Candidate forum offers a glimpse into area's future

Wednesday, October 30, 2002

Tuesday night's Candidates Forum did more than show voters where the candidates stand on the issues. It also gave citizens and elected leaders a glimpse into the immediate future of the McCook area.

During the two-hour discussion, the crowd at the Bieroc Cafe and listeners on the McCook Radio Group stations learned that two of the biggest issues facing the community are on the verge of being solved.

First, the listeners and onlookers discovered that most City Council candidates are agreed that treatment is the best solution for McCook's water problems. In their comments, the council hopefuls said they expect the matter to be decided in November, just days before the new council takes office.

The listeners also learned -- in the first public announcement on the matter -- that a compromise has been worked out on the college name. According to Mid-Plains board member Dale Poore, a candidate for reelection, the compromise would declare "McCook College" and "North Platte College" as the names for the educational facilities in McCook and North Platte, and would specify Mid-Plains Community College as the official name for the entire college area.

Poore expects the name change to be adopted by the college board at its next meeting, which is scheduled Wednesday, Nov. 13, in McCook.

While that's the biggest news, the candidates also gave us plenty else to think about.

For one thing -- and this was a surprise to many in the audience -- a number of the council candidates favor continuance of the city sales tax. There were varied reasons for this, but one of the main factors was the need to provide property tax relief because of the anticipated shortfall on the airbase land sale.

The current one-cent city sales tax expires in October of 2002, and the only way it can be continued is if the council places the issue on the ballot and voters give the sales tax their majority approval.

What else does the future hold for the McCook area? At this stage, little is certain, but candidates did bring up a range of intriguing possibilities. Among the topics likely to get consideration are: a new jail ... another elementary school bond issue ... additional annexation attempts by the city ... sound buffers for the fairgrounds race track ... a new college gymnasium ... electronic voting machines ... increases in computerized county record-keeping ... zoning changes to address industrial advances, such as the proposed ethanol plant near Perry ... and near unanimous agreement to seek additional economic development.

However -- first and foremost -- elected leaders and voters will have to decide what the priorities are. All the things talked about would be nice, but as the candidates pointed out, we must first decide what we can afford ... and what we cannot.

How to keep progressing; but still making sure the bills are paid. These are the questions which have challenged elected leaders in the past; and will continue to challenge them in the future.

To their credit, the candidates at Tuesday night's Forum recognized that fact; and pledged their perseverance to address the challenges the community faces.

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