Gainesville Regional Utilities remains the talk of the town. It’s on the headlines, agendas and minds of community members.
The City Commission’s Thursday meeting focused mainly on the proposed 30-year transition plan between GRU and Florida Power & Light. The City Commission unanimously voted to move the item to the next meeting.
Edward Bielarski Jr., the general manager of GRU, said the utility company has four options: It could maintain the status quo, replace its equipment, exit the business or create a hybrid solution.
The hybrid solution includes a partnership with FPL, a power utility company that services over 10 million Floridians. It would begin in 2022 and save GRU up to $400 million. It would also advance the commission’s goal of using 100 percent renewable energy by 2045, Bielarski said.
Some residents believe the rates will remain the highest in the state. During the nearly four hour meeting, they expressed frustration with both GRU and Bielarski.
“Ed — I love you. I really do,” a resident at the meeting said. “But it’s time for you to go.”
The resident compared Bielarski to the CEO of Kmart because of financial decisions GRU has made.
City Commissioners Adrian Hayes-Santos and Gail Johnson also questioned parts of the plan during the meeting. Hayes-Santos said the negatives and risks were not highlighted, while City Commissioner Helen Warren said she wants GRU to host a town hall meeting for residents with concerns.
Milvia Hidalgo, a 38-year-old engineer for GRU, has a different view of the plan. She said it would offer GRU access to cheaper power from FPL’s efficient fleet.
On the other hand, resident Nancy Deren, 68, said the focus of the GRU debate should shift from rates to sustainable, local energy sources. She also added that she believes Gainesville should protect locally produced energy.
“We’re killing ourselves to do cheap,” Deren said.
Contact Grethel Aguila at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @GrethelAguila.
Edward Bielarski Jr., the general manager of GRU, speaks at a city commission meeting Thursday about a possible partnership between GRU and Florida Power & Light.