|Wiedeman to rejoin council|
|November 25, 2016 Jerry Purvis|
After the provisional ballots were counted and the results certified, the race for Ward I Gering City Council was a close one as Susan Wiedeman defeating Alan Doll by a 527-518 vote.
According to Scotts Bluff County Election Commissioner Vera Dulaney, the vote margin didn’t fall within the required the one percent of the total to trigger an automatic recount.
Wiedeman had previously been a council member from Ward IV before making a successful run for mayor, where she served from 2006 to 2010.
After moving into Ward I, several of her neighbors encouraged Wiedeman run for the council seat after incumbent Justin Allred decided not to run for a second term.
During the campaign, Wiedeman said that Gering, with its many historic attractions, has become a tourism hub for western Nebraska. The Gering Civic Center, opened in 1993, and the new Cobblestone Hotel scheduled for opening in 2017, are instrumental in bringing in new tourism business.
Also in the works is Gering’s Downtown Redevelopment Plan, to include a downtown plaza and new facades on local business fronts.
“It’s exciting to have a hotel coming in and I think that’s important to the revitalization of the downtown area,” she said. “The more travelers and visitors who stay, the more businesses will be needed to cater to them. It would help secure Gering as a destination stop, bringing in more conventions and building on the assets the city already has.”
Wiedeman said that during the campaign, a common concern she heard was about the increase in utility rates. Residents have also voiced their concerns to the city council.
“People are concerned about their utility bills, especially those on fixed incomes,” she said.
Utility rate hikes are needed in the city’s budget to pay for necessary infrastructure improvements to city streets and water system. Some of the city’s water mains date back to the early 1900s.
Gering had placed Proposition 1 on the ballot, asking voters to increase the city sales tax by one-half percent. The estimated $350,000 annual amount the tax would have generated would be used strictly for infrastructure. However, it was turned down by the voters.
The current method the state uses to allocate funding for infrastructure doesn’t allow for Gering to take on high-ticket projects. Plus, the funding that is set aside can be quickly eaten up in case of an emergency such as a failure in a street or water main.
Wiedeman said she’ll need to wait until taking office in December before she can inspect the city budget and its reserves. But she said the budget will be a big discussion for the council next year.
Wiedeman said she wants Gering to be a strong city going forward. “I want to see a place where our young people want to raise their families. If we don’t have an affordable city where people want to stay, we might not have a future.