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Carolina firm picked to help Vero with electric rates

STORY BY LISA ZAHNER (Week of December 18, 2014)

Vero electric customers have no idea how much the city’s new comprehensive electric rate study will cost, but when teams of engineers fly in from North Carolina, Missouri and Georgia to pitch for the job, you can bet it won’t be cheap.

Raleigh-based Power Services, which also has offices in Maitland and Pompano Beach, was recommended Monday by the three-person panel tasked with evaluating proposals for the study, which will look at ways Vero can reduce and possibly restructure its electric rates.

GDS Associates of Marietta, GA, and Brown and McDonnell of Kansas City, MO, interviewed for the project as well in the final phase of the selection process.

Former Utilities Commission chair Scott Stradley, who served on the panel with Vero’s Electric Utility Director Tom Richards and Transmission and Distribution Director Ted Fletcher, said all three firms gave solid presentations, but “none of them gave me a greater sense of comfort that they could do the job than Power Services.”

Richards said he chose Power Services because the firm has substantial Florida experience and because the presenters “focused on specific cost savings.” Power Services’ Florida clients include Winter Park, Casselberry, Alachua, Blountstown, Green Cove Springs, South Daytona, Bushnell, Homestead, Starke and Havana – almost exclusively municipally-owned utilities and FMPA members.

Stradley noted that Power Services seemed more open to looking at various possibilities and not so set on a solution before they dug into the study.

The panel’s choice was set to be presented to the Utilities Commission on Tuesday. “I don’t think we’ll have a problem getting a recommendation to go forward with this,” Stradley said.

Once a firm is chosen by the Vero Beach City Council, City Manager Jim O’Connor and his staff will negotiate terms and develop a scope of services for the study. The cost of the study will be funded out of the electric utility and paid for by ratepayers. Based upon the cost of previous rate studies, the project could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.