As we move into 2020, it is appropriate to look back and reflect on what has taken place in our community the past year. The accomplishments, the works in progress, and the things yet to come.
You cannot think about 2019 without thinking of the March flooding and its effects in Columbus and the surrounding area. The “bomb cyclone” or the “perfect storm,” call it what you will, but the days surrounding March 14-16 were historic.
The City of Columbus faired well. We had prepared by listening to the experts, heeding their advise, and taking necessary steps. We rented equipment and pumps to have on hand. We prepared sandbags and placed them strategically. And once the events began to unfold we were in constant communication with those monitoring the events. Great team work occurred between the City, County, State, and Emergency Management -all working together.
Our levee did its job and the community, as a whole was spared. Yes, we had some damage - major to Quail Run and relatively minor elsewhere. This was nothing compared to our neighboring communities where levees breeched and flood waters rose.
Damage incurred was repaired and the City got back to normal pretty quickly. The damage to Quail Run, the largest of the city's issues, is being addressed. Working hand in hand with FEMA the City is working to get Quail Run up and running at pre-flood conditions. This has been a huge undertaking. The City has handled some of immediate clean up while contracts have be let with Landscapes Unlimited to handle the rest.
Lots of other activities took place in 2019 making Columbus an exciting place. I must start with the building of our new public safety buildings. The new police and fire stations are such a testament to our residents. These two buildings, though not finished yet, have taken shape as the year progressed. I had hoped that we would have been in our police station in 2019, but it isn’t quiet ready. We will be soon.
There is continued growth all over town. The development along the Parkway is impressive. Loup Powers maintenance building, Great Plains Bank, Berkshire Heathway, Pillen Family Farms, and just to the south of the Parkway, the hospital’s expansion. Add to this all that’s happening in the old Walmart with Bomgaars, Hampton Inn, an apartment complex and the new Freddie’s.
Move around town and we have the St. Bons addition, the BD East expansion of 90,000 sq ft., and the new Columbus Hydraulics plants on the east edge of town behind Dickie Doodles. Along with this, we saw Valmont expand by adding a building into their production.
Our housing issues are being addressed. For so long we have struggled with a shortage of affordable workforce housing. Working hard with many partners the City is making a dent in this area. New apartments are under construction. The before mentioned complex in the old Walmart and a new group being build N of the Menards/JCPenny area.
New housing developments are in the works. Off of 18th Avenue near the airport is is new Farmview area currently under construction with some roads in and some foundations dug. Near our Armory and just south of the Johannes addition we have new homes being built with some completed and already occupied.
Our downtown is working to revitalize. Grants have been secured to help with some work and that will be spelled out and identified in 2020. The 13th Street group has brought new life into this area and are excited to look at residential living and other new ideas. Couple this with some new patio seating and other ideas to invite the public down and make them want to stay.
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This last year saw the collaboration of two public entities coming together for the benefit of the whole. The City and County jointly forming the Combined E911 facility. Both saw the need for major spending to upgrade equipment and facilities and instead of each doing this we came together to provide Platte County a new facility that will serve ALL the residents for years to come.
As is the case with most businesses or organizations much of what happens is behind the scene and unknown to most. The City is no different. We continue to spend millions of dollars to improve and expand our infrastructure to meet the needs of our growing community.
The 12th Avenue viaduct got underway and has made great progress during the year. Multiple areas saw new roads or resurfaced areas. We are always addressing potholes and other road related issues. We are also servicing miles of sewer and water lines repairing or giving maintenance and installing new. Hundreds of thousands of dollars are budgeted to have the equipment necessary to handle all of this and to avoid interruptions of service to our residents.
We continue to expand our Waste Water Treatment plant. Now into phase 4, this $12,000,000 upgrade and expansion will bring the entire facility onto the north side of the levee. It will also allow the City to handle the expected continued growth of our City and our businesses.
None of what has happened could have been done without our dedicated City staff and workers. We are blessed to have city departments staffed with qualified individuals that address the tasks given them without push back. When comparing Columbus to our array of cities, one items always stands out-we get more bang for our buck per employee than any other!!
Looking into 2020 I see a continuation of all the great things that happened in 2019. We will have multiple ribbon cuttings. The police and fire facilities, Loup Power’s maintenance building, Pillen Family Farms, Great Plains State Bank and the Hampton Inn, along with others. And along with these will be new ground breaking to other things not even on my radar today.
Housing will continue to be addressed. More construction will start in 2020. The need for affordable workforce housing is real and we will make a dent in it.
The library will continue to look at what are the needs of our community. They will wrap up the findings of their latest survey. Library, Culture Arts, Children's museum-what does the public want and what will they support. We hope to have a feel for these questions and bring a ballot question to the people on the November ballot.
Economic development will continue to be an integral part of Columbus’ growth. We need to look at what is needed to bring new and exciting businesses to town. We have always been a “shining example” of how economic development can work. We will strive to keep us this shining example. We will use all the tools available such as LB 840 and look at tweaking these tools as we learn more of what’s needed.
Finally, let me thank the Council and City Staff for working with me this past year. Helping to develop a working relationship that has encouraged success. We don’t always see eye to eye or agree on 100% of everything. But after deliberations we have been able to come together on what we feel is best for Columbus.
The future -2020 -looks bright.
SOMETHING GOOD COLUMBUS!
Jim Bulkley is the mayor of Columbus.