What does 'privatization' of the JEA really mean?

News4Jax, Jacksonville City Council member both await answers

By Jim Piggott - Reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - One day after the JEA's board of directors voted to pursue privatization, there are many questions and few answers.

CEO of the city-owned utility, Arron Zahn, ignored questions about the move, and his office said he was not available to talk on Wednesday. The JEA's second in command, Chief Operating Officer Melissa Dykes, did speak with News4Jax to offer some insight into the process.

"The sky is not falling today, but it may be falling tomorrow," Dykes said. "It doesn’t mean putting a for sale sign up. It might be converting into something that’s pure community ownership. It might be an initial public offering. It might be a partnership with (a) technology or an oil and gas company. Those are the kinds of ideas we will be soliciting through this competitive process."

Daniel Henry, chairman of the Democratic Party in Jacksonville, said it appears JEA is pushing ahead for a sale but is trying to rebrand the idea.

“Any kind of privatization would encumber some type of compensation, which is a sale in any other sense of the word,” Henry said. “Privatization. Sale. It’s synonymous. It’s the same thing."

In the end, any change in JEA would have to be approved by the Jacksonville City Council. Veteran politician and recently elected Councilman Matt Carlucci said he is watching this closely.

"The messages we have been getting for the last four or five months are so mixed,” Carlucci said.

Carlucci said he plans to ask many questions of those he thinks will have the answers, like the council auditor. 

”When the time comes up, I can make the best possible decision for the city. And right now, I think it’s keeping the JEA as a public utility," Carlucci said.

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