Mayor Curry calls new questions over whether legislation could lead to JEA sale: ‘a ridiculous assertion’

Legislation that could limit JEA’s contribution to city budget have some asking the question again

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The possibility of selling JEA, Jacksonville’s city-owned utility, is a reoccurring topic as of late.

Legislation is still being considered in Tallahassee that again has some people bringing up that question. The attention the proposal is getting in the city has some Jacksonville City Council members saying that, if it passes, JEA could be sold.

Over the years, JEA has contributed hundreds of millions of dollars to the city’s budget — money to pay for everyday services in the city. This legislation could limit that amount. And because of that, some council members have said if JEA is not making money for the city, why do we need to continue to own it?

The legislation being considered in Tallahassee isn’t just about JEA, but all municipal or all government-owned utilities in the state. Both the House and Senate have different versions.

The word is, the Senate version could die in committee. If that happened, it would kill the entire proposal.

On Friday, I asked Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry — who had not commented on the legislation previously — about it.

“I trust the chair. I trust the delegation,” he told me.

So I asked if he thought citizens needed to be worried about it — whether it could be a backdoor to selling JEA.

“That’s ridiculous. That’s a ridiculous assertion. People are just making that up,” Curry said. “Where did it come from? Who created that? Where did that assertion come from?”

City council, a reporter replied to the mayor, to which he said — “Where did they get it from?”

So I asked City Councilman Matt Carlucci that question.

“This is a shot fired across the bow of the ship, JEA. And we need to be constantly, you know, on watch,” Carlucci said. “This is a hugely valuable asset to the city of Jacksonville and our people and to sit idly by and not take something like this seriously is a mistake in my opinion.”

He, along with the rest of the City Council, passed a resolution this week blasting the legislation.

On Friday, JEA Vice President of Government Relations Kurt Wilson said that based on current calculations, if the legislation is approved, the city would lose $100 million annually from JEA’s contribution.

It all depends on what happens in Tallahassee.

I’ve also learned City Councilman Nick Howland is calling a special meeting for this Tuesday so they can bring members up to speed about the legislation, and he is going to propose a new emergency resolution asking the state legislature to exempt JEA from this rule if it should pass.

About the Author:

Jim Piggott is the reporter to count on when it comes to city government and how it will affect the community.