Discussions about the ownership of Gainesville’s local biomass plant will continue after the Gainesville Renewable Energy Center rejected the city commission’s new offer to buy the plant.
The rejection came roughly 12 hours after the city commission decided Thursday to accept a recommendation from the Gainesville Regional Utilities’ Utility Advisory Board to draft its own contract and lower the price from $750 million to $675 million.
“We need to stay with what we negotiated if we are to transact,” GREC president Jim Gordon wrote in an email to GRU General Manager Ed Bielarski.
The city wants to purchase GREC so that it may exit a $2.1 billion contract with the plant and reduce electric bills for GRU customers by about 10 percent. In an original March 22 memorandum of understanding, which would allow the city to take the next steps toward a buyout of the contract, commissioners proposed purchasing the plant for $750 million.
However, at a nearly four-hour meeting Thursday night, UAB chairman Darin Cook advised commissioners that $750 million was far too high, which was a concern echoed by other citizens at the meeting.
“I think we’re leaving money on the table,” Cook said. “Lots of money.”
He recommended that the commission draft its own contract with GREC and lower the price to $675 million.
A 4-3 vote approved the motion to accept the board’s advice. District I Commissioner Charles Goston, District II Commissioner Todd Chase, District III Commissioner Craig Carter and Commissioner Harvey Budd (At- large) approved the deal.
“My business sense says this is the right thing to do,” Budd said.
Mayor Lauren Poe, At-large Commissioner Helen Warren and District 4 Commissioner Adrian Hayes-Santos were the dissenting votes. Although all three agreed that GRU should draft its own contract, they didn’t want to delay negotiations any longer in fear that it could potentially ruin the negotiating process with GREC.
Commissioner Warren said she was not surprised by GREC’s rejection and is hoping GREC officials will continue negotiations despite the hiccup, and agree to the original price.
“I’m glad to see the GREC party responded quickly, and I’m anxious to see if we’ll move forward with the previous agreement of price,” Warren said.
A special meeting to discuss what will happen next among GREC, the commission and GRU has been scheduled for April 19 at 6 p.m.
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