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JEA CEO Jim Dickenson Talks Increasing Water Rates, Public Image and the Millions Coming from the City

10:57 PM, Dec 14, 2011   |    comments
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Power plants are a multi-billion dollar industry and JEA is no exception.

The First Coast utility generates $2.4 billion a year in revenue.

"We've just finished two of the best operating years that we've ever had - almost ever," said Jim Dickenson, JEA's CEO of seven years.

He said he's pleased with the numbers, but disappointed with JEA's image.

"If you look over the last few years, our customer satisfaction has dropped. That concerns us, we want to get better," said Dickenson. "We think that primarily has to do with the rate increases that we had to do to get the company where it needs to be."

As a public utility, JEA is a natural target for public criticism. A bill before city council giving union workers a pay raise is now under the microscope, since other city workers are taking pay cuts or going without raises.

"If these contracts were approved, you would have two years of no pay raises; the third year would have a modest increase. What we did was found a compromise between what the city was doing (and) what other utilities were doing..." he said.

Also before city council is an ordinance asking the city to pay the JEA $9.6 million. Dickenson said JEA loaned the city $26 million to build its radio communication system and now the city is paying off the loan.

"They're just looking at paying off the loan ahead of time," he said.

For 14 years the JEA did not have a rate increase; it boasted the lowest electric rates in the state, but not anymore, he said. "Actually we think that your electric bill next year will actually go down," said Dickenson.

But because of the demand to meet permit requirements, Dickenson said next year water rates will increase. "That increase is around 5 percent on the water/sewer side,"said Dickenson.

Dickenson said he doesn't like raising rates. The JEA is a non- profit utility; while there's no profit at the end of the year the utility contributes $237 million to the city's budget to keep it operating.

First Coast News

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