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County board approves seed money for development group
July 09, 2015 Jerry Purvis   

Read more by Jerry Purvis
The Scotts Bluff County Board of Commissioners approved paying $50 as seed money in support of their membership in the area-wide Western Nebraska Economic Development group.

“Virtually every community in the Panhandle and Scotts Bluff County has joined this group,” County Board Chairman Mark Masterton said. “Every community has been charged with coming up with five projects they’d like to see happen in their town.”

The region-wide economic development group was recommended by a consultant’s study of the area. The study found that if local communities joined as one group, their voice would be louder in state government when requesting funding for economic development projects.
Masterton asked fellow commissioners to send him an email outlining their five most important projects for consideration. “The group will be picking projects they think will benefit the entire community’s economic development,” he said.

Masterton added that housing, jobs, and more businesses are important to economic development. However, the group wants to take a closer, more specific look at which projects would best benefit the area.
“I’d even be interested in hearing from the public as to what they think would be good projects,” Masterton said. “They can email me or contact the city clerk.”

The economic development group has met four times and every member will provide $50 in seed money and ideas for five potential projects. Other communities outside Scotts Bluff County have also expressed interest in joining, including Bayard, Bridgeport and Kimball.
Other groups that are involved in economic development are also members. That includes Twin Cities Development, the Scottsbluff/Gering United Chamber of Commerce and Panhandle Area Development District.

“We’re all in this economic development thing together,” Masterton said. “If we can help the Panhandle, that’s what we want to do. But we’re still in the infant stages in trying to figure out who we are and what we want to be when we grow up.”
While approving seed money for Western Nebraska Economic Development, the county board also passed a resolution allowing any board member to serve as an alternate at group meetings in case Masterton, the appointed representative, is unable to attend.
In other action, commissioners split 3-2 to be the sponsoring agency for a $173,000 federal grant for what is still the county housing authority. The funding will be used to make repairs to four housing authority apartment complexes, which operates under the name Housing Partners of Western Nebraska.

While they approved taking a sponsorship role, several board members expressed the desire to disassociate themselves entirely from the housing authority. The agency is funded primarily through federal grants and the county has no control over the agency’s budget or how it operates.

Housing Partners director Nancy Bentley told commissioners she would discuss with her board the possibility of finding another sponsoring agency for future grants.
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