City moves ahead with energy aggregation program

SIDNEY — Sidney City Council moved ahead Monday night with a program intended to save residents money on their electric and natural gas bills.

Council introduced two ordinances that would authorize all actions necessary for an opt-out electric and natural gas service aggregation program. The ordinances also would authorize the Shelby County Board of Elections to put an issue on the ballot for voters to decide if the city should take part in the aggregation program. The ordinances include the ballot language. Two public hearings will be held on the plan of operation and governance.

Council earlier chose a consultant for the aggregation program.

Answering questions from council, city Law Director Jeff Amick said voters will be deciding on the “concept” of an aggregation program. The city will be able to change energy suppliers and consultants, but the program will exist unless the voters decide otherwise later. “If it was voted in, it would have to be voted out,” he said.

City Manager Mark Cundiff responded to questions from a resident, who asked if residents would automatically be included in the program. Cundiff said with the opt-out program that the city chose, residents will be a part of it unless they choose not to be. They also can join the program later.

Cundiff said prices for electric and natural gas won’t be on the ballot. If voters approve the program, the city and its consultant will negotiate with energy suppliers. Prices will be made available to the public.

With aggregation, a municipality combines the retail electric and/or natural gas load of its residential and small commercial constituents and negotiates a rate with a competitive energy supplier to provide the customers’ energy supply. The residents benefit because the larger, aggregated load permits the municipality to negotiate a rate with the competitive supplier that is lower than the traditional utility’s current service rate for individual customers, city officials have said.

Council will consider adoption of the aggregation ordinances at the June 22 meeting.

In other business, council introduced an ordinance to name the softball diamond at Harmon Field, Jerry Knoop Diamond.

Parks and Recreation Director Duane Gaier said this is based on a recommendation from a Sidney resident and was endorsed by the Recreation Board.

Jerry “Jaws” Knoop served on the Recreation Board 30 years, from 1982 to 2012, chairing the panel on many occasions, Gaier said. Among the major accomplishments completed during Knoop’s time on the board were expansion of Custenborder Fields from five to seven fields, construction of Flanagan Sports Complex, including the Lodge Soccer Fields, Davis and Stolle bridges installation, Veterans Memorial Walkway, acquisition and development of Camp Brookside and the Canal Feeder Trail.

“These projects have had a positive effect on thousands of park patrons over the years and will for many more,” Gaier said.

Mayor Mike Barhorst asked if there would be confusion by naming a ball field within Harmon Field and wondered if another field should be chosen. Gaier said Knoop spent a lot of time volunteering at Harmon, so it would be appropriate to name the ball diamond there. He said naming a facility within a park “is not an unprecedented act.”

There also are some legal considerations concerning Harmon. Gaier said the deed to the property, which the city received in 1925, stipulated that the area would always be known as “Harmon Field.” “That is the reason we named the ball field Jerry Knoop Diamond, to avoid the confusion and questioning, if any, by the Harmon Foundation in the future,” Gaier said in an email this week.

Council will consider adoption of the ordinance June 22.