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MARCO ISLAND — Marco Island's electric utility takeover proposition fizzled out Thursday afternoon. The city will not likely find out any time soon if city ownership of the Island's electric provider, Lee County Electric Cooperative, would save money or add value to the city.
The city's Ad Hoc Electric Municipalization Committee voted (14-2) to disband at their meeting Thursday afternoon. The committee chose not to hire consultant Bill Herrington for an additional $18,500 to assist in the study (10-6). Most committee members said they no long served a purpose once the decision to not hire a consultant was made.
Herrington had just completed a two-day contract of gathering "phase 1" information at a cost of $4,700 Thursday.
"The committee really got down to the point of frustration," said the committee's Chairman and City Councilman Jerry Gibson adding that he was surprised by the outcome of the discussions.
"I'm awfully disappointed. I feel I let the city down. Perhaps I didn't do as good of a job leading as I could have," Gibson said.
He added that he believed that without getting the study done he felt the question of "what if" would linger.
LCEC spokeswoman Karen Ryan said she expects to hear more about the issue.
"It would be surprising if this is the end of it because the few people that are driving this, I don't feel they will let it go," Ryan said.
Gibson plans to address the issue further at Monday's City Council meeting to determine if this really is the end of the line for discussions of taking over LCEC.
The electric takeover proposition is on the brink of either fizzling out or taking charge in the days leading up to Monday’s City Council meeting.
The city’s committee studying the possible electric takeover met Thursday to decide whether they will recommend council continue with a consultant looking into the matter. The committee was meeting at presstime. Look to marconews.com for updates.
If they agree to proceed, the item will be added to Council’s agenda, which will be discussed during City Council’s meeting at 5:30 p.m., Monday, in the Community Room next door to the police station.
Chairman of the committee, Councilman Jerry Gibson, said he anticipates the group will recommend hiring consultant Bill Herrington for an additional $18,500.
“With their thirst for knowledge, they’ll want to know we’ve done our due diligence,” Gibson said.
The consulting fee will cover providing “enough information to Council for them to be able to decide if moving forward with the take over of LCEC makes sense or if the whole process should end,” he added.
Herrington spent two days with the committee collecting preliminary information at a cost of $4,700.
“My personal feeling is that (electric utility takeover) won’t prove to be a benefit to the city, but we got to put the facts on the table,” said committee member Amadeo Petricca before Thursday’s committee meeting.
Project manager Tim Pinter, the city staff liaison to the electric committee, said there is a level of confidence with Herrington’s ability to estimate the cost of LCEC takeover.
“His history is that he comes very, very close on his estimates. He was very accurate on Winter Park,” Pinter said.
Winter Park took over the corporation Progress Energy for about $41 million in 2003. Marco will likely need to takeover the cooperative, LCEC, against their will by eminent domain.
“It’s going to get nasty. LCEC has more money than you do and will be worried about the precedence of this,” Herrington said to the committee Wednesday.
His analysis will show what profit would be leftover after takeover and the cost to operate the utility.
Pinter said moving forward with the second consulting phase is expected to yield a purchase price with a 10 percent margin of error, which he said is “pretty accurate.”