LISBON - Village Council voted this week to quit participating in a program that allows residents to contract with natural gas supplier for a locked-in rate.
The vote against renewing the two-year agreement was 4-2, with Ryan Hillman and Mary Ann Gray casting the dissenting votes. In favor were Joe Morenz, Steve Defilippo, Willis Coleman and Council President Roger Gallo.
The annual program gives residents and businesses the option of contracting with Direct Energy to obtain natural gas prices at a set rate for the next year, regardless of market fluctuations during the course of the next 12 months.
Gallo, who has been a frequent critic of the program, said he investigated the program further this time and is convinced it is a "bad deal" for residents because of hidden costs. Gray disagreed, saying her business saved money by participating in the program.
The rate last year was 64 cents per cubic feet and 66 cents for this winter, which is considerably cheaper than available through other major gas suppliers, according to the energy broker working with Lisbon.
Officials pointed out that participation was voluntary, and residents could have opted out of the program at any time for $25. "It just allows residents to do (join) if they want to, and all we're doing is giving them the tools to do that," said Village Fiscal Officer Tracey Wonner.
Approximately 200 village households and businesses participated in the program over the past 12 months. The village would have received $3 for every customer that enrolled in the program.
Gallo was concerned residents, especially the elderly, would have enrolled in the program without doing their own research because they believe it has council's blessing.
"We're telling people this is a good thing and people sign up and are getting gouged," he said.
Gray pointed out the arrangement was no different than the one they entered into last year with FirstEnergy that gives residents and businesses the option of participating in an electricity discount program. Gallo works for FirstEnergy.
In other action, council:
-Indicated it was opposed to a request by Columbiana County commissioners to close the alley the runs behind the courthouse. Officials were concerned losing the alley as a public thoroughfare would create traffic problems.
Mayor Mike Lewis said he was also concerned about losing the four public parking spots located at the rear of the courthouse.
- Voted to allow the Eagles to again rent the village swimming pool for a day so it can host a free community pool day. This year's event will be held on July 20, and the rental fee is $150.
- Hired Lisbon Paving to reseal the village hall parking lot for $9,500.
- Agreed to provide extra police coverage for the Johnny Appleseed Festival in September, with the JAF committee to pay the village $1,500.
- Scheduled the next regular meeting for 6 p.m. Aug. 9.