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Mayo takes over mayor’s reins
December 16, 2010 Jerry Purvis    Photo by Jerry Purvis/Gering Citizen

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Gering city clerk Rosie Russell administers Mayor Ed Mayo’s oath of office to him Monday.

City of Gering chooses official newspapers with controversy
Smith: ‘It smells’

As expected, members of the Gering City Council voted Monday to table any action on the proposed police merger. What turned into a more controversial discussion was over which local newspapers would be designated to print the city’s legal notices.

The discussion came up after Edwin Mayo, Gering’s newly elected mayor, was sworn into office.

Under consideration were the weekly newspapers the Gering Citizen and the Gering Courier, along with the daily Star-Herald.

During discussion, council members Dan Smith and Don Christensen both said they would not support any request from the Citizen to be the official city newspaper.

“How could you not appoint the local paper as one of the papers to carry our legals?” asked council member Jill McFarland. She also pointed out the Citizen was the only newspaper with offices in Gering, while the others, both part of the Omaha World-Herald companies, were located in Scottsbluff.

A letter requesting the city’s business was delivered late by the publisher of the Courier. The letter stated the Gering Courier had been printing Gering’s legal advertising for decades and had a reputation for accuracy. It also refuted the claim that it was not a Gering newspaper just because its offices were located in Scottsbluff. Many of their newspaper’s employees live in Gering, and because the company is employee-owned, the Courier was actually a Gering paper.

Smith was the first to speak in opposition to naming the Gering Citizen as the city’s official newspaper. “I think it smells,” he said. “That newspaper and its editor changed the political landscape and helped get people elected. I don’t want to reward them for that.” He likened any designation for the Citizen as the city’s official paper to a “political payoff” for their influence during the election, although the Citizen did not endorse any candidate for political office.

Christensen, a retired Star-Herald reporter, also jumped in to agree with Smith. “I just can’t support the Gering Citizen,” he said. “I don’t like the journalistic approach they’ve taken.”

Council member Manuel Escamilla asked whether all three local newspapers could be designated as the city’s official newspapers. McFarland said they could, but would need to keep in mind that each had different publishing schedules that would need to be considered.

On a 5-2 vote, council members agreed to designate all three local newspapers as their official newspaper, leaving the publication decisions to a staff member yet to be determined. Both Smith and Christensen voted no, apparently due to the inclusion of the Citizen. Newly re-elected council member Rebecca Shields was absent.

“I was disappointed with the vote,” McFarland said after the meeting. “In general we’re pretty much always in agreement. But all this dissention over what should be obvious was surprising. There was no chance of agreement on the official newspaper issue. I hope this division isn’t a sign of things to come, but I’m also concerned that future agreement isn’t going to happen.”

Council members also unanimously voted to table further discussion on the proposed police merger with Scottsbluff. Members said they needed more time to study all the information and numbers before they could make an informed decision. Still to be submitted are final reports from the organizational and finance committees appointed to study the issue.

Council member Larry Gibbs asked whether a council discussion of the merger proposal could be ready by late January 2011, but it’s still unsure as to when that will be scheduled.

The idea of a merged Gering and Scottsbluff police department was first discussed in June of 2009, when it was brought up by Scottsbluff Police Chief Alex Moreno at a meeting of their city council. Gering Police Chief Mel Griggs also spoke in support, citing budget savings for both cities.
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