BB City Council Discusses Mental Health, City Administrator, Temporary Bathroom

BB City Council Discusses Mental Health, City Administrator, Temporary Bathroom
Mental health therapist Jessica McCaslin speaks during the Broken Bow City Council meeting on March 10, 2020.

BROKEN BOW—An effort to bring more mental health services in central Nebraska is underway with the collaborative efforts of law enforcement, the Broken Bow Area Rotary Club, and other local individuals and organizations.

A mental health wellness program was brought before the Broken Bow City Council during Tuesday night’s regular council meeting. Police Officer Shane Fiorelli said he attended mental health/crisis intervention training in Omaha and wants to bring similar programs to the Broken Bow area.

“We’ve seen the need for mental health training in our community,” Officer Fiorelli continued. “We are currently in the process of working on building a Custer County Mental Health Task Force.”

Council president Jacob Holcomb referenced an NET article published in December 2019 which stated the following: “Rural Nebraska counties have just three psychiatrists for every 100,000 residents, on average. The national average is five times that – and even that number is too low to meet the need.”

Officer Fiorelli has sat down with local entities to try to bring more resources to the community, similar to the Copeland Center’s Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP®) wellness and recovery system.

“It’s something that people don’t want to talk about. The stigma that goes along with mental health and wellness is really bad and we need to change that, we need to get in front of it. We need to start working on programs that we can develop to get out to the community–people get help sooner, recognizing the warning signs,” Officer Fiorelli said.

Mental health therapist Jessica McCaslin also spoke before the council on behalf of the Broken Bow Area Rotary Club. McCaslin, who is trained in the WRAP program, said Rotary and other entities are working to inform the public about wellness programs for anyone to use—whether or not someone is diagnosed with a mental illness—in a group setting or on an individual basis. The program would outline stressors, coping skills, and people to contact for help.

No decisions were made regarding how the city may play a role in the mental health wellness program at this time.

Also discussed during the March 10 city council meeting was the position of city administrator. Mayor Rod Sonnichsen said he feels the city is taking steps backward without an administrator figure in place and wants the council to consider pursuing a city administrator or a city manager with a maximum five-digit salary.

Sonnichsen expressed his concerns he has seen within the city and believes Broken Bow would benefit by having someone in place.

“These are my concerns that we’re not taking care of: accountability is number one because of time, business retainability, business growth, intercommunication, public communication, mandatory training and reports are failing right now, and community—committee interaction, and the list goes on and on,” Sonnichsen said.

Broken Bow (population of roughly 3,509) classifies as a “Second Class” city in Nebraska and has a city staff of approximately 42 employees. Sonnichsen drew comparisons to other Nebraska cities of the same ranking and is looking for direction from the city council.

“Sometimes it feels like I’m a trained mechanic but I have no tools,” Sonnichsen continued. “I just feel that I am not doing the city, the employees, taxpayers, and investors true justice by not pursing an administrator.”

Councilman David Schmidt said, “Just getting by is not good enough. I’d like to see us grow.” Jacob Holcomb wants to pursue the possibility of hiring a city administrator and Larry Miller added that it could be difficult to find a qualified candidate with the salary constraints. No decisions were made.

Library Director Joan Birnie presented the library annual report with some of the following statistics:

31,593 visitors at the Broken Bow Public Library during fiscal year 2018-2019
33,937 items checked out
5,025 program attendance
919 uses of multi-purpose and study rooms (735 non-library uses/184 library programs)

Consideration of placing a temporary bathroom on the north side of the square was postponed following discussion from Parks Superintendent Darren Marten, Park Board Chairman Paul Holland, and members from the audience.

A temporary bathroom building was built a few years ago and could be placed in the square via skids. Concerns remain regarding the view of the city square, maintenance, construction to install a bathroom near Great Western Bank, safety of kids crossing the street to use a restroom while playing at the park, and cost.

Lastly, the city’s union contract was approved unanimously from October 1, 2019 to September 30, 2022 with retroactive payments for cost of living, which has been budgeted for according to City Clerk-Treasurer Stephanie Wright.

The next city council meeting will take place on Tuesday, March 24 at 6 p.m.