Has Howle given up on sale of Vero Electric?
When Harry Howle ran for the Vero Beach City Council in 2015, he offered a five-point plan for selling Vero Electric. None of his proposals have been implemented, and, more importantly, none included a partial sale to the Shores. Now Howle argues that downsizing Vero Electric by selling off the Shores customer base is somehow an essential step in moving toward a sale of the remainder of the utility system.
“Echoing Brunjes, Moss, Sykes and Howle all said a sale of Vero Beach’s Shores customers is now a vital step toward a sale of the full system, though no one, including Brunjes, explained how a partial sale would clear the way for a sale of the remainder of Vero Electric. Howle’s support for a partial sale suggests he may no longer believe in the 5-point plan he laid out last year.”
Newspaper advertisements like this one placed by a political action committee funded by Indian River Shores residents and by Florida Power and Light assured voters Laura Moss and Lange Sykes could be counted on to conclude the sale of Vero Electric to FPL. On the strength of their promise to lower electric rates for everyone Moss and Sykes won election to the Council. Now Moss and Sykes have joined with Councilman Harry Howle to support a sale of the Shores customer base. The ad also made misleading promises about how the expected $30 million in sale proceeds could be used.
Joining Vero Beach City Councilman Harry Howle in a new majority, Laura Moss and Lange Sykes, whose campaigns were heavily backed by Indian River Shores residents and by Florida Power and Light, took their place on the Vero Beach City Council this week. Together, Howle, Moss and Sykes acted quickly to re-start negotiations on a sale of Vero Electric’s Indian River Shores customers to FPL.
The new council majority also voted yesterday to fire the City’s special utility council, Schef Wright. Wright has successfully represented the City before the Florida Pubic Service Commission and the Florida Supreme Court in cases brought by Indian River Shores and by the Indian River County Commission. Wright also led the negotiations on a revised wholesale power agreement with the Orlando Utilities Commission.
When first hired by the City, Wright received a letter of congratulations from FPL’s lead counsel. Now Moss, Sykes and Howle argue he is somehow in collaboration with the Florida Municipal Power Agency to block the sale of Vero Electric. Throughout his time in working for the City, Wright has continued discussions with FPL on how to move the sale forward, and all along FPL officials have said they have no new ideas for how to resolve Vero Beach’s contract obligations with the FMPA and its bondholders.
In a letter dated Nov. 18, Wright wrote, “…the sale process was, in practical terms, suspended when the OUC and the FMPA were unable to agree on terms that would satisfy their respective bond covenants and bond counsel.”
Several months ago, FPL offered $13 million, and later $30 million, for Vero Electric’s Shores customers. A team of five independent utility experts, hired by the City and led by Wright, calculated that carving off the City’s Shores customers and downsizing the system would require a sale price of $47 million, without the move leading to higher electric rates and higher taxes. By a vote of 3-2, the previous Council rejected FPL’s $30 million offer but let it be known the City would consider an offer at $47 million. More…