JACKSONVILLE, Fla.-- Some city leaders worry it's not just your utility bill that would go up if JEA is forced to contribute an extra $40 million a year to the city's police and fire pension fund.
Sandra Durden lives on a tight budget. The last thing she wants is for her JEA bill to go up. "I'm a single parent. It's tough," said Durden.
But it could happen to Durden and every other JEA customer. The mayor wants JEA to contribute another $40 million to help fund the city's pension. JEA Chairman Mike Hightower said that means increasing rates.
According to city councilman Bill Bishop, the increase could mean more than just higher bills. "It will definitely impact maintenance, and we'll pay for that in the long run or impact the ability to expand or upgrade," said Bishop.
On the same day the mayor pitched his plan, JEA voted to spend $2.5 million dollars to study whether to build a $200 million dollar liquid natural gas facility. Hightower said that's the money JEA should be spending, calling it an investment in the future. "Investing money to see if this works," said Hightower.
Whether it's $40 million now, or $200 million later, Councilman Bishop said the focus should be on giving JEA customers the most for their money. "They have to figure out how to get gas supply for customers," said Bishop.
Next year, JEA will also have to spend money to re-engineer some of its systems to meet new EPA standards.
We reached out to the facility working with JEA.
Steve Schooff, director of communications for Sempra U.S. Gas & Power, said, "JEA, Jacksonville's community-owned utility and the largest consumer of natural gas in Jacksonville, and Sempra U.S. Gas & Power, a developer of clean power solutions in markets throughout the country, have entered into a written agreement to assess the development of a variety of natural gas infrastructure projects in Northeast Florida including a liquefied natural gas plant.
The alliance was formed in October 2013 to help meet the growing demand for safe, reliable and clean natural gas energy solutions, as well as to support continued economic growth.
JEA and Sempra U.S. Gas & Power have completed preliminary diligence on the feasibility of a liquefied natural gas plant in the JEA service territory. This week, the JEA board of directors approved entering into a development agreement for the parties to jointly move forward with the next phase of due diligence. The findings from this second phase of exploration will be brought back to the board for further review at a later date."