The Lake Apopka Natural Gas District (LANGD) responded to criticisms leveled by Apopka Mayor Joe Kilsheimer in a letter sent to him, and at a board meeting yesterday at the John Land Boardroom in the offices of LANGD in Winter Garden.
Ann Dupree, LANGD’s President, writes to Kilsheimer:
“We would be happy to discuss with you a head-to-head comparison of natural gas costs to our customers versus the cost of other private providers of natural gas in Florida.”
Last week Kilsheimer wrote a letter to LANGD questioning their continuing public purpose.
See the Mayor’s letter here.
At the meeting, Board members were quick to respond.
“This utility is a model for the rest of the United States, said board member G. Fred Crabtree. “We are unparalleled and we will put this (LANGD) up against anybody.”
Attached to the letter to Kilsheimer was a document showing the LANGD has paid the City of Apopka $1.3 million in franchise fees, and $661,000 in taxes from 2000 through 2015.
However Wayne Mercer is not interested in dividends, taxes or franchise fees.
Mercer is the owner of Mercer Botanicals in Zellwood. He also represents 50-plus growers and nurserymen, and landscapers in the area. He spoke before the board about his concerns.
“Should the cities be building an asset (like the LANGD) on the backs of small family businesses and a few homeowners?” He asked the board. “I have to sell $150,000 worth of plants to pay a $15,000 gas bill. You’re hurting us.”
According to Dupree (in her letter to Kilsheimer) they have already negotiated with the growers.
“You should know that we have met with the growers’ representatives on several occasions over the past 2 ½ years to resolve growers’ concerns. We have not received any further communication from the Florida Nursery Growers and Landscape Association indicating that they have an ongoing concern. If you are aware of specific growers that continue to have concerns, we would ask that you urge them to contact Board members of the LANGD directly.”
See LANGD’s letter to Mayor Kilsheimer here.
During the Apopka City Council meeting last Wednesday, Commissioners Sam Ruth and Bill Arrowsmith exchanged heated words at one another. Ruth’s concern is LANGD’s lack of transparency and business practices, while Arrowsmith (who is a Board member of the LANGD) thinks this is a political tactic by Kilsheimer.
In his response to The Apopka Voice’s Q/A candidate question regarding the LANGD, Ruth wrote:
“It is stunning to me some council member’s defense of Lake Apopka Natural Gas’ poor business practices and lack of transparency. In fact, LANGD does not make routine, regular reports to the City Council. These practices do not comport with the practices of Orlando Utilities with the City of Orlando or Orange County Water with Orange County Government. It is not acceptable to say, “That’s the way we’ve always done it.” Our citizens deserve better. After repeated requests, if best accountability and transparency practices cannot be fulfilled, then the City of Apopka, as the LANGD chartering organization, must go in a different direction.”
“It is unfortunate that Joe Kilsheimer would choose to interrupt his busy schedule to join one of his campaign supporters to complain about a five-year agreement that was made two years ago with the local nursery industry. It was a very fair agreement that cut some growers price per therm in half for a fixed term of five years. As I serve on the Board of Lake Apopka Gas, at $100 per month, it is one additional way for Joe to attempt to discredit me during this election term.”
Use this link to read all of the responses from the Seat #3 Candidates.
Use this link to read all of the responses from the Seat #4 Candidates.