Commissioners work toward jail repairs, improved broadband

Tuesday, July 9, 2024

McCOOK, Neb. — Red Willow County Commissioners took steps toward needed jail repairs and agreed to support a company that hopes to provide better Internet service to parts of McCook.

With a deadline approaching, the board spent the final portion of Monday’s meeting outlining the county’s next budget, including how to spend the last of its pandemic recovery funding.

Area Manager Barry Williams in person and Travis Radner of Great Plains Communication via telephone explained the company’s hope to extend high-speed fiber optic cable service to about 61 homes east of Highway 83 by winning a Public Service Commission bid for 95% reimbursement for the $2.6 million project. Commissioners agreed to waive road occupancy application fees for the 31 miles of county road involved, which normally would cost the county $15,500.

Radner said that a mile of fiber optic cable costs the company about $45,000 a mile installed.

Commissioner Randy Dean endorsed the idea, saying the company has a good track record of responding to the county's concerns in his district.

The board voted unanimously to provide a letter of support for Great Plains’ application.

Sheriff Kevin Darling and the commissioners discuss details of upcoming repairs to jail cells, which will be sandblasted and resurfaced to repair rust in the 10-year-old facility. While the actual repairs may be accomplished in a few days, the jail and even the sheriff’s office may have to be vacated for as much as a month to allow the new coating to cure. Meanwhile, prisoners will have to be transported to and from other jails, especially on court days.

Commissioners asked the sheriff to assemble a final tally for all associated expenses for budgeting purposes.

Commissioners spoke with Bill Huey of Prochaska & Associates, the project's original architects, but it is likely that the project will be completed entirely by local contractors.

Jordan Garner of Murphy Tractor of North Platte spoke with commissioners regarding a “retriever” device that attaches to road graders to return gravel that has washed into ditches back to the road, saving gravel expenses. He said the product has proven effective in other nearby counties. He said he would set up a demonstration of a new type of road grader for the commissioners.

During the review of accounts payable, Chairman Ted Gans asked for further clarification of gravel bids.

After receiving a quote for providing and maintaining first-aid kits for county offices, commissioners agreed to work with various offices to ensure such kits and supplies are on hand as needed.

After receiving a recommendation from the Planning and Zoning Board, commissioners approved a resolution to conduct a public hearing at 9:30 a.m. Aug. 12 regarding the closing of County Road 724, while maintaining an easement across the property.

Acting as a board of equalization, commissioners approved a motor vehicle tax exemption for a 2024 Toyota Rev 4 for Community Hospital.

Saying they wanted to do all they could to avoid a “pink postcard” hearing requiring levy increase, commissioners and County Clerk Penelope Cooper discussed major items such as the jail repairs and possible expenses such as purchasing a new road grader and a crack-sealing machine.

Commissioners also discussed declaring surplus a number of items associated with the Household Hazardous Waste program.

As part of the consent agenda, commissioners approved an agreement to pay 40% of the salary for a district court bailiff, or about $24,000 of the $63,000 salary, shared with other counties in the judicial district.

Other items on the consent agenda included an annual agreement with the McCook Humane Society, a roadway occupancy agreement with the Cambridge Telephone Co. and a liquor license for HoJo’s Hideaway.

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