The three Vero Beach City Council candidates supported by Shores leaders, Laura Moss, Lange Sykes and Norman Wells, will likely be armed with sizable campaign war chests bolstered by contributions from wealthy Shores residents. It will be for the voters of Vero Beach to sift the truth from a mountain of lies. Bracing for an onslaught of campaign mailers paid for with Indian River Shores money, many may wonder exactly which are the biggest lies being told by the Town’s leaders. Here they are:
Shores lie number one: Vero Beach’s electric rates are oppressive, and an abuse of monopoly privileges.
Truth: Down from a high of $158 per kWh in 2009 to $117 this year, Vero Electric’s rates are well below those approved by the Florida Public Service Commission for several of the state five investor owned utilities. The PSC allows investor owned utilities an 11 percent rate of return. Vero Beach’s rates yield the City what amounts to a 4.5 percent rate of return, or approximately 6 percent of total billings. This money is transferred from the electric fund to the General Fund to help pay for municipal services, such as police protection. In contrast, profits for FPL and other investor owned utilities are typically not returned to the communities they serve, but rather are paid out in dividends and in generous executive bonuses. (Vero Beach has a contractual right to charge Shores customers a 10 percent surcharge, but City leaders dropped that fee years ago.)
Shores lie number two: Vero Beach leaders rejected out of hand Florida Power & Light’s offer to by Vero Electric’s Indian River Shores infrastructure and customer base of $30 million.
Truth: Along with their team of five utility experts, Vero Beach officials considered carefully the price at which the City would need to sell the Shores portion of its electric utility without impacting the remaining customers and the taxpayers of Vero Beach. The City’s position all along has been that the sale would need to be revenue neutral, and must not leave the City and its taxpayers exposed to future risks. At $47 million, City leaders believe they can carve off the Shores portion of Vero Electric without the move leading to higher electric rates and higher taxes.
Shores lie number three: Vero Beach refused to counter FPL’s $30 million offer. (In response to a question from Florida Pubic Service Commission Chairwoman Julie Brown, Shores Town Manager Robbie Stabe said Vero Beach did not extend to FPL and the Shores a counter offer.)
Truth: By a 3-2 vote, the Vero Beach City Council passed a motion to inform FPL and the Shores that the City would consider a $47 million offer.
Shores lie number four: Vero Electric offers inferior service to Shores residents. (Without offering so much a a shred of evidence, Shores’ utility counsel Bruce May told the PSC Vero Electric offers Shores residents inferior service.)
Truth: All of Vero Electric’s customers pay the same rates regardless of where they live; and at least according to City officials, Vero Electric employees do not discriminate in responding to calls for service, and the City does not give preference when planning for regular maintenance and improvements to the transmission and distribution system.