Published Thursday, September 12, 2013 at 1:00 am / Updated at 4:28 pm
$5,250 NPPD plane ride
World-Herald editorial: NPPD trip needs explanation

To quote Ben Franklin: “Remember that time is money.” He offered that “Advice to a Young Tradesman” more than 250 years ago.

So it had a familiar ring again this week when a Nebraska Public Power District spokesman explained the utility’s decision to spend $5,250 to fly four executives by corporate plane to an out-of-state electrical utility conference.

The spokesman extolled the value of saving the NPPD executives travel time — both by avoiding the drive from Columbus to Omaha’s Eppley Airfield and by shortening the flying time to Tucson, Ariz.

Maybe he’s right. But NPPD’s ratepayers deserve a more thorough explanation.

As a utility that serves a sprawling swath of Nebraska from its Columbus base, NPPD has good reason to utilize private air travel, particularly as it serves many places that offer little or no commercial air service and since its employees sometimes need to reach those destinations in a hurry.

But turning to the private plane to travel to a conference raises understandable questions about the most prudent use of ratepayer funds.

Other questions surround NPPD’s decision to send four executives to the meeting at the Ritz-Carlton resort when the Omaha Public Power District sent two and the Lincoln Electric System sent one — all via commercial flights. Both OPPD and LES paid less than $700 per person in travel and lodging costs, while NPPD paid $1,550 a head.

It’s possible that NPPD ratepayers, who began paying more for their electricity in January, gained clear value from sending more executives to the Arizona conference. And it’s possible that NPPD ratepayers gained value from saving executives some travel time.

But the ratepayers should get a more complete explanation.

As Franklin also told the young tradesman, “Waste neither time nor money, but make the best use of both.”

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