Belleair . . .The November 8 referendum determined that the majority of Belleair's residents prefer to continue utilizing Progress Energy Florida (PEF) for their electric service. The outcome was posted on the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections, Deborah Clark's, website Tuesday evening.
One thousand, eight hundred and sixty nine votes were totaled. One thousand and fifteen voted no, 54.31 percent of voting residents, with 854 or 45.69% in favor of the town purchasing and owning the electric system.
Information from the town's 20 year Financial Pro Forma Base Study presented by Jerry Warren and Bill Herrington and others at the second information meeting on November 3 proved to be unconvincing. Speakers gave evidence from various other studies, showing that nationally municipally owned electric power has proven to be financially feasible.
At his chance to address those gathered, Belleair Mayor George Mariani, clearly angered by PEF's refusal to honor past contractural commitments, said a few things mentioned at the previous meeting struck him. He pointed out that he believed PEF has no future plans to underground or update Belleair's system. He said, "If the town owns the system, profits stay on Main Street rather than Wall Street." Profits that would have went to such projects.
When asked by residents if he could guarantee that their rates would not go up, Mariani barked, "No, but neither can they [PEF]."
Additionally, Mariani criticized the St Pete Times for not making efforts to balance their editorial coverage. He felt PEF's position dominated recent reporting.
PEF representatives, Dale Oliver and Gail Simpson, relayed their company's history of serving Florida at the meeting. They said the company employs 1,600 employees in Pinellas County who undergo training and practice disaster relief, serious food for thought in light of the past two years of hurricane activity.
They asked residents to consider PEF's track record concerning rates, reliability and response time. Oliver estimated rates to be close to what they were in 1983. Belleair has partnered with PEF for 75 years.
Residents concerned with their property values speaking out during the meeting insisted the town needs to improve and update its roads and water systems, rather than tackle the new enterprise of owning and administrating a risky business.
The Belleair town commission must bind the referendum. A meeting was scheduled for 5:00 Wednesday at town hall to certify the election.
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