City hears how deregulation may help lower electric bills for
George Voorhees of Blue Star Energy
Solutions addressed the council regarding options that are now
available for searching out electric providers because of state laws
regarding the deregulation of utilities.
City officials first learned about Blue Star at the Illinois
Municipal League conference in Chicago this fall. Voorhees was also
a key speaker last month at the board member banquet of the Lincoln
& Logan County Development Partnership.
Laws that were passed in the state of Illinois in 2007 are
bringing changes to the state in who provides utility services and
how they are provided.
For several years now, consumers have had some options regarding
their telephone services. While in the city of Lincoln, landline
service is provided by Frontier Communications, consumers can choose
who provides their long-distance services. This has opened the door
to competition and has benefited the consumer in those prices in
general as long-distance service is less.
The same is now going to be true for providers of electricity,
although not on a per-household basis like long-distance.
Voorhees explained that electric providers are going to be
competing for business in regions such as counties or
municipalities. That competition for business will bring lower
prices to the consumer. However, the city will have to be the one to
decide what kind of changes will be made.
Currently Lincoln residents are locked into paying their electric
bill to Ameren. Ameren provides all the electricity and then bills
according to their rates, which fluctuate based on seasons and
Voorhees said if the city is interested in finding a more
competitive provider, they will have to put a referendum on the
March 2012 ballot, asking the public if they, too, want to make a
If the referendum passes, consumers will then receive a letter
asking if they want to go with the provider the city chooses or stay
Voorhees said Blue Star would do the majority of the work on
getting companies to compete and submit bids to the city. They will
also be the ones to send out letters to local consumers, and they
will offer education on the program, do outreach to civic groups,
conduct town hall meetings, public hearings and offer public
announcements about the changes.
Voorhees said consumers will notice no difference at all in their
services, and they will also continue to receive only one bill per
month: from Ameren.
The advantages, he said, come primarily in cost savings to the
smaller consumers, who are generally also the elderly, those on
fixed incomes and moderate- to lower-income households -- in other
words, those who need it the most.
Voorhees said no money would come from the city of the Lincoln
for the services Blue Star provides. He explained that their costs
would be incorporated into the contracts with the electric
For the next voting session, the council will decide only if they
wish to investigate this further with Blue Star. They will not be
saying yes or no to a change from Ameren, but merely confirming
whether or not this is an option the council wants to pursue.
Water shut-offs come one step closer
City attorney Bill Bates has completed the new city ordinance
making it within city rights to order water shut-offs for customers
who have not paid their sewage bill.
Approval of the ordinance will be on the next voting session
agenda, bringing shut-offs one step closer to reality.
Busby is tired of not having a waste treatment manager
Alderman Buzz Busby said the city has gone since the first of
July now without a full-time waste treatment manager, and that is
The city has a contract with American Water for the management of
the facility, including a full-time manager in-house. However, since
manager Bob Tackett retired this summer, the position has not been
filled. David Kitzmiller, who is the former manager and now a
regional employee with the company, has been coming on certain days,
but not every day.
Busby asked Bates if the city could fine American Water $10,000 a
month, retroactive to July, and was told they could not.
However, Bates said the company is in violation of their
contract, and before the city can impose any penalties, a letter
notifying them of their violation needs to be sent.
Busby was asked if he wanted the letter placed on the agenda, and
he said he did.
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City looks for more parking space
Mayor Keith Snyder said he's been working with Greg Doolin, who
volunteered his services to find an answer to some parking
The city has money coming through the capital plan from the state
of Illinois for resurfacing of the parking lot on Pekin Street, next
to the library. Snyder said the total funding for this came to
$100,000 from the state.
In addition, there is another $40,000 from the capital plan that
had originally been ear-marked for the exhaust system at the fire
department. However, the department won its own grant for that
project, so the money is now available and earmarked for downtown
Snyder showed the council a preliminary drawing done by Doolin
that would incorporate the empty lot at the corner of Kickapoo and
Pekin into the library parking lot. Currently that space is not
being used except as a green space in the city.
Snyder said the plan had been turned over to city engineer Mark
Mathon to come up with an estimated cost. The figure came in at just
Snyder recognized that is more than the city has, but if they
could come up with it, this was a viable option for more parking in
the downtown area.
He also said he'd had a conversation with Richard Sumrall of the
library. Sumrall is excited about the prospects of the additional
parking and also said the library might have some funding to help
with the project.
During the discussion the only problem that was found in the
design is that it is angled parking, which would restrict the
directional flow of traffic through the parking lot. It was noted
that with the way the examples were drawn out, traffic would not be
able to enter the lot from Pekin Street.
Mathon said the drawing was conceptual at this point, and those
concerns could be addressed if the city wants to move forward.
The council will be asked at the next voting meeting to vote for
or against incorporating the empty lot into parking. Once that
decision is made, the plans will be fine-tuned, based on their
City administrator position draws much interest
Alderman Tom O'Donohue asked for a motion to be put on the agenda
regarding use of the professional services of Dave Anderson of the
Range Riders. If approved, Anderson will assist with the selection
process for the city's new administrator.
Anderson has quoted $150 per hour with a "not to exceed" limit of
To date, the city has received 25 résumés from 15 states.
Fire department wins grants and gets services for the cost of a
Fire chief Mark Miller shared that the fire department has been
awarded two grants, one from Wal-Mart in the amount of $800 to be
used for fire prevention programs, and a second from the Illinois
Department of Public Health in the amount of $900 to be used for EMS
He told the council that a "friend of the fire department" had
spent time programming the department radios for the new
bandwidths. Miller said that to have hired this done would have run
in the area of $50 per radio, with 25 radios needing the service. In
the end, Miller said all he had to do was buy the "friend" a lunch.
Miller also asked approval to appoint one new fire
inspector. This is not a new hire, just an appointment from within
the existing department. He said he has two individuals on the
department who are interested in the position.
Making the appointment requires council approval, so it will be
on the next voting agenda.
Thanks to Tracy Jackson, city street department
Busby said he wanted to acknowledge Tracy Jackson and the city
His thank-you to the department stems from a situation last year
when there were dialysis patients who could not get to their
appointments because of being plowed in or snowed in.
Busby said he'd spoken with Jackson about it and has been assured
it will not be a problem this year.
Snyder said medical needs are always to be at the top of the
list, and it was good that Busby made the department aware of this.
City aldermen ended the evening with an executive session. The
motion to go into session for the purpose of discussing personnel
was made by Melody Anderson and passed unanimously.
[By NILA SMITH]