By Michael Salerno
For Hometown News
SOUTH DAYTONA - The power has been turned on for a public forum on a Nov. 6 referendum that could decide whether Florida Power & Light continues to serve the city's electric customers.
City Manager Joseph Yarbrough said at a recent city council meeting that the League of Women Voters will sponsor a forum on the electric issue scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 16, at White Chapel Church of God, 1730 S. Ridgewood Ave. FPL representatives have confirmed they would attend, Mr. Yarbrough said.
The referendum would decide whether the public wants city leaders to establish a municipal-run electrical distribution system and buy FPL's assets for $12.1 million. Although city leaders voted in July 2011 to approve the deal, a group of citizens fought to change the city charter to force the city's decision to be brought to a public vote, believing the citizens should have a say in the decision because of the amount of money involved in the purchase.
Supporters say a city-run utility would result in better service reliability while meeting FPL's rates and profits would stay in the community.
Opponents are skeptical of the city's pledges to provide better service at lower or similar rates as FPL.
If there's anything both sides agree on, it's that they're glad to see a forum on the referendum take place so citizens can become more informed about the issue.
Rosemary Iocco, vice chairwoman of Take Back Our Power - an FPL-funded political action committee that backed the Aug. 14 effort for a public vote - confirmed committee leaders, which include herself and chairman Raymond Lawrence, would attend.
She said her committee remains supportive of the city continuing to contract with FPL for electric services.
"Their rates are the lowest in the state," Ms. Iocco said. "I don't see the city doing the same type of service (as FPL) and I don't think they'll keep the rates down."
Pat Mozden, chairwoman of Empowering South Daytona's Future, which supports the city's decision to purchase the electric utility, confirmed her committee's representatives would be there as well, although she wouldn't be able to attend.
Ms. Mozden, who described the forum as "a tremendous opportunity for the whole city," believes more residents will be tuned in to how voting for or against the purchase would affect them after reviewing the facts presented at the forum.
"We feel it's a great opportunity for both sides to present the facts and what this would look like going forward," she said.
Also, city leaders unanimously approved the construction of a dog park at Reed Canal Park for $17,000, much of that to fence the large and small dog enclosures and remove vegetation to create park space. Maintaining the facility will cost $3,600 annually, according to city staff.
Greg Bartholomew, the city's parks and recreation director, said he expects construction to start sometime after Jan. 1, 2013, and should be completed by the spring.