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County board delays Calabria roads decision

Thursday, June 23, 2011

McCOOK, Nebraska -- Red Willow County, Nebraska, commissioners Monday morning tabled until next week any decision about maintaining roads in the Calabria Subdivision about two miles northeast of McCook.

County Attorney Paul Wood requested the week's delay so that he can work with county roads superintendent Lloyd Miller to decide whether Calabria roads meet two criteria that determine whether a road must be maintained by the county.

Wood told commissioners that, by state statute:

1. If a road in a subdivision has been dedicated to the use of the public (thereby losing its "private property" status) and is accepted by a public board, and

2. If the road has been improved to the minimum standards of a municipality (if, as in the Calabria case, it is within a community's two-mile jurisdiction) or a county, whoever's standards are more stringent, then the county must maintain the road.

The county is under no obligation to maintain the Calabria roads unless the answer to both questions is "yes," Wood said.

Wood cautioned commissioners not to take any action at this time on a petition from Calabria homeowners requesting maintenance. If commissioners accepted the road before it was brought up to standards, then the homeowners could demand that the county bring the roads up to county standards, Wood said.

The road must meet county (or city) roads standards, but not at county expense, Wood said.

Commission chairman Earl McNutt questioned why county taxpayers should maintain the road within the subdivision. "The city accepted the plat (the plan for the subdivision), but the city did not accept the road as a city street. The county has had no say-so in it because it was within two miles of the city," McNutt said. The city can't maintain the Calabria roads until the subdivision is annexed within the city, he said.

Wood told homeowners Adam Wilhelmson and Adam Wolford that he would let them know if the Calabria roads do not meet county/city roads standards, and what it would take to meet standards.

Wolford said he is confident the roads already meet the criteria. "They have been for 10 years," he said. Wilhelmson suggested that homeowners will share the cost of an inspection by the roads superintendent with the county.

Commissioners approved the county's continued support of the McCook Humane Society, approving unanimously a $3,000 contribution to the animal shelter's 2011-2012 budget. The county makes a $250 payment each month.

Humane society treasurer and volunteer Marilyn Cuellar of McCook told commissioners that the shelter is trying to stay solvent with donations and memorials, and very much appreciates the county's support, as well as monthly payments -- some "like clockwork" each month, she said -- from Indianola, Bartley and Stratton and, across the state line in Kansas, Oberlin.

Marilyn said one of the biggest challenges faced by the shelter is holding dogs for county court procedures in neglect/abuse cases or in court cases involving a vicious animal.

Most times, at the end of the confinement, the shelter is not awarded costs for the care it provided to the animal, Marilyn said. Humane Society president Anne Dowd said, "The owner is fined, and the McCook Humane Society receives no funds." Marilyn added, "We're left holding the bag and the animal doesn't benefit at all."

Anne said one of the biggest misconceptions the public holds is that animal shelters receive funds from the Humane Society of the Untied States. "Only one dollar of every $200 donated to the Humane Society of the United States goes to hands-on shelters," Anne said. "The Humane Society of the United States gave less than one-half of 1 percent -- $452,371 in 2008 -- of its $100 million budget to hands-on pet shelters."

Meanwhile, HSUS officials made $2,532,167 in pension contributions the same year, Anne said.

The McCook shelter has two full-time and four part-time employees, relying on paid staff members because volunteers are seldom available from the public or from the Nebraska Department of Corrections Work Ethic Camp in McCook.

Commissioners also approved an $8,000 contribution to Lutheran Family Services for its coordination of a juvenile pretrial diversion program for the county.

Juvenile pretrial diversion is a program for eligible juvenile and "adult" (18-21 year old) first-time offenders of non-violent crimes such as minor in possession of alcohol or shoplifting to give them an alternative to prosecution.

McNutt told program coordinator Chris Berry of McCook, "(County Attorney) Paul (Wood) definitely thinks it's a worthwhile program."

The majority of referrals to the program come from Red Willow County, Berry said, although the program also serves Furnas, Hayes, Hitchcock and Dundy counties. Berry said she will have 67 clients from Red Willow County by the end of the fiscal year, June 30.

The diversion program was funded in 2010-2011 with a grant from the Nebraska Crime Commission ($23,500); county aid funding from the state ($20,669); fees paid by diversion clients ($6,937); and contributions from the counties served; for a total of $59,106.

Berry projects a budget for 2011-2012 of $46,669, a reduction of $12,437 which includes $5,500 less in funding from the Crime Commission and uncertain diversion fees.

Commissioners will sit as a board of equalization to conduct hearings for tax payers protesting ag land, commercial and residential property tax valuations on these dates:

July 5, 8 a.m.-noon and 1-4 p.m.

