GRU Authority votes on attorney, procurement policy

GRU sign
Photo by Suzette Cook

The Gainesville Regional Utilities Authority (GRU Authority) voted Wednesday to keep its current attorney and change its procurement policy.  

All four board members resigned two weeks ago, but they’ll keep the seats until May when the resignations become effective. Until then, the current GRU Authority will continue to manage the utility.  

Tony Cunningham, general manager and CEO of the utility, said the meeting schedule will change in the coming months, with only one meeting in April and another in May. He said the new GRU Authority that is seated in May will then continue with two meetings per month. 

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Cunningham also announced at Wednesday’s meeting that GRU would lower its fuel charge on electricity bills starting in April. The five-mill reduction will equate to $5 savings per month on an average bill of 1,000 kilowatt hours. 

GRU last reduced the fuel charge in December. 

The GRU Authority hired its own law firm, Folds Walker, in December. The members said they wanted to separate from the general government side of the city of Gainesville.  

Members and public commenters also questioned whether City Attorney Daniel Nee would have split loyalties reporting to both the City Commission and GRU Authority.  

The contract with Folds Walker has an end date, and the GRU Authority hired Folds and Walker in an interim capacity until it could formally search for and hire a permanent law firm.  

The utility issued a request for proposals and received four applicants. GRU staff ranked the proposals, placing Gray Robinson first, Akerman second, Folds Walker third, and Allen, Norton & Blue fourth. 

Board Member Robert Karow said he felt unsure about hiring Gray Robinson when the firm also works with Gainesville’s general government. He said it was highly problematic that the city attorney had a part in the request for proposals.  

Karow offered a motion that the utility reevaluate the process and continue with Folds Walker indefinitely. Board member James Coats seconded the motion, and it passed unanimously. 

The GRU Authority unanimously agreed to change the utility’s procurement process as staff recommended.  

The recommendations came based on the state bill that created the GRU Authority. The bill said the new authority would only consider financial and industry best practices when making policy and operational decisions. 

GRU’s procurement policy, set by the City Commission, included bonuses for companies that were local, veteran owned, used living wages or had apprentice programs. 

With the approved update, those considerations won’t be included in future request for proposals. GRU staff said the veterans preference will be used only in case of a tie.  

Wednesday’s meeting also included an overview of the $50 million wastewater project about to begin in April. Mainstreet covered the project earlier this month.  

The next GRU Authority meeting will be on April 17.  

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