JACKSON CENTER — Jackson Center Council had its final meeting of 2018, Monday, Dec. 10, and wrapped up some loose ends before moving toward another busy year.
After the call to order, council passed an ordinance that has been tabled for quite some time due to difficulties in finalizing some paperwork associated with the purchase of some land needed for the construction of a multi-family apartment building. A public hearing was in the Jackson Center council chambers, Aug. 20, with local builder Todd Ratermann of Ratermann Custom Home Builders Inc., of Sidney, presenting his plans to construct a single-floor, multi-unit, family apartment building on 2.9 acres in the 600 block of College Street with council’s approval.
Approximately 10 village residents came to hear Ratermann and ask questions or share concerns they had about the proposed changes in zoning for three properties in the village. The Jackson Center Planning Commission had met, July 23, to consider a request by Todd C. Ratermann, American Legion – Scherer Post No. 439 and Kevin and Jill Bergman to rezone their properties at 619 E. College St., 627 E. College St. and 624 E. College St., respectively, from R-1 single-family residential to R-3 multi-family residential. Changes in zoning would permit Ratermann to construct the apartment building and would change the status of the American Legion from a “Conditional Use” under the R-1 rating to a “Permitted Use” under the R-3. The Bergman property is a nonconforming, pre-existing, multi-family apartment complex in an R-1 single family district; rezoning would bring all into compliance.
The results of the meeting were favorable after Ratermann cleared up some unfounded rumors about the type of unit to be built and the quality of construction. Later, council was ready to approve the project but held off because one of the property owners lived out-of-state and could not be located to finalize the purchase of the land needed for the apartment building. Dec. 10, Mayor Scott Klopfenstein informed council the paperwork was finally in order and council could proceed with voting on the ordinance to change the zoning; council approved the measure unanimously.
In other old business, council passed two ordinances adopting rates, terms and conditions for the village electric service and establishing new water and sewage rates for the village. Village Administrator Bruce Metz had previously provided a detailed overview of the necessary changes and answered all questions concerning the proposed changes and why they were needed.
In his report, Metz thanked all those who voted to pass a 2 mill levy in the November election, noting it would generate approximately $46,000 annually and be used to help fund the Police, Fire, and Street departments and for snow removal. Concerning the water, sewage, and electrical issues, Metz shared information about a cost of service study (COS) done in 2017 to determine the financial position of the electrical department. It was reported the village was in pretty good shape but with the need for an additional substation, the council would need to do a rate increase: a rise of .74 cents per kilowatt hour per month plus a $2 customer charge increase for a total increase of $2.74 per month. Another recent COS study completed for the water and sewage departments indicated a need to increase rates there, as well, with a customer using the 5,000 gallon minimum seeing an increase of $5.85 per month; however, there would be no increase in the customer charge for water or sewage. Metz noted most of the feedback from residents and businesses, alike, had been favorable once people understood why the changes were needed. It was noted that it would benefit the village and keep costs down over the long run due to planning ahead to meet future needs and upgrading the systems as needed.
“It’s much more cost effective to make gradual changes as needed instead of waiting until a major breakdown or failure that would compromise good service and cost the residents a ton of money,” Metz said.
In new business, council passed an ordinance establishing job classifications and rates for all employees for the village of Jackson Center for the year 2019. Klopfenstein praised council and all the village staff for another year of great service to the community and noted the pay scales for the village were fair and comparable with those of nearby villages of the same size and population.
“We have a lot of great people doing a great job regardless of the challenges at hand,” said Klopfenstein. “It would be difficult if not impossible to come up with a better bunch of people, and our village is fortunate to have this kind of dedication, so we want to make sure they are compensated well for all their hard work and devotion to our town and its people. We will continue to experience a lot of growth in the future, and it’s good to know we have a staff that can handle the tasks that lie ahead.”
Before closing, Metz updated council on a variety of ongoing projects around the village, most notably the new electrical substation being built along Jerry Drive and the construction of an additional, multi-million dollar Airstream Inc. manufacturing facility on the west side of town.
“The contractors have erected a large plastic-covered framework over the substation building spot to allow them to maintain a warm temperature for laying the block for the building and allowing work to continue during the winter. The wet weather slowed things down a bit at the Airstream construction site, but things are going well and on target. We have seen a phenomenal year for our village growth-wise and anticipate an even busier one next year. This growth means a lot more jobs and opportunity for our residents and others living nearby, and we are thankful for the chance to be a part of it. I also want to thank the mayor, council, our village staff and most of all our residents for making Jackson Center a great place to work and an even better place to live. Together we will prosper in a multitude of ways, and I look forward to what the new year will bring,” Metz said.
The writer is a regular contibutor to the Sidney Daily News.