Funds Hold Up Hickory Square
June 3, 2020
The proposed water park and pedestrian attractions on Hickory Street Square have been stalled indefinitely.
Sidney Economic Development Director Melissa Norgard announced in the May 26 meeting of the Sidney City Council that the project has run its course.
“At this time, the project is no longer moving forward,” she said.
The City was awarded $250,000 in 2018 through the Civic and Community Center Financing Fund. The contract was signed in May 2018 for development of Hickory Street Square. The contract called for the funds to be utilized within 24 months. An extension was requested and granted in January 2019 for the project to be completed in May 2021. The conflict is the project still needs additional funding.
There was about $530,000 committed to the project, $250,000 from the Civic and Community Center Financing Fund, and $250,000 from the Historic Society, and $30,000 from a Greater Good grant.
“It is extremely disappointing,” said Mayor Roger Gallaway.
Councilman Bob Olsen said he was not comfortable voting without representation of the Cheyenne County Chamber of Commerce.
Norgard met with the Council for Mayor Gallaway to sign a letter terminating the agreement with Community Center Financing Fund. Council encouraged Norgard to first ask if the City could apply for a second extension, although Norgard said the chances of approval are slim.
The council also debated an appeal by Brush Salon. Brush Salon, owned by Mike and Megan Palmer, applied for a Small Business LB840 Forgivable Loan. The City offered forgivable and no-interest loans in response to the impact of the COVID virus on local businesses.
The requirements for receiving assistance is the business most be an existing business in Sidney, must employ two to 25 employees, demonstrate a need for funding in order to stay in business during the COVID-19 pandemic and the business must remain open (unless otherwise directed by the government) and retain the same number of employees, continuing to pay employees and pay rent.
The discussion started with Vice-Mayor Joe Arterburn questioning if Mayor Gallaway has a relationship with anyone working at Brush Salon, and possibly a conflict of interest. Gallaway denied a conflict of interest in the decision. City Attorney J Leef said the appeal is by the business, not individuals involved in the business.
“We operate the business much like an LLC,” Mike Palmer said.
He said he has talked with the governor's office as well as the League of Municipalities. The Governor's Office is encouraging local control.
Arterburn offered a point of order, saying the council is only to review the information presented. According to discussion, the request was denied because there was no statement of wages or number of employees. Palmer then said the company is run as a joint venture. Leef said independent contractors are facing the same issue. She went on to say the plan has limits on how funds can be allocated.
“I don't believe our plan allows us to give the funds,” she said.
She added the LB840 program can be amended, but it will take a decision of the voters.
“I think you're stuck with what you've got,” she said.
Norgard said the LB840 committee unanimously denied the Brush Salon request. The council voted 3-2 to deny the appeal with Gallaway and councilmen Brad Sherman and Bob Olsen voting against.
The council overturned the Economic Development Committee's decision and approved $5,000 by a 4-1 vote.
The council also met with Dr. Dorwart. The Dorwart family offered to donate a tract of land described as a triangle near Legion Park to the city.
“In my view, it wouldn't cost us anything really now,” said Gallaway. “It's a piece of property that could easily be developed.
Action on the proposal was tabled. The tract of land is directly north of Legion Park and just east of the intersection of 10th Avenue and Toledo Street.