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Following a 90-minute public hearing attended by more than 100 people Tuesday night, the Neligh City Council unanimously adopted ordinances to annex two areas into the city limits on the first reading.
There will be two more readings of the proposed ordinance - and two more votes by the council - before annexation can possibly occur. Another reading will be held in June. Pending a June vote to move forward, a third and final reading would be held in July. The council would then vote a final time on the proposed annexation.
Nearly 20 individuals addressed council members on the annexation, which would include businesses Bomgaars, Kayton International, Green Line Equipment, Reinke’s, Farmers Pride Co-op, Elkhorn Rural Public Power District and several homes.
Neligh mayor Joe Hartz said, “Neligh is full of conflict, and conflicts come with growth.” He added that the council forms decisions based upon input and asked for that input from the community.
Tom Rudloff of ERPPD voiced concern over equipment purchase costs, which he said preliminary numbers show as $470,000. Later in the evening, Anne Hemenway said the power lines running to a farm she owns with her husband, Ed, would be annexed in and effect her family with raised rates.
Randy Reinke, chairman of the Neligh Economic Growth Committee, addressed the council twice. Reinke said he asked for estimates on various items and said the city did not provide them, including projected tax evidence.
Several residents asked what the revenue from the city would be for the next 5-10 years, which council member Leonard Miller said would only be projections. He said the city cannot spend more money than it takes in.
Connie Baker, treasurer of the Neligh Economic Growth Committee, asked if the council could confirm that annexation would bring economic development to Neligh.
Council member Stephanie Wanek replied, “This has been the goal of our community. Our community voted for economic development 9-1," referring to the LB 840 vote in 2011.
Several individuals asked why more cost studies had not been conducted. City Clerk Dana Klabenes said it the city didn’t want to spend tax dollars on a study if the project would not move forward.
Hemenway said, “Please do studies and find if they really work."
Lyle Juracek, former city superintendent, spoke about a previous TIF project in the community that turned a trailer park along Highway 14 into what is now The Willows Assisted Living. “TIF gives an opportunity to business to do improvements they would not financially be able to do,” he said.
Pat Veik, owner of Tri Valley Electic, inquired on what Bomgaars asked for - annexation or water - and if members would be considering annexation without Bomgaars’ expansion. Council member Ted Hughes said annexation has been on his mind since he joined the council seven years ago.
Jeri Anderson, who owns Moyers Department Store, reminded people that the public was invited to participate in creating the comprehensive plan. Anderson said quite a few people attended the meetings, including the one specifically on annexation. She added, “We need to get a long and need to work things out without cutting down and not criticizing. We don’t need to bad mouth each other.”
Eldean Reinke, who owns Reinke’s, told the council he hoped they listened to who spoke at the hearing. “What we’ve only heard so far is most people against the idea of this plan. I hope the council will vote appropriately.”
On both ordinances, Hughes made the motion to move forward while Wanek seconded. Each was a unanimous roll call vote.