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County again may ask voters to OK electricity plan

GENEVA – Kane County voters again may have the chance to reduce their monthly electricity bills.

Friday, the County Board Development Committee unanimously recommended the full County Board move ahead with plans to consider placing a referendum on the ballot during the April municipal elections that would ask voters to give the county the ability to contract for electrical services on behalf of those who live in unincorporated portions of Kane County.

Kane voters narrowly defeated a similar referendum question on electricity aggregation in March. That measure failed by 207 votes. No group coalesced in opposition to the measure, leaving supporters confused.

Karen Kosky, Kane County’s manager of resource conservation programs, said officials believe it may have encountered such strong opposition out of confusion. Voters, she said, essentially did not know enough about what they were voting on.

Kosky noted that, at the time, the county had conducted little “public education” on the matter, and there were few examples of similar aggregation programs then in place.

However, in the past two years, electrical aggregation programs have enjoyed growing popularity.

Statewide, 466 cities, villages and townships have signed up for electrical aggregation. That number includes 20 municipal governments in Kane County, including Elburn, Sugar Grove, Campton Hills, Maple Park, Elgin, Aurora, North Aurora, South Elgin, and Aurora Township.

The program, which can be approved only by voters at referendum, allows local governments the ability to select electricity suppliers for their communities in a manner similar to how they contract for curbside trash collection.

Kosky said such programs save consumers an average of 25 to 30 percent on monthly electricity bills.

However, before the matter again can be placed before voters, Kane County’s government must secure an exemption for the ballot question from state lawmakers.

Under election law, the county must wait until 2014 to bring the referendum back.

But Kosky said Kane County Board Chairman Chris Lauzen, who also will serve as a state senator until the end of the session of the General Assembly on Jan. 8, has introduced legislation that would specifically allow Kane County to reintroduce the ballot question in April.

Should that exception be granted, the full board could take up the matter Jan. 15.

County Board members said they believed voters would approve a reintroduced measure.

“The last time, it was an intimidation factor,” said County Board member Melisa Taylor, R-Sugar Grove. “People just didn’t know what it is.

“I’m glad we might not have to wait 23 months.”

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