Gering council moves to meeting via teleconfence

The Gering City Council usually meets twice a month at city hall, but Monday’s meeting was a first. Members conducted their meeting via teleconference as a precaution to minimize the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Mayor Tony Kaufman kept the agenda short so they could see the effectiveness of new meeting method.

Gering Mayor Tony Kaufman said the agenda for Monday’s city council meeting was kept short so the city could determine the efficiency of their first meeting via teleconference.

The city announced last week the council would implement teleconferencing to minimize the chance of spreading the COVID-19 virus, now a worldwide pandemic.

Kaufman said he would speak slowly and concisely during the new form of meeting.

“This is a new way of conducting business so we want to be sure everyone can follow along.”

By a unanimous vote, council approved and authorized the mayor to sign the 2019 annual Stormwater Report, which includes both cities of Gering and Terrytown.

Gering Director of Public Works Pat Heath said Terrytown was included because the cities are operating under a joint permit issued by the State of Nebraska.

“We’re pretty much on par as to where we need to be with our stormwater management program,” Heath told council members. “We have until 2023 to have this program completely in place.”

Heath said the stormwater plan is part of the 1974 Clean Water Act, which started with regulations for larger metro areas, eventually moving down to smaller areas.

“The regulations are designed to prevent pollution from entering the stormwater system,” he said. “Storm runoff isn’t treated, so any polluted water discharges directly into the river.”

Stormwater runs off of roofs during rainstorms and from properties that haven’t yet been developed for residential or commercial construction.

The stormwater management program provides regulations for contractors, such as washing out concrete trucks, controlling trash and minimizing the amount of sediment that gets tracked from the site to the roadway.

Another of the plan’s requirements is that businesses build retention ponds to catch stormwater before it can carry sediments directly into the river. While the retention ponds will eventually drain into the river, any sediment in the water would have time to settle.

Heath said he’s been meeting with City Engineer Annie Folck about possibly building regional retention ponds that would catch water from several businesses in one area.

“It would be a better option for us,” Heath said. “The city currently requires each business to maintain its own pond and the city conducts annual inspections. It would take a lot less staff time to inspect and maintain regional ponds and the developers would foot most of the bill to build them.”

An engineering firm from Omaha is currently performing a stormwater master plan for the city. Once completed, the plan will show where the city is treating stormwater, allowing the city to develop an ordinance for post-construction discharge, the last piece of the master plan.

The other agenda item asked council members to request a meeting of the Public Works Committee. The meeting would be to discuss possibly putting a ballot initiative before the voters in November 2020 to approve a new sales tax to be used for infrastructure improvements.

Legislation from the state authorizes municipalities to implement an additional sales tax anywhere from one-half to two percent for projects such as street and water upgrades.

We're always interested in hearing about news in our community. Let us know what's going on!

Jerry Purvis is a reporter with the Star-Herald. He can be reached at 308-632-9046 or emailed at jpurvis@starherald.com.

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