Nick Thomas: When we sell Vero electric, it will be gone forever

Animator: Thomas LaBaff, Narrator: Larry Reisman, Audio Editor: Wayne Dillon (Idea Garden)

Once upon a time . . .

There was a small town in Florida called Vero Beach.

Founded in 1925, Vero Beach grew slowly on four economic pillars – it produced the world’s-best citrus fruit, it was home to the Dodger’s spring-training baseball, and, with its unbeatable winter weather and sparkling beaches, it attracted both tourists and retirees.

Vero was a prosperous town from the start. In fact, early in its history, Vero was able to build its own power plant, which, at first, only ran in the evenings. But it was soon expanded to Wednesday afternoons so people could do their ironing.

As the county of Indian River grew, beach-side neighborhoods to the north and south looked to Vero Beach to provide them with reliable electric power. Vero Beach obliged without requiring these neighborhood to incorporate into the City. By and by, these neighborhoods grew into some of the richest in the United States. And everyone worked together as neighbors.

All the while, the City leaders stayed true to what made Vero Beach special. As south Florida was gobbled up by developers, building miles of tract neighborhoods and high rises in the name of short-term profit, Vero held the line. Eventually, Vero Beach was one of the last towns in Florida that could claim both a vibrant economy and a small-town charm. And that only lead to more prosperity and notoriety.

Naturally, it was not always easy to keep Vero Vero. Every generation, developers would come knocking with promises of jobs and riches, if only Vero would change its ways and give into to development. In fact, in 1972, in an uncharacteristic lapse, Vero approved the building of two twin 12-story condos, the Village Spires. To this day, these two buildings are notable as the only high-rise buildings in the County.

Today being no exception to the pattern of greed, the developers are again knocking on the door, asking Vero Beach to give in and become part of South Florida.

But this time, they are trying a new strategy.

Vero Beach electric, the same service that allowed our City and County to grow on our own terms over the years, and the same profitable enterprise that provides the City with one quarter of its yearly $20 million operating budget, is now under attack by forces seeking to sell out the City for short-term profits.

Florida Power & Light and its local supporters are seeking to drive Vero Electric out of business. Promising lower power rates to citizens both inside and outside the City, FPL and its supporters refuse to provide any vision for how the City will survive without the income provided by Vero Electric.

The most likely scenario is that, starved of the funds it needs to survive and unable to convince its citizens to double their property taxes, the City will simply go bankrupt, cease to exist.

After that, developers will only need three votes on the five-member County Commission to change the laws and undo what we’ve all worked to build since 1925.

If you don’t think it can happen, drive to the Palm Beach county line and have a look around.

We all want low electric rates. But how can we vote intelligently without knowing the cost to the City we all love.

On March 12, City voters will be asked to approve the sale of Vero Electric to FPL. If you think this vote is simply about lower electric rates, you don’t have the full story, or even three quarters of it.

FPL may well be able to provide lower rates, but there’s no guarantee it will last. But when we sell Vero Electric, it will be gone forever.

Nick Thomas, a Vero Beach native, is a former candidate for Vero Beach City Council and Indian River County Commission.

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Comments » 9

imaginepeace writes:

This vote is premature. Why require a vote now when the sale is a year (or four years) away? A no vote does not mean the FPL sale or the three pro-sale council members are going away. A no vote does demand that council members properly represent city residents by informing us of the full facts concerning the sale so that city residents may be responsible informed voters instead of voting on the basis of pro-sell city council members' and county residents' hype. A yes vote removes all power from city residents and gives it to city council (or worse, commits the city to the sale despite the uncertainties of what might transpire over the next one to four years). Based on city council's performance to date (and IMO their misguided efforts to force the utility sales, twin pair revisions, and subsidization of downtown businesses via a downtown taxing program), city council has not earned the right to this much power. City council has to listen to its constituents and properly inform its constituents and not just, IMO, run roughshod over those who dare to question city council's wisdom and motives.

One question I have not yet seen addressed: Why must city residents bear the entire cost of exiting contracts? If the surcharge to county residents has merit, why doesn't FPL increase the price paid to the city, then continue the surcharge to county residents until the additional costs of county service are recouped? The FPL sale seems to give county customers a windfall gain at city customers expense.

FloridaMan writes:

AND, they/we still don't have the full story. BUT, what we do have are the facts and the scare tactics.
FACTS:
IF, the city reduces it's debt and downsizes its payroll at all levels, to match other cities our size. Then they will be fine and property taxes won't "double". AND, we will have much better service and rates for years to come.
SCARE TACTICS:
Higher (new) taxes, loss of our police force & fire department, loss of city services. And my most favorite......Smart meters.

Get a grip! The power plant is old and dying, and will bankrupt the city if even one of the generators dies.

