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Municipal aggregation to get third try for OK

City attorney Branson says farewell to council

DIXON – Maybe the third time will be a charm.

The Dixon City Council voted unanimously Monday to put a referendum on the April ballot asking voters if they want municipal electrical aggregation.

Marni Henert of Rock River Energy Services told the City Council in November that Dixon residents could save about $345 a year on their electric bills with aggregation.

Such a referendum has failed twice, most recently in March 2012 with a 52 percent “no” vote. That sparked Mayor Jim Burke to joke, “we’ll see if the third time is the charm.”

Municipal aggregation gives the city the authority to combine households and small businesses into an electricity-buying group, resulting in increased buying power and more competitive prices. Households that wish can opt out of the program.

ComEd now charges 8.32 cents per kilowatt hour, Henert said.

Of those communities that voted for aggregation in the spring, Sterling has decreased its rate to 4.67 cents for the next 2 years, Morrison4.77 cents, Amboy 4.67 cents, Franklin Grove 4.65 cents and Oregon 4.789 cents.

Each of those towns boast a participation rate of more than 90 percent.

Palmyra Township, Willow Creek Township, West Brooklyn, Nelson, Eagle Point Township, Flagg Township, Prophetstown and Lydnon all passed referendums in November, and Lee County will vote on a resolution to put municipal aggregation on the ballot today.

City Council members speculated that a lack of education or misleading information could have led to the first two referendum failures, adding that it would cost the city nothing to put it on the ballot again.

Also Monday, Bob Branson served his last meeting serving as city attorney. He is retiring from his practice.

Commissioners thanked him for his 20 years of service, and Commissioner Dave Blackburn presented him with a framed letter that says, in jest: “I don’t make policy, but if I did,” for how the attorney would give advice to the city.

In his farewell remarks, Branson fought back tears as he commended the city withstood the theft of more than $54 million over two decades by former Comptroller Rita Crundwell.

“What other city could lose $50 million and withstand it?” said Branson, who has worked with five mayors in two decades. “We’re still strong. The downtown is alive. The Riverfront is second to none. We don’t take a backseat to anybody.”

In other items:

n The City Council approved an ordinance allowing for rubbish disposal in a commercial dumpster by permit, which will cost $10. Previously, residents had to get a container from the city’s garbage hauler. Now, residents with a permit can utilize any service.

n The City Council accepted a grant of property on Lincoln Avenue next to Veterans Memorial Park from John Carlson Sr. Burke said the city will be responsible for maintaining the property and added it will “fit in nicely with the park there.”

n The City Council authorized the contract of Riverfront independent maintenance coordinator John Groshans for $13,200 from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31, 2013. That is an extra $1,200 from last year to make up for added expenses.

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