By Jan Schultz, The Imperial Republican News Editor
In this era of questions surrounding the survival of rural communities, those that are progressive and forward-thinking will likely have the best shot at it.
It’s difficult to pull that off, sometimes, due to budget restraints that small communities face. That’s why working together, pooling resources and use of volunteers is so important.
Imperial has always shined in those critical areas.
Budgets are tight all over and it likely won’t be getting better any time soon. That is why it was a forward-thinking move by this community more than four years ago to pass the city sales tax.
It is totally paying off the bonds on the new swimming pool here—yes, we’ve had problems with the pool, but those bonds would still have to be paid on, problems or not.
And, the sales tax funds are also paying the bonds on the economic development property the city purchased last year along Highway 61, east of Schroeder Park. It has yet to be developed, and may be controversial to some, but it provides some room for future development here, whether it be industrial or residential.
There are also plans in this Cornerstone Development property to provide drainage ponds, to help alleviate the water flow to the east, which has been a big problem. A soccer field is also in the preliminary plans.
Did you know Imperial is one of 169 communities in Nebraska that have a local sales tax? Yes, it’s another tax, but an additional cent on every dollar is hardly noticed, especially when considering you pay it in most other Nebraska towns when you travel.
That local sales tax has also helped build the new restrooms in Campbell Park, money from it is earmarked for doctor recruitment and it also helped Mid-Plains Community College in its purchase of the building now housing their Imperial campus site, a huge plus to this community.
The sales tax money also helped us celebrate Imperial’s 125th this summer, and has funded a number of other smaller projects.
This community was recently recognized statewide at the annual Nebraska Community Improvement Program (NCIP) for a number of its “forward-thinking” efforts.
Imperial finished 2nd in its population category (1,100 to 4,000) with the Governor’s Spirit Award, given for overall excellence in community and economic development. That came after judges spent two hours in Imperial this fall, which included a drive-by tour of the community.
There were also individual awards for the Cornerstone Development property (the 70 acres east of Schroeder Park), Imperial’s 125th celebration and the recent organization of Meeting of the Minds.
In the NCIP judges’ comments, “a great display of community volunteerism” was often noted.
To me, that’s a major key to communities like Imperial who will survive in the coming years.
Keep that in mind next time you are asked to join a service organization or volunteer your time.