While the fate of the Neligh City Council remains uncertain, Mayor Joe Hartz is asking residents to remain positive and to help the community move forward through this difficult time.
"Moving forward is where we need to go, not moving backward," Hartz said Tuesday afternoon. "Growth is never easy, so this is where the council is hoping to be a positive factor in this and move Neligh forward."
A recall attempt against Hartz failed as no petitions were turned into the Antelope County Courthouse by the deadline of August 14. However, enough signatures were turned in against all four of Neligh's council members to require County Clerk Lisa Payne to go through the verification process.
As of August 25, Payne has not released any official statement regarding the signatures. She has 15 days to verify the signatures.
The recall attempts were due to the city council approving the annexation of areas to the east and west of Neligh along Highway 275. The final approval was July 14, and signatures began being collected July 16.
"We started out talking about community and what a great place Neligh is to live, and I think that has even gotten stronger," Hartz said. "The annexation was passed. While some people were against it, there were a lot of people who supported the council and myself regardless of whether they were for or against it. I find it very gratifying with the number of cards and letters sent from those who were behind us."
Hartz said decisions are not always easy, but the council did what it felt was best for the community. And that's why the council is taking the stance it is now, which is to stay positive about the community.
"The council is being positive and isn't trying to throw anyone to the wolves. They are staying positive," he said. "Bomgaars is getting started, we've seen TIF work as money is going to be appropriated to pay for the waterline. The landowners on the way to Bomgaars won't have to pay for it, so they actually get a freebie even though their taxation may change. We're seeing the taxes in the city being lowered."
Hartz said the city budget will be released soon for 2015-16 and the property tax asking for the City of Neligh will be lowered. He said it's the third straight year property taxes have decreased for residents and businesses.
The council will approve the budget at the Sept. 8 meeting. Also at that meeting will be discussion on moving forward as a community.
"The council members don't want to talk about the recall itself; they want to talk about how to move forward," he said. "If citizens of the town decide they want to go a different direction, then that's up to them. But the council is very positive and still looking ahead to the future and feel like they are doing the best they can. That's the most they can do, and they're four excellent people."
Hartz also said he's received a lot of questions about how signatures were gathered for the recall and whether there will be an investigation or charges filed. That, he said, has nothing to do with City officials.
"There have been questions about the recall, but this has nothing to do with us," he said. "These are things that the state of Nebraska will take care of if there has been anything that is inconsistent with the system. Whatever happens with the petitions, that is taken care of by the state."
Hartz said he recognizes people in the community are angry about the recall. If enough signatures are verified, there will be a special election that will cost about $5,000. Hartz asked residents not to take out their anger on the businesses in Neligh.
"We need to support our businesses. If someone needs an irrigation, go to Tri Valley Irrigation. Go to our implement dealers. We need to gather together to support our businesses and help them during this. Maybe there is something we can do with our marketing to help them," he said.