Outreach and messaging were responsible for Madison Township's successful effort at gaining residents' approval of two energy aggregation measures on the May 7 ballot, according to Administrator Susan Brobst.
Final unofficial results from the Franklin County Board of Elections show that electricity aggregation was approved by a vote of 1,174 (54.91 percent) to 964 (45.09 percent). Gas aggregation was approved by 1,163 votes in favor (54.45 percent) and 973 votes against (45.55 percent).
Similar measures were rejected in November by slim margins.
According to township officials, they can now negotiate for lower energy rates for residents; however, residents are not obligated to participate in a negotiated aggregation program and may opt out.
As the process moves forward, energy consultant Scott Belcastro of Trebel LLC will continue assisting the township in negotiations and filing all necessary paperwork, Brobst said.
"Belcastro will gather information from potential companies and then the township board of trustees will review that information," she said.
"We expect the board will get the information sometime in June to review and then the plan is that by mid-August, we'll have an opt-out card ready to mail to residents and businesses so they can make a decision to participate or not."
Trustee Victor Paini said he'd like to involve a group of residents in this selection process as well.
"We need to have a series of public meetings to review the program with residents," Paini said. "I'm hopeful that residents will see the program implemented and their rates reduced this coming fall."
The township is not required to negotiate both the gas and electric rates immediately, and according to Brobst, natural gas prices are already at historic lows, so for the foreseeable future, trustees will only focus on electric aggregation.
"In regards to natural gas, the rates don't allow for much savings right now and there are only a couple of companies that are offering any savings options," she said.
Belcastro is currently scheduled to attend the May 15 trustees' meeting to answer questions.
"We're absolutely excited that this passed," Brobst said. "We're always glad to help residents save money."
"It's been a lot of work but it's well worth it because it will help alleviate the utility burden to residents and businesses in the township," Paini said. "That means more money in people's pockets to either save or spend here."