The following questions were asked recently on the Wonderline:

Q: Am I wrong in remembering that a few years ago, when Orval Stahr was doing comprehensive planning and zoning work for the county, that he wanted to make a bunch of the county’s gravel roads into minimum maintenance roads and then give them away to farmers so the county could save money?

I swear I read a thing that getting rid of county roads would save money and make money, according to him.

A: In January of 2014, Stahr, who was putting together the comprehensive and zoning plan for the county, presented a study of the county’s road system to the commissioners. It took a look at the maintenance costs and asked the question if the least used roads should be abandoned and turned over to the adjacent farmland owners.

In the study, Stahr said the “population levels and densities in the rural areas of the county are declining and thus the financial ability to maintain existing transportation facilities and services will become more of an issue.

“Even though there has been a substantial decline in the rural population in the county in the last 30 years, the number of miles of roads maintained by the county has remained the same,” Stahr said in his findings, during that earlier report. “In fact, the number of improved roadways in the county has actually increased during this same time period.

“With the notable declines in the rural population and the number of farms, the number of roadways on which there are no interior properties and there are no residences has increased substantially,” he said in his analysis. “This begs the questions of whether these roads are needed and whether the county taxpayers can afford to maintain these roads in the future.

“There are currently 128 ½ miles of maintained county roads on which no one resides,” Stahr said further. “This is in addition to the 53 miles of minimum maintenance and earthen roads. Of these, 26 ½ miles of such roads are included in the functional classification system as county collector roads. The need to maintain the remaining 102 miles of such roads is an important question, given the current direct maintenance cost of approximately $1,500 per mile. The annual cost of maintaining these particular roads exceeds $153,000. It is imperative to note this cost does not include the cost of maintaining the 136 steel culverts, three box culverts and 20 bridges which occur on these roads nor does it include the administrative costs associated with operating the county roads department.”

In his analysis, Stahr said that if a mile of existing road were to be vacated and then become taxable, it would add $40,545 to the tax base. If all 155 miles of underutilized and minimum maintenance roads were to be vacated, the result would add $6.2 million to the tax base and result in an additional $108,000 in property tax revenue to local taxing entities.”

He also identified specific county roads that he believed could be reclassified from major collector road to minor collector road.

The county took no action in the matter, back in 2014, and the commissioners have not discussed it since.

Q: Does the city contribute money to the senior center? And what is that money used for?

A: The city’s contribution to the senior center is budgeted at $12,749 right now, in the preliminary budget.

The money mostly goes toward building and property maintenance, natural gas, electricity, sewer and water.

The actual expenditures for the senior center in 2016-17 were $18,437.

Q: A story in the Tuesday, Aug. 21, issue of the YNT addressed, in part, York’s economic development incentives, or the lack of incentives. Mayor Orval Stahr was quoted as saying, “In the last year, we lost a business to Beatrice because they gave them (the company) a $100,000 low interest loan. We didn’t have that capability and we lost it.”

Did that company work with the YCDC on this or was their contact with the city only? And, does the county economic development corporation have the ability to give incentives?

A: Lisa Hurley, director of the York County Development Corporation said: “This was a project that started with YCDC. Project organizers were looking at land owned by the City of York. After the project went public, and construction was started, it was publicly discussed as a lost opportunity during YCDC’s March 19, 2018 York County Community Incentives Forum. Speakers included Wes Blecke, Wayne City Administrator; Ron Tillery, Phelps County EDO Executive Director; Walker Zulkoski, EnGage Executive Director; and Deb Eggleston, Economic Development Consultant, NE Dept. Of Economic Development. This forum was advertised as open to the public, and covered in York News Times. On this particular project, the company considered all things equal such as the site, labor force and supply chain, and the Beatrice LB840 incentive did make the difference.

“YCDC has a limited business assistance line-item in our budget (averages $7,500 annually) that is typically used for things such as due diligence and environmental reviews for companies offering high-wage high-skill positions. This is funded by YCDC investors, whose resources we receive through our annual membership investment drive. This business assistance started three years ago, as our investor list grew to where we could start offering this, and hope to see it continue to grow.

“YCDC works with all York County’s communities if a business is requesting incentives in that community. Currently, local incentives throughout the County are limited to reuse funds, assistance on infrastructure, and in TIF eligible areas where the project meets the ‘but for clause’, which means without the assistance, the project would not happen.”

Q: There hasn’t been a bunch said about the Keystone XL pipeline in the last months, mostly because the properties that were to be affected in York County are no longer on the route.

But during the fight against the pipeline, the issue of eminent domain came up again and again.

Now, I’m hearing that TransCanada is trying to use eminent domain to gain access to properties in South Dakota.

Is that true and what is going on there?

A: The Associated Press ran the following story on this particular situation:

BUFFALO, S.D. (AP) — The company planning the Keystone XL oil pipeline is moving to condemn private land in South Dakota.

TransCanada Corp. has filed eminent domain petitions in state court against parcels of Harding County land owned by two families, The Rapid City Journal reported .

At least one family plans to fight. Resident Jeffrey Jensen said he’ll take the matter to court if necessary.

“I got nothing to lose. Wouldn’t bother me in the least,” he said. “They (TransCanada) actually want to give less than they did before on my first easement.”

Jensen initially signed a five-year contract with the company for the easement. But the company’s easement expired after President Barack Obama’s administration denied Keystone permitting for the pipeline to pass the international border from Canada to the U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration has since reversed that decision with an executive order .

The $8 billion, 1,184-mile (1,905-kilometer) pipeline would carry oil from Canada through Montana, and South Dakota to Steele City, Nebraska, where it would connect with the original Keystone pipeline that runs to Texas Gulf Coast refineries. The Keystone XL pipeline would provide a more direct and wider transfer of crude oil than the current Keystone line, company officials said.

The company has 94 percent of the private property easements needed for the project, according to TransCanada’s latest quarterly report filed with the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission. The pipeline would cross over 300 private parcels in the state. The company has yet to secure easements on state land.

The project still faces several hurdles along with resistance from environmental groups and Native American tribes.

The South Dakota Supreme Court in June dismissed pipeline opponents’ appeal of a judge’s decision last year that upheld regulators’ approval for the pipeline to cross the state.”

Q: How long has the Nebraska State Fair been in Grand Island?

A: The Nebraska State Fair opened in Grand Island for the first in August, 2010.

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