Leesburg's plan to spend more than $20 million on what's known as smart-grid technology for its electric utility prompted readers to ask some pointed questions.
The project is behind schedule, partly because the city and its top bidder, General Electric, haven't been able to come to an agreement on price.
In the last three weeks, the city began exploring whether it would be a better deal for taxpayers if GE owned most of the infrastructure of the system and ran the operation. The parties are still negotiating.
Here's reaction from two readers, both of whom worked for investor-owned utilities until they retired:
Smart grid sounds like a fancy gimmick to create the impression that the city of Leesburg is doing great things. But I believe it will only raise electric rates, not lower them.
I retired from Central Maine Power. Right now that company is building and upgrading substations on a very large scale to improve its presence in the grid as it relates to tying to its northern neighbor, Canada, and also to its southern neighbor, the Big Apple.
Leesburg Electric is but a drop in the bucket regarding the impact that it has on the grid, but it certainly is doing a good job of blowing up this project way out of proportion from the standpoint of its importance to the rate payer.
Leesburg needs this project like it needs a hole in the head.
Central Maine Power received $96 million from the feds for its upgrade to the grid, which in fact put a lot of people to work. Included in that grant was the installation of 600,000 smart meters.
In contrast to Leesburg, this is a justifiable project, which will benefit all of New England and help deliver electricity from a mega-power source, Hydro-Québec. Here is a segment whereby the taxpayer/ratepayer is getting a big bang for his buck. The best part is that Maine power customers will not see any rate hikes.
Smart meters are nothing but a super marketing strategy that right now benefits only the contractors who are going to do the work and the politicians who are going to award the contracts.
At the risk of oversimplifying the smart-grid business deal between the federal government, General Electric and the city of Leesburg, it is time for the city to look at other options.
One idea that should be investigated is to sell the electric system to an investor-owned utility. The tax collector would receive a tremendous windfall of revenue. Good employees would be retained by the utility. Special projects of city officials no longer could be financed by electric revenues.
I'm sure that this last suggestion would create a firestorm, but it deserves a fair investigation of the facts.
Richard P. Davis
And finally, readers had an eye on the Occupy Tavares movement that staged an event Saturday in Wooton Park and held a march Wednesday in downtown Tavares.
I'm just as discouraged as the Wall Street protesters, and I certainly agree with them that we the people were ripped off by greedy scions of wealth and privilege. What to do about it is the problem.
I note the beginning of this fiscal calamity was the 1999 repeal of the Glass-Steagall legislation that restricted banks' outreach into risky financial forays. This happened, to my chagrin, during the term of a Democratic president.
What a mess! We have to, as a beginning, get special-interest money out of politics and demand that the Supreme Court either assume an apolitical stance or stand for re-election like the rest of our lawmakers.
Lritchie@tribune.com Her blog is online at http://www.orlandosentinel.com/laurenonlakeCopyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun