City utility workshop addresses uncertain future

VERO BEACH — A brainstorming workshop of the Vero Beach Utility Advisory Commission focused a great deal of its time on the reality that water, sewer and possibly electric customers outside the city might leave the system and the electric utility might eventually go up for sale.

Councilman Brian Heady had asked for the meeting so the commission could adequately prepare for discussions with Florida Power and Light and other power providers that have been invited to meet with the commission in March.

The purpose of the March meeting is to open up dialogue about studying and coming up with a value of the city’s power plant and power resources to be used in a potential sale offer. The Commission, led by Chairman Lee Everett and then Vice Chairman Dick Chapman, will develop a battery of questions to be asked of FPL and other power providers.

Acting Electric Utility Director John Lee suggested the city solicit questions from the public, to be added to the questions from the Commission and from citizen activists Dr. Stephen Faherty and Glenn Heran, who have led the charge for selling the utility.

Questions will be compiled, prioritized and reviewed by the City Council and sent to interested power providers.

“I want every question from the public asked and answered,” said Heady after the meeting.

On the water and sewer front, Director Rob Bolton told the commission members that the city’s deep well injection project was moving along that that the well has reached about 3,200 feet.

The well would dispose of treated wastewater and would be designed to place the wastewater deeper than the aquifer and other drinking water sources. This, Bolton has said during previous meetings, would be especially important during a season of extensive rain or storms, giving the city options for wet-weather discharge.

Other than the deep-well injection plant, which Bolton has said would be critical whether or not the city and county consolidated water and sewer utilities, Bolton announced to the Commission that he would be bringing forth proposals to postpone major capital projects in light of the fact that the city, county and Town of Indian River Shores are in the midst of studying various ways to combine efforts, reduce redundancy in service, should there be advantages to city utility ratepayers.

The joint commission on utilities has obtained qualified proposals from three consultants to study possible consolidation efforts. Two other firms might also be considered, even though their applications either came in late or incomplete.

This group, made up of two representatives from the city, two from the county and two from Indian River Shores, will review proposals from consultants at its February meeting.

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