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John’s Island may not get natural gas by the fall, as hoped

STORY BY LISA ZAHNER (Week of July 13, 2023)

The Town of Indian River Shores utility franchise agreement with Florida City Gas that was supposed to be executed in May is not expected to be ready for a vote at the July 27 town council meeting, and that delay will likely present a major dilemma for John’s Island.

In April, Mike Korpar, general manager of the John’s Island Property Owners’ Association, told Shores officials the goal was to get John’s Island piped for natural gas by the fall, except for Gem Island and Coconut Palm Road, where it will take two years to complete installation of gas lines due to extra permitting.

If the town approves the franchise agreement in August, that would only give Florida City Gas about three months to have gas lines run by Thanksgiving in a community that generally shuns all-but-emergency construction during the height of season, so as to not inconvenience residents and guests.

“On our side everything is on hold until such time the franchise agreement is signed,” Korpar said.

Shores Town Manager Jim Harpring said last week “it appears we have an agreement hammered out” that would give Florida City Gas permission to use town rights of way for its gas lines.

“The delay has been on their end in terms of getting back with us on items that we wanted to address,” Harpring said. 

He noted that some changes in personnel and attorneys midstream had not exactly made things go faster.

In addition to the franchise agreement, the town and the utility have been working on several easement agreements for gas pressure-regulating equipment.  Those documents, however, were completed more than a month ago.

“It’s possible that it is up for preliminary discussion in July,” Harpring said.

Florida City Gas, a subsidiary of Florida Power & Light parent company Nextera Energy, did not provide an answer by press time when asked if the Shores contract would be ready on their end by August, and if so, if it would be possible to get natural gas service to the sections of John’s Island that won’t require special permitting by Thanksgiving.

“Whether or not we let Florida City Gas work during season or not will depend on the demand of the community.  Obviously if they want it in as soon as possible, work may commence during season,” Korpar said.  “We have been told by Florida City Gas that the disruption . . . will be minor.  But this will be a decision made by the community once we know the franchise agreement is in place.

Korpar said he could not speak for the John’s Island Club, except “I just know they intend to hook it up as soon as it is available to them.”

Town Attorney Pete Sweeney has stated the franchise agreement, which will likely be a standard, multi-decade arrangement, would not need two public hearings since it’s not a town ordinance, so only one reading and vote is necessary. The City of Vero Beach and Indian River County already have franchise agreements with Florida City Gas, so residential and commercial customers along the beachside gas extension should be able to sign up for service as soon as the main pipeline is completed past their neighborhood.