Councilman Tim Barrett
The North Platte city council routinely okayed every agenda item Tuesday until councilman Tim Barrett spoke up.
The council unanimously agreed to store and dispense gas and diesel fuel for Lincoln County vehicles for another year -- an interlocal agreement reached seven years ago.
And, the council unanimously agreed to issue warrants in the amount of $430,000 to cover the costs, generally, of street and utility construction and maintenance.
But Barrett raised a question when the council authorized $14,140 a year for 4 years for ongoing studies of utility rates -- electricity, water and wastewater.
The studies are conducted by the Nebraska Municipal Power Pool.
“Do we really need this?” he asked. “What good is it to do?”
City manager Jim Hawks said the city went on the “rate track” a few years ago and “it is important to keep people on board with it.”
“I feel like it is important to do so,” Hawks said.
Barrett said nothing, joining the rest of the council in approving the expense. The vote was 6-0. Councilmen Brook Baker and Glenn Petersen were absent.
When it came time to pay the claims, Barrett questioned a $7,000 claim from Select Mail. Hawks said that is for processing the city’s outgoing mail. Select Mail sorts, meters and prepares mail for the postal service.
Barrett moved on some claims from Landscapes Golf Group, which manages the Iron Eagle Golf Course. He questioned two petty cash claims that totaled more than $3,000.
Hawks said that Landscapes uses the petty cash fund to buy liquor that is sold at the clubhouse, and the city reimburses the fund.
Barrett asked if there is any way to verify the expense. Hawks said Landscapes provides the city with receipts from the purchases.
Barrett also asked about a $755 claim for food.
Hawks said he suspected that was for a meal for a tournament.
“Why is the city paying for it?” Barrett asked.
City attorney Doug Stack said that is in accordance with the contract the city approved when Landscapes took over in July 2012.
“They spend money, we reimburse them,” Stack said.
“That’s a good deal for them,” Councilman Larry Campbell said quietly.
Barrett then asked about a $1,500 claim to the Nebraska Golf Association.
Hawks said it is a membership fee.
“If you’re a member of Iron Eagle, you’re a member of that as well,” he said.
“But the members pay for that. It’s an extra cost to them,” Barrett replied.
Hawks did not reply.
The council voted unanimously to pay the claims. Barrett voted yes.
Barrett also had a few comments about the $100,000 grant and $250,000 loan that the council authorized two weeks ago to the would-be buyers of the Cedar Bowl and Touchdown Club, Gary Suhr and Lonnie Parsons.
“What happens if in a year or so they decide to sell it to someone for the land value?” Barrett asked. “We’d be out the money.”
“We probably should have put a kicker on it, that has to be repaid,” he said.
Under the terms of the loan, Suhr and Parsons are required to make monthly payments. If they do that, they are in good standing, City Attorney Doug Stack said.
But the grant money would be gone, Barrett said.
Barrett said the grant and loan were approved in too big of hurry and the council should take more time to study the ramifications of such decisions.
Stack said he’s worked with Suhr and Parsons and could assure the council that they have not intentions at the present time to sell the operation.
And, Stack also agreed with Councilman Jim Carman, who said a grant is grant -- it is awarded without any strings.
“That’s why a grant is usually the lesser of the two amounts (of a grant and a loan),” Stack said.
Then the council voted to close the doors for the purpose of "strategizing relative to pending litigation." Stack was careful to see that the motion was clearly stated. The vote was 6-0 and the doors were closed.
In earlier action, the council approved the appointment of Edy Patterson to the board of the Community Redevelopment Authority, replacing Benjamin Lashley, whose term has expired.
The CRA reviews applications for tax increment financing and makes recommendations to the council.