Councilmembers Push for Street Sweeping Notification System


[Columbus, OH] Building on Columbus’ reputation of being a “Smart City,” residents and businesses are now able to sign up for street sweeping reminders online.

Curbed public streets are swept citywide. The primary purpose of street sweeping is to remove dirt, litter and debris from curbs and prevent those materials from being washed into storm sewers.

In many neighborhoods, permanent signs identify street sweeping parking restrictions. Residents and visitors are required to check signs carefully and adhere to the posted schedule. Vehicles not moved on sweeping days are impounded and towed at the owner’s expense. 

“I have received numerous calls from residents frustrated about vehicles being towed or not knowing of street sweeping time periods,” said Councilmember Michael Stinziano. “As Chair of Council’s Technology Committee, I saw an opportunity to collaborate on a common sense notification system with the Department of Public Service and their street sweeping fleet.”

The Department of Public Service tool allows people to enter their street address to find out when street sweepers are next scheduled to visit their neighborhood. This resource is similar to the online tool the department uses to provide trash, yard-waste and recycling collection dates.

Residents can receive notifications by email, phone or calendar invite.

“I was happy to work together with Councilmember Stinziano as well as the Departments of Public Service and Technology to implement this notification system, saving residents a trip to the impound lot while continuing to provide this critical City service,” said Councilmember Shannon Hardin, chair of the Public Service and Transportation Committee.

To learn more or sign up for street sweeping reminders, visithttps://www.columbus.gov/publicservice/streets/Street-Sweeping/

Councilmember Stinziano Announces April Community Hours


Councilmember Michael Stinziano will hold Community Hours in April across the City to listen to issues and concerns of Columbus residents.

Community Hours offer citizens the opportunity to tell Councilmember Stinziano what is important to them and how he and City Council can help. All members of the Columbus community are encouraged to attend.

“Significant issues confront our diverse City every day. I want to hear, firsthand, from my constituents about what concerns them as we work together to make our neighborhoods the best places to live, work, start a business and raise a family in Ohio,” said Stinziano.

Councilmember Stinziano will hold April Community Hours at the following locations:

Monday, April 3
Cup O Joe Coffee House—Clintonville
2990 N. High St., Columbus, OH 43202
11:30am-1:00pm

Saturday, April 15
Tim Hortons—Central Point Shopping Center
636 Harrisburg Pike, Columbus, OH 43223
1:00pm-2:30pm

Wednesday, April 19
Columbus Metropolitan Library—Livingston Branch
3434 E. Livingston Ave, Columbus, OH 43227
5:00pm-6:30pm

Wednesday, April 26
Columbus Metropolitan Library—South High Branch
3540 S. High St., Columbus, OH 43207
11:00am-12:30pm

For additional information contact:

Stephanie Megas
614-645-8311

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Submeter firms could face regulation by city

By Dan Gearino  The Columbus Dispatch

Years of inaction by the state may push the Columbus city government to set limits on companies that resell utilities in apartments and condominiums.

That was the conclusion of Mike Stinziano, a council member, following the public hearing he convened Thursday to gather comments on the topic.

"Having it all on the record is important to then further the discussion," Stinziano said about the hearing, which lasted about an hour and a half. "It has been a real education about why this is important."

Some unregulated "submeter" companies resell electricity and water in apartments and condominiums, adding in markups that can make the costs much higher than a regulated utility would charge. The Dispatch has been writing about the issue since 2013.

Since then, there have been proposals in the Ohio General Assembly and an investigation by the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio. The PUCO ruled last year that is has the authority to regulate submeter companies; the panel is now reviewing appeals to that ruling.

"Unfortunately, today in Ohio, submeter residents are not protected," said Joseph Hussey, whose Far North Side condominium is served by a submeter company, American Power and Light. He said his bills are 25 percent more than they would be under the regulated utility, American Electric Power.

He was one of several people who mentioned that the two companies have similar names, which he thinks is an attempt to confuse customers.

