Vero Council candidates discuss issues at Republican meeting

By Lisa ZahnerVERO BEACH — Soaring electric bills were the main topic when about 115 Republicans showed up Wednesday at the monthly meeting of the Republican Executive Committee to hear six of the seven candidates competing for two Vero Beach City Council seats in November.The six, incumbents Bill Fish and Debra Fromang, plus challengers Ken Daige, Jack Shupe, Susan Viviano and Charlie Wilson each were given a few minutes to present their platform. Brian Heady had said he would attend but did not show up. Applause was tepid for the incumbents, but rousing for Wilson, who skewered the City Council for allowing the current utilities crisis to fester on their watch. “We have a serious problem in the City of Vero Beach. I love the City of Vero Beach but we have a serious challenge and it’s shown itself in the electric rates,” Wilson said in making the only campaign promises of the evening.  “I have a plan that can get us out of this, there is a short-term plan and a long-term plan. I will promise you, absolutely promise you that we will take care of electric rates. If we can’t be competitive in the power business, we will get out of the power business.”Daige, a former council member hoping to be returned to his seat, also emphasized the importance of utility issues to voters’ decisions in the November election. Though he spoke in more detail as to specific engineering and environmental problems he has with the City’s operation, Daige shared the sentiment that something must be done. Daige said he’s spent the past 10 months since he’s been in office digging into the issues.”I’ve sat for almost a year at City Council meetings and committee meetings and budget workshops and frankly, I’m tired of all the excuses,” he said. “I’m tired of it and I’ve listened to enough of it.”Next, to gauge their level of knowledge of the issues at hand and see how they would field a difficult question, candidates were asked by event organizer Rosemarie Spytek to give their position on possible consolidation of the wastewater treatment system with the county.Fish and Fromang, the two sitting members, spoke about the complexity of the problems, the failed contracts and deals of the past and the need to study and analyze. Shupe, a retired director of cartography for National Geographic and two-year resident of Vero, stated his experience in dealing with decisions and personnel and also said he would proceed with caution on the issue.Viviano admitted limited knowledge of the utility situation and the proposed consolidation, but instead touted her ability to analyze a problem and come up with a solution. She asserted that her experience as a computer programmer gives her excellent training for dissecting complex tasks and coming up with an answer.Daige and Wilson spoke forcefully on the utility issue, often bringing electric back into the mix with water and wastewater, but generally stating that rates are out of control.Ken Bennett, a 30-year resident of Vero Beach, took copious notes from the candidates’ speeches and responses to the questions, but left before the meeting ended. On the way out the door, he commented that, although he’d not yet decided who to vote for on Nov. 3, two of the candidates had impressed him.”I think Ken Daige and Charlie Wilson did well, they got a head start on the others,” Bennett said. “I’m disappointed that Brian Heady wasn’t here. We need someone up there who will do something and who has common sense.”Bennett said he would definitely not vote for any of the incumbents.”I think everybody up there should get out, I wish they were all up this year, all they want to do is put everything off to another meeting,” he said. “We pay them, granted not much money, but we pay them to make these decisions and all they do is hire the stuff out to consultants.”

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