Power issues takes up lengthy debate

By Kile Brewer
Posted 12/6/17

GREEN COVE SPRINGS – In its first meeting in a month, the Green Cove Springs City Council closed out its last meeting of 2017 with a four-hour marathon to tackle as much as possible before the …

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Power issues takes up lengthy debate

Posted

GREEN COVE SPRINGS – In its first meeting in a month, the Green Cove Springs City Council closed out its last meeting of 2017 with a four-hour marathon to tackle as much as possible before the Christmas holiday.

Various aspects of the city’s electric utility took up the bulk of the meeting, with discussions concerning their membership in the Florida Municipal Power Authority and their contract with the Hooper Corp., as well as the monthly FMPA report by the council’s FMPA representative, former council member Bob Page.

The meeting got started with the final reading and approval of the water and wastewater rates for the city, the rates had been discussed at the two prior meetings, so there were no comments and the measures passed.

The consent agenda spread over an entire page of the agenda, but council moved through the items quickly. Council member Van Royal pulled out a handful of items to give thanks to the people involved in several community events, organizations and city employees for their work to keep the city growing and changing.

He also set aside some time to talk about the city’s new memorial bench initiative that will allow residents to buy one of three types of memorial benches or swings to be placed in Spring Park. For those interested, the benches, memorial plaques and swings can be ordered and paid for at City Hall.

As the council moved onto the agenda, the meeting began to slow its pace as some big issues needed to be discussed. First up was the city’s unanimous vote to allow the city of Vero Beach to be released from FMPA.

This means the city will assume some of Vero’s responsibility to FMPA’s All Requirements Project, which requires FMPA members to pay into the debt against the St. Lucie, Stanton and Stanton 11 power stations. FMPA sells power to its member cities.

Green Cove Springs was one of 19 cities that belong to FMPA, and the power provider requires a unanimous vote to allow Vero to exit their agreement. After Tuesday’s vote, eight of the 19 cities have voted to let Vero out.

FMPA CEO Jacob Williams attended the meeting, and thanked the city for its cooperation with the process, and received thanks from members of the council for providing them with thorough information throughout the process.

“I wanted to thank you guys for making a very complex transaction make sense,” said Council Member Steven Kelley to Williams.

After the vote, Page spoke to the council, also thanking them for going through with the Vero Beach deal, and reminding them that this is a process they could follow in the future should they ever want to also get out of FMPA.

Next, City Manager Danielle Judd began a discussion about the work plan for the Hooper Corp. in 2018, which will begin the city’s overhaul of its electric system.

The discussion, which lasted for more than an hour of the meeting, eventually led to two separate motions by Mayor Mitch Timberlake, who passed the gavel to Vice Mayor Connie Butler to allow him to make a motion for a vote.

The first motion was made to approve the budgeted base purchase order for work to be done by Hooper, which includes day-to-day expenses and work, as well as changes to staff.

The second motion directed staff to shop around for interest rates for the loan before coming back with an ordinance. The city would need to take out a loan for up to $10,780,000 to expedite funding for capital projects including allowing the city to start making moves on the third electrical feed to the Magnolia Point subdivision.

Though Royal was hesitant to put the city into that much debt, he said throughout the meeting that he would vote for it. However, he wanted to speak to the fact that they are expecting Hooper to start fixing the frequent power outages throughout the system, something he doesn’t think has changed much since they took over the operations of the city’s electric company. Royal said that the average outage time for a customer still hovers around 30 minutes every month.

“I’m gonna vote for $10 million,” Royal said. “But my expectation is that that [30 minutes per month] is gonna go down.”

In other council business, the Augusta Savage Cultural Arts Festival, which is slated for Feb. 24, was approved to have all rental fees waived for their use of Spring Park on the day of the festival, in addition to waiving fees for some street closures.

“Thank you for all the time and effort, and I know how much effort goes into putting on one of these,” Royal said.

The council also heard an update on a proposition to provide wireless internet in Spring Park, as well as Vera Francis Hall Park and the Augusta Savage Arts Community Center. The total startup cost for all three was budgeted at $40,000 by the city’s network administrator Angel Alicea. Though the proposition isn’t in next year’s budget, city officials said they would look favorably on the idea next summer when laying out its 2019 budget.

Council members also voted to move forward to recruit a communications coordinator position for the city, and expects to start taking applications as soon as the job description can be added to the city’s job postings.

Newly-appointed chief Police Chief Derek Asdot presented a budget neutral proposal to reorganize the department, a measure was approved 5-0 by the council.

“I think I have a pretty good grasp on why we should do this,” Asdot said, explaining that when he got to the department there were two captains, then two lieutenants, then the positions were combined into one assistant chief. For Asdot, having three people at the head of the department is a better system for spreading out their high-ranking officers in the community.

Asdot’s proposal was to eliminate the assistant chief position and replace it with two lieutenants who would pull responsibilities from the assistant chief position as well as some duties currently carried out by the department’s four sergeants. In addition, Asdot asked for the option to hire a part-time records clerk who can deal with the growing amount of records requests the department receives monthly.

The council will pick back up in the new year at 7 p.m. on Jan. 9.

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