“You can observe a lot by just watching.” Yogi Berra.
I observe a lot by just reading the print editions of The Destin Log and their sister newspaper, the Northwest Florida Daily News. That’s where I get most of the material for my weekly columns. For example: A recent Destin Log cartoon titled “POWER PLAY” had this subtitle:
“An estimated $71 million to purchase the electrical utility in the city. Doesn’t include cost to underground power lines or purchase electricity. Who’s asking for this?”
An article in the Daily News answered this way: “Mayor Scott Fischer has said that he has fielded a few complaints from Destin residents about Gulf Power’s rates, and many more complaints about the company not willing to discuss or provide underground utilities at a reasonable rate.”
Underground utilities at a reasonable rate? We wish that were possible. Unlike new developments, undergrounding power lines already in place is cost-prohibitive in most cases. You can’t buy a Ferrari for a Ford Fiesta price.
Another article in that same paper reported: “Destin residents oppose purchase of utility” It went on to explain: “Almost every member of the public who spoke at the City Council’s workshop on Monday expressed opposition to, or at least questioned, the city potentially buying the Gulf Power electric utility in Destin.” That should have ended the debate right then and there.
But the current mayor kicked the can down the road by saying: “We need to ferret out all of the facts that we can and understand what our options truly are. Until we reach that point, it’s too early to offer any real debate.” We need to stop kicking this can; the can didn’t do anything wrong.
So, what is the motive for this latest “power” grab (pun intended)? About half of Destin residences already have underground power. That includes most all condos, apartments and newer single-family neighborhoods such as Crystal Beach, Destin Pointe and Indian Bayou.
However, the current mayor and I still don’t have underground power where we live on Holiday Isle. Both of us would love to have it. However, I don’t want the cost of undergrounding my power lines to be subsidized by those who already have underground power or may not be able to afford it. Or, perhaps they just plain don’t want it as we saw earlier. Other residents shouldn’t be made to subsidize underground power for Holiday Isle. But that may just happen if this power grab by the city goes through.
I still don’t understand why anyone would want to buy part of a power company in this manner. Like that dog chasing a car, what would we do with it if we caught it? We couldn’t sell it, rent it out, drive it, drink it, divorce it, or anything else that might bring us joy. A Pet Rock has more utility; if nothing else, we could at least throw the Pet Rock at something.
The estimated cost for this proposed purchase is over $4,500 for every retail power customer in the city. If we really want to own part of a power company, we can do it more easily by simply buying stock in one. That way, we can collect dividends, gain appreciation, sell it, gift it or pass it on to our heirs.
It’s time to stop kicking this can down the road. We have better and more affordable things we can buy, such as stock, or perhaps a Pet Rock.
Jack Simpson has owned and managed rental properties in Destin since 1974 and has lived in the city since 1983. His column is designed to start conversations in the community. To respond to Jack's column in The Log, email your letter to the editor or guest column to email@example.com. To contact Jack directly, email firstname.lastname@example.org.