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updated: 8/15/2012 12:06 AM

Bartlett to wait on another electric aggregation referendum

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The Bartlett village board passed up an opportunity Tuesday night to put an electric aggregation referendum on the ballot for the second time this year.

During a special meeting, the board voted 4-3 against a resolution that would have put a question on the Nov. 6 ballot about whether to grant the village authority to pursue electric aggregation.

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The question was on the ballot for Bartlett residents during the March 20 election, but it was voted down by 60.7 percent. Bartlett and Barrington Hills were the only two suburbs in Cook County's Northwest suburbs to oppose the proposal.

Trustees T.L. Arends, Patricia Kelly and Dennis Nolan voted yes, while trustees Greg Martin, Frank Napolitano and Eric Shipman voted no. Village President Michael Airdo voted no to break the tie.

The majority of the board members agreed that they wanted to give residents a chance to vote on the issue again, but a dispute occurred over whether the referendum question should be put on the ballot this upcoming November or during the April 2013 election. The resolution called for the question to be put on November's ballot, which Airdo disagreed with.

"I have a problem with rushing it," he said, adding that he hopes to hold many public meetings to let residents know about the question before an election.

"We're going to pull out all the resources to give people information ... rather than just hoping that people are paying attention to kind of a technical question," he said.

Martin said he voted no partly because he thought the referendum would have gotten lost in the November election.

"I think we need more time. I am all in favor of saving the citizens money, but (a referendum) can't come up a third time. It won't come up a third time," he said. "Also, 61 percent did vote it down, so maybe after they pay some and then they say, 'Hey, why are we paying more?' they'll realize."

Village administrator Valerie Salmons noted that even if the referendum was put on the November ballot and passed, residents would not start seeing savings until around March 2013. She said ComEd is expected to significantly drop its rates June 1 and suggested -- no matter when the referendum was put on the ballot and if it passed -- that the village consider holding off until the rate is available to give third party suppliers a chance to bid below it.

Arends, Kelly and Nolan all said they didn't see any harm in putting the question on the ballot sooner.

"I would have preferred to see it pass this time, but I understand why it didn't. I would have been all for waiting to negotiate once we knew what the rates were going to be with ComEd," Kelly said, adding that she felt November would be a better time for the referendum because more voters are expected to turn out than in April.

During the meeting Napolitano reiterated his original stance on the electric aggregation issue.

"I don't think it's our role as a village to be doing this," he said to the objection of multiple trustees, including Nolan.

"These agreements and these kilowatts and all the semantics that go with these types of contracts are not plain vanilla," Nolan said. "I would think most residents look for us to be able to save them money, and so for us to say to them go out and individually negotiate this, I bet there's probably a handful of residents that don't know where to go."

In recent months board members have heard from many residents who said they wanted a chance to vote again on electric aggregation, including Donna Nowak, who said at the meeting that she was very disappointed with the March vote.

"It was kind of like we were one of the few communities that I don't think got enough education about what this was all about and to make a good choice," she said, adding that she would like to see direct mailings sent to each household on the issue if it ends up on a ballot.

Savings ranged from 35 to 51 percent for more than a dozen municipalities near Bartlett that passed the referendum earlier this year and started contacts with a third-party supplier, according to a chart issued to the board by village staff.

The board will likely vote again sometime in the coming months on whether to place the question on the ballot in time for the April election.

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