Here are a few highlights from the Bennington City Council's January meeting (full minutes posted here):
New parkland and Kempten Creek: The mayor provided an update on the proposed parkland and recreational facilities south of Bennington Road at Johns-Bohn Park. The low-lying ground, which is unsuitable for houses or businesses, would include fields for soccer and other youth sports, and could also include special features such as an outdoor stage, splash pad, or playground. Most excitingly, the long-term vision includes an indoor recreational building, with space for all seasons and all ages.
The potential is great, but the plan is far from set. Here's what we do know:
- The mayor proposed and the Council approved the creation of a steering committee that will guide the project. Two City Council members – Kaye Bridgeford and I – will serve on this committee, representing the city government. The committee will also involve leadership from the Bennington Community Foundation, and we'll seek involvement from many stakeholders in town, including youth sports clubs, the Chamber, and more.
- City funds, philanthropy, and cooperation and support from the neighboring Kempten Creek housing development will all be required to make this happen. Already the housing developer has made important accommodations. The next step is to begin visioning and basic design work in order to understand the full costs.
- The investment of city funds would most likely require issuing bonds, and therefore the project would come before you and the rest of the city's voters sometime in 2020.
This is an exciting, one-time opportunity to create a vision that truly benefits all residents. If you have any questions or represent an organization that wants to join the steering committee, please let me know.
Police force update: Chief Hilscher gave his monthly report and introduced his two full-time hires: Sergeant Dan Stocker and Officer Travis Herbolsheimer. Four of Bennington's part-time officers will continue to serve. With this level of coverage, the city allowed its contract with the Douglas County Sheriff to expire.
ASIP fees: We again discussed this potential revenue source for future street and road projects. The fees would be charged to builders of new homes in the developments that surround Bennington, but are not within city limits. This revenue would somewhat decrease our over-reliance on the property taxes paid by city residents.
I proposed a 0.75% fee – the same rate used by Papillion and Gretna – applied to the value of newly constructed homes. The Council will formally consider the proposed ordinance at the February meeting. These fees would go into effect in May 2020.
In my update one year ago, I said that we needed to find new revenue sources in order to keep our streets safe and well-maintained. I think this proposal is a good start.
Other business: We learned that the 156th Street project is moving forward, but the timeline for the bid letting has slipped from January to February. The goal remains to complete the bulk of construction this summer. As the project gets underway, there will be weekly public meetings where neighbors can learn more about the construction process.
If you have any ideas, questions, or concerns about the topics above, please let me know.
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