Vero Beach repeals $13 million in rate increases

VERO BEACH — The Vero Beach City Council, over the objection of Councilman Brian Heady, utility activists and a member of the city’s Finance Committee, has voted to repeal four years of increases to its water and sewer rates.

After an extended and heated discussion, the vote came down 4-1 with Heady the lone dissenter. Heady objected to the lack of financial analysis provided to council members prior to the vote and questioned the long-term wisdom of the decision to reduce future revenues by about $13 million between now and 2014.

  Councilman Tom White reminded the few people left watching the meeting in person that he voted against the rate increases last year. He said the council had been working on the issue for more than a year.

“I hate to say this in public, but you’re damned if you do and you’re damned if you don’t,” White said, harkening back to the flack the council took for raising the rates and now the criticism over the repeal.

Heady elaborated on White’s comment.

“You get elected if you do and you’re not re-elected if you vote for the continuation of the increases,” Heady said.

City Finance Committee member Pilar Turner during public comment said that the matter should be vetted not only by her committee but also by the city’s Utility Advisory Committee and the city council should ask for a recommendation from those groups.

Turner also questioned the timing of the repeal and suggested that the proximity to the election with four seats up for grabs was no coincidence.

Councilman Ken Daige asked City Manager Jim Gabbard if the repeal would in any way negatively affect the water and sewer utility.

“No, we have ample revenues to cover our costs, debt service and capital improvements and we’ll have excess cash,” Gabbard said.

Heady added that, to be realistic, the city needs to figure into its long-range plans the serious possibility that the 39 percent of the customers in Indian River Shores and the county will be off the system in 2016 and 2017 respectively.

“Anyone who is paying attention knows that the Shores and the county are gonna leave,” Heady said.

In a presentation earlier in the meeting, utility activists Dr. Stephen Faherty and CPA Glenn Heran gave a presentation that pointed out that the city would lose approximately 44 percent of its revenues if the county and Shores customers did not renew their franchise agreements.

Related Articles

Comments are closed.