Zudan’s letter to the editor asks the wrong question, and is misleading

COMMENTARY

MARK SCHUMANN

The Press Journal today published a letter to the editor from Vero Beach City Council candidate Val Zudan’s wife, Tracey. In addition to leveling misleading attacks on her husband’s opponents, Zudan’s letter leads the reader to believe the rate she is paying Vero Electric has not come down in recent years. “Has anyone seen their rates lowered?” Zudans asked, rhetorically.

According to public records released by the City Clerk’s Office today, rates at the Zudan’s home are 13% lower than they were in 2009.  The City issued a utility bill in August 2009 for 3845 Indian River Drive charging 15.3 cents per kilowatt hour for 3437 kilowatt hours. The utility bill issued this year was for a rate of 13 cents per kilowatt hour for 4572 kilowatt hours, a rate reduction of 13%. (The average residential customer uses 1000 kilowatt hours per month.)

Given the increase in power consumption at the Zudans residence, the question isn’t whether the bill has gone down, but whether the rate they pay per kilowatt hour has decreased. In fact, their rate has come down 13 percent, while FPL customers have seen and will continue to see increases, including a looming $4 per 1000 kilowatt hour storm charge.

Zudan’s misleading assertion about rates was compounded by her selective account of the history of Florida Power and Light’s attempts to acquire Vero Electric. While it is true that FPL made an initial run at Vero Electric is the 1920s, the company also negotiated a purchase and sale agreement with the City in the late 1970s. FPL backed out of that deal.

Zudan, playing attack dog for her husband, also claimed that members of the Vero Beach City Council “killed” the 2011 contract. What she failed to explain is that the Orlando Utilities Commission backed out of the deal before FPL’s proposed $26 million surcharge could be vetted by the City’s advisory commissions. The position taken by some Council members that a $26 million surcharge be vetted by the appropriate advisory commissions before they would approve it was the only responsible position to take.

About one claim Zudan was right on point. This election is indeed “the inflection point of the future of Vero Beach.” If her husband Val and Harry Howle prevail this coming Tuesday, it will not be long before they are pushing to hand the City’s exceptionally well managed water and sewer system over to the County. Proposals to merge the Vero Beach Police Department with the Indian River County Sheriff’s Office will follow. Parks and recreation programs will be cut. Lifeguards will be laid off. Vero Beach will never be the same again.

Editor’s note: Candidate Val’s surrogate, Tracey, is also correct that the contract recently approved and signed by the City Council does not guarantee a sale of the full Vero Electric system to FPL.  Before that deal can go forward, 19 member cities of the Florida Municipal Power Agency’s All Requirements Project must first approve of letting Vero Beach out of its contractual obligations.

What the contract does guarantee is that if a sale of the full system is not possible, Vero Beach will be obligated to carve up its electric utility, handing the Indian River Shores portion over to FPL. This so called partial sale, supported by Zudans and fellow FPL-sponsored candidate, Harry Howle, will be good for Shores residents and for FPL, but will lead to higher electric rates and higher taxes for the residents of Vero Beach. 

 

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