McCOOK, Nebraska -- The McCook City Council approved an employment agreement with J. Jeff Hancock for the McCook city manager position, Monday evening, during a regularly scheduled meeting at council chambers. During a phone interview this morning from Warrensburg, Missouri, Hancock said he was excited about coming to McCook and planned to initially spend as much as time as possible with city staff, employees and the City Council, in order to get an assessment of the community and begin building relationships. Hancock said examining finances, "to see where we are at," would also be at the top of his early priority list.
Hancock said he had found a place to live already and planned to move from Warrensburg on Friday, Oct. 28.
Hancock's annual salary will be set at $85,000 with an 11 percent retirement plan.
Other benefits in the agreement include an additional $5,000 annual reimbursement to cover expenses of using his personal vehicle for city-related business; $6,000 to cover moving expenses; and a city paid cell phone.
Hancock has 30 years of experience as a city manager, city administrator or assistant city manager.
Councilors discussed changes to the process of introducing and approving ordinances during the meeting and eventually decided on removing some redundant steps pertaining to the introduction of an item. The changes were brought to light during a failed attempt in August by Councilman Aaron Kircher to modify the city employee health plan to cover unmarried domestic partners of employees.
Several council members voiced frustration with the scenario of having no option other than to vote approval for the title as read of the item, explaining the vote was unnecessary and meaningless if a no vote wasn't even an option.
During the August meeting after council members approved the title as read via vote, the item died lacking a second in support of it.
Councilors also agreed to end the practice of requiring a vote and motion to publish after items were approved, subsequently integrating the action of publishing into approval of the item.
No changes were made to the three-reading rule practice but councilors did discuss the difference between an ordinance and a resolution. Councilman Mike Gonzales indicated that he had found discrepancies between certain items McCook deemed as regular agenda items and other municipalities deemed as consent agenda items. Consent agenda items are passed collectively and are not discussed unless specifically pulled by a council member or citizen in attendance. One example given by Gonzales was of a city budget being approved as a consent agenda item in another Nebraska town.
According to Gonzales the construction team coordinating the new municipal facilities project is scheduled to begin dirt work by Oct. 31 and have steel on site by the first of the year. Three bid packages remain for the project and Dec. 15 is the targeted date to have all bids completed.
Two public hearings were coordinated during the meeting without comment. No one spoke in support or in opposition of a request to change the approved use of the former East Ward Elementary building from 14 to 15 units; nor during a second hearing which focused on a review of the planned development district for the East Ward site.
Both items were subsequently approved by councilors following the hearings and Councilman Jerry Calvin motioned to suspend the three-reading rule pertaining to the items. "There is no reason not to," said Calvin. City Clerk Lea Ann Doak said all property owners in the vicinity of the site had been contacted and no opposition had been received.
Suspension of the three-reading rule was authorized on a 4-1 vote with Councilman Aaron Kircher the lone dissenting vote.
Councilors approved an amendment to the energy efficiency community block grant aid agreement, pertaining to city shop window and lighting upgrades. The amendment eliminated the lighting portion of the project and continued with insulation and window installations, after initial bids came back significantly higher than anticipated.
Public Works Director Kyle Potthoff said he felt the two most important parts of the project were still being completed.
Other items on the consent and regular agenda;
* Councilors authorized the use of a $5,434 grant from the Department of Aeronautics to aid in construction of the wildlife fence at McCook Ben Nelson Regional Airport.
* The agreement between the city and J Bar J Landfill for the deposit of solid waste collected at the city transfer station into the landfill was approved for renewal.
* An updated 2011 Local Emergency Operations Plan was approved. The plan is updated every five years and provides details pertaining to the coordination of city departments and personnel in response to a natural or manmade disaster.
* The city attorney was authorized to begin negotiations with respect to a potential real estate purchase for the cation waste disposal system. The authorization occurred following an executive session, which is typical of real estate transactions.
* The letter of agreement between the Department of Roads and the City of McCook was approved. The letter identifies $50,305 in federal funds, $23,752 in state funds and $23,753 in local matching funds to be used for public transportation from July 2011 to June 2012.
* City council accepted a public water system security sub-grant from the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services. The McCook public water system was awarded the $3,681 grant to install additional exterior security lights at the water treatment plant.
* Councilors approved a proclamation designating the month of October 2011 as Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
* McCook National Bank was authorized to close off the alley between Norris Avenue and West First Street, from West B to West C, 3 p.m. to midnight on Oct. 29.
* Sehnert's Bakery was granted a special liquor license to serve alcohol at the Fox Theater and the Keystone Business Center, Nov. 19, during "The Night for Hospice."
* Sehnert's Bakery was also granted a special liquor licenses for business Christmas parties, Dec. 9,10,16 and 17, at the Armed Forces Reserve Center.