Delaware News

Sunbury leaders ruminate aggregator's pitch

Village residents, businesses may be able to switch suppliers, save on electric, gas bills pending council's action

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The village of Sunbury has a window of opportunity, open until the end of the year, to complete an aggregation process for obtaining electricity and natural gas at a projected lower cost for residents and businesses.

Two companies could begin supplying those utilities by Feb. 1 if the village opts to sign contracts with them.

That's the vision of broker and energy consultant Scott Belcasto, who represents Border Energy and Volunteer Energy Services Inc. Both companies made presentations to village officials last summer. Border would supply electricity and Volunteer natural gas.

During an Oct. 17 meeting of Sunbury Village Council, Belcasto told Mayor Tommy Hatfield and council members that now is the time to act. Among remaining tasks the council must complete to become an aggregator would be holding two public meetings as part of the certification process with the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio.

Belcasto said Sunbury could have those meetings in November and that he would help the village complete the certification process by the end of the year.

He spoke primarily about electricity aggregation Oct. 17, saying Border could offer 15 percent cuts for residents and 10 percent cuts for businesses in generation and transmission costs. American Electric Power, which controls the power lines delivering electricity, would retain distribution. AEP and PUCO decide distribution costs.

"Border wants to be part of the village," Belcasto said. "Border is going to go the extra mile for you."

Village Solicitor David Brehm said the plan sounds good, because this is the first time Sunbury has tried aggregation.

"To me, to have somebody help us through this process ... is a good move," he said.

Belcasto said Border also could provide electricity for all village facilities, such as the wastewater plant, at an estimated savings of $23,700 over 12 months. The village used about 1 million kilowatt hours last year, with about two-thirds of that used by the sewer plant. The cost for the plant's electricity usage was $54,000.

Brehm said he will look over proposed contracts with Border for both the aggregation and the proposed lower rate for village facilities and get back with village officials.

A contract with Volunteer also could be negotiated later this fall. No rates for natural gas have yet been discussed.

Voters in the village of 4,500 people approved electricity and natural-gas aggregation issues last November.

Neither residents nor businesses are obligated to use new suppliers if contracts are signed. They can stay with their current providers or seek out another company.

Also at last week's meeting, Hatfield told council members the village will determine how much work needs to be done to fix the leaky metal roof of the historic Village Hall. Any work would be completed next year.

Council approved up to $3,500 for CT Consultants, where Village Engineer Wes Hall works, to conduct a thorough inspection of the roof and rafters.

Councilman Joe Gochenour said that could lead to an increase in costs to fix the roof if more extensive problems are found and more-expensive materials are proposed to be used for repairs.

A couple of informal estimates from roof companies earlier this year pegged roof replacement somewhere between $39,000 and $45,000.

"I understand the roof needs to be replaced and needs to be inspected," Gochenour said.

Hatfield said it's necessary to have a full inspection by an engineering firm to make sure all problems are found in the three-story brick building.

"We want to get this done ... but be (financially) cautious in moving down this road," he said.

Hall estimated it would take about four weeks to conduct a complete inspection and come back with recommendations and a cost estimate.

Also at last week's council meeting:

* Council held a first reading to set 2013 annual appropriations.

Fiscal Officer Kathy Belcher has estimated 2013 appropriations at $7.83 million. The bulk of those allocations are in the general fund ($3.9 million) and the wastewater fund ($1.16 million).

* Council canceled a regular meeting that had been set for Oct. 31.

The Halloween meeting would have been the third regular meeting in October. Sunbury usually holds just two regular meetings a month.

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