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County Attorney seeking help to handle Vero Beach utilities issues

INDIAN RIVER COUNTY – County Attorney Alan Polackwich is searching for a law firm that has experience in both electric and water-sewer utility franchise agreements as he delves into the county’s agreements with the City of Vero Beach.

Commissioners this week approved $15,000 for Polackwich to hire that as-of-yet-named firm on a consulting basis. Polackwich told the commissioners that the county’s agreements with the city will be the “most significant” issue the county will deal with over the next year or two.

The county and city have agreements that require the City of Vero Beach to provide electricity and water and sewer service to areas outside the city’s limits.

The water and sewer franchise agreements between the city and county expire in 2017. However, the county is expected to give a few years’ notice to the city if it chooses not to renew the agreement.

Polackwich told commissioners that he must, essentially, become the “most knowledgeable” person in the county on those franchise agreements. To that end, he has discovered that he is lacking in-house expertise on the subject.

Commissioner Joe Flescher supported Polackwich’s request, noting that the attorney has done well to reduce the need for outside counsel.

Flescher said the $15,000 is “rather well founded” and a small amount to pay for such a large undertaking.

Commission Chairman Peter O’Bryan, too, supported the request, telling his fellow board members that the county needs the best advice it can get because decisions on the franchise agreements could impact thousands of residents for years.

So far, Polackwich has not had luck finding a firm that can handle both electric and water and sewer issues. He told commissioners he went to the Florida Public Service Commission’s Web site to look at the firms that have filed cases – going through electric and then through water-sewer.

“Never did those paths cross very well,” Polackwich said.

Now that the funding has been approved, Polackwich will continue searching for a law firm and told commissioners he expects to bring back the name to the next commission meeting, which will be Aug. 17.

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