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Clemons files GRU control bill in Florida House

Chuck Clemons
Chuck Clemons

Rep. Chuck Clemons filed a bill in the Florida House on Monday that — if passed — would hand control of Gainesville Regional Utilities over to the state. HB 1645 allows the governor, rather than the Gainesville City Commission, to appoint a five-member board to oversee the utility company.

The five-page bill only mentions GRU, despite the fact that there are a total of 33 municipal electric utilities in the state, such as those in Jacksonville and Tallahassee. According to a city press release from March 17, "GRU is the fifth largest municipal utility in Florida, serving approximately 93,000 retail and wholesale customers."

City commissioners discussed the bill at a meeting on March 23. Commissioner Cynthia Chestnut said at the meeting "we're not going to roll over and play dead," and that the commission would be "prepared to fight" the bill if it is passed.

GRU has been the subject of heated debate in Gainesville after the city's credit rating decreased in late January. According to a press release from Public Information Officer Rossana Passaniti, GRU accounted for “80 percent of the overall debt" of the city. Additionally, many Gainesville residents have voiced complaints to the city and on Facebook regarding GRU's high rates. According to the Florida Municipal Electric Association, GRU had the highest rate for a 1,000 kWh municipal electric bill in Florida in February 2023.

The Florida legislative session ends on May 5.

Kristin is a reporter for WUFT News who can be reached by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.