“Last year, Howle argued a sale of the full system is possible, if only the Council would, with resolve, implement his proposed five-point plan. Now Howle seems more interested in providing immediate rate relief for Shores residents, leaving his own constituents to wait in hopes a partial sale does not make a sale of the remainder of the system more difficult.”
Vero Beach City Council members Laura Moss and Lange Sykes, whose campaigns were funded almost entirely by Indian River Shores residents and by Florida Power and Light, seem set to join with Harry Howle tomorrow in pressing ahead with the proposed sale of Vero Electric’s 3500 Indian River Shores customers to FPL.
The City now has in hand a letter of intent from FPL to purchase the Shores portion of the electric system for $30 million, including $3 million to be paid by Shores residents through a three-year surcharge. The Shores Town Council last week approved the surcharge, which would be assessed by FPL.
Councilman Richard Winger has also placed two electric issue items on tomorrow’s agenda. When a team of five independent utility experts calculate it would take $47 million to downsize Vero Electric without the move leading to higher rates and higher taxes for the residents of Vero Beach and for the remaining customers of Vero Electric, that total included $4.8 million in contingent liabilities. The $4.8 million represents the Shores’ proportionate share of all of Vero Electric’s contingent liabilities. Winger is proposing that the Shores offer Vero Beach a “hold-harmless” provision as a part of any partial sale.
Winger is also proposing to push for a sale of the full system by following up on proposals made by Howle when he ran for election. Last year, Howle argued a sale of the full system is possible, if only the Council would, with resolve, implement his proposed five-point plan. Now Howle seems more interested in providing immediate rate relief for Shores residents, leaving his own constituents to wait in hopes a partial sale does not make a sale of the remainder of the system more difficult.
At the Council’s Nov. 22 meeting, Howle, Moss and Sykes fired special utility counsel, Schef Wright, who had, since 2013, representing the City in its disputes with the Shores and the Indian River County Commission. By all accounts, Wright successfully turned back challenges by the Shores and the County, in circuit court, before the Florida Public Service Commission and, most notably, before the Florida Supreme Court. Claiming to lack confidence in Wright’s ability to conclude a partial sale to the Shores, Howle said he would be glad to pay another attorney twice Wright’s hourly rate.
Tomorrow, Howle seems set propose the Council consider hiring Nathaniel L. Domineer of the law firm of Carlton Fields. In submitting his agenda item, Howle did not indicate who brought Domineer to his attention, but one has to wonder it it wasn’t FPL. The last attorneys suggested by FPL cost Vero Beach $2 million dollars, but failed to negotiate an executable purchase and sale agreement.
Councilman Tony Young is proposing that the City should first issue a request for proposals before hiring an attorney to negotiate a sale of Shores customers to FPL.
Also tomorrow, Steve McDonald, who has studied Vero Beach’s bond covenants and credit ratings, will give a presentation explaining the limitations on how any proceeds from a partial sale can be used. McDonald touched on the subject at the Nov. 22 meeting. What seems clear is that the money cannot legally be used in any of the ways proposed by the political action committee that supported Moss and Sykes in the recent election. That committee raised all of its $106,000 in donations from Shores residents and from FPL.