Gainesville Mayor Ed Braddy announced on July 17 that he plans to have an ongoing discussion of reducing costs for businesses in the Gainesville area in the coming year.
Speaking after a forum on energy costs sponsored by the Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce he said he will schedule city commission discussions on making the area more affordable early in 2014. In addition to looking at GRU rates, Braddy plans to examine the city’s storm water assessment.
“The city needs to finds ways to be more accountable, open and affordable,” Braddy said. “We used to have the gold standard for affordable energy in Florida.
That’s changed since 2008, when the city began developing the biomass energy plant that will serve GRU, Braddy said, adding, “People are quite literally paying the price of the city’s actions.”
Chamber Chairman Mitch Glaeser told the audience that Gainesville has slipped since Money magazine named it the most livable community in America in 1996.
“Many opportunities have been stripped away by layers of additional regulations, a higher tax burden on each of us and onerous policies that stifle your ability to succeed,” he said.
City Commissioner Thomas Hawkins took a different tact in an interview afterward. “I’m offended by comments that are unsubstantiated and don’t give the city credit for what it’s done to make Gainesville a better place to do business and to live,” he said.
The chamber held the forum to collect comments for its 12-member energy study group headed by David Flagg, a former mayor and member of the state legislature, and David Denslow, a retired University of Florida economist.
The study group is examining how to meet the area’s energy needs cost-effectively, both in the short and the long term.
How GRU is governed is one of the topics that the group is studying. GRU customers who live outside the city limits aren’t represented on the utility’s board, which is comprised of the city commission.
One option for giving people in the unincorporated area more say would be to create a separate authority to govern GRU. If an authority was created, members who were appointed could come from both inside and outside the city.