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City seeks jail clarification from county

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

(Photo)
Contractors double-check the blueprints while brick layers go to work this morning on the hose tower on McCook's new municipal facility, to be used by the fire department once it moves in from its current location down the hill to the left. In the background is Memorial Auditorium, now home to city offices. The building at West C and Fifth also will house the police department.
(Bruce Crosby/McCook Daily Gazette)
McCOOK, Nebraska -- The city officially wants to know how long the county needs to use its jail.

The McCook City Council authorized staff to draft an official request Monday night.

The McCook Police Department is expected to move into the new Municipal Facility on West Fifth Street before the end of the year.

The move will bring an end to the city providing jail services for Red Willow County, since there are no holding cells in the new building.

The impending change prompted councilors to offer the county the use of the vacated facilities on a permanent or interim basis. Red Willow County Commissioner Earl McNutt said at the December council meeting that the city facility would likely have too many hidden costs to utilize and expressed his belief that the voters who approved the municipal facility did so with misconceptions.

"A lot of people in the community never gave it a single thought that there was no longer going to be holding cells," said McNutt.

McNutt's criticism came after city staff coordinated multiple public hearings over the year prior communicating details of the Municipal Facility project, including details that the city would no longer provide jail facilties.

The McCook Police Department also coordinated public walk-throughs of their jail facility which were capped off by open discussion of the architectural designs and lack of jail facilities proposed.

County commissioners have drawn criticism for moving forward with the construction of a new $5.1 million Law Enforcement Center on Norris Avenue without similar public input.

Monday night, John Hanson asked councilors if they would grant county commissioners additional time to decide whether they needed to use the city's jail facility, in the event the Law Enforcement Center construction was delayed due to legal challenges. Councilman Mike Gonzales responded yes.

A recommendation to the Department of Transportation to accept the annual air service proposal from Great Lakes Aviation for McCook Ben Nelson Regional Airport was approved by councilors. The Great Lakes air service proposal was the only one received by city staff and proposes to continue the 12 non-stop round trip flights per week from McCook to Denver.

Mayor Dennis Berry said he had expressed concerns with Great Lakes about fares and lack of promoting the McCook air service. Berry said he had since heard them advertising locally on the radio but they had not specifically addressed his concerns with their rates yet.

He also urged residents to use the air service as much as possible, adding that it is needed to maintain a certain average of boarded passengers or it risks falling into a worse bracket.

The annual federal subsidy paid to Great Lakes of $1,976,338 for the McCook air service drew concern from citizen John Hanson. Hanson asked councilors to look for the option of utilizing a smaller aircraft for the air service in an effort to reduce expenses and subsidy dollars.

Public Works Director Kyle Potthoff said the two-year agreement with Great Lakes was the only offer available and explained that it was ultimately up to the air service provider to determine the size of the plane.

Lloyd Benjamin, representing the Members of the Alliance for the Encouragement of Visual and Performing Arts, encouraged councilors to approve a lone $505,000 construction bid from McCook Contracting for the Fox Theatre renovation project. Benjamin said that several contractors had asked the Fox Theatre group to delay the grant funded renovations project until next year, but, unfortunately, the grant funding would have expired by then.

Benjamin said his group was grateful to have received the bid from McCook Contracting to do the project and although it came in higher than the grant funding would cover, financing had already been arranged to cover the difference.

Councilors approved the bid, contingent on the Fox Theatre group raising the difference between the construction amount and the grant funding.

Benjamin told the Gazette that the project had exceeded the grant amount by an estimated $150,000, due to interior design additions, instalation of a sprinkler system and changes to requirements from the State Fire Marshal.

Councilors approved proclamations declaring April 27 as Arbor Day, the month of May 2012 as "Bike Month," May 14-18 as "Bike to Work Week" and May 18 as "Bike to Work Day." Tim Monzon spoke on behalf of a group organizing a bicycle show at Norris Park On May 5, 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., in honor of the bike proclomations.

Monzon said that residents were encouraged to bring their bike and skateboards to the event, which planned to include a check station by McCook Toy Box mechanics, maintenance workshops by area road bikers and a live local band performing from the bandshell, among other activities.

Several local businesses have already made committments for promotions during the month according to Monzon, who listed Sehnert's Bakery, Homespun, Walmart, Subway, Tinker Tom's and Linda Maiden Insurance as among several businesses who had agreed to sponsor the event or provide a promotion geared towards customers travelling via bicycle.

Terry Sitzman's request to close a portion of West C Street on May 5 was also approved. Sitzman is coordinating the McCook Annual Car Show from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m., utilizing West C Street between Norris Avenue and West First Street.

An application for a 10 year, three percent interest rate, $35,000 economic development loan from a couple seeking to start-up a new food service business in McCook was approved. The application came from Shellie and Douglas Winder of McCook who plan to purchase the former alternative education building owned by McCook Public Schools, located near the bowling alley on North U.S. Highway 83. Their business would be focused on selling pre-assembled meals and is targeting a June 1, 2012, opening date.

"This is our first bona-fied business loan through the LB840 business program," said Economic Development Director Rex Nelson. Nelson explained that the MEDC loan committee had done the majority of the "heavy lifting" pertaining to the project, reviewing not only the details around the real estate purchase but also being tasked with an in-depth look at the businesses plan.

A public hearing to discuss a request from Randy and Curtis Lashley to allow a truck and farm equipment repair facility to be located at the southeast corner of Drive 716 and Road 383 was removed from the meeting agenda. According to city staff the Lashleys were unable to attend the meeting due to other personal matters and indicated they would be in touch at a future date.

City staff, in addition to the McCook Planning Commission, had recommended councilors deny the Lashley's request, which included construction of a 40' by 60' commercial building to accommodate the business. City staff indicated previously that the proposed commercial business would not follow the suggested residential use of the location noted in the City's comprehensive plan and would impact existing residences.

Other items on the consent and regular agenda:

* Councilors approved changes to the employment agreement with new City Manager Jeff Hancock. The changes pertainined to Hancock being responsible for a $1,000 annual administrative fee for participation in a 401(a) retirement savings plan, which the plan administrator indicated would not be an option. City Attorney Nate Schneider explained that Hancock had agreed to keep the same contribution amounts in a 457 retirement plan. The agreement would result in no fiscal impact to the City when compared to the original agreement.

* The mayor's appointments to the Building Advisory and Appeals Board, as well as the Building Code Review Committee were approved. Steve Walters, Steve Lyne, Kathy Lester and Paul Goodenberger were appointed to the Advisory and Appeals Board. Jim Coady, Roger Henthorn, Jerda Garey, Steve Walters, Steve Lyne, Kathy Lester and Paul Goodenberger were appointed to the Code Review Committee.

* The City's quarterly financial report, ending March 31, 2012, was received and filed by councilors.

* MO Dough LLC was approved for a special liquor license for a Story Telling Festival in June and a reunion in September, both at the Keystone Business Center.

* A & N Restaurant was approved for a special liquor license for a fund raiser at the Red Willow County 4-H Building in May.


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