Scottsbluff City Council Monday night talked about the city’s approach to prevent the spread of coronavirus while hearing the news that three members of the city’s sanitation department have gone into 14-day quarantine after possible exposure to COVID-19.

Mayor Raymond Gonzales opened the meeting, which was held via GoToMeeting, reviewing a special declaration from Gov. Pete Ricketts authorizing meetings where the council gathers via phone call rather than their regular public meeting. Gonzales told those on the phone to be sure to identify themselves before speaking and to speak slowly and concisely in order for all those in attendance to understand.

The city has closed public buildings to the public and reduced itself to essential services in accordance with guidelines from the Governor’s office and Panhandle Public Health District. The city’s yard waste program was reinstated Monday with recycling kept on hold until at least May 11

. Interim city manager Rick Kuckkahn told the council that three employees in the sanitation department are quarantined after a household member of one member was confirmed to be a COVID-19 carrier. The two others were potentially exposed through on-the-job contact with the first worker. The three employees are currently on a 14-day quarantine with staff from other departments filling their roles.

“It came home to me today,” Kuckkahn said. “I can’t tell you how it hit me to hear that three of our trash haulers were exposed. It’s sobering to say the least.”

Council gave Kuckkahn direction to keep options open for potential summer softball, soccer and baseball leagues with the expectation of delays to start the season based on guidelines from the governor’s office. The summer reading program at the public library will likely move to an online program rather than it’s usual participation at the library.

Due to the cost of operating the Westmoor Pool and a timeline that would see it open at best in mid-July, the pool is not expected to open this summer.

The council expanded the existing annual authority of the LB840 committee by $500,000 per year to bring it’s limit to $3 million for the current 2019-20 fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30. Recent LB840 funding awards had bumped the city’s spend up to within about $14,000 of its annual limit.

Economic development director Starr Lehl indicated to the council that she is currently working with three potential businesses that would be seeking $200,000 between them, putting the potential spending over the limited cap. The LB840 fund entirely comes from a city sales tax approved by the voters and can only be used for economic development.

Council members Scott Shaver and Nathan Green voted against the increase, indicating they were concerned with adding revenue to the fund in the light of reduced sales tax revenues projected over the next few months. In addition, the city has authorized an extension of LB840 loan payments for 90 days in an effort to assist companies that may be struggling with making payments.

Lehl said the current year spending is a result of a booming economy that she expects to rebound once the impact of the coronavirus on businesses decreases. Gonzales made the motion to approve the $500,000 number, indicating his confidence in Lehl and the LB840 committee to help manage the funds accordingly. Ultimate approval for any funds disbursed through the LB840 fund has to come from the council.

A chip seal project bid was approved at just over $2.2 million. The work is expected to be done this summer. In the event current conditions prevent that project, Kuckkahn said adjustments to the timeline will be made. A bid for just over $123,000 to replace the City Hall roof that was damaged in August hailstorms was also approved.

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Reporter

Mark McCarthy is a reporter with the Star-Herald and oversees the Gering Courier as editor. He can be reached at 308-632-9049 or via email at mark.mccarthy@starherald.com.

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