Marco committee on electricity has robust membership

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They’re calling it the “Electric Municipalization Committee.” A better name might be the Marco Island Menagerie.

Twenty-six islanders of all stripes and sizes have signed up for a Marco Island City Council-authorized committee to hire a consultant and study a city takeover of electricity services.

“From attorneys to housewives,” City Public Works Director Rony Joel marveled while discussing the group’s diversity.

“The more people, the more input we get and the better it’s going to be,” Joel said, adding that other residents could join or drop out before the first meeting on August 18.

But already on the committee’s roster are many of Marco Island’s best-known political animals. And like the fox and the hound, some of them just don’t get along.

Take Butch Neylon and John Arceri. Neylon, 62, lost a City Council bid last January and has taken a consistent anti-City Hall bent, particularly on issues related to the ongoing $100 million sewer program. On numerous occasions he’s brushed up against Arceri, 65, a former city councilor seen as one of the architects of the sewer plan. The two even held debates before island condo associations during the past election season.

On the electricity issue, Arceri has been part of the city’s team, negotiating with current electric provider, Lee County Electric Cooperative, and has spoken in favor of a takeover study. Neylon sent a letter to City Council, warning them against it.

So it’s no surprise that some electricity is starting to spark.

“I do believe John and I might have a different outlook on how we might want things to go,” Neylon said. “But I don’t have any preconceived notions and I will keep an open mind about the process. I certainly haven’t written as much about it as John has.”

Here’s Arceri’s response:

“The other side is saying, ‘Arceri’s the ghostwriter for all this,’” Arceri said. “I hate to make them think that because I’m behind some of this stuff, they would be against it automatically. That’s why I’m saying loud and clear that I don’t care the way this turns out. I just want the facts out there.”

Aside from big personalities, there’s the matter of a big committee, period. Joel said it might be a challenge keeping the 25-plus-member group on task, but said the benefits of having many perspectives outweighs the costs.

Neylon chuckled when asked if a large group could have difficulty reaching a consensus.

“Twenty-six people couldn’t decide where to have lunch,” he said. “It’s not possible.”

Just as practical is a matter of the law, or more precisely Florida’s Government-in-the-Sunshine Law. City advisory committees are subject to Florida open government law, which requires all communication on matters of policy to be held at open, publicly noticed meetings.

In this instance, it could require all 26 members of the group not to discuss anything related to an electricity takeover outside of meetings.

Joel said he was aware of potential Sunshine concerns and that’s why City Attorney Alan Gabriel will make a presentation to the committee before it starts its work. Joel and Gabriel both said the committee, or sub-groups of the committee, simply could have fact-finding responsibilities and the Sunshine Law would not apply to all aspects of its work.

“Depending upon the task at hand, it will determine whether it’s subject to Sunshine,” Gabriel said. “Obviously, once they move into recommending a consulting firm, it would be under the law.”

Of all local governments, Marco Island has had the most back-and-forth on the Sunshine Law recently. In February, City Councilman Chuck Kiester was convicted in Collier County court of a non-criminal violation of the Sunshine Law’s sister statute, the public records law.

The complaint against Kiester, whom Neylon regularly backs, was filed with support by Arceri. That complaint happened soon after Neylon filed one targeting Arceri during his time in office.

© 2008 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Comments » 9

lauralbi1 writes:

In my opinion, the Citizen's Committee is being formed to do research and select Consultants. Not to render opinions. The political make-up of the members or the opinions of the members is not relevant to the operation or conclusions of the Committee. The goal of the Committee is to obtain facts regarding power rates, LCEC, other Utilities, other Cities that own Electric utilities, etc. The information will be packaged and provided to City Council. There are no "pros or cons" as far as the takeover of LCEC issue, that apply to this Committee or it's task. This Committee is like a College Reasearch Project and nothing more. I do not believe these comments are any violation of any laws as the Committee has not met yet. What anyone thinks of anyone should not come into play in this effort. We certainly can work together to gather this factual information.
Ed Issler

Cyber writes:

“I do believe John and I might have a different outlook on how we might want things to go,” now there is an understatement if I’ve ever heard one. Mr. Neylon’s outlook on how things should be done on Marco Island was soundly and embarrassingly rejected by the electorate in January, what makes him think anything has changed that would make his opinion mean anything. As to Mr. Neylon’s open mindedness one would only have to reflect back to the debates during the last election when Mr. Neylon professed to have all the answers.

I’ll bet Dillon had to call Massachusetts for his interview with Mr. Neylon since that is where Neylon actually lives.

dc5799 writes:

Cyber,
Get a life and try to move on with it.We lost but you have Wayne.

lauralbi1 writes:

DC5799: "We" did not lose. The we you are referring to are Marco Island residents. And that group "won", including Mr. Waldack (as compared to Mr's Neylon, Hall, Guidry and Beatty). I do agree that Cyber may have went too far in his comments as they apply to this Committee and the article. But we must all understand that everything Mr. Neylon and Mr. Hall do and say is oriented towards running again in the next election for Council. It just so happens that this Committee will be of no help to them as it is apolitical and probably will result in facts and figures that support conclusions that they are opposed to. If that is the case, they will be boxed into a corner as far as their supporters are concerned.
The Island should be relieved to know that the machine is still in place, and will be, to defeat these candidates (Hall, Neylon and others of their opinions) again as many times as it takes. There are many good candidates in line now that the Island has shown what they really want.
Ed Issler

flyingsparks writes:

Ed, Your bias is already apparent by your statement that the facts and figures will probably support conclusions that Hall and Neylon are "opposed to". This does not sound like an open mind, but rather predisposition. This appears to be nothing more than an exercise in futility with a pre-determined outcome where the majority with little knowledge force their political and Utopian views on the few who have knowledge and honest intentions.

dc5799 writes:

flyingsparks,
Exactly what WE ALL think.

lauralbi1 writes:

Flyingsparks: You may have forgotten that a consultant has already studied the figures and stated that we can save $5 million a year by taking over LCEC. Yes, I have done research and yes, I can foresee what the facts will show. My OPINION means nothing in this exercise. Just like Mr. Neylon's or Mr. Hall's or Mr. Arceri's. The numbers speak for themselves. That was my point. If you want to do some comparisons yourself so you can take your bias and emotions out of this issue, go to www.publicpower.com/ and then to flutilities and start to see what we pay compared to other cities in Florida. Oh, and by the way, Bias aside, what statements made by Mr. Hall or Mr. Neylon have ever been based on the "facts and figures". That is NOT a rhetorical question.
Ed Issler

Avenger writes:

I think that Issler is being too kind to say that a consultant has “studied the figures.” I guess he’s referring to the May 2007 report by WHH Enterprises, which can be found here:

http://web.naplesnews.com/media/pdf/2...

WHH Enterprises was hired by the Marco Island Finance Director to review LCEC’s cost estimate to underground its overhead electrical distribution system on Marco Island. The consultant produced a nine and half page report. Most of the report is a review of what had already been done by LCEC and the Marco Island administration. There were only a couple of pages of analysis, mostly on how to charge taxpayers for the various undergrounding options. I want to emphasize that the discussion and lackluster analysis were specifically about undergrounding the overhead electrical distribution system on Marco Island.

Then in the second to last paragraph, “WHH suggests that the city also consider the formation of a municipal utility.” The consultant “estimated” that an additional $5 million annually could be available if the utility was formed. There was absolutely no analysis to show how this annual “profit” would be realized. I wonder how many of our tax dollars were spent on this shoddy report?

dc5799 writes:

Issler knows it all Wayne keeps him up to speed

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