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Published: Tuesday, 9/12/2006

Cygnet residents vote 43-2 to sell electric system

Mike Hall voices to officials his concerns about the plan to sell the village s electric system to Hancock-Wood Electric
Cooperative Inc. during a meeting last night at the fire hall. Mike Hall voices to officials his concerns about the plan to sell the village s electric system to Hancock-Wood Electric Cooperative Inc. during a meeting last night at the fire hall.
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CYGNET, Ohio - Obviously fed up with the power outages that have plagued their community for years, Cygnet residents say they're ready to let someone else keep the lights on in town.

At a village meeting at the local fire station last night, a crowd of about 75 residents and business owners heard two proposed solutions to their troubles: selling the village electric system or keeping it in local hands but making the updates it desperately needs.

In the end, the vote was 43-2 in favor of selling it.

"People are just so upset over our electric," Mayor Ruth Haas said after the ballots were counted. "I think people are just really, really upset, and I don't blame them. We have a big decision to make."

The problem came to a head this summer when high temperatures caused a heavy demand for electricity, and the village's antiquated electric system couldn't keep up with demand.

Sandy Nickols of Cygnet studies the proposal. Sandy Nickols of Cygnet studies the proposal.
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The power went out a record nine times July 31 in Cygnet, a village of 564 people in southern Wood County about 35 miles south of Toledo.

Soon after, the village installed a larger fuse that could withstand higher demands for power and trimmed trees that had been rubbing up against distribution lines.

Joe Wright, one of three members of the local board of public affairs, said the elec-tricity has not gone out since the changes were made.

Still, the board, which oversees local utilities, is looking for a long-term solution.

Last night, George Walton, president of North Baltimore-based Hancock-Wood Electric Cooperative Inc., made a proposal under which the nonprofit co-op would purchase Cygnet's system for no more than $100,000, then invest an estimated $1.1 million in a plan to rebuild, operate, and maintain it.

He said Cygnet would bear $400,000 of the initial cost, which would be recouped through a flat fee to Cygnet customers of about $12 a month for 10 years.

Columbus-based American Municipal Power-Ohio Inc., known as AMP-Ohio, proposed a $680,000 plan to update Cygnet's system while leaving ownership in village hands.

Larry Marquis, the firm's vice president of business and technical services, said Cygnet customers could pay an estimated $10 a month for 20 years for the upgrades.

While representatives of AMP-Ohio stressed the benefits of local control, Mr. Walton said each power customer would be a member of Hancock-Wood and would be able to vote on a representative to the co-op's board.

"You own the company," Mr. Walton said. "You control the company through your elected board member."

For Randy Boggs, voting to sell the system was a no-brainer.

"I don't know what everyone else thinks," Mr. Boggs told the crowd. "But I think it's pretty much an emergency deal .•.•. We need help."

Glen Ramsey said he has been dissatisfied with his electric service since he moved back to his hometown seven years ago.

"I've had Hancock-Wood in the past, and I've had excellent service," he said.

Mr. Wright said after last night's meeting that he was surprised by the vote in favor of selling.

"We don't know" what happens next, he said. "We're going to have to talk it over."

Village council and members of the board of public affairs are expected to discuss the issue at the next council meeting Monday evening.



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