Town hall meeting will be important first step toward future

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Making our community “a better place to live, work and play” is an important objective, as voiced by the McCook Area Chamber of Commerce’s mission statement — but what does it take to do that?

We’ve been grappling with that question for decades, and although we have much of which to be proud, there’s definitely room for improvement.

We hope residents will use this week to give that some thought, then attend the City of McCook’s Town Hall meeting, set for 6:30 p.m. Thursday, May 10, at the McCook Public Safety Center.

It takes money — usually taxpayer money — to turn ideas into reality, and the City Council and administration are asking for help in setting priorities for the 2018-19 budget.

At the same time, many of us see needs that could be met or improvements made to city facilities and services.

Making McCook an attractive, welcoming place to live is important going forward, as the next generation of citizens decides where to put down roots.

Next Thursday is your chance to have your voice heard.

For instance, the landmark city auditorium — we usually call it Memorial Auditorium, since that’s what’s carved on the front — is an important asset that some feel is being under-utilized for various reasons.

On the one hand, the acoustics are less than desirable for musical presentations, but new seats installed after a major fund-raiser several years ago make it much more comfortable for the audience. Ideally, plans for the old city hall would have been settled before the new public safety center was built, but that time is past.

McCook’s municipal pool was built in 1937 and has served the community well, but is need of improvements. Some would like it to be heated to extend the swimming season, and many moms with young children take them to more family-friendly, zero-depth, splash pad facilities in places like Oberlin, Cambridge and Arapahoe, or as far as Colby or Lexington.

Fishing events have been a tradition in McCook’s Barnett Park, also home to a busy soccer field, but the mess associated with a seasonal influx of Canada geese and other migratory fowl threaten both activities.

A large tract of land on East 11th was donated to the city, apparently with an informal agreement that it be turned into a dog park, but funding for that project has not been forthcoming and dog parks present their own set of challenges.

McCook is central to many recreational opportunities such as fishing and golf that might help attract large conventions, but many feel adequate facilities are lacking.

New facilities like the college’s Graff Events Center and the county’s Kiplinger Arena and other buildings are busy year-round, but what should the City of McCook’s role be in the overall picture?

There are many different opinions on each of these and many other issues, and they won’t be settled once this year’s city budget is set.

Answering those questions will take long-term, coordinated planning, leadership and commitment to an overall vision by all the parties involved.

Yes, they won’t all be answered, but next week’s town hall meeting will be a good start.

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