City of Gainesville: Alachua County legislative delegation votes to move forward on GRU governance bill

Press release from the City of Gainesville

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Today in Tallahassee, the Alachua County legislative delegation voted 4-1 to advance a proposed bill in the Florida House that would remove Gainesville Regional Utilities (GRU) from local control. The move comes as Gainesville City Commissioners and City leaders identify measures to reduce municipal utility debt.

In recent weeks, the actions taken by city commissioners in response to guidance from legislators at a Feb. 23 Joint Legislative Audit Committee (JLAC) meeting have drawn words of support from JLAC members. In addition, Gainesville City Manager Cynthia W. Curry and GRU General Manager Tony Cunningham executed strategic hiring freezes beginning March 1, and each directed departments to implement a zero-based budgeting approach as they work on a fiscal plan to present to the JLAC by Oct. 1.

Now, a proposed bill from Rep. Chuck Clemons (R-Newberry) aims to create a new governing authority with five members appointed solely by Florida’s governor. The bill’s language mirrors a referendum rejected by Gainesville voters in November 2018 by more than 59 percent of the vote.

“Political appointees would deny Gainesville voters the right to elect members of GRU’s governing body. This move would disenfranchise Gainesville voters,” said Gainesville Mayor Harvey Ward. “Right now, our neighbors can serve on the Utility Advisory Board or can come to city commission meetings or can talk to commissioners in the aisles of the grocery store or the hardware store. They have direct access to their decision-makers. This move would silence the voices of an engaged citizenry,” he said.

In addition to decisions on utility budgets, rates, and operations, local control of GRU enables municipal leaders to reinvest utility revenues to support infrastructure, maintenance, grid resilience, and storm hardening measures.

“I urge Florida residents to call or email the office of Rep. Clemons and other legislators, and let them know the governance of GRU must remain local and free from partisan politics,” said Ward.

The proposed bill names only Gainesville Regional Utilities. There are 33 municipal electric utilities throughout the state, including those in Jacksonville, Lakeland, Orlando, and Tallahassee. GRU is the fifth largest municipal utility in Florida, serving approximately 93,000 retail and wholesale customers.

  • The former Utility Advisory Board members who spoke seemed like loons. Former commissioner Helen Warren spoke and defended the biomass plant purchase as a good decision. She exclaimed, “We’re in a climate emergency!” She didn’t know and hadn’t bothered to learn what the JLAC is and called it the Jay-Gack. The committee seemed to be resonating to a different vibrational energy than the frequency Spirit Mother Warren was resonating to.

  • This is funny.
    The locals are in denial.
    Control of GRU is going bye bye. Just a few months to go!! Let’s go !!

  • I call bull**** “They have direct access to their decision-makers. This move would silence the voices of an engaged citizenry,” Harvey Ward said. ” The bill’s language mirrors a referendum rejected by Gainesville voters in November 2018 by more than 59 percent of the vote.” The bill they are talking about if I remember correctly said the city commissioners would select the board not the citizens. I WANT city commissioners, city management, and the mayor to lose it’s power over GRU. They mismanaged it for far too long. They would never have changed their ways if the state hadn’t stepped in.

  • Oh…By the way Mayor Ward…I will contact the state and let them know how HAPPY I am they are saving us from you and your cronies.

  • Thank you for the advice ward . I will call senator Perry and represent Clements and tell them how much I support the city city losing control of GRU as a cash cow to fund your left wing ideas

  • Gainesville Commissioner’s past , present and Failed Managers just accept your failures and move on. If you had not inflicted pain and suffering on the community you would get pity. Pigs at the Trough can just waller in Gainesville penniless financial peril. Your Fired!

  • GRU ratepayers are the true “owners” of GRU, yet if a local vote is allowed we are subjected to the tyranny of voters who pay nothing – primary UF and Santa Fe students. Neither UF or Santa Fe are using GRU so they pay nothing, yet these “green do-gooders” get to vote to jack up my utility bill. Not that daddy (or the federal government through loans and grants) aren’t paying for most of these students’ bills anyway.

    A “vote” is not fair to the ratepayers, we need the legislature to step in and put a stop to this ongoing local government theft.

  • Finally! Common sense prevails. For too long city hall has enjoyed that cash cow known as GRU.
    Reckless spending, outrageous utility bills, biomass debacle. Maybe the citizens of G’ville can see a reduction in their utility bills.

  • VOTERS are NOT necessarily RATEPAYERS!! These students are largely NOT ratepayers (both UF and Santa Fe are NOT stupid enough to join GRU as ratepaying customers, and most students have either daddy or the federal government funding their woke green do-gooder dreams) and should have NO say in the fleecing of my wallet!!

  • Harvey “Two Face” got on his “we’re the victims” soapbox again.

    I urge every person who is tired of the high utility rates he and former self-serving lying individuals who falsely claim to “represent” the citizenry of Gainesville, to call or write in support of this much needed action.

  • The GRU customers who live outside city limits are entitled to vote on anything pertaining to GRU. The November 2018 referendum would have passed if that was the case

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