At last week's meeting Helene Schlegel discussed a plan that would not change the way residents received their electric service but could have a definite affect on how much that service would cost.
A plan known as municipal aggregation, she said would achieve several goals for the township. Howell would act as a "energy buying agent on behalf of its constituents," she said which would allow them to have a better bargaining position with the electric suppliers. "This puts us in position to obtain a more favorable electric supply rate than is currently being offered by anyone supplied by JCP&L," she said.
As part of the plan the total usage of electricity by both residents and businesses using JCP&L would be calculated to find the best rate possible for everyone involved. Residents would still pay their bills to JCP&L as before just at a lower rate than they are currently working with.
Electric aggregation, she said is similar to what Howell and other municipalities are doing when it comes to getting better rates for things like health insurance and solid waste collection. "This has been a core function of government providing basic services which can be more efficiently and more equitably provided on behalf of the community rather than individuals," Schlegel said.
Mayor Robert Walsh asked what separated the municipal aggregation plan from a company like Viridian which also provides an alternative for residents looking to save money on their electric bill. Schlegel said those companies provide discounts for individual homeowners and businesses. Municipal aggregation would apply to the entire township.
Deputy Mayor William Gotto said he went to the meeting with Schlegel and was apprehensive at first before having some of questions answered. "When I first heard about it I was a little concerned because I think that in general I don't think a lot of our residents like the idea of government dictating what they do and making government bigger," he said.
Gotto said he was also glad the program was on an opt out basis rather than opt in which makes the process easier for residents. "Everybody in the town if we were to go forward with this would automatically be in it and would have the ability to remove themselves if they so choose," he said.
Another advantage, he said was that the township's involvement would be minimal once everything is set up. "It doesn't get us in the business of having to be the electricity police, which I don't really think we want to get involved in," he said.
The discussion at the meeting, he said is likely just the first of what figures to be several in the chambers as more questions will be answered by members of the council and the public as well. "I think there's still some uncertainties and we probably have to do a better job than we've ever done before about enlightening the public about why we're doing it and what options they would have to opt out of it."
One of the biggest advantages for Gotto along with the savings for the residents is getting extra money for the township. "We've gone through several budget cycles and I've realized that I don't know how much more we're able to cut on the expense side when we said we were going to do everything we could to increase the revenue stream," he said. "I think this does just that. This is definitely an enhancement on the revenue stream that could be potentially significant."
Schlegel agreed that public feedback would be important for such an important decision. She said that is why she would like to have a representative from the company address the council and the public. "There are probably many people who have a lot of questions regarding it and I think that we should have them come in just so that we can have all our questions answered as well," she said.
Mayor Walsh agreed that they should come in during a future meeting. "I would say get them in here," he said. "If we can save the town money in different ways, in our homes, our businesses and in government then it's something we do need to explore."
Similar plans are being considered in towns across the area including and .