Tallmadge -- The deadline for residents and small businesses to opt out of the city's natural gas aggregation program has passed, but those who aren't in the aggregation and would like to join might be notified this month.
The city contracted with gas supplier Constellation Energy Gas Choice Inc. last summer and locked in a fixed monthly rate of $4.65 per mcf for the duration of the Natural Gas Governmental Aggregation Program contract, which is Nov. 1, 2013, to Oct. 31, 2014. The city's current contract with Direct Energy wasn't renewed, in part, because the company isn't participating in the municipal gas aggregation program anymore, according to Mayor Dave Kline.
All eligible natural gas customers in the city are automatically enrolled in the program unless they chose to opt out, which was required by Oct. 4. Those who didn't opt out will be enrolled on their next meter read date.
Eligible customers who would like to join the aggregation with Constellation can do so at any time but should check with their current gas supplier to determine if there are penalties, Kline said.
The switch to Constellation from Direct Energy prompted a few hundreds calls to the city, Constellation and the Tallmadge Express that varied from not receiving opt-out or opt-in letters, inquiries about the aggregation and how to opt in or out, unsuccessful attempts to confirm whether they were in the aggregation and not being able to opt in or out by phone.
Constellation spokeswoman Kelly Biemer said the call volume wasn't out of the ordinary when compared to other markets that are making a similar switch.
"Per Constellation's agreement with the city, all residents previously participating in the aggregation program were notified by letter regarding the new rate and their ability to opt out of the program based on addresses provided by the utility and the incumbent supplier," Kelly Biemer, spokeswoman for Constellation Energy, said Oct. 1. "Participants who believe they did not receive a letter may contact Constellation at 800-718-1493 to confirm enrollment status."
Kline said letters should've been mailed to all natural gas customers by the middle of last month, but on Sept. 23, he said those who aren't in the aggregation hadn't received them.
Kline said the other reason the city chose a different gas supplier for the aggregation is that earlier this year, some 430 customers were being overcharged for their gas bills because of a "computer glitch" on the part of Direct Energy. The customers left their previous gas suppliers to join the city's aggregation, but because Direct Energy didn't transfer their information to Dominion East Ohio Gas, they weren't getting the aggregation price of $4.19 per mcf.
When those customers contacted Direct Energy, the company didn't allow them to join the aggregation but offered them a contract with the same rate as aggregation customers were getting, Kline said.
He said the confusion this time is more because of the transition to a different gas supplier, but it's also compounded by the situation earlier this year with the "computer glitch."
About 3,000 customers in the city are in the aggregation with Direct Energy as the supplier. Of the estimated 3,700 that aren't in the aggregation, some 430 customers contract with Direct Energy, according to Kline.
He said those people who contract with Direct Energy outside of the aggregation are the ones who are saying they haven't received letters.
Biemer said there are no plans to extend the opt out deadline, despite the apparent confusion.
"A separate opt-in mailing is being sent to residents currently not in the aggregation program, but who are eligible to participate," Biemer said. "Opt-in notification letters will be sent to all eligible residents within the next two weeks."
For residents who receive the opt-in letter, the time frame to join the aggregation is typically 21 days from receipt of the letter, she said.
To join the aggregation, call Constellation at the same number and have the Dominion East Ohio Gas bill handy as Constellation will need an account number and other information from the bill.
Participants in the aggregation will receive one bill from Dominion that will include Constellation's natural gas charge. In the event of an emergency or maintenance issue, customers should continue to contact Dominion.
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