SIDNEY-- On Monday, February 5, the Cheyenne County Board of Commissioners held their regular meeting, and several topics, including the Cheyenne County Audit, updates on the progress of Sidney Regional Medical Center initiatives, and the status of federal and state grant applications by Adams Industries supporting infrastructure work in the county.
First up, Emergency Management Coordinator Ron Leal addressed the commissioners about approving the closeout of the Bronson and Lorenzo Outdoor Siren project. The work is completed, and the commissioners approved the closeout of the project, which had been ongoing for six years.
The commissioners then approved a Representation Letter from Dana F. Cole regarding the 2022-2023 Cheyenne County audit, which was a standard representation letter, and approving such a letter was a standard matter. The commissioners then denied a request for an Application for County Burial for Adan Romero, Jr. County Attorney Paul Schaub said that applications for County Burial can only be approved if the deceased has assets totaling less than $1500. After review, it was found that the applicant had a checking account totaling about $1450 plus owning a car that was worth approximately $3000, assets well above the $1500 threshold. The commissioners approved the resolution denying the County Burial request. The commissioners then approved the Federal-Aid Urban Boundary map, confirming the boundaries represented were accurate.
Sidney Regional Medical Center CEO Jason Petik then gave an update on the Nursing Home project and other initiatives. He said SRMC is working diligently to ensure they are meeting their goals financially and with quality scores to best serve the community. He referenced re-admission and turnover rates, and stated that their operating margin came in a -1.1%, budgeted from 3.6% He said there was a significant surgery revenue disruption with the loss of Dr. Jansen. He also said that SRMC's cash on hand was adequate and that the facility was doing a good job of keeping labor costs down. He also noted the facility's debt service fell within USDA guidelines. He also spoke about the addition of new doctors, including Dr. Heller from Tampa who is in the process of moving, Dr. Prado who is returning to SRMC along with Dr. Thayer, Dr. Novak who is an addiction specialist is coming to SRMC, and Dr. Polk, who will expand orthopedics and spinal surgeries. Petik briefly explained the expansion phases, noting Radiology will have a large expansion with the addition of two operating rooms and a DaVinci robot for surgery. Regarding the Nursing Home project, Petik noted that General Contractor Samson has done an excellent job, quickly getting the building ready for occupancy. He stated that the facility should be fully powered by June, and be ready for occupancy by September. He also discussed future plans, including a new Community Center Building, which is still in the discussion stages with no concrete timeline for starting.
Next, Kim Matthews, Business Development Director of Adams Industries, gave an update on grant applications the company had submitted regarding the infrastructure work the company was undertaking to accommodate its expansion. She noted they were denied the INFRA grant they applied for, but it was not unusual for this grant to be denied at first pass. They plan on reviewing the application and re-submitting it shortly. They were approved for a RAISE grant, which adds $21 million to the 2024/2025 budget although the funds would likely come through in the 2025/2026 fiscal year. Commissioner Randall Miller asked why the amount was significantly higher than previously discussed, and Matthews said that they had to add in a lot of other infrastructure spending besides the roads they were initially focused on, increasing the costs. Miller said that in July there will be a reconciliation of the amounts, and he stressed the public needs to understand that the commissioners are just a pass-through for the funding, and none of these monies will come from the Cheyenne County budget. Matthews was confident the CRISI grant would be approved, as the RAISE and CRISI grants are usually funded together. She said updates on the CRISI grant should be available within the next month or two.
Matt Silverman of Vistabeam Internet next addressed the commissioners, seeking letters of support from the commissioners as Vistabeam seeks grants to help fund their rural internet services, and fiber-optic service, into underserved and unserved rural areas. The areas in question are east of Sidney to Lodgepole and the other is approximately 37 square miles of area north and west of Sidney. Both commissioners Sanders and Miller said they were current Vistabeam customers, and that their service had been good. Silverman said that two grants with the Nebraska DOT Broadband Bridge Program were being applied for, and they will be able to provide 8 gigs of speed and would be able to expand upon that, as the technology gets better and service needs grow. The commissioners agreed that internet and fiber-optic services needed to be expanded in the rural parts of Cheyenne County, and approved a motion to write letters in support of the company's attempts to secure grant funding.
Cheyenne County Tourism Director Kendra Mitchell gave an update concerning the 2024 All Is Bright event at the Cheyenne County Fairgrounds. She said the past year's All Is Bright event was very successful, with over 2500 people attending during the days they were active. Although there is still some breakdown and storage work from last year's event that still needs to be done, she said that work should be completed soon. Next year's event should be even more successful, as they have much longer to plan and have added additional days of operation, including the Sunday before Christmas. The commissioners agreed last year's event was successful and they are looking forward to an even better event next year.
Kevin Sylvester of Dana F. Cole and Company then reviewed the Cheyenne County audit with the commissioners. He noted the cash-in and cash-out numbers, not including assets, for Cheyenne County add up to $8,553,200. $3,409,963 are in restricted funds, and $5,143,237 are in unrestricted funds. He noted the only weakness the audit shows, as it has in years past, is the lack of diversity in the number of people and departments in charge of the collection and spending process throughout all stages, meaning the money coming in, and money going out, is handled by the same person or group of people, which has the potential for inefficiency, waste and theft. This has been an ongoing concern in Cheyenne County, like many other rural counties, because of the small size of staff handling collections, payments, and orders. There were no indications of any actual problems, however, but Sylvester noted the commissioners should be mindful of potential issues in this area. Nathaniel Terman then addressed the commissioners and requested a road be opened that has been closed since 1983. The road is a small offshoot of Road 117, between sections 3 and 4 and 3 and 10. The county still owns the roads, and Cheyenne County Highway Superintendent Doug Hart said that all it needed was a bit of graveling and some cleanup to be fully functional. The commissioners approved the opening of the road. Hart then addressed the commissioners, saying the CAT Motor Grader recently purchased has been delivered as well as the Road 111 culverts. He said his department has one CDL-approved operator, and another is finishing up the CDL training. He noted a few accidents in the county, citing the truck rollover the other week in the northern part of the county, and his workers have been graveling and repairing shoulder areas to make the roads safer.
The commissioners then went into Executive Session to discuss Court House Security and to Tour the Cheyenne County Jail.