The Canal Winchester Times

Township using utilities consultant to help sell aggregation


Officials in Madison Township are gearing up to place a utility aggregation initiative back on the ballot for the May 7 primary election.

A similar ballot measure to for aggregation of natural gas and electricity was put before Canal Winchester, Groveport and Madison Township voters in November.

The measure was successful in both cities by a 50 to 49-percent margin, but ultimately failed due to a 47 to 52-percent margin against the measure in Madison Township's Blacklick Estates and Sun-Vali areas.

"Unfortunately it didn't pass in Blacklick Estates which is where we were really trying to relieve the utility burden," Trustee Victor Paini said.

"We heard some people say the push back was related to a fear that we were taking away the right to choose, but really, we're giving people the right to negotiate from a bigger pool."

Currently Madison Township negotiates residential waste removal contracts, by passing this ballot measure the township would have similar options for natural gas and electricity.

Under the proposed ballot language, residents would also have the ability to opt-out of the negotiated utility contracts and maintain their current provider and rates, Paini said.

"The objective hasn't changed, we just want to try to help residents put more money back in their pockets," Paini said.

"As a township we can't do a lot of campaigning so last fall we put this out there just on its merits, to see what kind of reaction we got, and even though it failed it was within the margin of error and required an automatic recount."

According to Paini, it's easier for a voter to cast a "no" vote when they aren't well-informed about a new program like this, so he feels confident that last fall's vote shows the potential for strong support now with a better public outreach program.

"We're working with utilities consultant Scott Belcastro (of Trebel LLC) again to build an engagement plan, if we decide to move forward, we want to build a plan that includes going door-to-door, providing marketing materials and hosting town halls in a specific cadence that leads up to election day," Paini said.

Prior to finalizing the ballot language, the township is waiting to see if Groveport and Canal Winchester will choose to once again participate in the measure or if the township will move forward just for the unincorporated areas.

"The Madison Township government itself isn't getting anything from setting up these contracts, we're just looking for ways to save the residents money," Paini said.