The McCook City Council approved a supplemental agreement Monday night concerning the bronze sculpture of U.S. Sen. Ben Nelson, but not before one councilman felt compelled to stress that no city funds are being used.
Council Jerry Calvin said he's received a number of calls from concerned citizens who do not want city funds used for artwork.
"(The statues) did not involve one penny of taxpayer money," he emphasized.
The supplemental agreement is needed to honor the city's prior commitment to the artist who is creating the sculpture, he added, despite "the emotions currently raging at this time."
In August, the council agreed to accept $70,000 from the Nebraska Community Foundation for the statues and to act as a pass-through agency for the funds.
The life-sized statues will be of Sen. Nelson as a Boy Scout receiving his Eagle Scout award and flanked by both of his parents. It will be placed at his boyhood home, which was moved to Norris Avenue a few years ago.
Nelson drew the ire of many Nebraskans this week when he voted to advance sweeping healthcare reform legislation.
The supplemental agreement the council approved Monday night amends the contract to allow for a $4,000 payment each time one of three figures is cast, instead of a $12,000 lump sum payment.
The item was pulled from the consent agenda for discussion by Councilman Aaron Kircher and by Dick Trail, former councilman, county commissioner and current columnist in this newspaper.
Kircher asked if the city has received the funds for the artwork and also for a written agreement from the NCF that stipulates the asked-for changes.
He reasoned that the written assurance from the NCF would keep changes in order, in case additional contract revisions were needed.
City Manager Kurt Fritsch responded that the funds have been received and the amended agreement is needed as the foundry is asking for the casting expenses up front.
The contract for the work was approved in August, he said, adding, adding, "These are not public funds."
Trail asked for a delay of the artwork, in light of recent sentiment.
That would not be possible, responded City Attorney Nate Schneider, as the contract designates that the sculptures be completed by a specific date.
Mark Graff, treasurer of the Nebraska Community Foundation, weighed in and said he understood that many people may feel disappointed with Nelson now, but from the Foundation's standpoint, the artwork signifies more than just the senator but the importance of family and community involvement on youth.
The Nebraska Community Foundation is a non-profit umbrella organization where donations can be made and invested back into Nebraska communities.