FloridaMan writes:

in response to imaginepeace:

This vote is premature. Why require a vote now when the sale is a year (or four years) away? A no vote does not mean the FPL sale or the three pro-sale council members are going away. A no vote does demand that council members properly represent city residents by informing us of the full facts concerning the sale so that city residents may be responsible informed voters instead of voting on the basis of pro-sell city council members' and county residents' hype. A yes vote removes all power from city residents and gives it to city council (or worse, commits the city to the sale despite the uncertainties of what might transpire over the next one to four years). Based on city council's performance to date (and IMO their misguided efforts to force the utility sales, twin pair revisions, and subsidization of downtown businesses via a downtown taxing program), city council has not earned the right to this much power. City council has to listen to its constituents and properly inform its constituents and not just, IMO, run roughshod over those who dare to question city council's wisdom and motives.

One question I have not yet seen addressed: Why must city residents bear the entire cost of exiting contracts? If the surcharge to county residents has merit, why doesn't FPL increase the price paid to the city, then continue the surcharge to county residents until the additional costs of county service are recouped? The FPL sale seems to give county customers a windfall gain at city customers expense.

"The County" residents have been PAYING through the nose for years, so that the City and its residents could live off of the overcharging of the "City's" power.

Also, "ANY" debit and wrong doings (like signing power contracts with blacked out sections) that they "City" has, is their own fault and should bare the blundt when they sell the power plant.

whatyadontknow writes:

in response to FloridaMan:

AND, they/we still don't have the full story. BUT, what we do have are the facts and the scare tactics.
FACTS:
IF, the city reduces it's debt and downsizes its payroll at all levels, to match other cities our size. Then they will be fine and property taxes won't "double". AND, we will have much better service and rates for years to come.
SCARE TACTICS:
Higher (new) taxes, loss of our police force & fire department, loss of city services. And my most favorite......Smart meters.

Get a grip! The power plant is old and dying, and will bankrupt the city if even one of the generators dies.

If this plant is so old and dying than why did FPL representatives tell the City Council that this was the best kept, cleanest facility they have seen? Why do upgrades on this system, fire her up, get her purring and then sell her to FPL.? What was the reasoning behind that? The misinformation is what the 3 muskateers are giving out along with Heran and Faherty. You live in the county...your choice. Leave the city to the city taxpayers. you get a GRIP.

FloridaMan writes:

in response to whatyadontknow:

If this plant is so old and dying than why did FPL representatives tell the City Council that this was the best kept, cleanest facility they have seen? Why do upgrades on this system, fire her up, get her purring and then sell her to FPL.? What was the reasoning behind that? The misinformation is what the 3 muskateers are giving out along with Heran and Faherty. You live in the county...your choice. Leave the city to the city taxpayers. you get a GRIP.

It's the best kept and cleanest, because they don't turn it on and run it unless they have no other choice. And they haven't done upgrades. they have simply kept the must do maintenance up, and most of that after their due dates.

Wonderer writes:

You can wash a pig and put a dress on it, but you still have a pig. Your logic is the same. You don't mention the greed of those who long ago, decided that instead of charging fair property taxes, they would burden those who have no property or very little. How they decided to subsidize property taxes through electric rates to attract the affluent. You don't mention how they sought contracts to forever prevent the sale of the utility so they could go on taxing through the electric service. You fail to mention those who are smiled at, while picking their pockets. How many of them struggle, and suffer, to provide for their families, while we allow this charade to continue. We have a power plant that doesn't run, and it is costing the area $25,000,000.00 more dollars a year for electricity. The Vero you remember is not the Vero I know.
It is time to stop, sell this blue monster that is sucking the life blood out of its people.

XWFO writes:

"imaginepeace writes:
This vote is premature. Why require a vote now when the sale is a year (or four years) away? A no vote does not mean the FPL sale or the three pro-sale council members are going away."

You are sadly mistaken. A no vote does, in fact, mean the FPL offer will go away. FPL has spent more money on this deal than the city has. If the referendum is not approve the sale, the sale WILL go away.

The result of that is the city will have to continue to find some way to fund it's $30,000,000 of unfunded city worker pension obligation. If you want to consider a potential increase in taxes, consider how much they will go up if VB taxpayers have to make that payment as opposed to paying it off with profits from the sale.

The sale either goes now, or it will never go away.

markmucher writes:

Nick,

Didn't I hear you say when you were running to office that, by March (today), FPL rates would be equal to or higher than Vero?
(Remember, Vero is now 39-40% higher than FPL)

Are the rest of your predictions and judgement of equal quality?

VeroLynne writes:

Sorry Larry Reisman chose to hide you away on the web and publish his own version of history in the front section of the PJ, and on the front of the web page. Seems unfair, seems biased, and I think it speaks to the fear that people are catching on. The folks who want a yes vote are leaving out all the real problems, and not telling the public the truth -- that they have no guarantees for the promises they claim.

Convincing the city residents to vote blindly may be some good trick, all right, but sad to say it the return of the Spires is just what they want.

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