Site icon Vero News

Heady casts lone vote against sale to FP&L

VERO BEACH — For months, Vero Beach Councilman Brian Heady tried to get the previous city council to even talk about selling its electric utility to Florida Power and Light, but when forced to vote on the issue Tuesday night, he backtracked and cast a no.

The motion was to declare that it be the policy of the City of Vero Beach that it should sell the Electric Utility Department of the City of Vero Beach if it is financially beneficial to the City of Vero Beach. “That’s not going to get a yes vote from me. I know we need to do something with the utility, we need to know what we’re doing first,” Heady said.

“I haven’t made up my mind that I want to see a sale,” Heady said, adding that he needs “a whole lot more information.”

That 4-1 vote effectively denied Councilman Craig Fletcher from obtaining the “united front” he had requested from his colleagues by voting on the intention to sell as a policy.

“If we want to sell the power plant, we need to tell the staff  ‘yea, verily, we want to sell the power plant.’ This is the biggie, do you want to sell the Power Plant and Transmisson and Distribution?” Fletcher asked his colleagues.

“The staff needs to have this set down for them, we need to sell the Power Plant, the utility, rather. That big changes are in order, big changes need to happen,” Fletcher said. “You (the staff) can get on board with this and help us, but if you choose not to get on board with us, you could possibly exercise your opportunity for another career path.”

Heady countered that he thinks the writing is clearly on the wall at City Hall that change is coming.

“I just don’t see that staff doesn’t have a very clear understanding that the council’s aim is to do something very clear to solve the electric utility problem,” Heady said. “I think this is something we ought to workshop.”

Councilwoman Tracy Carroll took the council through the logic of why FP&L is the natural buyer of the system. Not only does FP&L have the lowest rates in Florida, it also surrounds the City of Vero Beach Electric territory. Carroll said it would be nice if the city had other competitive options, but she sees none.

Carroll ran on a platform of getting the city out of the electric business.

“It’s really a breath of new, fresh air that we now have a government that would take this issue head on like this,” said Dr. Stephen Faherty, who has fought the city for more than two years to open up debate about the benefits of becoming customers of FP&L.

When asked about this seeming reversal in Heady’s position on the issue, utility activist CPA Glenn Heran said he thought Heady was being overly cautious.

“In this particular case, I completely agree with Mr. Fletcher. The city needs to set a policy that they’re going to sell. At this point we need an offer and to direct the staff to cooperate in that effort,” Heran said. “Once we have an offer, we can completely vet the benefits.”

In other actions related to the electric utility, the City Council voted 4-1 to hold off on a $35,000 payment to the Florida Municipal Electric Association until the benefits to the city, if any, could be determined.

The FMEA is a coalition of municipal utilities which provides training to staff and lobbies elected officials on behalf of publicly-owned electric utilities.

In 2009, the FMEA effectively blocked legislation proposed by Rep. Debbie Mayfield which would have brought the City of Vero Beach Electric Utility under the regulation of the Florida Public Service Commission.

Councilman Craig Fletcher cast the lone nay vote .

On Dec. 1, four of the five members of the council — with the exception of Fletcher — will meet privately with FP&L to discuss the status of a potential sale of the electric utility. Fletcher refused to meet with the power provider in private and demanded that the meeting be with all the council together, in public.

“That’s what all of us ran on, open and transparent government,” Fletcher said.

The council did direct Interim City Manager Monte Falls to inquire as to whether or not FP&L would be amenable to a public meeting where there could be questions and answers and the public could get an update on the sale as well.

Finally, the City Council voted for the City Clerk and City Attorney to locate and provide to them the original, unredacted version of the $2 billion Orlando Utilities Commission contract that the City Council was shown in April 2008 so they could compare it with the version of the contract singed by then-Mayor Tom White after the April 15, 2008 meeting.

Heady said he is convinced that there were material changes made and is still very curious as to whether the draft contained the $50 million penalty which some have called the “poison pill” of the contract which would keep Vero in the utility business for at least 20 years.

The meeting ran nearly five hours, adjourning just before 11 p.m

Exit mobile version