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Dunedin wants more time to consider forming utility
By DEBORAH O'NEIL
© St. Petersburg Times, published March 24, 2000
DUNEDIN -- City leaders want Florida Power to give Dunedin an extra five years to figure out whether the city should break away and start its own electric utility.
During a special meeting Thursday, commissioners also decided to spend up to $100,000 for legal help as they explore striking out on their own.
Florida Power officials did not attend the meeting and later said they didn't know about it. Regional manager Nancy Loehr said the company had no comment about whether it will agree to a contract extension.
Dunedin officials want to buy time. City Manager John Lawrence said the city won't be able to resolve some of the complex legal issues involved with breaking away from Florida Power before the current contract expires Jan. 1, 2002.
Dunedin will share the legal expenses with Belleair, which also is considering dumping Florida Power. Belleair City Manager Steve Cottrell said the town will contribute up to $25,000 for the legal help.
"I can say without hesitation our commission is equally aggressive in wanting to pursue the issue," Cottrell said.
Dunedin City Attorney John Hubbard warned city officials that they face "imminent adversarial civil or administrative proceedings," in other words, a big, nasty, expensive legal battle with Florida Power. The company has made clear it opposes the cities leaving.
"I think our litigation is imminent," Hubbard said. "We need money to do these things."
Hubbard, along with Belleair City Attorney Joel Tew, will select a law firm in Washington, D.C., experienced in dealing with this issue.
So far, the city has heard two reports about breaking away. A consultant for the city determined both communities could save money, but Florida Power concluded electric rates would have to go up significantly to make it work.
© St. Petersburg Times. All rights reserved.