Too plugged into city hall?

The Orlando Utilities Commission has been fielding offers for its power plant in Titusville from out-of-state electric companies looking for a way into the Florida market. In the coming era of electric deregulation, small utilities, such as OUC, could lose big industrial customers to other companies unless they forge alliances with these power giants.

"We've had some unsolicited offers come in," says OUC general manager Bob Haven. Though no deals have been signed, Haven says OUC could sell the Indian River plant while retaining the right to the power it generates, turning a tidy profit in the process. With its monopoly gone, OUC is looking hard for ways to lower costs and pump up revenues.

But the city utility also is considering a proposal that makes less financial sense. In pushing forward with the City Hall Commons project, the CNL Group has approached OUC about selling its aging downtown building, which would be demolished to make way for a parking garage. OUC would then move into new offices rented from CNL. "This is not a real money-making deal," Haven says. In this case, OUC would be acting for "the greater good and plans for downtown." Try calculating that on a balance sheet.