Julie Davis, CherryRoad Media

The Nebraska City City Council took preliminary steps Tuesday night to purchase 27 acres of land near CHI Health St. Mary’s for a potential workforce housing development.

Council members heard from the public during a public hearing on the project, which could add 54 to 81 homes to the community’s housing stock, as part of the purchase process.

Purchase price for the land is $460,000, and the funds would come from a portion of Nebraska City’s American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) money from the federal government.

So far, the city has received half of its $1.29 million, said Nebrask City City Administrator Lou Leone, with the second payment expected to arrive during the week of July 4.

Leone said the new housing development would put the city “in a proactive position to grow,” adding that the town’s population has remained around 7,300 for a number of years.

Dan Mauk, executive director of the Nebraska City Area Economic Development Corp., called housing “one of the most critical aspects to growing the community” and said that the city’s land purchase and infrastructure additions would offer “a great opportunity for a developer to come in” and build houses that Mauk estimated would sell for about $325,000.

The proposed project would connect Morgan Drive to the new development, and it would also offer an opportunity for the city to extend an additional water line from the hospital to CHI Health St. Mary’s. Leone said the opportunity to complete both the housing development and the additional water line work made the land purchase the best opportunity for the city from the parcels currently available for sale in town.

Following the public hearing, the council approved the first reading of Ordinance 3088-22, which authorizes the land purchase by the city. Mayor Bryan Bequette did not suspend subsequent readings of the ordinance at future meetings to give interested or concerned citizens the opportunity to speak at future meetings before the third and final reading of the ordinance.

During the July 5 meeting, the council also approved a request from Hypercolor LLC to use the Nebraska City Veterans Memorial Building basement as a production office for three months while the movie “The Snack Shack” is filmed in town.

Council members also approved the hiring of a new police officer and continued discussions on additional spending of the city’s ARPA funds.

Additional purchases could include upgraded radios for the Nebraska City Police Department, new monitors and stretchers for Nebraska City Fire and Rescue, new laptops for the city’s fire, police, and rescue departments, and backstop improvements at Clemmy Holmes Field.

The council has until Dec. 31, 2024, to designate expenditures, and the funds must be spent by Dec. 31, 2026, or face being returned to the state of Nebraska.

The next regularly scheduled Nebraska City City Council meeting is set at 6 p.m. Monday, July 18, at the Gary White Memorial Room/Council Chambers of the Rowe Memorial Public Safety Complex, 1518 Central Ave.

By AKDSEO