On Election Day: another packed house at the Fremont City Council meeting.
Randy Rupert, spokesman for Nebraska Communities United, greeted attendees with information on the opposition to the proposed Costco/Lincoln Premium Poultry operation.
Members of the group attended Tuesday’s night meeting to hand a pamphlet to Fremont citizens and council members. Ruppert explained the pamphlet represents a compilation of information detailing the group’s opposition to vertical integration and contract farming.
Ruppert said the information describes several factual points about the disadvantages and risks of vertical integration. It states, for example, that vertical integration “has led to the de-population of rural areas, increased poverty, increased disease risk, water quality issues, and has not proven an economic advantage of the independent family farm structure.”
In a brief interview before the council meeting Ruppert reiterated the position and goals of Communities United.
“We’re here to share our information, and what we found out,” Ruppert said.
He stressed that farmers have not been fully informed and the group will continue their struggle against the changing landscape of agriculture as vertical integration grows more prominent in the industry.
This week the group plans to mail out 6,000 of the pamphlets to farmers in 11 counties. Ruppert explained those 11 counties were all under consideration by Costco for the establishment of its operations.
Later in the evening, in a related issue, a short public discussion ensued regarding a resolution on the agenda to change Fremont boundaries through a series of zoning and boundary changes in a large area south of Fremont. Brian Newton, general manager of the Fremont department of utilities explained the agenda item. The city wants to petition to Dodge County to change the boundaries in the area by excluding one or more tracts of land in order to annex the area into the city. Before that annexation can take place, Dodge County must relinquish the land’s zoning classification as county industrial zoning.
The change would allow Fremont to annex the Hills Farms site, which Newton explained represented one of many areas around Fremont and Dodge County that Costco was analyzing for the factory.
Another big issue placed before the city during the meeting was addressed in a report by City Engineer Justin Zetterman. The amendment involves changes to the Subdivision Ordinance related to providing drainage of lots located in the three areas; northeast of 27th and Laverna streets; the area between Victoria Lane & Churchill Drive to the west of Buckingham; and the area between Maplewood Drive and Eastwood Drive.
Issues with trapped water in the backyards of these areas has resulted in many complaints. Because the issue has been created by way of subdivision development and also how the lots were graded and constructed upon, the City of Fremont judged that tax payer dollars should not be used address the flooding.
Jennifer Bixby said she has received a number of conversations requesting discussions about the issue and rainwater drainage in a city as flat as Fremont.
“At this time there are actually more questions than answers … the builders, engineers and developers in town have not yet had conversation with city officials,” Bixby said.
She proposed that they delay the ordinance until those discussions and education can be fulfilled.
“It’s a very difficult issue,” the mayor said.
He said solutions can be costly for the residents and costly for the city because when flooding occurs it sometimes requires city official to go out and raise utilities above the water level.
“I think there is more than one way to fix this problem,” the mayor added.
Thursday, May 12 at Christensen Field the City of Fremont is conducting an informal meeting regarding Construction Storm Water Management. There will be a representative from the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality present to answer questions.
In other news:
Mayor Getzschman commented on the girls Fremont High Shool basketball team, acknowledging their successful year with a 21 and 7 season and as conference champs
“Tonight we just want to say thank you for your accomplishment for all you did … thank you for being true ambassadors for the city of Fremont,” Getzschman said
Coach Tony Weinandt said, “We’re in the top class in the state of Nebraska, but we have a small town atmosphere where the community really rallies around the team.” He thanked the city of Fremont for that support.
The city awarded Sawyer Construction the contract for the reconstruction of North Hancock Street which will consist of the removal and reconstruction of the street between 16th Street and 19th Street. Sawyer Construction Company offered a bid of $397,204.50 for the project. No other bidders were offered despite efforts to contact several firms.
This bid amount is roughly 20 percent higher than the budgeted estimate of $330,000.00.
City Engineer Justin Zetterman explained in a report to the council that bids coming in higher than expected is a problem, especially in an area were a great deal of work needs to be done.
Despite the higher than expected bid, the staff feels that this project is important, and recommended the bid should be accepted so that construction can be completed in 2016.
“We believe that the budgeted funds for street construction this year can be made to work to fit this increased cost,” Zetterman stated in the report.