The Citizens for Galion officially started the ball rolling Thursday to put an issue on the ballot in November for the repayment of suspected overcharges on Galion resident’s electric bills.
Roberta Wade, a founding member of the group and former city law director and council member, said the group served current city auditor Brian Treisch with an ordinance that will authorize the city to enter into a contract for auditing and consulting services to audit the city electric rates billed from July 1, 2005, to Dec. 31, 2012.
“We want an independent audit completed by a company that will be chosen by a panel of four people, two citizens and two people from the city,” Wade said.
The group has said the city overcharged residents approximately $4 million during the time period in the ordinance while the city’s administration disagrees. Wade said an independent audit will be a fair way to determine if an overcharge occurred and how much money is owed to the city’s electric customers.
The city has said in the past if there is an overcharge, the figure is around $237,000, not $4 million.
Mayor Tom O’Leary said on Tuesday that he does not believe an overcharge occurred but if there is one, the electric rates are charged per kilowatt hour of usage which means larger users of electricity would get larger refunds than residential customers.
“The large power customers, such as local industries, use thousands of kilowatt hours of electricity per month while residential customers use about 700,” O’Leary said.
O’Leary said the council and its utilities committee have worked diligently on cleaning up past mismanagement of the electric account, resulting in the recent approval of the first reading of a change in electric rates at Tuesday’s council meeting and the third reading of an ordinance changing the current PCA (Power Cost Adjuster) to zero.
Don Faulds, former city council president and current member of the Citizens for Galion, said the PCA was one of the main issues that caused the overcharges in electric bills in the first place.
“The PCA was changed to two percent in 2005, which caused residents to pay more for electric than they should have been charged,” Faulds said.
Wade said the ordinance has to be certified by Treisch then the group will set about the task of obtaining valid signatures of at least 10 percent of the 2,320 registered voters in the city.
“We will have a table set up in front of the car museum in Galion and will be canvasing to obtain the needed signatures,” Wade said.
The petition will then be given to the auditor then filed with the Crawford County Board of Elections within 10 days after that.
“The deadline for the issue to be on the November is Aug. 5,” Wade said.
O’Leary said this issue will prolong the financial uncertainty of the city that has been in fiscal emergency since 2004.
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