Norfolk took the next step toward expansion Monday night after the city council passed the proposed annexation on second reading.
The council and city staff also made time to answer questions about the annexation's impact on the budget, fire and police divisions and streets. The council also allowed further public comment.
One question addressed was what impact the annexation would have on the city’s snow removal services and street maintenance.
In recent years the city added or replaced snow plows and other equipment, and will continue to do so, said Steve Rames, city engineer.
Adding new and bigger equipment “just adds capability to what we currently do,” Rames said. “It’s about moving more snow more efficiently."
As for the streets, Rames said the city’s budget has nearly doubled in recent years.
“Four years ago, we were budgeting around $350,000 to $400,000 a year within our street maintenance budget,” Rames said. “We’re budgeting over the next couple of years $750,000 a year. We see that we’ll be continuing to increase that.”
Additionally, more street repair work is being done by contractors, leaving the city’s staff free to do maintenance work, Rames said.
Another question the city answered was how the annexation would affect police and fire services.
Scott Cordes, assistant city administrator and former fire chief, said public safety has been a consideration from the beginning.
“Every subject area that’s in this annexation area, we’re already servicing,” Cordes said. “Each of those pieces currently reside in the Norfolk Rural Fire Protection District and we have contracts to service those areas.”
Because of this, the number of fire calls should not increase because of the annexation, but the division would take action if calls do increase for any reason, he said.
“We’d certainly come to you all just like we have and say, ‘We’re getting stretched thin and we need additional staff to support those needs,’ ” Cordes said. “We don’t anticipate that today.”
Police chief Don Miller said the police division has planned for the possibility of annexation.
“Currently, all of the areas that are being annexed are currently being served by the Madison County Sheriff’s Office. Once that annexation takes effect, then the Norfolk police would have primary jurisdiction over that,” Miller said. “That doesn’t mean that the sheriff’s office stops responding. We have a great working relationship.”
Currently, the sheriff’s office and police division have agreements to assist one another both inside and out of city limits when needed, Miller said. The Nebraska State Patrol will also still be able to patrol these areas.
Miller said he could make no guarantees on what needs the division will have in the future, but he would continue to assess them.
“In the meantime, the sheriff’s office will still serve those areas as they always have in addition to the police department,” Miller said. “I’m comfortable we can handle it in the short term, and we’ll be ready the day after if it would pass.”
The annexation’s impact on city finances also was discussed.
“I did want to note, too, that in all the areas that are proposed for annexation, there is city fiscal obligations and responsibilities that come with that,” Norfolk Mayor Josh Moenning said. “So if you did an analysis of all the annexed areas, this is almost a break-even situation for the City of Norfolk.”
The council opened the floor to further public comment after going over the questions.
Many members of the public complained about the annexation process itself.
“The procedure here’s been a colossal mess,” said Loren Kment.
The process, many said, was unfair and not transparent.
“The term that I keep returning to is tyranny,” said Julie Thompson.
Moenning said the city has followed procedures laid out in state laws.
“I want to clear up a few things that bothered me that were said tonight in terms of, really accusations, about the process not being fair, or following the letter of the law or being completed transparent, because that is completely false," Moenning said. “This process is spelled out in state law as to how it should occur in cities and we followed that process and went above and beyond, in certain circumstances, to allow for more public input than is required by state law.”
The council voted 5-0 in favor of the annexation, with councilmen Frank Arens, Shane Clausen and Thad Murren abstaining.
The ordinance must pass on three separate readings to go into effect. No public comment or discussion can be had on the final vote.
The Norfolk City Council met Monday at 5:30 p.m. at the Norfolk City Council chambers.
Council members present: Mayor Josh Moenning, Kory Hildebrand, Corey Granquist, Frank Arens, Gary L. Jackson, Rob Merrill, Andrew McCarthy, Thad Murren and Shane Clausen.
Council member absent: None
Meeting lasted: 2 hours.
Others in attendance: City staff, eight; media representatives, four; and about 25 from the public.
— Approved areas of proposed annexation to amend the corporate limits on second reading.
— Approved an interlocal agreement between the City of Norfolk and Madison County for the Norfolk Police Division to provide dispatch and communication services.
— Approved a master service contract for construction engineering and inspection services with JEO Consulting Group Inc. for an amount not to exceed 5% of construction
— Tabled ordinance amending the dates and times that fireworks may be discharged and limiting the dates and times that permissible fireworks may be sold to June 28 through July 3 from 2 to 11 p.m. and July 4 from 8 a.m. to midnight.