Florida Keys News - Key West Citizen
Thursday, May 10, 2012
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Utility Board OKs 2 contracts to bring power to off-grid community

The Keys Energy Services board unanimously approved the first two contracts for work needed to bring commercial power to No Name Key.

The homes there could be on the grid by the end of August, officials said.

The Utility Board voted Wednesday on a $69,000 contract for the construction of an overhead electrical system and a $125,000 contract for a bridge conduit system.

Utility Board attorney Nathan Eden warned board members that the Monroe County Commission likely will file for an injunction to halt the work, or at least delay it until a judge or the state Public Service Commission rules on whether running power to No Name Key violates the county's comprehensive land use plan. The plan states that public utilities are "discouraged" there.

Eden has been in contact with Chief Assistant County Attorney Bob Shillinger, who plans to ask county commissioners Wednesday if they want to file for an injunction or possibly invite Keys Energy Service to engage in official conflict resolution proceedings with the county, Eden said.

The proceedings would "compel us toward mediation," Eden said.

Eden told the Utility Board it had no choice but to approve the two contracts, because earlier this year it approved a contract with the No Name Keys Property Owners Association.

The utility would face a breach-of-contract lawsuit if the board did not approve the contracts.

Eden said he expects the county to file the injunction or a lawsuit in "short order."

The county could halt the project by refusing to sign off on easements on two separate pieces of county-owned property needed to bring commercial power there. The easements may be on conservation lands, and county officials aren't sure if they could approve the easements even if they wanted to, officials said.

No Name Key resident Alicia Putney was among a handful of commercial-power opponents to speak Wednesday night against moving forward with the contracts.

She argued that the Utility Board should wait until the 3rd District Court of Appeal rules on who has jurisdiction in the matter, after circuit Judge David Audlin ruled in February that the Public Service Commission does.

The County Commission had asked Audlin to rule on whether bringing power to No Name violated the comp plan.

Before the Public Service Commission could make a ruling on the matter, the Utility Board agreed to bring power to No Name Key.

The utility has since asked the PSC to dismiss the case, which it will consider doing at its June 5 meeting.

The County Commission has voted to be an intervening party in the case.

tohara@keysnews.com

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