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Gering builds Keno endowment
November 03, 2011 Jerry Purvis   

Read more by Jerry Purvis

Photo by Doug Harris/ Gering Citizen Gering artist Jenifer Berge unveils a new painting at the Gering Arts Festival at Legion Park on June 11. The Gering Arts Festival is made possible by Keno funding.

It took about 12 years of saving, but Gering’s keno fund now has a million dollar endowment to help fund community betterment projects.

Keno committee chairman Darrell Bentley said the group was originally formed to choose a keno operator and decide which establishments would receive keno licenses. After that, the group disbanded.

“We were under the impression keno funds weren’t to be used for the city’s budgetary items,” Bentley said. “But that’s where it ended up for the first three years, for things like tree removal and storm sewer work.”

Members of the group went back to the mayor and asked to form a committee that would review applications the city received for keno funds. Since then, they’ve used one-half of keno proceeds
on community betterment projects. The other half was invested into an endowment.

“Our number one criterion for awarding keno funding is community betterment,” Bentley said. “Requests have to be for special project, not something that’s already budgeted for on an annual basis.”

Bentley said the keno committee membership is diverse, so each request is carefully scrutinized before funding is approved. “Keno funds are primarily for Gering community betterment, but we’re reached out to other communities as well,” he said. “We helped with funding for remodeling the Saddle Club and for building the Kiwanis playground in Riverside Park. Lots of Gering kids benefit from those.”

Over the years, keno funds have been used for installing new lights on the main baseball diamond in Oregon Trail Park, installing a digital marquee in front of Gering High School, and expanding and remodeling the Robidoux Trading Post southwest of Gering.
City departments can also apply for keno funding for equipment that isn’t in the budget. Some of those have included a new vehicle for the police department’s K-9 unit, a new infrared imaging camera for the fire department and crosswalks in the parks.

Keno funds have also supported the girls’ softball program, Boy Scouts, and helped install security cameras at Gering schools. “In the beginning, I wasn’t sure that keno would survive in Gering,” Bentley said. “I thought if we could raise a million dollars, if keno didn’t make it, there would still be money the community could use.”

Bentley added the keno committee is now able to award 100 percent of funds it receives, as well as interest from the million dollar endowment. The city has already donated close to $900,000 to keno for community betterment projects. “The keno committee can only recommend funding,” he said. “The city council has the final say on what actually gets funded.”

The latest keno funded project was approved at the Oct. 24 council meeting. Ten thousand dollars in keno funds will be used to help the Gering School District install Astroturf on the playground of the new Lincoln Elementary school, now under construction.

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