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Gering Police Chief resigns
January 31, 2013 Jerry Purvis   

Read more by Jerry Purvis
During Monday’s council meeting, members rejected a proposed ordinance for a tax on cell phones and accepted a bid to operate the golf course restaurant. But a surprise came at the end when Gering Police Chief Mel Griggs submitted his resignation, effective March 1.

Griggs had announced his retirement several times in the past, but he said this time it’s for real. He has 45 years in law enforcement, including 23 years as Gering Police Chief.
“After visiting with my financial people, I found out I can retire,” Griggs said after the council meeting. “Forty-five years ago I had no intention of being a police officer. My degree was in electronics. But one day in 1968 I decided to become a cop.”

When asked what he would miss about the job, he said “everything and everybody,” although he’s seen the highest and the lowest. Along the way, he’s been beaten, shot at and almost killed. But he said that’s what he was born to do and has enjoyed every minute of it.
Griggs will officially retire on March 1. After that he said he’ll be doing a lot more bike riding. “There’s something out there that’s better for me and it will find me,” he said. “I’ve always been interested in youth development. That’s why I taught martial arts.”

He said that although his son and family live in Tennessee, he and his wife Barbara plan to stay in the local area. “At this age, we’re comfortable. I’ve never realized how nice comfortable feels. I love this place. Every time I’ve left, I’ve always come back anyway.”

Before Griggs made his surprise resignation, council members dealt with a full agenda. The first issue was a proposed three percent occupation tax “on gross receipts resulting from any telecommunication services and charges to a customer for which telecommunication services are provided.” The tax would be implemented only on cell phone and land line users in the 69341 zip code of Gering.

The occupation tax would generate about $60,000 a year and would be used to pay the city’s share of upgrades to the county’s enhanced 911 emergency communications system. The city has already approved $40,000, with another $30,000 in the future.
Council members agreed the city should pay for a share of the technology upgrades, but said that under the original agreement combining the 911 center, the county agreed to pay for its ongoing operation.

Council member Larry Gibbs said the ordinance, as it is written, is vague and contained “ambiguous language” that needed to be simplified.
Council member Julie Morrison, who also serves on the Public Safety Committee, said a number of questions posed to the county still remain unanswered. The county “jumps through a lot of hoops” with the state to secure funding for 911 services. However, the person responsible for going after that funding hasn’t been identified. Also, Morrison said she still hasn’t received a requested itemized list of what upgrades were being made to the 911 center and their cost.
Council member Don Christensen said he was concerned the council hadn’t given due consideration to the impact such a tax on people and businesses that rely on phone service. But Mayor Ed Mayo said the tax could help fund not just future upgrades to 911 services, but also the city’s public safety needs, such as new fire and police vehicles.

Because of the ordinance’s vague language, council members voted unanimously to reject the ordinance entirely. However, the council will continue to discuss how to fund the city’s share of upgrades to 911 services.
In other action, council approved a proposal from a group headed by Sal Munoz to operate the restaurant at Monument Shadows Golf Course. Munoz said he plans to use the name Caddies, and would like to be open for the golf season, starting April 1. Council agreed to enter into contract negotiations right away so Munoz would have time to apply to the state for a liquor license.

City Administrator Lane Danielzuk also informed the council he had received a letter from the Nebraska Department of Economic Development. It said the $460,000 of approved funding to build affordable housing on the McKinley school property was now available for use.

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