By Nancy McGill
The Hebron City Council encourages the public to ask questions when it comes to The Local Option Municipal Economic Development Act or LB840.
The council held a public hearing Nov. 29 to inform approximately 23 business owners and others about LB840 and its contingent plans for downtown Hebron.
The council has completed four steps needed for the Act — strategy for general community and economic development; prepare the proposed plan; hold a public hearing; and adopt the plan by resolution.
Respondents of a community-wide survey for 2016-2017 rallied strong for business development, incentives and revitalizing the downtown area.
Councilman Kurk Wiedel used a downtown city block in Belleville as an example of what can happen to empty buildings.
“The whole block was in bad shape and a lot of the building owners didn’t live in Belleville,” Wiedel said.
The city tore the entire block down at a cost of $250,000.
“The city administrator said it was worth it,” Wiedel said. “Towns everywhere are facing the same thing. Buildings are not taken care of.”
Business start-ups, expansions, recruitment processes and successions are covered by LB840 that uses a portion of sales tax revenue for projects.
Taxes are not raised through LB840.
“This is not a new tax, rather, it is a way to utilize current sales tax to improve economic development,” Councilman Tim Pickering said, as he walked those in attendance through LB840 via a slide show.
Roofs collapsing, vultures, debris, falling bricks and other issues plague downtown Hebron, which eventually impacts values and remains unattractive to new business owners.
“We’re going to look at businesses,” Wiedel said. “We do have the right to look at the city’s responsibility, take care of those issues and make sure everyone is protected.”
Wiedel is also concerned about fires in uninsured buildings and homes for rent that have mold.
“It is offensive to the senses, the boarded up and patched windows,” Councilwoman Denese Sudbeck said.
Randy Hergott said the price goes up when someone might want to buy the properties.
“Why do people own properties and not do anything with them?” Hergott asked.
Sudbeck added the Cattlemen’s Ball is coming.
“Why do I feel bad about asking someone to clean up their mess?” she said.
“We are going to get pretty tough with it,” Wiedel said.
Councilman Robert Dodes said he owns one of those boarded up buildings.
“We bought it five years ago with the intent we didn’t want to see it become what it has become,” Dodes said. “We offered free rent to start a business. The offer still stands, but I am ashamed it is what it is.”
Councilman Larry Fangmeier said the council would like input from the community on nuisance properties.
“What makes those decisions easier is how many people that property impacts,” he said.
Blue Valley Bowl owner, Dale Klaumann, said he’s glad the council is monitoring nuisances.
“I commend the city council for what they’ve done in Hebron,” Klaumann said. “The clean up is huge.”
Sales tax revenue was originally designated for capital improvements.
“We’ve done that,” Wiedel said.
Sales tax has been used for infrastructure, parks, tax relief and community improvements in general. Sales tax was not used for the Stastny Community Center, however, the council was able to provide some relief in property taxes.
“Since sales tax, you’ve been able to do so many things — the ballfields and porch swing — we left the door open to do all these things,” Wiedel said.
In the preliminary proposed annual budget for LB840 for Hebron, one-third of sales tax would be used each year. That amounts to approximately $60,000. The proposed plan is for 15 years.
Sutton was used as an example of how successful LB840 can be. The city began the program in 2005 and since, it has assisted 19 businesses, impacted employees, either retained or new, influenced employee salaries estimated at a value of $5.9 million and made $6,000 a month in loan repayments.
One-third of the sales tax revenue is a direct ratio to the percentage of revenue, Fangmeier said.
“Please come and talk to us,” Wiedel said. “I can’t think of any reason why this is not positive for our community,” Wiedel said.
A vote will most likely take place next year. If LB840 passes, the city will enact the program by law and appoint a citizen advisory review committee, which will have to periodically report to the council. No city council member is eligible for the committee.
The city will also need to establish a economic development fund and regulate meetings, public hearings and annual audits.