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County delays decision on rental

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

McCOOK, Nebraska -- Red Willow County, Nebraska, commissioners need more information before they can make any decision about renting the former beauty shop next door to the courthouse in McCook, Nebraska.

Commission chairman Earl McNutt said during the commissioners' weekly meeting Monday morning that a counseling center in North Platte would like to move from its current McCook office and expand services, and is inquiring about renting the beauty shop building that the county purchased in early 2008 for courthouse expansion or additional office space or parking, or, according to conjecture at the time, land upon which to build a county jail.

No one from the counseling center was available during the commissioners' meeting, and commissioner Steve Downer said someone from the center needs to look at the building before discussion can proceed.

The open floor plan, the lack of private offices and handicap accessibility, and the location of the only restroom in the basement may discourage an organization or business from using the building, McNutt and Downer said.

Any remodeling may be the responsibility of a renter, or the rent would have to recoup the county's remodeling expenses, McNutt said. The former beauty shop building may not be an affordable or permanent solution for the counseling center, Downer said.

Also, McNutt said, commissioners would have to talk to county attorney Paul Wood regarding taxes the county would have to pay on rental property.

Commissioners tabled the matter indefinitely until they can talk to counseling center officials.

McNutt and Downer -- fellow commissioner Leigh Hoyt was absent, visiting family in Arizona -- briefly discussed the Oct. 11 meeting of the City of McCook's Planning Commission, during which they were told that existing city zoning regulations ban the construction of a jail or detention center in any area other than that zoned agriculture -- meaning that, McNutt said, under the current zoning laws, the county can't build a jail onto the north side of the courthouse. or anywhere within the city limits.

McNutt said he wonders why, in May of this year, the city inquired about the county cooperating on a city public safety facility that could include a county jail if the city's zoning precludes building a jail within the city limits.

McNutt asked, if the county's bond issue to build a county jail had passed in November 2006, would the county have also then been required to seek a zoning variance from the city?

Reuben Hoff Jr. of rural McCook, who chaired the county's jail research committee before the 2006 election, said this morning he does not recall that city officials alerted county commissioners and jail task force members to city zoning regulations during any of the discussions and meetings, many attended by both county and city officials, before the election in 2006. Hoff said there is nothing in his research or minutes of meeting that indicates any mention of city zoning restrictions as the county's jail task force started researching jail needs in the spring of 2004.

There was discussion about how close a jail should be to schools or churches, Hoff remembers, but no discussion of city zoning that would restrict where/if a jail might be built inside the city limits.

The city's planning commission decided at its meeting not to address the possibility of changing existing regulations until/unless the county has a proposal regarding a jail.

The city's existing jail, 72-hour holding cells in the existing Public Safety Center, is exempt from the city's zoning regulation as a use pre-existing zoning regulations.

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