Athens City Council members approved a plan Monday for the city’s new gas aggregation program, paving the way for what council members hope will lower utility bills for residents.

The gas aggregation ordinance passed in June, and that ordinance is another step toward implementing gas aggregation for the city. The ordinance shows the city’s approval of the Northeast Ohio Public Energy Council’s (NOPEC) operating plan for its gas programs.

Council President Chris Knisely expressed her support for the ordinance in a previous Post report.

“Our ultimate goal is to reduce the amount that consumers pay for natural gas,” Knisely said in May. “This helps that happen.”

Athens will work with the Southeast Ohio Public Energy Council (SOPEC) on implementing the program. Athens is already involved in SOPEC’s electricity aggregation program, which the organization’s website said saved Athens residents 28 percent on their electric bills when it was first put in place in 2014.

Eddie Smith, executive director of SOPEC, said residents should be aware of their gas bills and are free to opt out of the program at any time.

“We should definitely encourage citizens to watch their bills … to see if they want to stay in the program or opt out of the program,” Smith said.

Council members also discussed the city’s pilot parking passes program, which would allow residents of Athens who live in areas covered by the program to park their car on the street for more than the current 24-hour limit.

Athens resident Caleb Brown spoke at the meeting and expressed his disappointment about the limitations of the pilot program.

“I first heard about the parking permit program in the newspaper a little over a month ago,” Brown said. “I was really excited; it seems like a great idea. Not only is it annoying to move your vehicle when you don’t have to, but it also involves burning a lot of unnecessary fossil fuels. When I got a copy of the ordinance and read it, I was very disappointed because I realized I would be excluded.”

In a previous Post report, Councilwoman Chris Fahl, D-4th Ward, expressed concerns over the limited availability of the pilot program, which may be expanded in the future.

"We have to make sure all of this is equal under the law,” Fahl said. “I am not comfortable with it for being for only certain streets when similar challenges are present throughout the city.”

Council members agreed to have further discussion in two weeks when the ordinance is read for the final time before it passes.

Council members also discussed several alcohol permit notices at the meeting. AVI Foodsystems, a food company in Ohio, applied for a permit for Peden Stadium, which would allow them to serve beer and wine.

Additionally, Athens Pyramids LLC applied for a permit, which would allow them to serve “Spirituous Liquor” until 2:30 a.m. Council voted to have a hearing on the liquor license, but the vote resulted in a tie. Since Athens Mayor Steve Patterson was absent from the meeting and Knisely was serving in his place, no one could break the tie and no hearing will be held.

@leckronebennett

bl646915@ohio.edu

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