The following letter was sent by GNV Mayor Harvey Ward to state Rep. Chuck Clemons. It is a last ditch appeal to reason before Clemons takes a hastily-written and ill-advised GRU takeover bill before the full House of Representatives.
Dear Speaker Pro Tempore Clemons:
Thank you for your service to and representation of our community. You and I serve many of the same neighbors in Gainesville, and I believe we are both committed to representing them and protecting their interests to the best of our abilities. I write today on their behalf and in great concern regarding HB 1645 and its logistical and financial repercussions.
As you and I have discussed, regardless of any intent of the bill, I believe there are issues with the bill that make its implementation and administration problematic at best, and potentially financially harmful to the people of Gainesville. I do not arrive at these concerns on my own, rather after reading opinions from our city attorney’s office and from our city’s external bond counsel at Holland & Knight and after extensive discussions with city charter officers.
At the root of all my logistical, administrative, and financial concerns is the reality that Gainesville Regional Utilities is part and parcel of the City of Gainesville and not a separate organization. As such, mandating a separate leadership unit (the contemplated authority) that shares governing responsibility creates more challenges than I will list here. I believe the simple act of moving into uncharted territory (there are no other municipal utilities that are run the way this bill describes, and few that are even similar) will cause a downgrading of our current investment-grade bond ratings for both the utilities and the city’s general government operations. Of course, this will create a financial burden that must be borne by the people of Gainesville, and likely by other utility ratepayers outside the city limits.
I note that the only member of our county’s legislative delegation who lives inside the City of Gainesville and would be one of the people who will bear those financial burdens voted against moving this local bill forward.
It may be that this bill will pass and that everything will be just fine. The information before me, and now before you, indicates that instead the process is fraught with great risk to the people you and I serve. That being the case, I ask you to pull this bill before it is voted on by the full House of Representatives. I stand ready to work with you in the legislative “off-season” to work on something that might achieve your goals while protecting our neighbors.
I appreciate you taking a moment to consider this request. As always, please feel free to contact me if you have any questions or concerns.
Harvey L. Ward Jr.
Mayor of Gainesville
Mayor Ward is asking Clemons to consider the possibility that his bill may have the twin unintended consequence of “downgrading” GRU’s “current investment-grade bond ratings” while reating “a fiscal burden that must be borne by the people of” GNV for years to come.
Is it worth running that dual risk Rep. Clemons?