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County to take over jail operations Dec. 18

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

McCOOK, Nebraska -- The McCook City Council and Red Willow County Commissioners agreed to terms on the county's use of the city jail facility, beginning Dec. 18, 2012. The Red Willow County Sheriff's Department will assume responsibility for jail operations on that date, while the McCook Police Department is still operating out of the West B Street facility. The police and sheriff's department will work together to transition the jail service back to the county while the city moves into their new Municipal Facility being constructed on West Fifth Street. The police department is anticipated to have their move completed by Jan. 1, 2013.

Chief of Police Isaac Brown told the McCook City Council, Monday evening during their regularly scheduled meeting, that he and Red Willow County Sheriff Gene Mahon had met with jail standards the week prior to work out the details of the transition. Brown said it would be a smooth transition without lapse in the operation of the jail and both entities were working together now and would continue to assist each other throughout the transition.

According to the interlocal agreement, unanimously approved by councilors Monday evening, jail supplies such as mattresses, food containers, toiletries and other items at the jail, will transfer to Red Willow County at 12:01 a.m. on Dec. 18. Furniture and other items not utilized by the city of McCook will be made available for county use but will remain the property of the city. The telephone system at the public safety center will be available for county use after Jan. 1, 2013, but will remain the property of the city. Existing video cameras at the Public Safety Center will be available for use by the county after Jan. 1 but will also remain the property of the city.

City staff had recommended the county pay the city a $4,000 deposit as part of the agreement, but after Red Willow County Commissioner Earl McNutt commented that both entities were part of the same community and should have a "strong trust factor," city councilors voted unanimously to remove the deposit requirement.

The one-year agreement includes a one-year extension option for the county. Councilor Janet Hepp asked McNutt if two years would be enough time for the county and he responded that if it became a 3- to 4-year scenario he hoped use of the facility would still be an option. McNutt said both entities wanted to do what was best for the whole community.

City Attorney Nate Schneider responded that he preferred the two year limit from a legal standpoint and that it would not be difficult to amend the agreement in the future for an extended period.

The county will use the jail, police and fire department areas of the building and the city will utilize the bay area and corresponding parking on the north and to the east. The county will be responsible for all utilities and liability insurance. The city will pay for property insurance.

Councilors also approved the agreement that will allow citizens to pay their utility bills with credit or debit cards. The Payport program, provided by Nebraska.Gov, gives citizens the option to pay via debit or credit cards by paying a 2.49 percent fee. The fee equates to $1.75 on an average $70 water, sewer and trash bill.

Utility Director Jesse Dutcher said the city had looked at a number of programs over the years and all of them had previously included a fee back to the city. Dutcher said the Payport program was unique in offering the city the ability to accept credit and debit cards by charging a minimal fee only to those using the service. Dutcher said that having the ability to accept credit cards could also reduce the 7-8 shut offs the water department averages per month.

The Payport program is anticipated to include the ability for citizens to make online payments in the future. The program requires the city to purchase the actual card reader, for a one time fee of $100. City staff indicated during Monday's meeting that other city departments such as the library, senior center and transfer station, would have the option to purchase their own card reader equipment and begin taking credit or debit cards.

John and Nick Nothnagel spoke on behalf of their request for a liquor license at Smokers Outlet. During a public hearing to discuss their application for a Class D liquor license to sell beer, wine and distilled spirits, the Nothnagels said they planned to construct a 10 ft. by 80 ft. addition to the existing building. The expansion project was anticipated to add three or four part time employment positions.

Councilors unanimously recommended approval of the Nothnagel's application to the Nebraska Liquor Control Commission.

Councilors went into executive session for the annual evaluation of the job performance of City Manager Jeff Hancock. Hancock's employment agreement had been scheduled to be approved immediately following the executive session, and his salary and compensation package were similarly scheduled to be approved with the three-reading rule suspended. Mayor Dennis Berry asked that those items be tabled until the next city council meeting to allow for appropriate time for discussion. Berry added that the change was not a sign of dissatisfaction with Hancock's job performance.

Councilors unanimously approved an ordinance implementing the reduction to the city occupation tax on telephone land lines, previously approved by councilors as part of the 2012-13 city budget. The ordinance reduces the tax from 3 percent to 1.5 percent, effective Jan. 1, 2013.

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