Tuesday, March 14, 2006
Carmel on the Case: Power Play Follow Up
Florida Power and Light has finally decided to comment in connection with a Seven News investigation that aired last month. That report - power play - revealed cities could be paying tens of thousands of dollars for streetlights - that do not exist. Investigative reporter Carmel Cafiero broke the story and is - on the case.
WSVN--Last month, our investigation revealed the city of Pompano Beach believes it is being charged by FPL for hundreds of street lights that do not exist. And it is costing taxpayers close to fifty thousand dollars a year. For weeks before the story aired - I called Florida Power and light asking for an interview. But FPL had nothing to say. Now - that's changed.
Mayco Villafana: "Well, we're commenting now. But certainly are the time we felt that it was important that we respect the customer."
Spokesman Mayco Villafana says FPL did not answer our questions because its customer - the city of Pompano Beach - did not want to air the issue in the media. The city also refused to comment for our report. But public records obtained by Seven News told the story. Letters and memos revealed that for more than a year - the city asked for a credit of almost 49 thousand dollars and a monthly reduction of its bill by four thousand dollars. The findings came after a study by consultant Mike Danvers.
Mike Danvers: "I've figured more or less, what FPL needs is better monitoring of their poles and inventory."
According to Danvers report, Pompano Beach is being charged for 453 lights - that do not exist. In February of 2005 - FPL told the city it was working to verify Danver's audit. Now - more than a year later - FPL still hasn't concluded its counting.
Carmel Cafiero: "Is there any excuse for that?"
Mayco Villafana: "No. There's no excuse except the fact that there were, there were two hurricane seasons that were very, very strong."
Villafana says two terrible hurricane seasons plus problems with the way the information was reported - contributed to the Delay. But he says now that FPL is counting streetlights in Pompano Beach - it is disputing the 453 missing lights listed by Danvers.
Mayco Villafana: "It's only 405 that we have found so far."
Plus FPL says the city records show 200 other lights that it should have been billing for and has not.
Mayco Villafana: "And in other cases there are street lights that we do not have in our books that they have identified."
How all this washes out remains to be seen. Mike Danvers meanwhile is busy meeting with officials from other cities that now want their streetlights counted. He says surveys in three cities have revealed about a ten percent error.
Mike Danvers: "That's telling me that when you stretch is right across the state, it's basically going to be the same problem."
Mayco Villafana: "Well again these are his findings. And when we go out there and we validate what the city is presenting to us, what we have in our books and what the city has in their books, we find sometimes a very different story."
Carmel Cafiero: "It would seem a pretty simple and straight foreword job - is there a street light here or not. But apparently it get quite complicated figuring city boundaries and such. One fact not in dispute - taxpayers - should not be charged for lights that do not exist."
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
If you have a story for Carmel:
Call her in Dade at 305-627-CLUE
Or in Broward at 954-921-CLUE