Oak Park starts pitch for electricity referendum

First meeting on 'community choice aggregation' is Thursday night

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By Marty Stempniak

Staff Reporter

The Village of Oak Park is starting its pitch to local voters tonight, asking them to support a ballot measure that would change how electricity is delivered to the community.

Back in January, the village board approved the placement of a binding referendum on the April 5 election ballot. Voters will be asked this spring whether they want village hall to seek competitive bids for energy prices. Residents would then be able get a cheaper, more environmentally friendly source of power, unless they chose to "opt out" of the program and continue with their current agreement with ComEd.

Oak Park is hosting the first of two meetings Thursday night, giving voters a chance to learn more about the referendum. The meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m., Feb. 24, at village hall, 123 Madison. And a second meeting is slated for Mach 22, at 6:30 p.m., at the Oak Park Library, 834 Lake. Village hall has posted more information about the effort at www.oak-park.us/aggregation.

The state of Illinois paved the way for Oak Park's referendum back in August 2009. That's when legislator's approved "Community Choice Aggregation," which allows municipalities to seek competitive bids for energy on behalf of residents and small businesses. But Oak Park didn't start pursuing the idea until this year because aggregation didn't make economic sense until more recently, village officials said in January.

If the referendum is approved by voters in April, Oak Park will then craft a "request for proposals" asking companies to make offers for an alternative energy supply in the village. Officials emphasized that Oak Park will not be obligated to accept those bids if the results are unfavorable.

ComEd, meanwhile, would continue to administer power, and provide customer service to residents, such as billing and responding to power outages, according to the village.

CONTACT: mstempniak@wjinc.com

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