The House State Affairs Committee approved Representative Chuck Clemons’ bill giving the state of Florida control of Gainesville Regional Utilities on Wednesday.
GRU is in significant debt. According to a press release from the city’s Public Information Officer Rossana Passaniti, GRU accounted for “80 percent of the overall debt” of the city. Clemons believes House Bill 1645 will help GRU out of bumpy waters.
“This is in crises,” said Clemons. “This bill will help to righten the ship and provide stable leadership and separate the city commissioners from the apparent conflict of interest that they’re currently undergoing.”
He also tried reassuring Gainesville residents of a fear GRU will be sold by the five-member board selected by Gov. DeSantis, making it a private company.
“What I do have and can assure you and the ranking member,” said Clemons in front of his colleagues in Tallahassee, “this particular board will not have the authority to sell any assets of Gainesville Regional Utility. That must come before a referendum of the voters of the city of Gainesville.”
Gainesville Mayor Harvey Ward traveled 150 miles to be at the hearing in the state capital. He said the city commission already has a plan in place to bring GRU out of debt.
“The city of Gainesville Commission has already taken bold and drastic action as requested,” said Ward. “Directed by JLAC (the Joint Legislative Audit Committee), we have instituted a formula for our utility transfer.
Gainesville residents and advocates were also in attendance Wednesday to be heard by the committee. Most were in opposition to the bill.
The legislative session ends on May 5.