North Platte City Council to connect via cyberspace for Wednesday meeting

City of North Platte network specialist Levi Nicholson demonstrates the coronavirus-prompted remote setup in the City Hall conference room for Wednesday’s special City Council meeting.

A special North Platte City Council meeting Wednesday — its first with remote public access due to the COVID-19 outbreak — will consider tapping the Quality Growth Fund to help small businesses apply for emergency federal loans.

Two other QGF applications and a resolution formally setting up a $50,000 revolving fund for home repairs or demolition also will be taken up at the 5:30 p.m. meeting at City Hall, 211 W. Third St.

The meeting will remain open to the public, but city officials “are strongly encouraging” remote participation to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus.

People may both watch and speak when invited by visiting zoom.us/j/951631976 and entering the meeting ID of 951-631-976.

They also can watch the city’s public access cable channel (Channel 180) or listen by dialing 346-248-7799 or 669-900-6833 and entering the 951-631-976 meeting ID.

The evening’s main QGF proposal would use $250,000 of the fund’s dedicated city sales tax proceeds to reimburse businesses for their direct costs of applying for U.S. Small Business Administration “economic injury disaster loans” due to COVID-19.

Wednesday’s special meeting was set to speed council action to help North Platte businesses weather coronavirus losses. The council’s next regular meeting is April 7.

Businesses inside city limits or within North Platte’s two-mile zoning jurisdiction could be reimbursed for up to $2,500, QGF Citizens Review Committee members decided in recommending approval last Wednesday.

Leaders of the North Platte Area Chamber & Development Corp. say they offered the proposal because the SBA loan process can be daunting to most small businesses.

Though QGF has a $2.175 million fund balance, exhausting it for direct aid would help only a few businesses, they added. Congress last week approved $367 billion in emergency SBA loan funds.

Businesses would have until Dec. 31 to submit qualified expenses to the chamber, which administers QGF for the city. The chamber can ask for more QGF funds later if needed, review committee members said.

The council also will rule on QGF applications by the chamber for $75,000 to help plan an industrial “rail park” and by the Nebraska Main Street Network for $4,800 to help it stage a fall workshop in North Platte on restoring “underutilized” upper floors of downtown buildings.

The rail park request would be used to design the park and seek an additional $25,000 for that purpose from a Nebraska Public Power District grant program.

Chamber leaders said last Wednesday they’ve found a possible Lincoln County site that the Union Pacific Railroad has said would be feasible for direct rail access. The site remains unidentified.

Nebraska Main Street’s request would pay for 40% of the downtown workshop’s cost, with most of the rest coming from a federal grant through the Nebraska State Historic Preservation Office.

The revolving-fund resolution would make use of $50,000 set aside in the city’s Development Department fund to fix up or tear down decrepit buildings, said City Administrator Jim Hawks.

City ordinances authorize a revolving fund “for the purpose of supporting the cost of repairs or demolition” ordered by a city health inspector.

An informal committee of community leaders has pushed for more action on substandard housing as envisioned in the city-county housing study released in December 2018.

The revolving fund would be segregated from the general fund and other city funds, said chief legal counsel Terry Waite. Spending from it would have to be approved by the city administrator.

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