Beverly should vote on utility aggregation

Beverly Council voted recently not to put an issue before voters that would allow village residents to be part of an electric aggregation program.

The program, similar to what voters approved in Marietta and Belpre, allows group purchasing among a large group of customers, such as a city or village, to get discounted rates on utilities. Each customer can choose to opt out.

But in Beverly, residents won’t even get to vote on going in together as a group for the savings. By a 3-2 vote, the motion to put the item on the ballot failed, with no voters saying they felt people were confused about the program and that households could choose to opt in on their own, although the discount wouldn’t be as great.

But why not allow people who live there to determine themselves whether the village should participate rather than having their council representatives decide for them?

As Councilman Jim Ullman, who voted to put the measure on the ballot, said, “I wanted to leave it to village residents instead of me.”

It’s probably true that some residents don’t fully understand the aggregation program and what it entails.

One busy mother said she works three jobs and so she would just stick with the electric bill and plan she has now rather than dealing with a new option.

That’s exactly the sort of resident who may find great benefit in the savings, if they were well explained and understood.

The village’s public officials should make a greater effort to simplify the process and explain the benefits and consequences. Placing an issue on the ballot may be one way to spark more conversation and information sharing.

Council did hold a meeting on the issue that residents failed to attend and that’s unfortunate. But that’s not the only way to spread the word.

If this is an option that might really help families in Beverly, the people there are entitled to at least decide the issue as a village and for each person to be given an opportunity to cast a vote.

The deadline to place an issue on the November ballot is Aug. 7 so it’s not too late for residents to speak up and council to reconsider.