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Article posted: 12/22/2012 8:00 AM

Kane County wants revote on electric aggregation

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Unincorporated Kane County voters turned the lights out in March on a plan to give county officials the power to negotiate local electricity prices with companies other than ComEd. But county officials are hoping to recharge the idea with another referendum in April.

The county staff presented a plan Friday to place an electric aggregation referendum on April ballots. The county may tailor the referendum specifically to the ballots of unincorporated areas, excluding local townships that have already approved electric aggregation.

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If voters OK the plan, Kane County would join 15 other local governments that approved aggregation this year. Kane County's push for aggregation on those same March ballots failed by about 200 votes.

County officials hope to change that outcome in a second effort in April with a full public education/marketing campaign about the benefits of aggregation. In addition to possibly saving unincorporated residents money on their electricity bills, the county could impose its own fee on the new electricity supplier.

That fee would serve as a new source of income for the county, but the supplier would likely pass the cost of the fee onto local residents. County board members have not yet decided if they would charge such a fee.

There is one potential major obstacle to getting the question on April ballots. Illinois election code requires a 23-month waiting period before a taxing body can place an identical referendum back on the ballot after a failed attempt. County board Chairman Chris Lauzen, who is still serving as a state senator during the lame duck session, is attempting to create an exception in the law for aggregation before his term in Springfield expires. The lame duck session is slated to end on Jan. 8. The county board has until Jan. 22 to place a question on the April ballot.

If voters approve aggregation, the county would give residents the ability to opt out of the program and stick with ComEd. ComEd's infrastructure would still be used to deliver electricity no matter which supplier the county would choose. That supplier would be selected via a competitive bid.

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