JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Two developments emerged Tuesday to ensure that the ongoing debate over the possible sale of JEA -- the city of Jacksonville’s biggest asset -- will continue.
JEA decided to hold a special workshop looking at the pros and cons of privatizing the city-owned utility, and City Council President Anna Lopez Brosche formed a special committee to do the same thing.
Sparks continue to fly as the city looks to see if selling JEA is the way to go. The benefit of selling would be that city would get several billion dollars to pay off bills. But keeping the utility means JEA will continue to bring in more than $117 million to the city budget each year.
During Tuesday's monthly JEA board meeting, Councilman Matt Schellenberg made a suggestion.
"That we have a workshop to determine if it's beneficial to the taxpayers in the city to sell at this point in time," he said.
The board unanimously agreed to the workshop. News4Jax asked JEA Board Chairman Alan Howard about what happened at last week's special City Council meeting about the potential sale, which became a grudge match between Mayor Lenny Curry and Lopez Brosche.
"I am disappointed that politics have gotten in the way," Howard said. "But that really is not JEA's province. I don't intent to get involved in the politics between City Council and the mayor's office."
Howard said he has not yet formed an opinion on a possible sale.
"I have not had a meeting to discuss JEA privatization," he said. "I don't feel I am being pulled into any turf wars."
Also on Tuesday, Lopez Brosche formed a new committee of five council members, including herself, to review the pros and cons of the possible sale.
"The City Council has tremendous responsibility to consider all aspects and implications of a potential sale (costs and benefits; risks and rewards), to hear the constituents and community at large, and to make the most prudent decision as to how we move forward for both the short-term and the long-term health of the City of Jacksonville," Lopez Brosche wrote in memo to the City Council.
Forming the committee is something that she and Curry finally agree on.
Curry issued the following response about the special committee:
"I welcome the Council’s decision to further explore the valuation report presented during a meeting I convened with Council last week. As I expressed then and strongly maintain today, it is important that we follow a process that is thorough and transparent. However, before there is any discussion on a sale or no sale of JEA, the valuation report laid bare an issue that must be dealt with. As previously reported by the Times Union, Plant Vogtle has “dimmed JEA’s future;” it is a liability to taxpayers. The valuation report has now put a number on that liability -- $1.2 billion, which is a huge burden to taxpayers, rate payers, and JEA rank and file employees -- all because of the decisions made by people eight or nine years ago.”
No date has been set on the JEA workshop. As for the special committee, no deadline was set as to when members will start to meet, and the meetings could go beyond the City Council president's tenure.