Destin utilities debate: City looking to end Gulf Power contract

Destin utilities debate: City looking to end Gulf Power contract

The City of Destin is still moving closer to switching to another power company.

The city came to the end of its 30-year contract with Gulf Power and city leaders said they want to lower their power bill, but a Political Action Committee group from Washington D.C. accused the mayor and several councilmembers of trying to raise electricity costs.

That's why the mayor of Destin wrote an open letter to residents this week.

The mayor said recent ads in a local newspaper with information from polling data about changing power providers keep residents in the dark about what the council wants to do and that's why he wrote the letter.

Mayor Scott Fischer believes the letter had to be written.

"Well, it's a Washington D.C. lobbying firm and it's putting out some distorted, if not outright false information," Fischer said.

According to his calculations in the letter, he believes customers in Destin could save up to $400 a year by switching to another utility.

The mayor isn't the only public official in Destin to rebuke family businesses for affordable energy for their ad campaign in the city.

City Councilman Chatham Morgan posted the ad, along with a response to it, claiming Gulf Power will have the highest energy rates in the state.

Mayor Fischer said they continue to consider a variety of options, including a local utility, although they are leaning towards signing up with another public utility within the state, like Florida Power and Light or Duke Energy.

"My feel right now is the citizens of Destin would prefer that their city not get into the utility business directly," Mayor Fischer said.

However, he said it's on the table.

"If we have a more reasonable contract than the normal 30-year franchise agreement, sign for 10. We can make that choice down the road," Mayor Fischer said.

Channel 3 News took the mayor's letter to Destin resident Will Brown.

"They charge me what they charge me. I don't know what to compare it to," Brown said.

He doesn't have a problem with Gulf Power.

"It's just power, there isn't really a quality either one, if it's cheaper then I'm all for it," Brown said.

Gulf Power said they want to work toward an agreement.

"We've been working very hard with the City of Destin for the citizens of Destin to put together a renewal for this franchise agreement. We've been moving about two years to put together something that brings value to the people of Destin," Jeff Rogers with Gulf Power said.

He said the rate differences the mayor cites in his letter come with some caveats.

"One of which is the density of the populations we serve. It's hard to compete with South Florida, where you have a lot of people in a smaller area, where you have economies of scale," Rogers said.

The next discussion between the mayor and Gulf Power representatives will take place at City Hall on Jan. 15th. It'll be a closed meeting.

Channel 3's Christopher Saul spoke with the leader of Family Businesses for Affordable Energy via email on Friday. He said to expect a statement, but we have not yet received it.

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