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County board to let the voters decide

PRINCETON — The Bureau County Board will ask voters living in unincorporated areas of the county if they want the board to pursue an electric aggregation option for them.

At Tuesday’s meeting, the county board agreed, by a majority voice vote, to put a referendum on the April 9 ballot.

The question will read: “Shall Bureau County have the authority to arrange for the supply of electricity for its rural residential and small commercial retail customers who have not opted out of such program?”

If the voters say no to the referendum, then the matter will end for the county board. If the voters say yes, then the board would still have the final decision whether to go forward and hire a broker or supplier to handle the opt-out electric aggregation program for unincorporated areas of the county.

Prior to the vote, Law Committee Chairman Mary Jane Marini explained her committee’s recommendation to put the question before the voters. She said a supplier and a broker had both made presentations to the Law Committee about their possible roles in assisting the county in aggregation for unincorporated areas. After much discussion, the committee decision was to recommend the county board put the question to the voters.

Bureau County State’s Attorney Patrick Herrmann said the first step in the process is the referendum, which was something the county board did not have to do. If the county board did not go forward with the referendum, a provider could still meet with individual residents who can decide on their own to go with an aggregation program. In order for the county to pick a supplier or program, a second resolution would be needed, Herrmann said.

The idea behind the larger group program, rather than an individual resident program, is the greater negotiating power for rates which comes with the larger numbers, Marini said.

Board member Rob Pozzi said he supported putting the referendum on the ballot because it’s putting the decision back to residents and is simply asking them what they want the county board to do.

Marini agreed, saying she felt it was the board’s responsibility to let the residents in the unincorporated areas decide for themselves. If the residents don’t want the county board to have anything to do with their electricity supplier, then the county is done, she said.

Residents who choose not to go into the aggregation program do have the option of opting out, board member Robin Rediger said.

In other business at Tuesday’s meeting, Buildings and Grounds Committee Chairman Kristi Warren said the county is now in compliance with new state requirements for the county’s public safety emergency radio system. The board commended Jim Shipp for his hours put into the project.

Also, the board approved a resolution presented by Transportation Committee Chairman Steve Sondgeroth to use County Aid Bridge funds for Phase 1 engineering services for a bridge replacement project on County Highway 9 in Princeton Township over Bureau Creek. The cost of the Phase 1 engineering work is not to exceed $8,787.

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