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Council Member Patrick Mcgee speaks at a city council meeting Monday, August 22, 2016. (CAMILLE FINE | FOR THE POST)

City Council: Ordinance to aggregate natural gas passes; city seeks grant for fiber optics

Athens City Council passed an ordinance Monday that council members hope will save residents money on their gas bills.

The ordinance authorizes the Southeast Ohio Public Energy Council to aggregate natural gas bills in the city. Natural gas aggregation is a process in which cities come together to negotiate lower prices for their residents.

Athens is already part of SOPEC’s electricity aggregation program. According to the SOPEC website, that program led to a 28 percent savings for residents when it was enacted in 2014.

“This idea of aggregation has worked really well for the City of Athens,” Councilwoman Chris Fahl, D-4th Ward, said. “It gives us much more clout … It gives us many more voices.”

The city passed an ordinance authorizing natural gas aggregation, but the measure was never completed, according to a previous Post report. Under natural gas aggregation, residents will receive the group rate unless they opt out of the program.

Athens Mayor Steve Patterson is a member of SOPEC’s Board of Directors. He was not present at the council meeting on Monday.

The meeting served as the first of two public forums where citizens can express their opinions on the proposed aggregation. No citizens addressed the council Monday.

The city council also introduced an ordinance to apply for a grant from the Ohio Department of Transportation to help fund a fiber optic network, a technology that uses glass or plastic fibers to transmit data.

The grant would request $50,000 from the Department of Transportation, and the City of Athens would match the grant with a $150,000 contribution of its own.

The current proposed route of the fiber optic cable would run between the Armory on Court Street to the Fire Department building on Richland Avenue.

The idea was proposed in 2014 to promote economic development, according to a previous Post report. Businesses would pay the city for access to the high-speed internet.


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