9 bidders for JEA advance to negotiation phase of privatization
After criticism of secrecy of process, city-owned utility names suitors
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Just over half of those who responded to a call for invitations to buy all or part of JEA received 75 or more points from the chief procurement officer and will advance to the negotiation phase of the process, the city-owned utility announced late Monday afternoon.
While JEA's initial guidelines called for the process to be conducted in private until early next year, the electric and water/sewer utility said Monday it would release the names of the companies advancing who consent to being named.
Eight of the nine agreed to be named, including the parent company of Florida Power & Light and Duke Energy.
However, the price the bidders are offering will not be released until February.
"What is in the replies is not public," JEA Vice President of Legal Affairs Lynne Rhode said. "So everything will be in accordance with the public procurement process, which had been in the solicitations. So to the extent permitted by law, things will be public, and to the extent they are not, they will not be."
As JEA moved to its negotiations phase with the nine business groups that want to buy the utility, American Water CEO Susan Story spoke with News4Jax on Tuesday about the process. Story didn't say anything about the bid, only that they are respecting JEA's selection process, remaining mum on the details.
"As a water and wastewater utility, the largest in the U.S., we, every year, work with municipals around the country and tend to work with them to be solutions providers for 10 to 15 (municipals) a year, so it's what we do," Story said.
Story gave the same response when asked why a water utility would want to buy JEA and whether the company would take the electrical component, as well.
JEA is keeping negotiations secret until a company is selected.
Any decision to privatize JEA would require the approval of the Jacksonville City Council and the voters of Jacksonville.
The CEO of JEA and the utility's board have stressed this only a fact-finding expedition. They just want to find out how much they could get for the utility, which has been independently valued at about $7 billion.
City Councilman Michael Boylan chaired a special meeting last week, where the majority of council members voiced concerns about the process. They agreed to introduce legislation that would allow council members to get their own attorneys to make sure they don't get left behind in a pending sale.
JEA has seven special attorneys doing the same thing for the utility, including former JEA board Chairman Alan Howard.
During the meeting, some council members expressed concerns that most of the public believes a JEA sale is a done deal.
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