So much for “conservative” support of local control 2

Corcoran touts Legislature as more responsive

Editor’s note: If House Speaker Richard Corcoran’s point is that through big spending in political campaigns corporate giants such as Florida Power and Light can gain control of local governments, as they have done in Vero Beach, he has a point. At the same time, though, FPL has poured so many millions of dollars into the campaign accounts of members of the Florida Legislature that one can now reasonably argue the Legislature is a wholly owned subsidiary of FPL. 

ADAM C. SMITH/TAMPA BAY TIMES

Florida House of Representatives Speaker Richard Corcoran thinks Tallahassee knows best.

Florida’s Legislature is more responsive to Floridians and less susceptible to special interest influence than local governments, House Speaker Richard Corcoran asserted to a skeptical and occasionally hostile group of Tampa Bay residents Friday.

 

“If you are a special interest or you are somebody that wants to curry favor, it is generally much more difficult in a comparative scale to get something through in the state government that would affect the state than it is the local government,” the Pasco County Republican told about 100 people gathered for the weekly Cafe con Tampa breakfast in South Tampa. Continue reading…

Related article… Local governments responsive to citizens

 

Decency. Diligence. Democracy. 

Where are you?  6

COMMENTARY

RICHARD WINGER

Richard Winger

There seems to be a reluctance on the part of a Council majority to examine the details of FP&L’s offer for our Electric utility.  This is difficult to accept.

The last contract was blindly signed by Council members who were not diligent about the terms, specifically to standing contractual obligations. After millions of our ratepayer dollars were later spent on legal actions, the courts confirmed those legally binding contracts.  The result was having a contract with FP&L which could not be executed.  We are supposed to learn by mistakes and not repeat them.

I have been working for 7 years to complete this sale and I am not stopping now. But it has become problematic.

When I bring up challenges to the successful completion of the sale my comments are routinely interrupted by Mayor Laura Moss who attempts to silence me. Vice Mayor Harry Howle then raises his voice, leans forward, turns towards me and proceeds with accusations that have no basis in fact.  Silence. The agenda moves on. More…

Finance Commissioners raise questions about power sale 3

NEWS ANALYSIS

“I share the concern of many ratepayers that the proposed purchase price of $185,000,000 may be insufficient.” – Dan Stump

“Sykes claims executive experience. In truth, the company he ran was a one employee, home based business. Similarly, Howle and Moss lack the financial experience to conclude a nearly $200 million transaction without advice and input from members of the City’s advisory commissions. Lacking that vital input, they could at least use some courageous guidance from O’Connor.” 

MARK SCHUMANN

Glen Brovont

Dan Stump

Peter Gorry

Vero Beach City Council members Harry Howle, Laura Moss and Lange Sykes last week voted to forbid the Finance and Utilities Commissions from discussing, reviewing, or analyzing the proposed sale of Vero Electric. (Like former Council member Tracy Carroll, Howle, Moss and Sykes all benefited from substantial campaign contributions from Florida Power & Light.)

Clearly displeased at being muzzled, Finance Commission Chairman Glen Brovont wrote to City Clerk Tammy Bursick, “While censorship may be in vogue, a finance meeting should be scheduled as soon after receipt of the budget data.” He added, “Even dictatorial societies found while the mouth may be shut, the brain can still question and think.”

Even Commission member Dan Stump, who headed a political action committee that raised and spent more than $100,000 supporting Moss and Sykes, is now calling for negotiation of the purchase price of Vero Electric. In an email to City Manager Jim O’Connor Stump wrote, “I share the concern of many ratepayers that the proposed purchase price of $185,000,000 may be insufficient.” More…

Howle, Moss and Sykes are selling out the people of Vero Beach 5

Lange Sykes' acceptance of so much outside money in his latest campaign, (90%), suggest that, if elected, he may have an extremely difficult time balancing loyalty to his patrons against his fiduciary responsibility to the people of Vero Beach.
COMMENTARY

“The troika seems determined to make the best deal possible for FPL and for Shores interests.”

MARK SCHUMANN

Imagine the suspicions that would be raised if a U.S. presidential candidate received 70 percent of their total campaign contributions from Russian oligarchs.

The Russians don’t care about public policy in Vero Beach, Florida, but Indian River Shores oligarchs sure do. They contributed heavily to the campaigns of Harry Howle, Laura Moss and Lange Sykes, and they joined Florida Power and Light in raising more than $100,000 to fund a political action committee to support Moss and Sykes in last fall’s municipal election. (Moss received 70 percent of her campaign funds from Shores residents. Sykes took in 90 percent of his campaign funds from the Shores.) More…

Indian River Shores Councilman derails Vero Beach’s Utilities Commission 2

City Code:

The utilities commission shall meet at least once every quarter.”

COMMENTARY

“…Howle, Moss and Sykes continue to insist a partial sale at $30 million would be a good deal for the City. Just this week though, Finance Director Cindy Lawson released a report projecting that a partial sale will lead to a 1.9 percent rate increase for the remaining customers and a tax hike on City residents of 9 percent to 12 percent.”

