A new skate park for North Platte took a big step closer to reality Tuesday, when the city council unanimously approved a contract with Spohn Ranch Inc. of Los Angeles, Calif.

Spohn Ranch will provide conceptual designs, recommend construction methods, help determine the best location and oversee construction.

Spohn Ranch submitted one of three design-build proposals from the 12 firms that were invited to submit proposals.

A selection committee, consisting of the city engineer, recreation superintendent, parks and recreation director, and two council members, reviewed the proposals and decided Spohn Ranch’s proposal was best.

City Parks and Recreation Director Lyle Minshull said all three proposals were good, but Spohn Ranch stood out because of their site selection process, the incorporation of colored cement in the design, and an expected completion date of May 2025.

The skate park’s budget is around $650,000, with approximately $150,000 of that coming from private contributions over several years. Spohn Ranch’s fee would be 7% of the final cost to build the park. Minshull said that is an average rate.

Minshull said the next step is inviting Spohn Ranch to hold public input sessions. From there, age demographics need to be decided; the plan is for separate parts of the skate park to accommodate skaters with differing abilities.

Councilman Ty Lucas asked how private contributions would be utilized in the project. Mayor Brandon Kelliher said most of the private funds are in an account managed by the Mid-Nebraska Foundation and would require a letter from those with the funds detailing how the money should be spent. 

Kelliher asked for public comments on the project.

Pete Lowe voiced concerns about the project’s cost and where the money was going, specifically to California. He wanted to know why we could not utilize local contractors for this project.

“I’ve lived in North Platte since 1963, and I’ve seen a lot of changes and a lot of what I considered wasted money,” Lowe said. “This, to me, is the No. 1 waste of our local money, going to those people.”

Kelliher asked City Engineer Brent Burklund to describe the process from an engineering viewpoint.

Burklund said the total price includes both the design and construction of the skatepark. He said the technical design for a skate park determines the slopes, the radius of bowls, and heights, which require expertise to design and minimizes the liability of the city.

Burklund said the construction cost would be around $600,000, and the design fee would be around $50,000. Burklund envisions Spohn Ranch will utilize as many local contractors to build as they can. 

Councilman Ed Reiker asked if it is a priority to select the site from city-owned property, and Burklund said yes, only city property is under consideration. Kelliher said the price of acquiring a new site would make the project cost-prohibitive at this time.

Councilman Brad Garrick noted that Spohn Ranch has an established relationship with Olsen General Contracting of Lincoln.

Lucas said one of his concerns working with a California company is writing Nebraska laws into the contract.

City Attorney Bill Troshynski said that is something he is careful about in any city contract. Lucas also said Spohn Ranch recently finished a similar project in Norfolk, and the feedback has been positive. 

Elms Lodge property

The city council declared the former Elms Lodge to be blighted and substandard on a 5-2 vote; Woods and Tryon opposed it.

Gary Person, president and CEO of the North Platte Area Chamber & Development Corp., supported the finding, and the council also approved micro-tax increment financing for renovation of the place. Once remodeled, the one-bedroom units are expected to rent for about $650, adding more than 40 affordable homes in North Platte.

This passed with a 5-2 vote, with Tryon and Woods opposed. 

Tele-health

The council unanimously approved an agreement to provide telehealth for a year in a pilot program between Avel eCare, LLC, and the North Platte Fire Department.

The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services approached the NP Fire Department and asked them to participate in the year-long pilot program to bring high-quality emergency medicine to rural Nebraska.

Rieker asked if the cost could be spread amongst several fire and rescue departments, if they formed an association. North Platte Fire Chief Dennis Thompson said the state is paying for the first year, and at this time, North Platte only plans to participate for a year because of the high cost. Thompson also said the state and Avel were very particular about what cities they asked to join the program.

Lucas asked how exactly the service would be beneficial. Thompson said each ambulance would have a TV in the back of the unit that connects with a doctor, who can provide additional care and consultation if needed.

Councilman James Nisley asked if the patient would see any extra costs. Thompson said there would be no further costs.

Councilman Brian Flanders asked if the services would be available only on North Platte ambulances. Thompson said yes, but North Platte is getting more calls to Thedford and Mullen, and the service would benefit those long transports.

Councilman Brad Garrick asked what technology is used; the mayor said it is cell phone based. Thompson said part of the pilot program is to see how well the technology works in rural areas. 

In other business, the council approved:

  • A contract with Weathercraft Companies to replace the roof at the Public Safety Building. The total amount is $77,011.  
  • Financing with NebraskaLand Bank to finance the lease-purchase of one Pierce Enforcer 107′ ASL Aerial Apparatus for the fire department, totaling $1.2 million. Nebraskaland Bank will charge 4.88% interest over 12 years.
  • Non-conforming use of mobile homes at 2803 & 2803 1/2 West Sixth, where the owners want to improve a run-down area.  
  • Referral of an extremely blighted study for a block between Chestnut and Walnut, and Second and Third streets to the City Planning Commission for public hearing. (see image below)
  • The minutes of the March 19 meeting.
  • Sending the application from El Mojito and ApeShip Brewing at 520 N. Dewey for a Class I Liquor License to the Nebraska Liquor Control Commission.    
  • Sending the application from TBS Liquors NP, LLC (The Bottle Shop) for a Class D Liquor License and Class K Catering Endorsement to the Nebraska Liquor Control Commission. 
  • The mayor’s appointment of Sonja Voycheske as an alternate member of the Board of Adjustment. 
  • Placing the February 2024 Treasurer’s Report on file.
  • Application by Centennial Park Professional Plaza for the Centennial Park eleventh subdivision.
  • The paying of the bills. 
Proposed extremely blighted area.

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