POLL: Marco's electric takeover study re-energizes

City manager, chairman look to make new recommendation after citizens' electric muni committee halts further study, disbands

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Gibson: 'The committee really got down to the point of frustration'

Photo by LESLIE WILLIAMS HALE, Eagle staff

Gibson: "The committee really got down to the point of frustration"

— Marco Island’s electric utility takeover proposition fizzled out Thursday afternoon and by Monday’s Council meeting, some were hoping to spark the idea back up.

The committee looking into the possibility of the city taking over the Island’s electric provider, Lee County Electric Cooperative, decided in a meeting Thursday that further investment in the study was not worthwhile for the city.

Their decisions and recommendation to council to not proceed further may not last long.

The city’s Ad Hoc Electric Municipalization Committee voted (14-2) to disband at their meeting Thursday afternoon. Disbanding came swiftly after the committee chose not to hire consultant Bill Herrington for $18,500 to assist in completing the study (10-6).

Most committee members said they no longer served a purpose once the decision to not hire a consultant was made.

Herrington had just completed a two-day, $4,700 contract of gathering preliminary information.

“The committee really got down to the point of frustration,” said the committee’s chairman, Councilman Jerry Gibson.

Gibson added that he was surprised and disappointed by the outcome of the discussions. He said without getting the study done, the question of “what if” would linger within the city.

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,” she said.

Resident Bill McMullan was among the initial 32 members of the committee, but resigned shortly after its creation in mid-2008. McMullan attended several of the meetings over the past few months and said he was concerned about the “possible bias” of Herrington as the chosen consultant.

Herrington said in Wednesday’s electric committee meeting that he had a negative experience with LCEC representatives in the past. Herrington also said taking over the electric utility by eminent domain would “get ugly.”

“I was very pleased to see that most members of the committee recognized the futility to go forward,” McMullan later reported.

Gibson addressed the issue at Monday’s City Council meeting, echoing a statement made by City Manager Steve Thompson.

“The staff is working under the guidance that City Council is expecting a recommendation and does need direction if the council position has changed,” Thompson wrote in a memo to Council Friday.

Chairman Bill Trotter said he hoped Gibson would prepare information for the council to decide how to move forward with or without the consultant to gather facts.

“The original mission was to find the facts so we can proceed if we choose to do so,” Trotter said.

Committee member Steve Stefanides said he believed the committee’s decisions to not hire the consultant and disband were recommendations to council based on facts already gathered, which indicated it did not make sense to move forward with the electric takeover study.

“When you factored in the cost of condemnation, which ranges from $2 million to $4 million, it gets very expensive,” Stefanides said.

“I would be disappointed if (Council) wanted to go down a road that a good segment of the community felt it wasn’t worth continuing on,” Stefanides added.

Former City Councilman John Arceri, who was among the initial proponents of studying the utility takeover said he hopes it will continue.

“ ... The fact finding mission directed by City Council needs to be addressed without political considerations, preconceived opinions or based on feelings. I am not sure how this would be done, but still feel it needs to be done,” Arceri wrote in an e-mail Monday evening. (Read more from Arceri in his guest commentary.)

Stefanides said that while a couple members of the committee may have already had their minds made up before the study began, most were open-minded and learned through fact gathering that the proposition of taking over the electric utility and running it would not have a cost savings for residents in the near future.

Under Trotter’s recommendation, the issue is planned to be discussed at the March 16 City Council meeting.

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Comments » 10

NobodysFool57 writes:

What if?...What if the good people of Marco Island, who already pay the highest water utility rates in southwest Florida could be conned into letting the same people who set these rates (City Council) control their electric bill? Ooh-La-La!

Fossil writes:

Steph,John Arceri has never been concerned with what "a good segment of the community feels". Even though the Committee believes it arrived at it's decision based on facts and findings, Arceri announces that this Committee made up it's mind based on "political considerations" and "preconceived opinions". As far as he was concerned, facts presented to the committee had nothing to do with it. If they were unable to arrive at the place he wanted when he proposed this committee then it was a complete waste of time and money (our money). What's with this guy? If the citizens don't agree with what he wants, then the work is not finished? What arrogance.

sailingalong writes:

Most of us believe that we would be far better off it John Arceri would take it arrogance and manipulations of our council with him and leave Marco forever! This man is slime!

The consultant was hired to do a two day evaluation that was to provide for a simple cost benefit analysis. Instead we paid him $4,700 to tell us that he now wants $18,500 to do the study. Gibson is dumb enough to think that he might actually do something for that amount. Jerry do you think that this might be just another phase in moving forward with a study that will cost far more? DUH He screwed us once, why would you want to let him do it again?

playballonK writes:

Trotter and Aceri; the 'front' and the 'shadow'

Working_Stiff writes:

Quite frankly I could tell you how to easily solve this problem. Pay an independent, unbiased firm to send a mailer to every resident of Marco and ask them what they think of this silliness. Unfortunately, what we want really isn't important is it? When everyones budgets are tight as it is, our city council is trying to find a way to grab that last penny.

deltarome writes:

I feel Gibson is an honest and hardworking person who does have an unbiased mind.
I can't say either of these about Arceri.
His past utility experience at NY City's Con Edison should speak for itself. They are the most expensive utility on the east coast! Maybe he was trying to outdo himself here on Marco?

sailingalong writes:

ElkcamEye, your stupidity is reflected in your analysis of my and playballonK's comments. You are dumb enough to be Wayne Walduck. Arceri is a smug piece of dung and we all know it.

playballonK writes:

Sailing; Elkscum is nothing more than his ex-alter ego, Hourigan2279.
He gets liquored up and runs his mouth..treat him like the other booze-bag on this on site, Issler.
Let them run at the (drunken) mouth.
When they change to a new alias, you'll know it.
Glad to see such great representation from the 'Aceri' 'Trotter' crowd.

NobodysFool57 writes:

ElkcamEye should probably change his nom-de-plume to BrownEye since it sounds like he's looking to get in on that kinky sex too.

sunnycity writes:

Now is not the time to take on anymore dept. A study is OK but to dive into this thing now is insane....Marco water charges me the same even if I don't use any water, Florida Water never did that.

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