During a recent Chadron City Council discussion, it was apparent that city staff and city council members had divergent opinions on the possibility of establishing an ice skating rink.
Staff members indicated they don’t believe it’s feasible to sustain an ice skating rink in light of climate change without purchasing or renting a chiller, and also expressed concerns about the city budget. City Manager Greg Yanker noted that the city cut 12 percent from its budget overall in the current fiscal year, and a quality of life amenity should not take precedent over obligations such as wage parity.
The Chadron City Council members expressed a desire to explore the possibility further, and at least solicit feedback from the community before simply closing the door on the idea. Vice Mayor Keith Crofutt suggested the city get that feedback, and if it’s positive, lay the groundwork now for a project that may not occur for at least two or three years, when funds might become available. Finding partnerships or other fundraising opportunities was also mentioned.
They’re right, too.
It struck me listening to the discussion that the city should follow the Chadron Public School’s model of creating a Dream Team. Several years ago, the school district invited interested individuals to attend a series of meetings, at which the discussion centered around what they would like to see the district accomplish if money was no object.
The Dream Team meetings identified projects as large as a centralized K-12 campus and a new multi-purpose facility that houses a gymnasium and an auditorium. But the group also strategized smaller projects as well: a middle school playground on the west side of the building, a drop-off location on Ann Street and parking along the south side of the high school.
Some of the smaller projects have already been realized, some without much impact to the school district’s budget. School staff and board members fully realize that the larger projects are long-term goals. They have no current plans to dedicate resources to those projects, but they have the dream and preliminary plans should funding someday become available through grants or other opportunities such as fundraising or partnerships with other entities. The Dream Team still periodically meets to keep those visions in sight as the district plans for the future.
A city ice skating rink is just one idea. I’m sure there are other concerns and ideas out there in the community, both large and small, that Chadron residents would love to see accomplished. The city could benefit from a Dream Team of its own and a wide-ranging discussion of the possibilities if money were no object. It would allow staff and council members to see what has support from their constituents and help them prioritize projects after the city’s necessary obligations are met. It may even lead to funding opportunities that they are unaware of currently.
Some of the ideas being discussed by staff and council may not garner any public support; others might generate support but lack the funding to be accomplished immediately but might become possible later. Still others may have support and never be accomplished. There’s no shame in that.
As long as those dreams are managed in a fiscally responsible manner, city residents, businesses, staff members and council members should all be dreaming big.
The future is out there waiting for us, after all, and we’ll all be better off if we share a common vision of what we would like the City of Chadron to become.