PERRY TWP. - Perry Township trustees joined a growing list of officials agreeing to let voters decide whether they want a natural gas aggregation program aimed at saving them money.
The board voted unanimously to place the question on the Nov. 4 ballot, specifically asking township residents who live outside of the city whether they want the township to offer an opt-out natural gas aggregation program.
Even if voters say yes and approve the idea, residents who don't want to take part can choose to opt out of the program. Opting out won't cost them any money. If later on they see fellow residents are saving money on their gas bills through the aggregation program, they can choose to opt in, also at no cost for joining although their current provider might charge a fee for leaving their program.
"I think the residents should have the right to decide for themselves. We shouldn't dictate what they do or don't do," Trustee Don Rudibaugh said after the meeting.
Trustees Don Kendrick and Chairman Cliff Mix agreed, with both noting how residents can decide to opt out or even opt in later through the program being touted by the Northeast Ohio Public Energy Council.
"Residents can't lose," Kendrick said.
Mix said if it works out, it should be financially helpful to residents.
Sean Logan, a former Columbiana County commissioner and former state representative for the area who serves as a consultant with NOPEC, attended the meeting and asked trustees for their support in getting the resolution on the ballot for Perry Township residents.
The question will only appear on the ballot for residents in the unincorporated area of the township and only those residents will be eligible for the program, if they use natural gas. The city of Salem already has a gas aggregation program in place through a different provider.
According to Logan, the list of governmental entities agreeing to place the issue on the ballot this fall besides Perry Township so far includes: Knox, West, Butler, Hanover, Center, Madison, Unity and Middleton townships in Columbiana County; Smith, Milton, Goshen and Springfield townships in Mahoning County; and the village of Hanoverton in Columbiana County.
This week, the village councils in Leetonia and Lisbon will be considering legislation to place gas aggregation on the fall ballot.
Only two Perry Township residents showed up for a recent public hearing on the gas aggregation issue. One didn't see the need in placing such an issue on the ballot while the other one said he wanted to hear the pros and cons even though he didn't have natural gas service.
During the hearing, Logan explained that 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.
All entities who choose to join NOPEC after getting the go-ahead from residents would fall under the agreement NOPEC already has in place with NextEra Energy as the natural gas supplier of choice, getting 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.
No quoted price was available, but Logan said at the time that's good because they wouldn't want to lock into a price this early since the program wouldn't start until next spring. He also explained that the rate will be reviewed on a regular basis and won't be locked in for an extended period of time.
In other business, Kendrick reported that five zoning permits have been issued so far in July.
The next regular meeting of the trustees will be held on Saturday, Aug. 9 due to a scheduling conflict. The time will be announced at a later date. No meeting will be held on Aug. 11.