Here are a few highlights from the December meeting of the Bennington City Council (Full minutes will be posted here.):
Police hiring: Chief Drew Hilscher reported that the hiring process for the open sergeant and junior officer positions is almost complete. One finalist for each position is currently in the background check phase. Assuming no issues arise, the Bennington Police Department will be fully staffed sometime in January.
Meanwhile, the city's temporary contract with the Douglas County Sheriff is set to expire December 31. As a precaution, the Council authorized the mayor to extend that temporary contract for another month or two, only if needed to cover shifts until the new hires come on board.
Prairie Hollow: To follow up on concerns raised at previous meetings, the city's engineer reported significant progress on the Prairie Hollow development. It's still pretty far behind schedule, but the developer was able to grade and install erosion control measures behind the homes on the east side of Molley and Stark streets.
If this issue affects your property and you still have concerns, please let me know.
ASIP fees: The Council reviewed draft language for a potential new source of funding for streets and roads. ASIP fees would be charged on new homes constructed just outside of Bennington's city limits, at a likely rate of around 1 percent of the home's value. Over time, this funding would help improve and maintain arterial roads such as 156th Street, Bennington Road, and in the event that it becomes part of the city, 168th Street.
Right now, the ongoing cost of maintaining these roads is borne primarily by city residents. As I have learned more about the city budget over the past year, I have come to see the need for a new funding source like this. I've looked at the budgets of similarly sized communities in Nebraska and found that Bennington relies more heavily on property taxes than other cities. ASIP fees could help share the cost of roads between the city's residents and the residents of surrounding developments, who also use these roads every day. I would welcome your questions and feedback on this issue.
Other items: We unanimously voted to re-elect Councilwoman Kaye Bridgeford as the City Council president. We also got our regular update on the 156th Street project, which is still on schedule for a January bid letting. The plan is for most of the work to be completed during the summer of 2020.
As always, please e-mail me or give me a call if you have any questions, concerns, or ideas.
I hope you all have a fun, relaxing holiday break with family and friends!