The Fremont City Council will reconsider the city’s recent sale of land within the Fremont Technology Park to Dodge County for a proposed Joint Law Enforcement Center during its meeting on Tuesday.
The reconsideration was requested by council member Glen Ellis during the council’s Jan. 29 meeting and approved by a 6-2 vote after the original sale was approved by council on Dec. 20, 2018. The ordinance to sell Dodge County half-interest in 25 acres — or 12.2 acres — for $201,300 was approved by a unanimous 8-0 council vote at that December meeting.
During the Jan. 29 council meeting, Ellis brought forward a request to reconsider the land sale citing concerns about potential open meetings law violations regarding the December sale to Dodge County, and a potential conflict of interest regarding the city’s original purchase of the 81-acre Fremont Technology Park back in 2011.
The potential open meeting violations involve meetings between city and county officials, as well as a $15,000 feasibility study approved by council in November 2017 which was conducted by Prochaska & Associates to research the creation of a Joint Law Enforcement Center to house both the Fremont Police Department in Dodge County Sheriff’s Office.
“There may have been potential open meeting violations, so I want to make sure that the council and the public are fully informed on this matter before further actions are taken regarding this property,” Ellis told the Tribune. “From my investigations, it looks like maybe the results of that study have never been brought back to the council.”
During council discussion regarding Ellis’ request to reconsider the sale of land at the Jan. 29 council meeting, Ellis also entered documents into the record regarding the original purchase of land by the city from Pannier Family Investments, LLC.
Ellis told the Tribune that he began looking into the matter after raising questions concerning the city’s obligations related to a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) awarded to the city by the Nebraska Department of Economic Development for the development of the Fremont Technology Park.
Terms of the CDBG grant awarded back in 2011 require the city to pay back the $982,892 grant by 2020 if it cannot secure a business or businesses to relocate to the Fremont Technology Park resulting in the creation of 31 new jobs at $15 per hour before that deadline.
“(During the Dec. 20 council meeting) the mayor answered my questions and added some additional commentary, including the fact that the city purchased the property from Roger Pannier,” Ellis said. “This name sounded familiar, but I couldn’t connect it.”
The city purchased the 81.2 acres of land east of Yager Road and south of 32nd Street to develop the Fremont Technology Park in 2011 from Pannier Family Investments, LLC.—-which is owned in-part by Roger Pannier — for $1.624 million.
Pannier is also a co-owner of Getzschman Heating and Air and served as the treasurer for Mayor Scott Getzschman’s mayoral and Metropolitan Community College Board of Governors campaigns, according to information from the Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure Commission website.
“My intent is to make sure the citizens of Fremont and the council have all the facts about this land before we move forward,” Ellis said. “I am not against the sale of the land or the Joint Law Enforcement Center, I just want to make sure we, the city council, make informed decisions for the city.”
During its meeting on Tuesday the council will also consider:
* Ordinance 5493 amending sections of Chapter 2 of the municipal code to adopt public comment period (second reading).
* Receive an investigatory status report for Resolution 2019-019 from the city attorney, and/or receive and discuss documents and the final written legal report regarding the investigation into any potential open meetings violations relating to city resolutions and ordinances, which were continued at the Jan. 8 city council meeting.
* Receive an investigatory status report for Resolution 2019-020 from the city attorney, and/or receive and discuss documents (provided by city clerk) and the final written legal report regarding the requested information pertaining to mayoral and council committees and their public notices, minutes and recommendations made regarding various city resolutions and ordinances which were continued at the Jan. 8 city council meeting.
* A resolution to request and authorize the city attorney to provide a written supplemental investigatory opinion focusing on Nebraska State Statute and/or city code violations findings as depicted in prior report received by city council on Jan. 29 as well as the accountability, liability and action plans required as a result of this factual investigation and legal analysis of the unpaid earnest money/escrow and other expenses and fees resulting from purchase agreement signed by RTG Medical Inc. and City of Fremont.