“Town leaders today claim it is untenable that some residents are served by one utility and some by another, but they never bother to acknowledge that the situation is of their own making.”
Town of Indian River Shores special utility counsel, Bruce May, Town Manager, Robbie Stabe, and Shores Vice Mayor, Gerry Weick, deserve the “Pants On Fire” award for their performance today before the Florida Public Service Commission.
When asked by Chairman Julie Brown if Vero Beach officials counter offered Florida Power & Light’s $30 million proposal to buy Vero Electric’s Shores infrastructure and customer base, Stable, with a straight face, said, “No.” Stabe must have “misremembered” the truth, for when three members of the Vero Beach City Council voted to inform Shores leaders and FPL officials that they would consider a $47 million offer, that action, for all intents and purposes, constituted a counter offer.
Reading from a letter written by Shores Mayor Brian Barefoot, Stabe claimed the PSC’s establishment of Vero Electric’s northern service boundary at Winter Beach Road “divided the Town in two.” In truth, the Town wound up with some residents served by FPL and others by Vero Electric when it annexed land north of Winter Beach Road. Town leaders today claim it is untenable that some residents are served by one utility and some by another, but they never bother to acknowledge that the situation is of their own making.
Weick told the Commission that in declining FPL’s $30 million offer Vero Beach officials, “…simply say ($30 million) is not enough.” In truth, Vero Beach officials have given the Shores a full accounting of how its team of experts calculated the break-even number at $47 million.
If May gets paid the big bucks to distort the truth, he certainly earned his keep today. More times than one could count, May asserted that Vero Beach is “abusing monopoly privileges” by charging unreasonable rates, by providing Shores residents with inferior service, and by not giving Shores residents a voice in the running of Vero Electric.
As of July, the average rate for the state’s investor owned utilities (all regulated by the PSC) was $124.5. Vero’s rate was $117.58, well below the average for those utilities with rates approved by the PSC. Though May repeatedly claimed Vero Electric’s rates are unreasonable, he offered no specifics on what rates would be justified, based on the City’s cost structures.
As to May’s claims that Shores residents receive inferior service, her offered nothing but hot air – not a single specific example. The Shores’ high-priced attorney also gave no weight to the fact that the Town is represented on Vero Beach’s Utilities Commission.
May also told the Commissioners Vero Beach’s rates have gone up since the Town began trying through legal action and the current PSC petition to be transferred to FPL. In fact, Vero Beach’s rates have come down. For 1000 kilowatt hours per month, the City’s rate is 23.8 percent higher than FPL. (Accounting for a 6 percent franchise fee, the differential is 19 percent.)
Listening to Stabe, May and Weick describe an alternate, fantasy universe, you have to wonder if truth is no longer valued – in politics, or in law. You have to wonder if we have slipped into a post-truth world.