Vero electric sale moving forward

The sale of Vero electric continues to move through needed approvals, with more than half Vero’s sister cities in the statewide Florida Municipal Power Association co-op voting ‘yes’ to let the city out of its membership, and the Florida Public Service Commission giving notice that it will audit the value of the utility assets being acquired by Florida Power & Light.

Both FPL and the city say the audit is standard procedure, and that the deal is still on track for a closing on or before October.

“A PSC audit is a common practice in dockets involving rates or financial transactions. While the Commission has not issued a formal schedule for completion of the audit, we would not expect it to affect our schedule for closing,” said FPL spokesman David McDermitt.

One of the PSC’s responsibilities, along with redrawing FPL’s territory to include Vero Electric’s nearly 34,000 customers, is to review the proposed sale terms to ensure that FPL’s existing 4.9 million ratepayers will not be harmed by FPL paying Vero $185 million to grow its customer base.

The power company’s purchase offer includes provisions for FPL to make employment opportunities available to qualified Vero electric utility employees, and the construction of a state-of-the-art, storm-hardened substation on a portion of Vero’s “old postal annex” property on the southwest corner of 17th Street and Indian River Boulevard.

Next will come the decommissioning of all utility buildings and equipment from the Big Blue power plant site, freeing up that valuable riverfront parcel.

How long will it take for the PSC to double-check the valuation FPL settled on to formulate its $185 million offer? City Manager Jim O’Connor wasn’t certain, but said, “It is expected and should conclude in February for hopefully a March hearing as I understand.”

PSC hearings are held in Tallahassee, typically once per month as petitions on the docket are vetted by the technical and legal staff and readied for a vote. To save time, FPL has pre-filed expert testimony to back up its petition for approval. Among those who have filed testimony on behalf of FPL’s request is former PSC member and long-time utility consultant Terry Deason, who did some rate analysis work for the Town of Indian River Shores a few years back.

When asked to weigh in on how routine the audit is or how long it might take, Deason said it would not be appropriate for him to comment since he has filed testimony in this PSC docket matter.

In the meantime, Florida Municipal Power Agency CEO Jacob Williams is set to continue his treks around the state to obtain approvals of agreements freeing Vero from its obligations as a member of the co-op.

Still to approve Vero’s exit are Alachua, Fort Meade, Keys Energy, St. Cloud, Clewiston, Lake Worth, Jacksonville Beach and Vero’s closest neighbor, the Fort Pierce Utility Authority. Key upcoming FMPA board meetings when the Vero electric sale will be on the agenda are Jan. 18 and Feb. 15.

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