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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Council focuses on housing issue

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

City councilman Mike Gonzales points out details on the new McCook Municipal Facility, which is on track for completion.
(Bruce Baker/McCook Daily Gazette)
McCOOK, Nebraska -- The McCook City Council received a report Monday about the local housing shortage and what is being done about it.

The report targeted various market segments and indicated that Tax Increment Financing funds look to be a big part of the solution.

McCook Economic Development Director Rex Nelson summarized the various programs during the council's regularly scheduled meeting, Monday evening.

Nelson said that new construction of "infill homes" with a targeted $100,000 price point could be an effective way to address "dead lots" in some of the older parts of McCook. Nelson said the problem with new construction on some lots was that the neighborhood would cause an immediate drop in valuation.

If a redevelopment zone was declared, TIF funds could be used to close such valuation gaps and also assist in demolition scenarios. Nelson explained that the redevelopment zones allowed for TIF funds to be transferred to other properties within the same zone.

TIF funds typically captured property tax increases, resulting from improvements to a location, for 15 years and offer flexibility in how the funds can be reinvested within the zone, explained Nelson.

City Manager Jeff Hancock said his research into TIF funds had discovered it was being used by a vast number of other Nebraska cities to do a lot of different things in the housing market.

Nelson provided councilors with a map that noted two potential redevelopment zones. One targeted areas West and North of the Jaycees Complex, as well as stretching to include the abandoned St. Catherines Apartments building. The second zone encompassed an area east of Barnett Park and stretched north of East B Street.

Housing Development Director Mary Kircher recapped the MEDC Purchase Rehab Resell program that targets the purchase and resell of four to six homes per year. Kircher said the grant assisted program catered to low-to-moderate income earners that typically were very self sufficient members of the community. The program focuses on updating lower valued homes and selling them to buyers within certain income guidelines.

The closing of several multi-family apartment complexes in the area in recent years has contributed to the housing problem, but replacing them will likely come from a combination of other approaches. Nelson told councilors that developers of those larger projects are typically more comfortable investing in the higher population areas, rural areas are often beat out for funding as a result.

Nelson said that efforts were being focused on partnering with employers and bringing them in as investors in multi-family apartments, as well as utilizing TIF funds to provide incentive for developers.

Nelson said the East Ward Village Senior Housing project was moving forward and his report listed it as still in the bidding process. In July 2011, when Nelson successfully lobbied councilors for a $105,000 loan to serve as the final funding piece for the project, he referred to a chronic housing shortage that was approaching a crisis level for the community. Nelson said then that the shortage was impacting businesses ability to hire and the East Ward project would be part of the solution by opening up single family housing when elderly moved from their homes into East Ward.

The East Ward project may currently be having the opposite effect, with Nelson telling councilors that new construction of single family homes in McCook was not likely until after the East Ward Village senior housing project was built and full. Nelson said developers would likely be uncomfortable with investing in new construction projects in the current scenario.

TIF funds would also be incorporated in efforts to form a for-profit LLC that would target new construction in the area, as well as part of an initiative to create a new subdivision that Nelson said a willing land owner had already been identified for.

A procedural change that more than doubles the project dollar amount that triggers the required involvement of an engineer or architect was approved by councilors. The three-reading rule had been proposed for the item but after Mayor Dennis Berry inquired into the reasoning for the suspension and found none available, the item was approved on its first of three readings.

City projects that reach a cost of $40,000 require the involvement of an architect or professional engineer, the change will increase that amount to $100,000. City Manager Jeff Hancock said the changes were reacting to 2011 legislation revisions and called them housekeeping matters.

Former City Councilman Aaron Kircher commented that the state had increased their requirement to $86,000 in 2009 and McCook had chosen to stay at the $40,000 amount since then, adding that it was not a requirement.

City Attorney Nate Schneider said the changes were recommended by individuals with the State Board of Engineers, were not a requirement, but "probably a good idea to follow state language."

Public Works Director Kyle Potthoff said he was typically more comfortable having professional engineers and architects involved in public works projects and the changes would not prevent them from enlisting those entities on projects under the amount. Councilman Mike Gonzales agreed with Potthoff and said that raising the requirement limit merely gave some leeway on projects that city staff felt they had enough in-house expertise to handle.

City Manager Jeff Hancock distributed a recap of comments and goals derived from the Strategic Planning Session coordinated in April. The five goals that surfaced during the meeting were prioritized as financial integrity, economic development, efficient and effective municipal services, quality of life and leadership.

Hancock created a rough draft of a strategic plan intended to make progress towards each goal and told councilors he intended the process to be an annual occurrence.

The next step in the city budget process, the budget retreat, is scheduled for June 6, 4-7 p.m. at the Heritage Senior Center. The budget retreat is a public meeting where department heads will present councilors and citizens with their preliminary budgets.

W Design Associates was granted the engineering work for the third phase of the McCook walking trail. The next phase will extend from East H Street to East 11th Street and has been hailed as the most scenic portion of the entire walking trail project.

The city was granted $110,000 from the Nebraska Game and Park recently and the total cost of the third phase is estimated to be just over $143,000. Miller & Associates and W Design Associates bid on the engineering work, with Miller & Associates coming in at $28,500 and W Design Associates at $27,750.

The Interact Club was authorized to close portions of several city streets the evening of June 17 for a run that intends to raise funds to help with the purchase of a water well for a needy community in Africa. Streets effected include H Street, Country Club Drive, East Fifth Street, Seminole, Elizabeth Lane, Norris Avenue and Park Avenue.

The run will begin and end at the lower shelter house of Kelley Park, where it will have a slip and slide set up for the end of the kids run.

Other items on the consent and regular agenda:

* The final plat of a proposed subdivision on Elizabeth Lane, part of an expansion project by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, was approved by councilors. Gary Dicenta, representing the architect firm handling the project, told councilors the project included an addition to the north side of the existing building and an expansion of the parking area.

* A rezone request of three lots in the Fairacres Addition was approved following a public hearing. The rezone targeted lots four, five and six of block one and will reclassify them from Residential Medium Density Mobile Home District to Business Commercial.

* Councilors approved the second of three required readings pertaining to the implementation of an arborist license, to be required by any business engaged in the pruning or removing trees within the city. The license will require a $75 annual fee and proof of liability insurance with minimum amounts of $500,000 per occurrence. Larry Eisenmenger with MNB Insurance in McCook provided the Gazette with an estimated cost for the liability coverage at $650 annually.

* Councilors went into executive session to discuss a potential real estate purchase for the cat-ion waste disposal system and an unrelated potential litigation.

* An engineering agreement for a project to make drainage improvements in the E. Ninth Street and G Street area was approved.

* The contract with the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services for congregate meals, home delivered meals and transportation services was approved. Congregate meal reimbursement will remain the same at $5.36; waiver meal reimbursement will increase from $5.23 to $5.31; and the transportation reimbursement will remain at the $2 level received from AMR and the Department of Health and Human Services. Total reimbursement for all services is anticipated to be at $26,400 for the fiscal year.

* A proclamation was approved designating May 20-26, 2012, as "Emergency Medical Services Week."

* Schmick's Market was approved for special liquor licenses for three wedding receptions at Memorial Auditorium. The receptions are scheduled for July 21, Aug. 4 and Aug. 18, 2012.

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