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Ronda Graff

Community Connections

News and views from the McCook Community Foundation Fund

Opinion

McCook on the move once again

Thursday, November 10, 2022

On Tuesday, McCook voters made the decision to get McCook on the Move by approving the 1/2 cent sales tax to pay for a recreational bond. This means McCook should have a new outdoor city swimming pool in 2024, which is long overdue and gets us out of the “deep end.”

The passage of the bond also means there will be funds available to either put toward a new sports complex or improve existing facilities, providing a chance to get ahead of the game rather than falling further behind.

Some may be wondering where the tagline, McCook on the Move, came from. As a member of the McCook on the Move Committee to pass the bond issue, let me explain because there are several connotations.

McCook on the Move popped into my head during the McCook City Council meeting when the council voted to take the bond issue to the voters. I said to myself, finally “McCook is on the Move.”

But taking it further, this issue was about the swimming pool, as well as ballparks and green space - all involving movement, fitness and just general well-being. Because of this project, McCook residents, as well as those outside the city limits and visitors, will literally be on the move.

Hence, one of the reasons Community Hospital was the primary backer of the McCook on the Move campaign. The hospital works to not just heal sick people but to keep them well in the first place. Having activities like swimming, baseball and softball, flag football and soccer - anything to get people moving - will keep all of us healthier.

McCook on the Move also meant to convey that McCook was moving - hopefully forward - to new and bigger things. Yes, there have been things happening from the creation of Norris Alley to a variety of events in the comma city. But for the most part, we have just been maintaining what we have. But even with maintenance, you eventually fall behind. Doing nothing or only doing the minimum will catch up to you and to a community if it doesn’t invest in itself.

When improvements aren’t made, the community begins to lag behind, infrastructure worsens, and amenities are no longer available. Consequently, people move away or choose to not move here.

Again, this is the reason why the hospital got behind the bond project. It, like almost every business, needs employees. We need the “quality of life” amenities. Yes, we need good roads, but no one is moving to a community because they have good roads. Yes, people expect to have utilities, as well as police and fire protection, but that is not what attracts young people to a community. And we need young people if a community is going to continue and grow.

At the end of the day, none of those basics are needed - or can be funded - if we don’t have people, people who want those other things such as a pool, ballfields, just a place to fly a kite.

McCook and Red Willow County’s population has been on the decline for the past few decades as have many communities across Nebraska and the Midwest. But it doesn’t have to be that way, In fact, Imperial is a great example of doing things and seeing population growth in the 2020 census, proving if you build “it,” they will come.

We have been caught in a vicious cycle: we don’t make improvements, so we don’t have the funds. We don’t have the funds so we don’t make improvements. It takes a leap like the bond issue to break that cycle. We make improvements so we have more funds. We have more funds, so we can make improvements.

McCook took the first step toward building “it” by approving the bond issue Tuesday. The project had wide support from among the local businesses, which will be charging the new 1/2 cent sales tax. Many local organizations threw their support behind the issue, knowing it was needed for McCook’s growth, including the McCook YMCA, the McCook EDC, the McCook Chamber and the McCook Optimists to name just a few.

And the McCook Community Foundation Fund showed its support by eliminating barriers to make the project feasible. Grants from MCFF will pay for lifeguard training for at least the next two years and will cover the admittance fees the first summer the pool is open.

There is a lot of work to be done over the new few years, but McCook is on the Move thanks to the voters Tuesday. With these projects, we are all making McCook an even better place to call home.

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