Small towns fighting Big Money

Civic Association calls for referendum on partial sale

Editor’s note: In a letter addressed to the Vero Beach City Council, the Civic Association of Indian River County last week raised questions about the proposed sale of Vero Electric’s Indian River Shores customer base to Florida Power & Light.

Further, the group urged the Council to hold a referendum before going forward with the deal. While the voters of Vero Beach were asked in 2013 to weigh in or a sale of the full system, they have not been given a say in the carving up of the system at the request of the Shores. 

All of the offered $30 million sale price would need to remain in the electric utility for debt service and capital projects, and could not be used to buffer resulting tax increases or likely hikes in electric rates. During the recent municipal election, a political action committee funded by FPL and Shores residents placed advertising, funded robo calls and mailed post cards promising the sale proceeds would be a windfall to the people of Vero Beach.

The Shores-FPL funded PAC, which supported candidates Laura Moss and Lange Sykes, went so far as to propose that from the proposed sale every resident of Vero Beach could receive a check for some $1,900. 

Civic Association of Indian River County, Inc.

Dear Council:

The Board of Directors of the Civic Association of Indian River County wishes to voice strongly its urgent recommendation to delay the question of selling a portion of the City’s electric utility. This is a monumental step to take, especially in light of the many experts, both financial and legal, who have counseled against putting the City and its taxpayers at risk by such action.

This action solely benefits Indian River Shores, and even that is in question. Making the City utility smaller, giving away customer base, at a price well below its assessed value, is not something on which the citizens of Vero Beach have spoken. This act has the likely potential to increase liability for future contractual duties, to decrease permanently the City’s income without fair compensation, and to set a precedent that will be impossible to overcome.

This issue has not been addressed directly by the voters, and a fair and clear referendum on this matter has not been held, which should have been set in order that the taxpayers may determine their own future. Three persons, elected by a slight majority, should not be allowed to have such a momentous decision taken on their own personal account.

While we are aware that Indian River Shores has supported three council members quite heavily, that does not in any way relieve your duty to protect the vital interests of the citizens of Vero Beach.

Thank you for your immediate attention to this matter.

Sincerely,

Lynne A. Larkin, President/Treasurer

Ken Daige, Director

Caroline Ginn, President Emeritus

Sandra Bowden, Former Mayor

Thomas P. White, Former Mayor

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