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Mayor, council express virus concerns

Mayor, council express virus concerns

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During the Monday evening meeting of the Chadron City Council, Mayor Miles Bannan made some remarks regarding the state and local situation regarding COVID-19. There’s been some discussion at the state level, the mayor noted, as well as some “back and forth as to what cities can do, what cities should do and what cities are allowed to do. And, ultimately, it comes down to the fact that this is getting worse. This is a serious situation and it’s not improving on its own.”

Bannan said the State is leaving up to municipalities to make decisions. “I would like to make it clear that I think we should do something. I intend to work toward that goal of considering some COVID mitigation measures as soon as possible.” He further referenced a letter from Chadron Community Hospital CEO Nathan Hough, which appears on Page 2 of this week’s edition.

The hospital has recently not had availability for patients, Bannan said, and last week there was a day when 9 of 10 patients were COVID patients. “There’s trouble staffing, and that’s across the state. Hospitals aren’t full because there’s no beds; hospitals are full because there’s no staff. This is not going to go away unless something changes, and I think we need to consider being part of that change.

“The worst case scenario isn’t not getting to travel during Thanksgiving. It’s schools having to close down because of lack of staffing. It’s patients being turned away from hospitals.”

Bannan later noted, “We are in a very dangerous situation. Panhandle Public Health reported there’s 11 more deaths than they’re currently reporting. They’re just not confirmed COVID by the state yet . . . It’s killing our community members and not just making them sick. This is an emergency and we need to treat it as such. It’s easy to become numb to it, it’s easy to think everything’s going to be fine, it’s easy to travel to your family’s house for Thanksgiving and treat it as a normal holiday, but that is not the case.”

City Manager Greg said changes are also dependent on whether Governor Pete Ricketts puts the level at orange or red. With the former, things will continue much as they are; with the latter, the city could see the closing of bars and restaurants, and other conditions similar to those seen in March through May.

Yanker further explained the colors at the state level are separate from those posted weekly by Panhandle Public Health District. Each agency, he noted has their own metrics by which they determine their levels.

Councilmember Cheryl Welch said it’s Thanksgiving time, and while people are being thankful they should also be cautious. “This is not the time to have those great, wonderful gatherings at Grandma’s house,” she said, noting she has three elderly people in her life seriously affected by COVID-19.

In board action, an application from the Chadron Community Foundation was approved, for community development funds to purchase and install an electric vehicle charging station. The station will be located on East Second Street, just off the downtown plaza area, and will be able to charge two vehicles at once. Time for one vehicle to get a full charge is estimated at 4-6 hours.

It’s hoped that having the charging station will draw more tourist traffic, and that having the station in a downtown location will promote more patronization of local businesses while people wait for their vehicles to charge.

The approved grant for the project is $4,537.40. Additional funds are being provided through two grants — $6,829.50 from the Nebraska Environmental Trust and $4,537.40 from Nebraska Public Power District. Mayor Bannan pointed out there is no city money going into the project. The city buys the electricity, and when a person charges his or her vehicle the city is reimbursed.

City Manager Yanker noted the charging station is placed between two parking stalls, but at this point the stalls will not be exclusively for electric vehicle use. The station is expected to be complete by the end of the month.

The 2020 year-end certification for Street Superintendent Wade Yada was approved, per the requirement of the Nebraska Department of Transportation Board of Public Roads Classification and Standards.

Three applications were authorized for USDA Rural Development Community Facilities grants to fund half of each of three vehicles — a new 2021 regular cab 4x4 pickup truck for the Parks Department, a new 2021 regular cab 4x4 pickup for the Water Department and a new 2020-21 mid-size police/special services package SUV for the Police Department.

A resolution was approved to authorize posting of the notice of grant availability for Chadron Community Betterment Funds generated from the Keno lottery and Public Alliance for Community Energy revenues. There is a total $14,800 available, and the grant program is open to 501c organizations.

A manager application was approved for Sharanjit S. Chima in connection with the liquor license for Cheema’s Gas and Oil, 885 West Third Street. It was noted that the application was submitted, in part, to sever ties with Kuldip Singh, owner of Cheema’s Gas and Liquor of Scottsbluff, who was recently cited for four counts of transportation of liquor into the state of Nebraska, evading or attempting to evade liquor tax and acquiring liquor from someone other than a licensed dealer.

Also during the meeting, the City of Chadron water and wastewater department s were recognized for receiving the Safety Achievement Award from the American Water Works Association and the Silver Safety Award from the Nebraska Water Environment Association.

Utilities Superintendent Tom Menke explained the awards are a review of the programs in the department. These review include personnel training, hours put in, accidents and anything that deals with the safety program as a whole.

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