The process of certifying the Village of Barnesville as a natural gas aggregator and passing potential savings on to village residents and businesses moved forward Tuesday. Barnesville voters passed the Barnesville Natural Gas Aggregation Opt Out issue by 65 %. Village Council will now negotiate a price on behalf of the voters. Even if village officials cannot negotiate a price they want, they are not obligated to participate.

Once a price is negotiated, the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio will certify the village as a natural gas aggregator. Then, letters (including one from Mayor Tom Michelli explaining the program and the price option chosen) and terms of condition will be sent to those who qualify (are not currently participating in a natural gas choice program.) They will have 21 days to opt out of the program. To qualify for the program, customers must also be current on their utility bills. Those who join the Volunteer Energy Services program will be dropped if they fall two months behind in payments.

The process may take until next summer before Barnesville residents will see any savings on their natural gas bill. Now that the issue passed on the November ballot, he will likely meet with council at the beginning of 2010. Two public hearings will follow after the village decides on a pricing plan.

"The public hearings are an opportunity for the citizens to comment on the plan the village council has chosen," Fred Holmes, director of municipal natural gas aggregation for Volunteer Energy Services, Inc., said at an information session on July 13 at the Barnesville Volunteer Fire Department.

Holmes said customers can opt out of the program after six months with no cancellation fee. He said the company has an "excellent" retention rate of one percent. It will also be possible for people to opt into the program, providing they fulfill their contract with their current supplier.

The city of Bridgeport currently is participating in a program through Volunteer Energy Services and the program passed in Cambridge and St. Clairsville this November.

Barnesville Village Council passed an ordinance at the July 20 meeting to begin the process of giving village residents a choice to join an opt-out natural gas aggregation program.

Formed in 2001, Volunteer Energy Services, Inc. is certified as a Competitive Retail Natural Gas Supplier for gas marketing, gas brokering and gas aggregation services and a Competitive Retail Electric Services Provider for aggregation and power broker services by the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio.

Volunteer Energy serves residential, business and industrial accounts through Ohio's Natural Gas Customer Choice programs, including non-profit organizations such as churches and mental health facilities. They serve customers in Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania and parts of New York.

For more information about Volunteer Energy Services call (800) 977-8374 or online at