Local News

Future North Platte City Council meetings may soon begin two hours earlier following 7-1 second-round approval Tuesday of an ordinance to move up the regular starting time to 5:30 p.m.

The council will hold a third and final vote on the idea at its next regular meeting Sept. 3, which will begin at the customary 7:30 p.m. time.

Council members gave the proposal 6-2 initial approval Aug. 6, but Councilman Ed Rieker switched from “no” to “yes” Tuesday. His Ward 4 colleague, Lawrence Ostendorf, remained opposed.

Debate on the 5:30 p.m. starting time once again centered on whether North Platte residents would find it easier to attend council meetings on their way home from work or after having their evening meal.

Rieker briefly floated an amendment for a 6:30 p.m. meeting time, but changed his mind after other council members said their constituents’ reaction to the 5:30 p.m. proposal was largely favorable.

“I had people call and tell me 5:30 would work better for them to get here,” Councilman Andrew Lee said.

Councilman Ty Lucas agreed, adding that eastern Nebraskans with business before the council often drive back home after the meeting.

Ostendorf, a real estate agent, has said he does a lot of his own business late in the workday. “It’s an exercise in futility, but I’m still going to go for 7:30,” he said Tuesday.

In other business, the council:

» Voted to ask the Nebraska Department of Economic Development to extend the expiration of the city’s downtown revitalization grant by a year to Nov. 8, 2020.

That grant, financed by federal Community Development Block Grant funds, is helping to pay for storefront facelifts and coming street and sidewalk projects as part of downtown North Platte’s “renovations in progress.”

More time is needed, Planning Administrator Judy Clark said, because contractors are in short supply for needed window replacements, tuckpointing and masonry work.

About 10 to 12 downtown building owners have been approved for facade renovation grants but haven’t yet been able to start work, Clark said.

» Continued an appeal hearing to Sept. 3 on the city’s condemnation of a fire-damaged house at 1419 Rodeo Road after owner Joy Guillemin failed to appear Tuesday.

Guillemin was notified of Tuesday’s hearing date and time by regular first-class mail, City Attorney Doug Stack said. He’ll try to contact her again via certified mail, he told council members.

» Renewed a set of contracts and interlocal agreements regarding various city services, including a three-year renewal of the city’s partial self-insurance program with the statewide League Association of Risk Management.

The city and LARM’s leadership have clashed in the courts for some time, but Stack said a recent Lancaster County District Court ruling should result in more favorable insurance premiums for the city.

Other renewed agreements concerned the city’s government access channel, use of the J Bar J landfill in Perkins County and coordination of disaster response and road maintenance with Lincoln County.

» Formed a street improvement district to carry out a series of traffic signal upgrades along U.S. 83 and 30. The city and the Nebraska Department of Transportation will split the $110,351 cost, and no property owners will be assessed, said City Administrator Jim Hawks.

» Approved the purchase of a used storm sewer jet/vac truck for the Public Service Department for no more than $185,000.

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