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Life in the city

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The year 2011 is about to draw to a close.

It has been interesting to watch the pattern of new construction in the local area. A considerable number of new homes have been built, several in progress, in rural areas surrounding McCook.

However I can recall only one house constructed within the city limits. Hmm, how can that be?

Building rural requires additional expenses that the home owner within city limits generally is able to avoid. The rural owner has to create his own water well and septic system.

Those installations necessitate considerable up-front costs but ongoing maintenance is drastically less than the fees collected in town.

My own experience dictates that it is about a wash, fees vs. the opportunity cost of the money and ongoing maintenance over a period of years for the private installations. Considering other utilities normally provided by a municipality, rural owners have the option of contracting for trash services or for incinerating and burying the residue for their own trash disposal.

Cable TV provided by the municipality with a rake off for the city coffers can be countered by several satellite providers serving rural areas generally at less cost. Telephone service in the country is about equal in cost to that in town but many now opt to use only cell phone service instead of the expense of a land line. Internet service tends to cost the same either way.

Most people in rural areas use propane for heating. Propane is a bit more trouble than piped-in natural gas as one has to occasionally check the tank and ensure that an adequate supply is on hand. Propane contracted from a local supplier also omits the franchise fee on natural gas collected by the municipality. Same for electricity; cheaper rural rates with no additional fee for city coffers.

Rural property taxes are collected only by the county and the municipal property tax is skipped.

School taxes are the same, although the rural owner may have the option of choosing the school district where he pays and can select the district with the lowest rate.

Municipal sales taxes are usually collected no matter the person's residence, although the rural buyer can have certain big ticket items delivered to his residence and avoid paying the local option sales tax.

One area where the rural resident pays more is transportation, the cost of fuel for trips to town. The farther one lives from where one shops, the more the cost.

Why then do so many desire to build in rural locations outside city limits? The answer may be fees and taxes.

The ability to tax and the related choice of avoiding taxes definitely shape how our communities come together.

I am retired military and the bulk of my income comes from my military retirement check.

Our close neighbor Kansas has elected to collect no state tax from the retired military. I seriously considered buying a house in Oberlin and commuting to my jobs in McCook. When I pushed the pencil, however, it showed that the expense of commuting just about equaled what I would have saved from relief of paying Nebraska taxes.

The McCook area is where I grew up, and here is where our friends live, so we happily elected to stay here.

Three large construction projects are currently in progress in the city; the hospital, the college activity building and the just-started fire, police and municipal complex.

All three projects take advantage of "free" federal funds which we also pay. No doubt these projects are needed, but I wonder if they would be built on such a grand scale if all those building funds had to come from local tax coffers.

I can recall when the community came together to donate the funds to build the current YMCA building.

The community perceived a need and willingly committed personal funds to build the best non-tax supported facility between Denver and Omaha.

The Kiplinger Arena is another jewel serving this area and it was built with only a minimal amount of tax money, thanks to Tom Kiplinger dreaming a need and putting his personal fortune behind the project.

If there is a need, it will be built. Recently the mayor chastised me a bit for not pushing the "shop in McCook" theme.

He has a point, and I prefer to support local merchants for all the good that they do to make this a great place to live.

Yet I notice that the three big projects now a-building in McCook and are being done by construction firms headquartered out of this area.

It also appears that most of the labor working those projects is non-local. Somewhere there seems to be a message about how important it is to stay local.

There are advantages to living in town, close-by good neighbors, the convenience of local shopping and economy of short commutes come to mind.

There are irritants, too, with higher costs of living foremost. Little things irritate like a nearby church building that had been vacant for some time and then brought back to life by a charismatic leader and like-minded believers.

To make the building better a large awning was build over the entrance but had to be removed in short order due to "zoning restrictions."

Ridiculous. Then, too, one can't be too proud of the debacle in progress with the City Council, but it is home and I like it, warts and all.

A personal note: My sister Margaret Nielsen, eldest of my generation of cousins, will celebrate her 80th birthday on Jan. 2, 2012. She was born and educated in McCook, lived all across the United States with her Air Force husband Dale, but now resides in Lexington. Happy birthday big sis, I'm not far behind you!

That is the way I saw it.

Dick Trail

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Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, to you and yours, Dick and Ann. Happy Birthday to Margaret, as she races along at freeway speed, hopefully healthy, wealthy, and wise.

Good comparative article. Life in South/West Nebraska is "The Good Life." It's the caliber of the people, not the density of population, that makes life good. Ours are mostly Very Good People, coupled with Elbow-room type living.

Keep the Watch.

-- Posted by Navyblue on Tue, Dec 27, 2011, at 2:43 PM

You made some good points. Apparently others see that we are using design and build firms from Omaha/Lincoln to do our schools and city buildings when we can get much done right here. I can name 2 Engineering and Architecture firms right here in McCook that take on projects much bigger than these upcoming buildings. We don't have to send our money east.

