Adams County Board action means rural Ameren customers won't vote on electric aggregation in 2013

Posted: Jan. 15, 2013 11:08 pm Updated: Feb. 5, 2013 11:15 pm

Herald-Whig Staff Writer

The Adams County Board tabled an ordinance Tuesday night that would have placed a referendum on the April 9 ballot to let the county bid on electric supply rates on behalf of residents and small businesses in an effort to lower prices.

To place the referendum on the April ballot, the County Board must adopt the ordinance by Jan. 22. The board next meets Feb. 11. So by tabling the ballot question, it cannot appear on the ballot until the March 2014 primary election.

County Board member Matt Obert, D-5, who initially motioned to approve the ordinance, requested that it be tabled, because there was no clear answer whether all county residents would be voting for the referendum or just those served in unincorporated Adams County.

Under municipal aggregation, electric customers are grouped together and bids are sought from third-party electric suppliers. This can return savings of more than 20 percent on the electric supply of energy bills. Municipalities and counties were given this option with the approval of the Illinois Power Agency Act of 2010.

Many residents who live in unincorporated Adams County do not qualify for aggregation programs, because they receive their power through Adams Electric Cooperative. However, there are about 3,800 customers that receive power from Ameren Illinois in Melrose, Ellington, Riverside and Fall Creek townships.

Reg Ankrom, a senior consultant with Carbondale-based Simec, said he approached the county about putting the question on the ballot.

"The law actually stipulates that incorporated municipalities and unincorporated areas of the county -- through the County Board -- can adopt resolutions to put it on the ballot, and the people can make the choice on whether they want to proceed with it," he said.

Simec represented 17 municipalities and counties where voters approved aggregation referendums in November, including Quincy, Mendon, Coatsburg and Columbus. In December, the communities locked into a three-year contract with Ohio-based First Energy to provide electricity at 4.194 cents per kilowatt hour. This is expected to save customers more than 23 percent on the electric supply portion of their utility bills.

When asked why the county wasn't included in the group, Ankrom said he was just hired by the company at the time and it was too late to get the county on board with the program.

Ankrom said Simec has lined up every other Adams County municipality for a vote in April except Lima, which chose not to move forward with a referendum.

Finance Committee Chairman Duane Venvertloh, R-7, said he was concerned as a county resident that voters who live in Quincy or the other communities that would not fall under the program would still vote on the issue.

"There are going to be people in the pool voting for something that doesn't effect them whatsoever," he said.