Destin, Gulf Power to resume contract talks

Tony Judnich

The City Council on Monday agreed with city staff’s recommendation to rescind the council’s recently approved request for proposals that was aimed toward companies interested in buying and taking over the Gulf Power utility system in Destin.

City Attorney Jeff Burns gave some background on this issue before the council members cast their votes.

Burns said the city’s negotiating team that consists of himself, City Manager Carisse LeJeune, Mayor Scott Fischer and special counsel Robert "Scheff" Wright, met with Gulf Power officials Dec. 15 about potentially forming a new contract between the company and the city.

The city entered into a 30-year franchise agreement with Gulf Power in May 1986 and, after several updates, that contract is now set to expire next May.

On Dec. 15, Gulf Power officials "indicated that they are going to take the negotiations seriously and come back with a good offer next month, early in the month, and as a gesture of good faith we agreed to rescind the RFP for now," Burns told the council.

Councilman Jim Foreman said while he supports the rescission, "I think (the RFP is) not going away unless we get a serious negotiation going."

Indeed, the request for proposals might be rewritten at some point, Fischer said.

The council voted 6-0 to at least temporarily rescind the RFP. Councilman Rodney Braden did not attend last Monday’s meeting.

Destin officials often cite two main reasons for possibly having another company take over the Gulf Power utility system: They say the electric rates that Gulf Power charges to its customers in Destin are among the highest in Florida, and that other utility companies appear to have more favorable policies on converting overhead electric distribution facilities to safer and more reliable/aesthetically pleasing underground service.

There are about 15,600 retail electric customers in Destin.