By Debbie Carson, Online Editor
INDIAN RIVER COUNTY — Small businesses are beginning to join the fight over rising utility bills in Vero Beach. Tom Lureau, owner of the Vero Beach Arby’s on U.S. 1, has set up a table in his restaurant for a petition decrying the electric rates charged by the city.
“It’s putting us out of business,” Lureau said.
In a matter of a couple weeks, Lureau has a couple hundred signatures. He hopes to get 2,000 in his establishment. Already, the four restaurants that are participating in the petition drive have collected 6,000, according to Lureau’s son, Kevin, who runs the restaurant. They need 14,000 to get a referendum on the ballot allowing citizens to switch to Florida Power and Light from Vero Beach’s electric utility. Kevin Lureau, Tom’s son, said that there are two petitions, one for Vero Beach city residents and one for those in the county served by the city.If enough signatures are filed on the petitions, the voters could choose whether they want to be served by Florida Power and Light, regardless of where they live (or have their business) and whether the city’s electric utility serves them.
“We just can’t take these high rates,” Tom Lureau said, explaining that the electric portion of the restaurant’s utility bill has more than doubled in the matter of a couple months.
Electric customers have been told that they will see relief in their electric rates in January when the city’s utility switches to the Orlando Utilities Commission.
“That a bunch of malarkey,” Lureau said.
He said that he hopes to get other businesses involved in collecting signatures on the petition in order to get the referendum on the ballot. Other businesses involved in the petition drive include 2002 Restaurant, Country Kitchen and Clubhouse Bar and Grill.