By DEBORAH GERTZ HUSAR
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
PITTSFIELD, Ill. -- The Pittsfield City Council is taking the next step toward saving residential and small commercial retail customers money on utility bills.
Aldermen Tuesday authorized Mayor John Hayden to negotiate a municipal aggregation contract with a suggested term of 18 months, targeting traditional rather than renewable energy and without adding a fee to generate more revenue for the city.
"They want it as cheap as possible for the customer," City Clerk Cindy Prentice said.
Voters in November approved municipal aggregation, an increasingly popular option where municipalities band together (or work alone) to get bids on the electric supply portion of utility bills to get a better rate. Customers have the option to opt out if they don't want to take part.
Hayden and representatives from about 50 cities will hear proposals from several energy providers, selected by a consultant, and make their choice Tuesday in Granite City.
"There's strength in numbers," Prentice said. "That's how we're getting a better price."
Prentice said all the cities have to choose the same provider, but they can look at different contract lengths. Aldermen recommended the 18-month contract in hopes of working with an even larger number of communities in the future.
Another group of about 50 communities within the past six months went through the process for a 24-month contract. "The thinking is if we do 18 months, we'll have all those people plus whoever renews in 18 months for a bigger group yet to get a possible better rate," Prentice said.
The process won't lower the delivery charge from Ameren on monthly bills, but it could drop energy costs by an average of 30 percent for customers.
Aldermen also adopted a firewood policy for Lake Pittsfield but still need to determine how to enforce it. The policy, a way to control potential damage from emerald ash borer, prohibits carrying in firewood.
One option to enforce the policy would be having firewood for sale at the lake, and anyone seen burning who has not bought wood at the lake would be asked to leave the campground. However, Prentice said that doesn't address the issue of people simply getting firewood from the timber at the lake to burn.
"We've got to figure all that out before we open next summer," Prentice said.
Aldermen also referred a request from The Crossing to the economic development committee. The church has been meeting in one of the former JDL buildings in the industrial park and wants to continue holding services at the site, but that's not allowed under the park's covenant.
The committee will meet Dec. 13 to discuss whether to leave the covenant as is or try to rewrite it -- and determine what would be involved in that process.
Crossing officials were told earlier using the industrial building as a church did not comply with the park's covenants and that they would not be able to stay in the space, Prentice said, and the church has been looking for another site.