Shores Mayor Barefoot proposes “dismissing” litigation against Vero Beach

NEWS ANALYSIS

“A sale at a fair price could be a win-win, but Shores leaders and FPL negotiations have so far shown little concern for Vero Electric’s remaining customers.”

MARK SCHUMANN

Shores Mayor Brian Barefoot
Shores Mayor Brian Barefoot

During a “shade” meeting of the Indian River Shores Town Council yesterday, Shores leaders discussed how to move forward with their legal challenge to Vero Beach. In a statement released after the meeting, Mayor Brian Barefoot revealed that he is proposing to “dismiss the circuit court lawsuit in a fashion that would bring all of the circuit court litigation to a close.”

Last month, the Florida Supreme Court ruled against the Indian River County Commission in a similar challenge to Vero Electric.  To date the Shores has spent some $800,000 on attorneys’ fees.

Barefoot also proposed that Shores and Vero Beach leaders, and their lawyers and consultants, begin negotiating a so-called partial sale of Vero Electric’s Shores customer base to Florida Power & Light.

FPL previously proposed paying $13 million for Vero Electric’s 3400 Shores customers. City leaders say it will take closer to $40 million to avoid negatively impacting the remaining customers. A major issue in Vero Beach’s fall municipal elections may be at what price to sell off Vero Electric’s Shores customers. If their past involvement in Vero Beach’s municipal elections is any predictor of the future, Shores leaders will likely seek to promote candidates who will favor a sale at a price lower than $40 million.

Vero Beach and Shores officials have also been at odds over the Town’s plans to establish its own utility authority to determine and regulate electric rates. Today Barefoot proposed “suspending the effectiveness” of the relevant ordinance passed last year.

Finally, Barefoot proposed continued discussions between himself and Vero Beach Mayor Jay Kramer, between Indian River Shores Town Manager Robbie Stabe and Vero Beach City Manager Jim O’Connor, and between Shores attorney Chester Clem and Vero Beach City Attorney Wayne Coment.

Optimist will see a softening in the Shores’ position. Skeptics will argue that, following the County’s loss before the Florida Supreme Court, Barefoot is essentially raising the white flag, convinced the Town’s legal challenges are on shaky ground.

The larger question now is not how the litigation will be resolved, since the recent Supreme Court went fully and completely against the County. What remains to be seen is if Vero Beach officials will be able to resist pressures to sell the utility’s Shores meters at a price so low remaining customers will be hurt. A sale at a fair price could be a win-win, but Shores leaders and FPL negotiations have so far shown little concern for Vero Electric’s remaining customers.

2 comments

  1. When will the Florida Public Service Commission make a decision on the FPL request for a customer base rate increase? I understand that FPL customers could – if approved – expect to pay a little over $13.00 more per 1,000 Kwh per month. I’m told this would be about 24% more than current rates. I imagine the citizens of Indian River Shores will not be too happy knowing they’ve paid out about $800,000 on attorneys and now could be up for an increase in electric rates somewhere down the line if they end up with FPL as their provider.

  2. Mayor Barefoot is smart enough to know when the battle is lost, but not wise enough to know the Vero Electric sale should never have been started in the first place. $800,000 wasted in a battle that could never be won. Now the mayor and council will have to answer to the people for their mistakes.

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