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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

City gives discount to Habitat project

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The second time was a charm for Southwest Nebraska Habitat for Humanity, which will receive discounted dumping fees for a house it is renovating on West Third.

The McCook City Council unanimously approved Monday night at the regular City Council meeting that Habitat projects pay actual city costs, instead of regular fees, for unloading debris at the McCook Transfer Station.

Although costs for the city vary depending on the price of fuel, city staff estimated the city currently pays $40 per ton and charges $56 per ton.

It's the second time the non-profit organization asked for a waiver or discount.

The council reviewed tipping fees at the McCook Transfer station about two years ago, when it agreed to waive fees for the McCook Economic Development Corp,. for its program that renovates houses and then re-sells them. The council specificly denied a request from Habitat for Humanity as that time.

Val Kircher, chairwoman for Southwest Habitat for Humanity and mother of City Councilman Aaron Kircher, requested a waiver or discount for debris being removed from a home the organization is renovating at 1711 W. Third. Most of the debris will be lath and plaster and dropped ceiling tile, she said, adding that the organization locally funded and staffed by volunteers,

Councilman Lonnie Anderson expressed his concern that taxpayers would have to make up the difference in waived fees, as the transfer station is supported by user fees alone. But Councilman Kircher said this project would bring back revenue to the city, with higher property valuations and new sewer and water lines.

Val Kircher agreed and said that the project would add to the tax rolls, with previous Habitat for Humanity homes significantly increasing in value after renovation is done. She added that the renovated homes are not free but that homebuyers can purchase them with a zero percent interest loan.

Mayor Dennis Berry commented that it was great project, but wondered aloud how waived or discounted fees would affect other non-profit organizations, such as churches or the YMCA.

According to the orignal ordinance, federally-funded projects are exempt from fees, City Manager Kurt Fritsch pointed out. He added that although the Transfer Station is breaking even, the ending fund balance "needs to be healthier" per the recommendation of a recent audit. Still, the city has been flexible on fees, he noted, such as those who are working with the city to clean up their property.

Councilman Jerry Calvin said he was all for cleaning up the community but didn't want to get in the habit of waiving or discounting fees for everyone.

But City Attorney Nate Schneider said each request would be evaluated by the council on a case-by-case basis.

Earlier in the discussion, Councilman Jerry Calvin asked how much debris would result from the renovation and Val Kircher responded she wasn't sure, but already two full dump trucks had been unloaded so far.

The goal of the group to finish in about 60 days, she said.

In a compromise, the council did not waive the fees but approved a discount for Habitat.

Councilman Kircher said after the meeting that he didn't abstain from voting because there was no conflict of interest, as Southwest Habitat for Humanity is non-profit and not making any money from the project.

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