Salem council members hear gas proposal

SALEM – City Council’s Committee of the Whole heard a presentation regarding a gas aggregation program by a non-profit council of governments group, but won’t be able to consider making a change until next year.

Representatives of the Northeast Ohio Public Energy Council have been making the rounds to townships and villages in the area about their gas aggregation program and decided to include Salem, even though the city is locked into a gas aggregation program with another entity for the next year.

“There are many communities surrounding you who are looking at this,” NOPEC gas program manager Brenda Fargo said.

After the Salem meeting, she was on her way to Negley to meet with Middleton Township Trustees. She’s also making a future presentation to Perry Township Trustees and was in Leetonia recently.

Salem voters passed a ballot issue for gas aggregation in May 2006, with the city under contract with AMP Inc. as a consultant and Interstate Gas Supply as the supplier.

City Service/Safety Director Ken Kenst said the contract is renewed every two years and the current contract expires Sept. 6. He explained that the contract automatically renews if the city doesn’t give notice of wanting it within 90 days of the expiration date. The current rate is .552 per hundred cubic feet.

The city missed the window for changing programs this year, but Fargo asked them to look at NOPEC next year when they’re looking for opportunities for gas aggregation. She explained that NOPEC is made up of a council of governments with elected officials from different members of NOPEC serving on the board, including mayors, city managers, councilmen and other public officials. She said they’re not brokers, but a non-profit looking to get the best rates for the members.

“There’s better buying power with larger groups of people,” she said.

The group currently covers 10 counties, but recently inked a new deal with NextEra to get better rates for gas and ensure savings through the purchase of gas from Ohio. They decided to expand and invite more communities to join them.

The group’s current rate is .544 per hundred cubic feet, but it can change with the market so they’re not stuck with a higher rate if the market rate keeps going down. She said they can fix the rate if they feel it’s necessary and the market indicates the price may be going up instead of going down.

Committee Chair Councilman Dave Nestic said they’ll revisit the issue next spring when it’s time to decide whether to continue with the current program.