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What’s new in FPL offer for Vero electric?


The latest cliffhanger in the nearly decade-long Vero electric saga will have to hang a few more days as the Vero City Council voted 3-2 last week to extend a controversial, self-imposed gag order until a May 16 council meeting. The order prohibits discussion of an eagerly anticipated Florida Power & Light offer – expected  this week – to purchase the city’s entire electric utility.

Will those eager to sabotage the sale observe the gag order? That was the mega-million question as we went to press.

FPL’s earlier $100 million cash offer, which included nearly $80 million in additional considerations, expired Dec. 31, requiring the parties to enter into new negotiations that reflect changed conditions.

Those changes include the shuttering of the Big Blue power plant and new information received from the Florida Municipal Power Agency citing a $108 million exit penalty for Vero to buy its way out of the statewide electric co-ops membership contracts.

The fact that FPL offered Vero $30 million for only a sliver of its system – the 8.5 percent of the customer base in Indian River Shores – is another key factor that will influence these negotiations.

FPL was scheduled to send its new offer to City Hall this Wednesday so it could be included in the council meeting agenda packet, but Mayor Laura Moss cautioned the council not to analyze or critique the offer in public or in the press until the formal presentation.

Last month, Moss, Vice Mayor Harry Howle and Councilman Lange Sykes voted that no advisory commission should discuss the offer prior to the presentation to council, which originally was set to happen this past Tuesday.

“At the request of [our attorneys] Carlton Fields, I am postponing the presentation until Tuesday, May 16 at 9:30 a.m.,” Moss told the council. “Additional time is required for them to perform due diligence.”

In response to concerns about free speech, Moss said the First Amendment does not cover yelling “fire” in a crowded theatre. “Jeopardizing these negotiations is tantamount to yelling fire and has the potential to harm the whole community.”

Vero hired the Carlton Fields law firm to represent the city in the FPL transactions; in addition, Moss has played a pivotal role in the complex talks with FPL, the FMPA and Orlando Utilities Commission.

Councilman Dick Winger expressed his concern that a vote would be taken Tuesday. “Before the City Council acts on it, it has to go to the commissions,” he said, meaning the city’s Finance Commission and Utilities Commission made up of appointed volunteers.

Councilman Tony Young said he was a bit confused at what the process would be going forward and asked Moss to clarify. She responded, “My expectation is that you’ll have much discussion after the presentation.”

Once the parties settle on the basic terms of the sale, and the general form of the sale passes muster with the FMPA, a formal contract will come back to the City Council. Before a closing can take place, Vero’s fellow FMPA member cities must unanimously vote to allow Vero to buy its way out of its contractual obligations to purchase electricity.

Meanwhile, FPL’s $30 million offer to buy the Indian River Shores customers has in effect been sidelined by negotiations toward a full sale of the system.