River Bend residents have been receiving mail solicitations in recent weeks from companies claiming they will be able to save them money on their power bills. The mailings are not necessarily a scam, although you should do your homework before signing any agreement. Most likely, it's the result of a new Illinois law that allows third-party companies to provide your electricity at a lower cost than Ameren.

Ameren would still take care of all the power lines and any outages that might occur, but your power bill could go down by 8-percent depending on the company and the rate at which it can purchase the electricity. Tom Wolf is Executive Director of the Illinois Chamber of Commerce Energy Council and says consumers should take time to check it out:

Wolf comment

Alton will put a question on the ballot in March that will ask residents if they think the city should look at working with a company to buy power for residents in bulk and potentially save money. Several other communities are also looking into such a business deal. Wolf says there's a website that will compare the rates being offered by the various companies with Ameren, go to www.pluginillinois.org