The hypocrisy Vero Beach City Council members Laura Moss and Lange Sykes displayed in Tuesday’s meeting was shocking. Moss and Sykes made it clear that, if allowed, they would spend months pouring over every detail in a non-binding proposed Comprehensive Land Use Plan, yet even though they do not yet have in hand the proposed purchase and sale agreement for the sale of Vero Electric, they are determined to approve the contract by election day.
The absurdity of Moss’ and Sykes’ willingness to give speedy approval to what will almost surely be a 400-500 page legally binding document would be humorous, if it were not so foolish – a dark comedy. Over the objections of the Finance Commission, Moss and Sykes, with Howle’s support, are also determined to obligate the City to a partial sale of its Indian River Shores electric customers.
The sad irony is that Moss, Sykes and Howle were elected with significant support from political action committees funded by Florida Power and Light and by Indian River Shores Residents. In addition to joining with FPL in paying for a political action committees to support Sykes and Moss, Shores residents also gave Sykes 90 percent of his campaign contributions. Moss took in 70 percent of her campaign funds from Shores residents. To assume Moss and Sykes are now acting in the best interests of the people of Vero Beach is the height of absurdity.
“If review by these committees in any way prevents our ability to move this contract forward (before election day), then I am not in favor of that,” Sykes said.
Why the rush to approve the contract before election day? Quite simply, Howle, Moss and Sykes don’t want to run risk of losing their majority before getting this deal signed. After all, that is what Shores residents and FPL “hired” them to do.
In explaining why he is prepared to sign a contract even before it can be vetted by the Utilities and Finance Commissions, Howle explained that he, not the members of the Commissions, was elected to represent his “constituents.” If Howle were being completely honest, he would acknowledge that his true constituents are the residents of Indian River Shores and the fine folks at FPL.
As it is being drafted, the purchase and sale agreement which Howle, Moss and Sykes are pushing to sign before Nov. 7 will obligate the City to a partial sale, if a full sale cannot be completed. Particularly concerning to the members of the Finance Commission are the likely negative impacts of selling just the Indian River Shores portion of Vero Electric.
Finance Commission member Peter Gorry explained that in a partial sale the City would lose 10% of its customers, but would shed only 3% of its transmission, distribution and customer service expenses. (Because the Indian River Shores portion of the distribution grid is already underground, it is less expense to maintain and to service.)
Further, with capital investments having already been made in Indian River Shores, the great majority of the City’s capital improvements in the utility are now being invested throughout the remainder of the system. After a partial sale, the City will still need to make those investments, but will not have its Shores customers to help cover the cost. Never mind that the City’s electric customers outside the Shores have help to fund the capital improves made within the Town.
“For the customers who remain their rates are going to go up. If we go with the partial sale, you are charging the customers who remain an increase in their rates,” Gorry said.