City Commissioners Consider New Governance Structure for GRU
Published February 12th, 2014
GAINESVILLE -- Gainesville city commissioners are considering adding residents from Alachua County to form a new governing board for Gainesville Regional Utilities.
In a special meeting Tuesday night, the City Commission debated whether it should relinquish its oversight of the city's utility in an effort to give GRU customers outside the city more of a voice in the utility's governance.
As it stands now, nearly a third of GRU's customers live outside city limits -- because they can't vote in city elections, those customers do not have any say in picking the governing board of GRU: the City Commission.
While some commissioners cite rising utility rates as the reason for an independent board, others are worried about losing local control of their utility.
"Diluting [the city's] control over those assets, or taking them out of the chain of command for those assets, violates our fiduciary duty to those people," argued Commissioner Thomas Hawkins.
But Commissioner Todd Chase pointed to GRU's already high rates as evidence that the current set-up does not provide enough oversight. "This commission has violated the fiduciary trust of its people for years," said Chase.
Last month, North Central Florida state representative Keith Perry drafted a bill that -- if passed by the Legislature -- would allow GRU customers to vote on who they'd like to see govern the utility.
On Tuesday, commissioners unanimously voted to send Gainesville Mayor Ed Braddy to meet with Perry to discuss the possible conditions under which the representative could withdraw his bill.
Commissioners still have to agree on how exactly to structure a new board for GRU, a discussion that could last well into the start of this year's Legislative session.
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