Larry Campbell, who has waited since the last city council meeting to discuss the amount the city donates each year to the North Platte Chamber and Development, got his chance Tuesday. Campbell moved to reduce that contribution from $100,000 to $50,000 and take another look at the appropriation down the road, perhaps in six months or so.
Councilman Tim Barrett seconded.
Andrew Lee disagreed.
“We need to support the system we have for promoting and growing North Platte or find alternatives,” Lee said. “I think we need to keep it at $100,000.”
Councilman Jim Carman agreed with Lee.
“It is the method we have,” Carman said.
However, Carman said that “DEVCO,” as it was formerly known, has had some failures.
“I think a lot of the council’s frustration with DEVCO comes from not seeing much get done there,” he aid. “For example, not too long ago a young lady came in here, with DEVCO backing, and asked us for money to start a business incubator company. We gave her money, and in a little over a month she was out of business. The city ate the loss and inherited a bunch of expensive office furniture.”
Councilman Tim Barrett also expressed concerns about DEVCO.
“I don’t support the Chamber and DEVCO because we have seen nothing come from it lately,” he said.
Chamber and Development Executive Director Dan Mauk urged the council to look at the successes DEVCO has had in the last four years, citing the Greenbrier railroad wheel plant near Hershey.
“Before I came to the chamber here, only one small call center was brought to North Platte and the city provided $125,000 per year (for Chamber and Development) then,” Mauk said. “If this is cut in half, along with the $20,000 the county has cut, I don’t know where I can make up the difference.”
In 2011, the Lincoln County Commissioners decreased the county's annual contribution to the Chamber and Development to $20,000, half what they donated two years before.
Mauk said he is already understaffed and has moved a Chamber employee over to the Development side to fill a position that was left when an employee quit.
“I assure you we are working on some things that will make a difference,” Mauk said. “Right now we have six projects going, but I can’t disclose many details (because of confidentiality agreements.)
Campbell asked Mauk, “You have lost two key employees, right?” Mauk responded, “Yes, but they did not leave because they were unhappy.”
Campbell reminded Mauk of a going-away gathering for an employee who left felt Mauk did not show much respect for that employee, only making a brief appearance at the gathering.
“I don’t know, it just was not right. You just came in briefly and left,” Campbell said.
Councilman Glenn Petersen moved to amend Campbell’s motion and change the amount for the Chamber and Development office to $75,000 instead of Campell’s $50,000. The council voted 5–3 to pass Petersen’s motion. Barrett, Brook Baker and Campbell voted no.