The North Bend Eagle


City to map out economic plan

by Nathan Arneal
Published 7/13/22

The North Bend city council continued it discussion on economic development at its July 5 meeting.

A group representing the economic development committee of the Chamber of Commerce, also known as the Purcell Initiative, reiterated its suggestion from the previous council meeting that the council take advantage of the Local Option Municipal Economic Development Act, more commonly known as LB 840.

The act allows cities to direct sales tax dollars towards economic development efforts to support local businesses and housing and grow its tax base.

Attending with local committee members Nick Emanuel, Jason Saalfeld, Nathan Arneal and Bob Feurer was Deb Poehling, a business consultant with the Nebraska Department of Economic Development who has extensive experience with LB 840.

Poehling was a grant writer for the city of Scribner in 2009 when it adopted LB 840, which can help pay the salary of a grant writer. She said she wrote grants in Scribner to pay to pave a roads in its industrial park, a ball field improvement project, downtown revitalization, historical lighting on Main Street, renovating the band stand in the park among other projects.

“I don’t remember the exact number of years, but I want to say within six years my office had been involved in over $7 to $8 million brought into the community,” Poehling said.

LB 840 funds can also be distributed to local businesses as grants or low-interest loans administered through the local bank to expand or update businesses.

“You’re helping a business grow,” Poehling said. “You’re helping them get equipment that maybe they wouldn’t have been able to get. You’re helping them hire two new people that will maybe build a home in North Bend and eat at your restaurants and buying gas at your gas stations. In rural communities, when you can add five jobs, it’s a big deal.”

The group suggested the council could direct half of the existing 1.5% sales tax towards LB 840. With North Bend taking in about $20,000 a month in sales tax, that could amount to $120,000 a year.

City clerk Theresa Busse said she was concerned about losing part of the sales tax without seeing immediate returns. She said sales tax has been used pay off the pool, pave parts of 10th and 11th streets, the new park pavilion and water tower, among other projects.

“That’s our fear,” Busse said, “that we’re not going to have money.”

Councilman Alex Legge said the city’s finances are going to get worse if it doesn’t do anything.

“Every year we’re just going to have take that same apple and slice it thinner and thinner,” Legge said. “It’s not like we’re adding a bunch of houses or doing anything major to increase our sales tax. It’s just going to be what it is... I think we’re behind. This should have been done four or five councils ago. It’s time to grow the apple.”

Before a local LB 840 program goes into effect, the public has to vote its approval of the city’s plan. The plan would spell out how the program works and the checks and balances involved. A typical LB 840 plan includes a program administrator who distributes and receives applications for funds, a committee of financial professionals – typically bankers and accountants – to confidentially review the applications and make recommendations to the city council who has final say in how the funds are used. A separate review committee makes sure the whole program is being run properly. The program is also audited annually.

Councilman Ken Streff said he liked the idea of more people having a say in city government. He also supports the economic development plan going to a public vote.

“It’s hard for me to say no to it because I think the people should have a right to say yes or no as a group,” Streff said. “Instead of five of us in this room deciding for 1,200, let the 1,200 decide.”

Streff made a motion to allow Mayor Rod Scott to form an ad hoc committee to start writing the city’s LB 840 plan. The motion was approved 4-0.

Scott appointed Nathan Arneal to form a committee to start working on the plan.

In other business:

• The council approved the sale of the city-owned empty block north of the water tower. It will be split into two lots running east and west between Cedar and Cottonwood streets. Seals bids will be accepted, with the council setting the minimum price for the north half of the block at $7,500 and the south half at $15,000. The south half in adjacent to paved streets while the north half is surrounded by gravel streets. Offers made on the lots shall include a commitment to build residential houses within five years of purchase.

• The pool has been waiting all summer for a new boiler to be delivered and installed. Ken Streff, councilman in charge of the pool, said it will hopefully be delivered soon. He was concerned the pool would be shut down for a day for installation. He asked the council if it would rather wait to install it in the offseason.

Busse said she would check with the company to see if it could be installed in a morning when the pool is closed.


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