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Wednesday, July 06, 2022

During a Regional Utilities Committee meeting Thursday, city officials finalized a city ordinance to create a Gainesville Regional Utilities advisory board.

City commissioners will vote to approve the ordinance at 6 p.m. Monday at a General Policy Committee meeting.

If approved by city commissioners, the board would advise GRU and consist of two city commissioners, one county commissioner "and a number of different people that would be advisers that have expertise," City Commissioner Harvey Budd said.

The ordinance offers an alternative to Florida State Rep. Keith Perry’s bill proposing the formation of an oversight board with control of and responsibility over GRU.

The oversight board would consist of five members appointed by a majority vote by the City Commission and who meet several criteria, including "recognized ability of good business judgment" and the ability to "perform their official duties to the best interest of the citizens," according to Perry’s bill.

The bill states the board’s powers and duties would not be less than those currently of the city commission over GRU. All the city commissioners at the meeting criticized the bill, expressing concern over control and leadership of GRU falling out of the commission’s hands.

"(The board) would take over (GRU)," Budd said

"Keith Perry’s bill would turn over the autonomy of GRU to the legislature in Tallahassee, which means that once they get it, once they do what they want to do with it legislatively, we’ll never get it back," City Commissioner Charles Goston said. "We’ll be at the behest of them… There’s too many disadvantages to the bill."

With faith in GRU’s new general manager, Ed Bielarski, Goston said the city doesn’t "need anything other than an advisory board."

Goston said he will invite Florida State Rep. Clovis Watson, Jr. to Monday’s meeting "so he can explain explicitly and articulate the disadvantages of letting the legislature even get involved in city business. This should be home rule no matter what."

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

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