City Commission allocates $250K to fight GRU bill

Harvey Ward speaks at a Gainesville City Commission meeting
Mayor Harvey Ward, center, speaks against HB 1645 at a special commission meeting with state Rep. Yvonne Hayes Hinson, left, and Utility Advisory Board Chair Barry Jacobson, right.
Photo by Seth Johnson

The Gainesville City Commission voted to set aside a maximum of $250,000 from Gainesville Regional Utilities’ reserve funds to hire outside legal counsel concerning House Bill 1645.  

The commission directed City Attorney Daniel Nee to move forward with outside counsel in March, and Thursday’s vote confirmed financing for the work. The outside counsel, according to the motion, will analyze the bill and prepare for any potential litigation needed.  

HB 1645 passed the Legislature in May and arrived on Gov. Ron DeSantis’ desk last week. The bill would strip operational control of Gainesville Regional Utilities (GRU) away from the City Commission and to an independent authority appointed by DeSantis.  

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“I do think it’s a shame that we have to expend these funds,” Commissioner Bryan Eastman said. “I don’t feel like we have much of a choice.” 

He said the City Commission has citizen support to fight the bill, pointing to a 2018 referendum in which voters defeated the creation of an authority by 60%.  

The City Commission has stood against the current bill from the start. However, the Alachua County legislative delegation voted 4-1 to move the bill through the Legislature, where it passed largely along party lines.  

Mayor Harvey Ward said the best outcome would be a veto by DeSantis. Former Gov. Rick Scott vetoed a similar local bill during his tenure. 

The commission also voted to continue with the sale of GRU’s trunked radio system to Alachua County. City and county staff have worked since March to confirm the details of the agreement, and the terms looked almost identical to those voted on previously.  

The county will pay $8 million for the system and its equipment. GRU will pay for the service at a fixed rate over the next five years and hopes to use the sale to pay off debt within the telecommunications department that operates the system.  

Both staffs are looking at a closing no later than Sept. 30 with a transition of the system on Oct. 1.  

However, HB 1645 factors into the item as well. One clause in the bill would give the new authority, if approved by DeSantis, control of all GRU assets as of the start of 2023, when the radio system remained in GRU hands.  

Rep. Chuck Clemons, R-Newberry, sponsored and presented the bill. He told Mainstreet Daily News in April that the trunked radio sale might get caught into the language of HB 1645.  

Alachua County has worked to purchase the system for a couple of years, and in December 2022, the County Commission voted to buy the system or, if negotiations stalled, build its own trunked radio system.  

If DeSantis signs HB 1645, the new GRU authority is set to take control Oct. 1.  

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Dig a Hole. The State is not going to like GRU and Gainesville suing the existing citizens and taxslaves they abuse.


I’ve always found it disturbing when our tax money is used by government agencies to argue against other government agencies that are also using our tax money. (How did that become part of their jobs?)

Like so many other events in the world today – the only winners are the lawyers. Oh, and the government agencies that will ask for budget increases because they spent so much of our tax money. And that will lead to higher taxes.


The allowing of 250k for an attorney to FIX the Gainesville City Commission is absurd. Dump GRU being run by a failed city government that has held the citizens of Gainesville and Alachua county citizens using GRU services hostage by the bad decisions they have made and continue to make.


Scandalous that they are wasting MORE of our money . They just don’t get it, do they? The fact that they can’t accept wrongdoing and want to sirens more money is indicative of why they should not have control

Jeff Gehmann

What a disgrace! Especially Hayes/Hinson and Ward. They just want to have control and the GRU jackpot to waste on woke worthless spending. Hayes/Hinson suggested secret battle plan just before thousands of malicious text and emails started appearing. Is that good governance? Saying they have citizen backing is absurd. The 2018 bill was not the same and not well written. Please stop electing folks who are awful stewards of our resources!