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City officials exchange ideas at League of Municipalities meeting
March 06, 2014 Jerry Purvis   

Read more by Jerry Purvis
Members of the Gering City Council rescheduled their regular meeting last week because several of them were in Lincoln to discuss common issues at the League of Nebraska Municipalities midwinter conference.

Much of the discussion centered on proposed state legislation and how it would affect Nebraska cities and towns. Several other workshops shared information cities could bring home with them for potential improvements.

Gering Mayor Ed Mayo said one of those workshops dealt with historic preservation in communities. “We learned we didn’t necessarily have to pass ordinances to set up districts for historic preservation,” he said. “We’ve already had some discussion here in Gering on historic preservation and how it fits into our downtown redevelopment plan.”

Mayo added that while most of the downtown buildings were built at different times with different architecture, they seem to fit together with the same flavor, something he called “quaint.”

Another section centered on crisis management and how city officials can work with emergency responders in case of major accidents, weather disasters and the like. Missouri River flooding in Blair, Wayne’s tornadoes and fires in the Chadron area were all used as discussion points.

“I was surprised to hear not all political officials have obligated themselves to complete the required training for responders,” he said. “Many of them didn’t see the need and said they had a larger city close by that would handle it. They didn’t seem to understand it’s one of their responsibilities, no matter who big brother is.”

In the same area, a number of cases are working their way through the courts on how workman’s compensation ties in with mental health issues. Mayo, a retired police officer, said emergency first responders sometimes have to deal with that. Emergency Medical Technicians, fire and police first responders deal with so many tragic and horrific incidents that eventually they might walk away from their profession as a coping mechanism.

Mayo said Gering may have been ahead of the curve in establishing a PRT, a problem resolution team that addresses code and building violations, noise complaints and similar problems. The primarily volunteer PRT is set up independent from the city, so city officials don’t have to address those complaints directly. He added that more cities are considering similar plans to deal with those violations.

A bill has been introduced in this legislative session that would require municipalities to organize a PRT, and many cities are supportive.

Mayo said he was also encouraged by the overall tone of the meetings. “In the last couple of years, we heard a lot of negatives about all the bad things going on and problems with the state,” he said. “There was still a little bit of that this time, but everyone was touting the successes their communities have had over the past 12 to 18 months, even if was small successes. Lots of good things are happening.”
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