City and County agree on terms for County’s purchase of GRUCom’s Trunked Radio System

Alachua County Combined Communications Center


GAINESVILLE, Fla. – This week, the Alachua County Commission and Gainesville City Commission agreed on the terms for the County’s purchase of GRUCom’s Trunked Radio System.

The deal negotiated between City and County staff members calls for the County to pay GRU $8 million for the system, which handles all law enforcement and emergency response communications in the county. In return, GRU will pay $164,000 for five years ($820,000), and the City of Gainesville will pay $937,000 for two years and $750,000 for the following three years ($4,124,000). Payments for service for all agencies will be fixed for five years, and after that, the City will be billed consistently with other users.

The County and other agencies began looking for other solutions when GRU quadrupled the bills in 2021, and the Alachua County Commission decided in December to allocate part of their American Rescue Plan funds to either purchase GRU’s system or build and run their own system.

After the system changes hands on October 1, the County plans to expand the system farther into the unincorporated area in the next few years, using the income from the other agencies that use the radio system. 

County Commission

At Tuesday’s Alachua County Commission meeting, Commissioner Ken Cornell said the agreement was “probably more than we wanted to spend and probably less than what [GRU] wanted to receive, and in the end that kind of makes for a good deal.”

During public comment, Tamara Robbins asked about a document attached to the City Commission March 2 agenda that said the net value of the system is $3.7 million, and the outstanding debt is $10.8 million. She asked why the County would offer $8 million for a system that is valued at $3.7 million.

Assistant County Manager Tommy Crosby said that is the “net book value,” which is a depreciated value, as opposed to the actual value of the system. He said it would cost the County about $10 million to purchase an equivalent replacement system, and it would cost $11-13 million to build a system from scratch. Crosby also emphasized that the County would not assume any of GRU’s debt. Crosby said the County will have to negotiate a new contract with Motorola, but the current contract requires a refresh of technology by Motorola every two years, “so we know we’re getting current technology.”

The motion to approve the terms of the contract and authorize staff to immediately advertise for and hire a Radio Systems Manager passed unanimously.

City Commission

At today’s Gainesville City Commission meeting, Lewis Walton from GRU told the commission that GRUCom, GRU’s telecommunications utility, had upgraded the system to a digital platform in 2018 and had increased prices to the customer agencies to recover those costs when the existing interlocal agreement expired in 2020; those price increases prompted the County to start looking for other options. Walton said a county-owned model is standard and is normally funded through taxes; he added that cash from the sale would reduce GRUCom’s debt, although it would not pay all of the debt on the system, and would allow GRUCom to focus on core products and services.

Walton briefly alluded to a City ordinance that prohibits the disposal of City utility systems “so as to materially reduce the capacity of the system to produce, distribute or treat” unless the disposition is approved by the voters, but an opinion from the City Attorney’s office concludes that “the sale or disposal of the Trunked Radio System for Public Safety would not materially reduce the capacity of GRUCom to distribute telecommunications services.”

During public comment, Jo Beaty asked commissioners to specify that the money will go directly to pay off GRUCom’s debt.

City Manager Cynthia Curry said she thought that her staff had negotiated the best deal they could: “All things considered, we do need to move forward with this. I think we’ve done the best we can, in terms of trying to get a good deal.”

Commissioner Reina Saco made a motion to approve the staff recommendation to finalize the contract with the County and bring it back to the city commission for approval. She added a requirement that GRUCom put the $8 million toward paying off its debt.

Commissioner Casey Willits said this is an opportunity to show JLAC that the City is interested in looking at what their core services are, “and this is not our core service, it belongs better at a county level. This is an opportunity, it is not a complete fix to the problem because we will maintain some debt… but it is a pretty good path forward.”

The motion passed unanimously.

  • The county got tired of being raped by the city? Say it isn’t so! You know it’s bad in the city when even the county, (as liberal as it is), doesn’t want to pay for the services the city provides.

    When will the progressive liberal idiot voters get tired of it?

    We need other options besides GRU since they keep raising our rates. If the residents had other options it wouldn’t take long for GRU & the city to go bankrupt.

  • Anyone want to bet the city will be good for the future payments?