I'm getting in on this conversation as well because of your mention of new homes being built outside of city limits. These are opportunities, as mentioned in previous articles on this website. If the city and county could get along, in addition to putting differences aside with an individual, more could be erected, attracting more citizens!

I am sure that no matter where one lives, the same pro's and con's arise on different scales. McCook is still "The Good Life" as Navyblue said. We can all work together to make this the best place to live.

-- Posted by speak-e-z on Wed, Dec 28, 2011, at 11:06 AM

Being new to McCook, I'm not new to the construction industry. My guess is that a lot of the local construction firms either are busy enough to not bid on the pieces of the project or too small to complete the scope of each piece. I would suggest that you do some research about who bid the projects and who didn't.

I'm somewhat disappointed in locating to McCook and although I spend most of my time on the road, I get online nightly to check out the news here. Most of the posts seem to be the same people and most seem to have a poor view of McCook and local government. I'm glad to see this editorial about McCook being a good place to live. Those who post negative statements about what's going on here need to realize that others that might be considering locating to McCook including businesses may be reading these posts. I'm sure it's only a handful of people but I hope they realize that they could be driving more people and business away.

Quite frankly, I came from a community that was larger than McCook and so far have found McCook to be much less expensive to live in, much more friendly, much cleaner, less crime, good governmental services and public safety and an overall great community that locals should take pride in. For those of you who may disagree, I suggest getting out and smelling the roses. There are places much, much worse than McCook.

-- Posted by New To McCook on Thu, Dec 29, 2011, at 10:48 AM

Thank you New to McCook for your positive comments about McCook, frankly I really get tired of old sour grapes Dick always finding fault with just about anything and everything going on. Since he got voted off the council, seems like nothing but a big bunch of sour grapes from him.

A few points concerning a few of Mr. Dicks on going negative comments.

Yes, the college and hospital and the Training Center, were built with what you call free federal money. Do you propose that the City Of McCook should not take advantage of those grants? Only when ALL federal grants are stopped and no one gets any type of federal aid with these type of projects should we not take advantage of them.

I would think the old saying of cutting your nose off to spite your face, kind of covers your reasoning. I really doubt that if McCook refused those funds it would stop the funds from going to some other town. Only when all aid/grants are stopped to everyone, will your reasoning work.

As far as local firms and the projects, did you check to see if any of the local firms bid on these projects? or did you just assume that the out of town firms were hired without consideration to the local firms?

Labor on the projects, with our low local unemployment rate, is there enough SKILLED local workers to fill all of the needs of all the construction companies?

The city council situation, a debacle? Just seems like a 1920's ordinance should have been changed years ago, perhaps that is an item that should have been changed when you were on the council...

Hopefully the mayor just appoints 2 new people, and then elect new members during the November election.

The awning on the church, did they check on the restrictions before putting it up? If they had, it would have saved them some money, and I would imagine that they could have applied for an exemption and perhaps been able to put it up after all the legal hoops were jumped through.

And one last question, what in the world are you going to write about for half of your columns, since Senator Nelson has decided to retire? By the way, I just went by Senator Nelson's family home, poke poke, Dicky boy. LOL

-- Posted by goarmy67 on Sun, Jan 1, 2012, at 4:40 PM

Mr. Trail....I think you should probably do a little research before you inflict your tunnel vision ideals on others. Kindly refer to the December 30, 2011 article and update on our hospital. You will see exactly where the dollars came from...obviously not "Free" money as you stated.

-- Posted by ThinkBeforeYouPost on Tue, Jan 3, 2012, at 9:09 AM

Maybe we should check and see if local firms were given the opportunity to bid or if we went straight to Omaha with our money.

ThinkBefore...is correct, the hospital addition is a LOAN, which has to be repaid. I am not sure how that is free money.

-- Posted by speak-e-z on Wed, Jan 4, 2012, at 7:58 AM

New To McCook; keep posting! It is great to see positive posts.

-- Posted by dennis on Mon, Jan 9, 2012, at 10:04 AM

Dick...please do your research.....you stated....."the rural buyer can have certain big ticket items delivered to his residence and avoid paying the local option, sales tax."

Farmers INSTEAD pay PERSONAL PROPERTY tax to the county on these big ticket items!!! Farmers do NOT avoid taxes....what about the OCCUPANCY TAXES that rural residents are being assessed????????

When schools are being built, the rural folks who are still farming, are assessed $ for the acres owned. As a former Commissioner, you should know better!

-- Posted by ThinkBeforeYouPost on Mon, Jan 9, 2012, at 2:18 PM

dennis, you may know, were local E&A firms given the opportunity to bid on the new facilities?

-- Posted by speak-e-z on Tue, Jan 10, 2012, at 2:24 PM

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Dick Trail
The Way I Saw It