BY JIM KONISH / OCTOBER 17, 2019
This article, originally published here, is in response to an opinion piece originally written by Ed Bielarski, GRU General Manager.
Fiction: GRU “profits are sent to the city of Gainesville’s General Fund.”
Fact: The $38,000,000 GRU transfer payment is an arbitrary, previously agreed upon amount that is not necessarily a “profit.” Shrinking revenues, rising costs, massive borrowing, negative “fuel levelization,” and declining net position, despite creative valuation of the biomass plant, suggest that the transfer payment is actually being financed, at least to some degree.
Fiction: GRU profits “support an award-winning police department.”
Fact: GRU has no say over how its “profits” are spent. In fact, our police department has been decimated by poor pay and unfair labor practices by City Government.
Fiction: “GRU will collect another $14 million in utility taxes for the city.”
Fact: “GRU will collect another $14 million in utility taxes for the city,” and $5.8 million more for the county. These taxes involve dubious schemes to inflate the collection by pyramiding taxes and surcharges multiple times, among other predatory practices. The local legislative delegate has been notified.
Fiction: “GRU includes the city’s stormwater services and garbage collection on its monthly residential bill… which keeps the City from having to… contract with the County, saving paper and money.”
Fact: GRU bundles the city’s stormwater and garbage collection fees with the residential electric meter within the city. This is a cost shift from landlord to tenants. GRU charges the city twice as much to collect and remit these monies to the City monthly than our property appraiser would charge if he collected this money annually. These fees become monthly obligations for tenants, who must pay in full or face disconnection of the totally unrelated electric service. Moreover, GRU fails to collect these monies when it writes off bad debts and disconnects the electric meter or fails to keep track of annexations. The Property Appraiser would collect nearly all monies, since he does a better job making sure every single property gets a bill that is paid one way or another, once per year, with an extensive grace period.
Fiction: “A utility rate increase is the most efficient vehicle for funding the world-class services that make Gainesville great.”
Fact: Despite regressive, ongoing GRU rate increases, it is projecting shrinking revenues at an accelerating rate, suggesting that more increases are to be expected indefinitely. GRU has dramatically increased prices for inefficient outdoor and street rental lighting, hoping its customers will not notice or confront the growing injustice posed by this regime. Mr. Bielarski promised us “massive savings” from the $750,000,000 buyout of a dubious biomass contract. All “savings” are gone, rates are higher than ever, and rates are in fact the highest in the state across-the-board and going higher.
Fiction: GRU is a great steward of our wastewater.
Fact: Due to excessive transfer payments, nepotism, incompetence, and probable corruption, GRU spills untreated wastewater in both small and large volumes from dilapidated sewer lines all over the place, all the time.
Fiction: GRU’s biomass incinerator only burns the “beaks, claws, and feathers of the wood industry.”
Fact: No such beaks, claws, or feathers are burned. Whole trees are burned from land-clearing activities. Third parties pick up woody material from various landowners, chip it, and deliver it to GRU to get paid. The landowners are spread out far and wide and are paid nothing. GRU has no way of knowing where all these materials are coming from. There are no enforceable standards whatsoever. We only have GRU’s word, which we would be foolish to trust.
Fact: “On some days [thanks to the biomass plant and our uneconomic Pegeen Hanrahan Solar Feed-in Tariff that costs unprivileged GRU ratepayers $6,000,000 annually] we are already at 40% renewable.”
Fact: So what? At what cost?
Photo credit: Oregon Department of Forestry, courtesy of Oregon State University