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Gering council discusses potential development
September 26, 2013 Jerry Purvis   

Read more by Jerry Purvis
Members of the Gering City Council spent most of their Monday meeting discussing potential development of several properties in the area.

Mike Sarchet, project developer for Twin Cities Development (TCD), told the council they’re working on a Brownfield assessment grant, a process that started four years ago. Those grants are used to help expand, redevelop or reuse properties that might be complicated by the presence or the potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant.

Four years ago, the city identified five prime properties that could be redeveloped. They were the old McKinley school building, the former Lane Auction House across the street from city hall, the old Packerland plant at 10th and Country Club, the old Swift building across 7th St. from the county detention center, and the old Health and Human Services building on N St. The HHS and McKinley buildings have since been demolished.

“When a company comes to town looking for a potential site, they want a property that is ready for development,” Sarchet said. “They want to know what infrastructure is available and how quickly they can move on it.”

Representatives from the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality were in town last week to do asbestos testing on several of those properties, including the WESTCO property north of the railroad tracks, the Lane Auction House and Packerland.

Sarchet said it appears the Swift packing plant on 7th St., which has been abandoned for years, will probably be demolished. Representatives from the Packerland plant on 10th St. are also willing to work with the city on clearing up that property.

TCD will host a public forum on Oct. 3 to discuss potential site development with representatives from Gering, Terrytown and Scottsbluff. Small groups will be asked to create new visions for how the communities’ industrial districts and the surrounding areas should look and be utilized.

The public is invited to attend the meeting on Thursday, Oct. 3 from 6 – 8 p.m. at the Harms Technology Center.

Council also discussed progress on house construction at the former McKinley property. Sarchet said the Gering High School construction class has done a commendable job in building two houses on the property. “They’ve done an excellent quality job and it’s been good for us to work with them.”

Sarchet said he was also happy with all the vendors who delivered the needed construction materials on time and below the list price.
The high school construction class is about 70 percent finished with the first two houses on the old McKinley property. They plan to build another next year.

Rawnda Pierce, TCD executive director, said their contract for state funding requires them to build five houses within the next three years. The high school will build three, one will be manufactured by Magnolia Homes in Gering, and Habitat for Humanity has expressed interest in building another. There are ten available lots on the McKinley property.

Several developers have also contacted TCD about possibly purchasing lots for new houses. Pierce said she contacted the state and they saw no problem with private developers purchasing lots.

However, she told the council they should probably put some restrictions on the lots, such as timelines for start and finish so the lots aren’t held for speculation. Also, the lots would need to be affordable enough for private developers to build houses in a similar price range as the ones the city currently has under construction.

Council members agreed to have the Public Works Committee, along with input from the entire council, work through the particulars of how to sell the remaining five lots.
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