During a Wednesday public notice meeting regarding the pros and cons of selling JEA, John Crescimbeni, who chairs a special committee on the “potential sale” of JEA, advised a Council colleague who thought the local utility’s electrical component could fetch $5 million on the open market to “stay tuned to our special committee.”
That special committee meets Thursday afternoon in Jacksonville City Council chambers and will consider three major agenda items.
Perhaps the most compelling narrative point: progress being made on hiring an outside consultant to help Council get an unbiased take on whether a sale is a good idea. The consultant being considered has already talked to media, and has said that if a sale happens, it would be done in components — another potential complicating factor for the transaction.
Per minutes from a March 19 meeting, the Jessie Ball DuPont Fund is willing to fund an outside consultant, via “the Public Utility Research Center at the University of Florida to gauge their interest in undertaking the task and to invite Ted Kury, Director of Energy Studies for the Center, to attend a future special committee meeting to discuss the project and the Center’s potential interest.”
Kury has already gone on record with preliminary thoughts on a sale. He thinks the utility would have to be split up among two or more entities, and with skepticism on a sale ruling the committee, it’s easy to see how Kury’s testimony will help to guide said skeptics’ talking points in terms of the very real considerations of divesting local control to private operators.
Council Auditor Kyle Billy will offer reports discussing “things to consider” regarding a potential JEA sale, including a look at franchise fees and taxes, a look at JEA revenue, expenses, and debt retirement over the last ten years, and a schedule of future contributions from the utility.
Billy is not expected to cheerlead a sale. The Council Auditor’s office has been bearish in the past when the sale question came up, and Billy questioned the “unusual” use of a third party group (one that was at least strongly considered to help with the mechanics of the sale) to provide what skeptics see as an optimistic valuation report.
In 2012, City Council Auditor Kirk Sherman noted that while the city would receive an infusion of cash that could be as high as $50 million in 2012 dollars, it would be offset by variables, such as a loss of jobs, the loss of the JEA contribution, and other factors.
Also to be discussed: subpoenas, via the Office of General Counsel.
Much of the discussion last Thursday revolved around a subpoena authorized, by the end of the meeting, for JEA CEO Paul McElroy, who would not testify under oath without a lawyer on hand.
Council members stopped short of subpoenaing the city’s Chief Administrative Officer Sam Mousa.