The City of Delaware is seeking authority from residents to consider future energy aggregation programs, but it must first get the language of the ballot measure correct.
In a special meeting of Delaware City Council on Tuesday, council members voted to approve an amendment changing the wording of the question to be answered by the community.
The original ballot question, which was first considered by council during its meeting on July 25, read, “Shall the City of Delaware have the authority to aggregate the retail electric loads located in the City of Delaware and, for that purpose, enter into service agreements to facilitate for those loads the sale and purchase of electricity, such aggregation to occur automatically except where any person elects to opt out?”
Tuesday’s special meeting, which served as the second reading of the ordinance, included a lengthy conversation between council members about the inclusion of renewable energy into the amended language following a push from Sustainable Delaware for the city to commit to aggregation only if the program involved 100% renewable energy.
After nearly three hours of discussion, council approved an amendment to the language that, should the ballot measure be approved, emphasizes only a general commitment to supporting renewable energy with any aggregation program pursued in the future.
The amended question now reads, “Shall the city of Delaware have the authority to aggregate retail electric loads located in the city of Delaware to support renewable energy and, for that purpose, enter into service agreements to facilitate for those loads the sale and purchase of electricity, such aggregation to occur automatically except where any person elects to opt out?”
A third reading will be held during Monday’s council meeting at which time the ordinance will need to be approved if it is to be certified by the Delaware County Board of Elections in time for the Nov. 8 general election ballot. City Manager Tom Homan said the city is on an “aggressive timeline” if the ballot question is going to appear on the ballot.
Prior to the vote, some council members expressed concerns about the short turnaround from Tuesday’s special meeting to potential approval on Monday.
Councilwoman Lisa Keller, who was the lone vote against the amended language, noted multiple emails she received from concerned residents who were unable to attend the special meeting.
“I think it’s a legitimate point to raise that it is a second reading and it is an aggressive timetable,” Keller said. “We’re a public body and we deliberate publicly, and we should be able to have the public have multiple opportunities to come and advocate for their positions.”
Councilwoman Catlin Frazier echoed Keller’s sentiment that the November ballot might be too aggressive when there’s still much to be explained about an aggregation program and what it would mean for residents.
“I have a concern about the rushed timeline as well,” she said. “I think that as we continue to learn more about aggregation and what’s good for the city, I don’t think we need to rush for this ballot timeline. I think there are still some outlying questions … Saving residents money, how much do we know about which residents are going to save money? Can we guarantee they’re going to save money? Is that something we want to put in the ordinance, that they’re going to save money when we don’t know for sure?”
Councilman Drew Farrell noted the current discussions regarding aggregation are simply about whether or not to send it to the ballot. He added there will be a time to decide at a later date if a program is worth pursuing should the measure be passed by residents.
“Right now, we’re just (deciding) is this something we’re comfortable putting on the ballot so that people can share their voices and make that decision,” Farrell said.
Monday’s meeting will be held at its normally scheduled time of 7 p.m. in the council chambers of City Hall.