Columbus has recently received a couple of awesome awards that highlight the time and effort that so many individuals have worked hard for. I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge them.
The Outstanding Nebraska Community of the Year. This award was given by the Nebraska Diplomats for an outstanding and highly, successful economic development program. “The leadership and collaborative spirit of its people and organizations have guaranteed a solid and healthy economic base that will endure for years to come."
The other accolade came from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce organization. Columbus was ranked the "Second Best City to Live" in Nebraska. Second behind Papillion and ahead of Omaha. “A pleasant City, strong economy, bolstered by many manufacturing centers." Isn’t that awesome?
None of these awards or accolades would be possible without the collaboration of so many individuals dedicated to making Columbus a better place. The Chamber, the County, Loup Power, and yes, your City Council. All of these groups have played and continue to play a huge role in the success and growth of our community. Nobody is more important than anyone else. It is the sum of all that allows Columbus to move forward.
Speaking of moving forward. I had the opportunity to be a part of the Behlen Mfg. Co. event highlighting the company’s 35 years of return to local ownership. There is nothing more humbling than being asked to be a part of such a celebration. The success that the Raimondo family and its management team have brought to Behlen has made it an extremely solid business and a wonderful community partner. Kudos to all involved at Behlen.
Construction and growth are all around Columbus-business and residential. North of the hospital the new Pillen Family Farms office complex, the hospital expansion, the City’s police and fire facilities, the new Columbus Hydraulics facility just north of Dickie Doodles, as well as the new Loup Power Service Center along the Parkway.
Add to this the new housing starts near the Armory, the Farmview Addition off of 18th Avenue near the airport, a soon-to-start apartment complex that will have 180 units near Menards. A lot is happening.
In an effort to vitalize our downtown, we are looking at ways to encourage downtown living. Remodeling of upstairs to allow residential living in an effort to bring new life to this area. Of course, in doing this we must find the proper balance between business and residential. We have a great core of downtown businesses and want to make sure what we do enhances their presence and adds needed excitement to downtown.
We are looking at our Land Use Ordinance (LDO) and seeing what types of changes make sense. Recently we had a couple of businesses add outdoor/patio seating. This has been well-received and other ideas are being discussed. Other communities have seen downtown revitalization with these types of concepts. I believe we can too.
We continue to see the impact of the March flooding. Our 12th Avenue viaduct start date has been pushed back to August. With all the major road and bridge repairs that were required around the state, this delay is understandable. And we continue to look for answers on what best we can do with Quail Run repairs.
We have had numerous discussions with architects and designers on the many options that might make sense. The staff has been spending time, when available, to continue to clean up and have been concentrating on the holes with the least damage. It appears we have been able to save all the greens and this is a huge item. Tree damage and the future of the hundreds of trees that helped make this a beautiful course is a huge concern and is still being evaluated.
We are finally scheduled to sit down with FEMA and discuss what help or assistance we might expect. From this discussion, the City staff can look at some real dollar amounts and evaluate the multiple options that have been looked at. I realize it has been a slow process getting to this point. But as I have mentioned before we must have all our information together before trying to move forward. We are getting close.
It’s hard to believe that the 4th of July is just around the corner. With the 4th comes the halfway mark of summer. I don’t know about you, but I’m not ready for the downhill slide from summer into fall. I hope you enjoy the 4th with family, friends, and of course, stay safe.
Jim Bulkley is the mayor of Columbus.