Meeting to decide how to select utility consultant on hold

VERO BEACH — The commission established to coordinate a study to consolidate Vero Beach and Indian River County water and sewer services was to meet Thursday to decide how its consultant will be chosen.

That meeting has been postponed. A makeup date for the meeting was not immediately known.

About 100 vendors have purchased the Request for Qualifications packet through the county’s purchasing department. County Utilities Director Erik Olson said it’s hard to say how many of those consulting firms will actually submit a proposal, but he guessed possibly about 60.

“We should agree to the criteria that we will all use to establish the short list of consultants,” said Olson, who requested the group flesh out what it is looking for its next meeting.

The joint commission, which has been meeting nearly every week since Oct. 22, is made up of two representatives from the county, two from the City of Vero Beach and two from the Town of Indian River Shores. The three entities will split the cost of the consulting work, which is estimated to cost about $75,000.

It will be up to the six members of the commission to evaluate and rank the consultants, though the town, city and county elected officials will have input into the final choice.

City officials and consultants have openly declared their skepticism about combining efforts with the county. However, if the effort to regionalize were not to go forward, the Board of County Commissioners has the option to not renew the current franchise agreement with the City of Vero Beach for water and sewer service to about one-third of the city’s current utility customers.

County franchise agreements expire in 2017 so notice of this non-renewal would need to be given to the city by 2012.

The Town of Indian River Shores also has a franchise agreement with the City of Vero Beach for water and sewer services. Town officials are awaiting the results of the study, as the town must make a decision by October 2011 on an agreement, which expires in 2016.

The consultant hired will study the costs, capital requirements and logistical concerns of various consolidation or partnership options. The report is expected to be completed by June or July.

Initial estimates done by the county staff say consolidation would cost $38 to $56 million.

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