Baker County family wants electricity but can't afford $27k connection fee

SANDERSON, FL -- If you like the country life you will find peace and fresh air in Sanderson, located in a corner of Baker County, but you may not find electricity.

"I'm very tired, very and it is getting harder and harder," said Stephanie Thornton.

Thornton and her family moved from Jacksonville to Sanderson five years ago in a very rural area. She said they've been trying to get connected to a power company ever since.

"I've called everybody," she said.

Two generators have become their main source of electricity.

"I've got to keep it running for the refrigerator to keep food I shut it off two three hours a day," she said.

A small generator runs a handful of appliances; the larger generator runs the washing machine, the water well and the mobile home.

"My husband works everyday and it is like all of his money goes to gas every week," she said.

She said they've had enough and it is time to get connected to a utility company, but it is not that easy.

"My children are miserable, my kids don't want anybody to spend the night," said Thornton.

It appears they are in the Florida Power and Light service area; that was determined after they tried to get connected to Clay Co-Op.

In January a service analysts from FP&L gave them an estimate of the labor cost to get connected, it is $26,580.39.

"I about fell out," she said.

The January letter said if the Thornton's did the labor, prepare the way for the underground wires, the determined cost would then be $17,867.13.

Thornton said the fee has to be paid first and they don't have either amount.

"I would love to have power,' she said.

We reached out to FP&L to see if there are options, like an installment plan.

Spokesperson Bill Orlove said they will have to review the circumstances and at the writing of this story he had not completed his investigation.

Orlove said they will provide their findings at a later time. We will update this story when he does.

UPDATE: FPL spokesperson Bill Orlove issued this statement regarding the utility's position:

We can't discuss matters related to a specific customer's account or issue due to our privacy policy. However, we make every attempt to work with prospective or current customers regarding service issues, including this case.

We have been working with the customer in your story for more than a year and provided them with a letter detailing the necessary requirements regarding their request for electric service. Florida Public Service Commission (PSC) rules, as well as Florida Power & Light Company (FPL) tariffs, which are approved by the PSC, provide very specific language and guidance as to the contributions required by customers for new service, including the requirement to pay in advance. In this situation, the cost includes significant infrastructure and equipment that needs to be installed to provide service in a rural area that has no existing connection to the grid. As a regulated utility, we must treat each customer equally and fairly under state regulations and rules. Additionally, all necessary utility easements must be obtained by the customer before FPL is able to install new electric infrastructure.

We will continue to work with the customer, as necessary, to facilitate and expedite service once the requirements are met.


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