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Konish: Why GRU’s General Fund Transfer payment to the City is not a “dividend”

Letter to the editor

Since City of Gainesville residents are the sole equity owners of Gainesville Regional Utilities (GRU), a subset of qualified City electors elects City Commissioners, who also function as the Board of Directors for GRU, as per our current 15-page charter. These GRU Directors sometimes receive the votes of less than 10% of qualified City electors in at-large races – and a fraction of that in district races. County GRU ratepayers, who are hammered with additional surcharges, have no vote.

Our City Commissioners are thus empowered, by a simple majority of 7, to collectively take as a collegial body ANY General Fund Transfer (GFT) from ANY GRU revenue stream. Their discretion is without limits and unfettered, regardless of how GRU is tracking financially. In publicly-held companies, dividends are paid out of profits; the GFT has exceeded GRU’s profits for some time now.

Any “Dividend” should be paid directly to any GRU ratepayer, although only City residents are actually equity “owners.”

I received an annual check from Clay Electric Cooperative as a “Capital Credit” for decades, even though I was no longer a customer after 23 years.

For our City Commissioners to impose exorbitant GRU utility rates and then command as a body an unjust GFT that must be financed cannot continue and is ridiculous.

All GRU ratepayers made the investment – not the City Commission or Commissioners. The City budget can no longer be subsidized by beleaguered GRU ratepayers and equity owners of any stripe. The GRU Revenue Bond Covenants do not contemplate this. “Tallahassee” has pointed this out to our Mayor in person, in Tallahassee.

Neither UF, Santa Fe College, nor any other local apparatus of state government will come to the rescue. The state government, which has created over 400 municipalities, in addition to Community Development Districts, has the prerogative and responsibility to protect all municipal ratepayers and equity owners.

Any GRU rescue will have to come from, or at least be facilitated by, “Tallahassee.” GRU’s entire actual equity position may have been squandered.

Jim Konish, Gainesville

The opinions expressed by letter or opinion writers are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of AlachuaChronicle.com. Letters may be submitted to info@alachuachronicle.com and are published at the discretion of the editor.

  • Thanks Jim. As usual, you are on the side of the disenfranchised taxpayers. I’m tired of getting the shaft from GRU and not having a vote about who runs it. Poe told me the answer was to ask to be annexed. At least he is gone. Keep at em – your efforts are appreciated.

  • We pay more every month for something that should cost less. That’s the opposite of receiving a dividend. A dividend would be reflected as a discount on your bill instead of paying extra.

  • Thanks Mr Cornish my sentiments exactly GRU is ripping off All of Us Off

  • I am so glad that the state is finally reigning in the City of Gainesville corruption.

  • Very true, and it’s a monopoly at that. But led by politicians instead of business minded leadership for too long.
    The state must choose to fix this locally or make it a statewide opportunity to reduce utility bills on municipal and cooperative ratepayers. A buying consortium could do that. But first, force UF to use GRU even more than now.

    • Forcing UF to use GRU under GRU’s current rate structure is just a way to finance the city’s irresponsibility through a state allocation to UF’s budget. I don’t see that happening with both the Legislature and the US House in Republican hands.

      How does it help the situation if UF buys power at a ‘fuel cost + gas plant depreciation’ rate?

      This doesn’t seem like an opportunity to do much of anything beyond imposing financial reality on the City’s political class. Every request for a do-gooder pipe dream since 2010 should have been answered politely with “we’re sorry but the money for your idea was spent on the biomass plant.”

  • Virtually all utilities are monopolies and the city owns GRU, not county residents, of which I am one. I had no say in privately owned utilities when they supplied me with power, nor do I with GRU. If the county wants to become a part owner of GRU, they should propose it, and if the state wants a piece, they have UF right here. Show us the money.

    By the way, GRU has by far provided us with the best service and fewest outages of the various utility companies who have at one time or another owned and managed our lines.

    PS There is a disclaimer at the bottom of the Konish letter about it not representing the view of the Chronicle. Since the headline on the home page promises the writer will “explain” the situation, I think the Chronicle does own it.

    • You’re full of BS. I receive electric from 3 other utilities that are regulated by the PSC and the service is excellent and the bills affordable. I’ve never had to call customer service not even once for anything from those utilities…GRU’s bills are exorbitant and I’ve have had to call customer service more than a dozen times in the last year & the service is terrible with no or poor resolution for the billing problems… The most recent problem being the installation of smart meters not transmitting because they are not on-line yet and the estimation of my bills because I previously had remote metering which is gone now. Then there was the problem of some customers not getting their bills in November…I could go on and on…GRU is expensive and their customer service is the worst. The state needs to take over GRU and replace the idiotic commissioners who can’t even make a decision about open container. Democrat leadership has ruined our city & GRU …downtown & midtown are looking very slummy with the load of dirty filthy vagrants sleeping around businesses like Wells Fargo downtown…the city is going down fast with the vagrants…it’s poor city leadership & an unqualified city manager…the state needs to come in and get the city in order. We are having a “crime, drug, violence, vagrant, & utility crisis”….the State needs to come in asap!

      • Well said.—-I’m not going to conduct commerce at any city business that allows vagrants to sleep near their front door. Why aren’t they sleeping at Grace Marketplace?
        GNV is turning into a sh!thole.

  • It’s a good start. With a State board running GRU, we can save about one-half million dollars by eliminating the positions of the current high-salaried GRU “decision-makers”.

  • I completely agree with him. They’ve proved time and again that they’re not capable of running GRU or the City of Gainesville.

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