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City Council Approves Budget; Commissioners Approve Sheriff Vehicles and Talk Road Improvements

SIDNEY--The City Council of Sidney met Tuesday, September 26, and the agenda centered on approving the 2023-24 budget. After Sidney Finance Director Lane Kizzire detailed the budget for the council members, the council approved the budget with a unanimous vote.

The Sidney budget is slated for $38,945,229, and the debt service on the budget is $2,273,544. The Non-General portion of the budget totals to $23,779,465, and includes services including street maintenance, electric service, waste water treatment and sewers as well as solid waste disposal. The Non-General portion also includes special funding projects like LB840.

City Manager David Scott said back in 2019-20, there were large budget cuts across the board and property taxes were reduced significantly, about 25% from the year previous. This resulted in a cut of services, a reduction in part-time employees for the city, and deep cuts for other parts of the budget. Kizzire said all of the department heads of the various city agencies did a great job managing their departments with less money and employees.

Scott noted that the city has been working hard to get the most out of the public funds, and that the city will address the issues of internal costs, rising Workers' Comp insurance premiums, health insurance cost and energy and fuel costs. He noted the city's overall mill levy is going to be reduced to .0544621 from .0574936. With the new budget, .313546 mills will be to support the General Fund and .231078 will be used for bonded indebtedness. Scott noted that the projections for sales tax revenues for this year are $2 million, and slightly more than $1.8 million for 2023-24. The fees support departments like electricity, sewer and water for city residents and businesses. Scott also noted that due to refinancing their debt when interest rates were low, the City of Sidney now has an A+ credit rating.

Some of the projects budgeted for the 2023-24 year include cement projects, the completion of the link between the walking trail and the Sidney Aquatic Center, the Jackson Street storm water project, back-up electric generation and a waste water treatment facility upgrade.

Additionally, the council announced that the city has been awarded Rural Workforce Housing funding in the amount of $1 million with a $500,000 match. $250,000 of the matching funds were paid by a donor, according to Scott. The city was also awarded a Safe Streets grant for studies on the city's streets and trails, and Certified Economic Development status and Certified Creative District status. Scott also said that Economic Development Director Jeff Klare was working with Northrop-Grumman making preparations for the Sentinel Missile project.

On Monday morning, October 2, the Cheyenne County commissioners met at the Cheyenne County Courthouse. The first item on the agenda concerned the approval for a Cost Allocation Plan with the State of Nebraska. This plan is meant to reimburse the county for unpaid child support that had to be picked up by the county. The state is supposed to pay a percentage of this cost, but has not for a few years now. The approval was made so that Cheyenne County could be reimbursed when and if those funds become available from the state.

After reviewing applications for General Assistance for County Burials, the commissioners then spoke with Cheyenne County Sheriff Adam Frerichs concerning the purchase of new vehicles from the Sheriff's Department. Frerichs noted that bids had been sent out for vehicles, and that they had received the lowest bids from Nelson Automotive out of Omaha. They offered prices on three different vehicles, Ford F-150s, a Ford Explorer Interceptor and a Ford Expedition. After reviewing pricing and the needs of the department, Frerichs opted to go with the purchase of two F-150 pick-up trucks. Frerichs stated that the Explorer's had reliability issues and the Expeditions did not fit their needs, so he was ready to move forward with the purchase of tow F-150s from Nelson Automotive. The cost for each vehicle is $48,439.75 each, for a total cost of $96,879.50. The commissioners noted that the money for purchase will come from the unused ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) funds.

Cheyenne County Highway Superintendent Doug Hart then gave an update on the county's roads and highways. He said his staff would soon start erecting snow fences in selected areas and will continue to armor coat on route 19A. He also noted that he found a tractor for the Highway Department for sale in Missouri that looks to fit the needs of the department, and will investigate further. The commissioners then asked Hart for updates on specific work being done on certain county roadways, and the commissioners noted the good job Hart and his crew have been doing in repairing, chip coating and preparing the roads for the winter weather.

County Attorney Paul Schaub then tabled a discussion on a fence encroachment on county property, as the fence owner had engaged attorney Steven Mattoon about the matter, and some legal issues have come up concerning the encroachment. Schaub requested the matter be tabled until the details of the legal issue have been worked out.

The commissioners then approved the One and Six Year Highway Improvement Plan. The commissioners also allocated time for public comment, but no residents were prest to comment.


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