Gering City Council 10-17-19

 The Gering City Council authorized the city attorney to file a claim against Allo Communications for unpaid customer franchise fees dating back to 2010. The error wasn’t discovered until last year, but in the past eight years, Gering is owed just over $95,000 under its agreement with Allo. City attorney Jim Ellison said the claim is based on failure to properly allocate franchise fees to the city.

The Gering City Council has joined Scottsbluff in authorizing the city attorney to file a claim against Allo Communications for past due franchise fee payments that stretch back to 2010.

Gering, along with Scottsbluff and Terrytown, had entered into franchise agreements with Allo in 2010. Under the agreement, Allo would pay a fee for every customer signed up for its service.

Scotts Bluff County also had a similar agreement with Allo for customers in the county that weren’t under a franchise agreement.

When Allo launched its cable services in early 2011, the company set up its billing system so that all collected franchise fees were remitted to the county and not to individual municipalities.

It wasn’t until 2018 when Scottsbluff was reviewing its franchise agreement for upcoming renewal that the error was discovered.

For Gering, eight years of uncollected franchise fees from Allo came to $95,338. Another $318,087 was owed to Scottsbluff and $66 to Terrytown.

Allo changed its billing method in 2019 to begin distributing franchise fees to the municipalities as well as the county. But since each city had entered into its own franchise fee agreement, any liability would fall on Allo.

After the Monday council meeting, Gering City Attorney Jim Ellison said he didn’t have a lot of information to share because it was a legal matter that’s still in its early stages. However, the city should decide how to proceed within the next few weeks.

“Our claim is based on the failure of Allo to properly allocate franchise fees, to the City of Gering in particular,” Ellison said. “So this will be a contract action. The county was allocated all the funds, but we don’t have a contract with the county. We have one with Allo Communications.”

According to Ellison, the city hasn’t been able to speak with County Attorney Dave Eubanks about the discrepancy since the problem was first uncovered, but Gering is willing to work with the county on a mutually acceptable solution.

Scottsbluff’s legal counsel, as well as Allo Communications officials, has also reported the county has been unresponsive regarding the return of fees that were made in error.

“It’s still early, so the only thing I can comment on is that the Gering council has tasked me with filing an action against Allo Communications and resolving the dispute.” Ellison said.

Because both Gering and Scottsbluff are in the same situation, working together on the claim could be possible, although Ellison said there’s no clear understanding of that as of yet.

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Jerry Purvis is a reporter with the Star-Herald. He can be reached at 308-632-9046 or emailed at jpurvis@starherald.com.

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