County Commission votes to make water-sewer pitch to Indian River Shores

INDIAN RIVER COUNTY — The Indian River Board of County Commissioners voted Tuesday to submit a proposal to the Town of Indian River Shores to provide water-sewer service to the Town for 30 years beginning in 2016.The vote was 4-1 with Commissioner Peter O’Bryan dissenting. O’Bryan said he did not agree with his colleague’s preference to offer Indian River Shores the same rates as other county ratepayers because the cost of connecting the Shores is still unknown. The costs, which could be up to $6.5 million on the high side, would depend greatly upon how much, if any, cooperation the county gets from the City of Vero Beach. Indian River Shores is currently in the 25th year of a 30-year franchise agreement with Vero.The consensus of at least Chairman Bob Solari, Commissioner Wesley Davis and Commissioner Gary Wheeler was that they were hopeful that a deal can be struck with Vero Beach in the near future to regionalize or consolidate utility systems.”I agree with you philosophically, but I don’t see the city coming to the table the way they’ve been taking shots at our system,” O’Bryan said.Commissioner Wheeler pointed out that he had only heard one member of the City Council — Mayor Jay Kramer — seriously questioning the county’s assertions about the water-sewer utility.County Utility Director Erik Olson said the county has the excess capacity to serve the nearly 2,000 households in the Shores currently on the water-sewer system, even if every landowner who has paid an impact fee hooked onto the county system. Olson also said that all the ratepayers could benefit from an economy of scale if the County and Vero joined forces.Olson advised the County Commission to offer to the Vero Beach City Council during a joint meeting on April 29 to take over the Vero Beach system and to assume the system’s $24 in debt.Chairman Bob Solari advocated strongly for the Shores residents to get the same rates paid by current County customers.”It’s both politically do-able and the best for the county as a whole,” Solari said.The County will submit a proposal for consideration by the Indian River Shores Town Council during its April 28 meeting. The Shores also has a proposal on the table from the City of Vero Beach to stay on the Vero system.Olson said that a move by the Shores to sign on with Indian River County Utilities — combined with the fact that the County intends not to renew a franchise for the South Barrier Island and mainland county customers on the Vero system — could give the City of Vero Beach Utilities great financial motivation to negotiate a regional utility solution

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