Disputes continue between Gainesville, local towing company

Ultimate Towing of Gainesville, a company that is not new to controversy, is once again in hot water with Gainesville residents and authorities as complaints mount against the company. District City Commissioner Adrien Hayes-Santos has clashed with the towing company over spotters which contribute to what he and other Gainesville residents have characterized as predatory practices by the company. The most recent clash has the Gainesville Police Department investigating Ultimate Towing over its recent decision not to accept credit card payments, a move city commission says violates city ordinance.

Ultimate Towing has since claimed to have reinstated the ability to pay through credit card. However, they also dispute that refusing to allow credit card payments violates city ordinance. Further violation has been threatened by the GDP with the termination of Ultimate Towing’s business license and the ability to tow trespassers. The ordinance requires towing fees be payable by cash, credit card, and/or debit card. Focusing on the “or” has been the focal point of Ultimate Towing’s argument against being penalized, claiming as long as debit card payments are available they shouldn’t have to accept credit cards.

Ultimate Towing has a history of being on the bad side of Gainesville officials and authorities. It’s previous owner was arrested for stealing scooters and staging them as illegally parked so they they could be towed. The company was also briefly suspended from conducting business in 2011 for violating policies with what city officials then called predatory actions.

Hayes-Santos has stated his goal is to protect the residents of Gainesville from a company that takes advantage and bleeds customers/victims for profit. Ultimate Towing stopped accepting credit cards in response to criticism for its spotting practice, which had led to a large increase in owners of towed vehicles disputing payment for their impounded cars. Complaints reached commissioner Hayes-Santos through email, phone, facebook and reddit about doing something about the towing service. Taking down the company seems like a mission Hayes-Santos intends to fulfill.

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Gainesville Impacted by GRU, GREC Deal

Gainesville Regional Utilities is about to close a deal with Gainesville Renewable Energy Center to purchase the facility for $750 million. Currently GRU and the City of Gainesville is locked into a contract with the biomass GREC facility to the tune of $70 million a year. The contract would last the next 27 years and cost Gainesville approximately $2.1 billion dollars during that time. However, despite the contract GRU has been getting power from cheaper sources and has been mostly sidelining the biomass plant, leading to this deal. GRU hopes to use the facility to replace decommissioned plants and avoid paying for power it doesn’t use.

After both sides agreed to the deal, it has now gone to the Utility Advisory Board and the city commission, which hasn’t ultimately agreed to the deal yet either. Concerns over the price tag the city would muster, as well as the time frame being imposed on city commissioners to consider the deal are factors. After the deal was finalized, the city commission is now being asked to look over and sign the resulting memorandum of understanding by April 21st, which at this point is less than a month away.

GRU has repeatedly released statements justifying both the purchase and conditions attached. GRU has claimed that the buyout could save Gainesville $650 million dollars over the next 30 years, and that everyday the deal is not finalized costs the city $70 thousand in fees to GREC. Gainesville citizens have been told by GRU that the buyout will also reduce customer bills by 8 to 10 percent.

Commissioners Harvey Budd and Todd Chase have each indicated misgivings they have towards signing the memorandum. Todd Chase will no longer be in office after the deadline GRU is attempting to set on the City Commission and will not be able to sign any contracts or ordinances regarding the buyout after April 20th. Mayor Lauren Poe continues to support the deal and attempted to get City Commission to vote on the deal Thursday, April 6th.

Regardless of the outcome, Gainesville residents are upset at being forced into this predicament in the first place.