With David City Power Plant Supervisor Eric Betzen recently resigning from his position, the city currently faces the predicament of having nobody employed qualified to operate the plant.
Betzen has served in the position for more than a decade and Mayor Alan Zavodny said there was no indication prior that he was going to resign and that he gave no explanation why. On March 18, Zavodny said Betzen walked into the city office, dropped off his keys and said he would be taking his vacation time and then resigning afterwards.
“Probably isn't the best way to leave, in my opinion,” Zavodny said.
The city council voted to accept the supervisor's resignation during its March 27 meeting. Up until now, Betzen was the only person working at the 1920s-built power plant, which generates about $25,000 for the city each month through a wholesale purchase agreement with Nebraska Public Power District. Previously, Betzen was joined in the plant by city employee Tom Dion who resigned from his position earlier this year after being elected Butler County sheriff.
Zavodny said the city doesn’t plan on filling the supervisor position. Instead the plan at the moment is to cross-train city employees in the electric department, comprised of Supervisor Pat Hoeft and four others, to operate the plant. NPPD has reached out to the city and put them in touch with the City of Ord, which runs a similar facility. Paul Markowski, utilities superintendent for the City of Ord, said its wastewater and electric department employees are cross-trained to operate its plant, and that they could help David City do the same. He and the rest of his crew are ready and willing to help train David City city employees to run the power plant.
“All plants are different, but we’re more than happy to help David City,” Markowski said, adding that the basic training should take a week of instruction, but repeat training and review will be necessary because it's “harder to maintain skills you don’t use every day.”
Betzen was also one of two union representatives for the city’s labor union. The group formed during the summer and is affiliated with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local Union No. 1536, as previously reported by The Banner-Press. The second union representative was Water/Waste Supervisor Travis Hays, who resigned in December 2018.
With Hay's position left vacant, Aaron Gustin is currently serving as interim Water supervisor and C. J. Novak as interim wastewater supervisor. With both of Betzen and Hays having left, Zavodny said he was unaware of the current status of the union.
“How that would affect that, I would not be able to say,” Zavodny said.
Eric Schucht is a reporter with The Banner-Press.Reach him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.