In May, Ameren announced its average residential customer can expect to see an increase of at least $52 a month — or $624 a year — for the supply of their energy.

During Monday’s Metropolis City Council meeting, guest Mike Genin assured council members that Metropolis residents don’t have to worry about that increase. In fact, Metropolis electric bills are running about 5.5.% less than last year.

Ward 4 alderman Jeremy Holley was absent from the June 13 meeting.

Ameren serves the Village of Joppa and the City of Brookport. Because the Ameren increase deals with the supply of energy, Genin noted the $52 amount could double if a customer has an all-electric house or a pool.

Corporate counsel Rick Abell later noted during his report that the $52 increase “is going to stay that way, it’s not going to go down. But it will not affect our bills in Metropolis or those who are in the co-op. We’re not going to see power price increases. We have long-term contracts — our power is based on resources we own, contracts we have and hedges we put in the market place.”

Genin is the vice president of Member & Energy Services at the Illinois Municipal Electric Agency. IMEA is a cooperative of 32 municipals that own their own electric departments. IMEA began in 1984. The City of Metropolis has been a member since 1987. Genin has been working with the city since 1995.

The municipals “came together because the towns wanted their own affordable, dependable electric power supply, transparency and accountability,” Genin said.

In the 1980s, a lot of investor-owned utilities were supplying towns individual contracts and started investing in nuclear power plants. When they weren’t allowed to filter the doubled or tripled price to the customer, it then went to the municipals. The municipals then approached the legislature for authority to band together to negotiate group contracts as a cooperative to get a better deal and share expertise.

As IMEA, the municipals invested in power plants and coal plants and own shares in solar power, wind power, hydroelectric power and nuclear power. Genin said the diverse portfolio helps protect against market volatility so “all our eggs aren’t in one power plant.

“There’s a lot of chaos going on in a lot of states. They’re closing down power plants and replacing them with renewables, which are less predictable. When you have a day that’s rainy, you’ll be getting your power somewhere else,” he said. “It’s the future, but as an agency, we’re advocating a slow transition.”

The municipals can also lobby together and provide mutual aid.

“We’re not always trying to be the lowest price, but we want to be without fluctuates and swings. Our goal is to be competitively priced, reliable and sustainable,” Genin said. “With our power supply portfolio, we’re largely insulated from price swings.”

Genin explained marginal prices of electricity are set by natural gas prices because natural gas is generating electricity. “IMEA is protected from that variable because its natural gas contracts locked in,” he said.

Genin said every municipality has a set at the IMEA table. It’s those member representatives who make the decisions. Abell is the city’s IMEA board member. He currently serves as on the IMEA executive board and board of directors, is past president of the IMEA board of directors and currently services on the Illinois Municipal Utilities Association board of directors. The IMUA is a not-for-profit corporation functioning as a trade association for municipalities that own and operate their own electric, natural gas, water, wastewater and telecommunications systems in Illinois. It is composed of municipal, associate and affiliate members.

Genin noted the City of Metropolis’ electric system is “really reliable.” He noted while cities with investor-owned utilities have to wait 30 minutes to hours to have an outages looked into, because Metropolis has its own crew, those problems can be taken care of in a matter of minutes. That wait “translates into dollars for your customers, especially the businesses.”

Genin also addressed the number of power plant closures that are scheduled over the next few years.

“MISO (Midcontinent Independent System Operator) runs our transmission and is in charge of our reliability,” he said.

“They’ve put warnings out the amount of (electric) generation retiring is going to outstrip our reserves. They’ve told everyone to prepare for rolling blackouts in Illinois. There’s nothing imminent right now, but we have to prepare that’s part of our duties — and our towns are preparing.”

That rolling blackout potential is a concern to Abell.

“We’re going to start hearing more about brownouts and rolling blackouts,” he said. “A brownout is where the grid operator calls on load-serving entities to reduce their loads. It can be voluntary or mandatory. What they’re trying to avoid is there being so much demand, it tears up equipment. A blackout it when it gets beyond the ability of the grid operator to control it. That’s when you have damage and lose parts and components of the system, making it harder to bring power back.”

Abell noted that electrical demand has increased to pre-COVID levels and with power plants coming off, “it’s got to be made up somewhere. You can’t dispatch or store solar or wind, but you never know when you’ve got it.”

Abell said IMEA board members held a webinar last week and are looking at revising its emergency plan to make sure contingencies are covered and to put protocols in place.

“We do want to be prepared,” he said. “That’s the main thing.”

Keith Tabor, who was at the May 23 council meeting to discuss his property at Seventh and Ophia streets, was back as requested to provide an update.

Tabor had purchased the property, on which sits a trailer that no longer conforms to the city’s building codes, with plans to renovate the trailer for his son. Following the May 23 meeting, Tabor was given a list of items to complete by the June 13 meeting.

On Monday, Tabor informed the council he had done everything on the list, but still had to finish the underpinning in order to build the landings. He plans to have the work finished by week’s end.

Abell said the trailer’s damage prior to Tabor’s work was more than 50%. He said he’ll write up a letter of understanding between the city and Tabor that as long as a family member lives on the property, the trailer is approved, but if utilities are not paid or the trailer falls into further disrepair or the property is rented to a non-family member, the agreement is void. Abell said he would check on the progress Friday, June 17, and have the letter of understanding by Tabor so the electricity can be turned on and the council can ratify it at its June 27 meeting.

Ward 3 alderman Al Wagner commended Tabor for what he had accomplished over the last two weeks. “We appreciate your efforts. You made a monumental effort there,” he said.

During his report, Mayor Don Canada noted volunteer work “isn’t taken into consideration a lot. The amount of volunteers it takes to pull off the Superman Celebration — I saw half of our aldermen out there all weekend participating, some of them double dipping (in helping other organizations involved with the celebration). All the Superman committees did a real great job. It was a pretty nice celebration.”

In other business, the council:

• Approved the closure of Second Street between Market and Ferry streets on Friday, July 1, by Harrah’s to host the Fourth of July fireworks. Ward 4 alderman Chad Lewis abstained.

• Approved a change order request by HMG Engineers for the construction project at the city’s water plant. Canada explained the project is running behind and requires additional construction engineering services The change order request to the EPA is for 20 to 80 hours of further work at a cost of $19,000 to $75,000. Abell explained the city is receiving a loan forgiveness from the EPA, which will cover half of the amount, which was built in as contingency on the contract.

• Under three separate motions approved the seek bids for the sale three properties. Abell said parties have expressed interest in 1117 Broadway St., 814 Girard St. and 111 W. Second St. Prior to the vote, Ward 2 alderman Dylan Chambers questioned if a minimum bid would be requested for the properties. Abell noted if the minimum bid isn’t received, they’ll have to rebid.

He explained there are three ways the city can sell properties — advertising for bids; the appraisal method, in which the bid has to meet 80% of the appraisal; or auction, which can be used six months after neither of the other two work. Ward 4 alderman Chad Lewis suggested getting the average of the last 50 properties bid out to come up with a minimum bid, but said the council should hold off on that decision for the time being. Canada noted that each mowing of each lot costs the city $700 over the summer and tearing down houses cost upward of $3,000.

• Adopted an ordinance authorizing the sale or other disposition of personal property of the City of Metropolis, specifically an old fire truck the fire department purchased from the City of Sandwich.

• After opening the one bid received, adopted an ordinance authorizing sale of municipally owned real estate at 1021 E. Seventh St. to Andrew Heflin for $250.

The council’s next regular meeting will be at 7 p.m. Monday, June 27.

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