Rural poll reflects the best in small towns

Monday, July 25, 2005

The latest Nebraska Rural Poll confirms what most of us know: Small towns are struggling, and the houses are old, but most of us own our own home and are proud of them.

Summertime is the time for outdoor projects that can't be accomplished in cold weather -- although they aren't so easy when the thermometer's north of 100, either. A drive around most towns confirms the pride Nebraskans have in their homes, whether it's painting, installing new windows and siding, a new roof -- early in the morning or late in the evening during recent days -- installing concrete or just landscaping.

Yes, as the Rural Poll confirms, most of our houses are older.

The average home is 50 years old and nearly a quarter of them need major repairs, but 87 percent of residents say they like their neighborhood.

As any real estate agent will tell you, the three most important things about a property are: location, location, location.

And most of us don't see an older home as a liability. It's a delight to see the loving care so many older homes in McCook are receiving. It's hard to miss homes like those of Mike and Michelle Gonzales and neighbors Ron and Missy Nelson, on the block adjoining the McCook Public Library, where passersby have been keeping track of a friendly neighborhood competition.

While Ron and helpers has been busy installing new siding and windows, the Gonzales family and in-laws have installed a new porch, and this weekend the railing went up.

When they are done, their homes from early in the last century will be ready for the next.

Yes, there are problems, according to the poll. Decent housing is needed to attract young people, but at the same time, those older homes are the most affordable.

And, the smaller the town, the more it seems to struggle.

Overall, while 28 percent said their community has changed for the better, 52 percent said it stayed the same and 20 percent said it got worse.

While 29 percent of people in communities of at least 10,000 said their town had improved, only 15 percent of respondents from towns under 500 said agreed with that statement, 60 percent said it was the same and 25 percent worse.

With 8,000 people, McCook is larger than the smallest categories, yet smaller than the 10,000 benchmark.

Yes, a town our size can struggle at times, but most of us want to make our homes better places to live, and that's good for all of us.

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