Fredericktown leaders looking to public for electric provider decision

Fredericktown leaders looking to public for electric provider decision
By: Holly Brantley
FREDERICKTOWN, Ill. - Do citizens of Fredericktown want to flip the switch on their electric provider? They'll tell city leaders on election day.
It's an ongoing issue in Fredericktown - shocking bills and upset citizens. So, city leaders decided to ask them what they want to do about it.
Here's the choice: Stay with their current utility provider, or switch to Black River Electric Cooperative. Whether they answer yes or no will help city leaders decide what to do next.
Mayor Karen Yates says Fredericktown just can't handle the high bills. "A switch would mean lower rates," said Yates. "Anywhere from fifteen to seventy percent lower."
The ballot proposal asks residents if they want to sell the city owned distribution system to Black River. "It's just an advisory vote," Yates explained. "But before we move forward, we feel it's important to find out what the people have to say."     
A newspaper ad from Springfield City Utilities raised ten questions about a possible sale. The ad says there's no guarantee prices would remain lower and the city might be selling it's system for less than it's worth. City leaders say these, and other possibilities indicated in the ad, just aren't accurate.    
"It's just flat out untrue information," said Yates.
"We want to give citizens the facts," Electric Committee Chairman, Mark Tripp said. "And I believe we've done that."
If a large majority of residents vote for change, city leaders say they will likely move in that direction.
"It's going to take time and a lot of hard work," said Tripp. "There are contracts to work through."
Black River is located in Fredericktown. Besides lower rates, General Manager Tom Steska says it would mean better service. 
"It's important for the economic development of this area to offer lower rates and see the community grow," said Steska.
According to city leaders, the city is losing $33,000 a week with the current provider, MOPEP. Mayor Karen Yates says a switch would keep the money in the community.
In the meantime, a spokesperson for MOPEP declined to comment on the specifics of the newspaper article. But, does say it is premature to ask for voters for input when it still isn't certain what the terms of a deal with Black River would be.