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Tuesday, July 05, 2022

City Commission advances GRU advisory board ordinance

An ordinance to create a Gainesville Regional Utilities advisory board is making its way through the City Commission.

During a General Policy Committee meeting Monday night, city commissioners voted unanimously to approve a revision to criteria for board members outlined in the ordinance.

Under the revised ordinance, the advisory board would consist of seven members residing within GRU service areas and receiving GRU services, said the City Attorney Nicolle Shalley on Tuesday. City and county commissioners cannot be on the board, she added.

The board will advise and make recommendations to the City Commission on topics and items related to GRU, such as rates, fees, utility charges and budget.

The ordinance must pass through a first and second reading before becoming law. During readings, further revisions could be made to the ordinance, Shalley said.

During Monday’s meeting, commissioners also discussed another potential board involving GRU — a regional utilities authority board proposed in a bill draft written by State Rep. Keith Perry.

While the advisory board would allow the commission to still maintain control over GRU, the proposed board would place control over GRU into the hands of five members appointed by the City Commission.

The current draft has not yet been filed to the Florida legislature and is subject to change.

"The hope is to have people (on the board) that are not worried about running for re-election every three years," Perry said.

Perry said he hopes the board will avoid the politics of GRU. He said he wants to have a board that focuses solely on GRU, and not the utility and array of other topics like the City Commission does.

However, some commissioners are wary and hope for more clarification of the bill in the future.

Commissioner Charles Goston said on Monday he would like to extend an invitation, previously offered to Rep. Clovis Watson, Jr., to Perry to attend a City Commission meeting in order to hear more about the bill draft.

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Commissioner Randy Wells said during Monday’s meeting that it’s important to clarify to voters that the oversight board would not be "the magic potion that’s going to give you lower (utility) rates."

Contact Hunter Williamson at hwilliamson@alligator.org and follow him on Twitter @hunterewilliam

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