Vero council votes 5-0 for FP&L to continue sale discussions

VERO BEACH — The Vero Beach City Council authorized Florida Power and Light Tuesday to talk to its power partners, in what could be the next step in selling the city’s electric utility.

FP&L executive Pam Rauch said a sale of an electric utility is a “complex matter” and made clear she had nothing concrete to bring to the council — yet. Rauch admitted that she and her colleagues had provided information, “based on assumptions,” to city council members last week, but said more work was needed to confirm those assumptions. “We’re really not ready to tell you that FP&L is prepared to make you an offer and we’re not ready to tell you that we know what your system is worth,” Rauch said.

The Council voted 5-0 to allow FP&L to meet with the Orlando Utilities Commission and Florida Municipal Power Association about the city’s long-term legal entanglements to purchase power from those entities.

Local residents spoke for and against a sale of the electric system from the podium. One utility customer called Vero service “wonderful” and another said he liked having local access to the decision-makers who control the electric utility in the event that he has a problem.

“I’m kinda happy with the city, I have five meters, one FP&L and four with the city and they’re all too high,” said Mark Tripson, a county resident on the city system. “I can come up here and complain, I’m still trying to find out where the president of FP&L lives.”

Still other customers emphasized that electric bills, despite some reductions from last summer’s soaring rates, are still too high in comparison with FP&L.

“We can’t continue to pay the City of Vero Beach rates,” said beachside resident Tracy Carroll, who has declared her candidacy for city council in November.

Former Councilman Charlie Wilson, who made the motion to bring FP&L to the table initially in December, pointed out that the city has been wrangling over whether or not to sell to FP&L since 1976.

“We’ve waited for this day for a long time,” Wilson said.

Council members also expressed reservations about unanswered questions regarding a deal and what would happen with property taxes. The city’s auditors offered last week a rough analysis saying that property taxes may have to go up to offset lost revenues electric customers pay into the general fund to the tune of nearly $8 million.

Councilman Ken Daige summed up the polarizing effect the issue has had on not only the city, but the community as a whole.

“We’ve had many folks come up here, we have people who want us to stay in the utility business and there are people who want us to get out,” Daige said. “There are people who don’t care about any of this but they say, ‘fix my bill.’ This is your city, you need to figure out what you want to do.”


FP&L invited city staff to attend the meetings with the OUC and FMPA, but a requirement for city staff to be there was not made part of the motion, as Councilman Ken Daige requested.

There was no timeline given to the council for negotiations to proceed. The process is now in its eighth month since FP&L first attended a city council meeting in December at which time they said they would be happy to help Vero in whatever way they could.

“I’m totally stoked,” Utility activist and CPA Glenn Heran said after the meeting. “I think it’s great that FP&L is coming here and going to continue the process, to do their due diligence. I think it’s a tremendous opportunity for the whole community, both the taxpayer and the ratepayer.”

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