Related Story: Civic Association calls for referendum on partial sale
Larry Wapnick writes:
“All of you are correct, but remember what got all of us into this mess. Bad decisions many years ago by elected former city council members. Since then we have all paid the price, but unfortunately the present residents of Vero are “holding the bag” and must do the right thing. Continuing to “milk” Indian River Shores Residents benefits the city, but it is wrong! Yes the new council members were voted in, the voters knew their platforms, and have owned up to doing the right thing. Let us move on, we will all survive. We will all support the city, and perhaps with lower electric rates be able to support it even more.”
One: The “bad” decision made years ago by former city council members that led to this “mess” was the initial agreement to serve the Shores with utilities. The second decision that led to this season of discontent, in which some Shores residents are customers of Vero Electric and other customers of FPL, was the Shores Town Council’s annexation of area north of the original Town limits.
Two: Vero Beach has not “milked” you or any other Shores electric customer. When those who wanted to develop the area of the island now known as Indian River Shores came to Vero Beach requesting utility services, they were well aware that Vero Beach does what nearly all other municipalities do in earning a percentage of its utility revenue as a return on investment/equity. Unlike FPL, Vero Beach does not use its earnings to pay multi-million dollar salaries to top executives. Rather, the money goes to outfit police cars with defibrillators, to pay municipal employees fair wages, to guard public beaches, to maintain the parks and other facilities Shores residents regularly enjoy at no cost.
Three: Despite what Robert Auwaereter claimed when he went before the Florida Public Service Commission to speak on behalf of the Shores and against the City of Vero Beach, Vero Electric’s rates are not excessive, abusive, unreasonable, or monopolistic. In fact, Vero Electric’s rates are lower than those already approved by the PSC for three of the state’s five investor-owned utilities. Further, since the troika of Tracy Carroll, Craig Fletcher and Pilar Turner was broken up in late 2013, Vero Electric’s rates have steadily declined, and are expected to come down further in the near future. For example, the current fiscal year budget includes $700,000 to decommission the power plant. Those are one-time costs, so unless the new troika of Harry Howle, Laura Moss and Lange Sykes messes things up, rates can likely come down at least $700,000 in the 2017/2018 fiscal year.
Four: While Vero Electric’s rates continue to decline, FPL just received PSC approval for a rate increase of nearly $900 million. Further, though FPL and its allies like to quote the company’s base rate on 1000 kilowatt hours per month, they make no mention of the fact that FPL’s rate structure is tiered, and includes peak use charges. Consequently, you will likely not save nearly as much as you are expecting to, if and when you become a customer of FPL.
Five: Of all the points you made, the one I most disagree with is your assertion that “the voters knew their platforms,” when they voted for Moss and Sykes. Moss and Sykes were supported by a Shores-FPL funded political action committee that spent some $100,000 disseminating flat-out lies. The Shores-FPL funded misinformation campaign carried out by the PAC served to greatly mislead the voters of Vero Beach. In addition to making outrageous claims about how the proceeds from the proposed partial sale could be used, the PAC, and the Moss and Sykes themselves, led voters to believe their “platform” is to bring lower rates to everyone. That is simply not true. What they propose in the short run is a carving up of Vero Electric at the request of the Shores that will lead to higher rates for every one of Vero Electric’s remaining residential and commercial customers. Because the island weekly and the Press Journal are led by publishers who have their own agendas, Vero Beach voters were not properly informed that Moss and Sykes were almost entirely funded by Shores residents, and are members of what Shores Mayor Brian Barefoot describes as “the Shores team.”
Six: The claim that the proposed partial sale of Vero Electric’s Shores customers to FPL now is somehow “in the context of a full sale” is nothing but public relations babble. What does this really mean? Nothing, absolutely nothing! There is no clear path to a full sale. There just isn’t. This talk of a partial sale for the Shores being “in the context of a full sale” is only intended to mollify the people of Vero Beach long enough to get the Shores deal done. The promises Harry Howle, Laura Moss and Lange Sykes have made about finding a way to sell the remainder of the electric system, and at a fair price, are empty promises.