VERO BEACH, FL -- The city’s electric utilities director has resigned after what has been a turbulent two years.
While the utility has come under heavy fire recently for large increases in customers bills, City Manager Jim Gabbard said he believed Director R.B. Sloan’s decision was based on wanting to live closer to his North Carolina hometown.
Sloan will be taking over as head of the Danville, Va., utilities where he will oversee electric, water and sewer.
Gabbard said Sloan’s last day here will be Nov. 6, but he will remain available to the city into February. The city’s Utilities Customer Services Manager John Lee will serve as acting director.
Gabbard praised Sloan’s service as director, especially his role in the selection of a new power provider for the city’s electric service.
“He’s extremely talented,” said Gabbard. “He’s a respected expert in his field and had done a tremendous job in moving us along these last two years.”
Sloan had previously served as the chief executive officer of Energy United in Statesville, N.C., where he was paid more than twice the $130,000 he made with Vero Beach.
The absence of the salary, however, may ease some of the burden on the city’s strained finances. Still, Gabbard said he wished Sloan was staying.
The electric utilities director — who has had to cope with a lot of the pressure caused by the rising electric rates — has made his own job a lot easier, said Gabbard.
In his letter of resignation, Sloan wrote that he came to the position “with the goal of stabilizing power supply cost and I believe that has been accomplished with the soon-to-be-implemented Orlando Utilities Commission agreement. This contract in conjunction with the new electric rates currently under consideration by the Florida Public Service Commission are two of the major milestones I had targeted for completion. As these are implemented, I believe this is an opportune time to transition.”
City officials blame the current charges, among the highest in the state, on fuel adjustment costs paid to their current power provider, Florida Municipal Power Agency. They said costs should drop dramatically when the new power provider, Orlando Utilities Commission, comes on board next year. Critics, however, said the bills will still be far above what Florida Power & Light customers pay.
The city is in the midst of considering a 12.7 percent increase in its electric base rate, which the council is scheduled to discuss in November.
City officials said it has been nearly three decades since the base rate has been changed and contend the proposed increase will be more than offset by the expected decline in fuel costs next year under the new power provider.
The city’s electric utility also could find out within the next one to two months whether it will have to pay any fines in connection with a June inspection, formally known as an audit, conducted by the Florida Reliability Coordinating Council in conjunction with the National Energy Reliability Council.
Sloan has said that missed filing dates for some required reports probably constituted the majority of the preliminary findings in the audit.
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