“With Howle, Moss and Sykes in the majority at City Hall, and with Brian Barefoot and Bob Solari behind the scenes pulling their strings, Vero Beach is quickly becoming like Venezuela, a failed democracy.”

MARK SCHUMANN

Robert Auwaerter – The fox in the henhouse

Laura Moss

In what appears to be a clear violation of City of Vero Beach Ordinances, the City’s Utilities Commission has gone dormant. Indian River Shores Town Councilman Robert Auwaerter, who just happens to also be Vice Chair of the Vero Beach Utilities Commission, has yet to call a meeting of the Commission in 2017.  Auwaerter assumed responsibility of the Commission when the previous Chair, Laura Moss, was elected to the Vero Beach City Council.

Vero Beach City Ordinances require the Commission to meet to elect a new Chair.  According to City Clerk Tammy Bursick, her office has inquired with Auwaerter monthly about convening the Utilities Commission. Each month he has declined to do so.

Auwaerter is a ally of Moss, who won election with overwhelming financial support from Indian River Shores residents and from a political action committee that raised more than $100,000 exclusively from Shores residents and Florida Power and Light. (Shores residents graced Moss with 70 percent of her campaign contributions. Lange Sykes took in 90 percent of his funds from the Shores.) One has to wonder if, in failing to convene the Utilities Commission, Auwaerter is taking direction from Moss, who appears to be receiving her marching orders from Shores Mayor Brian Barefoot and from FPL. More…

The latest conspiracy theory Reply

Listening to public comments made during yesterday’s Vero Beach City Council meeting, one might wonder if blowhard conspiracy theorist Alex Jones has contacts in Vero Beach. The latest suspicion theorizes that a broadly popular proposal to develop an Arts Village as a way to help revitalize downtown Vero Beach is a dark conspiracy being foisted on the community by leaders of  the Treasure Coast Regional Planing Council. And, as everyone knows, the TCRPC is controlled by United Nations officials who seek to create “One World Government.” All of this is absurd, of course, but that doesn’t keep devotees of County Commission Bob Solari from making such claims. Perhaps unwittingly, they are being used to create an issue for the next municipal elections.  If the electric issues is well on the way to being concluded by the end of this summer, Solari, the local Tea Party and other limited government extremists will need another issue to help elect candidates determined to turn the City of Vero Beach over to the County Commission.

OUC wants far more than $20 million to settle electric contracts Reply

Winger, Young decry lack of negotiations

NEWS ANALYSIS

“Who is looking at the financial implications of this deal? It is not being done.”  – Councilman Tony Young

“Given that, as candidates, Howle, Moss and Sykes were all heavily supported by FPL, perhaps Young should not be surprised to see them accept whatever FPL offers.”

MARK SCHUMANN

Tony Young

Richard Winger

In an email sent yesterday to Vero Beach City Manager Jim O’Connor, Orlando Utilities Commission Vice President Jan Aspuru put the City on notice that it will cost far more than $20 million to settle its obligations to the OUC. Aspuru noted that the letter of intent between Florida Power and Light and the City for the sale of Vero Electric provides no more than $20 million to release Vero Beach from its contractual obligations to the OUC. Vero Beach buys the bulk of its wholesale power from the OUC.

“I wanted you to know that the OUC’s damages will far exceed the $20 million if Vero Beach defaults on its contractual commitments to the OUC,” Aspuru wrote.

FPL is now offering some some $20 million less for Vero Electric than the company was willing to pay in 2014. Previous forecasts based on FPL’s offer suggested the City would net $30 million in cash from FPL. Aspuru’s caution raises the prospect that the City could wind up getting nothing from the deal.

Despite these developments, Council members Harry Howle, Laura Moss and Lange Sykes continue to insist FPL’s offer is more than fair. This week, over the objections of Councilmen Richard Winger and Tony Young, Howle, Moss and Sykes voted to impose a gag order on the City’s Commissions. Those boards are now forbidden from discussing or analyzing the impacts of the proposed sale. More…

Space Coast Symphony Winds and Chorus perform patriotic favorites at The Emerson Center Reply

NEWS RELEASE

Indian River County residents are encouraged to don red, white and blue and wave the flag during the Space Coast Symphony Wind Orchestra’s free patriotic concert, America the Beautiful. The concert will be performed at 2:00 PM on Saturday, June 24 at the Emerson Center, 1590 27th Avenue, Vero Beach, 32960.

Presented in conjunction with the Space Coast Symphony Chorus, America the Beautiful will showcase our national heritage as conductor and artistic director Aaron T. Collins directs the wind orchestra with music by John Williams, Richard Rodgers, Lee Greenwood, and marches from “The March King,” John Philip Sousa. The concert will open with an extended version of the “Star Spangled Banner.” The women of the Space Coast Symphony Chorus will perform several works with the ensemble, including “God Bless the USA” and “Hymn to the Fallen” from the film, Saving Private Ryan. Among the many rousing patriotic numbers will be a salute to the men and women of the United States Armed Forces; veterans will be asked to stand when their service song is played. Audience members are asked to wear red, white and blue in a show of patriotic solidarity.

