VERO BEACH — Having met all the bureaucratic hurdles necessary and seeing some long-awaited light at the end of the tunnel, interim utilities director John Lee said Monday the City of Vero Beach utility will begin charging customers a reduced rate starting January 1 and may consider another reduction around April.All residential customers — city and county — will be charged $125.95 per 1000 kilowatt hours down from what had been one of the highest rates in Florida of $158 for city residents and $166 for those outside the city limits. The new rates will be reflected in the bills mailed out in February. Lee said the utility received the go-ahead from the Florida Public Service Commission on a rate study the city conducted this summer which was then approved by the City Council earlier this month. The new rates are the result of that study, though they remain higher than what Florida Power and Light charges its customers.The city will be leaving its current power provider, the Florida Municipal Power Agency, at the end of the year. FMPA has been charging its customers much higher rates due to locking in gas prices when they were peaking and incurring extra charges from Florida Power and Light for using its transmission lines.Those events caused a spike in rates this summer for Vero Beach utility customers. However, Lee said FMPA gas charges have moderated over the last couple of months and he anticipates a further reduction in December charges.”We have been watching the gas prices (charged by FMPA) and we have been seeing them trend down a little bit in November and expect the same in December,” Lee said.
He also added that city has suspended FMPA’s ability to directly debit the money its bank account with the final bill so that the city can examine all the charges related to ending its business relationship with FMPA.
The interim director said he expects to be able to pay off most of the December bill owed to FMPA with the January receipts and the contract-ending negotiations. He said the utility will monitor prices charged by OUC and if they come in as expected might make another rate adjustment in April.