STRUTHERS Mayor vetoes accord with natural gas group

The mayor's veto can be overturned by five votes from city council.
STRUTHERS -- Mayor Dan Mamula vetoed a natural gas agreement passed by city council during a special meeting Friday, amidst reservations about the gas provider's public buying group.
It's the first time he's ever sent a piece of legislation back to council.
The authorization: The legislation authorized the city to enter into a natural gas agreement with the Northeast Ohio Public Energy Council, an aggregate of more than 100 Ohio communities that has a one-year deal with Shell Energy Services Company. Council unanimously passed the legislation.
It was passed during a special meeting because customers had only until Friday to enroll in the plan.
Potential costs: However, Mamula, who did not attend the meeting, said he was concerned about the city's endorsing energy plans.
"There are potential costs to the city in the future to be a part of the organization," he said, referring to administrative costs, which are paid by the gas provider but could be appropriated to communities if a provider decides to stop paying.
Mamula said NOPEC offered natural gas at a one-year fixed cost of $5.94 per 1,000 cubic feet of gas.
By comparison, Dominion East Ohio's rate for service, through April 2002, is $8.06 per 1,000 cubic feet of gas. The average homeowner uses about 135,000 cubic feet of gas each year.
NOPEC was formed last year as an electricity aggregate that brought a large number of communities together in an effort to find lower electricity rates.
Joe Dirck, a NOPEC spokesman, said the aggregate doesn't make a profit, doesn't charge communities and allows customers to leave at any time without a fee.
"We've never assessed a single member a penny in fees," he said.
Dan DiLiberto, mayor of East Lake, is chairman of NOPEC. He was not available to comment.
Once a community becomes a member of NOPEC, each resident has the option to enroll in the program via phone or the Internet.
Not every community has had to go through an aggregate to hook up with gas providers such as Shell Energy.
Austintown Township trustees formed a natural gas deal with Shell Energy in July for a one-year fixed rate of $7.90 per 1,000 cubic feet of gas.
The township paid Shell a $10,000 fee.
"We believe our deal with Shell Energy will give people the relief they've been looking for," said Trustee David Ditzler in an Aug. 30 press release.
Township residents had until Sept. 10 to sign up for the plan.
Shell proposal: Mamula said he was approached by a broker to enter the city into an agreement with Shell Energy about two or three months ago for a $7,000 fee.
Mamula has 10 days to sign or return any piece of legislation after it's passed by council. His veto can be overturned by five council votes.

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