Public officials give updates during the State of the Valley luncheon

Published: Oct. 24, 2018 at 3:31 PM CDT
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Scottsbluff, Terrytown, Gering and Scotts Bluff County officials come together to talk about the state of the valley.

The 21st State of the Valley kicked off with a bit of light-hearted laughter as City of Gering Mayor Tony Kaufman made a few quips and described the main theme of the day; infrastructure.

The City of Terrytown was the first to present with topics ranging from the water project to new businesses flourishing.

The water project has been in the works for over ten years and they recently received help from the City of Gering by purchasing water from them. The next portion of the project is to update meters and water mains. They will take bids for that second phase at the end of the month and hope to present to the city council next month. The overall construction project would begin in 2019 with a goal of finishing it in one to two years. The last phase of the project would include a revamp of the water tower. A whole new system is projected to be running by 2021.

As for the new businesses, Greenwalt spoke about the Asian Buffett on 10th street that is flourishing as well as a new business that is looking to move into the old eagles building. The prospective tenant has applied for a liquor license as well.

Greenwalt is a member of the Heartland Expressway and gave an update on the project. He says South Dakota has put up their end of the bargain by completing their portion but Nebraska is still well behind. The next phase will create a path down to Minatare.

Kaufman was the next to present and discussed the budget first. He mentioned there is a nearly $42 million budget but elected officials only have $8.5 million that they control. He added the amount of projects the city would like to do would require the city to somehow gather another $20 million just to get caught up.

Speaking to Kaufman after the presentation he mentions it’s important to be transparent because sometimes the public is unsure how it all actually works and by giving them the information it allows them to see what it is the elected officials are working with and doing.

The City of Gering owns its utilities and is in the process of updating the system. The problem is it costs $1.8 million to update one portion of the system and they have three portions to do. There is 100 miles of power lines they have to work on.

Over the course of the last ten years, Kaufman says they average over $700,000 on maintenance projects. He also added the city is looking to make the streets and walkways more ADA accessible with ramps. Kaufman added this is extremely important for the city.

Next up was Scottsbluff Mayor Randy Meininger who spoke about safety and that about a third of the city’s budget is spent ensuring the community is safe.

He went on to add the 150KW solar energy project the city has with Nebraska Public Power District was such a success, the city is looking at a 5meg project. Meininger added that if you were to sign up for the solar energy and have it at your business you could lock in a rate for decades.

Meininger spoke about the replacement of the Broadway Street water main and how the state and federal money paid for most of the tear up and renovation of the street. He adds he was a little upset to find out that when they asked to have the water main originally done, the state and federal said it was not in the original plans of the project so the city had to re-dig the street to get the water main done.

One of the concerns the city heard during the May storm that brought heavy rains and flooded streets was that people were dealing with the water. Meininger wanted to clear this up and let everyone know the water from the streets runs off through the drains to the river. No matter what, if that river is above what it’s supposed to be topped out at, the water will remain in the streets.

Meininger gave an update on the 42nd street project which is expected to be done within the first two weeks of November. He said they had to ask the county to get the highway to complete the project so that road is now within city limits. The entire cost of the project is $3.3 million but because Meininger heard from the public cries to not raise taxes, the city found a way to bond within their system and use street funds to pay for the project. The overall project includes a water/sewer system as well as curved sidewalks.

The Scottsbluff mayor also spoke about LB357 which is the ½ cent tax increase. With this it will go towards the pathway project as well as other infrastructures and sewers. Once those projects are complete, the rest of it would go towards the aquatics and recreation center. There is a forum October 29th at 6pm inside the Scotts Bluff County Chambers if the public wants to learn more about this measure.

After the event, Meininger mentions, the revitalization of roads and walkways will help bring businesses in and help the economic development of the city.

Lastly, Ken Meyer with Scotts Bluff County came up and made a presentation which began by telling a couple of jokes.

His first item on his agenda was to thank Jerry Crable for all his work as the management accountant. Crable is retiring and will be handing the reigns off to Lisa Rein.

Next up, was to discuss the situation of the roads. Meyer cited the May rains and said the county took $300,000 to make repairs to the roads from those rains. With that in mind, the county had $4.7 million budgeted for roads and bridges. Another issue he is hearing from the public revolves around stegall road in the county. Meyer added it takes about $1.3 million per mile to fix a road.

In next item was to discuss sugar factory road which he said looks nice and is hoping it lasts through the 20 years it is funded for. Meyer mentioned that on average a road lasts about 15 years before repairs are needed.

Meyer wanted to also showcase the Road Runner buses and the success the county is having with that project. There are currently 11 buses with 133 stops on the route. So far, all told over 15,000 stops have been made by these buses.

The vice chairman of Scotts Bluff County finished his presentation with recognition of John Brehm and the work he has done for the veterans in the area.

Overall, the state of the valley is a way to keep everyone in the loop and understand what is going on said Kaufman. He believes as whole the three cities and the county can do their part to get more information out to the masses.