March 17, 2023 7:00am

Power Poll: Most Jacksonville Power Players back JEA's rate hike set for April, despite ongoing scandals

Some agree the timing of the rate hike is awkward, but inflation is hitting business hard

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By Drew Dixon
Jacksonville, FL Correspondent

Jacksonville Power Players are generally understanding and accept the decision by the JEA board of directors to hike utility rates beginning in April, despite some scandals that continue to pester the organization.

The basic utility rate will jump from $5.50 per month to $15 per month in a few weeks and that’s just for basic utility connection and establishing customer status. Additional fee hikes will come based upon consumption.

The rate increases come as former JEA CEO Aaron Zahn and CFO Ryan Wannamacher await federal trial set to begin this year. The two are accused of multiple corruption-related charges following indictments by a federal grand jury. The panel agreed the two allegedly conspired to illegally sell the publicly-owned JEA utility to private energy companies, according to multiple media accounts.

When asked how they felt generally about the JEA rate hike, Jacksonville movers and shakers were generally OK with the rate increase. Some 61% of the respondents said they’re hot happy about paying more for utilities, but inflation is taking its toll on everything. Another 20% of poll participants said a rate hike is understandable, but JEA could have instituted a smaller increase and 15% said there should be no rate hike at all while 3% said they’re not sure.

In terms of the timing as two former JEA leaders await federal trial, a majority of those who answered the Jacksonville Power Poll said the scandals don’t really have much to do with rate hikes. Some 58% of the poll respondents said the rate hike has no connection to the ongoing scandal. Another 27% said the timing of the rate hike doesn’t look good but business has to carry on while another 15% said JEA can’t be more tone deaf and they should hold off on rate increases until the scandals blow over.

When it comes to the general perception of the publicly-owned JEA utility, many Power Poll respondents still have a positive view of the organization with 46% of respondents saying JEA is fine and the scandals will blow over soon enough while 38% said the scandals look sketchy, but JEA is a business and public service. Another 10% said no one can possibly trust the utility with 5% saying they were not sure.

Thanks for taking part in the March Jacksonville Power Poll. Look for another survey next month where we tap the pulse of Jacksonville’s power elite.

About Power Poll: Power Poll asks questions of the most powerful, influential people in U.S. cities. It is not a scientific survey. But because the people responding to the surveys comprise the leadership structure of their cities, the results afford a fascinating glimpse into the thoughts, opinions, and beliefs of those in a position to make change. Power Poll is distinctly nonpartisan.

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