About 20 people attended the hearing, held in the City Council chambers.

Several speakers urged the city to distinguish between the different types of submeter companies. Some companies are essentially billing services, with no markup other than a small monthly fee. This includes Guardian Water & Power of Grandview Heights, which sent an employee to testify.

Others, such as American Power and Light and Nationwide Energy Partners, earn a profit by marking up the cost of electricity and water. Neither company sent a representative to testify.

Asked for a comment, Nationwide Energy CEO Gary Morsches criticized the hearing.

"NEP has advocated for consumer protections for several years and will continue to do so," he said in an e-mail.

"Unfortunately, the city hearing today was orchestrated by individuals who distorted the real facts about and the benefits of submetering. By distorting the facts and confusing submetering with reselling, these opponents are helping big utilities control the market and are infringing upon property owners' rights to offer beneficial submetering services and bring energy innovation to the local market."

Michael Gonidakis, a lobbyist for Westerville-based American Power and Light, had no comment.

The last speaker was Mark Whitt, a Downtown resident and attorney who is challenging submeter companies in several venues, including a proposed class-action lawsuit against Columbus-based Nationwide Energy.

Whitt said the property developers and landlords are receiving benefits from their relationships with submeter companies and will need to answer for that at some point.

"Developers are complicit," he said.

Stinziano said afterward that he thinks there is a 50-50 chance that the city will step in to write legislation that protects customers of submeter companies if the state does not.

This would be significant because the companies that have generated the most complaints are based in central Ohio and have a large share of their customers in the region.

dgearino@dispatch.com

@dangearino

Have opinions about submeter companies? Columbus plans hearing Thursday

By Dan Gearino  The Columbus Dispatch

For the first time, the city of Columbus is asking the public for opinions about companies that resell utilities in apartments and condominiums.

The City Council's Public Utilities Committee will hold a public hearing at 2:30 p.m. Thursday, convened at the request of Chairman Mike Stinziano.

"At the city level, there's an opportunity to gather information and maybe do something," he said.

That something might be city rules dealing with the utility practices.

Stinziano, a member of the Ohio House from 2011 to 2015, would prefer that the Ohio General Assembly approve rules that would apply statewide, but several proposals have failed to pass. He has been frustrated by the lack of state action.

That inaction also has troubled some Downtown residents. Leaders of the Downtown Residents' Association of Columbus have said they will be more active in pushing for limits on what they call "price gouging" for utilities.

The hearing will be in the City Council chamber, 90 W. Broad St. People who want to testify in the hearing can fill out a speaker's slip at City Hall on Thursday between 8 a.m. and the 2:30 p.m. start.

The Dispatch has written since 2013 about so-called "submeter" companies that resell utilities. Some of those unregulated companies charge a markup plus fees that can make utility bills much more expensive than they are for residents who are paying regulated prices.

The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio ruled in December that it has the authority to regulate submeter pricing in some cases. That investigation remains active as the panel tries to determine how much of a markup should be allowed.

dgearino@dispatch.com

Stinziano to Host Public Utility Hearing on Submetering and Utility Reselling

Who:
Councilmember Michael Stinziano
State Representative Mike Duffey

When:
Thursday, March 16
2:30pm

Where:
Columbus City Council
Council Chambers
90 W. Broad St.

What:

Councilmember Michael Stinziano, chair of the Public Utilities Committee, will convene a public hearing on submetering and utility reselling. The hearing will provide information on these practices and gather input from City of Columbus residents.

Ohio Representative Mike Duffey will attend the hearing to discuss his efforts to pass legislation to regulate these practices statewide. 

Public testimony will be accepted. Those wishing to address City Council regarding this issue can fill out a speaker slip at City Hall between the hours of 8:00am and 2:30pm on the day of the hearing. 

This hearing will be available to stream live on the CTV website, and broadcasted on Time Warner and WOW on Channel 3 and AT&T U-verse Channel 99. It will also be made available to the public on the Columbus.gov YouTube channel after the event.

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