Press Journal seems set on aiding Shores, FPL

COMMENTARY

“To whom is the Press Journal editorial board referring when it references those who supposedly object to the sale of Vero Electric? All six City Council candidates have made clear they support the sale, and all have pledged to continue working to find ways to complete the deal, including supporting legislative initiatives.”

MARK SCHUMANN

 Press Journal opinion columnist Larry Reisman’s fingerprints are all over the newspaper’s puzzling editorial endorsing Bob Solari for the Indian River County Commission.

To be sure, Solari is the obvious choice to represent District 5, especially given that his opponent is Brian Heady. Grandstanding Heady has run 20 times for elective office. Chaos is his constant companion. On his worst day, Mr. Solari is sure to do a better job for the people of Indian River County than Heady could ever do.

What does not ring true in the Press Journal’s endorsement of Solari is the claim that he has made “enemies” with those who the newspaper characterizes as supporting the status quo – “including not selling the city’s power operation or moving its sewer plant.”

To whom is the Press Journal editorial board referring when it references those who supposedly object to the sale of Vero Electric? All six City Council candidates have made clear they support the sale, and all have pledged to continue working to find ways to complete the deal, including supporting legislative initiatives.

Like the Press Journal, Solari continues to perpetuate the myth that the City Council has somehow obstructed the sale. The facts do not support this claim. In truth, the deal stalled when  the Orlando Utilities Commission withdrew from negotiations. The OUC was integral to the deal, because Florida Power & Light, being an investor owned utility, cannot legally assume Vero Beach’s position in three power support contracts and power purchase agreements with the Florida Municipal Power Agency. Without a willing and qualified buyer, there can be no sale.

There is, however, a sharp divide among the candidates regarding the Town of Indian River Shores’ request that the City sell its Shores customers to FPL for $30 million. The offer, though up from the $13 million FPL first proposed, is still $17 million short of what a team of five utility experts calculated would be needed to partition and downsize Vero Electric without leaving the remaining customers paying higher rates.

Shores Mayor Brian Barefoot recently introduced three candidates, Laura Moss, Lange Sykes and Normal Wells, as being part of what he described as “the Shores Team.” Moss, Sykes and Wells have said they support the proposed partial sale at $30 million.

Councilman Randy Old, who is running for re-election, and who has an extensive background in banking and finance, has said he believes approving the partial sale at $17 million less than the experts have recommended would be a violation of his fiduciary responsibility to the people of Vero Beach. Like Old, candidates Sharon Gorry and Tony Young have said they are open to a partial sale, but at $47 million, not a discounted price of $30 million.

Regarding moving the City’s sewer plant, the Press Journal’s editorial did not address the fact that the move would cost $20 million or more. The newspaper was also silent on the fact that the move would have little, if any economic benefit to the water and sewer utility.

Though the Press Journal’s editorial board positions itself as championing fiscal responsibility, in this case the board seems quite willing to support charging the City’s water and sewer customers an extra $20 million, not to improve the water and sewer utility, but to make riverfront property available for commercial development. Since the City’s water and sewer customers would not directly benefit from moving the plant, it is hard to justify asking them to pay the cost.

What’s really going on here is that the Press Journal is trying to support the election of three City Council candidates who will support Shores and FPL in their negotiations with the City of Vero Beach.

Editor’s note: Press Journal publisher Bob Brunjes is married to FPL vice president Amy Brunjes. Ms. Brunjes has played a key role in FPL’s attempt to acquire Vero Electric’s Shores customer base.

One comment

  1. A 17,000,000 loss may sound good to the Press Journal, Indian River Shores and the three handpicked candidates for city council , but it does not sit well with those of us who will have to carry the financial burden. Face the facts ,Larry writes what he is told to write by Press Journal Boss Brunjes to aid his FPL wife,Amy. Lets fact it, Wells, Moss and Sykes will be dancing to the Indian River Shores tune because of the large amounts of money given to them by Indian River Shores. And don’t forget the FPL monies their campaigns have received from FPL. You can be sure if the 3 are elected they will be costing us $17,000,000 and any future costs associated with the power producing plants.

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