Are other utility companies looking at JEA?

Times-Union reports FPL interest in JEA; report shows other utilities watching

By Jim Piggott - Reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Nearly a week after the JEA board of directors voted to look into privatizing or possibly selling the utility, it appears there could be other utility companies looking at JEA.

During a board meeting last month, members of the board of directors said the city-owned utility needs to restructure as a way to offset the predicted losses of customers and income. Now it looks like there are some suitors standing by to take JEA up on the offer.

Florida Power and Light made it clear it's interested in JEA. The Florida Times-Union reported over the weekend that during a quarterly conference call, FPL executives brought up the question of acquiring JEA. News4Jax checked with FPL on Monday to see whether any action has been taken in that direction, but so far, FPL staff members have not commented.

The fact that FPL is talking about JEA shows that other utility companies are watching closely what happens with JEA and its potential of going on the market.

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry was on vacation last week when the vote was taken and issued a statement, saying he supports the board. On Monday, News4Jax was told he was not available and will not discuss JEA actions.

Jacksonville’s City Council will have a big say in all of this, and so will voters. Even though a straw ballot in November showed voters wanted a say in the sale, it was not binding. But recent changes by the City Council will now allow for a public vote for approval if more than 10% of the utility is sold.   

Councilman Reggie Gaffney said Monday that he was against the privatization of JEA.

"If they had these problems eight months ago or (a) year ago, I thought we should’ve known about them. And all of a sudden it seems the sky is falling down. I’ve got to see the books. I’ve got to learn more," Councilman Reggie Gaffney said Monday. "But I’m totally against it at this point."

Councilman Danny Becton is the liaison between the city and the JEA.

"Privatization is way at the bottom of the list and there is a lot of paths to go down before that discussion becomes anything," Becton said last week. "We've got to figure out how to take JEA forward and grow with us."

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