Commissioners have been looking into public utility aggregation since February.
By BOB JACKSON
VINDICATOR COURTHOUSE REPORTER
YOUNGSTOWN -- With winter's cold weather looming, Mahoning County officials are looking for ways to keep heating bills in check.
County commissioners were to meet tonight with representatives of the county's townships, the Ohio Townships Association, First Energy and others.
The meeting will be at the Boardman Township government center on Market Street, following the commissioners' business meeting which begins at 6 p.m.
They'll talk about public aggregation and other cost-saving programs that could help stave off the soaring energy costs that hit the area last winter.
"It's mostly to get our information together and see what our next step will be as an association," said Sandy Engle, a Berlin Township trustee and president of the county's township trustees and clerks association.
What it is: Public aggregation allows local governments to shop for electricity on behalf of their residents and businesses, usually resulting in lower costs.
Commissioners started talking about it in February but took no action, saying they wanted more information first.
Commissioner Vicki Allen Sherlock said commissioners will propose joining the Northeast Ohio Public Energy Council in 2003. It's a group of more than 100 communities, mostly in the Cleveland area, who formed a utilities aggregate buying group.
If commissioners decide to go forward, they'll notify county residents by letter. Residents who want to participate would contact commissioners and ask to be included, Sherlock said.
Those who try it and want to drop out could do so without cost or obligation.
Engle said the township group talked about aggregation at its August meeting but did not have enough information available to make a decision.
"There was some real interest in finding out more about it," Engle said.
County Administrator Gary Kubic said commissioners want to include the townships in any decisions they make about energy planning.
Under Ohio law, commissioners can provide the low-cost energy only to unincorporated areas of the county, which is why townships are affected. Cities and villages would have to agree to link up with the county.