Destin currently is exploring two options: re-negotiating a contract with Gulf Power or purchasing the utility from the company. A third option would allow the city to solicit bids for another electric provider to purchase the utility from the city.

DESTIN — The debate continued during Monday's City Council meeting about what to do when the city’s utility contract with Gulf Power expires next May.

Destin currently is exploring two options: re-negotiating a contract with Gulf Power or purchasing the utility from the company. City Attorney Jeff Burns also laid out a third option Monday that would allow the city to solicit bids for another electric provider to purchase the utility from the city.

The council voted unanimously to have attorney Robert “Scheff” Wright, who was hired by the city for guidance in the issue, to draft either a Request for Bids or a Request for Qualifications to explore the third option.

Mayor Scott Fischer said keeping the city’s options open was critical to ensure that Destin’s 15,600 power customers get the best deal on their bills.

“We’re paying almost the highest rates in the state of Florida, and I can’t imagine the citizens of Destin not wanting the council to at least make the effort to bring them more economical power,” Fischer said.

Wright urged the council to do its “due diligence” in exploring all options.

“For all practical purposes ... Gulf Power’s rates are the highest in the state of Florida,” Wright said. “For the average Gulf Power company residential customer, the only two companies in the state of Florida that presently have rates higher than (Gulf Power’s) are Florida Public Utilities Company and the city of Key West.”

Five people spoke in support of the city exploring options other than Gulf Power. Guy Tadlock encouraged the council to look at the level of service each option could provide customers as well as the amount of work Gulf Power contracts out.

“I really encourage the council to keep looking at this opportunity,” he said. “It is an opportunity to give the citizens of Destin at least some options to get less expensive power.”

In other business, the council appointed seven people to a new short-term rental task force to oversee the city's burgeoning short-term vacation rental business and possibly recommending regulations or ordinances. The appointees were Darryl Shelton, Jason Sprenkle, Bruce Craul, Rick Scali, Walter Woo, Patti Brown and Tadlock.