Beacon on Board with Power Proposal

Council votes to join renewable energy plan

By Jeff Simms

Beacon on Jan. 17 became the first Highlands municipality to agree to join a regional Community Choice Aggregation district, while four other local governments consider the proposal.

Following a public hearing, the Beacon City Council voted to authorize the creation of a CCA which, if enacted, would allow the city to bargain on behalf of its homeowners and small businesses for cheaper and more energy-efficient electricity. The citizen group Renewable Highlands has approached five municipalities it believes, if working together, would have the bargaining power to negotiate for better rates and more environmentally friendly options for residents.

The Beacon vote signals that the city is on board with the creation of a CCA.

The Cold Spring Board of Trustees is expected to discuss the measure on Jan. 24 and Fishkill and Philipstown have scheduled public hearings for Feb. 6 and 8, respectively. Wappingers Falls is weighing the proposal, as well.

If all five municipalities approve the creation of a CCA — which would be the second in New York State, following a Westchester County pilot program — a second round of votes would be required to implement and automatically enroll residents in the program.

CCAs pool electric utility accounts to gain bargaining power in negotiating prices, and individual residents can opt out at any time. If one is enacted in the Highlands, Central Hudson would still provide delivery and billing services; the CCA would only negotiate rates and sourcing.

A handful of residents spoke during the Beacon public hearing, all in favor of the proposal. Cold Spring Trustee Steve Voloto attended the meeting and said afterward that the municipalities have “nothing to lose” by giving the proposal a try.

“All of the members of the [Cold Spring] board and the mayor are interested in moving forward on this,” he said. “I don’t see why everybody around here would not be interested in it. You can back out anytime if you’re not happy with how things are progressing.”

Twenty municipalities in Westchester banded together to create the state’s first CCA last year, and Renewable Highlands’ Jason Angell said that program stands to save its 100,000 participating households and small businesses up to $5 million over the next three years.

In other business:

  • Beacon police officers Joseph Conti and Andrew Dewey were promoted to the rank of sergeant.
  • Reuben Simmons was named on a provisional basis as the city’s highway superintendent, succeeding Anthony “Zep” Thomaselli, who retired. Thomaselli will remain with the department as a part-time consultant.
  • The council set a public hearing for Feb. 6 on the proposed update to the city’s comprehensive plan.
  • The city ratified an agreement with the Beacon Professional Firefighters union, retroactively granting Beacon’s 12 paid firefighters salary increases.

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