Leaders of our local cities and the county joined community members for the State of the Valley Luncheon Wednesday in Scottsbluff, taking both a look back at the past year and looking forward.
Gering Mayor Tony Kaufman highlighted several developments during his presentation, perhaps the biggest of which was the approval of the LB 357 half-cent sales tax increase earmarked for infrastructure.
Kaufman praised the Gering Grassroots citizen committee that promoted the need to pass the ballot question to help address deteriorating infrastructure in the community. “That will raise some much-needed capital to finish off some large, large projects,” said Kaufman. “But, really, hats off to that committee, because they really took the bull by the horns, so to speak, and really went out and took a lot of time and energy to educate the public in countless meetings. So, we really appreciate that.”
Scottsbluff Mayor Jeanne McKerrigan reviewed her city’s budget for the coming year, and highlighted some of the work being done by new Small Business Outreach Coordinator Sharaya Toof.
McKerrigan said Toof is working on the possibility of adding retail projects to those allowed under the city’s LB840 plan, “that would give an opportunity, but we’re going to have to put some strings in there, attached to it so that we’re not using those funds for big-box stores. She’s establishing a creative district that will extend down Broadway and go into the East Overland area. She’s highlighting all the small businesses on our social media pages, and she’s working on establishing an East Overland business association.”
County Board Chair Ken Meyer also took a look at county finances, and urged residents to pay attention to their local governmental bodies, and get involved with them.
Meyer said for the most part, our local representation is doing well. “You’re in good hands. You’re in very competent hands. We call this ‘The State of the Valley’; I’ll tell you what the state of the valley is, it’s pretty good,” said Meyer. “When you look around us and what’s going on, even as far east as Lincoln and Omaha, some of the things I hear coming out of county board meetings, city council meetings and school board meetings, we’ve got it pretty good here folks. Let’s just keep it going.”
Meyer also took a moment to note that this was the last State of the Valley Luncheon for Kaufman, who is not running for re-election, and thanked him for his years of service. Meyer called Kaufman one of the most cordial people to work with, and other leaders will miss his contributions when he leaves office.
There was also a presentation by John Harms, former State Senator, WNCC President and member of the citizen committee promoting the LB357 ballot measure going before Scottsbluff voters in November. Harms said in the 50 years that he’s been involved in projects in the city and region, and a new aquatics facility is probably one of the best he’s ever been involved with. He said it would pay dividends to the community for years and decades to come, including the attraction of many events with spectators that will stay and shop locally.
The annual event was put on by the Government Affairs Committee of the Scottsbluff-Gering Chamber of Commerce at the Hampton Inn.