Indian River Shores matches county in asking how to exit Vero electric

INDIAN RIVER SHORES — With a notification date on its electric franchise of Oct. 31, 2011, looming large, the Town of Indian River Shores has joined the Indian River Board of County Commissioners in asking Florida Power & Light for assistance in getting out of the City of Vero Beach electric system.

The Shores Town Council Thursday unanimously approved sending a letter to Florida Power & Light requesting the power provider help the town navigate the Public Service Commission procedures necessary to get out of Vero electric territory.

“This was precipitated by a letter that went from the county,” said Indian River Shores Town Attorney Chester Clem. The county letter, Clem explained, asked that FP&L furnish information about  what would happen and what needs to happen if FP&L were to replace the City of Vero Beach in serving county electric customers.

Commission Chair Peter O’Bryan was the impetus behind the county letter, urging his fellow commisioners that, despite Vero’s preliminary efforts to negotiate with FP&L about selling the power system sometime in the future, the county should pursue a “parallel path” in regard to the 19,000 electric customers who live in the unincorporated county.Together, the county and Shores customers make up 61 percent of the city’s electric system.

“This piggybacks on the county letter that we would request the same information,” Clem said. “We have a franchise very similar to the one granted by the county.”

In 1986, Indian River Shores granted the City of Vero Beach a 30-year franchise to provide electric service to the town’s residents. Meanwhile, revenues from Shores electric customers have been used to subsidize the city’s general fund and electric rates — more than 50 percent higher than FP&L in 2009 — are still 35 percent higher than the neighboring power provider under the city’s new contract with the Orlando Utilities Commission.

Should the town wish to purchase power from FP&L after October 2016, its officials will need to give the city five years notice. The county’s franchise with the city expires in March 2017.

“The reality is that if the town intends to pull out of the City of Vero Beach electric, it doesn’t happen overnight,” Clem said.

Clem suggested that the Town try to open up communication with the city about the impending deadline to give the five-year notice.

“Each of us would be meeting halfway, we’d have to get together is the bottom line, between now adn Oct. 2011,” said Mayor Bill Kenyon.

Vero Councilman Brian Heady, who has been attending Shores meetings, spoke from the podium, saying that he’d come to the realization over his few months on the council that having FP&L take over the city’s electric system is the only viable choice. Heady equated the city’s financial situation as one of being “up the river” and heading toward Niagra Falls.

“I was not in this camp when I got elected,” Heady said. “But I’m now in the camp that the only think that can save us from going over the falls is to sell the power plant.”

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