June 26, 2016

Partly sunny

Officials: Does gas collective have juice?

Medina County commissioners have sent letters to officials in the county’s

17 townships seeking comment on the possibility of natural gas service aggregation.

Aggregation allows local governments to negotiate the price charged for natural gas supplied to residents. The result could be savings on residents’ gas bills.

Commissioners are seeking township officials’ opinions on a ballot measure for the November election that would give commissioners the authority to pursue a contract with a gas aggregator.

Commissioner Pat Geissman said earlier this week that two townships — Medina and Chatham — have expressed little interest in the issue so far and suggested the county should wait until next year to reconsider gas aggregation.

“If people don’t have an interest in having it on the ballot, why should we spend the money?” she said. “I’m supportive if they want it done, but it costs money to put it on the ballot.”

Geissman said the letters sent Wednesday are intended to gauge interest one more time before tabling the idea. Townships have until the end of the month to respond. Geissman said commissioners need townships to reply whether they favor or oppose the idea.

In order for the issue to appear on the Nov. 5 ballot, paperwork must be filed with the Medina County Board of Elections by Aug. 7.

Commissioners proceeded with electric aggregation in 2010 after negotiating with FirstEnergy Solutions for a better rate.

Commissioners have met with Chuck Keiper of the Northeast Ohio Public Energy Council to discuss program options and the advantages of aggregation.

According to NOPEC’S website, it is an organization of local governments in Northeast Ohio that work cooperatively to provide a competitive environment for energy cost-savings for individual customers.

They have 134 members in 174 communities in Cuyahoga, Lake, Ashtabula, Lorain, Huron, Summit, Medina, Portage, Trumbull and Geauga counties.

Commissioner Stephen Hambley said gas aggregation probably wouldn’t produce the same potential savings as electric aggregation did. He said commissioners knew what the discounted rate for electric service would be in advance and had more information on the program before presenting it for a vote.

Hambley said even if the issue is placed on the ballot and passed by voters, the county still would have to hold public meetings and investigate potential gas providers to find the best deal. He said while the Energy Council is an option, it is only one of many.

Granger Township Trustee Richard Pace worked with the county on electric aggregation but said he’s still not fully informed on gas aggregation.

He did say that unlike electric service, customers already can look at the natural gas market and make “apples-to-apples” cost comparisons among companies.

“The commissioners having authority may be a good thing, but there already exists a competitive market, and that wasn’t the case with the electric aggregation,” he said. “FirstEnergy was really the only party in a position to negotiate.”

Contact reporter Dan Pompili at (330) 721-4012 or dpompili@medina-gazette.com.