Mayor, Vice Mayor express frustration with Nebraska Governor not including LB 712 in budget
By Joshua Wood, Stevenson Newspapers
Sidney officials are not pleased with Governor Jim Pillen regarding LB 712, and both Mayor Brad Sherman and Vice Mayor Roger Gallaway said as much during the March 14 meeting of the Sidney City Council.
The comments from the top officials of Sidney’s governing body came in response to a Letter to the Editor from Pillen published in the Western Nebraska Observer on March 9. In the letter, Pillen explained why he had not included LB 712—a bill which would have provided state funding to the City of Kimball, Kimball County and nearby counties and municipalities for the upcoming Sentinel missile silo project—in his budget.
The Ground Based Strategic Deterrent Deployment Fund would have allocated $26 million in state funding for impacts to Kimball County and surrounding areas related to the missile silo project. As previously reported, much of that would have come in the way of grants to address deficiencies in community infrastructure, transportation, schools, health care facilities, law enforcement and emergency response, recreation or workforce development.
A proposed housing facility in Kimball is expected to have anywhere from 2,500 to 3,000 occupants at the peak of construction.
“I want to assure those in Kimball and in the Panhandle, the federal government will provide all necessary funds to undertake this missile project,” wrote Pillen. “The workforce camp, proposed to be in Kimball, will be self-sufficient and will not need additional resources from the community to be operational.”
The governor went on to write that all workforce required would be from the Gulf of Mexico and would be on rotating shifts, stating neither they nor their families would become permanent residents. Pillen also wrote that due to the secure nature of the project, personnel would not be able to “patronize the community” and would be restricted during their time in Kimball.
“It’s unfortunate that we no longer have the support of Governor Pillen. I think he’s missing the point when he says the workforce housing is covered,” said Gallaway on March 14. “Yes, we knew that, but he’s not taking into account all the additional strain on infrastructure and all the added stresses that get put on a community, or communities in this case, throughout the panhandle.”
On January 24, City Manager David Scott told the Sidney City Council that Pillen had expressed support for LB 712 only if it took a regional approach. Between then and March 9, however, it seems Pillen’s views on the legislation—introduced by Senator Brian Hardin and sponsored by Senator Steve Erdman—changed.
Where it’s been the type of thing that’s been done in the past for projects on the eastern side of the state, it’s sad to see that they’re not willing to support the western part of the state,” said Gallaway. “I think some lobbyist caught his ear and he quickly changed his tune.”
Sherman also expressed frustration with Pillen’s decision not to include LB 712 in the governor’s budget.
“I’m a little disappointed to find out that 85,000 people that live in the panhandle don’t have the same voice as the rest of the state,” said Sherman.
Gallaway said he was glad Pillen could speak for the federal government, commenting on the end of the governor’s letter. While admitting that the panhandle communities needed support, Pillen wrote “I am assured the federal government will meet all financial concerns associated with this project. No local or state funds will be required to support infrastructure of any kind.”
The next meeting of the Sidney City Council will be at 5:30 p.m. on March 28 at Sidney City Hall.