Vero Beach voters clamor for FP&L sale
By Jessica Tuggle
VERO BEACH -- Vero Beach voters answered the "to sell, or not to sell" question with a resounding "yes" during a special election last week.
The Vero Beach City Council-approved referendum question to the public whether to sell the municipal electrical utility to Florida Power and Light is now in the books with a stamp of finality.
The election results were 63.75 percent for approval of the sale and 36.25 percent for rejecting the sale. The numbers were very similar to a 2011 vote on whether to lease the power plant land to FP&L.
A big selling point of moving to FP&L power is that electric rates could see a decrease, proponents of the sale have said.
Currently, FP&L power rates are about 40 percent lower than what Vero Beach electric customers are paying.
Former Vero Beach Councilman Charlie Wilson, who is credited for vocalizing on council the need to pursue a sale with FP&L, was pleased with the results.
"Last night felt more like groundhogs day than Election
Day," Mr. Wilson said in an email. "This is the fifth time the people have spoken. It is time the 'no supporters' join with us to work together for what the people have recognized is a better future and lower rates. I thank the voters for being well informed and getting out to vote."
In the past few elections, city voters have chosen candidates who have said they are interested in getting out of the electric utility, Mr. Wilson has said.
Vero Beach City Manager Jim O'Connor said he is ready to move forward in the sale process.
"The vote was not unexpected and reinforces the challenge the city council gave me when I was hired, and that was to bring a contract to them for the sale of the electric system," Mr. O'Connor said in an email. "Our next step will be to negotiate with Florida Municipal Power Agency the terms and conditions of our exit from the All Requirements project."
The project serves wholesale power to 14 cities around Florida and the municipal members are considered owners, not just customers of the power system.
Finding a way to extricate Vero Beach from three other power supply contacts has been achieved, but the large all-requirements project has yet to be negotiated, leading some councilmembers and members of the public to believe it will not happen.
According to the city's legal counsel on the sale and FP&L representatives, a closing date for the sale could occur as soon as 2014.
For more information about upcoming city government meetings, visit www.covb.org.