City of Gainesville Votes In Favor Of GRU Audit
Published February 6th, 2014
GAINESVILLE - Decisions made by leaders of Gainesville Regional Utilities that have been challenged by some ratepayers are going to come under a formal review. City commissioners voted tonight to set in motion a plan to hire an outside party to audit GRU. Much of the concern centers on a key agreement GRU leadership made to get the biomass plant fired up.
Looking at data from the Florida Municipal Electric Association you can see Gainesville is one of the cities with the highest electric rates in the state of Florida Many residents want to find out exactly what is causing the spike. This is why the city will engage a third party to help investigate their financial and operational issues.
It was a heated discussion for city officials. On a topic that has become a growing controversy. "And I kind of would like to put GRU into an MRI machine and stick it all the way through and tell us do we have high cholesterol or tumors," said City Commissioner Todd Chase.
The city has received a lot of feedback from residents in favor of conducting a forensic audit. David Richardson the interim CFO for GRU said an audit of this kind will cost at least $180,000. "We don't have any money set aside available for that type of effort," Richardson said.
Cost is a concern for commissioners like Lauren Poe. "One thing we need to agree on as the commission is having a financial cap for this, making sure this is not open-ended," Poe said.
Other commissioners like Chase do not want the scope of the audit to be limited by cost. "I don't want the scope to be limited by the costs. But I also don't want to spend 3 million dollars. But if the cost is something that seems high, I would certainly be open to discussion," Chase said.
The audit would look into business decisions made by past GRU management like the Power Purchase Agreement for the new biomass plant. Commissioner Thomas Hawkins doesn't believe there is a problem.
"I don't see any reason to endorse that action or to push staff in the direction of spending hundreds of thousands of dollars times question mark on the magnitude," Hawkins said.
With the exception of Hawkins-- The commission passed 6 to 1 to authorize the City Auditor to prepare a Request For Proposal to hire a company to conduct the audit. The city hopes that this way they can avoid any management discrepancies of the past.
"They will get us the results that we're looking for again leading us to move forward confidently into the future while also giving a clean slate to the incoming permanent General Manager for the utility," Mayor Ed Braddy said.
Most of the residents that spoke during public comment hope that the audit will shed some light on financial decisions made in the past and that with this new information bring answers regarding the costs of rising electric bills.
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