At the end of this Monday's meeting of the Bennington City Council, Brinkley, a fifth-grader at Heritage Elementary, came to the podium with an idea that is at once bold and yet completely sensible: She would like to see a sidewalk built connecting her neighborhood to the city so that she can safely ride her bike to the Bennington Public Library.
It is easy to come up with reasons that this cannot be done. Money, for one. Also jurisdictional issues; after all, the official city limit ends about where the new sidewalk would begin. There are engineering issues, too, with laying a sidewalk along that stretch of 156th Street. And did I mention the money?
Yet experience tells us that through community collaboration, such projects are possible. For success stories, look no further than Monday night's agenda:
- Baseball fields: The Council approved new agreements with the baseball clubs and the school district for maintaining and improving the baseball fields. Over four years, these partners will contribute $70,000 toward construction of a new parking lot, located on donated land, that will make the complex safer and more convenient for baseball players and their family members.
- Soccer fields: The Council also approved a continuation of the agreement with Bennington Soccer Club for use and maintenance of the soccer fields. Like with the baseball fields, the city and the club are sharing in the work so that our community's young people have a great place to develop skills, compete, and have fun.
- Ridgewood sidewalk: Hopefully you have seen that the sidewalk connecting Ridgewood to the city is almost complete. Again, the city shared in the cost with the Ridgewood Homeowner's Association to get the job done.
The library project, Bennington Daze, the addition to St. John's – the list of success stories is long and surely predates my family's mere six years in Bennington. With this record of community collaboration, a sensible idea from a brave fifth grader seems quite possible after all.
In other business Monday evening:
- Car show: The Council approved the permit for the annual Corvette Club Car Show, scheduled for September 1 in downtown Bennington. The city also accepted a generous $500 donation from the club.
- Building permits: The Council approved a proposed ordinance making it clear that building permit holders are responsible for complying with building codes even if a permit is issued in error.
- Street improvements: Plans and bid documents for asphalt overlay projects on Bennington Road west of town and North 4th Street were approved. Work will begin this fall, and traffic disruptions should last for days, not weeks.
- Prosecution agreements: The Council agreed that our city attorney should formalize the arrangement with the City of Omaha attorney's office for prosecuting violations of the Bennington City Code. It is more cost-effective for a city of our size to partner with a larger municipality to prosecute these violations.
- Sheriff's report: Under an agreement approved at the last Council meeting, the Douglas County Sheriff's Office has stepped up its presence in Bennington. This is a temporary arrangement as we recruit and hire a new police chief. The Sheriff's Office responded to 21 calls for service in the last week of June and the first week of July. Traffic enforcement resulted in nine citations and 19 warnings, including a focused effort to cut down on speeding along 156th Street.
- Police chief update: The mayor was able to share that we have completed initial interviews with the latest round of applicants, and the vetting process is currently underway. This process takes time because it is thorough, including a comprehensive review of past employment and qualifications. We hope to have more news on this soon.
The full meeting minutes will be posted here. As always, please let me know if you have questions, concerns, or ideas.
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