Fact, fiction, and fuzzy math

COMMENTARY

MARK SCHUMANN

Charlie Wilson
Charlie Wilson

City leaders recently asked their counterparts on the Indian River County Commission to consider sharing in the $25,000-a-year cost of utilities for two Little League fields, a girl’s softball field and a Senior League baseball field.  The Council’s request is now getting lost is a smokescreen of misinformation and fuzzy math.

For example, a regular Tuesday guest on Bob Soos’ radio program inaccurately asserted this morning that if the City would simply charge the leagues FPL rates they would not need a subsidy of some $25,000 a year.

Soo’s guest, Charlie Wilson, told listeners, “The fact is that if the City of Vero Beach Little League were on FPL instead of Vero Electric, they wouldn’t need the money.  The difference between what the Vero Beach Little League needs, the shortfall in their budget, that is requiring them to pay some burdensome amount per person, is because the City of Vero Beach cannot get itself off Vero Electric.”

Wilson’s claim is simply not true.  Currently the city is contributing $25,000 a year to the total $30,000 cost for utilities for all four fields, including approximately $22,000 for electric.

Assuming a rate differential of 25 percent between Vero Electric and FPL, the electric costs for the four fields would be be $5,500 a less a year, not $25,000 less.

This isn’t the first time Wilson’s numbers have been off by a wide margin.  In 2009, while running for a seat on the Vero Beach City Council, Wilson told voters the city could sell the electric system to FPL for $150 million in cash, and would then have some $90 million left to invest after paying off $60 million in debt.  As it turns out, FPL is only offering $111.5 million in cash, and Wilson, or someone else in the pro-sell crowd, failed to account for the cost of extricating the city from long term contracts with the Florida Municipal Power Agency and the Orlando Utilities Commission.

As it turns out, at least according to Finance Commission Chairman Peter Gorry, is seems unlikely the city will net any cash from the sale, never mind $90 million, and may wind up having to bring a check to the closing table.

In an October 8, 2009 interview with Mary Beth McDonald, Wilson argued for regionalization of water and sewer services by claiming that within 10 years city water and sewer rates were projected to triple.  Well, the city’s water and sewer base rates have not gone up over the past five years. Those rates would have to triple between now and 2018 if Wilson’s apocalyptic prediction is to come true. According to Water and Sewer Director, Rob Bolton, the city has no plans to increase water and sewer rates in the forceable future.

2 comments

  1. As I have stated before, we city residents are tired of paying for parks, boat ramps and other amenities that the county residents get to use for free. Fees for non-city residents should be brought into the budget negotiation. The city of Pompano Beach is going to charge $20.00 for each launching of non-city residents boats. The state of Florida charges up to $15.00 for launching.

  2. Indian River County Libraries are now charging non-residents for computer usage and for library cards. This seems appropriate, and I believe the City of Vero Beach should institute similar charges for amenities, etc. used by non-residents.

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