As election season draws near, the city of Worthington is heading into the final phase of its outreach regarding the energy-aggregation issue on the Nov. 6 ballot.

Worthington voters will decide whether to allow the city to negotiate a "bulk price" on behalf of residents.

The next step in the city's outreach efforts for the measure will be a public forum scheduled for 7 p.m. Aug. 28 at the Griswold Center, 777 High St.

The measure – introduced in March by Worthington City Council members David Robinson and Doug Smith – is intended to pool residents' buying power in order to lower electric bills and invest in renewable energy by aggregating residents on the same plan and incorporating renewable-energy certificates, which fund clean-energy sources.

Residents would be able to opt out of the program at no cost.

Opt-out aggregation programs – in which residents automatically would be enrolled and would have to choose not to participate in the program – require approval by residents in a citywide ballot issue, according to the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio's website.

Consultants from Energy Alliances are heading up initiation of the program and would negotiate a deal with a supplier on the city's behalf, if voters approve the initiative.

Per an agreement, the consultant group would be paid only if the ballot issue is approved and a deal with a supplier is approved by City Council, in which case a fee would be worked into it, city officials have said.

Energy Alliances COO Rich Surace previously said the plan calls for AEP to remain the electricity distributor and service provider, but the city would shop for a new electricity supplier in an effort to obtain the best financial deal and support the generation of clean energy. The latter could be accomplished by a supplier fitting renewable-energy certificates – each certificate representing an investment in one megawatt-hour of renewably generated energy, according to the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency – into an agreement, he said.

The ballot issue was approved by City Council in June. Since then, city staff members have been working to inform Worthington residents about what the issue means and how the aggregation would function.

The city has used its website and social media pages, along with mailings and articles in its regular newsletter to spread the word.

Steve Gandee, Worthington's finance manager, has been designated to take the lead on questions from residents.

Gandee's office number, 614-786-7353, has been posted on the city's website.

"I don't have a script that I'm relaying to residents when they call in," he said in June. "It's really dependent on what kinds of questions they might ask."

City Manager Matt Greeson said he's "feeling great" about his staff's efforts and he believes the city has "put into motion the steps that are necessary to make sure people are informed about this topic."

Greeson said he particularly is "excited" about the Aug. 28 meeting, which he hopes will give residents a chance to ask questions and learn more about the issue.

"Both staff and our consultant are going to help explain the nuts and bolts of how energy aggregation works and what the ballot proposition means and try to answer people's questions," he said.

Robinson said he feels good about the progress the city has made, and he expects good attendance at the forum.

He said he believes residents will support the issue more as they learn the ins and outs of the program.

"Because Worthington has what I would describe as an informed and engaged electorate, the more residents learn about the issue, the more they're going to like it," he said. "So I feel confident."

Though plenty of work hours have gone toward preparation for the ballot issue, Greeson said, it's no more complex logistically than other ballot issues. He compared it to tax changes or charter issues on past ballots, and city officials are focused on informing rather than supporting, he said.

"The staff's role is always to make sure we're answering the technical questions and providing good public information about what it is, why council put it on the ballot, how it works and how it affects our businesses and residents," he said.

Robinson said Worthington residents will have had "ample opportunities to be properly informed" by the time they vote in November.

"When people learn about the goals of saving money and purchasing clean energy, combined with the no-cost opt-out option, support appears very widespread," he said.

For more details on the Aug. 28 forum and the ballot issue, go to worthington.org/electric.

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