulder Hill and Fields of Farm Colony Subdivisions. He added that he has met with community leaders in those subdivisions to let them know about aggregation and how it could save money.

"We've really struggled with how to reach these people and they're really at a disadvantage when you look at what everybody else is paying in the area," he said.

With the election almost a month away Childress said that Progressive wanted to find the "sweet spot" on the calendar when it came to contacting voters. He said they didn't want to reach out to them with a promotional campaign too early or too late. In the run up to 2012 election, Childress said the company spent about $12,000 on their promotional campaign and expects to spend $5,000 more before the primary this time.

Childress pointed out that electric aggregation has saved residents of Illinois over $100,000 statewide since it was rolled out about 10 years ago.

"It's just been very, very successful," Childress said.




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