JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - On Wednesday, Jacksonville City Council opened its doors for the first public meeting to discuss the future of JEA, but the public didn't show up.
Action News Jax reporter Courtney Cole attended the meeting inside the Lynwood Roberts Room at City Hall. Cole says the discussion aimed to increase transparency, but she didn't see many customers.
Instead, Cole saw a room full of city leaders and decision-makers.
The meeting started at 11 a.m. which may be one of the reasons many regular citizens weren't there.
Cole asked Councilman Michael Boylan about the time not being good for working people; Boylan called the meeting.
- Jacksonville residents: Enter your address to see your new trash pickup schedule
- Veterans Day 2019: Freebies and deals on meals for vets and active duty
- Some parents say some northeast Florida schools are turning away students with disabilities
- Five men in ski masks ask women for Snapchat handles in University of North Florida parking lot
- New ordinance in Jacksonville Beach tightens restrictions on restaurant alcohol sales
Boylan told Cole, "The logistics of having it at this time is unfortunate. It's just the way it worked out. It's the best we could do in terms of getting this into the hands and engaging as many council members and subject matter experts as we could. The secret for the folks out there is to watch it online."
Confused about the possible sale of JEA?
"Is it confusing? How much of it do you understand?" Cole asked local business owner Herman Correa.
"I don't understand anything about JEA, the way they're going," Correa replied.
PREVIOUS STORIES: Jacksonville City Council votes to hire special counsel to help with process of potential JEA sale, JEA names bidders in potential sale of the utility, JEA announces number of preliminary bidders in potential sale
Correa said as a local business owner, he likes to keep up with things.
Cole asked Correa: "Did you know there was a public meeting happening today?"
Herman Correa replied: "Negative. No."
Council member Michael Boylan says Wedneday's Lunch-and-Learn JEA workshop was supposed to be the first step toward clearing up all the fog.
"I encourage constituents, rate payers, to be patient and diligent in following this process as closely as possibly can. And beyond that, let us know what their feedback is," Councilman Boylan said.
Boylan told Cole he encourages anyone with questions or suggestions to come out to the City Council meeting Tuesday.
Boylan told Cole that he's already seen a lot of e-mails and letters already.
During Wednesday's discussion, council members questioned the Office of General Counsel, the city's top lawyer.
Here's what they learned:
- All of JEA's powers are outlined in the city's charter. (Think of the city's charter as our local constitution.)
- City Council can change anything involving JEA's power and reach, through a two-thirds vote.
- City Council has the ultimate legislative approval of the JEA process.
- JEA can not sell more than 10% of JEA without City Council approval.
The potential sale of the public utility is one of the ways JEA could grow the utility in the future.
The Jacksonville Civic Council believes it's about something else.
"Now one point that you brought up seemed to get many of the City Council members' attention...when you said it appears the City is primarily in this for the money," Cole asked Jeanne Miller, CEO of Jacksonville Civic Council.
Miller replied: "JEA has been saying that is in a death spiral. So based on what we can tell and from experts and its own financial reports to New York, it does not appear that way."
Miller questions the city's motivation, "Our belief is the city likely needs funding for specific projects, but that is the conversation that this council and others need to be focusing on — the leadership of the city should focus on. What are the needs of the city? Have a very public conversation about that and then find ways to address those needs."
And customers including Correa want to clarity on the impact those motivations could have on them.
"Hopefully, we'll get a good deal out of this with JEA and not get somebody in there to hike the prices up," Correa said.
Boylan said this meeting was one of 14 total, scheduled through June 2020.
For those who weren't able to make it out to Wednesday's meeting, Boylan told Cole each of the meetings will be posted online after they conclude.
Here's a link to Wednesday's meeting.
Boylan encourages everyone to watch and give their feedback.
Here's a list of tentative meetings:
JEA Fact Finding Workshops
11:00 AM to 1:00 PM (Running Time: 90 Minutes)
Lynwood Roberts Room
1. 11/06/19 - The Role of the Independent Authorities vis a vis City Council
2. 11/25/19 - The PFM Report – Council Auditor's 2018 Report – The 2018 CC Special Committee on the Future of JEA
3. 12/09/19 - A Review of the JEA's Strategic Planning Process & Outcomes Leading Up to the Release of the ITN
4. 01/13/20 - A Review of the 2019 JEA Audit & an Analysis of the Factors Leading to the Consideration of the Need for Restructuring the JEA (The McKinsey Report)
5. 01/27/20 - The Rational for and Advantages/Disadvantages of Moving Forward with Scenario #1: Status Quo Plan
6. 02/10/20 - The Rational for and Advantages/Disadvantages of Moving Forward with Scenario #2: Traditional Utility Response Plan
7. 02/24/20 - The Rationale for and Advantages/Disadvantages of Moving Forward with Scenario #3: Community Ownership Plan
8. 03/09/20 - The Rationale for and Advantages/Disadvantages of Moving Forward with Scenario #4: Initial Public Offering Plan
9. 03/23/20 - The Rationale for and Advantages/Disadvantages of Moving Forward with Scenario #5: Strategic Alternative from ITN 129-19
10. 04/13/20 - The Administration's Vision of How the Proceeds Would be Utilized Should Scenario #5 be Implemented.
11. 04/27/20 - Water Rights: How Would the Restructuring of JEA Impact our Ability Meet Present and Future Water Needs?
12. 05/11/20 - Understanding the Florida Legislative Process, Specifically Florida Statute Chapter 180-301
13. 05/25/20 - TBD
14. 06/08/20 - TBD
© 2019 Cox Media Group.