Monday night, the Chadron City Council, with Vice Mayor Joe Johndreaux absent, approved the 2023 sidewalk improvement plan.
The plan was first implemented last year, when concerns were brought up about the state of disrepair of existing sidewalks and the dangers they posed to residents.
Under the program, which can also be used for construction of new sidewalks, grants reimburse homeowners for 50% of the cost of materials and labor for repair or replacement of existing sidewalk, or installation of a new sidewalk. Maximum reimbursement is $1,500 for a four-foot-wide sidewalk and $3,000 for a five-foot-wide walk.
If curb cuts are necessary, the program reimburses the homeowner up to $500.
Last year, $20,000 was allocated to the program. This provided enough funding for 13 sidewalks. For 2023, the allocation has been upped to $30,000.
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Applications for the program are available at the City Offices, and should be returned no later than May 15. Application scoring is based on, but not limited to, location within designated school or Safe Routes to School areas, proximity to schools and connectivity to existing sidewalks.
In other action, the second reading was approved for an amendment to the Municipal Code regarding firearms. Under the amended section, it unlawful for any person, except officers of the law or designated City employees in the discharge of their duties, to fire or discharge any firearm within the corporate limits of the City or on any property owned, leased or maintained by the City regardless of whether such lands are located within or without the corporate limits of the City, except that this section shall not apply if the persons so discharging firearms has prior written permission from the City Manager or their designee.
Further, no person, except officers of the law or designated City employees in the discharge of their duties, shall hunt, take, trap or otherwise harvest any animal, within the corporate limits of the City or on ands owned, leased, or maintained by the City, regardless of whether such lands are located within or without the corporate limits of the City.
The amendment was first read at the council’s Feb. 20 meeting, and is meant to address concerns about people discharging firearms and unsuccessfully hunting animals in the city, causing the animals to suffer and the meat to spoil.
Though there was some concern brought up as to whether each individual reported would be cited, that decision will be at the discretion of law enforcement officers.
First reading was approved on another amendment to the Municipal Code, this one dealing with camping on public property, public property hours, and public property fire and fireworks restrictions.
With regard to camping, the amendment makes it unlawful to establish a campsite overnight on public property, unless written permission is given by the city manager. Exceptions can be made if a person is sleeping in an RV on a street adjacent to a residential property, but only if the property own has given permission and for no more than three days. Another exception is that a campsite in a City park is set up on a temporary basis during normal hours, in conjunction with recreational use of the park.
Regarding fires, they are allowed only in grills or other fire facilities provided by the City. It is legal to use privately owned devices such as gasoline or propane stoves, provided such devices are restricted to picnic areas and no real or personal property is damaged by the device.
The possession or use of fireworks in City parks is prohibited except by special permission of the council. Management may also temporarily suspend the right to have fires of any kind in the parks.
The Chadron Volunteer Fire Department’s previous 1994 Chevy truck, also known as Crash Fire Rescue Truck, Engine #65, was declared surplus property and Fire Chief Branden Martens was authorized to dispose of it.
Martens explained the department received a large donation to purchase the truck back in 1994, and it was donated to the City. As it has put in 28 years of service, and the department has purchased a new crash truck, he requested it be given back to the department. The request was approved, and martens noted there have been some parties interested in purchasing the old truck.
In regard to another vehicle, Parks/Cemetery Superintendent Scott Schremmer noted only one bid came in for a new half ton crew cab 4x4 truck for his department. However, that bid came in late and had to be sent back.
During discussion on re-opening the bidding process, idea presented included setting a limit on price and possibly going with a used vehicle. Schremmer cautioned against buying used, however, as the vehicle could quickly become a money pit.
Also at the meeting, Mayor George Klein proclaimed March 12-18 as AmeriCorps Week in Chadron. Northwest Community Action Partnership Volunteer Services Director Rachel Johnson presented information about the Dawes and Sioux county Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP), including its having nearly 200 AmeriCorps seniors who volunteer more than 23,000 hours annually. That time, Johnson said, is valued at more than $600,000.
As for age of the RSVP volunteers, Johnson said the youngest is 55 years old, the age when a person can join RSVP. Their longest standing member was with the program 32 years, and started at age 70. The program itself was started in 1972.
Among the services RSVP provides are working with local food banks, delivering Meals on Wheels, organizing blood drives and ringing bells for the Salvation Army fundraising efforts. Johnson noted that, even though the weather was rough people still stepped up and rang bells. Further, folks provided some matching dollars, and helped generated nearly $14,000. Ninety percent of that money stays in the community to help people with emergency needs such as housing, utilities and food.
Meals on Wheels delivered more than 7,000 meals last year, and Johnson added this program also provides a means to do well checks on residents. Eighty-one percent of those served reported decreased feelings of isolation. More than 570 individuals were served through food pantries.
Other community priorities for RSVP include: Dawes County Fair, Chadron Pubic Library, Diaper Bank, Senior Center, Crestview, American Legion, Chadron State College, United Way and the Dawes County Museum.
Johnson said she loves her job, and loves the program.