Council's sales tax decisions set March 3

Tuesday, February 18, 2003
A parcel of land (above) adjoining the Heritage Hills Golf Course was rezoned as residential multifamily to allow a developer to build 18 upscale senior townhomes.

While members of the McCook City Council agree they would like to see the sales tax issue go back to the voters, the devil appears to be in the details.

The proposal brought by McCook city administrators to the council included reimplementing the 1-cent sales tax. One half of those proceeds would go toward property tax relief for McCook residents and the other half would go toward improvements on city owned facilities.

The proposal also included a second ballot issue -- Should the city of McCook charge an additional one-half percent sales tax?

The proceeds from that portion of the tax would be used to reduce the loan against the former McCook Army Air Base for one year. Following the payment of the loan, which is required to be paid by the end of September 2004, the proceeds from the additional one-half cent tax would be used to offset the cost of the city's water solution.

A sunset date was not included on either issue. Mayor Jerda Garey said she had heard a lot of public comment concerning the lack of a sunset date on the tax. Councilman Phil Lyons agreed, saying he would support a three- to five-year sunset date.

Councilmember Dick Trail said he would support the one-cent tax, but wouldn't go with the additional one-half cent.

In order for a May 6 special election to be held on the tax issue, the council will be asked to approve a resolution proposing the extension and of the sales tax at its March 3 meeting. The deadline for submitting the election proposal to the county clerk is March 14.

During the regular Monday night meeting, Jim Condon of the engineering firm Olsson Associates was on hand to answer questions from council members and an engineer for the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services. The questions arose after the city was presented with the final well field evaluation and conceptual level report.

Many of the questions concerned the locations chosen for test hole drilling during the search for a new well field. The firm had been given direction by the city to search in three separate areas. The test holes were outside the boundaries of two of those areas.

Condon, along with McCook Public Works Director Marty Conroy, explained that the sites were chosen only after they had been denied access from landowners inside the boundaries.

"We kept hearing no, no, no" from landowners, said Conroy. "We ended up getting access on school land. That was the only way we could do it."

The test well was finally conducted on 70 acres of school land. "That was as close as we could get to the selected site," Condon explained.

When asked why the problem had not been brought before the council, Condon said his company had been under a lot of pressure to get the wells done.

Following the question answer session with Condon, City Manager John Bingham asked the council if it would like the administration, Miller and Associates and W Design to go back and examine the options "one last time," to look at a new water source. The study would cost an estimated of $15,000.

Councilman Jim Kenny pointed out the city had already spent around $100,000 on the study by Olsson Associates.

"Why spend another $15,000?" he queried.

Lyons concurred. "You can spend $150,000 on engineering. You can spend $15,000 on engineering. You can spend 5 cents on engineering. I don't think its going to matter. I think we're going to have to bite the bullet and treat the water."

Summing it all up, Councilman Jerry Reitz said, "We don't know -- really know -- where we're at, but we're getting there."

The council also approved the rezoning of property located on Heritage Hills Golf Course from Commercial to Residential Multifamily following a public hearing.

Property owner Darrell Potthoff was at the meeting to explain his development plans.

The land would be used to build 18 upscale senior townhomes. The total cost of the project would be around $3 million. The request was approved unanimously, under suspension of the rule of three.

The council voted 4-1 to approve a resolution authorizing the mayor to enter an agreement with Union Bank And Trust to borrow $47,000 to finance the purchase of a 2003 John Deere backhoe.

City Attorney Daylene Bennett told the council an injunction filed earlier this month by McCook residents Jim Burton and Mike Allen to stop the sale should not be considered in its decision, since there was no restraining order or temporary injunction handed down by the Red Willow County District Court.

Dick Trail, the lone dissenter, telling the council, "... it seems appropriate to get this thing settled before we borrow money to buy it."

In other action, the council:

- Heard a report from Melissa Miller-Atwood of FHL Bank Topeka.

Miller Atwood explained the population base, earnings base and housing needs for the city of McCook.

- Approved plans for the remodeling of the bathhouse at the city pool and set the date to receive proposals as April 2, subject to receipt of federal approval.

- Approved the sale of the Old Carnegie Library and the land on which it and the High Plains Museum site, on first reading.

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