Happy LCEC customers in Marco speak out against city-owned electricity services

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Atop a stage between a large American flag and a large State of Florida flag, Lee County Electric Cooperative Spokeswoman Karen Ryan introduced a group of cooperative employees to a round of applause. Ryan followed by introducing City of Marco Island staff and elected officials to a mere smattering of clapped hands.

It was that kind of night inside a meeting room at the Marco Island Marriott where about 200 people gathered to hear LCEC present its side of the story on a potential take over of the island’s electricity services.

LCEC CEO Dennie Hamilton gave an hour-long presentation and spent another hour answering questions from customers not only about municipalization, but also a city plan to bury power lines underground. The meeting came in advance of Monday’s city council budget workshop where council will likely decide whether to spend an estimated $25,000 for a consultant to study a city take over and form a citizen ad hoc committee to further address the issue. City officials have identified possible rate reductions and an alternative revenue source resulting from city-owned electricity.

Hamilton’s message — which he stressed Thursday night and in meetings with individual councilors last week — is that a study isn’t in the best interest of LCEC or the city.

“We don’t think you could fit those pieces of the pie without making the pie larger,” Hamilton said while standing in front of a presentation slide titled: “The City would likely have to raise rates to break-even, much less provide additional revenues.”

Hamilton also emphasized the cooperative is against a buyout and would “vigorously oppose” any city condemnation attempt.

“At some point if this thing gets legs, we’re going to have to hire some lawyers to work on condemnation, some accountants to figure out our valuation and probably a PR firm so we can fight this thing the best we can,” he said.

A number of city councilors and officials attended the meeting. City Public Works Director Rony Joel, who has been involved in negotiations with LCEC over the past couple months, said the cooperative didn’t make enough of a case against a study.

“I don’t think they adequately addressed the reasons why we shouldn’t go ahead and investigate this,” Joel said. “The bottom line is we don’t know what the benefit might be to the city.”

During the question-and-answer session, the dominant message from Marco residents to LCEC was simple: We like you.

There were compliments about the cooperative’s response to Hurricane Wilma in 2005 and a blown transformer at one home just last week.

“I think the main question here is what city government is ever better run than a cooperative?” asked Francis Kelley, 85, a full-time island resident.

Janet O’Connell, 57, also a full-time resident stood up to speak about the difficulties of those living on the island on fixed incomes. What might make the most sense, O’Connell indicated, is the decision that saves the most dollars.

“Not everybody on this island is rich,” she said to a round of applause.

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Comments » 10

MarcoFacts writes:

“At some point if this thing gets legs, we’re going to have to hire some lawyers to work on condemnation, some accountants to figure out our valuation and probably a PR firm so we can fight this thing the best we can,” he said.

THe statement above made by LCEC CEO is a threat. Why are they so against the city doing a study? Could the city save money and how much? Maybe we have been fleeced by LCEC and they don't want us to find out.

Something to think about before we condemn the study any further.

marcoredeagle writes:

We need to show the light of what this is.
Let's call it what it is ...

People need to consider:
- follow the money
- why else but to raise money/taxes (in reality another tax) is the city counsel looking at this? What other reason?
It isn't because they want to own it. It is another vehicle to raise money for the city.
- Why is this being looked out now? Why the sudden interest to own the utility? For the best interest of the citizens? NOT

Let industry do what it is best to do .. to compete with others or disappear. Let government do what it is best. Government's were NOT formed to own commercial enterprises.

SmokeyJoe writes:

Government can not manage anything cheaper than a private company or operation can. Further, how many addittional employees and benefits would this cost. You do not need an exspensive study to answer these questions. Just get the public information now available by a non paid citizens volunteer study group. We do not have qualified employees that could operate this kind of utility now. Do those promoting this have someone on Marco Island in mind for heading up this new Electric Utility?

Rachael writes:

"City officials have identified possible rate reductions and an alternative revenue source resulting from city-owned electricity."

Seriously? Give me a break.

Isn't that the same hogwash story that they gave us about the water utility purchase... I think we can all agree how disastrously/costly that turned out.

sailingby writes:

Instead of CEO Dennie breast beating and feather ruffling, he would have scored points by offering to make a deal on burying the electric lines that are at the heart of this controversy. The money he would spend on fighting a Marco buyout (including his PR people)might be better used as PR in offering to bury the lines at a reduced rate.

blackwidow writes:

sailingby:

It is against Florida law for an electric utility to bury wires without charging the community the full price of doing so. The purpose of the law is to protect other communities from having to pay for the benefits received by a different community. So, if Marco residents want the wires buried, Marco residents will have to pay to bury them one way or another.

When a new community is established, the developer may wish to have the utility bury the wires for aesthetic reasons, but he pays the utility to do so (or does it himself) and the cost is "buried" in the cost of the homes.

Underground utilities are not an unmitigated blessing. Although they may reduce the number of outages, they increase the duration of each outage. In the case of a flood or hurricane, you can expect the island to be without power for a week or more while the utility locates problems underground and repairs/replaces the flooded transformers located on pads above ground. Rony will be very busy running his generators from lift station to lift station to keep your excrement flowing while the power is out. Those transformers in their ugly green boxes are not the most beautiful addition to our island either!

EFT writes:

If LCEC would have done their job when they were supposed to then we would not be reading this. I also think that maybe we should look at buying them, then we wouldn't have these problems, and we would probably save money in the long run.

marcoredeagle writes:

EFT ... I think you are missing something.
- the tax we paid for the underground wires were to be paid over a number of years
- LCEC couldn't start buring the lines on their own scheudle becuse it was anticipated it would take years to fund the activity. They couldn't start the project do a years worth of funding then stop until the next years funding came in from our bills.

Am I missing something or is EFT?

marcoobserver writes:

The city implimented the franchise tax to pay to place the lines under ground in 2004. After 6 months they decided to use the money for other purposes and have been doing so ever since. Why is it LCEC fault that the city is ripping off the citizens?

waterday writes:

that is correct OUR CITY IS RIPPING OFF THE CITIZENS OF MARCO.. The city should give the franchise tax that we have all paid since 2004 to LCEC to pay for what it was intended for. NOT PROFIT FOR OUR CITY! Our we all fools who live here to allow our city to continue to milk us dry!

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