Vero City Council refuses three times to discuss electric issues

VERO BEACH — Though the rest of the county is openly debating all options for the future of the Vero Beach Electric Utility, the Vero Beach City Council decided Tuesday it’s not ready to give a hearing to the issue.

Three items on the council agenda — a presentation by activists Dr. Steve Faherty and Glenn Heran, a debate of the merits of selling or keeping the utility and a workshop with the Board of County Commissioners and the Indian River Shores Town Council — all failed to be considered for lack of a second.

Councilman Brian Heady made motions to get all three items on the calendar, but he was unable to garner any support from fellow council members for the workshop, the debate or the presentation by Heran and Faherty.

“They (Faherty and Heran) presented at the county and I saw the presentation again at the Town of Indian River Shores,” Heady said. “This is the Vero Beach Electric Utility and I think we should do this.”The presentation shows through the input of variables that in most every conceivable scenario the city of Vero Beach is better off selling the utility to Florida Power and Light.

Councilman Ken Daige came out strongly Tuesday against the exploration of the issue in the public forum. Though he was adamant that high utility bills are hurting people and the city staff needs to “do better” in their efforts to cut costs and get rates down, Daige agreed with Mayor Kevin Sawnick that such a discussion would be fruitless prior to receiving an offer for the sale of the utility from Florida Power and Light or another buyer.FP&L has been researching the viability of taking over Vero Beach Electric and is expected to get back with the city within a week. The city wants to use what it considers “real” numbers from an FP&L study before debating what to do about the electric utility FP&L was supposed to have met with the city by the end of last month with a decision whether to continue discussions.

“We’re in a waiting pattern here, we are waiting for FP&L,” Daige said. “None of the individuals who stand there (gesturing to the public podium) are certified experts in electric or utility matters. As far as getting into a debate with the general public or having people come up here and make presentations, I’m not for it.”

County Commission Chair Peter O’Bryan had sent Vero a letter requesting them to a joint meeting to present its best arguments for maintaining city ownership and management of the electric utility.

In April, Faherty and Heran presented their detailed financial model advocating for selling the utility, citing the community as a whole would benefit to the tune of $20 to $30 million annually. City of Vero Beach electric rates are presently 34 percent higher than FP&L.

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