Artistic Director and Conductor, Aaron T. Collins, considers it an honor to salute the USA and our veterans. “We owe everything to the men and women who have worn our nation’s uniform,” said Collins. “These concerts are a powerful way to come together as a community and celebrate our great nation. To top it off, we are thrilled to be back at The Emerson Center for this awesome concert.”

Main Street Vero Beach receives national accreditation Reply

NEWS RELEASE 

Elaine Jones

Carolyn Kleinpeter

Main Street Vero Beach has been designated as an accredited Main Street America™ program for meeting rigorous performance standards set by the National Main Street Center. Each year, the National Main Street Center and its Coordinating Program partners announce the list of accredited Main Street America programs in recognition of their exemplary commitment to preservation-based economic development and community revitalization through the Main Street Approach®.

“It is a great honor to recognize this year’s 828 nationally Accredited Main Street America programs for their outstanding work to transform downtown and neighborhood commercial districts,” says Patrice Frey, President & CEO of the National Main Street Center. “Main Streets are the heart of our communities, and the work they do to create quality public spaces, catalyze local entrepreneurship, and support downtown housing is more important than ever. Across the county, Main Street America programs truly strengthen the economic, social, and cultural fabric of their entire communities.”

The organization’s performance is annually evaluated by Florida Main Street, which works in partnership with the National Main Street Center to identify the local programs that meet ten performance standards. Evaluation criteria determines the communities that are building comprehensive and sustainable revitalization efforts and include standards such as fostering strong public-private partnerships, securing an operating budget, tracking programmatic progress and actively preserving historic buildings. More…

VNA welcomes new board member, Karen Schievelbein Reply

NES RELEASE                                                

Karen Schievelbein

The Visiting Nurse Association (VNA) welcomes Karen Schievelbein to their board of directors. A VNA and Hospice Foundation board member and finance committee member, Schievelbein’s professional background includes business development, financial analysis, risk management and accounting. She has served as chief financial officer for Blue Cross of California, Blue Shield of California and United Behavioral Health before becoming the chief operating officer of Spectera UnitedHealthcare Dental from which she retired in 2007. 

”The role of the VNA and Hospice Foundation is to strategically build and strengthen relationships with people interested in supporting the local health care delivery system  and specifically the areas of home health care, hospice services and community wellness programs through the VNA,” said Anne Cooney, Chair of the Foundation’s Nominating Committee. “Karen’s unique health care experience and accounting expertise aligned well with our organization’s commitment to accountability, fiscal responsibility and transparency for our donors and partners.”  More…

Our obligation to endow the City of Vero Beach 1

COMMENTARY

Editor’s Note: Richard Winger is a member of the Vero Beach City Council.

RICHARD WINGER

Richard Winger

The Good news in my message today is that FP&L has submitted a document stating their intent to finalize a Purchase and Sale Agreement at Council’s only meeting in July on the 18th. Their document includes details of their  “Due Diligence” for the Acquisition of our Electric Utility.  The draft had been submitted and now they will finalize it.

This “Agreement” will be something determined by each party: FP&L’s part is the “Purchase” and the City’s part is the “Sale”. When does the City start to work on our “due diligence”?  Surely it cannot be an Agreement when only one party to it has done “Due Diligence”.

This is where the Bad enters my message. Not only have we not done our due diligence, but we now learn the Orlando Utilities Commission (OUC) has just made it clear they find FP&L’s offer in the Letter of Intent for the Vero Beach exit unacceptable. This is the same situation we had in the prior contract which expired last December.  At that time FP&L wanted to pass along $26,000,000 to the ratepayers, to be attached to their monthly bills, to accommodate OUC’s exit cost. If we are face with that again, power bills would likely increase over current Vero Beach rates, given the City has gone down 15% and FPL has gone up 10%.  The differential has shrunk greatly.
 More…

A possible ugly outcome for the budget 1

COMMENTARY

Editor’s note: Richard Winger is a member of the Vero Beach City Council.

RICHARD WINGER        

Richard Winger

The Good news is property values have increased by 6.9% and is expected to provide an additional $400,000 to City revenues this year.

The Bad news is we are going into our Annual Budget preparations with an existing more than a million dollar shortfall in funding for just street and storm water repair.  And, there is not enough money for existing staff.

Please don’t accept arguments that the City has too many employees.  That simply is not true.  Past Councils have systematically reduced staff to a barebones level.

The Ugly is there is no other significant revenue increase coming in. And, there will be a loss of annual funds, once the sale of the Electric Utility to FP&L is completed. More…

A Father and Son Memorial Day Reply

Jim and David Thompson  –  Once again my son David came to town and we went in uniform to the Memorial Day Service on Veterans Memorial Island. He wore his dress blues and I wore my BDUs. It’s our small way of paying tribute to those in Lincoln’s words who, “Gave the last full measure of devotion”.  (David’s grandfather, J.A. “Coach” Thompson, also served in the U.S. Coast Guard.)

