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City to continue pursuit of federal funding for West Ward demolition

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

McCOOK, Nebraska -- The McCook City Council narrowly decided to stay with the idea of seeking federal funds to help pay for the demolition of the West Ward School building, at Monday evening's town hall meeting at Heritage Senior Center.

The vote was split 3-2, with council members Aaron Kircher and Lonnie Anderson against the use of grant funds, citing concerns that the use of the funds required an additional $20,000 historical survey be completed. The survey expense would be non-refundable and could simply add the to overall expense of the demolition if grant funding, which is not guaranteed, was not awarded.

Council members and city staff also presented plans for the proposed municipal facility that voters will consider in the November election. Several citizens spoke to the council regarding the project.

"I applaud the city and employees for their input, time and everyone active in trying to present this, said Kathleen Bills of McCook. "I have a personal conflict with it. I would like to see something outside of town."

She expressed concerns about neighborhoods being disturbed and the impact on taxpayers on the street. She also went on to say she was uncertain having all three entities in one location was the best idea, concerned that a child abuser would be brought to an environment where someone is paying their water bill.

Fire Chief Marc Harpham responded to Bills by explaining the current response time of the emergency services would be negatively impacted by a facility located outside of town. Explaining that the McCook response time had recently received a level four of 10 rating, improved from a six rating, Harpham said this rating improvement could have a positive impact by lessening insurance requirements on homeowners.

The chief also noted that the rating was not finalized yet and one of the factors it included was having all emergency equipment under one roof, a task that can only be accomplished in the proposed municipal facility.

Police Chief Isaac Brown added to the explanation by saying one of the benefits of this design was the vastly improved ability of the police department to have separate and even private entrances to bring victims and offenders into the facility from.

Wayne Michaelis inquired as to whether the monthly expense of operating the facility had been estimated, and compared to the current facility, and was concerned about potential revenue losses involved with the jail and dispatch. Brown explained that there can be only one 911 dispatch center for the county and the cost to the county to establish a second dispatch center would far outweigh any benefit.

"The jail costs us more to operate than any revenue we get for it," said Brown.

Council member Mike Gonzales said he had experience with a similar scenario regarding the monthly utility expense comparisons.

"We went through a similar process with the school district, We had three facilities with old furnaces, etc." Gonzales went on to explain that is difficult to put numbers to, but with the new facility having more energy efficient walls and a newer furnace, you should at least be comfortable with seeing monthly expenses no worse than current.

Several other citizens expressed their desire to prevent the demolition of West Ward. Gene Morris asked council to consider holding off on the demolition project until after the November Municipal Facilities vote.

Dale Cotton cited the previous denial of federal funds by the Nebraska Historical Society for the demolition project, prompting Mayor Dennis Berry to explain that the denial was prior to the historical society visiting the site and reviewing the engineer plans. "Since then they have been out and agreed it was not worth renovating that building," said Berry.

The City Council will seek voter approval in November to build the Municipal Facility to house Fire, Police and City administration. The second of three town hall meetings will be hosted by City council Oct. 14, 7 p.m., at the Heritage Senior Center.


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The new facility would be bonded against existing sales taxes. The city would still maintain a reserve and complete other projects. If the facility is built taxes will not increase. If the facility is not built taxes will not decrease. The city needs improvements in the safety and administrative facilities. They will need to be addressed sometime. The city has done a good job of fiscial management. The city has the funds. Bonding and cinstruction costs are near record lows. The time is right.

-- Posted by dennis on Wed, Sep 29, 2010, at 9:08 AM

The City needs to continue repairing the streets in this town also. I'm not against building the facility however what about the rest? What happened to this company "shaving down" the bumps, what about repair streets in the reservation. Can these repairs be done without going thrut he State's 1&6 year plans? No one has ever said, what's going to happen to the Auditorium, the existing police/fire station? Can the Auditorium be renovated so that people continue to rent it for receptions, concerts, etc.?

-- Posted by Rural Citizen on Wed, Sep 29, 2010, at 10:58 AM

The street repairs and replacements will continue to follow the 1 and 6 year plans. The Auditorium will be maintained and still available for events. Office space in the Auditorium could also be made available to rent. The existing safety center has been "offered" to the county to use as a jail and office space as the current jail is grandfathered and could be remodeled and expanded to meet county needs, but that decision is up to the county. If the county says no to that facility it could sold to others or used by the city street dept. or other city needs. Many possiblities. No firm decisions by the council until after the vote.

