Unlike the quiet, brief Sept. 9 meeting, when all five council members voted for first reading of an ordinance to obtain proposals for the township to contract with an energy aggregation provider, this meeting featured residents crying out from their seats about how they don't want council even obtaining energy aggregation proposals, and two council members, Craig Wallis and Charles L. Fratini voting against adoption of the ordinance.
The vote was for second reading and adoption of an ordinance that allows, but does not obligate, the township to become an energy aggregator under the Government Energy Aggregation Act (GEA).
"Companies smell a huge profit and want to get into our pockets," said Fratini, who spoke strongly against the proposal at the opening of the meeting, despite that he had voted for the ordinance on first reading last month without a word of opposition.
"What next? Are we going to tell our residents 'Your next car has to be a Ford because it gets two more miles per gallon' or 'You have to buy Exxon gas?' " Fratini said.
"This is the first step on a slippery slope that leads to the road to hell paved with good intentions. This should be on a ballot for residents to vote on," he continued.
"One size does not fit all. We should all have our own choice," he concluded, to a hearty round of applause.
Councilman Brendan Weiner, who has been researching municipal energy aggregation, said the ordinance allows the town to see if it can get better electrical rates than what JCP&L is getting for residents.
And, he added, a number of nearby towns are doing just that. For example, he said, Jackson is saving 15 to 18 percent, Plumsted 14 percent; Toms River 12 percent and Brick 10 to 20 percent.
Weiner said he has also talked to Stafford and Lacey about possibly entering into a cooperative with them, and possibly other towns, to increase the customer base and, thereby, possibly get an even better deal, the same way towns sometimes get better deal through joint, large-scale bulk purchasing for other goods and services. Any such agreement to participate in a cooperative would require another council vote, he said after the meeting.
The next step for the township is to talk to agents, third party providers and other municipalities to further research entering into an energy aggregation contract alone or with other towns, Weiner said.
Several residents had told council at the Sept. 9 meeting they don't like the idea of government telling them which electric company to use, but that paled in comparison to the onslaught of loud protests at the Monday night meeting.
The meeting often degenerated to the point where various residents were speaking at one time, making it difficult for any one specific person to be heard, even some who were trying to speak at the microphone.
Municipal Clerk Sabina T. Skibo lamented about the condition of her audiotape that she relies on to fulfill her legal obligation to create accurate, complete meeting minutes.
After the meeting, she said there are sections of the tape where more than one person is speaking simultaneously and it will be difficult to create accurate minutes from those portions.
Pat Masterson, one of the many Leisure Village West residents speaking against the ordinance, said Manchester should find out how much money is saved in other towns entering into energy aggregation contracts before obligating Manchester to any such contract.
"Until you can show me in black and white how much will be saved, I'm against it," said Masterson, who at first spoke at the microphone, but later often yelled from her seat during the boisterous meeting. "We don't want this. We don't trust you."
Weiner said he has researched what other towns are saving. Plumsted, for example, is saving 14 percent and just signed for a contract renewal for a second year with its third-party energy aggregator.
However, he noted, municipalities are not permitted to get energy aggregation proposals until adopting an enabling ordinance, like the one passed Monday night.
Weiner said residents have the chance to opt out of the energy aggregation program. State law has established a system where residents have to call or mail a notice back to opt out, otherwise they are in the program. Many at the meeting said the law should have set up the system so residents are not in the program unless they opt in.
Weiner added that JCP&L is still delivering the electricity and still the party mailing out the bills and that residents can still call them with questions or complaints.
Wallis did not say why he voted no during the meeting. But afterwards, when asked why, he said he does not like the fact that residents have to opt out, rather than opting in to be in the program.
Also, he said after listening to the comments at the meeting, he is not convinced the savings will be substantial. He noted that one resident using a third party aggregator on his own is paying a rate of 8.5 cents.
"And they're saying that's probably about the best we can get," he said.
When Wallis was asked why he, as council president presiding over the meeting, did not do more to control the outbursts from residents in their seats, he said, "This is very personal for people. I don't think the meeting was out of control at all."
One of the many residents speaking against the ordinance at the meeting said, "No one in this room has told you, 'Atta boy, go for it.' "
Not in those words, but Norm Rosenberg, also of Leisure Village West, said in an interview after the vote that while he also has a concern about senior citizens understanding a mailing to their homes with information about "opting out" of a an energy aggregation deal, he agrees with the township's interest in getting proposals.
"Why shouldn't they have the information?" he asked.
Carol Rosenberg, his wife, however, wants the other towns to go first.
"We don't want to be one of the guinea pigs," she said, smiling.
Weiner said that after the ordinance is adopted, the township will continue to meet with potential energy companies and will conduct "a public awareness campaign," including holding public hearings, as well as meetings in smaller venues and gatherings.
After that, if the township decides to enter into energy aggregation, all 20,000 households will receive a notice in the mail that the program is beginning, Weiner said.
If they want to opt out, there will be a phone number for them to call so they could opt out initially or leave with 30 days notice.
Weiner said he has been participating in an energy aggregation program in his own home and has realized about $15 to $20 savings per month.
GEA programs, which were established a decade ago, potentially create savings by allowing municipal governments to first aggregate the energy needs of residential, commercial and government accounts, then buy energy supply from third-party suppliers at prices below the average utility rate, according to the state Board of Public Utilities (BPU).
The savings comes on the supply portion of the bill, with transmission and other fees unaffected by the move to aggregation. The ordinance would then require a bidding process for third-party suppliers, according to BPU guidelines, and the BPU would have to approve the plan.
The township has about 43,000 residents and about 21 retirement communities, a few of which have also been researching their own energy aggregation options, Weiner said.