FP&L responds to Vero’s sale query – more information needed

VERO BEACH – Florida Power and Light wants more information from the City of Vero Beach before deciding whether it would be interested in buying part or all of the city’s electric utility, it told City Manager Jim Gabbard in a letter received Tuesday.

Vice President Pamela Rauch sent the letter in response to the city asking the power provider if it would consider the purchase.

“We understand that your customers are concerned about their cost for electric service and we also understand what it takes for the City of Vero Beach to provide electricity to its customers,” Rauch wrote.  

However, Rauch said the company would need to review an unredacted version of the city’s contract with Orlando Utilities Commission and other contracts before deciding.

“I’m happy to see they’re interested,” Councilman Brian Heady said Wednesday. He said he does not believe it should take too much time or cost too much to have the city collect the documents and send them to FP&L.

Heady said he plans to bring it up at the next council meeting under his matters if City Manager Jim Gabbard does not address it.

“We’re open to anything,” Vice Mayor Sabe Abell said.

Providing the documents, however, could prove challenging. Abell said that while the OUC contract is a matter of public record, other documents FP&L wants to review contain information that remains confidential.

“Our previous experience with municipal acquisitions has demonstrated that there are often obstacles that can materially impact the economics of such a transaction,” Rauch wrote. “We would be happy to work with the city to undertake a preliminary evaluation to determine whether any obvious, material obstacles to an acquisition exist and generally whether an acquisition could be structured in a manner which benefits both FP&L and the city’s current electric customers.”

After reviewing the necessary documents, Rauch said FP&L would report back to the city with its findings.

“This letter is not a commitment, nor an offer to enter into a commitment, and does not bind either party in any manner related to a potential acquisition of the city’s electric system,” Rauch wrote.

Abell said that even if FP&L did want to buy the electric utility, it would not be easy and could take a couple years.

“It’s not like buying a loaf of bread,” he said, adding that it could cost approximately $300,000 to evaluate the electric system in the event a purchase agreement seemed likely.

“We need more information,” Abell said. “They need more information.”

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