The very good, the bad and the ugly 8

FPL Letter of Intent

“FP&L’s $30 million offer for a Partial Sale is low, and should it be accepted, over time, the city will have to raise rates for every remaining ratepayer to absorb the loss of the Shores customers.” 

RICHARD WINGER/VERO BEACH CITY COUNCILMAN

Richard Winger

It is Very Good that Florida Power and Light has presented a new Letter of Intent to purchase Vero Beach’s entire Electric Utility. They outlined costs and terms, which signal the start of negotiations prior to a contract being signed.

Negotiations, simply put, occur when each participant has something to gain and something to lose. A successful negotiation concludes when each party benefits to the maximum extent possible.

The financial offer for the system is considerably lower than the last contract signed 3 years ago. And, it does not take into consideration the millions spent since that time to upgrade the system, close the plant, etc. My responsibility to the people of Vero Beach and the ratepayers of the Utility requires my attention to such detail. It is a starting point in negotiations.

Moving towards the full sale, through myriad details,  is something I have worked on for years and I sincerely want it to be completed this time.

FP&L last submitted a Letter of Intent on August 2012.  It led to a contract for sale in March 2014. That contract could not be executed because of contractual obligations, upheld by law, with other agencies to produce, transmit and distribute electricity. That contract expired December 31, 2016.

Those obligations exist because Vero Beach is a member city in the Florida Municipal Power Authority.  There are 19 other member cities which must, unanimously, approve an exit. This obligation blocked the sale previously, but there is a new level of optimism that approval can finally be accomplished. More…

Come to the 28th annual Vero Kiwanis “Take A Kid Fishing” Tournament Reply

The Kiwanis Club of Vero-Treasure Coast will hold its 28th annual “Take A Kid Fishing” Tournament on Saturday, June 3, 2017 from 9:00 a.m. until noon (registration starts 8:15 a.m.) at the fishing catwalk under Barber Bridge in Vero Beach. This free event is open to the first 250 kids ages 5-12 and their parent/guardian who attend (adult supervision required). A free cookout lunch will be served beginning at 11:00 a.m.

Kiwanis provides rods and reels to those who need them, as well as bait and fishing guidance. Kids can bring their own equipment if they wish. Prizes will be awarded for each age bracket and a special prize for the ugliest fish. The tournament is catch-and-release, which will be greatly appreciated by the audience of pelicans and other birds!

Flyers announcing the event have been distributed to all Indian River County elementary schools. Again, registration begins at 8:15 a.m. so arrive early to avoid the wait.

For more information, go to www.verokiwanis.com (under EVENTS) or call Jim Wolfe at (772) 299-0570.

This event is made possible through the support of Kiwanis members and sponsorships.  Each year Kiwanis members devote many hours to make this event successful.  Special thanks go Jim Wolfe who has chaired the event for many years.

Five cars burglarized in central beach area Tuesday night 1

NEWS RELEASE

Our officers located five burglarized vehicles last night (Tuesday), pursuant to a suspicious persons call in the area of Holy Cross Church. All of the vehicles were located on Riomar Drive and appeared to have been rummaged through. Nothing was missing from four of the vehicles, and a key fob was stolen from one of the cars. Our officers were able to get a description for the suspicious persons and their vehicle, and Indian River County Sheriff’s Office was able to make contact with that vehicle and made two arrests. We will update you as IRCSO releases more information.

In the meantime, please check your vehicles and make sure nothing is missing or has been tampered with. As always, please lock your vehicles and do not leave anything inside. Please stay safe and vigilant, and we will keep you updated.

Officer Anna Carden, 395, Vero Beach Police Department

City Council votes 4-1 to accept FPL’s letter of intent 1

NEWS ANALYSIS

MARK SCHUMANN

The Vero Beach City Council today voted 4-1 to accept in principle a proposal from Florida Power and Light to acquire Vero Electric for $185 million. The deal is projected to net the City $36 million. The likely sale proceeds will fall far short of the $180 million utility activists Glenn Heran and Steven Faherty once claimed would flow to the City from a sale.

A key component in FPL’s offer is a coupling of the proposed full sale with a sale of Vero Electric’s Indian River Shores customer base. As a fallback, if the full sale cannot be completed, Vero Beach will be obligated to sell its Indian River Shores customers to FPL for $30 million.

Councilman Richard Winger, after sustaining a long and withering personal attack from Mayor Laura Loss, raised concerns about committing to the partial sale at $30 million. Last year, a team of utility experts concluded a partial sale as much less than $42 million would lead to higher rates for the remaining customers. As a candidate for re-election, former City Councilman Randy Old said agreeing to a partial sale at $30 million would be a breach of a Council member’s fiduciary responsibility to the City and to the people of Vero Beach. More…

Letter: Selling Vero Electric is Un-American 2

Editor’s note: The following letter received by InsideVero yesterday was also sent to City Council of Vero Beach, Town Council of Indian River Shores and Board of County Commissioners, Indian River County.

