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Fact Finding Workshops On Future Of JEA Set To Begin Wednesday, Nov. 6

Boylan in his City Hall office
Jessica Palombo
Councilman Michael Boylan is chairing the workshops.

A series of City Council workshops on the future of JEA are set to begin, with the first one on next Wednesday, Nov. 6, at 11 a.m.

Eleven more midday sessions are tentatively scheduled on Mondays from November 25, 2019, through May 11, 2020. All 19 City Council members are invited to attend the workshops and ask questions of the subject matter experts who present on a variety of topics related to the city-owned utility company. 

The public is also invited to attend the sessions and then provide their reactions during the public comment portion of the regular Council meetings on the days following the workshops.

The sessions will all be live streamed on WJCT's Facebook page.

City Council President Scott Wilson tapped District 6 Councilman Michael Boylan to chair the workshops. 

Boylan, who calls the workshops a “fact finding” effort, said he knows a lot of residents are “viscerally” opposed to selling JEA. 

In announcing the tentative schedule, Boylan said, “I think it's our responsibility as council members to come into this with an open mind to take a look at the pluses and minuses of each opportunity, or option, that JEA is exploring and what the benefits are. We understand and appreciate the implications. This is a generational decision that's going to affect the future of our community for a very, very long time. So we have to take it very seriously. So the rationale of becoming informed and educated is critical to the process.” 

The first session on Wednesday, November 6, will be a primer on Jacksonville’s independent authorities, broadly, and then JEA specifically. City General Counsel Jason Gabriel will present. 

Boylan said that will help answer questions like, “What responsibility and opportunity does [JEA]  have to go down a strategic path?” And, “What’s our role as City Council and ultimately the citizens in making determination of what that path looks like?”

The second session, on November 25, is meant to pick up where a previous council committee on JEA left off. Councilman John Crescimbeni, who chaired that committee last year, will present its findings. 

JEA CEO Aaron Zahn is slated to present at the third session on December 9. His topic: “A Review of the JEA’s Strategic Planning Process and Outcomes Leading Up to the Release of the Invitation to Negotiate.” 

At the fourth session on January 13, council members will hear from an independent auditor on “Factors Leading to the Consideration of the Need for Restructuring the JEA.” 

The next few sessions after that, Boylan said, are designed to present the pros and cons of five distinct scenarios for JEA: 

  • Status quo
  • Traditional utility response plan
  • Community ownership through a co-op 
  • Initial public offering plan 
  • Strategic alternative set forth in the invitation to negotiate

Boylan said the subject matter experts who present on each of those topics will be selected by an outside law firm the Council is in the process of selecting.
Session No. 10, tentatively set for April 13, 2020, will be when Mayor Lenny Curry’s administration outlines how it envisions spending the proceeds of a potential sale. 

The remaining two sessions are meant to illuminate utility regulations as they relate to water rights and how the Florida legislative process would change if JEA were privatized. 

Boylan said while the schedule and topics are still tentative, the workshops definitely will not discuss any specific offers by private companies to buy JEA. 

If one comes in before the end of May, he said, “City Council President Wilson will probably make a determination and say, ‘Let's sit on this until we finish the work that the workshops are are doing,’ so I suspect there may be a delay in us taking it on in earnest until that point in time, but that's just my opinion,” Boylan said. 

Before the first workshop, the city plans to launch a webpage where the public can see all materials presented at them and also submit questions for council members to consider asking at future workshops. 

All sessions will also be live streamed and archived on the city’s website, in addition to the WJCT Facebook page and 

The full tentative workshop schedule is:  

DATE          TOPIC

11/06/19   The Role of the Independent Authorities vis a vis City Council

11/25/19   The PFM Report – Council Auditor’s 2018 Report – The 2018 CC Special Committee on the Future of JEA   

12/09/19   A Review of the JEA’s Strategic Planning Process & Outcomes Leading Up to the Release of the ITN

01/13/20   A Review of the 2019 JEA Audit & an Analysis of the Factors Leading to the Consideration of the Need for Restructuring the JEA (The McKenzie Report)

01/27/20   The Rational for and Advantages/Disadvantages of Moving Forward with Scenario #1: Status Quo Plan                       

02/10/20   The Rationale for and Advantages/Disadvantages of Moving Forward with Scenario #2: Traditional Utility Response Plan                             

02/24/20   The Rationale for and Advantages/Disadvantages of Moving Forward with Scenario #3: Community Ownership Plan                              

03/09/20   The Rationale for and Advantages/Disadvantages of Moving Forward with Scenario #4: Initial Public Offering Plan

03/23/20   The Rationale for and Advantages/Disadvantages of Moving Forward with Scenario #5: Strategic Alternative from ITN 129-19                                  

04/13/20   The Administration’s Vision of How the Proceeds Would be Utilized Should Scenario #5 be Implemented.                           

04/27/20   Water Rights: How Would the Restructuring of JEA Impact our Ability Meet Present and Future Water Needs?

05/11/20   Understanding the Florida Legislative Process, Specifically Florida Statute Chapter 180-301        

Contact Jessica Palombo at 904-358-6315, or on Twitter at @JessicaPubRadio.

Jessica Palombo supervises local news gathering and production, podcasts and web editorial content for WJCT News, ADAPT and Jacksonville Today. She is an award-winning writer and journalist with bylines including NPR, Experience Magazine, and The Gainesville Sun. She has a master’s degree in broadcast and digital journalism from Syracuse University and is an alumna of the University of Florida. A nearly lifelong resident of Jacksonville, she considers herself lucky to be raising her own children in her hometown. Follow Jessica Palombo on Twitter: @JaxJessicaP