Regulators deny Shores’ attempt to exit Vero electric

TALLAHASSEE — The Florida Public Service Commission voted 4-1 Tuesday to support its legal staff’s recommendation, effectively denying the Town of Indian River Shores’ request to move 3,000 of the town’s electric customers served by the City of Vero Beach out of the city’s territory and onto Florida Power & Light’s system.

After more than three hours of discussion and testimony from town officials, customers and attorneys for both the Shores and Vero, only Commissioner Lisa Edgar voted in dissent to recognize the town’s home rule power and give residents some rate relief.

Vice Mayor Jerry Weick, who is term-limited in November, testified about the city’s rejection in August of FPL’s $30 million offer to purchase the Shores customers, saying that city officials said the offer was “not enough” and concluded by saying, on behalf of his constituents paying 30 percent higher rates and subsidizing Vero’s low property tax rate with utility transfers, “We’ve had enough!”

Shores’ lead utilities attorney Bruce May, of the law firm Holland and Knight, told commissioners that a failure to act would give the Shores a reason to take its case to federal court and pursue an antitrust case, since that failure would demonstrate a lack of robust regulatory system to prevent monopoly abuses.

It is the position of the Shores that, once the town’s 30-year franchise agreement with Vero electric expires on Nov. 6, that the city will be in violation of Florida’s constitution because the city will no longer have the town’s consent to operate within its municipal borders.

Vero’s attorney Robert Scheffel “Schef” Wright argued the city’s position that Vero’s territorial agreement granted by the PSC trumps any power the Shores may think it has to kick the city out. Wright also said that, though Vero admits its rates are “not where we’d like them to be,” that the what the city charges is completely justifiable and not unreasonable.

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