Utility Workshop... a second tie line??
Date: Monday, April 11, 2011 @ 14:02:50 EST
Topic: LW Utilities

Utility workshop... a second tie line??

This new 1.5 million dollar substation in 2003 was to be gutted under the 26 Kv conversion


In 2005, a new utility director with no electric utility background and a phony engineer hijacked a bond approved electric system upgrade and were well on their way to causing immeasurable damage to our electric system and had positioned themselves to squander millions in bond money that would create a gravy train for contractors. If this deviousness had succeeded it could have bankrupted the city.

So who would have thought that the unlikely circumstance of a hurricane would put a stop to their devious plans by introducing to the Lake Worth public the Chairman of a volunteer board (EUTF, the Electric Utility Task Force) who provided enough information to topple their plans and force their removal.

The sheer manipulation, withholding, skewing and stonewalling of information fed to the public, the commission and the EUTF by city staff in 2006 should stand as a warning to the public not to ever trust anything the city tells you. But who has the time and the knowledge to expose corruption so the public knows when they are getting the truth or not?

Volunteer boards are not the solution. They are seldom empowered with budgets and/or executive powers and thus handicapped they do however, make the perfect legitimization shield for corruption since these boards are hand fed the information from staff to assure the correct conclusions are made. And what individual, even if he suspects wrongdoing, is willing to make a stand and get the truth out to the public regardless of how painful it gets? This is why most city boards operate smoothly and as predicted without drawing much attention.

On the other hand, if someone tries to expose corruption should it exist, the city is likely to respond with gag orders, censorship and smear campaigns to cover themselves. Add to this, that the public seldom if ever, believes the honest message sufficiently enough to act on it and remove the corruption from their midst.

But as luck would have it, there is a promising return to sanity on at least one issue from the distant past (2005) from one uncompromising Chairman of a volunteer board (EUTF or Electric Utility Task Force).

Slated for tomorrow’s workshop meeting …is the voltage conversion returning to the standard 13.2 kV the EUTF Chairman staked his reputation and integrity on …as the most reliable and cost effective upgrade solution. Despite extensive study, research, providing documentation and facts to that simple and obvious fact, the worst of Lake Worth demons reared their ugly head. Not only the Chairman but his message was maligned and slandered by jelly fish board members, corrupt commissioners, mayors, staff members, a phony engineer, utility and city managers and even a message board owner got in on the excitement of reducing the Truth to lies and promoting lies to Truth.

But this story has an interesting end and a victory for the people. The correct message was delivered in December 2005 by the Chairman and regardless of all the extraordinary attempts and the millions squandered to suppress that message over the past five years… Lake Worth is back on track with the right voltage and the right reasons for it just as the Chairman said.

But, it’s not over yet. There are very important questions that need to be addressed fully.

If this voltage conversion is going to be done in house from revenues as the Chairman suggested and now seems to be the city’s selected path… then who is going to manage the project? Will it be the same staff who staunchly and vehemently supported the 26.4 kV upgrade? Or will it be the power plant staff that showed up at meetings and defended the 26.4 kV upgrade vigorously? How is it they’ve changed their minds to 13.2? How did they become enlightened? Aren’t we going to have people working on this system who believe in it?

Remember the millions squandered and then suddenly utility staff ran out of money and came begging the commission for more and Cara Jennings led the action to give it to them? We’ve already seen what happens when you let inexperienced people manage anything. A quarter of a million dollars worth of inventory disappeared along with hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of copper wire. Millions in bond money squandered on the wrong voltage upgrade after which it became abundantly clear that even the project approach was bungled, mismanaged and the oversight was incompetent at best. And to make matters worse the system now required extensive work and hundreds of thousands of dollars to re-do the substandard and sloppy work of Utility Lines and Rayco.

And hiring apprentices? It takes eight to nine years for apprentice linemen to qualify to do the work. But who is directing them? No one is qualified to set construction standards, timelines, and to acquire the right materials at the right price. The city fired the only qualified engineer with construction experience a few years ago in whistle blower suit.

So the bottom line is there is no one who is qualified to plan, manage, or do the layout, and material acquisition for this project. And there is no one with substation experience.

Now on the subject of the second tie line

On December 12, 2005, the EUTF Chairman asked for consensus to convene a public information session with FPL to begin a dialogue concerning a second tie line and other mutually beneficial subjects that could initiate better relations with FPL since our second tie line totally depends on what they’re willing to do.

By that time, the EUTF board had already succumbed to staff influences. So… much to the public’s surprise, the EUTF board immediately and unanimously killed the idea with the Vice Chair leading the way.

Within a few days it was as if someone just kicked over an ant hill, with commissioners, the mayor, staff members, and employees running all over the place with rumors and suspicions. Commissioners began popping up at our meetings directing due process. This meddling and tampering with a supposedly independent board was clear indication that the city was being steered into a disaster. The bad news was we lost millions, the good news… we didn’t lose millions more.

So let’s take a look at the tie line issue and the total lack of preparation and priorities possibly demonstrated by the utility staff.

First, any attempt at getting a second tie line begins with an envoy to FPL… not with a 4.5 million dollar budget item for something FPL is not going to give. So already something isn’t right here.

Somewhere around 2003, there was a study done by RW Beck on the feasibility of a second tie line. But just like the Garrison report which mysteriously couldn’t be found for the Chairman in 2006 who needed it to support the voltage conversion to 13.2 kV …staff mysteriously can’t find this $325,000 RW Beck study which concluded that a second tie line was not feasible.

Nothing should be done until staff produces this study. Taxpayers paid dearly to have this essential and critical information to prevent wasting millions of dollars on another utility scheme.

Next, we want to see all the documentation including phone records, minutes of meetings, any correspondence including memos and notes… on any dialogue or meetings with FPL. If these can be produced and show an ongoing negotiation; then the 4.5 million figure has justification. If not, then this is simply a ruse to shuffle a big chunk of money around somewhere else with no intention of using the money for the stated purpose. If they claim they’re going to hire a consulting firm to negotiate… that too is putting the cart before the horse. An envoy should come first to assess the interest level and make recommendations as to how to further proceed.

The reason everything hinges on FPL …is that more than 90% of the power we consume comes through FPL lines, the rest from our own generation if and when it’s dispatched from FMPA. So ask yourself, why would FPL interrupt their load flow, jeopardize the integrity of their system, invest in capital expenditure to provide the transmission path for an extra 100 megawatts of power that they aren’t going to be selling? Are they going to do all that for a 1% transmission fee?

So, if this second tie line even has a prayer… Lake Worth will have to put something on the table.

Next, and equally important is …right of ways have to be purchased and so we want to see the documentation on the progress being made on that front. In the Beck study, DOT made it clear they weren’t willing to give up anything. So what has been agreed to thus far? What progress has been made with the RailRoad… have they agreed to anything?

Although I would love to be the first to applaud open and transparent efforts to do something right… my hunch is that there will be plenty of fluffy answers to the criteria outlined above… with no supporting documents. And that outlook is encouraged by observing the millions of padded out waste in the utility budget which should be addressed… but unless you know what to look for... how would you know it's there??

This article comes from Lake Worth Media

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