Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Curry to Meet with Union about JEA; by David Bauerlein & Nate Monroe

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Curry to Meet with Union about JEA; by David Bauerlein & Nate Monroe

Article excerpt

Byline: The Times-Union

Mayor Lenny Curry plans to meet with the union that represents JEA linemen, a vocal group that has led the charge against privatizing JEA.

Members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, dressed in red shirts and carrying "JEA is Not for Sale" signs, have packed City Hall chambers whenever the idea has come up for public discussion.

Curry's meetings with the IBEW and other groups will unfold while a special City Council committee meets to examine the ramifications of selling JEA.

Fitch Ratings issued a report this week identifying JEA as one of the public utilities that's currently under discussion for a potential sale. Fitch said that while public utilities periodically pop up for such consideration, they seldom get to the point of final sale because it's a time-consuming, complicated process that requires a clear showing that ratepayers will benefit.

Fitch said the driving force behind such discussions usually is high electric rates, poor service, or the governmental owner's need for cash. But that doesn't seem to be the case with JEA and the city of Jacksonville, Fitch said.

"The undertaking does not appear to be driven by concerns such as poor quality of service or need for cash at the city, but was prompted by the premise that the recent scope of change in the utility market warrants a fresh analysis regarding whether or not JEA should remain a governmentally-owned utility," Fitch said.

No City Council members have come out in favor of inviting companies to bid on the utility, even after a consultant hired by JEA said the city could net $3 billion to $6 billion from a sale. Curry has said he is undecided.

IBEW Local 2358 is willing to take up Curry's offer to meet at a mutually agreeable date, said Valerie Gutierrez, business agent for the local that represents 550 JEA employees.

"We want to hear what he has to say," she said Tuesday. "I'm not going in there with

any expectations. He's the one who reached out to us."

She said the opposition from IBEW members goes beyond concerns about their jobs in the event of a sale. …

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