NC City Council approves bumpout funding

Julie Davis
Nebraska City News-Press

With all five council members present for the Aug. 16 meeting, the Nebraska City City Council approved spending $64,000 in Nebraska City Economic Growth Fund money over the next four years for maintenance and upkeep of the downtown bumpouts on Central Avenue.

Council members voted 3-2 in favor of the project, which is supported by at least 18 Nebraska City business owners, 13 of whom provide $3,750 per year to help offset expenses.

Representatives of the Nebraska City Flower Committee asked to be placed on the agenda for a rehearing before the full council after a resolution was introduced to support spending the money at the Aug. 2 council meeting, where it died for lack of a second with 3/5 of the council in attendance.

Kelly Bequette, chair of the flower committee, told the council that she hears frequent comments from visitors to downtown Nebraska City about how beautiful the downtown area is.

Jeanna Stavas, owner of Whispering Pines Bed and Breakfast and Nebraska State Tourism Board District 3 commissioner, noted that tourism is the third-highest revenue generator in the state, providing 6.5 million overnight visitors in Nebraska in 2019, supporting more than 40,000 jobs, and generating $248 million in revenue in 2019.

“We gave you the gold standard,” DeAnn Michel of the Nebraska City Grimm’s Gardens location told the council in response to questions as to whether perennials might be more cost-effective than annuals for the bumpouts. 

She added that perennials tend to have shorter bloom times and require more maintenance while providing less of the “wow factor” the committee desires for downtown Nebraska City.

Michel told the council that she and Doug Grimm, owner of Grimm’s Gardens, have been watering daily, weeding weekly and providing maintenance on the bumpouts this summer.

“We made a commitment to make it beautiful,” she said. “Now we need a commitment from you to make it work.”

Grimm said if the current plan for the bumpouts doesn’t work for the council after four years, he and the committee will come up with another plan.

“Many people don’t realize what we have here,” said Nebraska City Streets Commissioner Vic Johns, who added that visitors from Florida who have come to Nebraska City to help establish the Mission Field Treatment Center are “astonished at what we have” downtown.

Johns said the city tried to maintain the bumpouts at one point, but a lack of staff made that task difficult.

“We hire consultants,” he said, “and we have one now. It looks 400 times better, and it’s a wonderful use of the LB 840 funds.” [Note: The Nebraska City Economical Growth Fund was previously known as the LB 840 fund after the Nebraska Legislature bill that provided the initial funding for it.]

“We need to do whatever we can to draw taxable dollars to Nebraska City, and more than 80 percent of that is visual,” said Jan Madsen of Nebraska City, who spoke in favor of the expenditure.

Madsen told the council that Syracuse is growing and developing, but its downtown lacks the beauty of the flower baskets and bumpouts of Nebraska City.

Brenda Bauman of Nebraska City credited the Grimm and the committee for their hard work.

“Kudos to them for the time, care and talent it takes to take care of all those flowers,” she said, adding that she has taken care of a smaller planting project in the parking lot behind the building she works in in downtown Nebraska City and knows how much effort that project has taken on her part.

No one from the public spoke against the expenditure during the meeting.

The next regularly scheduled Nebraska City City Council meeting will take place at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 7, in the Gary White Memorial Room of the Rowe Memorial Public Safety Complex, 1518 Central Ave. 

The meeting day changes to Tuesday because of the Monday, Sept. 6, observance of Labor Day.