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Ameren rate drop prompts some to rethink options

   CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) -- A drop in Ameren Illinois rates has some communities reconsidering where they get their electricity.
   According to local reports Ameren likely will drop electric-supply rates about 7 percent next month, on top of a decrease scheduled for October.
   That means that Ameren prices may be lower than alternative suppliers in central and southern Illinois.
   Hundreds of communities bundle residential and small business customers to buy cheaper electricity in bulk from smaller suppliers.  But Ameren's proposed rate for June through September is lower than what many cities brokered, and the rate taking effect in October is even lower.
   Champaign plans to put its buying program on hold for at least a year, meaning customers will be automatically switched to Ameren.
   Nearby Urbana will stay on the municipal rate.