Power Aggregation Referendum Could Get Second Chance
The referendum failed in April — but a number of residents say they didn't know it was on the ballot.
A failed referendum that would have allowed the City of Darien to negotiate electricity rates on behalf of residents may get another shot as early as March.
Mayor Kathleen Weaver said during Monday’s city council meeting that the city would consider putting the referendum back on the ballot during the March 2012 primaries.
Residents voted against the referendum in April by a measure of 51.39 percent to 48.61 percent.
But some residents — several of whom weren’t aware of the first referendum — are now approaching the city asking it to get lower electric rates for residents.
Weaver said that a resident asked her at the State of the City Address in September why the city isn’t taking up the negotiations now.
“I had to remind him that we did try,” she said. “We had it on the April ballot. The voters chose not to approve it.”
Alderman Joe Marchese said that a different resident asked him the same question.
When Marchese told him it was on the ballot, he said the man replied, “I’ll be really honest with you, Joe. I don’t even remember voting yes or no on that.”
The referendum stems from a new state law that went into effect Jan. 1, 2010. The act allows municipalities to aggregate their residents into one negotiating body, with the goal of getting a bulk discount. ComEd currently supplies Darien’s electricity.
Assistant City Administrator Scott Coren said in April that residents would see only positive results from the arrangement.
“If we receive higher bids we can default back to the ComEd rate and we wouldn’t be any worse for it,” he said. “But we are expecting to save money. I don’t see any reason not to try and take a chance to save money.”
On Monday Coren said that Oak Brook, which passed its own referendum in April, recently reduced its residents’ power rates by 30 percent.
Oak Brook partnered with Grayslake and Lincolnwood in the negotiation, which is expected to save residents and small businesses a total of about $6 million annually, according to a village release.
Residents in municipalities that passed the referendum will each see an average savings of $175 to $200 per year on their electric bills, according to the Northern Illinois Municipal Electric Cooperative. NIMEC negotiates power rates for 140 municipalities.
“There still is a lot of potential out there for savings if we’re able to get this passed,” Coren said.
Twenty Illinois municipalities in total passed a similar referendum in April. Darien was the only municipality out of 16 in the Chicago area with the referendum on the ballot to vote down the measure.
“It was a great disappointment to us that it failed,” Weaver said.
The next Darien City Council meeting is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 7 at Darien City Hall.