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Looking to get even, FPL begins to dock dollars from town

Power company accidentally gave about $450,000 to Fort Myers Beach

January 28, 2016
By John Morton ( , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

Florida Power & Light (FPL) has now begun to pull money from its monthly payments to Fort Myers Beach in an attempt to recoup the approximate $450,000 it inadvertently gave the town between 2012 and 2015.

For December, FPL adjusted its payment by $12,706.77, according to Maureen Rischitelli, the town's director of administrative services, prompting a letter from the town attorney instructing FPL to cease with the deductions. The letter was approved by the Town Council on Jan. 19 and sent the next day.

The town feels the power company's errors and omissions insurance should cover the mistake. Meanwhile, the extra money has already been budgeted and spent.

The miscalculation, for which FPL acknowledges blame, began when the town enacted an ordinance in 2012 that eliminated any public service tax on the first 200 kilowatt hours of use for residents and businesses. However, FPL collected taxes on every hour and passed the dollars on to the town, per an agreement. It realized the error last year and reimbursed its customers in November. Now, it wants the town to pony up and is doing so by shaving the monthly payments accordingly with what the overcharge had been. At that rate, in about three years they'd be even.

Bill Orlove, spokesman for FPL, said his company has received the letter from Fort Myers Beach and is reviewing it and is preparing a response.

"FPL staff notified town officials several times regarding the billing issue," Orlove said. "The first was a meeting in July, before the town's 2016 budget process was initiated. We had not heard from the town or its officials in response to proposals we made to resolve the issue until we received their January 20 letter.

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"We are obligated to do what is right for our customers, so we refunded the money that they were owed in November 2015. As a regulated utility, we are responding to the situation with the legal avenue that is provided to us through state law. We are permitted by Florida law [Section 166.234 (4)(b)] to rectify this type of billing issue through a reduced payment of monthly taxes we pay the town.

"FPL notified town officials in a November letter that the company would be refunding the money owed its customers and the company would be collecting the funds it is owed through a reduced tax payment to the town. We began this process in December 2015 to reduce the amount by 16 percent. This will continue for 30 months until the company is compensated for the full amount it has already refunded its customers."



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