(308) 324-2386
Illustration of two people representing both Dawson PPD and CNPPID pushing together two puzzle pieces to fit. A light bulb and the word "yes!" is above the puzzle.
Gwen Kautz

Gwen Kautz

Dawson PPD General Manager

308-324-2386

gkautz@dawsonpower.com

We were told it was a long shot…repeatedly. Many systems considered merging, but couldn’t quite make it work for a variety of reasons. On some days we defied the odds and on others we felt defeated—but, we stayed the course.

Tackling a merger opportunity has been challenging and rewarding. Not every company, board, or manager gets an opportunity like this. On October 24, our boards conducted their final vote on whether to merge formally and be called Platte River Public Power and Irrigation District. The answer was YES. This required a minimum of 3/5 of each board to ratify that decision.

The coordination and work have been an amazing experience. The manager of The Central Nebraska Public Power and Irrigation District and myself thank our forward-thinking boards, management teams and employee groups. None of this would have been accomplished without their help.

I would be remiss in not acknowledging the hard work by our consultant, Power Systems Engineering. They did a detailed analysis on many facets and identified foundational elements that showed a merger would benefit customers and stakeholders.

Boards of both companies, that have been in business since the mid-30s, are deeply entrenched with the history and mission of each organization. That is something we must never forget. The dedication to public power and local control is paramount to our success.

The directors’ willingness to put the interests of their customers first over their personal interests takes great courage and vision, like those who built these Districts in the 1930s. All along, we’ve asked our directors to look past five or 10 years regarding this decision.

The single biggest reason mergers fail is boards being unable to agree on a governance model to adequately represent our customers and stakeholders. It also had to handle the attrition aspects of representation and find the “right number of directors” to keep that representation valid. We don’t want to lose valuable experience. Platte River Public Power and Irrigation District will have 14 directors, but it will take three election cycles to get to that number.

There were two reasons it has taken more than two years to get to the finish line. Foremost was our directors’ insistence that we were thorough and did our due diligence. We did. They did.

We did our best to make sure our customers and the public knew what was going on. In those two years, several publications, meetings, radio, television and social media posts occurred. At every publication, we encouraged customer comments. Our intention was to always be transparent. We logged more than 77 of these engagements, not to mention each board has customer comment sections at every board meeting, so there were another 23 opportunities for each district.

The second reason it took two years is that our department managers and both Devin and I had our regular jobs to do along the way. While the merger was never far from our desks or minds, it was also not center stage every day.

The plan of consolidation provides many safeguards while the directors learn about parts of each other’s businesses. For example, five financial units are created—and those financial units will remain separate, and each must stand on its own.

Electric distribution will contain the same rate payer funds and still pay the bills incurred by the electric side. There can be no loaning of money between the financial units unless the board can agree by a 3/5 vote. Further, transferred funds must be repaid to the originating financial unit. Many of the decisions that will be made in the next few years will probably require that same 3/5 vote to carry, providing a good level of confidence to all the important interests this new District serves.

The next step rests in the hands of the Nebraska Power Review Board. All the paperwork is filed, and they will hold a public hearing.

We understand change is difficult and some may see this as unnecessary. The question is often, “what is broken?” The answer is easy – nothing. The same could have been said in 1935 as well.

Though nothing was “broken”, our current reality is markedly better due to the vision and leadership of those folks looking to make their tomorrow better than today. Each district brings a different strength to the new organization. The goal is to create opportunities that keep hydro power in central Nebraska, improve the sustainability of our water resources, stabilize rates and provide economic development possibilities for our agricultural producers and those ag-related industries. All those things directly benefit our customers and stakeholders.

Platte River Public Power and Irrigation District will have growing pains. It’s unavoidable. But we are committed to the goals. The process of fully merging will take years, but together, we will build a stronger, brighter future for all of us in central Nebraska.

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