By Michelle Dupler
A Franklin Township ballot measure asking residents to participate in a natural gas discount program is poised for a recount after the vote is certified May 22.
Ben Piscitelli, spokesman for the Franklin County Board of Elections, said the Franklin Township natural gas aggregation question was failing by just two votes based on results from the May 6 election — and that’s close enough to trigger an automatic recount.
Current results show 427 township residents, or 50.1 percent of the voters, rejected the natural gas aggregation and 425 people, or 49.9 percent, voted in favor of it.
Piscitelli said when there’s a difference of one-half of a percent or less, Ohio law mandates a recount after the vote tally is certified. In this instance, any difference less than 4.26 votes would trigger the recount.
A companion ballot measure on electric aggregation failed by only 10 votes, but that isn’t enough to trigger a recount unless something changes between now and May 22, Piscitelli said.
Aggregation would have allowed township residents to consolidate their buying power to negotiate utility discounts as a group, rather than seeking discounts as individual customers.
If voters had approved, Scott BelCastro of Trebel LLC would have represented the township in negotiations with utility companies to secure a discount on electric and natural gas rates.
The discount would have been a percentage off the current rates charged by American Electric Power and Columbia Gas.
Residents would have been allowed to opt out of the program if they didn’t want to participate.
BelCastro has been successful in convincing several other central Ohio townships to participate in aggregation programs, but Franklin Township has been a tougher nut to crack. Township voters previously rejected aggregation on the November general election ballot.
If the recount results put the yes votes ahead, BelCastro still may have the chance to bring natural gas aggregation to Franklin Township.
Piscitelli said the recount has to be performed within 10 days of the election’s certification. If the vote tally changes, the new count will then be certified.
If the recount ends in a tie, then Ohio law says the ballot measure fails, he said.
Don Cook, chairman of the Franklin Township Board of Trustees, said if both measures fail, then BelCastro may explore whether Franklin Township residents can opt into aggregation programs in other townships to get the discounts.