Concerns over possible sale of old Dodgertown course raise larger questions about City’s future

COMMENTARY

“Reisman quoted former Vero Beach mayor Mary Beth McDonald as questioning if the City is really so desperate that it can longer afford to hold on to the Dodgertown property. The larger question everyone should be asking is whether, after the sale of Vero Electric and the forced takeover of its water and sewer utility, the City will be able to continue to exist as an incorporated municipality.”

MARK SCHUMANN

Related Story: Should Vero Beach sell old Dodgertown course?

Press Journal opinion columnist Larry Reisman today addressed a proposal for the City of Vero Beach to sell for $2.7 million 35 acres of land it purchased in 2005 for $10 million.

At the time the City acquired the old Dodgertwon golf course, supporters of the purchase argued that the move would prevent further residential development in an already congested area, and would provide for more public open space. If the City Council accepts the offer it has received from a Palm Beach Gardens developer, it will be taking a net loss of $7.3 million. Further, the Council will be paving the way for 280 new homes to be built on what was once a nine-hole golf course open to the public.

Reisman argues that selling the property for just $2.7 million will “compound the problems associated with a bad investment made 12 years ago,” concluding, “Quality of life is our No. 1 asset.”

If Reisman truly believes quality of life is the community’s “No. 1 asset,” then his unquestioning and unqualified support for selling Vero Electric to Florida Power & Light is, to use his words, “a sick irony.”

Whether or not one supports the sale of Vero Electric, facts are what they are; and the facts are that electric rate savings will not be nearly as much as originally promised. The sale will also result in negative financial consequences to the City and to its residents.

After accounting for offsetting savings, the City’s General Fund will be short at least a few million dollars, requiring further budget cuts or tax increase, or a combination of the two.

Some $1 million in administrative expenses now paid by Vero Electric will have to be picked up by the City’s other enterprise funds, largely by the water and sewer utility. An aggregate rate increase of $1 million will result in an average rate increase of approximately 8%, thus pushing the City’s water and sewer rates above the County’s.

At that point, Bob Solari, Glenn Heran and Stephen Faherty will launch another push for the County to take over the Vero Beach’s water and sewer utility, and at a fire sale price. If Solari and company are successful in forcing Vero Beach out of the water and sewer business, the City will lose another $1 million now transferred annually to the General Fund to help pay of basic municipal services.

Reisman quoted former Vero Beach mayor Mary Beth McDonald as questioning if the City is really so desperate that it can longer afford to hold on to the Dodgertown property. The larger question everyone should be asking is whether, after the sale of Vero Electric and the forced takeover of its water and sewer utility, the City will be able to continue to exist as an incorporated municipality.

Conventional wisdom holds that Vero Beach voters no longer expect their elected officials to think more than one step ahead, or to negotiate the best deal possible on the proposed electric sale.

Some say that to point out flaws in the rational for proposed power sale, or to question the current Council majority’s negotiating prowess, is to run the risk of going against public opinion.  So what! Currently, public opinion on this issue is not only uninformed, but also misinformed. In fact, the public has for years been been misled by an island weekly newspaper best known for taking art of propaganda to a new level. To make matters worse, the local daily newspaper is failing in its duty to report the news.

The Press Journal, for example, has yet to inform its readers of the fact that two recently elected Vero Beach City Council members, Laura Moss and Lange Sykes, won election after receiving nearly all of their contributions and support from Indian River Shores residents and from FPL. For his part, Reisman has never publicly commented on this unprecedented level of outside influence in a municipal election. (Reisman’s publisher, Bob Brunjes, is married to a key FPL executive involved in the company’s efforts to acquire municipal utilities.)

Make no mistake about it. After the sale of Vero Electric will come the County’s attempt at a hostile takeover of the City’s water and sewer utility, at which point things will indeed begin to unravel.

If Reisman and his colleagues at the Press Journal are going to continue serving the interests of FPL, then they should stop pretending they care about the quality of life made possible by the continued existence of Vero Beach as an independently incorporated municipality.

2 comments

  1. Short-term thinking has long-term consequences. Concerns over the continued existence of Vero Beach are well-founded.

  2. The price is NOT right. If the city council accepts this offer they will have once again settled for a sales prices that is far too low. Selling Vero Electric to FPL for $30,000,000 instead of the $47,000,000, that has been deemed the real value, is a great mistake that will have negative consequences for the city as long as the city exists.

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