By MARY ANN GREIER
PERRY TWP. - Trustees said they'll vote at their 6:30 p.m. July 28 meeting whether to place a gas aggregation issue on the November ballot for residents to decide.
Only two residents showed up for a public hearing on the matter Monday night, with one expressing an opinion against a ballot issue and the other one seeking the pros and cons despite not having gas service.
"We should not even put this on the ballot. I think we have too many people telling us what to do now," Henry Spack said.
Tom Althouse questioned whether it could lead to him getting gas service, which he said would be a good thing. He wanted to learn more about aggregation and asked what the savings would be.
Trustee Chairman Cliff Mix said even if voters decided to allow gas aggregation, the choice of joining the program is up to the property owner, who can choose to opt out of the opportunity. He said the program only addresses pricing, not who gets gas service. Spack asked several questions, including whether trustees were allowed to do this and whether Salem residents would have a say since they're technically in the township.
Mix said the trustees can't just say they're doing aggregation. They have to place the question before voters and they do have the authority to do that, as do municipalities. The issue would only come before township residents in the unincorporated area. Residents in the city would not vote in this case. The city is already under a gas aggregation program.
Sean Logan, a former Columbiana County commissioner and former state representative for the area, serves as a consultant with the Northeast Ohio Public Energy Council about gas aggregation and explained the program to Spack and Althouse.
Gas aggregation allows a government to get a better price for natural gas for residents as part of a group, which would have better buying power. He described the non-profit NOPEC organization as a council of governments using cooperative purchasing to get the best price possible for natural gas. NOPEC representatives have been going around to entities in Mahoning and Columbiana counties to get the program on the ballot in the various communities.
All entities who join NOPEC would fall under the agreement NOPEC already has in place with NextEra Energy as the natural gas supplier of choice and get all the advantages of that deal. He described NextEra as a subsidiary of Florida Power and Light, the largest purchaser of natural gas in North America.
By the end of the six-year supply agreement, he said the deal calls for 75 percent of the gas to be purchased from Utica shale development in Ohio, which could mean even less cost for customers.
There's no quoted price at the moment, but Logan said that's good because the program would not be starting until March, April or May next year and they wouldn't want to lock something in now. He said it will be less for residents, but he doesn't know how much less at this point.
Althouse asked if NOPEC was a for-profit company, which Logan said it was not, but then the question was asked how the employees are paid.
Spack said he's satisfied with what he has.
Logan stressed that residents have the choice to opt out of the program if they don't want it. He said the question now comes down to whether trustees want to give residents an opportunity to look at the program and decide for themselves whether to give it a try.
In other business, current state Rep. Nick Barborak appeared and asked if there was anything he could do for trustees, explaining briefly what he's been working on in Columbus. When discussion came up about the fire department and why they can never seem to get any grants, Barborak said he could look into the situation, but also said the grants are very competitive.
Fire Chief Bruce Whitcher had provided trustees with a note explaining the different grants they had sought, then asked for approval to purchase nine carbon fiber air tanks, which are about 11 pounds lighter than the tanks they use now. Trustees approved the $6,570 purchase. Whitcher said those tanks will be used by the first crew into a scene.
He also asked about the status of the first responder program and was told they should have an answer this week.
In other matters, Police Chief Mike Emigh said he had not received mail and questioned what could be done about the township's P.O. Box and problems that have been coming up. Apparently the fire department requested it's own P.O. Box a couple years ago and some of the mail for the administration and police department has been getting marked with the wrong P.O. Box.
All mail for the administration, police department and road department should go to P.O. Box 112 while the address for the fire department is P.O. Box 669. According to Trustee Don Rudibaugh, the post office goes strictly by the P.O. Box number when sorting the mail. Utility bills for the township have been going to the wrong box, too, because the address for the township was changed by the utility company to the newer P.O. Box even though it's wrong.
Rudibaugh said they'll have to notify anyone who corresponds with the township to use the proper P.O. Box. Fiscal Officer Susan Johnston suggested they just have one post office box.
The trustees approved an agreement still to be approved by the Salem City School District for the use of land to install turnarounds at the deadends on Elberon and Andrew avenues. Mix explained that the snow plows currently turn around in residents' driveways and this will make it easier. The turnarounds will be on property owned by the school district.
Trustee Don Kendrick reminded residents that microsurfacing began today, so they can expect some work on Brookview, Manor, Highland East, Highland West and Old Farm in the next few days.
He reported one zoning permit issued so far this month. A couple new to the township requested zoning requirements for building a detached garage and spoke with Kendrick after the meeting.
The 2015 tax budget was also accepted and approved.