Up to $1.5 million bond for pool to appear on ballot

Grant voters will check yes or no to a general obligation bond of up to $1.5 million for a new pool and bathhouse at the upcoming general election on Nov. 6. 

The bond was unanimously approved to be placed on the ballot by the Grant City Council at their July 31 meeting, but not before some discussion. 

In addition to retaining bond counsel to prepare the ballot question, the council also voted to have the bond counsel review a second bond that would be paid by the city’s one-half percent sales and use tax. 

City Attorney Phil Pierce said the $1.5 million general obligation (GO) bond would be paid back by the citizens of Grant. 

Greenwood asked if the sales tax bond could be used to pay back the GO bond and Pierce said it could not. 

Valerie Hochstein, Park and rec committee member, said the committee sees the GO bond as a stepping stone to get to the grant writing process. 

Pierce said the GO bond would be up to $1.5 million, and be offset by grants and donations. 

Greenwood said the city needed to figure out what they were spending their money on, or he was going to vote no if it was going to increase property taxes. 

Hochstein said it is not their intent to raise taxes and passing the bond does not mean the tax will be passed on to the taxpayers.

“I am so afraid they’re going to take that money and go spend it on something else,” Greenwood said. “We have big chunks of money that get spent that we have no control over.”

Mayor Mike Wyatt asked what he was referring to, and Greenwood claimed there is money spent that the council has no say on. 

Council member Andrea Brueggeman asked Attorney Pierce to clarify that the voters would be asked to approve UP TO $1.5 million, which the city would not receive until they requested it. 

Pierce confirmed that the money from the bond would not even be requested until the pool is completed. It’s basically just a guarantee to get the pool built. 

Brueggeman addressed Greenwood’s concern and asked Pierce to confirm the money could not be used for anything but a pool and bathhouse. 

“Absolutely not,” replied Pierce. 

The council then voted to approve the bond and place it on the ballot.  

Discussion and action also took place on retaining a grant writer for the project.

Council position open

The council unanimously accepted the resignation of Robert Bounds and Wyatt declared the position open. The city is seeking candidates and the notice for the position can be found on page 6. 

Wyatt has to bring a name before the council within four weeks from July 31, and the council must approve the candidate. 

If the candidate is not approved, Wyatt will continue to present names at the following meeting until the position is filled. 

Brueggeman asked if all three remaining council members have to approve the candidate and City Attorney Phil Pierce confirmed that was correct. The mayor is not allowed to vote. 

Pierce also said they could hold a special election, but it would be expensive and it could not be held in conjunction with the upcoming general election. 

Absence questioned

Grant resident Connie Pofahl asked why City Superintendent Dana Harris had been absent from the last several meetings. 

Wyatt said it was due to illnesses and vacation. Pofahl asked how many she was allowed to miss and Wyatt said it was at his discretion. 

She also asked why the agenda wasn’t on the website.  City Clerk/Treasurer Jessie Faber said she doesn’t update that part of the website and didn’t realize it hadn’t been updated with the new agenda. 

Resident Edward Dunn said he was still having trouble hearing the council members and asked that something be done. 

Auditor concerns

The council voted to approve the letter of understanding of services from Almquist, Maltzahn, Galloway and Luth to complete the city’s audit for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30.

Greenwood had reservations, suggesting the city change auditors since it had been 10 years.

He said this auditor “does some stuff he’s not real keen on.” When Wyatt asked him to provide examples he said he was not prepared to do so. 

Councilman Darrell Pierce said he has been happy with them in the eight years he had served on the board.

Greenwood said if he can’t follow the money there’s something that’s not right, and he claimed there’s money being spent that’s not budgeted. 

Faber said the reports are going to be standard reports, and Greenwood said they can be altered.

When questioned about a particular charge, Faber said not every single item is itemized on the budget.

Greenwood said they  should have a line-item budget. 

Attorney Pierce re-directed the conversation back to the letter of understanding, which was approved. 

Dog complaint

New homeowners in Grant requested to be placed on the agenda to present a concern with the city’s dog ordinance. 

In a letter to the council, they said there are over 14 small dogs at the house next to theirs, counting 17 at one time. 

“To say they are disturbing is an understatement. It’s impossible to carry on much of a conversation in our backyard,” the letter stated. They attached photos and video of the yipping dogs, questioning the well-being of the dogs and the community. 

They recommended the city place a three-dog limit per household, with the exception being provided for vet clinics. 

The city does not currently have a limit. 

Pierce said the issue has been addressed a number of times since he’s been here. There was a limit at one time but it was removed. He said most cities do have a limit.  

Councilman Pierce said the current ordinance already covers yipping and barking dogs, so they’re already in violation of the ordinance. 

The decision was made not to take any action for the time being. 

No vote on waste contract

A solid waste disposal agreement with J Bar J Land, Inc., was approved with a 3-1 vote. Wyatt voted yes for the necessary third vote to pass the contract after Greenwood voted no. 

Greenwood disagreed with the fuel surcharge included in the contract, which stated that if fuel costs rise to $4.50 per gallon in Ogallala for at least a week during the five-year term of the agreement, there would be a surcharge of 25 cents per ton.

Greenwood said he didn’t think the city should be charged extra for fuel, because everyone else has to figure out fuel costs. 

J Bar J District Manager Will McKnight said it would cost more to handle the trash and it’s been in about every contract they’ve had. 

Attorney Pierce confirmed it has been in every contract as a precaution since the contract covers such a long time period, but they’ve never had to pay the surcharge that he knew of. 

The agreement states that the city shall pay J Bar J $38.97 per ton to deposit waste at the landfill starting Oct. 1. The price increases each year over the course of five years up to $42.19 per ton.

 Real estate sold

Two resolutions were unanimously passed approving the sale of two lots owned by the city. Tim and Ashley Colglazier purchased the lot located at 620 Lincoln Ave., for $2,000. The lot at 112 W. Second St., was purchased by Julie Kuskie for $1,000.

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