    This summer they’ll remember that they have $2 million in debt to pay on the system and no future payments from the county to cover it. They will cry poor and the county will let them off, losing $4 million.

    This $4 million plus the $8 million paid by the county now puts the price around the $12 million price of dumping the city now and building a new system with no duty to provide service to the city beyond their ongoing ability to pay.

    • Brad has it right. The system will need big bucks upgrades, it will need a new contract with Moto, and those costs may dwarf the purchase price

  • Looks like the reckless ACBC just earned and invited it’s own State of Florida forensic audit. The State Legislature representatives were at this meeting and saw this totally unjustified bail out for the City of Gainesville. A typical GRU/COG asset. Worth $3.7 million and still owes $10 million on it. Who owns that $10 million dollar debt that is no longer secured by the old radio system. Did the County Purchase include a warranty ? Huh? Duh? The local governments are going to give us Springs County a Silver Platter at no charge, right Governor?

    • The system would cost the County $17 million to build from scratch. The debt is $10.8 million. The purchase price is $8 million. The remainder of the Debt, $2.8 million, is the City’s. All Public Safety organizations have agreed to be users and pay their fair share. It just makes sense for the County to operate this countywide service.

      • This article says the cost to build from scratch is at most $13 million. Where do you find the other $4m to get to $17m?

        The city is broke. They’ve been broke for a while but Tallahassee is finally making them face it. Does this deal still ‘just make sense’ if the city doesn’t hold up their end? Agreeing to pay, wanting to pay and actually paying are different things, especially when the promisor is functionally bankrupt.

  • Not helping much, she got slickered on this..
    “ GRU will pay $164,000 for five years ($820,000), and the City of Gainesville will pay $937,000 for two years and $750,000 for the following three years ($4,124,000).

    That’s $5 million in near term payments, just what GNV and GRU are supposed to be trying to alleviate to pay down debts. We’ll, they are very poor money managers and reckless spenders. What do you expect?

    • Saved $1 Billion in obligations under the PPA and avoided the need to replace a gas plant. It was the BIomass PPA that was the bad deal, not the buyout.

      • You can say it saved a billion dollars all you want the plant should have NEVER been started to start with it was a bad deal to start with just one of many Gainesville city commission has done over the years to turn gainesville in to a democratic shit hole just like other crime ridden broke cities full of homeless taking over

      • Ed: you are the proverbial “make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear” guy.
        The deal was bad and it’s still bad…it bankrupted us and made our utilities cost more…there’s no silver lining with anything you did At GRU…explain why you ruined our utility to stop climate change again and where the idea originated from. Everyone wants to hear your load of crap.

      • It was the city’s progressive tree burning idiots who thought it would be financially feasible in the first place.
        Amazing the debt taxpayers get saddled with under Democrats and their financially irresponsible policies.

        • Bielarski: Governor Desantis & the State of Florida needs to come in and takeover the City of Gainesville and Gainesville and Regional Utilities(GRU). Appoint all new commissioners, charter officers,
          And make a deal where a public utility governed by the PSC (FPL, Duke, etc.) provides the electrical service because that’s their expertise. Local government needs to focus on
          Basic essential services….police, fire, parks, & roads…..no more rainbows 🌈 in downtown crosswalks….no tampons in the mens rooms, no purchasing of face diapers and giving them out for free, etc…

  • Tamara Robbins asked the obvious question; why the County would offer $8 million for a system that is valued at $3.7 million?

    Yeah, at a fire sale no one except Alachua County and Gainesville overpays with tax-payer dollars. This is either another fiscal blunder or a political shakedown. $4.3 million is a lot of temptation.

    ‘Just wondering what the shakedown GRU is proposing to UF for ‘help…..’

    • I don’t like the deal, but the system was not valued at $3.7 million. it’s book value was $3.7 mm. Book value is the original cost less depreciation. Doesn’t constitute fair value. My problem was fair value was $13 to $15 mm and they settled for $8.

      • Ed, every few years, that system got multi-million dollar upgrades from Moto. When is the next one due?

  • Does Dixie county or another poor tax neighbor have 911 trunk shows? We need to start looking at those for ideas on what services are “core” and not core, etc.

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