HOLDREGE – A plan to merge Central Nebraska Public Power & Irrigation District with Dawson
Public Power District was shot down at a special meeting on Friday, July 28, at the CNPPID
headquarters in Holdrege.
CNPPID directors voted 7-5 to approve an amendment to revise the charter and proceed with
the merger. However, the vote required super majority approval, and it failed to attract the eight
votes needed to pass.
Gary Robison, president of Citizens Opposed to the Merger (COTM) called the vote “a huge
victory for everyone who depends on the water Central delivers.”
“The vote means that control of the water will remain in Central’s hands,” Robison said.
The meeting drew a large public turnout. More than 150 merger opponents converged on
Central’s headquarters, spilling out into the hallways. Central’s board room has limited seating
for 60 people.
“We asked them to move the meeting to a larger venue, but Central declined,” Robison said.
The board heard public comments for about 45 minutes, but no one spoke in favor of the
merger. More than 20 people rose and spoke in opposition, including two great-granddaughters
of George P. Kingsley, whose foresight led to the creation of Central more than 80 years ago.
Several opponents questioned what Central would gain from the merger. Others asked whether
directors had conflicts of interests. Most voiced concerns over losing control of Lake
McConaughy and Central’s irrigation system.
Before the vote to amend the charter, CNPPID director Dave Nelson made a motion to wait 60
days to vote and have a public meeting where constituents could ask questions to understand
the merger better. That motion failed.
“We appreciate Dave’s attempt to be the peacekeeper of the day,” Robison said. “It is the job of
elected officials to have discussion and listen to their constituents. That’s what local politics is
Central’s board approved the Dawson merger last year, but Central failed to get approval from
the Nebraska Power Review Board, which rejected the merger petition in April. Central planned
to file a new petition seeking Power Review Board approval if the board had approved the
But opposition has been growing since the Power Review Board hearings earlier this year. A
number of groups have come out publicly against the merger, including the Kearney County
Board of Commissioners, the Phelps County Board of Commissioners, the Water Users Group
for the Central Nebraska Public Power and Irrigation District, the Tri-Basin NRD, the Phelps
County Economic Development Corporation, and the Holdrege Area Chamber of Commerce.
Earlier this week, the Kingsley family weighed in and sent a letter to Central directors imploring
them to vote no.
“I am pleased that a majority of the board members elected from Central’s chartered tri-county
territory voted against the merger today,” Robison said. “Central’s founders knew what they
were doing when they gave the tri-counties a super majority when they created Central. They
understood that those who rely on the water will do what’s best for the water.”