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Tampa leaders agree to further discuss power lines contract with utility

TAMPA — For more than three years, Mayor Pam Iorio and officials at Tampa Electric Co. have been negotiating a 25-year agreement to determine how much the utility has to pay for the privilege of using the city's rights-of-way for power lines. The old contract, signed in 1986, expired in 2006.

But some City Council members and Tampa residents think the discussions need to go on a little longer.

Environmental advocates told council members on Thursday the agreement should require that the utility develop more alternative energy sources.

"You have a responsibility to do what you can right now," Phil Compton, a spokesman for the Sierra Club, told the council.

City Attorney Chip Fletcher said agreements between electric utilities and governments don't typically cover conservation measures, an area regulated by the state.

But Council member John Dingfelder said the city could simultaneously negotiate a side agreement with Tampa Electric to set environmental goals.

Dingfelder said he'd also like to see the agreement include a provision allowing the city to purchase Tampa Electric's system and provide its own power because a future mayor or city council might want that option. Other Florida cities, including Winter Park, have taken over the delivery of electricity from local utilities, and in 1994 Oldsmar added a clause to its franchise agreement with Tampa Electric to give that city the right to take over power service.

But Tom Hernandez, the utility's vice president for supply, said that is not an option for Tampa, whose residents are crucial customer base for the utility, he said.

"We have a business interest in this city," he said.

Council members Gwen Miller and Joseph Caetano urged their colleagues to move forward with the agreement as it is.

"We're not in the electric business, and we shouldn't be in the electric business," Caetano said. "We're bad businesspeople."

As a compromise, the council agreed to schedule a public hearing on the contract for Nov. 6 at 6:30 p.m., but delay scheduling a second hearing where there would be a final vote taken.

Tampa leaders agree to further discuss power lines contract with utility 10/24/08 [Last modified: Monday, October 27, 2008 4:14pm]
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