A board hand-picked by Governor Ron DeSantis will take control of Gainesville Regional Utilities within the next month.
House Bill 1645, commonly known as the GRU Bill, was signed into law July 28. The law creates the Gainesville Regional Utilities Authority — a board consisting of five appointees to govern over GRU — and removes the GRU general manager.
The board will govern GRU independently of the city commission and the city charter officers and will include at least one member outside of Gainesville to serve on the board for four-year terms.
The board may “establish and amend the rates, fees, assessments, charges, rules, regulations, and policies governing the sale and use of services provided through the utilities,” according to a legislative staff analysis report.
The board may also buy real or personal property and construct projects to ensure the utility company is appropriately maintained and economically healthy.
Moreover, the governor may remove or suspend a board member.
The law also limits transfers from the utility fund to Gainesville, with the net revenue minus the company's expenses determining the transfer limit. The law will dedicate any surplus funds from the transfer to help pay GRU’s debt.
The time to debate the decision is over, Mayor Harvey Ward said. Now, he’s “working to develop a better understanding of the way this new board will operate.”
GRU was founded in 1912 and is the state's fifth-largest municipality utility system, providing water, electricity and natural gas to the City of Gainesville.
Rep. Chuck Clemons and the State Affairs Committee introduced the bill April 10.
The bill passed the Florida House of Representatives with 81 in favor and 33 opposing April 27 and the Florida Senate May 4, with 30 in favor and nine in dissent.
The bill will go into effect July 1.
Contact Gabriel Velasquez Neira at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @gvelasquezn.
Gabriel Velasquez Neira is a second-year Journalism major, and the Audio Editor and Metro GA Reporter. In his free time, he enjoys sleeping, taking photos and playing guitar.