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County officials visit Washington, D.C.

August 24, 2018

SCOTTSBLUFF – County board members and city officials were recently welcomed to Washington, D.C., by the Trump administration to discuss how they can work together to improve the delivery of government services.

“I’m not going to say the invitation was unprecedented, but it has been a long time since the White House has invited local government officials for a true discussion of their ideas and needs,” said Banner County Commissioner Robert Post, one of the local officials to make the trip. “Every state in the union will have a turn, so this time it was Nebraska and Kansas.”

A common theme they heard from all the presenters was that President Trump wants to roll back all the burdensome federal regulations that hamper local governments from effectively doing their jobs.

Post said the process to build new bridges in the counties is tied up with numerous federal departments which must all approve any construction projects. President Trump has called on all those agencies to streamline the approval process, coining the phrase “One Government, One Decision.”

An example of that at the state level will happen in September, when the Nebraska Department of Transportation signs an agreement with the Federal Highway Administration to allow the state to take over all environmental clearances for transportation projects.

The seven other states with that authority have reported much shorter timelines for highway construction projects. But paying for them is another challenge.

“We’re always concerned about transportation funding because the counties own such a large portion of the nation’s roads and bridges,” Post said. “We want to make sure that funding streams continue. A portion of that funding also comes from the Agriculture Department for community block grants.”

Another hot topic Post discussed with representatives from the U.S. Department of Transportation concerned hours of service rules for livestock haulers.

Current federal rules require commercial truckers to record their log books electronically. After crossing a 150 air-mile radius, truckers may only drive 11 hours before taking a mandatory 10-hour rest period. That rule often keeps livestock on trucks longer than necessary.

“Loading time isn’t the same as driving time but the electronic log is recording that time,” Post said. “Our Congressional delegation agrees the hours of service rules need to be modified so that livestock haulers can complete their load.”

Post also discussed several components of the Farm Bill with Department of Agriculture officials. One of them is providing more internet broadband access into rural communities.

Post listed several areas where broadband would help Banner County in addition to allowing residents to work from home.

A proposed wind farm for the county could benefit from online monitoring. The Natural Resources Districts are talking about online monitoring for all its flow meters. And the feedlots are in need of better internet service.

“We see the direction this administration is going and we’re all pretty comfortable with it,” Post said.

Also attending meetings in Washington were Kimball County Commissioner Tim Nolting, who’s the 2nd Vice President of the Nebraska Association of County Officials. Others from the Panhandle area included Deuel County Commissioner Steve Fischer and Dawes County Commissioner Jake Stewart. Representing cities were Scottsbluff Mayor Randy Meininger and Gering Mayor Tony Kaufman.

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