At their most recent meeting on Monday, March 6, village council members heard a presentation by the Ohio Sustainable Community Energy Council (SOPEC) on the gas aggregation program.

This presentation took place on the eve of two public hearings, the first scheduled for March 17 and the second for March 20, where villagers will be able to share their opinions about joining the aggregate program.

Council President Brian Hausch said the presentation came after the three gas aggregators met with Hausch, Village Manager Jasue Salmeron and Councilwoman Marianne McQueen. Salmerón recommended SOPEC for Council consideration.

According to SOPEC’s website, the organization was created in 2014 to provide more purchasing power to small communities that rely on natural gas for some of their energy. There are currently 22 member communities that make up the regional council of governments.

Luke Sulfridge, Executive Director of SOPEC, and Philip Lepa, General Counsel and Southwest Director of SOPEC, made a presentation to the Board highlighting the benefits of joining the combined program and some of SOPEC’s current initiatives.

If Yellow Springs decided to join SOPEC, it would join cities and towns like Dayton and Athens, Ohio as part of the SOPEC governing body. Other communities, such as Riverside, Ohio, are in the process of joining SOPEC, Sulfridge said.

According to Sulfridge, part of SOPEC’s mission is to provide economic development through USDA grants and other opportunities.

“We are watching [economic development] through the lens of sustainable development,” said Selfridge, giving the example of an initiative to place solar panels on farms and small businesses.

Sulfridge also discussed the Main Street Programme, a SOPEC initiative that seeks to maintain historic buildings and neighborhoods and focus on heritage tourism in partner cities.

“The greenest building is the one you don’t have to build,” Sulfridge said.

Historically, Selfridge said, SOPEC has only provided electric aggregation for its member communities. At the request of its members and other communities that want to join, SOPEC decided to include gas aggregation services to provide communities with decarbonization strategies.

“We think we’re not doing justice to the full climate strategy if that’s not the case [including] gas,” said Selfridge, “but we’re not going to make gas environmentally friendly.

Sulfridge said the hope is to build a gas aggregation program, help members become more reliant on sustainable energy and phase out natural gas. This can be done by installing heat pumps, replacing gas appliances with electric ones and upgrading lighting.

“Our goal is to shrink this program as we build it,” Sulfridge said.

If Yellow Springs decides to join SOPEC, the village will be one of the first in the SOPEC gas facility, a new offering from the organization. In a follow-up interview, Lepa said three communities want to join the gas aggregation program within the next month, and another 12 communities will vote to join SOPEC in the fall.

“We like to do new and new things,” said Selfridge. “We’ve been talking to other like-minded communities across the state…. [to determine how] to structure a natural gas aggregation program that will provide a net positive benefit to the community.”

Councilwoman Marianne McQueen asked how billing would be handled if the Village joined SOPEC.

“Will there be the same willingness to foreclose? Everyone who pays for gas, Dayton, Athens, pays the same?” McQueen asked.

Salmeron said the villagers would still pay a third-party provider, such as CenterPoint Energy; The village will be the supplier. The rates that participants will pay will depend on the contract that SOPEC is able to negotiate.

In response to a question from Councilman Gavin Devore, Leonard Salmeron said the cost of joining SOPEC would be passed on to gas customers through an administrative fee. Benefits of joining SOPEC will include opportunities for grants and small solar installation projects.

If the SOPEC accession law is passed, villagers will have the opportunity to “opt out” of the program.

The Village will follow in the footsteps of Greene County, whose unincorporated residents voted to join the gas utility in November. Greene County commissioners are working with energy broker Palmer Energy to facilitate their aggregation program, according to minutes from the Feb. 16 Greene County commissioners meeting.

To meet the requirements of the Ohio Revised Code, the village must hold two hearings for public comment before voting to join the gas utility. The first meeting is on Friday, March 17, from 11:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. The second meeting is scheduled for Monday, March 20, at 5-6 p.m will precede the next meeting of the Council.

Other matters of the Council, March 6:

Charging stations for electric vehicles

The council adopted a resolution aimed at managing charging stations for electric vehicles. The EV charging stations currently at the Bryan Center are not regulated, Salmeron said. The proposed ordinance would limit station use to four hours and pave the way for the Council to assess the fee. The fee will cover the cost of electricity and maintenance of the charging stations.

Multimodal Path Agreement

The council unanimously passed a resolution awarding a contract to the Ohio Department of Transportation to upgrade the multimodal route on Dayton Street between East Enon Road and Stafford Street. The total cost of the project is $1.8 million and will be funded by the Ohio Department of Transportation.

Transgender Day of Visibility

The Council unanimously adopted a resolution on recognizing March 18 as Transgender Visibility Day. In addition to recognizing the day, the resolution signifies the Village’s commitment to providing a safe space for trans and non-binary people and prohibits Village departments and staff from denying equal access to Village services because of a user’s gender identity or expression.

Ohio Foundation for Local Government

The Council passed a resolution asking the Governor of Ohio and members of the Ohio General Assembly to restore the Local Government Fund to pre-recession levels. Hausch said the fund cuts have resulted in less money being allocated to the budgets of municipalities like Jallow Springs.

The next regular meeting of the Council will be held on Monday, March 20.

Previous articleThe pair works to unearth the secrets of the lost Mayan civilization
Next articleHealth and emergency care professionals team up to teach Perry students about heart health | News