(WKBN) – When it comes to electricity, it’s not just as simple as flicking a light switch.
Electricity has been a hot topic for Newton Falls. An ordinance that was approved by council on Monday aims to reduce electric rates for homes and small businesses as part of a deal with AMP Transmission, LLC.
Amp Transmission LLC, a subsidiary of American Municipal Power (AMP), is paying $4,288,515 Newton Falls for a portion of its power equipment.
According to Matt Gauss, who has been consulting on this issue, Newton Falls owns a high-voltage network and what this sale allows them to do is to get some money for it.
“They’re able to take these high-voltage assets and acquire them off these municipals so that lowers your cost, and also they’re able to bill more customers in the utilities footprint to help pay for those, just like these communities are already paying for everybody else’s,” Gauss said.
Newton Falls will still work on the equipment, but the benefit is that if something were to happen, or say, a bucket truck needed to be rented, the burden of payment wouldn’t come back on Newton Falls. AMP would pay for that.
“They’re giving you a bucket of money, and you don’t have to pay it back. That’s what it feels like,” Gauss said.
Since the burden of maintaining the equipment will be off Newton Falls’ back they will be saving money. That money saved and also the money made from the sale will be left to the community to decide what to do with it in order to lower rates for customers.
“They’re paying their fair share and that fair share is getting billed to your community, not to a person, and then it’s up to your community to decide how it separates that bill to people,” Gauss said. “Many components make up the bill. We are offsetting a part of it but we can’t comment on the other parts.”
City Manager David Lynch said they belong to AMP, which consists of about 133 municipalities that are members, but not all have ownership of these “golden transmission lines.”
While not much value to a municipality alone, they are to an entity like Amp Transmission because they can use those lines to send high-voltage electricity to other places.
“It’s as if we have this gigantic expensive railroad going from one end of town to the other. Well, nobody in our town is going to get on a railroad car to go on a five-minute drive…but if you’re stringing together a bunch of railroads all across the country, you’d be interested in having access to that railroad,” Lynch said. “It’s almost like a toll.”
Others will pay to tap into the electrical service and that money will go to Amp Transmission and down to Newton Falls.
Some residents of Newton Falls feel as though they’ve been left in the dark during this process and have expressed that during council meetings.
“A gentleman that gave a presentation from Wadsworth gave an explanation that Wadsworth sold some assets as well,” said Brian Kropp, a resident of Newton Falls. “What I thought was very telling was that this gentleman spoke about how they had…multiple public meetings, multiple get-togethers before this ever came to a vote, or before this ever came to the council, it was discussed at length.”
Kropp and another resident, Christopher Granchie, admit it could be a great deal for Newton Falls but feel like they don’t know enough. Kropp said it would be helpful to hear one of Newton Falls’ own electrical employees speak on it.
“It’s not too good to be true, it seems like it is, but it’s actually called fairness in my mind, and you guys are now being treated fairly,” Gauss said.
Lynch said the next step is to figure out how Amp Transmission can carry out the process of having the electricity of outside of Newton Falls transmit through the electrical lines.
“Right now this line they own is not part of the grid by definition right now. They need to do a very simple upgrade to do that,” Gauss said. “If they choose to do that this asset now looks like network transmission for everybody else. That cost gets paid for by all customers.”
Amp Transmission will take Newton Falls costs and pass them through to other customers using the grid.