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Columbus Council to consider hazard mitigation program
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Columbus Council to consider hazard mitigation program

Columbus City Council

Pictured are Columbus City Council President Charlie Bahr, left, City Administrator Tara Vasicek, Ward 1 Council Member Beth Augustine-Schulte and Ward 2 Council Member Dennis Kresha in 2019.

Members of the Columbus City Council voted approval Monday night of a letter stating that the City would potentially be interested in pursuing a grant to acquire properties severely damaged by last year’s flooding.

Funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program allows states and/or local communities to acquire properties that were damaged during a disaster to implement strategies to prevent further damage in the future.

There are three properties the City would be considering which are situated along the Highway 30 corridor, west of the 30/81 junction.

“These properties are in the city’s jurisdiction and they were severely impacted by the flood and they are also willing to participate in the buyout,” City Administrator Tara Vasicek said. “The fiscal impact is a wide range because we don’t know to what degree (Platte) County and the NRD (Lower Loup Natural Resources District) are participating right now. We just need letters from all of the agencies indicating whether they’re still willing to participate.”

FEMA would contribute 75% of the cost while the local entities would be responsible for the remaining 25%. The amount the City would be responsible for would depend on if, and how much, the other entities – Platte County and NRD – would want to contribute.

The Platte County Board has already approved their participation letter, Vasicek said, while NRD is still working on theirs.

“Obviously that will come back to the Council, most likely on multiple occasions at a later date for final decision on each of the parcels,” Vasicek noted.

“If we go through with the acquisition, the properties would be cleaned up and nobody would be able to build on those properties in the future.”

Mayor Jim Bulkley clarified that while the City of Columbus would be able to pursue development on the properties – such as turning it into a recreational area – no business or entity would be able to take the properties out of mitigation for development.

“This is basically step one of multiple steps,” Bulkley said. “My take on this is we participate to see where everything goes and what all the dollars shake out to be.”

Platte County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jerry Engdahl said Tuesday that the matter is just being considered by county officials and that no further information is available.

In other COVID-19-related happenings, Bulkley noted that the Columbus Cemetery will be open for Memorial Day next Monday. The public will have access but visitors will be expected to follow social distancing standards.

Traditional services observing those who perished in the line of duty have been canceled in Columbus but Bulkley said the Avenue of Flags will be displayed at the cemetery.

Bulkley also commented on the city’s ball fields.

“The City’s position is that the fields will be open but there will be waivers,” he said.

Additionally, the Columbus Aquatic Center will remain closed for now, though city officials are wanting to reopen the facility soon.

Bulkley noted that he will be considering the procedures the YMCA will set in place when it opens.

"I thought we could use that as a guideline," he said.

Vasicek added that current Aquatic Center employees are still working but using their time to assist with the City's grocery delivery program.

The Columbus City Council also:

  • Approved a $17,638.02 quote from Vessco to repair the orbal aeration tank at the Wastewater Treatment Facility
  • Approved a $22,572 quote from Danko Emergency Equipment for replacement of damaged turnout gear for the Columbus Fire Department
  • Heard comments from Council Member Beth-Augustine-Schulte thanking property owners along 10th Avenue for installing new sidewalks as she said the area looks nicer

Hannah Schrodt is the news editor of The Columbus Telegram. Reach her via email at hannah.schrodt@lee.net.

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