City councilman proposes bond issue to pay for pool

Several of the more than 50 attendees voiced their opinions and questions to a proposed $2.5 million bond issue for a new pool presented by Councilman Bob Bounds at the July 10 Grant City meeting. 

Perkins County Pool Committee President Lisa Schmitt began by saying she felt their endeavor had already been successful. 

“Just take a moment and look around at the community coming together, and think about all that we’ve already accomplished,” she said. 

Schmitt presented a revised funding plan that replaced the city reserves in their previous plan with a loan or bond.

She explained their intention was not to raise taxes for the citizens of Grant, but to use half of the city’s 1 percent sales and use tax. She said they estimate that money will generate at least $1.4 million over its 20-year life.

Jana Turner presented a timeline containing the events, meetings and fundraisers the committee has attended and/or accomplished. 

Connie Pofahl presented a function comparison on the current pool vs. the new pool, stating the new pool would be more efficient. 

Schmitt said the cost of waiting to complete this project is around 10 percent per year. The same project increased $2 million from the last time it was presented in 2011. 

“We cannot save enough money from the sales and use tax to catch up with that. We need to borrow against the sales and use tax, or bond, whichever is best for the city, so that we can do the project before it continues to keep rising,” she said. 

Schmitt requested the council do what needs to be done to move forward and accept bids and get a contract so their donors feel confident in donating and grants can be written. 

Mayor Mike Wyatt said those things can not be done until the project has been bonded or they have cash in the budget for it. 

“We do not have the funding,” said Bounds. “You can’t borrow a nickel on this pool unless you bond it. It’s state law.”

Nebraska State Statute 17-950 specifically states that the mayor and city council of any city of the second class are hereby authorized to issue bonds for the purpose of building swimming pools. No such bonds shall be issued until the question of issuing the same shall have been submitted to the electors of such city at a general election therein, or at a special election. Such bonds shall be payable in not exceeding twenty years from their date and shall bear interest payable annually or semiannually.

Bounds proposed putting a bond issue before the public for $3 million for the general election on Nov. 6. With cost estimates for the project from $1.2-3.4 million, he said they did not want to undershoot it. 

He then proposed a bond for $2.5 million, explaining that if the best bid is higher than they bonded, they can’t move forward with the project. 

With nearly $500,000 already raised in sales and use tax, plus $200,000 the pool committee has raised, Bounds felt the $3.2 million total would be a safe number to allow bidding, and donations and grants could be used to reduce the bond.  

“We can’t let bids until we have the funding lined up,” he said.

Pool supporters expressed displeasure with bonding $2.5 million, as Bounds explained the sales and use tax could not service the entire bond and property tax would be used. 

Councilman Matt Greenwood said he was in favor of the pool, but was not in favor of increasing property taxes. He said the only way to find out what the people want is to put it to a vote.

Schmitt reiterated it has never been the committee’s intention to raise taxes, but to use the sales and use tax. They proposed bonding $1.4 million and funding the rest with donations and grants. 

As several were voicing their opinions on the bond issue, the room became filled with background chatter and interruptions as many people began to talk at once. 

Greenwood asked pool supporters the amount for the bond, to which they replied $1.4. 

“I’ll do it right now. One point four,” he said. “Then we’ll have a hole in the park we can’t do anything with.”

Pofahl said there are enough people who want to see this and see the city thrive and grow. She asked Greenwood if he knew how many people go down to Imperial’s pool. He said he didn’t care. This caused an uproar from the audience. 

Pofahl went on to explain how those people then spend money in Imperial when they go there, telling Greenwood she was talking and not to interrupt her. She expressed her frustrations with the lack of cleanliness at the pool and why she would never take her granddaughter there. 

Attorney Phil Pierce said to the mayor the meeting was off subject, which was met with opposition from several attendees. 

Pierce said when the sales and use tax was raised it specifically stated it was for capital improvements, which led many to disagree. 

On the official ballot in the primary election on May 15, 2012, the sales and use tax proposition said the “sales and use tax shall be used to pay the costs and/or debt of the City of Grant’s capital improvements, or replacement or updates of the City’s infrastructure, including but not limited to, streets, water, sewer, parks and recreation facilities.”

A resolution was passed on July 28, 2015 allocating one-half of the 1 percent sales and use tax for a pool project, described as renovation or construction of the city pool and bathhouse. 

The resolution also states that the park and rec board work in cooperation with the pool committee to investigate, make findings, report and make recommendations to the council. 

Val Hochstein, a park and rec board member, said the board would gladly cooperate with the pool committee if they could ever get a meeting scheduled through the city. 

The allocation terminates automatically 20 years after the tax became effective.

A park and rec meeting was scheduled and held Tuesday, July 17. Thirteen items on the agenda included reviewing information from Attorney Pierce, the pool committee and Miller and Associates; a presentation from City Auditor Terry Galloway; and action items for recommendations to the council. 

The city has until Sept. 4 to certify a bond issue for inclusion on the general ballot.

Councilman Bounds submitted his resignation on Thursday, July 12. Click here for story.  

Handicapped parking

Councilman Darrell Pierce discussed putting in a handicapped-accessible parking space in front of Grant Pharmacy on Central Avenue.

Those who have expressed interest in the space said they have trouble getting to the pharmacy from the handicapped-accessible space in front of  Dr. Marvin Swan’s office down the block. 

Pierce said City Engineer Tom Werblow said there would have to be some work done on the curb and the handicapped-accessible space would take up two regular parking spaces. 

Another suggestion was to put a 10-minute parking sign in front of the pharmacy. 

Council member Andrea Brueggeman said she’s had at least five people suggest the space, with some saying they drive to Ogallala to utilize their drive-thru because it’s too difficult to access the local pharmacy. 

The council voted unanimously to have Werblow proceed with gathering more information on adding the space. 

Water usage

Greenwood asked that Midwest Electric provide a report for how much water is pumped  vs. how much water is billed.

Bounds said he questioned the value of the report. 

Greenwood said the purpose of installing water meters was to account for all water being used, including what the fire department pumps out of the hydrants. 

“Everything being pumped has to be accounted for. It’s either all or none,” he said. 

Bounds disagreed, stating they account for water the people of Grant are using. 

The debate continued, with Greenwood maintaining his position that they need to account for all water or none. 

For the month of June, 16 million gallons were used, down from nearly 32.2 million in June 2017. 

Eagle Scout project

The council unanimously approved Sam McArtor’s Eagle Scout project to renovate the southeast corner lot of Hastings Memorial Library. 

Library budget

Library Board President Brenda Styskal presented the library’s proposed budget to the council. 

The Grant Tribune-Sentinel

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