Is It Time For A Tallahassee Utility Board?

The Tallahassee Charter Review Committee has been meeting over the last two months with the charge of reviewing possible changes to the Tallahassee City Charter.

Among the issues that have been discussed is a separate regulatory board for the utility functions of the city.

After five months of research, including dozens of interviews with city employees and Tallahassee citizens, the facts seem to indicate that it is time to consider a separate utility authority.

A review of findings by Tallahassee Reports include:

1. City officials confirmed Tallahassee Reports’ finding that the citizens have spent approximately $150 million over the last three years due to the lack of fuel diversity.

2. City officials confirmed that the failure of Progress Energy to update transmission lines  have restricted the ability of the City to import and export power, thus having a negative effect on electric rates.

3. Tallahassee Reports, through a public data request, verified that over the last three years no city commissioner or the city manager has provided a written communication to the Florida Public Service Commission, the Legislature, or the Governor’s Office asking for the transmission line problem to be addressed.

4. City officials confirmed that the $40 million investment in smart meters would only be cost-effective if 25% of residential households participate in variable pricing and load control.  City officials acknowledge that there is little track record to indicate that these programs would be successful.

5. The EPER (the Green Department) was created by “re-allocating resources” associated with vacant positions from different functional areas across the city that totaled approximately $250-$300,000.

Why is a separate utility board needed?

First, Tallahassee is the largest city in the state of Florida that does not have a separate entity responsible for  utility operations. Best practices would seem to indicate that such a move would be a good idea.

Second, currently one person -the City Manager- is responsible for budgeting and presenting policy proposals associated with over $800 million of city revenues. A separate utility board would decentralize this process, provide more accountability, and provide transparency with regard to utility finances.

Third, research by Tallahassee Reports indicates that current policy makers readily admit to pursuing environmental issues over lower electric rates. A separate utility board would have the mission of providing the most reliable and cost-effective electric rates as possible.

20 Responses to "Is It Time For A Tallahassee Utility Board?"

  1. I support the idea of a separate utility board. Our utility rates in Tallahassee are outragious. This is the capital of the state and we have the highest rates in the state. Accountability is always a good idea.

  2. There needsto be a Utility Board to oversee things. We went from a 3400 sq foot house with 3 A/C units to 1200 sqft,(to save money, to buy)our power at was 230 with the air set on 68 upstairs all night and keeping them on 74 all the time,3 TVs going, we had Talquin there. Here we have 1 TV, 1 A/C unit set on 68 for heat and 78 air, all other appliances are the same. Our bill w before the smart meter was averaging 225 in this little house. I just got hte first bill since the smart meter, it is 430! And it say we used 800 more KWhs! The rep said because it was cold. From Dec-Feb we used less than 1600 KWHs. Someone explain that!
    City of Tallahassee Utility rates are outrageous! When our lease is up we are moving back to where Talquin is! The spike in our power bill was also about $140. Guess the meters had to get paid for by someone.

  3. As a small business owner and a long time homeowner in Tallahassee I am concerned about the way that our “utility system” has been managed. Our rates are amongst the highest in the state despite owning our own utility system. I believe that the city commission would be “well served” to have a citizen’s oversight board to review our rate structure but also to consider other options with our utility system.
    I further believe that the citizens would be well served for the city to seriously consider the pros and cons of selling the utility. The sales proceeds could be put to good use and we could “purchase power” and we could lock in today’s “lower” prices at a cost savings to the taxpayers.

    Howard Eisenman

  4. Appointing a “Utility Authority” will not necessarily bring down electric rates. Buying power from coal fired generation or generating it from our own coal fired plants will bring down rates. Just like JEA did in the early 90’s and Talquin has done with Seminole Power.

  5. I absolutely agree that we need an independent oversight board for our utilities. My utility bill jumped over $140 last month, and that is NOT because “it was a cold month.” We need someone to investigate these so called “smart meters” (if they are so smart, why was a City employee in my yard last week checking the meter?).

  6. I support a separate utility board, if it means lower cost of our utilities. The city commissioners, past and present, have consistently siphoned off profits of the utilities to fund non essential government projects. It is time for government to get back to their core mission. Provide roads, security and education.
    Bruce Screws

  7. Without an oversight authority, we have the fox/foxes tending the henhouse, NOT a good thing for Tallahassee citizens.

  8. We do not need more regulations, oversight, or granted authority. What is needed is more private enterprise in the production of electricity. Increasing competition will expose much needed sunlight on the shady COT Utilities, and ultimately drive prices down and perhaps push the COT out of the “business” of energy production.
    The days of Dr. Saff and Bill Proctor’s populist fearmongering must come to an end. We have already shut down a coal plant in Taylor County, using tax money to print government propaganda pamphlets and TV ads, and the BioMass Plant seemingly never had a chance.
    Wake up Tallahassee, a new day is coming.If you truly desire cheaper electricity, we must stand against the tyranny of the few mandating to the many, in whatever form it presents itself. You can decide for yourself daily what is best for you and your family.

  9. We are finding out that questionable decisions have been made to try and impact the demand-side component of the equation (ie. smart meters), while a decaying supply-side infrastructure is being rewarded with a gold certificate for being “Green”. Thanks to this web site there is finally some coverage of these issues and movement in the right direction. I strongly believe that a separate utility board is our best hope to correct the longstanding mismanagement of our utilities here in Tallahassee.

  10. Absolutely, a utility board and any other arrangement to decentralize authority away from unelected bureaucrats. The waste is evident. There are no consequences for extravagant spending, nor rewards for prudent management.

  11. Thank you!,

    Oversight by an independant utility board is a must! The city or commissioners should NOT be the selection committee. Focus on dependable – cost effective service. Our consumption continues to reduce, while my bills keep escalating.

  12. Do you think this will be published in the Democrat? No doubt it must be done to show how the city is wasting tax dollars again.

  13. Thank you!,

    Oversight by an independant utility board is needed. Please get politics out of the equation to the extent possible. Focus on dependable – cost effective service. No “green” decision should be made without getting a reliable cost estimate for the “green” policy. Pace Allen, Tallahassee native, attorney, Certified Public Accountant, 104 West 5th Avenue, Tallahassee

  14. Ditto #5. My last bill was for almost $400, even though my heat was turned off except for 2 weekends, when it was set on the low 60s. This month I am not turning it on at all. We’ll see what they come up with this tim

  15. A separate Utility Board is a must. And, Board appointments should be made by independent parties – not just city officials.

  16. A Tallahassee Utility Board is needed very badly. For to long a time the Utility Rates in Tallahassee have been out of control. I stay in a one bedroom apartment & regularly have $200+ utility bill. According to the bill I manage to use the exact same amount of water every bill cycle, which I think shows that there is a problem with the system. I have even gone as far as to unplug everything before I leave for work at 7:30am until I get back home around 6pm, that still didn’t have an affect because when I started doing that my bill started to increase. I started asking for a detailed bill so I can exactly see what is going on, they sent me a regular bill hoping I would forget but I called & requested they send it out & hopefully they get it right this time. I recommend every one get detailed bills so u can better dispute erroneous charges.

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