The North Platte City Council held a work session Tuesday to discuss housing issues, a comparative study of city employee salaries and benefits, and gear up for a new city budget.
Nancy Streibel, director of the Lincoln County Community Development Corporation, gave a power point presentation showing that North Platte has a substandard rental housing problem. She presented some ideas on how to begin addressing that.
Streibel said that city standards for mobile homes, mobile home parks and distressed rental houses are not high enough.
In Streibel's brief power point, she showed a dilapidated obile home and a motel that has been converted into apartments.
There are virtually no standards in place for mobile homes, she said, and some standards that are in place for duplexes and apartments need to be improved.
She said 41 percent of the houses in North Platte are over 50 years old and 30 percent are over 60 years old.
Not all of the homes are in bad shape but a number are. Some of the solutions offered were relocating residents and demolishing the worst houses.
Councilman Martin Steinbeck noted the scope of this problem, which would make relocating residents difficult.
Streibel said that with better standards for rentals, the problem could diminish over time. Mayor Marc Kaschke asked Streibel what she wanted from the council. She said stricter standards would allow the city building inspector to enforce codes. She also suggested the city implement a health board.
Eric Seacrest, Executive Director of the Mid-Nebraska Community Foundation, told the council that their role would primarily be health and safety aspects and higher standards.
He suggested that agencies could partner with private lenders and people involved in rental housing to help pay to improve substandard houses.
The council made few comments but generally agreed that the topic needs more consideration.
City Administrator Jim Hawks summarized a study of the city’s jobs, salaries and benefit package.
This lengthy study analyzed the city benefit package, and found it is up to snuff with comparable sized cities, Hawks said. City salaries vary. Some are above the norm, some the same and some are low, but all in all, the city's salary packages are within 1.1 percent of norm, Hawks said.
The city budget came under discussion. It was not the purpose of this work session to make any decisions. Discussion concerned how the city should be planning ahead further than they have in the past.
Kaschke said that the council needs to begin re-thinking the budget process and asking how to do it better, setting goals plan and allocate further into the future.
Councilman Larry Campbell asked “isn’t a budget a plan”? Mayor Kaschke replied that it is “a one year plan. We need to go further than that. We need to be setting better priorities.”
Campbell said “isn’t holding the line, sitting still and not spending any more the easiest way?”
Mayor Kaschke replied that just doing things the same way they always have does not allow officials to plan ahead.
Dan McGuire said he's been asking constituents for five years what services they could give up and he’s getting no answers.
Councilman Jim Carman suggested that expenses might be trimmed.
Hawks also said that the council needs to have enough confidence in city department heads to know they are aware that budget decisions affect the future.
Campell asked about $280,000 that was budgeted a year ago for computer improvements. He wondered if it would be spent on the Iron Eagle golf course.
Kaschke assured him that it hadn't been spent.