After hearing three hours of input from Indian River Shores officials and residents, as well as from attorneys representing the Shores and the City of Vero Beach, the Florida Public Service Commission today denied the Town’s request to modify long-standing territorial orders establishing Vero Electric’s service within the Town. Shores leaders sought to have the area within the Town served by Vero Electric reassigned to Florida Power & Light.
Shores’ special counsel, Bruce May, argued that Vero Beach’s authority to continue serving within the Town ends when the franchise agreement between the Shores and City expires in November. The Indian River County commission made a similar argument in appealing a PSC decision to the Florida Supreme Court earlier this year. The County’s argument was rejected by the state’s highest court. Notwithstanding, May insisted it will be unconstitutional for Vero Beach to continue serving its Shores customers after November.
Shores, Town Manager Robbie Stabe told the Commission the Vero Beach City Council rejected Florida Power & Light recent $30 million offer to buy its Shores customers without making a counter offer. In truth, as Vero Beach special utility counsel, Schef Wright, told the commission, the City Council let it be known it would entertain an offer at $47 million. That is the amount a team of utility experts established as necessary to prevent advise impact to the City, its taxpayers and remaining electric customers.
May argued Vero Beach has “abused” monopolistic powers by charging excessive rates, by providing inferior service and by not giving Shores residents a say in the running of Vero Electric. May repeated these claims least half a dozen times during today’s meeting.
Rebutting May, Wright reminded the Commission that the City’s electric rates are below rates the PSC has approved for several investor owned utilities. Further, Vero Beach charges the same rates to all its customers.
May offered no evidence to substantiate his claims that Vero Beach’s service is “inferior.” To his point about representation, more than one Commissioner observed that the Shores has at least advisory representation on Vero Beach’s Utilities Commission.
Wright also reminded the Commission that Shores officials rejected an offer from the City to submit its rates for PSC review. May and his clients seem to want to be free to argue the City’s rates are unreasonable without having to substantiate their claim.
Shores officials have 21 days to appeal the Commission’s decision. If the Shores and appeals, and if the PSC then affirms today’s decision, the Shores will have the option of appealing that decision directly to the Florida Supreme Court, the same place where the Indian River County ultimately lost its case against Vero Beach.