Editor’s note: In an email released Wednesday afternoon, Indian River Shores Town Clerk Laura Aldrich announced that Sen. Jack Latvala of clearwater Clearwater has cancelled his planned appearance at the Shores Town Hall tomorrow afternoon at 4:30. Aldrich gave not indication if, or when a meeting between Shores residents and Latvala might be rescheduled.
Making a number of grossly inaccurate and unfounded charges against Vero Beach and Vero Electric, Latvala has been pushing, if not pressuring the Florida Public Service Commission to turn its service territory agreement arrangements upside down by reassigning Vero Electric’s Shores service territory to Florida Power & Light. Ironically, Latvala is not also asking the PSC to reassign his home county of Pinellas from Duke Energy to Florida Power & Light. The switch would lead to saving of some 18 percent for the residents and businesses of one of the state’s most populated counties.
Based on rational Florida Sen. Jack Latavala laid out in a letter he wrote recently to Florida Public Service Commission Chairman Julie Brown, you have got to wonder why the Clearwater Republican is not working as hard to represent the interests of his own constituents as he is in taking up the cause of the residents of Indian River Shores.
Latvala serves Sen. District 20, an area that receives it electric power from Duke Energy. Duke’s current rate for 1000 kWh per month is $108.48, compared to Florida Power & Light’s rate of $89.54 – a difference of nearly 18 percent. What is most interesting about Latvala’s encouragement to the PSC to redraw the electric service territory for Vero Beach to exclude the Shores is that he is not also urging the PSC to re-assign Pinellas County from Duke Energy’s service territory to FPL.
Just imagine what a boost it would be to the Pinellas economy if the residents and businesses there could cut their electric bills some 18 percent. It’s simple. Just ask the PSC to reassign Pinellas County from Duke Energy to FPL. Well, it’s really not that simply, which is exactly why the PSC did not follow Latvala’s advice.
In the letter to PSC Chair Brown, Latvala wrote, “For far too long, the citizens of the Town (of Indian River Shores) have been given no voice and no form of representation before their electric provider, the City of Vero Beach. With no way to redress their complaints at either the ballot box or through a representative utility authority, thousands of consumers in the Town have been subjected to excessive rates and poor quality service from an unresponsive provider.”
Now that’s a mouth full, especially coming from someone who has, at best, secondhand knowledge of Vero Beach and Indian River Shores.
Latvala must be unaware that in negotiations with the Shores, Vero Beach leaders offered to establish a utility authority, and to submit the City’s electric rates to review by the PSC. Shores leaders rejected both offers. Latvala must not know Vero Electric’s Shores customers, who make up approximately 10 percent of the customers base, have a disproportionate share of representation on the Vero Beach Utilities Commission. The Shores Town Council appoints one of five permanent members and one alternate member to Vero Beach’s Utilities Commission.
And where does Latvala come off charging that Vero Electric’s service is inferior to FPL, or that the employees of Vero Electric are unresponsive? After the hurricane of 2004, the customers of Vero Electric was back on line days, and in some cases weeks ahead of FPL customers in Indian River County.
Shores Town Clerk Laura Aldrich sent out an email this afternoon announcing that Latvala has “carved time from his schedule to meet with Town residents” later this month. So far this year, Latvala has taken in more than $200,000 in campaign contribution. Perhaps he has “carved time out of his schedule” to meet with and to pander to wealthy Shores residents in an effort to further strengthen his campaign war chest.