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Shores’ new gas contract halfway home

After a summer of delays, Indian River Shores’ utility franchise agreement with a Florida City Gas subsidiary is finally – almost – a sealed deal.

According to Town Manager Pete Sweeney, the original plan was to bring forward what he described as “a standard franchise agreement similar to what other municipalities have with this same entity.”

That type of action could have been approved with one vote, and become effective as soon as both the town and the gas company had signed. The agreement awards a non-exclusive right to use town rights of way to provide gas service in the town for 20 years with a 10-year renewal unless the town opts not to renew and gives two years notice.

Though Sweeney had said near the end of May “it is not anticipated to be an ordinance, which would require at least two readings and the required associated advertising,” the agreement did eventually come to the council by way of a 14-page ordinance, not a standard contract.

Florida City Gas is a part of the Next Era Energy Company which also owns Florida Power & Light, but the town’s agreement is not directly with Florida City Gas. The company the town is contracting with is a New Jersey-based company called Pivotal Utility Holdings Inc. which is one of the companies which does business as Florida City Gas, charging rates set by the Florida Public Service Commission.

Should Pivotal Utility Holdings Inc. re-organize its operations or have some other reason to hand off its customer base to another provider, the ordinance allows for that.

“Franchisee shall have the right, without obtaining the Town’s consent, to transfer or assign this Franchise as result of a total or complete merger or consolidation of Franchisee with a third party, or sale of the Franchisee’s assets. Any sale, assignment, lease or other alienation and transfer of this Franchise shall be subject to the conditions that the successor-in-interest to the Facilities and/or the rights under this Franchise shall have agreed in writing to be bound by the terms and conditions of this Agreement. Franchisee may, without obtaining the Town’s consent, pledge this Franchise and/or the facilities as security,” the document reads.

With gas pipeline work ever-present on A1A this year and more heavy work needed to hook up individual communities, the town made sure to include language making it very clear what the gas company needed to do post-construction.

Each private community whose residents want to subscribe to natural gas service will need to execute its own agreement with the gas company, apart from the town ordinance.

“Franchisee shall take safety precautions to alert the public of work, which may include, but is not limited to, the use of barricades and signs,” the ordinance reads.

No changes were made to the ordinance as presented prior to council approval last month.

Town Manager Jim Harpring said the second reading of Ordinance 564 has been set for a second and final vote on Sept. 26.

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