-- Posted by dennis on Wed, Sep 29, 2010, at 11:21 AM

Yes, the time is right...... to pay off the existing debts the city has and will continue to have if they don't do something about it. You can say taxes will not increase or decrease because of the facility being built/not built, but what about the other hidden items the council has?? This talk has happened in the past as to what outcome???? The citizens ended up paying more in taxes or fees because the city deemed it was the only way to recover from it. The city needs to pay off debts and then see where the money is for building the new facility. This has been a problem area for the citizens. Pay more to get more?? People are into this recycling thing. They still should recycle some of the buildings and use them. Like the "Keystone" which was shoved down everyones throats. There isn't no fireworks going off about that place. Hope the city is looking at the whole picture and not just what is in front of them....

-- Posted by edbru on Wed, Sep 29, 2010, at 11:39 AM

What are the "hidden items the council has?" Please give an example of what "has happened in the past as to what the outcome?" The city is paying off a bond on the sewer and water project but upfront the citizens knew the rates would change to make that payment. And even now the rates are not as high as what was projected, The city did use some sales tax funds to pay down those expenses. So fiscally the city is ahead of projections. The sewer/water is a great example of waiting and waiting to do a project that will need to be done and all the delay caused greater expense than if it was done earlier. If we wait again on this facility it will cost more later. And finally where do you stand edbru on rehab of buildings? You say recycle them then turn around and give the city heck about rehabing the Keystone. You seem to always complain about everything. Are you the little boy that cried wolf? People stopped listening. I feel sorry for people like you who seem to only see the dark side.

-- Posted by dennis on Wed, Sep 29, 2010, at 12:09 PM

I don't always agree Dennis, but thank you. I do agree for the fact that this has been going on way too long. Too many plans, payments to architects, surveyors, appraisals, etc. Too many years going back and forth. Enough is enough. If we are able to still utilize the Auditorium for public and/or private functions, moving the City Street Department would also be a good idea to the existing police/fire building, I think we should go for it. Maybe the City can set aside some of tax money to upgrade the Auditorium as it needs.

I vote, YES!

-- Posted by Rural Citizen on Wed, Sep 29, 2010, at 3:28 PM

Edbru, without the continued updating of the facilities, equipment, infrastructure, parks and general public property, the town will slip into a state of unrecoverable disrepair. It has happened to several communities right here in the Southwest Nebraska area. They put off repairs, those needed repairs became extreme and financially undo-able which then resulted in further delays causing further deterioration. New businesses had no interest in even slowing down as they passed through these communities let alone setting up shop and now they are quickly becoming unincorporated, and dilapidated.

A 45 mile drive in any direction and you'll run into one of these communities. It saddens me to see that happen but I can't see a way out for those towns..... I see government grants being utilized but the mass of financial despair that these communities are facing have turned 2 fold, the cost to repair, impossible..... it has now become an issue of: 1. remove and 2. replace..

I'm sure you've felt a similar situation personally, you buy a vehicle, you pay it off. The vehicle doesn't quit requiring maintenance just because the title is in your possession.... no, instead the maintenance continues to get worse. NOW.... do you just save your money and not repair it? Do you let the breaks go bad rather than fix them and wait until the breaks are ruined and much more costly to repair? Let me ask you edbru..... are you driving an aged and dilapidated car that smokes as you motor down the road, backfiring as you shut it off? I'm betting that you're driving a better than average vehicle (just a feeling) and you don't get that by "Letting it ride".

This, however; is not a guess.... recycling buildings that are out of code is by far, and I mean FAR, less cost efficient than knocking them down and starting from scratch. This is something that I personally have solid knowledge on. If your true concern is for the citizens tax money..... you should be voting YES on the ballot.... take a look at the costs involved with researching the Westward rehab. If I were bellowing about saving the citizen's tax money, I wouldn't prompt the delay of progression on this new facility. Take a look at the expenses incurred because some concerned individuals have taken it upon themselves to involve the Historical Society in this issue all in the name of nostalgia.

Save money? I say just get it done before your property is setting smack dab in the center of a former town turned unincorporated settlement. We're talking about improvements......... necessary improvements, not spending public money setting the stage for the Olympics or some other mass event that's here today gone tomorrow.

In closing, I have that one question for you..... "What condition is YOUR car in?"

-- Posted by PensiveObserver on Wed, Sep 29, 2010, at 7:32 PM

1. Pensive you are correct about building new, instead of renovating the old barn.

2. Ebru, yes paying off the debt would be nice, but the time is right, for the new building.

3. The council is trying to get the information out to the public, but I really am afraid that the naysayers are being heard more than the council. The council will have to get the word out to the senior citizens of this town, which are still the majority when it comes to voting.

Most of the them are on fixed incomes and the fact that more city spending is headed our way bothers them, most of them can only see increased taxes.

Convince the voters that this new building would save us money in the long run, you just might see a new building. Remember it took at least 3 votes to get the grade school upgrade.

Another solution would be to get our younger generation to vote, but if past elections are the indicator, that probably won't happen.

-- Posted by goarmy67 on Fri, Oct 1, 2010, at 12:08 AM


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