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Board OKs additional dredging for Crystal Lake near Ayr

July 14, 2018

DAVENPORT — The Little Blue Natural Resources District would collect $1.8 million in property tax revenue to support a $4.7 million budget of spending and saving for the new fiscal year under a budget proposal presented here Tuesday.

Meeting in Davenport for their monthly meeting, LBNRD directors voted 16-0 to advance the proposed budget for fiscal 2018-19 to a public hearing. The new fiscal year, which began July 1, is referred to officially as fiscal year 2019.

The public hearing is set to begin 8 p.m. Aug. 14 at the district offices in downtown Davenport. The hearing will take place in the midst of the board’s regular August meeting.

For fiscal 2017-18, which ended June 30, the NRD required $1.7 million in property tax support, so the year-over-year increase is $57,034, or 3.3 percent.

Property tax requirements for other recent past fiscal years have included $1.65 million for 2016-17, $1.57 million for 2015-16, $1.8 million for 2014-15 and 1.81 million for 2013-14.

The rate at which property owners in the NRD will pay tax to support the district’s budget will depend on the property tax valuations established for 2018 by area county assessors. Those numbers aren’t released until the latter half of August.

The larger the district valuation, the lower the property tax levy rate. Valuations in rural Nebraska are heavily influenced by factors including agricultural market prices and the condition of the farm economy, which currently are unfavorable.

“I expect valuations are going to be less than they were last year,” said Mike Onnen, NRD general manager, in comments to the board.

The Little Blue NRD encompasses all of Thayer County, most of Adams County, and parts of Webster, Clay, Nuckolls, Fillmore and Jefferson counties. NRDs are allowed to collect property tax of up to 4.5 cents per $100 valuation, plus some additional for specified purposes.

As proposed, the district budget for the year provides for expenditures on the ongoing pond renovation at Crystal Lake Recreation Area near Ayr; installation of water holding structures on Sand Creek in western Adams County as part of a groundwater recharge pilot project; work on an oxbow reconnection recharge project now in design; $69,440 in assistance for the Hebron trails project; and $100,000 in assistance for Hastings Utilities’ innovative Aquifer Storage and Restoration (ASR) project through the district’s Municipal Water System Assistance Program. This payment is to be the last for the Hastings ASR work, Onnen said.

The proposed budget also would provide spending authority for a contemplated soil vadose sampling project, for which the district will seek grant funding; irrigation flowmeter inspections and maintenance; and costs associated with adding a new resources technician and database specialist to the district staff.

In other business Tuesday, the board deferred further discussion on proposed revisions to the district’s groundwater management rules and regulations. That decision followed an hourlong meeting of the board’s Water Resources Committee, immediately preceding the full board meeting, in which members went through some proposed revisions and editing changes to the draft revisions as they currently stand. Another such committee meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. July 30.

The board conducted a public hearing on the proposed revisions May 29. Any substantive revisions made at this point would necessitate a new public hearing, but simple editing changes and wording clarifications would not.

The proposed revisions discussed Tuesday were based on input from legal counsel and also from comments and questions that arose at the public hearing.

The revised rules would take effect about 30 days after the meeting where they ultimately were approved by the board. This round of revisions has been under discussion for about two years.

In other business Tuesday, the board:

— Approved a change order with Pruss Construction of Dodge for additional dredging of the pond at Crystal Lake Recreation Area near Ayr.

Pruss Construction holds a contract worth $254,915 for dredging and other improvements at the park, which is managed by the village of Ayr with assistance from the LBNRD. Funding for the project is being provided by the village, the NRD, the Nebraska Environmental Trust, the state Department of Environmental Quality, and the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. The NRD has committed up to $50,000 for the work over two budget years, while the village has committed $15,000 in money and in-kind services.

Onnen said the project contract came in below budget, so the project partners would like to spend the saved money to further deepen the pond, which nestles the Little Blue River but is fed by groundwater.

“It’ll just make a nicer fishery all the way around,” he said.

The change order with Pruss carries a price tag of $66,965. Onnen said approving the change order would not result in any additional costs to the NRD or lengthen the time frame for project completion.

“I think they’re moving along really well,” he said.

— Approved a new contract with Beehive Industries LLC, a Lincoln company that provides computer services to the NRD, for another year. The contract amount is for the same amount as the previous year, $9,800, but with a reduced scope of services provided as Beehive seeks to refocus its operation.

The district will pay an additional $14,000 to send several employees to Lincoln for two days of intensive training with the Beehive staff, with the goal of their becoming more capable of helping themselves in pulling information from the Beehive system and producing their own reports.

Beehive provides the database for groundwater management information on land in the district.

— Deferred action on bids for the structures to hold back flows on Sand Creek for groundwater recharge purchases.

— Approved a repeat of a previously completed project that involves pulling deep and shallow soil cores from about 30 locations across the NRD, and applying for grants from the Nebraska Environmental Trust and the 319 Water Quality Program through the state Department of Environmental Quality to pay for the work. Onnen said the aim of the project is to help gauge whether groundwater management activities in the district are having any effect. Estimated price of the work is $145,000.

— Heard a report from Kevin Orvis, the district’s projects manager, about the city of Fairbury’s plan to raise steeply its wholesale charge for water to the Little Blue public water projects in the Fairbury area. The two public water projects, which are financially self-supporting, purchase water from the city and then distribute it to rural customers who don’t have a safe, reliable water supply. Discussions continue.

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