Mayor starts 'Random Acts' month with his own act of charity

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

McCOOK, Nebraska -- Shortly after approving a proclamation designating the month of August 2012 as "Random Acts of Kindness Month," Mayor Dennis Berry performed his own such act.

During the McCook City Council's regularly scheduled meeting, Monday evening, city staff had cited concerns that a costly precedent would be set if a request to waive Memorial Auditorium usage fees was approved. The $425 in fees related to the McCook Toy Box and Coat Closet events.

Community Service Coordinator Barbara Ostrum touted the uniqueness of the events for the region and said they charged no fees and required no invitations for those participating, as many other similar events required. Ostrum said everything was donated for the two events and they represented times of the year when the community really came together.

Councilors voiced concerns, primarily pertaining to damage to the auditorium floor, before finding middle ground on the matter and unanimously approving the fees be waived if the non-profit groups supplied a $400 cleaning and damages deposit. Ostrum was grateful for the gesture and indicated that although it would still be difficult to find a donor for the deposit, it could be accomplished.

"As a random act of kindness," said Mayor Dennis Berry, before he offered to personally write the check to cover the auditorium deposit amount for the non-profit groups.

The Coat Closet event, which provides more than 1,200 people annually with warm winter clothing and has been in existence locally for more than 30 years, is tentatively scheduled Nov. 5-9, 2012.

The McCook Toy Box event has similarly been in existence locally for many years and provided 680 children last year with new toys and more than 130 bikes and riding toys were given away. It is tentatively scheduled for Dec. 10-17, 2012.

During the meeting councilors went into executive session, closing the meeting to the public, and then returned to unanimously approve authorization for city staff to proceed with eminent domain steps in acquiring a 10-acre tract of land adjacent to the waste water treatment facility. Councilors did not comment on the item or a subsequent item that authorized a final offer on the transaction.

City Attorney Nate Schneider told the Gazette Tuesday that efforts to negotiate a purchase price with the Estate of Leo Randel were still ongoing, but steps needed to be taken to ensure the cation waste project continued to move forward.

The city seeks to acquire the land for the EPA mandated construction of two lagoons to dissipate brine and hard water, that has historically been released into the Republican River.

McCook Economic Development Director Rex Nelson and resident Tim Monzon informed councilors that a committee had been formed to promote the construction of a local skate park. Nelson said 25 supporters of all ages had attended the group's first meeting, Friday evening at the Keystone Business Center.

"We are in the very early stages and just wanted to let you know that a group of citizens is going to petition you to do a free public skate park," said Nelson.

Nelson estimated the project would cost $100,000 to $150,000 and said the group was exploring several grant options.

As many as 25 trees will be removed from Memorial Cemetery in coming weeks, many of them were already struggling to thrive prior to last fall's hail storm and have progressively deteriorated since, according to Public Works Director Kyle Potthoff. Potthoff said the goal was to replace the trees in the very near future and said all of the new trees would be eligible for memorial dedications.

Interested parties who wish to reserve one of the tree dedications may contact Potthoff at 345-2022.

Other items on the consent and regular agenda:

* Gary Dicenta with Miller and Associates spoke in support of a special exception request from Randy and Curtis Lashley to allow a truck and farm equipment repair facility to operate in an area with a future land use of residential. The exception was for a lot on the north side of Road 716, two lots west of Block 2 of the A.M. Bishop Addition. Councilors unanimously approved the request after coordinating a public hearing, during which no opposition was raised.

* Leigh Ann Miller spoke in support of the Random Acts of Kindness proclamation. Miller said last year $250 was awarded to Heritage Senior Center as a result of a drawing benefiting nominated charities. Miller praised the community and support for the month and hoped this year's proclamation would result in even more entries.

* A scope of services agreement between the city and the McCook Economic Development Corp. was approved. The agreement outlines each parties respective roles in the preparation of a Community Housing Study and Comprehensive Plan and zoning regulations updates, to be completed by Hanna:Keelan and Associates. MEDC was awarded a grant of $50,000 by the Nebraska Investment Finance Authority to complete the project and the city has committed to a $25,000 match.

* The quarterly Treasurer's Report for the city was received and filed by councilors. The report showed an ending cash balance of $11,425,081 for the quarter ending June 30, 2012.

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