VERO BEACH –The Vero Beach utility advisory committee was told Tuesday officials are still waiting to hear back from Florida Power & Light if it is interested in providing power to the city.
“FP&L, to the best of my knowledge has not officially responded that they’re interested in buying all or part of our electric system,” said Acting Electric Utility Director John Lee. “To the best of our knowledge, they’re still working on it at a high level.”
In the meantime, Grand Harbor resident J. Rock Tonkel urged the committee to participate in a workshop requested by the Board of County Commissioners to explore the pros and cons of staying in the electric business.
“It seems to me that this would be an opportunity for all of you to think this through . . . so you can assist the community in making a decision,” Tonkel said. “If the facts are what the facts are then why not have a debate?”
At its May 4 meeting, the city council killed the idea of joining the county in an electric utility workshop, saying that it was premature and that the city wanted to wait for FP&L to put an offer with “real numbers” on the table.
The advisory committee also failed to engage in a discussion regarding the ongoing efforts to study options for possibly consolidating water and sewer service with the county. Water and Sewer Director Rob Bolton told the committee the city and the Indian River Shores Town Council had approved a plan to interview stakeholders, but that the county wanted a broader scope to the first phase of the study.
“We’re meeting again (next) Monday,” Bolton said.
Bolton gave Utility Advisory Committee members a peek into the city’s $11 million deep-well injection project, which is designed to transport wastewater about 3,000 feet deep and inject it into the ground. The city has deemed this approach as superior to treating the water when excessive wet-weather discharge must be handled. Bolton said new federal environmental guidelines appear as if they will require treatment plants to undergo major upgrades to meet standards.
When asked how the county utility system is handling those issues and needs for capacity, Bolton responded, “I don’t know if they’re really having any issues with their wastewater.”
Members spent a few minutes discussing what the role of the committee should be, whether or not it is fulfilling a “useful” role for the city and whether or not they are doing what the council expects or what the public expects. It was mentioned that the city needs “all useful hands on deck” to handle the complex decisions coming in the near future.
Chairman Lee Everett advised that the purpose of the committee, when formed, was technical and not intended to vet issues prior to council consideration.
“We had almost no public attending these meetings for years and years,” Everett said. “The public participation has been a very recent thing, it started with the studies on the rates last year.”
John Lee also gave the committee a presentation, which the city council saw on May 4, illustrating Vero electric rates at $125.95 for 1,000 kilowatt hours, as compared to utilities around Florida. He noted that FP&L is by far the cheapest at $93.04 as was positioned as number one on the listing, but that Vero has improved from its position as 36 out of 37 in degree of cost and has moved up to number 11 on the list.
The committee had no new business on its agenda and adjourned after about an hour.