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CEO addresses changes on JEA board

First of mayor's replacement nominees approved by City Council committee

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The clean sweep of the JEA board orchestrated by Mayor Lenny Curry could have a positive impact on the utility's future, according to JEA's CEO and members of City Council.

In the past two weeks, Curry asked all members of the JEA board of directors to resign, and he is appointing replacements. That purge came after controversy surfaced regarding Sunshine law violations at a board meeting.

Two of Curry's replacements -- Tom Petway and Delores Kesler -- were approved Tuesday by the City Council rules committee.

Their appointments will be voted on by the full City Council next week.

"I think there was probably some opportunity there with a fresh set of eyes to help out with some of the challenges over the next couple of years," JEA CEO Paul McElroy said.

Some of those challenges will begin right away, as JEA's bond rate, which is similar to a credit rating, is under review. JEA uses bonds to finance construction projects.

In a nutshell, JEA's cost of doing business could be affected if the bond rate changes, and news of the forced resignations could have an impact on the review.

But McElroy said it could be a positive impact.

"Having this opportunity to have several board members, or at least one board member, that can give him a fresh perspective and having the mayor join us and his perspective -- I think we're going to tell a great story about Jacksonville," McElroy said.

The city-owned utility contributes millions annually to the city budget, and City Council members met Wednesday with JEA officials to discuss changes to the amount of that contribution.

Currently, JEA contributes over $234 million to the city budget -- about $114 million from user fees, about $38 million in franchise fees and about $80 million in taxes.

The council is considering ideas for bringing in more money from the utility for the city budget. One of those ideas was to have residents with septic tanks pay a fee, because they do not currently pay sewer line fees. Another idea was to force septic tank users to hook up to sewer lines.

Any changes would have to be approved by the new JEA board, City Council and possibly voters.

But Councilman Bill Gulliford said a new board that is friendly to the mayor could make those changes easier.

"I think the type of people that are going to be on the board will certainly agree with most of our positions on what we're doing," Gulliford said. "You know, they are engaged in the community. They are volunteering to do this thing."

The council members and JEA officials will meet again next week. 


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