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Jax Daily Record Wednesday, Feb. 7, 201807:43 PM EST

Jacksonville Civic Council to study JEA sale

Public finance task force to “do the homework.”

Jacksonville Civic Council Chair Tim Cost said the private group of 75 area CEOs will research the possible sale of JEA, the city-owned utility, and it will be assigned to a task force.

“We’re going to do the work. We’re going to do the analysis,” Cost said Wednesday.

Cost said the council is putting together a task force on public finance. That task force is where analysis of a JEA sale would best fit.

He said the council will hold a meeting of its general membership this month, but didn’t know if the task force will meet this month as well.

The task force was not formed for the JEA analysis, he said, but the topic “seems relevant now.”

Former JEA board member Tom Petway, an influential business leader, suggested upon his departure in November that the utility’s directors study a possible sale.

When Petway speaks, Cost said, “you pay attention.”

Cost, president of Jacksonville University, began his two-year post as chair of the private group last month.

He said the council hasn’t been asked to study or weigh in on the potential sale of JEA, but it wants to be prepared in case it is.

“We’re going to do the homework on it,” he said.

The civic council was created in 2010 as a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization. It says it is set up to bring together CEOs “from the nonprofit, business and government sectors to make Jacksonville the best city it can be.”

JEA is a not-for-profit, community-owned utility created by the city to serve Duval County and surrounding communities, according to a description in a draft report for the JEA board by Public Financial Management, the utility’s financial adviser.

Formed in 1967, JEA serves about 464,000 electric, 346,000 water and 269,000 sewer customers in Northeast Florida. It operates as an independent authority.

The draft report, dated Feb. 2, emphasizes it does not recommend either selling or retaining JEA. The draft leaves blank the implied range of valuations other than to use the term “billions.”

Selling JEA has been discussed before.

“A more thorough, updated valuation of JEA, and perhaps an exploratory sale process could lead to a new answer to the old questions of whether the City should sell JEA,” it concludes.

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