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Gering approves library study
October 14, 2016 Jerry Purvis   

Read more by Jerry Purvis
Whether Gering should modify its current public library or build a new one has been discussed for several years. At its Oct. 10 meeting, members of the city council took the first step toward answering that question.

On a 5-2 vote, council members approved a $55,000 expenditure to hire architects Joseph Hewgly and Associates. The firm will conduct a feasibility study on the library’s condition, whether to build a new one, and where a new library might be located.

The funding, plus an additional $2,500 for possible expenses, was already budgeted by the library. But it still raised some questions among council members.

“I’ve spoken with members of the community who have concerns about this project,” said council member Phillip Holliday. “A growing budget just puts more pressure on increasing utility rates.”

Holliday said he classified budget items into two categories: “must do” and “nice to have.” On his must do list is the city’s infrastructure, some water mains dating back to 1917, and the crumbling state of many of the city’s roads.

“A study on the library is nice to have,” he said. “Sure it’s good for the community. But if we’re going to be good stewards of the public’s money. I think this should be tabled until later on when we can see what we’ve already spent.”

Mayor Tony Kaufman said the city must have current data before they can even consider moving forward with a project of that magnitude.

“I understand what council member Holliday is saying, but we have an open and public budget process,” he said. “This project was approved last year and the monies have already been appropriated. This study doesn’t mean we’re going to spend money on a new library in the future. It just gives us the information we need to make an educated decision.”

Council member Troy Cowan said he knows the architects and they do good work. However, he agreed with Holliday that spending $50,000 at the beginning of the new budget year might not be appropriate.

Council member Don Christensen said he was also concerned about the city’s budget. “We’ve had this library project on the books for the past six years. How are we going to know whether to go ahead or not unless we have some kind of guidelines? I think the study is important.”

Council member Larry Gibbs emphasized that approval of the study doesn’t commit the council to any further action in the future. He said it was important to finish the initial study before moving forward.

Council voted 5-2 to approve the feasibility study, with members Cowan and Holliday against the proposal.

In other action, council members authorized Mayor Kaufman to sign an agreement to supply neighboring Terrytown with its water. Water connections between the two systems are scheduled to be completed this winter.

Council also received a brief update from representatives of Nebraska Public Power District on progress with its new 115,000 volt transmission line project that would connect the district’s substation south of Stegall with the substation on the Beltline Highway in Scottsbluff.

The total length of the project is about 23 miles and will primarily cross agricultural land. The district has negotiated with landowners for right-of-way.

California based RES System 3 was awarded the construction contract and work is already underway. The line should be energized and in service by June 2017.
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