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Sidney council updates ambulance agreement, discussed new master fee schedule

SIDNEY – The City of Sidney held its regularly scheduled meeting on July 11, where the council heard from a number of community members, revised the Morrill County Community Hospital (MCCH) ambulatory services and presented the updated master fee schedule.

Sidney Mayor Brad Sherman, Sidney Vice Mayor Paul Strommen, Councilmen Brandon Bondegard, Burke Radcliffe and Brock Buckner were all in attendance at the first July meeting of the month.

City council members heard from three members of the community regarding two topics. David Jansen spoke before the council and asked the city to be more transparent with planning, financial records and tax-used funds. Dona Gorrie and Shell Stevens discussed a problematic neighborhood known as the 700 Block of Linden Street in Sidney.

Stevens and Gorrie explained this particular neighborhood in Sidney is run down with various nefarious activities, from crime to drug usage and unleashed animals.

Although the open comment portion of the meeting is not interactive, the mayor and council members acknowledged what the community members had to say. Newcomer, council member Buckner, went as far as to visit this troubled part of town with residents after the meeting. The following day, Sidney Police Department (SPD) and Cheyenne County Sheriff Office (CCSO) provided the Sun-Telegraph with more details about this part of town and took the newspaper on a tour of the area pointing out some of the known issues. A future edition of the Sun-Telegraph will highlight the efforts law enforcement, city and county officials are taking to remedy the issues in this area and other areas in town.

City of Sidney Clerk-Treasurer Lori Borchert recommended adding Brandon Huck to the Sidney Board of Adjustment via appointment. Borchert explained to council members Huck lived in the two-mile strip surrounding the city limits as required for this position; Borchert noted the increasing difficultly of finding a willing resident to serve on the board that meets those requirements. The city is still seeking two individuals to serve on the planning commission board.

Borchert and City of Sidney Manager David Scott explained an unfortunate, temporary, yet easily remedied legal block in the city and county's previous agreement to purchase ambulances for the MCCH ambulatory contract.

The issue with the funding stemmed from legal stipulations of the particular fund the city had originally used to purchase the ambulance.

"It is not legal for us – with our LB840 funds – to release funds to them, which is originally the funding we had anticipated to use," Scott explained to the council members. He further explained the legalities as to why the city couldn't use that funding to purchase the $100,000 ambulance for MCCH per the intergovernmental agreement due the hospital not being a governmental entity. Originally, the city thought the hospital was ran by Morrill County, however, in presenting the promissory note, the city discovered MCCH is not operated, owned by or ran by the county, effectively making it ineligible to receive the LB840 Economic Development funds.

However, Scott then presented the only two available options the city could take. One option was to purchase the ambulance as a city from the current owner and lease it to MCCH, which left the city and county open to unknown liabilities, to which Scott and members of the city council felt was not in the best interest of the city.

The second option, in which the city ultimately approved via vote, was to give MCCH as a subsidy as a single proprietor corporation or LLC, because it is not attached to a municipality. Scott explained he had discussed both options with the city lawyer and the city's liability provider and each decided the second option was the best and probably only option because it reduces liability to the city.

The City Attorney J. Leef further explained to the council that the city does not have the statues, like the county and other larger governmental entities, that would support the type of original contract using the LB840 economic development funds it had hoped to use, which is why Leef, Scott and other various members in the city who help make sound financial decisions for the city began working on a remedy to be added to the last city council meeting.

After discussing the prior ways in which the city paid for emergency services and which funding it had originally used and the thoughts each of the members of the board had, the council unanimously voted to approve the recommendation from Scott, Borchert and Leef regarding the modification of the agreement with MCCH and resolution 20230702. The new resolution can be found at the end of the story in full.

City of Sidney Finance Director Lane Kizzire presented the council with the updated master fee schedule for the city and wanted to remind residents of the new fees, which take into effect on October 1, 2023. A number of fees marginally increased, such as pool usage. Kizzire and the council encouraged members of the public to search the city website for that fee schedule at http://www.cityofsidney.org.

Kizzire then gave a quarterly financial report to the city council, in which she stated the city is exceeding the tax budget and is up several thousand dollars over last year and the previous two years. That report is on file with the city and residents interested in viewing the entire report may do so by visiting the city offices, 1115 13th Ave., Sidney.

Vice Mayor Strommen presented claims for June 2023, in which was unanimously passed by all council members.

Scott gave the city manager's report, in which he spoke briefly about the City Planning Commission meeting, which was held on Monday, and will be reviewed at a future city council meeting.

Sidney Library Director Amanda Eastin gave a brief update about the public library and the success of the summer reading program. She also told the council the library is having it's Teen "Wrap-up" Party on Tuesday, July 18, from 3 to 5 p.m. at the library where there will be treats, games and reading prizes. Eastin explained it is open to the public, even if they did not participate in the summer reading programs.

The adult end of summer reading program celebration will be held Thursday, July 20, starting at 6 p.m., and will have snacks served as well as prizes.

Sidney Economic Development Manager Jeff Klare presented a short synopsis of his involvement with the county fair for Wednesday, July 26 for the Military, Veteran and First Responders day, to council members. He also announced his department is helping the library pay for four, much-needed, laptops for the community to be able to use.

Additionally, Klare told council members he is working with start-up companies looking to make Sidney home and would have more information at a future time.

Mayor Brad Sherman took a few minutes to discuss the importance of government involvement and volunteerism. He encouraged those in attendance and members of the public and community to get involved and to volunteer for the number of events the city and county hosts through its different departments and programs. He further explained how the city and county are always seeking volunteers and wants to "pack the house" with volunteers for every event, every time.

RESOLUTION 20230702:

WHEREAS, The provision of emergency medical services is imperative to the welfare of the citizens of the City of Sidney; and

WHEREAS, emergency medical services and medical transportation will not be available to the citizens of Sidney without subsidized assistance from the City of Sidney; and

WHEREAS, Morrill County Community Hospital (MCCH) is willing to render such services to the City of Sidney and County of Cheyenne, Nebraska in accordance with the inter-local agreement signed on June 21, 2023; and

WHEREAS, MCCH agrees to all stipulations in the inter-local agreement, including, but not limited to, maintaining two (2) ambulances staffed and equipped to meet or exceed regulations of the State of Nebraska, Department of Health and Human Services, Regulation and Licensure, with at least one (1) ambulance equipped to provide Advanced Life Support; and

WHEREAS, pursuant to the Inter-local agreement, the City of Sidney agreed to fiance one of the two ambulances in the form of an interest free loan to a limited liability company through LB840 Economic Development funds; and

WHEREAS, It has since been determined that MCCH is owned and operated by the County of Morrill, Nebraska and is not an eligible entity to receive such a loan from the City of Sidney's LB840 Economic Development fund.

NOW, THEREFORE, Let it be resolved that the City of Sidney, Nebraska hereby agrees to provide a subsidy in the amount of $100,000 to MCCH for MCCH to use in conjunction and under the obligations set forth in the inter-local agreement between Cheyenne County, the City of Sidney and MCCH signed and dated June 21, 2023, to provide necessary and vital emergency medical transportation services.

PASSED AND APPROVED this 11 day of July, 2023.

The next regularly scheduled City of Sidney council meeting will be Tuesday, July 25, starting at 5:30 p.m.

 

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