“I believe in municipal ownership of all public service monopolies… because if you do not own them, they will in time own you. They will rule your politics, corrupt your institutions and finally destroy your liberties!” – Thomas L. Johnson, Mayor of Cleveland, Ohio, 1908

 

Selling Vero Electric to FPL is Un-American!

Please acknowledge about Florida Power and Light’s (FPL) upcoming multiple rate increases, surcharges and more increase(s) and surcharge(s) to come later.

Please acknowledge about FPL’s SurgeShield program is ripping off their customers. Vero Electric already have surge protections in all places and does not charge.

Please acknowledge about local media blackout (Indian River Press Journal/TCPalm and 32963/VeroNews) on FPL’s multiple rate increases and surcharges. InsideVero and out of town newspapers reported the increases.

Please acknowledge about Bob Brunjes, Indian River Press Journal/TCPalm publisher is married to Amy Brunjes, FPL executive.

Please acknowledge the current rates between Vero Electric and FPL is now less than 8% – greatly reduced from 34% in 2009. More…

Moss using personal email account for official City business Reply

For more than a week, Mayor Moss delayed turning over to the City Clerk’s Office official communication received on her personal email account

 

MARK SCHUMANN

Documents requested May 2 but not released until May 10 reveal that Vero Beach Mayor Laura Moss has used her personal email account to conduct official City business.  The use of her private email address for City business would not necessarily raise questions, except that Moss has also delayed providing those documents to the City Clerk’s office. Below are just two of a number of emails Moss received on her personal email account from attorney’s with the law firm of Carlton Fields.

At the May 2 City Council meeting, Moss claimed City staff has been conducting “a thorough financial review” of the proposed sale of Vero Electric. None of the documents release by the City late last week suggest any such review has taken place. Clearly, there are only two possibilities. Either Moss is misleading the public about what review, if any, has taken place, or she and/or City Staff are withholding documents that are the subject of several public records requests.

Last summer, in her capacity as Chair of the Utilities Commission Moss wrote the Chair of the Florida Public Service Commission, but never provided the City Clerk’s Office with a copy of the correspondence. Moss’s letter to the PSC only came to light when it was made public by PSC staff.

 

Press Journal columnist misstates electric rate comparison Reply

The Indian River County Commission assesses a 6% franchise fee on the electric bills of country residents who are customers of Vero Electric, and of FPL. Similarly, If an when the become customers of Vero Electric residents and businesses within the city will also pay a 6% franchise fee, yielding an effective FPL rate of $108.69, compared to Vero Beach’s current rate of $116.08. The difference between the two rates is 6.4%, not 20%, as many continue to claim.

COMMENTARY

“Reisman and his colleagues at Treasure Coast Newspapers persist in presenting the rate differential between Vero Electric and FPL in a way that shows how much more FPL customers would pay, if they switched to Vero Electric. This is a misleading and meaningless comparison. The relevant percentage is the savings Vero Electric customers could expect by switching to FPL. At 1000 kilowatt hours, that number is 8.7% for county customers and 6.3% for customers within the city. At 1200 kilowatt hours, based on today’s rates, the savings would be 14.3% for county customers and 9.1% for customers within the city.” 

MARK SCHUMANN

For years, in comparing rates between Vero Electric and Florida Power and Light, the FPL-friendly Press Journal has followed FPL’s lead in quoting 1000 kilowatt hour rates.  Probably because this measure now yields the least favorable comparison from FPL’s perspective, the Press Journal is quoting rates at 1,200 kilowatt hours.

On the mainland, inside and outside the city limits, some 90 percent of Vero Electric’s residential customers use an average of less than 1000 kilowatt hours per month. Based on the most recent information available from FPL and the City, at 1000 kilowatt hours, the rate differential between the two utilities is 8.7 percent, $116.08 for Vero Electric and $102.64 for FPL. Reisman seems not to want to use these numbers, probably because he has for the last 7 years been telling his readers they could save 25 percent or more, if the City would only sell its electric system to FPL. In fact, the FPL-friendly Press Journal has played key role in leading the public to embrace an exaggerated sense of the benefits of the proposed power sale.

Not only has Reisman taken to using a different rate level for comparison, he misstates the delta. As of March, FPL’s rate for 1200 kilowatts of residential power was $122.40. Vero Beach’s rate was $142.87.  The difference between those two rates is 14.3 percent, not 17 percent, as Reisman claimed when he wrote, “That’s about 17 percent more than FPL rates.” The simple, undeniable, indisputable fact is that at 1200 kilowatt hours customers of FPL are paying 14.3 percent less than customers of Vero Electric, not 17%. More…

In the face of shifting facts, will opinions on power sale remain unchanged? 6

Vero Beach FPL* Differential
March, 2017 116.08 105.98 8.7%
October, 2016 116.08 94.63 18.5%
November, 2013 130.93 98.29 24.9%
June, 2009 158.82 104.37 34.3%
COMMENTARY

“If the residents of Vero Beach who continue to support the power sale believe the deal will lead to significantly lower electric rates, they are going to be disappointed. If they think the move will not result in higher taxes, cuts in services, and major setbacks for the City, they are sorely misguided.”

