In a marathon City Council meeting today, Mayor Laura Moss, Vice Mayor Harry Howle and Lange Sykes voted down proceeding with the Stormwater utility proposal. Richard Winger and Tony Young supported moving forward with the proposal. After presentations by lagoon science experts, environmental activists, homeowners and limited government advocates, newly elected Moss and Sykes, joined Howle in postponing any decision on how to fund a stormwater utility or even whether to have one at all.
Public Resources Management Group (PRMG) first presented their electric system rate study update and cost of service analysis in anticipation of proceeding with the structuring of a stormwater utility, but concerns about the cost ($108,000 spent already and another $40,000 anticipated expenses) became the primary concern for majority Council members.
Except for the Town of Indian River Shores Vero Beach is the only municipality in five counties bordering the Indian River Lagoon without a stormwater utility. Other options to pay for infrastructure needed to reduce the flow of contaminated water were discussed, but in the past, money budgeted for stormwater runoff or road repairs has been diverted to other needs. Support for a stormwater utility is strong in the community and Lange Sykes benefited from that support in narrowly edging out by 29 votes Randy Old in November’s election.
Today’s opposition was based primarily on concerns about creating another layer of government although the utility would be managed from within the current City government and not add any personnel or offices.
This is the second major decision handed down by the Moss-Howle-Sykes majority since taking office, the first being acceptance of the FPL/Indian River Shores offer of $30 million to walk away from Vero Electric. That controversial decision came in spite of the advice from five utility experts hired by the city who warned that anything less than $47 million would put its remaining ratepayers in jeopardy of higher rates and Vero Beach customers paying higher taxes.