VERO BEACH — Ten hours after the midnight handoff from Vero Beach Utilities to Florida Power and Light, the parties celebrated a ceremonial closing before a packed crowd in council chambers at City Hall.
Mayor Harry Howle and FPL President and CEO Eric Silagy signed the final sale documents to seal the $183 million deal to transfer the city’s power plant, electric utility assets and 35,000 customers to FPL. All the speakers acknowledged that the historic closing was more than a decade in the making.
Howle said he was glad he wrote down his remarks, which he hardly ever does because, he said, “I really don’t have words.”
“It is a true miracle that we are here today,” Howle said.
County Commission Chair Bob Solari spoke on behalf of his outside-the-city constituents who become FPL customers on Tuesday, as did Indian River Shores Mayor Tom Slater.
Silagy said FPL is “proud to serve” Vero Beach and to increase its role in the community. He thanked everyone who has been a part of the effort since the first grumblings about getting the City out of the electric business in 2007, giving a special shout out to utility activists Dr. Stephen Faherty and local CPA Glenn Heran for convincing the public and city officials of the economic benefits of selling to FPL.
Silagy said the “average bill” for customers who use 1,000 kilowatts of power per month would immediately go down by $20 to $30 per billing cycle. Vero will be sending out final bills and FPL will bill on a pro rata basis for December.
At noon Tuesday FPL is expected to host an invitation-only appreciation luncheon for dignitaries and key people who contributed to the political struggle to get the sale over the finish line.
The City is set to come out of the transaction with approximately $42 million in net proceeds once all obligations are paid off to bondholders, employee pensions and to wholesale power providers for contract exit penalties.
And as soon as FPL can construct a new substation and dismantle the Big Blue power plant to clear the site, the City will receive the riverfront acreage back as a grassy field. The City’s next big task will be to decide what if anything to develop that site into.