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Thursday
Aug122010

Generator Rebate? "DP Groupon"

Tonight's Engineering Committee meeting proved to be interesting.  Aldermen Robinson, Argus, and I (the committee chair) called the meeting to discuss a proposal put forth by Alderman Robinson and Mayor Moylan; under this proposal, $250 rebates would be given from the City to residents who purchased generators for their homes.  The project's budget would be $15,000 (so up to 60 generators) and would require the resident to provide proof of purchase, proof of residence for two years after purchase, and all rebated households would be subject to random inspections to ensure the generators were not returned or given away.  Here are the detailed documents from the meeting:  Draft Proposal  Draft Agreement  Representatives from BestBuy were on hand to answer questions and offer their services as a potential supplier of generators. 

Half way through the committee meeting the challenges of implementation and concern for our general fund reserve began weighing the proposal down.  Alderman Walsten raised a number of strong points and both Alderman Robinson and Argus called into question a number of the operational shortcomings of the proposed plan.  It was then that I was reminded of a concept pioneered by the website Groupon.com.  This site offers discounts for items as long as enough people purchase the item being offered.  As an example, Groupon.com would offer 1/2 off a haircut if 250 buy the haircut "groupon" (like a coupon for a group).  If 250 people don't agree to buy the haircut at the discounted price then no one gets the discount.  In much the same way, we can leverage the collective buying power of residents without burdening the City's general fund.  The representative for Best Buy offered to take this concept and come back to the Engineering Committee with a plan that will offer a large discount on generators to Des Plaines residents as long as a certain volume (# still TBD) are purchased by the individuals (not the City).  Additionally, the City might then wave any permit fees associated with the instalation and inspection of the larger built-in generators.  This new proposal has the potential to reach more residents (> 60 in the current proposal) at a larger discount with little to no cost to the city. 

This revised proposal passed unanimously out of committee.  I am excited to see what representatives at BestBuy come back to us with.  After we have a plan, a bidding process would be necessary to ensure we are working with the vendor who is offering the best deal to residents.  Know that this plan is far from finalized; I will report back when we learn more.

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