Grand Island Mayor Gives State of the City Address

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"A Grander Vision," that was the theme of Grand Island Mayor Jay Vavricek's 2013 State of the City address. The mayor spoke to residents at the Rotary Club luncheon Tuesday, noting that the city was out of its financial troubles, with cash reserves of more than $8 million.

Vavricek highlighted the city's continued growth, listing off a number of economic and infrastructure improvements.

"Our reputation as a growing, welcoming, vibrant community has helped bring opportunities to our doorstep, opportunities that might not have been possible a decade ago," Vavricek said.

The mayor also voiced many goals, including three that he called "very imminent efforts." Of those goals, the most prominent one was about keeping the Grand Island Veterans' Home in Grand Island. A new veterans' home is set to be built with federal and state funding, and several cities are competing with Grand Island for it.

"Our community has always honored the service and sacrifice of our veterans. The same spirit that brought one of Nebraska's veterans homes to Grand Island is needed to ensure it remains in Grand Island," said Vavricek.

But some residents raised concerns about whether the city was doing enough.

"Our sister community of Kearney has been able to have people out there for the past six months, if not longer, taking measurements and putting together a package plan and so forth. So in a way it almost seems like we're behind the eight-ball there," said Dan Naranjo, in asking the mayor about his plans.

But Mayor Vavricek noted that a committee has been formed and a proposal is in the works to make sure Grand Island gets to keep its veterans' home.

"We recognize that it's a competitive environment. We're not taking anything for granted. While history may be on our side, we're not betting that will be the determining factor. So we're going to have a strong proposal for Nebraska hopefully," Vavricek said.

The mayor's other two top priorities are assessing the city's transportation needs and increasing emergency preparedness efforts. Some of the mayor's other goals include reducing violent crime, making sanitary sewer improvements, and turning downtown Grand Island into the heart of the city.