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New rate shocks await snowbirds
BY A STAFF WRITER (Week of September 3, 2009)

When seasonal residents return to the island this fall, the City of Vero Beach Utilities has a special rate shock in store for those who missed out on their summer sizzler fun.

If the proposals on the table pass muster with the Vero Beach City Council, which rubber stamps most of these great ideas, snowbirds headed north next spring will be required for the first time to keep their water and sewer service active during the summer and pay base rate charges – which, by the way, are going up by a combined 37 percent October 1.

While officials claim the funds are needed to cover mounting operating costs and the capital needs of an aging utility system, the water and sewer bills are one of the cash cows the City Council milks for the General Fund.

Seasonal residents hooked onto the city’s electric system also can look forward next year to being greeted with the utility’s new “snowbird rate” as Vero Beach in 2010 implements a scheme to charge higher rates for electricity from October 1 to May 1 and a lower rate from May to October.

The rationale behind this proposal is that the influx of winter residents forces the City to buy more expensive power during peak usage times.

These changes are the recommendation of Public Resources Management Group, a consulting firm – thus giving the City Council and staff someone other than themselves to blame.