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The future of Orchard’s economic development will be in the hands of voters this spring after the village board approved a special election, likely to be in March.
Orchard is one of just a handful of area communities not already collecting a sales tax for economic development. Neighboring communities of Clearwater and Neligh approved LB 840 plans several years ago and have already begun offering low-interest loans that have led to new businesses and job creation.
During Monday’s Orchard’s village board meeting, members unanimously approved resolutions for a special election that, if passed, would impose a 1 1/2 percent sales tax with allocation and use of 50 percent of the tax revenue for any project or program providing direct or indirect financial assistance to qualifying businesses.
Businesses seeking low interest loans from the sales tax collected would go through a loan review process similar to that of a bank, along with other loan requirements.
Unlike property taxes, sales tax is collected from anyone who spends money inside city limits, regardless of whether they are a resident of Orchard.
Orchard Economic Development Association members Tammy Cheatum and Stephanie Cleveland told the board that upcoming special election could be either by poll or by mail-in. They said Antelope County Election Commissioner Lisa Payne recommended a mail-in election, which would cost less money due to not having to pay people to be man the polls.
“We can’t guarantee people will come out and vote or mail it in, but she was leaning towards a mail-in,” Cheatum said.
She said Payne told her the cost difference was about $1,000.
“If we can save $1,000 by a mail-in vote, I’m in favor of that,” John Ferguson said. “Every town around us has this sales tax, so it’s time.”
Cheatum said she would finish paperwork for the election and notify the board of the special election date. Cleveland said several community meetings will take place prior to the election to educate the voters on how the LB 840 vote will impact them.
Also at the meeting, the board voted to increase sanitation rates by 2 percent since J&J Sanitation raised its rates by the same amount. This increase will affect all residents and businesses receiving sanitation services except for seniors. Senior rates will remain the same.
The board also approved its one- and six-year plan presented by engineering firm Miller & Associates of Kearney. Although recommendations are being made for specific street improvements, the village board will decide what streets take priority.
Sheriff Bob Moore reported his department spent 107 hours, 55 minutes patrolling in Orchard during the month of December and had one 911 call. The 2018 year ended with 1,171 hours, 57 minutes with 18 911 calls.
Moore said there were additional hours spent in Orchard on Health and Human Service calls.