Monticello voters to address electricity carrier

Residents of Monticello will have the opportunity to purchase electricity in a group-buy with several other municipalities, a move that has saved consumers 20 to 30 percent on electricity rates in other towns.

The Monticello City Council on Jan. 14 voted to put municipal aggregation on the April 9 ballot. If approved, a bid for electricity will go out this spring for a group of over 100,000 Illinois residents, including those in Monticello. The move has saved residents an average $300 per year on the energy portion of their bills, according to consultant Jerod McMorris of GoodEnergy, the Peoria firm hired by Monticello to walk them through the aggregation process. The supply side of the bill through Ameren would not be affected.

GoodEnergy will also educate the public on the issue.

“We will be leaning on you folks to tell us who we should meet with; what civic groups we will be meeting with, maybe what media to work with,” said McMorris.

The city will now formally file with the Piatt County Clerk to get the issue on the ballot. If approved, public hearings will be held, an operational plan will be approved, and a city representative will attend “bid day,” when an electricity provider would be selected.

In the last round of bids for 54 communities, a rate of 4.09 cents/kWh was secured, compared to Ameren's current price of 5.65 cents/kWh.

Residents would automatically purchase from the new supplier unless they opt out. There would be two opportunities for individual residences to opt out and stick with Ameren.

By law, the city cannot take sides when presenting information to the public, but will still be able to hand out educational materials on the April 9 referendum.

“You can educate, but not advocate,” said McMorris.

Municipal aggregation is available only to users who use less than 15,000 kilowatt/hours of electricity per year, which eliminates nearly all business users.

Public participation policy
Spectators at Monday's meeting also used the council's revamped public participation policy to show concern about that very policy.

Changes include expanding the time alloted for an individual to speak from three to five minutes, but speakers must sign-in prior to the council session to be eligible to talk.

Since the council did not vote on the changes, Brad Fulton felt it was not legal, citing the Illinois Open Meetings Act.

“The law states that it is the responsibility of the council to establish these rules, and they must do so on public record,” said Fulton.

Mayor Chris Corrie said he would look into it, and if a motion is needed he would make sure that occurs at a future council session. He also said the changes were made because “three minutes wasn't long enough” for participants to get their point across. The signup sheet was instituted to limit the amount of “reactionary comment” that had occurred at several meetings in 2012.

Steve Shreffler asked why he had to film meetings from a pre-designated area instead of from a back row seat, the spot he had filmed from in recent months. Corrie said the designated area – situated away from the audience area - keeps the camera out of the way of other participants at the meeting.

“It's a good open spot and has a pretty good vantage point of everybody,” said Corrie.

But Shreffler said it was “not sufficient to capture the entire meeting.”

The mayor still felt the designated area was the best available spot, since it was not in the way of attendees or the meeting room's entryway.

Other action
Maureen Holtz also addressed the council concerning Illinois Environmental Protection Agency violations the city incurred in 2011 after filling in a gravel pit on the north edge of town near Interstate 72. The city has in the midst of a remediation plan approved by the EPA, and Allsop said initial tests have not shown any contamination.

Corrie said he would be glad to meet with Holtz on the issue.

In other action, the council:
• voted to auction surplus property on eBay. The list includes six vehicles, several water pumps and a hanging furnace;
• was told by Superintendent of City Services Floyd Allsop that he hopes a pair of bike path initiatives will soon come to fruition. That includes one that would connect Monticello with Bement, and another that extends Monticello's west-side trail to the future recreational complex near Appletree subdivision.

• approved small changes in the boundaries of TIF #2. New, more accurate mapping techniques showed there were a few parcels that were not in the city limits.

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