City officials talk GREC purchase at forum – News – Gainesville Sun – Florida News

City officials talk GREC purchase at forum – News – Gainesville Sun – Florida News

City officials largely agree that they should pursue purchasing the controversial biomass plant at some point in the near future.

But not all agree on the price.

On Tuesday, about 80 people poured into the University of Florida’s Pugh Hall to hear from the officials involved in the decision whether to buy Gainesville Renewable Energy Center for $750 million. The buyout would allow the city to exit a deal poised to cost the city of Gainesville roughly $2.1 billion over the next 27 years.

The Sun’s opinion editor, Nathan Crabbe, sat down with Gainesville Regional Utilities’ General Manager Ed Bielarski, City Commissioner Harvey Budd and Utility Advisory Board Chairman Darin Cook to discuss pros and cons of the proposed deal and the mistakes made by previous city officials.

It wasn’t long into the forum before some members on the panel took aim at GREC President Jim Gordon, who negotiated the binding contract with the city in 2009.

“I think he’s a creep,” Cook said. “But I also think he’s a smart man.”

Budd said the city should stop trying to figure out how the city got into its pricey situation and look for exit strategies, but also gave blame to former GRU General Manager Bob Hunzinger for the unfavorable contract. He, too, voiced his displeasure for Gordon.

“Personally, I would’ve stopped paying him a long time ago,” Budd said.

Both Cook and Budd told the room they feel the city should wait before purchasing the plant and should hold out for a lower price or continue an ongoing arbitration between GRU and GREC.

“GREC has not been the best of actors,”…

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