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The Villages
Saturday, June 15, 2024

Official calls for removal of SECO trustees over outrageous increases

An official in The Villages has called for the removal of the SECO Energy trustees due to outrageous increases being forced onto residents.

Supervisors with community development districts in The Villages are furious over the pole rental increases SECO is foisting onto them – increases that ultimately must by be paid with the maintenance assessments from residents.

In CDD 7, annual pole rental will soar from $42,000 to $311,000. The increase will be effective Oct. 1. This is on top of increases recently announced by SECO to pay for the conversion to LED technology.

Across the SECO sections of The Villages, the pole rental increase will cost more than $2 million. That would be an ongoing increase to be felt year after year, rather than a one-time cost.

CDD 7 Supervisor Judi-Ann Rutherford said the increase is ludicrous.

“They put their poles on our land and then they raised the rent,” she said.

Supervisors had numerous questions, and it was made known that SECO officials had been invited to all CDD meetings to explain the need for the increase. No one from SECO showed up.

The energy cooperative, headquartered in Sumterville, serves more than 240,000 homes and businesses in seven Central Florida counties, including 62,000 families and commercial accounts in The Villages. The board of trustees is elected by SECO members. The president of the SECO Board of Trustees is Gerald Anderson, a Villager who has served on the board since 2013.

Villager Gerald Anderson is the president of the SECO Board of Trustees
Villager Gerald Anderson is the president of the SECO Board of Trustees.

“I don’t know how a quasi-public entity can drop such an increase on its users. It’s irresponsible. An entity like that owes their customers an explanation,” said Village of Gilchrist resident Dan Warren.

Duke Energy Florida is regulated by the state, but because SECO is a cooperative it does not face the same scrutiny of state regulators. SECO members elect the trustees who set the rates.

“To me, it smells fishy,” said CDD 7 Board of Supervisors Chairman Jerry Vicenti. “I think it’s time we vote them out of there.”

The Villages District Manager Kenny Blocker is set to meet with SECO executives on Monday to seek a rollback in the increase.

Community Development District 4 Board Chairman Cliff Wiener said officials need to attend a June 11 SECO meeting in Sumterville. Wiener said CDD 4 is facing a $400,000 pole rental increase.

“There is strength in numbers. We need to make our voices heard,” Wiener said. “We need to go to this meeting and tell them what we think.”

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