McCOOK, Nebraska -- Paring down costs and using property taxes to pay for bonding were some of options the McCook City Council decided upon, during discussions over new city complexes for the fire station, police department and administration offices.
The council did not officially vote on anything at Monday night's regular meeting, but agreed on several issues concerning new city complexes, such as building new and not using existing buildings; demolishing West Ward school; cutting down costs; using property taxes against bonding; and, for the mayor to contact county representatives to see if they have any interest in the proposed facilities.
Initial estimates of constructing two buildings at the West Ward site, one for a fire station and another for the police department and city offices, came in at $6 million to $6.5 million.
The proposed police department/city office building would not contain holding cells. Currently, Red Willow County pays to use holding cells at the police station.
To gauge what citizens are feeling about the proposed city complexes, the council will have a town-hall meeting Thursday, April 29, at 7 p.m. at the McCook Heritage Senior Center.
Mayor Dennis Berry, and the rest of the council, seemed in agreement during the discussion that bonding against property taxes, instead of using sales tax, was the best way to finance the projects.
This would have to be approved by voters, possibly in November's general election. Whether voters would be asked to approve increasing property taxes for one facility or two remained undecided.
It was noted during the discussion that costs of constructing both at the same time would be cheaper in the long run, but voters might think the costs are too high.
Still, "Getting one done is better than getting none done," Mayor Berry said.
Cutting costs of the construction is essential, said the mayor, who suggested setting a firm dollar amount.
It's like buying a car, he said. "You say, 'I've got this amount to spend' and that's it ... we need to give (the architects) an amount and see what we can get."
Reducing costs could be done in a number of ways, said City Manager Kurt Fritsch, such as using different building materials or reducing the size of equipment storage at a proposed fire station.
The McCook Elementary bond did not pass until costs were acceptable to the community, said Councilman Mike Gonzales, who recommended pruning square footage needs for the facilities.
The council appeared open to including the county in their plans. If they decided to go in on the project, the county would be responsible for their costs of the space needed.
But the council also seemed in agreement that the city would go ahead with the proposed facilities, whether the county wanted to join or not.
"The county may not even want to go this route," Mayor Berry noted, "but the city can make a decision and if (the county) wants to come on board, fine,"
Councilman Jerry Calvin asked if there was enough room at the West Ward site for the county, such as a sheriff's office or jail. Mayor Berry and city staff answered that parking would be tight, but green space could be decreased. An addition could also go up rather than out, Berry added.
Councilman Calvin also asked that the demolition of West Ward be done sooner rather than later.
The city-owned property, where the vacant West Ward building stands, is unsightly and blighted and sends the wrong message, he said, as the city makes property owners clean up their own neglected properites.
"I despise hypocrites," he said. "The quicker we demolish West Ward, the happier I'll be."
For the past few months, the council has been considering building new facilities and voted unanimously at the Feb. 1 meeting not to renovate the vacant West Ward school building or to rehab the existing fire and police department buildings.
The council also looked into renovating the Nebraska National Guard Armory to house the police department and city offices, but decided against that when the cost was higher than constructing new and the building would not be available for several years.