|Gering’s mayor looks back at 2013|
|January 02, 2014 Jerry Purvis|
Edwin Mayo, Mayor of Gering
Gering Mayor Ed Mayo admitted that 2013 was a blur at times, but the city has accomplished much in the past 12 months.
“It’s been an interesting year,” Mayo said. “We started off with the premise the abandoned McKinley school building would be there forever. New housing for the community is now built at the location. It’s sad to see one chapter close, but it’s also good to see a fresh start for that neighborhood.”
He added the housing project on the McKinley property cultivated a partnership with Gering schools, whose construction classes are building three of the hew houses.
The city also worked with the schools so the district could move its administration offices onto 10th Street in front of city hall. While there was a downside to losing the space for retail, the offices have become an important part of the downtown community. And with it, the school board is now utilizing the city council chambers for its meetings.
The city also upgraded the sound and video system in the council chambers to allow for live video streaming of meetings on community access television. Mayo said it opens up government and gives the public more access. In addition to council meetings, schedules of committee meeting and city notices will be posted on the channel as well.
The past year also saw implementation of one - and six-year plans for all city departments, not just streets. “Because of that, it’s helped the council be more aware of the needs we have,” Mayo said.
One of those departments, electrical, completed a project in 2013 to bury all the electrical lines along U Street. Underground installation helps the lines last longer and also helps cut down on skyline pollution. The city plans to bury more electrical lines this spring, especially in areas where utility poles are deteriorating.
The city also replaced the wood bleachers at Five Rocks Amphitheater with concrete. Wings on the sides of the stage were also installed, where performing acts can set up equipment. Mayo said he’d like to see the purchase of portable bleachers in the future to expand the seating capacity at the venue.
As the city looks toward better utilizing its recreation facilities, it has asked for consultant proposals to inspect the facilities and determine how to boost usage. Those ideas might include more baseball and softball diamonds, or even a possible sports complex the city has discussed for about 10 years.
Mayo said he’s also pleased the city has organized a Public Resolution Team to address code violations and property complaints within the city. “They’ve had some early success and they also identified some shortfalls we have in the city ordinances,” he said.
The mayor was also complimentary of the Downtown Revitalization Committee for their work. “In the last three years, they’ve worked very hard on getting our preliminary planning grant ready,” he said. “You can’t ask for a better group of people. They have a never give up attitude.”
After two rejections, the Nebraska Department of Economic Development accepted Gering’s preliminary plan and provided funding for the city to hire a consultant. The information gathered will be compiled into a plan to revitalize the downtown area. That will hopefully be accepted for funding by the state.
“The revitalization of our downtown area is exciting,” Mayo said. “A group of people are very interested in seeing a hotel move forward here. Studies have shown we can support another hotel in Gering. Two years ago, no one thought that would ever happen.”
Mayo also said economic development funding through the city’s LB 840 program has allowed for a business retention project at Magnolia Homes in southeast Gering and the new Nemnich Automotive facility just south of the river on 10th Street. Fresh Foods was also able to locate in Gering because of LB 840 assistance in the past.
“People are starting to look at Gering as a place where they want to do business,” he said. “We may not have the big box stores, but it’s good to see interest from smaller outlets.”
Some of them include the new Family Dollar store, which should be open this spring, and a new convenience store at 10th and U Streets.
In the future, Gering will see projects from the relocation of the landfill, to demolition of old packing plants at 10th and Country Club and 7th Street, across from the county detention center. This upcoming year will also see the construction of a training facility for area police and fire professionals. It’s the only one of its kind in western Nebraska to benefit the entire area.
Also during 2013, Gering appointed Capt. George Holthus and its new Police Chief to replace long-time Chief Mel Gribbs, who retired. “We were all disappointed to see Mel go, but all things must change, and he had other things in life he wanted to do,” Mayo said. “But we appointed a phenomenal chief who’s thoughtful and diligent. George is a good fit and will serve the community well.”
Mayo said it’s a great time to be alive in Gering. “We have a lot of wonderful things going on. Some of them are subtle and some are more public, but the future is here and it’s exciting.”