McCOOK, Nebraska -- During a discussion of the city budget calendar, strategic planning session and budget retreat dates Monday evening, City Manager Jeff Hancock hinted at moving away from the city's previous practice of submitting a preliminary city budget to the public and then approving it via three readings.
Hancock said he was accustomed to gathering input from councilors and working to put everything heard into the budget, "then make it available to the public."
City councilors have previously coordinated three public budget workshops, prior to the three readings of the budget, and indicated instead of three workshops they may only schedule one this July.
If the city budget was approved under suspension of the three reading rule the changes would reduce the opportunities for public input on the city budget, during city council meetings, from six to two.
Hancock said that the key issues during this year's city budget were going to be increases due to the price of gas and expenses relating to issues of equipment maintenance and replacement that city staff had informed him of.
Councilman Mike Gonzales said he was concerned with the three readings of the city budget being a strain on department heads as historically changes were still being made to the budget on the third reading.
A $175,000 claim for damages against the City of McCook that cited negligence on the part of city staff in failing to properly clear and maintain the sidewalks was forwarded on to the City's insurance carrier without comment from city councilors. Joe and Alanna Morosic of McCook are seeking compensation for injuries Joe suffered during a fall in March 2011. According to the claim the fall occurred just outside the McCook Napa Auto Parts on a snow and ice packed sidewalk.
The claim cites negligence on the part of city staff in allowing its snowplows to push snow and ice onto the sidewalk and taking no action to prevent or control the snow pile from melting and re-freezing, failing to properly clear and maintain the sidewalks.
Joe Morosic sustained injuries that necessitated an emergency room visit, surgery, out-patient treatments and physical therapy, according to the claim.
Hancock reminded citizens that they will be able to choose their natural gas service provider in April. Hancock reiterated comments from the March 5 meeting that the city of McCook received more than $7,000 from ACE, the Public Alliance for Community Energy, and encouraged citizens to choose ACE as their natural gas provider.
The funds received by the City of McCook from ACE were part of the not-for-profit, community owned natural gas supplier's program of returning excess revenue that is beyond their operating cost to its member communities. The ACE board has the option of whether or not to return excess revenue funds to their member communities and prior to 2012 had not done so since 2009, according to their website.
McCook citizen John Hubert spoke during the citizens forum portion of the meeting. Hubert said he appreciated that the McCook City Council opened their meetings with a prayer and thought it would be good to do the Pledge of Allegiance to the United States as well. Hubert said he believed it would be "unifying" and "give warm feelings."
At the close of the meeting, Mayor Dennis Berry asked for input from other councilors on the idea and after several expressed their support city staff was directed to begin the practice of reciting the pledge at the next city council meeting.
Other items on the consent and regular agenda:
* A third public hearing was coordinated during the meeting to discuss an ordinance to re-zone property at McCorkle Motors from Light Industrial to Business Commercial. The requested rezone was described as being necessary to allow the business to proceed with an expansion project at the location and was unanimously approved by councilors. Councilors also suspended the three reading rule pertaining to the rezone.
* Deveny Chrysler Jeep Dodge of McCook was awarded the bid for a new 2012 4-wheel drive Special Services Vehicle for the McCook Fire Department. The Deveny bid came in at $19,268.
* The annual Application for Public Transportation Assistance for the City of McCook was approved. The McCook Public Transit System would receive $63,965 in Federal assistance and $31,983 in State assistance, with the city providing $31,983.
* The Alliance for the Encouragement of the Visual and Performing Arts was approved for a special liquor license for a fund raiser at the Fox Theatre in April.
* The McCook Fraternal Order of Eagles was approved for a special liquor license for a dance and fund raiser at the Eagles Club in June