Downtown McCook the focus of a new steering committee

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

A nice cross-section of retailers, service providers, public and private sector staff, citizens and business owners will be looking for ways to improve downtown McCook when they come together on the Downtown Planning Steering Committee, recently appointed by the City of McCook. Some members of the committee were born and raised in McCook, while others are relative newcomers.

The 17-member committee consists of: Troy Bruntz -- Vice President of Finance at Community Hospital; Matt Sehnert -- owner, Sehnert's Bakery and Bieroc Café; Shelby Haag -- Sales and Marketing Manager at McCook National Bank; Cody Dame -- owner, Game On and Movie House; Cloyd Clark -- retired Red Willow County Judge; Bruce Hoffman -- owner, Common Scents; Renea Smith -- newcomer to McCook and a stay-at-home mother of two; Dawna Bates -- site coordinator for Sen. George Norris Home; Jennifer Morgan -- Area Events Coordinator, McCook Community College; Tacie Fawver -- executive director of McCook Area Chamber of Commerce; Rex Nelson- executive director of McCook Economic Development Corporation; Carol Schlagel -- Tourism Director for Red Willow County Visitors Committee; Jeff Gross -- McCook High School; Ray Walter -- member of McCook Art Guild; Jeff Hancock -- City Manager for City of McCook; Kyle Potthoff -- Public Works Director for City of McCook; Jesse Dutcher -- Utility Director for City of McCook.

Their assignment will be to assist in the development of a revitalization plan using $30,000 that the City of McCook has been awarded in the form of a CDBG grant. According to City Manager Jeff Hancock, "they will create a vision for downtown McCook that will restore and enhance economic vitality."

The plan could include the potential for housing in the downtown area, better and more convenient parking, or improved signage -- it is really up to the imagination and input of the committee. They are assigned to get the best possible impact from an additional CDBG grant of $350,000 that could come in 2013.

That kind of money could make a huge difference in the downtown area, and it should not fall on the shoulders of a handful of people to decide how to spend it. They need input from you -- anyone who lives or works in McCook, or regularly visits the downtown area. Because the volunteers making up the committee are so diverse, the public has ample opportunity to contact one or more of the members and provide insight into what you would like to see improved.

McCook native and committee member Matt Sehnert told the Gazette, "We travel a lot and when we go to other places we see a lot of cool things. I wanted to serve on the committee because I'd like to help bring some of those ideas to McCook and help it be a real happening place."

Unlike Sehnert, Renea Smith has only lived in McCook for about a year. The former teacher moved to McCook with her husband, Community Hospital Director of Anesthesiology Brian Smith, and two children, ages two and a half and four months. Smith has lived in Greeley, Colo., Erie, Pa., and North Platte. She said she and her husband are happy to be in McCook and raise their family in a small town and she wanted "to do whatever we can do to help," so she volunteered to serve on the committee.

Thanks to the committee for taking on an important responsibility to the future of McCook. They will be reshaping the heart and soul of our community and the public needs to provide input for them now, during the decision making-phase of the project, rather than criticism later during the implementation phase.

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