The North Platte city council deliberated for nearly two hours Tuesday over what to do about $200,000 in overcharges to Budke PowersportsBudke owner Steve Budke, said that in December city administrator Jim Hawks informed him that for the last 10 years, Budke was overbilled, and paid too much, for electricity at the business. The retrieval and recalculation of records showed Budke overpaid more than $200,000.
Budke filed a claim against the city, seeking full reimbursement.
When the council discussed the claim Tuesday, Budke was present, represented by attorney Tim Brouillette.
Cindy Huntsman, a 33-year-employee of Municipal Light and Water, told the council that one of Budke’s nine meters was calculating at 10 times its normal kilowatt-hour rate. Huntsman readily admitted that the meter had a prior history of billing at 10 times more than it should, but said the meter was repaired before Budke began using it.
City Attorney Douglas Stack told the council that the city is only technically obligated to pay Budke $1,800 because he is only entitled to reimbursement for the 90 days prior to the date of a claim.
Stack urged the council to consider that Budke was negligent in checking the meter.
“The victim is in the best position to detect the loss,” Stack said. “In the exercise of reasonable diligence, wouldn’t a person have discovered such a significant error sooner?”
Brouillette countered, saying Budke had no other bills to compare the errant one to, because it’d been that way since he moved his business there. Budke assumed, like most businesses, that one of the meters was a primary meter that measured more power, Broullette said.
Veteran councilmen Jerry Stoll and Dan McGuire sided with the city’s legal advisor.
Stoll said he wouldn’t vote for anything that opposed the city’s legal advice. McGuire said the city should stick with the law.
Councilmembers Judy Pederson and Tim Barrett opposed Stack’s suggestion, saying fairness should be the guiding principle. Councilman Jim Carman agreed.
“I hope we can use fairness, rather than looking at the cold realities of the law,” Carman said.
Pederson and Barrett urged their colleagues to put the shoe on the other foot.
Barrett asked how a councilmember would feel if Budke overcharged the city over a similar number of years. He said the city would expect to be fully reimbursed.
Pederson said a good law should work both ways.
“The 90-day law protects us (the city) but not the rate payer,” she said.
Budke told the council, simply, “It was my money, and I’d just like to have the situation corrected.”
At one point, Pederson proposed paying Budke the full amount -- $200,365 -- in three installments over three years, but she didn’t make a formal motion.
Later, a motion was made to reduce that to $150,000 over three years, but the motion was defeated 4-3. Barrett, Steinbeck and Pederson voted yes. McGuire, Stoll, Carmen and McNea voted no. Councilman Larry Campbell was absent.
A motion to award Budke $1,800 was also defeated, 4-3, with Stoll, McNea and McGuire voting yes.
After more than an hour and a half of discussion and no resolution, the council voted to table the matter until the second meeting in November, when, hopefully, Campbell would be there.
Scouts, vets clash over new park name
In other action, the council debated a new name for Iron Horse Park, the small park near the junction of U.S Highway 83 and Interstate 80, where the 20th Century Veteran’s Memorial stands.
In 1992, the park was named ‘Iron Horse’ by a Boy Scout, Jason Mueller. Mueller’s father told the council the name honors the railroad heritage of North Platte and should remain the same, especially given the popularity of the annual Rail Fest celebration.
Many Boy Scouts attended in support of keeping the name the same.
But because the park is home to the $1.8 million veteran’s memorial, the board of directors of the 20th Century Veteran’s Memorial want the name changed to Veterans’ Park.
During the discussion, a councilman proposed a long combination of names - Twentieth Century Veteran’s Memorial Park at Iron Horse Lake.
Other council members disagreed because the combined name was not too lengthy, and some council members said the original name should be kept because people know that name.
After considerable discussion, the council said they wouldn’t change the name of the park until both parties -- the Boy Scouts and the veterans -- reached a compromise.
New cop cars
Also, the council authorized the North Platte Police Department to buy four new police cruisers at a cost of $96,000.
Before the meeting, Mayor Marc Kaschke presented a Cody Scout award to former North Platte Mayor G. Keith Richardson. Kaschke said Richardson deserved the award because he positively represented the community with a smile during two terms.
Richardson was mayor from 1992-96 and again from 2004-08.
He was known for his chipper attitude.
“This is a great community,” Richardson told everyone. “Everyday, I see someone doing a good deed.”