“Sponsored and supported by FPL, aided by a power-hungry County Commission, and advised by Indian River Shores Mayor Brian Barefoot, what Howle, Moss and Sykes most lack is loyalty to the City and to the people of Vero Beach. Bathed in blissful ignorance, and supported by outside interests, they are prepared to drive the City to the brink of financial disaster.”

MARK SCHUMANN

In 2009, utility activists Glenn Heran and Steven Faherty began making presentations throughout the community to build support for the sale of Vero Electric to Florida Power and Light. At the time, the rate differential between the two utilities was 34.3%. Not only did Heran and Faherty promise impressive savings on electric bills, they assured everyone the sale would net the City more than $180 million. The money, they reasoned, could be invested, with the earnings used to make up for the $7 million that is annually transferred from the electric fund to the General Fund. That money helps pay for municipal services, such as police protection, recreation programs, life guards and parks maintenance.

It has been eight years since the two utility activists, encouraged and aided by FPL, began persuading the public of the supposed benefits of selling Vero Beach’s electric utility. Over the past eight years much has changed. FPL’s rates have risen, but more importantly Vero Electric’s rates have continued to decline. As a result, customers of Vero Electric stand to save far, far less than originally promised. Based on information available through the Florida Municipal Electric Association, for Vero Beach residents, the effective rate differential is now 8.7%. According to rate information quoted on FPL’s website, the differential is just 6.3%. (According the rates currently being quoted by FPL on its website, the after residential customers using 1000 kWh per month is paying $102.64, this is $2.66 more than the 1000 kWh rate listed on the FMEA website. The difference may have to do with peaking charges, but suffice to say FPL’s rate structure is complicated.) More…

Candidate Randy Old releases statement on proposed power sale 3

Editor’s note: Former Vero Beach City Councilman Randy Old will be running again for a seat on the Council this coming November. Old today released a statement supporting the sale of Vero Electric on the terms recently proposed by FPL.  

FPL’s offer to buy the full utility system is coupled it with agreement to a partial sale of the City’s Indian River Shores customers for $30 million. If the board of the Florida Municipal Power Agency does not approve the deal, or if for any other reason it cannot be completed, Vero Beach will be obligated to sell its Shores customers and infrastructure to FPL for $30 million.

While running for re-election last fall, Old said agreeing to sell the Shores portion of Vero Electric for $30 million would have been a violation of his fiduciary responsibility to the City and to the people of Vero Beach. The statement Old released today does not make clear whether he now supports a partial sale at $30 million, though he did indicates some points in FPL’s proposal may “need to be altered or negotiated.”

Florida Power and Light Makes Offer to City Electric Business

Randy Old

FPL’s offer to the City to buy the entire electric business was announced yesterday. Simply put, FPL is offering to pay $185 million leaving the City with $37 million in cash after the City pays to exit its contracts with FMPA ($108) and OUC ($20), and pays off electric business debt ($20). This should be accepted by the City Council.

The agreements are long and detailed, and there may be some issues that need to be altered or negotiated, but most seem straight forward and reasonable. There are some key issues included. FMPA’s board must unanimously approve the transaction. One City voting against the sale could stop it. I believe that FMPA will approve the transaction and the full sale will be achieved. However, the other key point is, that if the full sale does not go through then, there is a commitment to sell the Indian River Shores portion of Vero Electric to Florida Power and Light.

FMPA reduced its price for Vero to exit its obligations from over $350 million to $108 million, or a 70% reduction. This reduction which happened in the fall, allowed the transaction to become viable. FPL’s past offer was similar to this in size but included our existing plant and other issues not appropriate in this offer. However, had past City Councils agreed to take FLP’s offer of $185 million, and had to pay $350 million to get out of FMPA, plus pay OUC $20 million to exit its contract, and repay its debt of $20 million, the City would have had a net loss on the transaction of $205 million ( +$185 – $350 -$20-$20 = – $205). An impossibility. With the reduced cost to exit FMPA, the transaction is not only possible but attractive.

FMPA changed its mind, was is the new CEO, was is the amount of legislative pressure in Tallahassee, or just a change of heart. But it doesn’t really matter; this is a reasonable transaction that should be accepted.

Next steps, be sure the city uses the proceeds of the sale wisely to minimize the adverse effect on Vero’s finances and its taxpayers. Also, it goes without saying, that it will be a huge relief to the community to have this issue not dominate and divide the city, as it has for the past several years.

