To the editor:
On behalf of committee members and others who gathered signatures on the two petitions that together will give Oberlin voters a choice this November on use of the city’s Sustainable Reserve Fund, we want to thank the many hundreds of citizens who signed.
However well-intended the proposal to credit 85 percent of the SRF to rate-payers may have been, we learned in the course of our signature-gathering how confused people are by talk in city council meetings of “over-charging” and “refunds.”
A comparison of electric rates across the nation shows that Ohio’s rates are below the national average and lower than two of our neighbor states, Michigan and Pennsylvania. Oberlin Municipal Light and Power Services rates are less than in any major Ohio city.
The increase of rates for this year that the credit on utility bills was proposed to offset is “due to high wholesale power costs from the operation of hydroelectric facilities by American Municipal Power, the city’s provider, and increased costs of operating the Oberlin plant,” according to this newspaper’s report of finance director Talarico’s budget explanation.
No one was over-charged. And there would have been no refunds.
City council has already voted to contract with a public relations firm to help educate residents on the work of the city, including the Sustainable Reserve Fund. The firm can help in the process of soliciting from residents ideas for programs that will increase energy efficiency and environmental sustainability. Such programs are what all the net proceeds from the exchange of RECs are supposed to accomplish.
The POWER program has proven to be a model demonstration of how the SRF can be invested to provide ordinary Oberlin homeowners with greater comfort, more valuable property, and a substantial ongoing reduction in electric bills. Between now and the November election, we are sure additional Sustainable Reserve Program proposals will be submitted that can accomplish even more long-term benefits for our residents, businesses, and the environment.
Steve Hammond, Community Choice Referendum Petition Committee
John Elder, Sustainable Reserve Program Amendment Initiative Petition Committee