The Daily American - Benton, IL
  • Ballot question could bring lower electric rates

  • Residents of West Frankfort on General Election Day will be asked if they want the city commissioners to find a way to lower their electric bills.
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  • Residents of West Frankfort on General Election Day will be asked if they want the city commissioners to find a way to lower their electric bills.
    City Council at a Tuesday meeting determined to place on the November ballot a question that would allow the commissioners to negotiate with suppliers of electricity for rates that are better than the electric rates now charged by AmerenCIPS.
    Mayor Tom Jordan said through electrical aggregation — the gathering of residents of a city or several cities into a single buying unit — individual residents and small businesses could see a saving of around 15 to 17 percent on the electric bill.
    Electricity would still be delivered on the lines of Ameren and Ameren crews would handle all outages and repairs, should the city find another source of electricity.
    Electricity in recent years has become a commodity that is exchanged on the market, allowing suppliers to sign contracts with cities at lower rates, several promoters have told council in recent months.
    "This is a resolution that is going to give the city (residents) a voice," Jordan said.
    He said he and the council felt it would be better they put the question on the ballot than to arbitrarily say no.
    Several area communities will have the same question of their ballots.
    Even if the voters pass the measure, no resident is required to purchase electricity at a lower cost. Each electric user will have the option of remaining with AmerenCIPS as the power provider, Jordan said.
    A second item that has received attention council on a regular basis during the past several meetings was briefly discussed.
    Jordan said he has been quite pleased at the successful exchange of ideas between members of the planning commission and the public on preparation of a proposed housing code for rental properties.
    The next meeting in a series of sessions will be Aug. 21 at City Hall.
    During the council session, Oak Street resident Rosi Miller, joined by several others from other parts of town, expressed concern about aggressive dogs, especially pit bulldogs.
    Miller and others asked the city to consider a dogcatcher, especially during hours when the county's animal control officers are not available.
    Jordan explained the costs of creating such a position and offered a suggestion: When a dog is running at large, call the police. When officers see the dog is loose, they will not be able to catch it but they can write tickets.
    He also noted the citizen seeing a dog running at large may be asked to swear a statement to allow an arrest.
    In other matters:
    • The city formally ended 18 months of collective bargaining with Laborer's Local 773 representing street and water workers. The settlement, for a four-year contract ending in 2015, calls for a 25 cent an hour pay increase for the workers each year of the contract.
    • When bargaining began, the workers asked for a $1 an hour increase each year, Jordan said.
    • Rapid approval of an extension of a third contract was made by Council. Teamster's Local 347's contract for representation of Sewer Department workers was extended to the same 2015 expiration as the Local 773 contract with the same terms, a 25 cent raise each year.
    • Harkins told council the Police Department is looking into buying a new police car, a Dodge Charger, with payment coming from criminals. The city has amassed enough seizure money to make the purchase.
    • Commissioner Tara Fazol-Chambers told the council she currently is in talks with "a company very interested in development in West Frankfort."She did not elaborate as to the type of firm or employment levels. She sought, and obtained, permission to update the city's economic development brochures for the firm.
    • Council said OK to a Relay for Life team request to an area of public streets Oct. 13 for a car, truck and bike show and allowing the use of the city parking lot at City Hall.

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