July 6, 8 a.m.-noon and 1-4 p.m.

July 11, 1-4 p.m.

July 12, 8 a.m.-noon and 1-4 p.m.

July 14, 9 a.m.-noon and 1-4 p.m.

July 18, 1-4 p.m.

Tax payers wishing to file protests must first contact the office of the county assessor, (308) 345-4388, and then pick up protest forms in the county clerk's office. The forms must be completed and returned to the clerk's office by Thursday, June 30.

Commissioners and county attorney Sandra Kotschwar must have decisions made by Monday, July 25.

Commissioners accepted a $4,000 proposal from Environmental Direct Inc. of Grand Island, Nebraska, to remove asbestos from the county-owned former beauty shop located at 516 Norris Avenue next door to the courthouse on the north.

One northwest room has about 650 square feet of asbestos that must be removed from walls before the county donates the house to the rehab/resell program of the McCook Economic Development Corp.

The house will be moved to a vacant lot at 301 East Second in August.

During their consent agenda, commissioners:

* Reappointed Marv Colson of Bartley to the Red Willow County Veterans Service Committee, to a term to expire June 30, 2016.

* Reappointed Doug Vap and Dan Stramel of McCook and Carol Schlegel of rural Culbertson to the Red Willow County Visitors' Committee, to terms that expire Dec. 31, 2013.

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If the Calabria is a subdivision, shouldn't the homeowner's be petitioning the subdivision owner? I seem to remember that the entire reason Joe built out there was because he didn't want to have to deal with City Codes. Then why after all these years, should the county be responsible for the roads. Homeowner's dues? I may be wrong, but seems odd after so much time passing since Calabria was started.

-- Posted by Rural Citizen on Thu, Jun 23, 2011, at 3:25 PM

The calabria does follow all city building codes and always has. The homeowners pay county taxes also and are just asking for what the state statute says. If the county is legally binded to maintain the roads, then they should. It looks like the roads have to meet certain criteria anyways before the county has to maintain them.

-- Posted by homebuilder on Thu, Jun 23, 2011, at 4:27 PM

You are right, it should have been done a long time ago. As you can read from the story above, I am a homeowner in the subdivision. From the moment we moved to McCook, I have been asking someone, anyone, to help with maintenance of the roads. Our moving truck got stuck the night we moved in. Joe has been taking care of them since the subdivision's inception, but after researching the issue, it is not his responsibility. Here is why: the roads ARE dedicated for public use. I cannot tell you or anyone else that they cannot drive through the subdivision. It is not a gated community and he cannot legally sell "orphaned lots". In addition, records show that the roads were built to city standard (because of this 2-mile radius) and approved as such.

Please look at this subdivision as an economic boon to Red Willow county. This is not a "new burden" to the taxpayers. An individual came and took a risk on a piece of ground that was previously considered "dryland crop" ground. I don't know the specifics of the taxes the county collected from it, but it was meager. In taking that risk, he developed and built, now 21, NEW homes each individually providing a new source of revenue to the county. This in addition to the 23 undeveloped (no homes yet) lots. Anyone can look at the County Assessor's website and see the taxes collected by the county just for the homes in the subdivision last year. The homeowners are not asking for IMPROVEMENTS to those roads. The developer has already done that. The homeowners are asking for maintenance since the roads meet the aforementioned critieria. Not asphalt, not armor-coat, just gravel and a blade like all of the county roads around them. It is very attractive for bringing people to our community to have an option of new homes close to McCook, but still "in the country". I appreciate the county's consideration of this and respect the opinions of all of Red Willow county's taxpayers.


Adam J. Wolford

-- Posted by Adam Wolford on Thu, Jun 23, 2011, at 4:55 PM

I stand more educated...thank you and good luck.

-- Posted by Rural Citizen on Fri, Jun 24, 2011, at 8:15 AM

I work at the HSUS, and would like to address some of Ms. Dowd's comments. We spend over 77% of our funds on programs - which range from stopping puppy mills to ending the seal hunt. That also includes a multi-million dollar ad campaign to increase adoptions, and much of our work benefits local shelters.

We spend millions on direct care each year at our five animal care centers, our rescue work, and helping local shelters. I understand that right now times are tough for many agencies, and could recommend checking our site for animal shelters at www.animalsheltering.org where you can find information about how to get grants, fundraise more, etc. You can also reach out directly to our Nebraska state director at nebraska@humanesociety.org.

We share your passion for helping animals, and just wanted to clarify. All our work is clearly presented on our website (www.humanesociety.org) and also through our many videos, slideshows, and other multimedia.

-- Posted by AnneHSUS on Fri, Jun 24, 2011, at 2:46 PM

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