JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The new head of JEA says the city-owned utility is ready to move forward.
Jay Stowe, who was just hired two weeks ago, talked to the JEA board virtually during its meeting Tuesday morning.
Stowe did not mention former CEO Aaron Zahn, who was fired by the board in January after the botched exploration of a JEA sale. The federal government is still investigating.
City attorneys have said that the attempted sale of JEA was perhaps the largest fraud in Jacksonville history. That was the so-called elephant in the room during the board meeting, which nobody wanted to acknowledge, but Stowe and others referred to as an “ox.”
“The ox is out of the ditch is a good analogy,” Stowe said. “And I appreciate that the ox is out of the ditch now. I think we should be aware of our past mistakes so that we don’t repeat them but we also need to stop wallowing in the past, and I think it’s time for us to move forward."
Stowe will have much to deal with when he takes over in two weeks. The first thing is creating a new staff. Much of the top senior leadership team was fired. Those currently in charge are just in a temporary or interim position.
“We will work to develop a senior team," Stowe told the board. "To get the right people in the right seat.”
There are still major issues for JEA to deal with. During the meeting, News4Jax learned that it’s possible an electric rate increase could be discussed months down the line.
There is also concern that JEA would have to spend nearly a billion dollars to change the sewage system if the state bans dumping treated wastewater in the St. Johns River.
Also, the board voted to spend $2.4 million to buy land downtown in order to build a second headquarters. The reason? The main headquarters is being built in a flood zone, so JEA may need to evacuate in the event of a hurricane. JEA actually believes this is a money saver because it scaled back the new headquarters design.
There is also the issue of the nuclear power facility -- Plant Vogtle in Georgia. JEA is still on the hook for nearly $3 billion because of a cost overrun.
Board members were told one hardest issues to tackle is the public image of JEA. Unlike the power, which sometimes goes out and comes back within hours, the company’s image is going to take a lot of time to restore.