Observations all along the line - Kimball & the Southern Panhandle First

Future of Chestnut Street in Kimball faces a great deal of uncertainty

What will become of Chestnut Street?

That was the question on the minds of everyone who attended the City Council meeting the night of June 4, with much of the discussion of what to do to keep the street in good condition after it is relinquished to the city of Kimball by the state of Nebraska.

Mayor James Schnell opened the meeting by introducing Doug Hoevet, the Nebraska Department of Roads District Construction Engineer for District Five which includes Kimball. According to Hoevet, Chestnut Street will become the responsibility of the city of Kimball by the end of the summer.

“Once the construction is finished, there are some letters that need to be written. I’m not certain if there is a duration of time from the time the letter is written if the execution of the contracts we have are immediate, but it will be this summer for certain,” Hoevet said.

Mayor Schnell brought the potential high cost of maintaining the road to the attention of those in attendance.

“As we see the need we’re going to have to do the armor coating on Chestnut to ensure the longevity of it. We’re talking about a quarter of a million dollars in let’s say five years. We are the people in charge of coming up with where that money’s coming from. We need to put about a minimum of $250,000 away in the next five years,” Schell said.

However, Schnell hopes to work out a way to schedule the maintenance so that the sum does not need to be paid all at once.

“If we’re diligent, I think we can do it in sections so we’re not hit with the bill all in one year,” Schnell said.

Given the high cost that could come to the city in order to keep the road in good condition, suggestions were offered by the council in order to decrease the wear and tear on the road over the next few years.

One of the ideas presented by the council, pushing semi-trucks off of Chestnut Street, was met with passionate opposition by members of the community and surrounding area in attendance.

“I do business at both quick stops here in Kimball, Nebraska. You put me on a bypass and make me go around I won’t go by here anymore,” a truck driver from Scottsbluff said to the council. “Bar me out of town, get no more business.”

Mike Hofer, Chief Operations Officer for the Panhandle Coop Association, expressed to the council the potential loss to the association should trucks be pushed off of Chestnut Street.

“Trucks coming through town are a little over a third of our fuel business. I can’t speak for any of the other citizens or owners of the businesses in Kimball, but I can tell you from my perspective that we couldn’t afford to lose a third of our business,” Hofer said.

Henry Heeg, owner of Vince’s Corner, also addressed the financial impact that the suggested change would have on local businesses.

“For me, I have five trucks that stop at my store at least two or three times a week that are local people. The only reason they stop there is to support my business. I’m very appreciative of that, because I need that business. If you do this, you’re directly handcuffing businesses that are on the corner. We can’t dictate who we want in our town. We can’t keep business out of our town,” Heeg said.

City Council President Kim Christensen took time to make it clear that the city is not in any way targeting truckers, but rather city officials are simply trying to find a way to reduce the potential costs to both the city and tax payers in the future.

“The concern is just the wear and tear on the roads. We like you truckers. We like the fact that you come here, and we’re glad you’re here. We’re just trying to figure out how to pay for it so we’re definitely not opposed to you being here,” Christensen said.

The council also briefly discussed options for the potential change to handicap spaces, and speed limits. However, no action was taken by the council as they take time to take all of the public’s suggestions and comments into consideration.

It appeared that many of those in attendance felt the daunting task before the city council can best be summed up by the words said by long time Kimball resident, Bud Klaassen, just before the meeting came to a close.

“You guys got a hell of a job ahead of you.”