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Revitalization grant’s budget goes under city review
March 06, 2014 Jerry Purvis   

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Gering’s commitment on Phase II of the Downtown Revitalization Grant was a major topic of discussion during a Public Works Committee meeting on Monday.

Rawnda Pierce, executive director of Twin Cities Development, said she received a draft report from the consulting firm. Phase II of the grant application must be submitted to the state Department of Economic Development by the end of March. The city is applying for a $350,000 three-year grant to start the revitalization process in the downtown area. The local match would be a minimum of 25 percent.

Pierce said she needed direction from the city on recommendations in the initial proposal. One of those is a “road diet” that would reduce the four traffic lanes along 10th Street to three, with a turn lane either through downtown or at some intersections. She added reducing the number of lanes on 10th Street was one of the consultant’s serious recommendations.

Pierce said she wanted to know what budget number she should plug into the grant application if the city decides to put 10th Street on a road diet. Also needed would be an estimated cost of a parking study in the event a potential hotel is built in the downtown area.

Committee Chairman Larry Gibbs said he sees a lot of benefit in widening the sidewalks along 10th Street. “It would be expensive, but over the long haul we could do things like sidewalk cafes.”

Committee member Troy Cowan objected to reducing the number of lanes along 10th Street unless the street itself was narrowed. He said the same wide street with new striping would only confuse drivers. But Pierce said that strategically placed landscaped can do a lot toward “calming” traffic.

After more discussion, Pierce agreed to plug in a $125,000 tentative figure for repaving parking lots and road striping through downtown.

n On the topic of recycling, committee member Justin Allred asked how the city could increase its revenue collection for sanitation by increasing the tonnage collected. Darrell Vance, Gering’s interim director of environmental science, said it could be done by requiring all citizens to do recycling.

“I’m of the same opinion,” Allred said. “However, I think we would have a lot of opposition if we made recycling mandatory.”

Gibbs said he would be opposed because all his trash collection is done in the alley and he doesn’t want a recycling container in front of his house to blow over on windy days and spread trash throughout the neighborhood.

Allred said the city could do some test areas, but there are too many “stubborn people” to make mandatory recycling feasible. Currently, the city has 275 residential recycling accounts and about 35 commercial accounts.

Allred continued that mandatory recycling would only create more problems. However, he pointed out that Nebraska is behind the times with recycling with other areas of the country having programs in place for decades.

“I’m not anti-recycling,” Gibbs said. “But our community is getting older and the more inconvenient you make it for elderly people to get their trash picked up, the more people you are going to upset.”

The idea of a C&D (construction and demolition) landfill was also brought up. However, a similar plan from several years ago received strong opposition from residents around the landfill.

Allred recommended the city do a study of what materials are going into the landfill and what can be done to extend the life of the final Cell 6 until a new landfill can be sited.
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