SCOTTSBLUFF — After the City of Scottsbluff's legal council reported that Scotts Bluff County has been unresponsive regarding the return of misapplied franchise fee payments, the Scottsbluff City Council Monday night gave staff authorization to file a claim against Allo Communications regarding those funds.
Allo entered into franchise agreements with the county, along with the cities of Scottsbluff, Gering and Terrytown in 2010. Until the end of 2018, Allo was remitting franchise fees to the county, but not to the cities. It wasn’t until the City of Scottsbluff was preparing to renew its fee agreement that staff realized they hadn’t been receiving payments. What was discovered was that over the past eight years, remittances should have been $318,087 to the City of Scottsbluff, $95,338 to the City of Gering, $66 to the City of Terrytown and $3,604 to Scotts Bluff County. According to testimony given to the county commissioners in August, Allo had mistakenly set up the entirety of the payments to go to the county. Allo corrected the error in 2019 and has been remitting each quarterly payment to the correct entity.
Monday’s motion was to give the city attorney’s office the authority to move forward with actions it sees as in the best interest of the city in regards to the franchise fees. City attorney Kent Hadenfeldt said the authorization will allow his staff to potentially file a claim to essentially “stop the clock” on any potential statute of limitations for filing such a claim.
“We had hoped to open a dialogue with the county and get all the parties together, and we still hope that’s going to happen,” Hadenfeldt told the council. “But, a lot of time has passed.”
Hadenfeldt told the council he has reached out to legal representatives for the county and has received no response. Allo Communications representative Clint Schleicher indicated that the county has not responded to Allo either.
Working in conjunction with Gering on a claim, Hadenfeldt said there is some debate over the statute of limitations, but no matter how that issue is sorted out, it is important to get the claim filed.
“As lawyers, we’re worried about statute of limitations issues,” Hadenfeldt said. “Every day that goes by that nothing happens, that’s another day that ticks by.”
Councilman Scott Shaver asked for confirmation that although the payments were made by Allo, they were made to the incorrect agency, making Allo ultimately responsible for the misapplied payments. Hadenfeldt confirmed it is the correct course of action because the city’s agreement is with Allo, not the county, so in the end, liability falls on Allo.
“We may look at filing a complaint in Scotts Bluff County District Court just to stop the statute of limitations first of all,” Hadenfeldt said. “That will get people’s attention. That’s going to say, ‘All right, now let’s see if we can’t work this out.’”