Electricity and water in the mix for COG


Rate caps for Allegheny Power expire on Dec. 31. Business customers are already preparing for increased electrical bills as they examine budgets for their fiscal years. The Franklin County Council of Governments heard about a possible solution on Jan. 20.

Kathy Leedy, representative from the Greater Chambersburg Chamber of Commerce, presented news about an electrical power purchasing pool available to members of any Chamber of Commerce. Local officials Brad Graham, Antrim Township administrator; Harry Foley, Greencastle Borough Council; Kenneth Womack, Greencastle manager; and Eric Holtzman and Joel Fridgen, Greencastle-Antrim Board of School Directors, collected the information to bring back to their own entities.

Leedy said Chambersburg decided to partner with Chamber Choice and consultant OnDemand Energy Solutions to become part of a large buying pool. The result should be significant savings on utility costs, specifically for the generation portion of the electrical bill. Deregulation allows pooling among municipalities, businesses and institutions, and she cited examples of how the savings would work.

A sewage treatment plant using 10 million kilowatt hours per year could save $100,000 with a one cent reduction in Allegheny's rate. If the lower charge was just half a cent it would still save $50,000 annually. There was just one stipulation to becoming part of the pool.

"You have to be a chamber member to participate," Leedy said. It didn't matter which borough the member chose.

Washington Township has already joined. Manager Mike Christopher told the group, "It looks like a good deal. The only advantage to the chamber is that you become a member."

The first savings begin Jan. 1, 2011. OnDemand blends long-term and short-term contracts when it purchases the energy. The company will analyze the energy use of interested businesses and notify them if the pool would be of real benefit. The contract is for 27 months, after which the business could sign up again or do something else. OnDemand believes 90 percent of customers will find value. The consulting firm has been operating an energy pool for 10 years.

Leedy continued, "It's the only buying pool of its type in the northeast. It has a proven track record so far and more than pays for the chamber membership."

The Greencastle, Chambersburg, Waynesboro and Shippensburg chambers are participating in the program. Greencastle is hosting informational seminars at the Comfort Inn on Feb. 24 at 10 a.m., on March 25 at 3 p.m., and May 4 at 9 a.m. Anyone interested in attending should contact the chamber at 597-4610.

New building code

The matter of sprinklers required in new construction also has municipal officials on guard, knowing they will be first in line to receive complaints. The 2009 International Building Series Code took effect Jan. 1 for townhouses. On Jan. 1, 2011 single family homes also come under the law.

Clem Malot from Commonwealth Code Inspection Service told the COG representatives the requirement applied to any new construction not already under design at the effective date.

"Residential sprinklers is the most onerous change," he said. He estimated it would add $7-8,000 to the price of a home. The state legislature did not seem interested in overturning the regulation.

Malot added that properties with private wells will have to install a storage tank in the basement or utility area. A 10-minute flow is mandated for public and private water systems. Each room in the house will have a sprinkler head, set to activate at 180 degrees. One going off would not trigger all of them, he replied to a query.

Christopher asked of his COG peers, "Should this be a legislative issue for us? We're going to get yelled at. There's a trade-off as far as safety. My concern is, if I burn the toast, will I get soaked?"

Malot could identify with the disquiet sure to come. "I just enforce the code. Someone else wrote it."