Editor’s Note: Dick Winger is a former three-term City Councilman and Mayor.
Folks, bring your sandwiches and a thermos, starting at 3:00 PM at City Hall, the Carnival is in town with hucksters, clowns, sharpshooters, pickpockets, and dwarfs restructuring your City and spending your money.
It is going to go on forever, because City Council met just once in July with two members absent, had two July half day budget sessions, instead of three full days (they approved any and all increased expenditures), and there is only one August meeting. The result is this meeting is jammed full, maybe to curfew time of 11:00 PM. Maybe they hope you will get discouraged and not pay attention, but you know you can tune in on Comcast channel 13, AT&T Channel 99, or online www.covb.org/341/CTYVB-13—City-of-Vero-Beach-Official-T
Please don’t miss this meeting, for our way of life is at stake!
There will be all the sideshows you can imagine, and perhaps a police action or two. But don’t count on the lemonade stand being open, which is possibly something this Council could manage.
The issues in order are:
1. 2.D – Sale of Dodgertown for $2.1 million which is less than the last Council turned down ($2.7 Million), less than the $3.5 million appraised value and far less than the $9.95 million paid in 2005, or the approximately $5.0 million we owe. We were promised Green space out west. We need a plan not a rush to a low ball sale!
2. 2.E 1 – Petition Protesting the PSC delay of the Sale of the City Electric. I have always supported the sale, but note the legal issue discussed below means the law probably outweighs rhetoric. Still, the rhetoric cannot hurt.
3. 1.2A1F – open Public Comment – Sure to be long and poignant.
4. 3.D – Approval of the Sale of the Downtown Post Office which the buyer has said is extremely unwise of the City. This is under the Consent Agenda, meaning unless a member of Council, or public requests discussion, it is automatically approved and gone, gone.
5. 4.AD and 4.A2 – Complaints to the Florida Public Service Commission on the Electric Sale to FPL and comments thereon
6. 4A 1&2 – Dispute between members of Council on appropriate conduct in the past and future.
7. 4.B 1-6 – Tourist Tax Dispute with County where 57% of the tax is earned by City Hotels, but none is available for City needs, such as essential lifeguarding.
8. 6.A – Announcing a Public Hearing of the Sale of various parcels and equipment of the Electric Utility will be held September 18^th. This matter will not be discussed, but the date should obviously be the first meeting after the PSC has ruled. September 18^th is putting the cart before the horse.
9. 8.1 – City Manager’s Proposed Budget Adjustment for the financial effects of the delay in the Electric Sale. It is no Plan B, just a little stuff, and makes the assumption, with no alternate planning, that the sale will close December 31^st. Nobody knows that, and the odds are that date is overly optimistic.
10. 8.2 Request for Proposals to Lease the City Marina. The Marina should not be leased in this writer’s opinion. What is absent is good management by the City Manager and this City Council.
Well, folks there it is, so many important issues for your future it is hard to comprehend them.
Draw up a chair. You need to be there or watching, because elections are November 6^th.
P.S. Explanation of the issue brought by complainant Florida Industrial Power Users Group. It is the same issue brought forward by PSC staff, resulting in a 3:2 vote in our favor, but over-ruling PSC staff. The issue is that FPL is paying approximately $116 million more than Vero Beach Electric Utility is worth. Because FPL is allowed to recover an 11-12% return on investment each year, this means FPL bills statewide would be inflated about $13 million annually. Because homeowners use much less power, at much lower rates, that Industrial users, the vast majority of this would be paid by industrial users. It does not seem like much money when Next Era Energy (FPL’s parent) made $795 million last quarter alone. But the issue reaches beyond that, as there are several further and bigger acquisitions in the works, including Jacksonville Electric Authority. So both the money, and the precedent say, the Vero Beach Electric sale is important statewide.
PSC decisions can be appealed by any of the four complainants to the Florida Supreme Court. They can also be appealed by the City or FPL. The PSC could write an amended decision which might not be appealed, or which would better withstand such an appeal than the current order. Likely, that would mean one, or a combination of two amendments. One possible amendment is the ratepayers of the City of Vero Beach Electric pay a surcharge over a period of perhaps 10 years to pay off the premium. The other option is that Next Era Energy charges off the premium against its retained earnings. With the new tax law, there could be possibilities only a specialized lawyer could comment on.