The Vero Beach City Council today voted 4-1 to accept in principle a proposal from Florida Power and Light to acquire Vero Electric for $185 million. The deal is projected to net the City $36 million. The likely sale proceeds will fall far short of the $180 million utility activists Glenn Heran and Steven Faherty once claimed would flow to the City from a sale.
A key component in FPL’s offer is a coupling of the proposed full sale with a sale of Vero Electric’s Indian River Shores customer base. As a fallback, if the full sale cannot be completed, Vero Beach will be obligated to sell its Indian River Shores customers to FPL for $30 million.
Councilman Richard Winger, after sustaining a long and withering personal attack from Mayor Laura Loss, raised concerns about committing to the partial sale at $30 million. Last year, a team of utility experts concluded a partial sale as much less than $42 million would lead to higher rates for the remaining customers. As a candidate for re-election, former City Councilman Randy Old said agreeing to a partial sale at $30 million would be a breach of a Council member’s fiduciary responsibility to the City and to the people of Vero Beach.
Moss, who recently described herself as the “queen” of Vero Beach, has more than once called for civility and respect in communications and debate. Today though, with Winger in her crosshairs, Moss ditched any pretense of caring about civility.
Apparently current Council members Harry Howle, Laura Moss, Lange Sykes and Tony Young are not concerned about the partial sale, for they voted to accept FPL’s letter of intent without revision. (Howle, Moss and Sykes were all elected with significant support from FPL and from Indian River Shores residents.)
FPL representatives and City officials today said they hope to conclude the sale by October, 2018. A closing date any sooner would fall during the 2017-2018 fiscal year and would force the Council to prepare a budget this summer that reveals the extent to which the sale of Vero Electric will result in service cuts and increased taxes. Prior to next year’s election, they are not likely to do much of anything to reveal the financial impact of the sale.