Photo by George Lauby
Photo by George Lauby
The North Platte City Council voted 5-2 Tuesday to participate in a new wellness and recreation needs assessment program despite the opposition of Councilman Jim Carman. Carman and Brook Baker voted no.
Carman has staunchly opposed a recreation study for months. On Tuesday, he reiterated his stand.
“I offer this as my opinion to my colleagues on the council,” he said, “I encourage you to vote against this. I feel that it will cost the taxpayers down the road.”
Led by Carman, in April the council narrowly (4-3) turned down the use of city incentive funds for the so-called “needs study.” But proponents doggedly continued and announced a week ago that they had put together the money to hire a consultant without dipping into city funds.
On Nov. 12, Eric Seacrest, the director of the Mid-Nebraska Community Foundation, discussed the study with the council during a work session.
Seacrest only asked the council to name a member to represent the city on an all-volunteer committee to review the study after it is finished and discuss the next steps.
Several organizations and private donors stepped forward to fund the study, Seacrest said. The cost will be a little more than $41,000 and it will be done by Greenplay, a company in Denver.
Seacrest said that this time, the assessment will provide a lot of information to help decide how to proceed and “help make a master plan.”
Carman voiced his objection and issued a warning, but Councilman Glenn Petersen openly disagreed with him.
“They have already told us it would not cost us a cent,” Petersen said. “If they come back later with something that will cost us and we don’t like it, we can say no then.”
Councilman Andrew Lee also favored the idea.
“This assessment will give us data to use for making decisions later, about what we need and where it is needed,” he said. “With this information we can consider where and how to use money and resources in a more economical way, to the most benefit.”
Baker did not comment.
At the outset of the meeting, Ruby Coleman of the North Platte Genealogical Society presented a $21,000 check from the society to Mayor Dwight Livingston to be used to install an electronic cemetery guide kiosk at the North Platte cemetery.
The kiosk has been in the planning stage for nearly two years. It will help visitors quickly locate the graves of their loved ones. There are 10,140 graves at the cemetery but there is no directory, Coleman has said.
A year ago, Coleman told the council that donations had reached $10,140. Among the early contributors were the Mid Nebraska Community Foundation, individuals, memorials and NebraskaLand National Bank. The Genealogical Society also raised money by selling baked goods during the library’s semi-annual book sales.
In other action, the council established a new job at the police station -- Public Safety Information Technology Supervisor.
Police Chief Mike Swain told the council there are about 80 computers in the department, as well as several computer feeds that come into the station, all of which have to be maintained and utilized.
Dispatch supervisor Mary Ann Agler is overseeing the work now and will become the first Information Tech supervisor, Swain said. Agler will continue to supervise dispatch. The new official job will come with a small, 84 cents-an-hour pay raise for Agler.
Swain said it is important to get the position established so employees can train and be ready in the even of a retirement or emergency.
In view the urgency, Lee moved to suspend the normal rule that requires the council to consider changes in city ordinances three times. The motion to suspend the rule was seconded by Michelle McNea and unanimously approved.
In other action, the council:
• Authorized the fire department to apply for an Assistance to Firefighters grant for a new ambulance. If the grant is awarded, the city would pay a 10% match -- $17,200 -- for the vehicle.
• Approved the collective bargaining agreement with the North Platte Police Employees Association, Inc. Fraternal Order of Police #33 for fiscal year 2013-14.
Swain said the only real changes to the agreement are minor wordings, except a big change of offering a $2,000 hiring bonus for anyone applying to the police department with an associate’s degree or better.
Swain said it costs the department a lot more than $2,000 to educate and train an employee after they are hired.
• Approved the appointment of councilman Glenn Petersen as city council representative on the Development Corporation Board, replacing councilman Larry Campbell.
• Accepted bids and awarded a lease for landfill pastureland grazing to Gary Garrison, who submitted the high bid of $6,100 a year for three years – 2014-16.
George Lauby contributed to this report.