Tuesday night, Fremont City Council meeting labored through a marathon of agenda items – 44 in all, not including the Community Development Agency meeting just prior.
It was not until item number 29 on the agenda that the large gathering of Fremont community members received the opportunity for which they had patiently waited: to address the topic of Costco Wholesale’s proposed poultry processing plant situated south of the city in the Hills Farm area.
It drew the comments of several citizens both for and against the project and attracted various media outlets that included a documentary crew associated with the Fremont production company Digg Site Productions, which has been following the story from the beginning.
Item 29 addressed the city’s agreement with HDR Inc. to meet a timeline set for January of 2018 by Costco for the functional operation of its proposed facility. According to the agreement, the Fremont Department of Utilities will contract HDR Inc. for consultation on the engineering and design services pertaining to the feasibility of establishing water and waste water utility services. Based on the agreement between Costco and the DU, a total of $195,825 will be reimbursed for the consultation services provided by HDR. The cost of the services were broken down into six categories: project management and meetings; data gathering; development of documents pertaining to a sanitary sewer lift station and a water main; cost of permits; bidding services and construction services.
Attorney Gregory D. Barton or Barton Law out of Lincoln, serving as legal representative of the vocal opposition group Nebraska Communities United, addressed the council first.
“I would respectfully submit … that the city is putting the cart way before the horse,” Barton began.
He said that the total package of the Costco operation does not include actual construction costs. It will cost much more than what is stated in the contract.
“Another problem is that it treats the processing plant process like it’s a done deal when nothing is further from the truth,” Barton said.
He asked why the city of Fremont proposes spending almost $200,000 for a project that is not yet certain, posing the question as to what might happen if Costco decides to back out before completion.
Bryan Newton, Fremont general utilities manager explained that such a contract is consistent with the way the city functions and operates in similar situations. He added that Costco would owe the difference of any investment if they decided to pull out.
Cecilia Harry, executive director of the Greater Fremont Development Council, agreed with Newton.
“(This contract) is simply an agreement to accept funds from Costco for engineering services,” Harry said. “To say no would simply place the city at financial risk.”
Barton also raised the concern the city will need to significantly upgrade its waste water treatment facilities to handle the additional burden of Costco’s operation, further pointing out that Fremont’s utility infrastructure is already stressed.
“At this point there are so many unknown variables to the proposed project,” Barton said. “The proposed reimbursement contract should be tabled.”
Bryan Newton, city general utility manager, recognized the fact that Fremont’s utilities need improvements whether or not Costco establishes a plant in the area.
“The (waste water) plant has outlived its usefulness,” Newton said. “We will have to make improvements with or without Costco.”
Fremont resident Jeff Karls voiced other concerns. He implored the council to contract an impact study on environmental risks as well as further economic impact studies beyond what has already been supplied by Costco. He also echoed concerns that the project may be an overload on infrastructure, schools, fire, police and etc.
“I agree that we have gotten the cart way ahead of the horse,” Karls said, adding that the community has not had ample opportunity to make their voice heard.
A detailed record of the transaction and contract can be found on the Fremont City’s website under the May 31 Agenda on item #29.
Following the intense public discussion the council approved the resolution 8-0.
In other news:
-Mayor’s Comments: Mayor Scott Getzschman recognized and promoted the city’s participation in the American Society Relay for Life occurring June 9th at Heedum Field Memorial Stadium. He encouraged Fremont citizens to participate explaining that the funds raised would help support cancer research, education, patient advocacy and patient care.
- The Community Development Agency (CDA) finalized its redevelopment agreement with Yager Hospitality LLC for the Yager Retail Redevelopment Project taking place at the northeast corner of 23rd and Yager Street – a formerly blighted area. The project will consists of a 9,000 square foot restaurant in addition to another 9,000 square feet of mixed retail establishments.
The agreement finalization consisted of the approval to allow the Yager Hospitality LLC to utilize tax-increment financing to assist in the cost redevelopment. The TIF financing is estimated by the CDA at $600,000 to be repaid on or before December 31, 2031 in semi-annual payments.
The resolution carried 8-0
Additionally, Yager Hospitality requested to amend an agreement for a hotel project already underway just to the north on Yager Street. The amendment will extend the date of Yager’s agreement with the CDA. It also authorizes the CDA to issue TIF indebtedness to Yager in the amount of $788,500 to be repaid by Dec. 31, 2032. Important to understand that this issuance of TIF debt is not the obligation of the city, CDA. It is secured only by the pledge of the TIF.
The request was approved 8-0.
- After continued advancement on changes to the Future Land Use Map, the Fremont City Planning Commission brought forth its latest revisions for consideration and approval by the council. A staff report from City Planner Troy Anderson defines the goals of the revisions to the Future Land Use Map as an update to the Comprehensive Plan of Fremont. The revisions will maintain the general health, safety, moral and welfare of Fremont and further the future growth and development plans of the city.