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updated: 7/25/2014 6:00 PM

Des Plaines voters to weigh in on alternative electricity supplier

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Des Plaines voters will choose this November whether they want city officials to investigate if an alternative electricity supplier offers better rates than ComEd.

A referendum on the Nov. 4 ballot will ask voters to give the city council the authority to ink a deal with a different supplier -- if aldermen so choose after evaluating different suppliers and rates.

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The referendum is binding if residents vote "no" -- then aldermen can't pursue municipal electric aggregation. It's nonbinding if residents vote "yes" -- then aldermen can decide whether to stick with ComEd or find a new supplier, according to Peter Friedman, the city's general counsel.

Fourth Ward Alderman Dick Sayad suggested the city put the question on the ballot to see if it's possible to get lower rates.

"The intent is to find out what's the best product for the city and the residents," Sayad said at a council meeting this week.

If the city does find an alternative supplier, residents would be allowed to opt out of the program.

Two aldermen, Mike Charewicz and Jim Brookman, voted against putting the question on the ballot because they favor the current method, where residents can opt in to an alternative supplier.

"What's the sense of going through (a referendum) just to find out that there isn't that much savings anymore?" Charewicz said.

Tim Oakley, the city's director of public works and engineering, said some communities are still realizing savings between 10 percent and 15 percent by going with an alternative supplier, but the margin of savings has gotten smaller over the past two years.

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