The Scotts Bluff County Commissioners have approved a deal to end the dispute with ALLO Communications over $413,493 of wrongly dispersed fees, and now the City of Scottsbluff is on board.
The settlement agreement is expected to come before the Gering City Council Monday, Oct. 12.
Over a span of eight years, ALLO paid the entirety of its cable franchising fees to Scotts Bluff County when much of the payment amounts should have gone to Scottsbluff, Gering and Terrytown. As a result, ALLO should have paid $318,087 to the City of Scottsbluff, $95,338 to the City of Gering and $66 to the City of Terrytown while just $3,604 should have gone to the county.
ALLO has said the company corrected the error in 2019 and has been remitting the correct funds to the correct municipalities since.
According to the settlement agreement, the county will pay $77,685 annually for five years and ALLO will pay $25,000 toward the settlement of the fees. ALLO is also charged with disbursing the payments to Gering and Scottsbluff. The first payment is expected to come in November and then will be paid each of the next four years. The Gering City Council is expected to address the settlement at its Oct. 12 meeting.
“Kudos to the county,” Scottsbluff interim city manager Rick Kuckkahn said of the agreement. “It was all their deal. They came forward and (county commissioner) Charlie Knapper spearheaded all that for the county and they did a great job formulating that.”
Knapper addressed the Scottsbluff city council, expressing his appreciation for the understanding and cooperation within the municipalities as well as ALLO.
“We’re happy to put this behind us,” Knapper said.
Knapper called the deal “fair” and said the cities of Gering and Scottsbluff will be repaid for everything due.
“We save some money out of the deal because ALLO is willing to take some financial responsibility for their mistake that they made,” Knapper said.
“When it’s all said and done, we take care of our responsibility that we felt, from the beginning the board felt it was morally the right thing to do to pay back this money but because we’re responsible to the taxpayers of Scotts Bluff County, we wanted to make sure that legally we were doing the right thing.”
It hasn’t always been so clear.
In an April statement, the county commissioners called ALLO’s accounting “vague,” and asked for a detailed accounting before considering the company’s request to pay back the erroneous payments to the cities.
“Scotts Bluff County’s position has been and remains: ALLO committed breach of contract with the cities,” the statement said. “The County cannot lawfully use taxpayer funds to settle ALLO’s legal obligations. ALLO is solely responsible for its breach of contract with the cities.”
Knapper said ALLO provided detailed accounting, which was referenced in the statement as were customer names, addresses and dates of service among other information.
“You can’t just write a check to somebody because they told us that they overpaid us. We needed that detailed accounting,” Knapper said. “As soon as ALLO provided this board with detailed accounting, we agreed it was time to start talking about ‘How are we going to repay this?’”
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