After more than an hour of discussion with constituents, Tekamah City Council last week again approved buying the former Tiger Bowl building.
During a special meeting held Nov. 4, the council voted to purchase the site for $35,000 with the intention of creating a city office and meeting space at the site.
City officials stressed however, that there are no definite plans to develop the property.
The council had previously approved the purchase following a closed session during its Oct. 24 meeting.
Mayor Ron Grass vetoed the decision the next day, citing the cost of what might happen next.
The special session was called to override the veto.
Many attending last week’s meeting were concerned that purchasing the site meant agreeing to a costly development plan.
There is not, however, any plan to do anything.
Council member Kelly Adamson, the city’s public buildings commissioner, told the Plaindealer that no plan exists to develop the site. The question at hand was simply to purchase the property or not.
She called last Monday’s decision the start of a long development process. Purchasing the site, which won’t be complete for at least a month, gives the council a starting point.
From there, Adamson said, “we can plan a project, and once we have a plan the citizens will be aware of what the plan is. We never had the intention to slip a project past the public.”
The next step in the process is to approve a purchase agreement. That measure is on the agenda for Thursday night’s council meeting. A purchase agreement gives the city control of the site, and allows for planning to begin, but does not yet guarantee anything will be done.
A public notice inside this week’s Plaindealer outlines a public comment period required for real estate purchases. Under its guidelines, no election will be needed regarding the purchase unless a petition signed by a number of registered voters in the city equal to 15 percent of all the voters casting ballots in the last city election is filed at the city office within 30 days of publication. If the petition is filed and approved, the matter must be placed on the ballot for a general election or be conducted by special election.
Based off of the 2018 election returns, 627 residents voted in the last election, meaning 94 valid signatures would be needed to file a petition.
Otherwise, once the comment period expires, the council must hold a public hearing before making a final decision on the purchase. The council is holding a similar public hearing Thursday night on the purchase of a strip of land near the street shop.
A site for a city office is needed because renovations currently under way at City Auditorium removed the office space from the 80-year-old facility. The council has known for more than two years that a new home for city offices would be necessary, The city currently shares office space with the police department in what was termed a temporary situation when the move was implemented over the summer. Several options have been explored over the past two years, including the purchase of downtown property, but none bore any fruit.
The bowling alley site, located the corner of 13th and L streets, has certain advantages, Adamson said. It’s central location makes it highly visible for residents and guests. It also could blend well with other improvement projects going on north of L Street.
Adamson said the ideal situation would be to partner with the local veterans organizations and the Lions Club to move them into a permanent home across the street, making it possible for the school to purchase the Vets Hall and begin expansion work on the west side of the street.
But all of that is speculation, Adamson said.