Randy Old

Solari’s fingerprints all over deceptive email newsletter 2

COMMENTARY

In the name of liberty, Solari proposes taking from the people of Vero Beach the freedom to make their own decisions about development restrictions, protections against short terms rentals, and choices about levels of service from police protection to recreation programs.

Make no mistake about it, the current push to sell Vero Electric is not about lower electric rates. Underlying all the arguments made by Solari and his fellow County Commissioners is a darker motivation to force the City of Vero Beach into disincorporation. 

MARK SCHUMANN

An extreme limited government Libertarian masquerading as a conservative, Indian River County Commissioner Bob Solari is a master of deception.

A local “group” calling itself “American Conservatism” today sent out an email newsletter full of the exact kind of misinformation that has so confused in many people’s minds the real costs and benefits of the proposed sale of Vero Electric. Though no names of leaders or officers are presented in the newsletter, it gives at the organization’s address the home address of Indian River County Commissioner Bob Solari.

Solari, to be sure, embraces and typifies, not conservatism, but Libertarian, limited-government extremism.   What the Commissioner is really after, of course, is consolidated local government. Solari, who feeds at the public troff, hates government in any and all forms. He hopes and expects the sale of Vero Electric will lead to a fiscal crisis that will force the City to then sell its well-run and profitable water and sewer utility to the County. Solari, who is informally directing Vero Beach City Council members Harry Howle and Lange Sykes, also hopes for the consolidation of other public services, and eventually the absorption of the City into the County in a unified local government.

In the name of liberty, Solari proposes taking from the people of Vero Beach the freedom to make their own decisions about development restrictions, protections against short terms rentals, and choices about levels of service from police protection to recreation programs.

Make no mistake about it, the current push to sell Vero Electric is not about lower electric rates. Underlying all the arguments made by Solari and his fellow County Commissioners is a darker motivation to force the City of Vero Beach into disincorporation.

Solari’s propaganda piece included the following misleading statement. “One result of City service is that for the past 10 years COVB ratepayers have been paying some 20% to 30% more for electricity than private sector customers have been paying –  paying roughly an extra $200 million that could have remained in the community helping residents lead a better life.”

What Solari was careful not to mention is that for Vero Beach residents the effective rate differential between Vero Electric and Florida Power and Light is now down to less than 7%, to the 20% 30% he claims.

Further attempting to mislead the public, Solari’s newsletter claimed that over the next 10 years, the customers of Vero Electric will pay $200 million more than if they were customers of FPL.  Given the narrowed and continually narrowing gap between the rates of FPL and Vero Electric, the claim is preposterous.

Facebook comments on power sale reveal that some, perhaps many are misinformed, or uninformed 1

COMMENTARY

“If the general belief is that electric rates are going to come down 20% to 30%, and if the widespread assumption is that the sale will not results in tax increases, and/or cuts in municipal services, then pressing ahead with the sale amounts to malicious obedience.” 

MARK SCHUMANN

This past weekend, I took exception to a commenter’s assertion that, despite the unprecedented level of outside money that poured into last fall’s municipal election, the results were a fine example of democracy in action. In truth, the election of Harry Howle, Laura Moss and Lange Sykes to the Vero Beach City Council is a sad example of how money can buy power, especially when the press fails to do its job.

Last fall, more than $100,000, half of it given by Florida Power and Light and half contributed by Indian River Shores residents, funded a political action committee supporting Moss and Sykes. The committee used the money to carry out an extensive disinformation campaign of truly outlandish claims and promises. Further, Sykes received 90 percent of his financial support from Shores residents. Moss took in 70 percent of her campaign contributions from outside Vero Beach. Without question, outside money bought their seats on the Council.

The commenter wrote, “Their paths to office are in accordance with their constitutional rights, and now the City’s decisions rest in their hands.”

In a response titled “A failure of the fourth estate,” I wrote: More…

Meter running of City’s legal bills – $49,498.25 for first month 3

MARK SCHUMANN

Florida Power and Light officials yesterday submitted a letter of intent containing proposed terms for the sale of Vero Electric.  Today, attorneys with the law firm of Carlton Fields, all of whom charge $480 per hour, today submitted an invoice to the City totaling $48,498.25 for work done through the end of March in helping preparing and review FPL’s offer.

Next Tuesday, the Council is to consider, and will likely vote to accept, FPL’s proposed terms. At that point the expensive work of hammering out a formal contract will begin. The previous purchase and sale agreement between Vero Beach and FPL expired at the end of last year. The City’s outside counsel charged more than $1 million to write that now defunct contract.

Dereliction of Duty: Council members continue to allow Mayor Moss to exercise monarchial powers 2

Mayor Laura Moss, who recently described herself at the “queen” of Vero Beach, continues to mistake the ceremonial role of mayor with that of a chief executive officer. Moss recently refused to respond to public records request for copies of notes she took during meetings and telephone calls with representatives of Florida Power and Light. As of April 28, Moss also had in her possession a draft of FPL’s letter of intent to acquire Vero Electric. Moss was asked on May 2 to provide the documents as a part of the public record. She delayed releasing them until May 10.

