I am one member of a five person board. The opinions I express on this forum are mine only, and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the Escambia County Staff, Administrators, Employees, or anyone else associated with Escambia County Florida. I am interested in establishing this blog as a means of additional transparency to the public, outreach to the community, and information dissemination to all who choose to look. Feedback is welcome, but because public participation is equally encouraged, appropriate language and decorum is mandatory.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Plumbing Issue Erupts between City and local Plumbers Association

Many private sector plumbers locally have
said they think this situation stinks!

The issue between the private sector plumbers of Escambia County and the City of Pensacola has played out quietly behind closed doors, on limited social media outlets, and in the email inboxes of elected officials locally via wave after wave of emails.......  It has been relatively low key thus far.

I think this is about to change.

Now a very well respected and high-profile attorney locally has weighed in on the side of the plumbers.  Many of us received a copy of the letter this attorney sent to the city yesterday.

The issue is simple:  Should the public sector (Pensacola Energy) unfairly compete with the private sector with respect to installations of gas appliances in homes in the county?  The private sector can't compete with the prices the public sector is offering, and the local plumbers are losing work.

According to a local plumbing contractor I spoke with, the difference in price can be substantial.

"If I do a home installation of a tankless gas water heater in a house--the costs can exceed $1700 dollars.  If Pensacola Energy does it, they do it for the cost of the appliance.  I can't compete with that price because I have overhead to pay.   It's not fair." said this plumber.

The issue was on the agenda for the County and the City to discuss at the recent joint meeting, however at the last minute the City unilaterally pulled the item from the agenda.

The County sent a letter to the city requesting specific answers about this practice.  In response, the city declined to answer but offered to facilitate individual, one-on-one meetings with each commissioner to "explain" the practice.

The recent animosity between plumbers and Pensacola Energy might
be on the verge of rupturing like a broken water line...

Because long ago I read and I fully understand Blackford v School Board of Orange County --I do not participate in scheduled, one-after another,  one-issue staff/board meetings.  Such meetings serve to circumvent the open meeting law--so I don't do them.

So with no forward progress, It appears as if the plumbers are going the legal route...... 

From the letter:

"....activities by Pensacola Energy violate several federal and state laws, including without limitation:

  (1) Sherman "Antitrust" Act, 15 U.S.C. 1-7
  (2) Florida's Antitrust Act; Fla. Stat.  523.15 et. seq.
  (3) Fla. Stat.  501.201 et seq......

....By publically endorsing select members of the "plumber partners" cartel, the City of Pensacola is

 effectively excluding most licensed plumbers with equal or superior qualifications...While I understand that Pensacola Energy has "suspended" both its "plumber partners" and plumbing company operations, documents obtained by our client through Public Records requests indicates that Pensacola Energy officials intend to use this "suspension" period to lobby individual members of counsel, and the Escambia County Commission, on these issues.  Thus, the "suspension" appears to be nothing more than a means of removing this debate from the public forum, which is where it is required to take place..."

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