Commissioner to Vero: I will trust but verify electric actions

INDIAN RIVER COUNTY – In response to a Vero Beach city councilman reaching out to the Board of County Commissioners over electricity issues, one commissioner said he would trust the city but would also verify.

“I will trust you,” Commissioner Wesley Davis told Councilman Brian Heady Tuesday, “but I will verify what you do.”

The city councilman had gone to the commission to address concerns he has over the possibility of the county getting involved in a potential lawsuit as well as state-proposed legislation that could wrest authority from the city over its electric utility.

“I just wanted to make sure that this county commission and the people don’t fan the fires of discontent when we need to work with the city toward a better future and lower rates,” Heady told commissioners.

He also said he wanted to assure the commission that the county residents who are on the city’s electric grid do have someone on the Vero Beach City Council fighting for accountability and equal rates.

The councilman brought up the Mayfield legislation, which would place the City of Vero Beach’s electric utility under the authority of the Public Service Commission – a group of people who serve in Tallahassee that local residents don’t know.

He told the commission that keeping the electric utility’s control local is important and that they should exhaust all options with local officials before going outside.

Commissioner Gary Wheeler agreed with Heady.

“Government has a tendency and politicians have a tendency to try and move things farther from the people under the guise their going to fix things quicker,” he said, later adding, “I think government closer to the people works the best.”

He also said he believes the county commission has been supportive of working with the city and residents on the utility issue.

Councilman Heady told commissioners that he had heard there might be a couple on the board who might be considering a lawsuit against the city over the electric issue.

Such talk is “not productive,” the councilman said.

County Commissioner Joe Flescher agreed and added that it gets into “political games” and does not serve the public interest.

While commissioners thanked Heady for addressing the issue, not all share Heady’s opinion that there is enough being done at the council level to bring relief to electric customers.

Along with saying he would trust but verify the city’s actions, Commissioner Davis took issue with the city’s practice of transferring electric utility funds into the city’s general fund.

“I’m not going to sit by and let it happen,” he said.

The commissioner, at a prior meeting, briefly entertained the idea of the county getting involved in a possible lawsuit but did not pursue the matter.

Commissioner Bob Solari, a former Vero Beach councilman, recounted his own issues with the city when he served at the dais and reminded Heady that he is only one member on the council.

Solari said that – as a council member – getting financial information from the city staff was a challenge, a challenge he fears Heady and others will continue to face.

Heady agreed that getting information is a challenge.

“The minute you left city council the flow of information stopped,” Heady said, adding there are multiple current council members who will be asking for and demanding information.

“I wish you the best of luck with this,” Solari said to Heady.

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