BEATRICE - The City of Beatrice has a new two-year budget. The city council passed the plan Tuesday night, on a vote of 7-0. The budget contains a small decrease in the property tax rate of about two-percent during the first year, putting the city’s tax rate at 37-point-68 cents.
Electric rates will stay the same over the next two years, while small increases in the water rate of about 48-cents per month…and the sewer rate of about 76-cents per month, were approved. The water and sewer increases were opposed by Councilman Ted Fairbanks. "I know it seems like its a small amount, but I think this water increase and sewer increases, I think, hits a section of the population that can least afford it."
One change, an amendment offered by City Council President Rick Clabaugh, adds $30,000 each of the two years from the city’s LB 840 economic development program to Main Street Beatrice. City Administration will negotiate a contract with the downtown business organization. The amendment passed on a 5-2 vote, with Councilmen Bob Morgan and Rich Kerr in opposition. Morgan said he supports the organization but could not support the extra funding.
"I question this particular thirty thousand and how things were written and expressed last week. You probably don't need my vote, but I'm going to vote no. It's nothing against the organization...it's just the funding mechanism."
Councilman Tim Fralin, supporting the allocation, said eyes will be on the organization to see how the money was used. "The twenty thousand that was allocated...it was not designated one hundred percent for them. It was available to several different places throughout the city...not all for them. So, it wasn't just ten thousand dollars. I am going to vote for it, but I also know you guys have a great group down there and you're going to be held accountable to the thirty grand. We don't want to see anything go away from what you're already doing. I'll be keeping my tally on your 140 visits you have proposed for each fiscal year to each business...and know that there's going to be accountability to this thirty thousand."
Councilman Kerr said the city also provides in-kind services to Main Street Beatrice, including use of city property for office space and utilities.
The overall city budget proposes spending of nearly $57 million the first year, and about $48 million the second year.
Also before the council, some streets in north-central Beatrice will be the focus in the first year of a new street plan approved by city officials, Tuesday night.
The area of Fourth and Grant to Lincoln and east on Lincoln for one block has been a heavily traveled stretch where City Engineer James Burroughs says a switch from asphalt to concrete is becoming necessary. In the first-year schedule, 11th Street from Lincoln to Park Street will also be milled and resurfaced. This coming year, road work spending of $764,000 is planned, including armor coat and other asphalt maintenance.
In year two, spending of about $576,000 is planned, with the major project on 13th Street from Beaver to Oak.
In the later years of the new street plan approved by officials, Burroughs says a major focus will be Lincoln Street between 6th and 19th….one of the most heavily traveled streets in Beatrice. "That long of a stretch and that high traffic of a roadway, we want to approach it and say, what's the best fit for that road? Does the road need to be the same width and no parking? Does the road need to have center turn lanes, or no parking on it? Does the road need to have parking only in certain areas? Does the roadway need to be taken in and no parking on it? There's all those scenarios we need to investigate...and decide how we want Lincoln Street to look. And, then approach it holistically from Sixth to Nineteenth"
It’s estimated that doing the entire stretch in concrete would cost about $3 million, at today’s prices. City Street Superintendent Jason Moore says one decision is whether to tackle it in pieces or take on the entire project. Among longer range street projects include work on North 7th and on Hoyt Street to the east corporate limits.