I am sure that most of you have encountered the highway construction on 23rd Street/Highway 30 on the east end of town. I have been talking about this upcoming event for months and it kicked into high gear in March.
This is a state (NDOT) sponsored project that calls for the complete re-construction of the stretch of road from East 11th Avenue to final completion at 31st Street. This is a three-year project broken into three phases. Year one is from East 11th Avenue to 16th Avenue. Year two is from 16th Avenue to 25th Avenue. And year three is from 26th Avenue to 31st Street. The entire old road and entire surrounding infrastructure will be removed and replaced.
Everyone has encountered slowdowns and delays. We knew this would happen. We have been engaged with the NDOT from the beginning to try and minimize issues that might develop. There are weekly meetings to discuss issues and assess the progress. There is only so much that can be done. Many are finding alternative routes that they can take to their destination and avoid 23rd Street. I ask that everyone have patience, drive carefully, and stay alert to the changing conditions.
Elsewhere around Columbus, activity is booming. Have you had the opportunity to drive to the west edge of town and see the progress of the Harrah’s casino? Things are progress well. The new horse track is taking shape. Much of the foundation and underground work is completed and building pieces are beginning to come out of the ground.
The temporary facility that is going to be housed at Ag Park is continuing its renovation. Talk about a facelift -- you will be excited to see the work done in this facility. The current target date for opening this temporary facility is June.
If you are downtown, you cannot help but notice that the voter-approved community building is nearing completion. This awesome facility will house our library, cultural arts, children's museum, community rooms, coffee shop and city hall. We are excited and expect to get the keys in May. We then expect 4-6 weeks to get things wired up, moved in and operational and ready for use. I am saying we will be using this facility in August. Staff thinks we could be in use a little sooner. Either way, the anticipation grows.
The children's museum portion of this facility has been relatively quiet up to now. On April 18, the Columbus Area Children's Museum (CACM) held a press conference to kick off its capital campaign. Their committee has been quietly fundraising toward a $3 million goal. Now they are moving forward with their outreach to the public to continue to raise funds and ready the museum for a fall opening. This will be a great addition to community and draw visitors to Columbus. The community can contribute in many ways. For more information, go to ColumbusLearnandPlay.org
Downtown continues to build on its image. The Downtown Business Improvement District (DBID) has actively been pursuing the needs to help make our downtown more of a destination. The DBID is made up of individuals with property and businesses in downtown and have vital interest in wanting this area to succeed. Everything they do is controlled by their board. So, when you hear ideas that come up about downtown, please recognize that these ideas are coming from within the organization.
Their present goal is the creation of an assessment that would raise funds to do selected projects to enhance the downtown. The assessment would generate X-amount of dollars and that amount would be matched by the city. The City serves only as the holder of the funds. The DBID Board makes its own decisions on what and how much to spend.
I often hear that we need a downtown like Norfolk, Hastings, Kearney, etc. Well, the common denominator among those successful downtowns is a DBID with a laid-out vision, an approved assessment that generates funds, and continued involvement by all parties involved. The City is committed to working with the DBID and all downtown businesses to revitalize the area and make it a destination. If the assessment moves forward, the City has committed to matching the BID funds raised for five years.
Housing starts have slowed as our economy has slowed. Rising interest rates and input costs have stopped multiple projects from starting. We hope some of these stops are temporary and the interest remains and will start building when things look financially better. But that is not a sure thing. In the meantime, the City is investigating all options and ideas that we can implement and work with to incentivize housing starts. Stay tuned for more regarding this “outside the box” thinking.
The City continues its discussion with the county, Duncan Fire, and Columbus Rural Fire for the continued use of Columbus Fire Department to provide their EMS services. The cost of these services is not included in the current fire protection levee that Duncan or Columbus Rural Fire have. Their current levee only covers fire protection (protection that is mandated by state statute) but does not cover the cost of EMS services.
Columbus is currently accumulating the cost to continue to provide these essential services. It is only fair to the city taxpayers, that fully support the Columbus Fire Department, that anyone else that utilizes those same services pay their fair share. As we move forward on this discussion, I will keep you informed.
Last month I talked in great lengths about communication and our desire to constantly try and do better at this. I have been tremendously impressed with job that Communication Manager Matt Lindberg is doing. Almost daily we have articles and announcements that give accurate information about what is happening in city government and around our community.
We have just begun a new series of articles, “Government 101,” that will try and explain and educated the public about city government. We will attempt to cover all aspects and try and answer the many questions that we constantly hear. The first article is about the mayor and his duties. This will be followed by the city council and their duties. We will highlight the city administrator and her duties and much, much more. I am excited about the way I believe we can help inform and educate the public about all that goes on within our city. I urge all of you to sign up for these articles and all the information that the city sends out. Sign up at: www.Columbusne.us
Between now and my May article you will receive your mail-in ballot regarding the Columbus Public School (CPS) bond issue. Strong and solid education is essential to a growing community. We constantly talk about the need for housing, the need for child care, the need for labor; but if we let our school system falter, the domino effect will be felt within our entire community.
I hope you take the time to educate yourself to the entire story being told, get to understand the needs, and if you have questions, reach out and ask. The worse voter is an uneducated voter. And I urge you to support this bond issue.
Something Good Columbus!