Dear Editor:

I read with interest your article with regard to Vero Beach mayor Laura Moss and her letter titled “Dereliction of Duty.”  In this letter she shifts blame to the City Attorney for her wrongful and illegal attacks against citizens who express differing opinions.   

Having a police officer take any citizen into custody and removed from a public meeting and further issuing orders banning citizens from meetings is in short an attack on our fundamental freedom of speech. 

Her analogies that differing opinions are akin to yelling fire in a crowded theater are equally absurd. And her new attempt to blame the city attorney for not controlling her is yet another absurdity. Her allegation of his “Dereliction of Duty” is actionable. You can’t make false allegations against those under your command without consequences. And now the public record shows that mayor making formal allegations against the city attorney which become part of his job history.  If you were in the hiring position for a city attorney would you hire an attorney who has been accused by his mayor of not doing his job?

In summary, for city council members to allow or condone by inaction her behavior is the real “dereliction of duty.”  The other council members have an obligation to the taxpaying citizens to remove such a person from a seat of power.

Brian Heady

See: In the hot seat, Moss seeks to shift blame

Today, Coment provided the following response to Moss:

FPL ties partial sale to full sale, wants 99-year lease on City property 2

As a condition of its offer, FPL is asking to lease a portion of the power plant site for 99 years. The previous purchase and sale agreement between the City and FPL, which expired Dec. 31, 2016, called for the company to lease the entire power plant site for just 5 years.

NEWS ANALYSIS

To sell Vero Electric on the terms proposed by FPL amounts to malicious obedience, for the sale many people think they want will not lead to the results they are expecting. Howle, Moss and Sykes know this, but they seemed determined to press ahead anyway. Quite simply, they do not represent the interests of the people of Vero Beach. Like so much of the false and misleading political advertising that has poisoned recent municipal elections, Howle, Moss and Sykes are bought and paid for by FPL.

MARK SCHUMANN

Florida Power and Light today unveiled an offer to acquire Vero Electric in a deal the company says is worth $185 million.

Of the $185 million, $108 million would be paid to the Florida Municipal Power Agency, $20 million to the Orlando Utilities Commission and $20.4 million would to go retire debt on the City’s electric utility. Of the remaining $36.6 million, $6.6 million would partially underwrite pension obligations to existing employees of Vero Electric. Another $10 million is earmarked as rent on City land FPL proposes to lease for 99 years, leaving the City with net proceeds of $20 million on the deal.

To put FPL’s offer in some historical context, in 2008 and 2009, when utility activists Glenn Heran and Steven Faherty first began building support of the power sale they projected the City would net, not $20 million, but closer to $180 million. Interest earnings on the sale proceeds, Heran and Faherty said, would offset the loss of more than $6 million in annual earnings off the utility. Without that annual transfer from the electric fund to the General Fund the City will need to raise taxes and/or cut services. When support first began to build for the sale, the rates differential between Vero Electric and FPL was some 30%. Today, the effective differential is closer to 7%. More…

In the hot seat, Moss seeks to shift blame 3

COMMENTARY

“‘He was redundant, and that was the key. He was getting redundant,’ Moss said redundantly.” 

“Moss said, ‘Do you want him back in here? How late to you want to stay?'”

“Amazingly, Moss titled her memo to Coment, “Dereliction of Duty.” Moss is either loose with words, does not understand what constitutes “dereliction of duty,” or, to draw attention from her mistakes, is willing to level against the City Attorney a most serious charge.” 

MARK SCHUMANN

City Attorney Wayne Coment

Before election to the Council, Laura Moss herself made frequent appearances during  public comment time.

The list of ways Vero Beach Mayor Laura Moss embarrasses herself and the City continues to grow.  Last summer, as Chair of the Utilities Commission, Moss wrote a letter to the head of the Florida Public Service Commission without providing a copy of the correspondence to the City Clerk’s Office. The omission on Moss’s part was a clear violation of City policy. (Ironically, the point of Moss’s letter was to inform the PSC Chair of a position taken by the Utilities Commission that was ultimately not adopted by the Council.  Now on the Council, Moss is quick to point out that members of citizen advisory commissions, such as she was at the time, are not the elected representatives of the people of Vero Beach.)

More recently, since her election to the Council, Moss has overstepped her authority by going around the City Manager to direct staff, by attempting to unilaterally cancel advisory Commission meetings without the knowledge or approval of her fellow Council members, by leading an effort to muzzle all dissenting opinions and legitimate questions about the proposed power sale, by describing herself at the “queen” of Vero Beach, and by refusing to provide documents in her possession which should clearly be part of the public record.

At last Tuesday’s Council meeting, Moss had Vero Beach resident Brian Heady removed from the Council Chambers when he objected to her false claim that the terms of FPL’s pending letter of intent to acquire Vero Electric are “proprietary” information. In fact, the terms of the sale, which supposedly Moss is negotiating, should be made public, not when Moss deems it convenient, but now. More…