Joe Baird: “I’m not burning bridges, I’m trying to educate”

INDIAN RIVER COUNTY — County Administrator Joe Baird Friday stood by his comments that took the City of Vero Beach to task for playing the blame game with Indian River County.

Thursday morning on Bob Soos’ Morning Magazine radio show on WTTB 1490 the host asked Baird for his take on the City of Vero Beach blaming the county for increases to the electric rates because of the 6 percent franchise tax taken by Indian River. What ensued was several minutes of Baird telling Soos that he and the county are tired of the city blaming them for everything. Others characterized Baird’s comments as burning the bridge to the city and wondered what impact it might have on future negotiations for the possibility of the city and county consolidating water and wastwater utility services.

Baird said Friday that the radio show focused on electric rates and the related franchise fee that goes into the utility bill. The Thursday morning joint meeting on water and wastewater was a separate issue altogether, he said.

“I’m not burning bridges,” he said. “I’m trying to educate.”

The administrator noted that the city has taken exception to the county’s 6 percent franchise tax on the utility bill. He said that the tax is only placed on those who live in the county and are Vero Beach utility customers.

Vero Beach residents are not charged the 6 percent franchise tax, according to Baird.

The City of Vero Beach recently hiked its utility rates and has requested an increase to the electric rate.

“The council voted for it,” Baird said Friday of the utility rate increase.

Attempts to reach City Manager Jim Gabbard Friday for his comments on the radio show were unsuccessful.

“We’re tired of being blamed,” Baird said.

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