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Council seeks input on auditorium

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Members of the McCook City Council enjoy their first meeting at the new Municipal Facility located on West C Street, Monday evening.
(Bruce Baker/McCook Daily Gazette)
McCOOK, Nebraska -- The McCook City Council hopes that input from citizens over the next two weeks will assist in deciding the future of Memorial Auditorium. The building has been locked up since city offices relocated over the past several weeks to their new Municipal Facility on West C Street, but a group of morning walkers is hoping to resume their activities and at least a couple of local business representatives have shown interest in renting office space at the location.

City staff was instructed during Monday's city council meeting, the first to be coordinated at the Municipal Facility, to schedule a public comment period during the council's next meeting to discuss the future of Memorial Auditorium.

City Manager Jeff Hancock said the city had been contacted by realtors and others interested in the available office space. A tour is scheduled for Thursday with one group.

Hancock also said the city had been contacted by the group of 8-10 walkers that would like to coordinate a time for them to renew their exercise routine at the building.

City Clerk Lea Ann Doak said that allowing the walkers to use the building would require establishing a time of day to lock and unlock the building, as well as coordinating a cleaning schedule for the bathrooms.

Hancock said that liability concerns raised by the city's insurance carrier, as well as worry that damage could be caused by unsupervised individuals, led to the decision to close the facility until a long-term solution could be determined.

Councilor Jerry Calvin said he didn't believe the concern was warranted and thought a key checkout scenario, similar to a scenario in place with the city owned pistol and rifle range near the McCook Airport, would suffice.

Calvin said the city dealt with liability on a daily basis, "We have liability at our parks, sidewalks, everywhere. I don't want to single out city auditorium or [exclude] it as a checkout option."

Calvin said he would like to see additional public input on the item. Mayor Dennis Berry said he supported the decision to close the facility for now until further public input was received.

Hancock added that if a renter was established it would open up more options for the building, which prompted Calvin to say the building served as an excellent location for the Chamber of Commerce banquet this past weekend. Calvin thought investing and updating the kitchen area of Memorial Auditorium was worth looking into, as was reducing the building's rental fees closer to Kiplinger Arena and the Armed Forces Readiness Center.

Calvin explained the rental fees had intentionally been set higher than other local facilities, so as to avoid competition with local business, a practice not followed by subsequent county and state owned structures since.

Calvin praised the building and said he would like to see it used as much as possible now that the city offices had been relocated.

Hancock cautioned that depreciation of a $2.5 million building would need to be considered, adding that the building was not appraised but insured for that amount.

Berry said the council would discuss the building again at their next meeting and needed to hear from the public their preference of selling, renovating or renting the building.

Councilors targeted their first meeting in February to discuss and schedule a date for an open house at the new Municipal Facility. Chief of Police Isaac Brown said the police department was enjoying the "tremendous space" the facility provided and City Clerk Lea Ann Doak said the administrative department felt like they were actually operating out of an office.

A claim for damages from a McCook woman who is seeking compensation from the city for an injury she suffered while jogging home from a friend's house was forwarded to the city's insurance carrier without comment.

According to the claim from the woman, Ashley Weir of 305 E. Third Street, the incident occurred at 8:30 p.m., the evening of Dec. 8, 2012. The claim stated Weir was jogging home near the south sidewalk of West 10th and M Street, near 1014 West M Street, when her foot slipped in a cutout in the sidewalk. She subsequently called another woman to come pick her up and was transported to the emergency room at Community Hospital.

The claim was accompanied by $1,779 in medical bills from Community Hospital and Central Nebraska Orthopedics.

According to the City of McCook Code of Ordinances 94.03, available at the City of McCook website, property owners are ultimately "liable for all damages or injury occasioned by reason of the defective or dangerous conditions of any sidewalk" along their property lines.

Other items on the consent and regular agenda:

* Councilors received and filed a claim for damages from the city's contracted trash hauler, Fritz Trucking, without comment. The claim seeks compensation for damage caused to one of the trucking company's trailers while being loaded by city staff and is the second such claim from Fritz Trucking this year.

* A lease agreement between the city and Wells Fargo Bank for financing of a $123,944 front end loader for the street department was approved. The five-year lease agreement has an interest rate of 2.44 percent and sets five annual payments of $26,747.

* A lease agreement between the city and First Central Bank for the purchase of three new cardiac monitor devices for the EMS Department was approved. That lease will finance $81,303 over a five year period and with an interest rate of 3.75 percent.

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