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Housing projects confronting crucial need for Imperial’s continued growth PDF Print E-mail

Imperial’s progress shown with $4.79 million in building permits; county permits $5 million plus

By Russ Pankonin
The Imperial Republican

Imperial’s community and business leaders know one primary factor that’s limited Imperial’s growth over the years—lack of rental housing.
Imperial’s no different in that aspect than many small  to mid-size communities across Nebraska.
But thanks to efforts by city officials and a California developer, a 10-home rental project won $1.5 million in federal housing tax credits in April.
The project is already under construction in the city’s Cornerstone Development off Holland Street in southwest Imperial.
Dana Point Development, headquartered in Turlock, Calif., will develop and build the project.
Dana Point builds all of their housing developments in Nebraska through the tax credit program.
Currently, the company is building projects in Imperial, Hastings, North Platte and Aurora.
They also have completed developments in Columbus, Waverly, Ashland, Aurora, Kearney, Lexington, Cozad, Gothenburg, North Platte and Sidney.
The 10 rental homes will be three to four-bedroom units with double car garages.
Two of the homes will rent at market rate while eight of the homes will be offered on an income-restricted basis.
In addition, President Matt Thomas said the company is also building four new spec homes along Holland Street that will be for sale.
These homes will range from 1,350 to 1,600 square feet with three bedrooms, two baths, nine-foot ceilings, a two-car garage and full basement.
He expects construction of the spec homes to be complete by the end of March.
He said he’s had quite a bit of interest in the new homes thus far.
The first of the rental homes will be complete in May with final completion expected by the end of July.
Thomas said Imperial has been “very welcoming” and that the project will help fill a definite need for housing.
While the new housing represents a big boost, Community Development Director Jason Tuller said the project won’t be the final solution to Imperial’s housing issues.  
He said more inventory will still be needed to meet overall demand going forward.
Infrastructure improvements
In the spring, the city council accepted a $1.43 million bid to install storm sewer and paving in the Sage Addition  and 12th Street in west Imperial.
The council made the move at the request of a majority of property owners in the addition. A street improvement district was formed with costs to be assessed back to property owners.
With the approval of the housing project in Cornerstone, the council opted to develop East 2nd Street, paving it from Holland to Orsa Street.
By timing the two projects together, the city was able to save some money by using contractors working on the Sage Addition project.
Bonds will be sold to cover the cost of construction of the two projects.
Bonds for the Sage project will be repaid through the property owner assessments.
Tax Increment Financing bonds, totalling around $752,000, will be sold to cover the cost of the Cornerstone infrastructure.
These bonds will be repaid by recouping property taxes on the development, along with LB 840 sales tax funds.
As part of the housing project, the city agreed not to charge back assessments for the street and sewer improvements.
The city also sold the lots for the rental housing for $1. Dana Point purchased the four lots where the spec homes are being built.  
Building permits hit a high
Building permits represent a key measuring stick used to gauge the community’s growth.
In 2013, building permits filed throughout the year totalled $4,795,768. That exceeded the highest total to date which occurred in 2011 when $4.76 million in permits were filed.
Permits for the homes in the Cornerstone Development represented $1.7 million of the overall total.
The accompanying chart tracks the growth of building permits from 2005 through 2013.
With the strong economy being experienced in the ag sector, building permits in rural Chase County grew, as well.
In 2013, permit filings exceeded $5.32 million. Grain storage, farm building storage and two  new feedlots accounted for much of the growth.

Building permit history
2005    $1.90 million
2006    $1.60 million
2007    $4.08 million
2008    $3.58 million
2009    $2.83 million
2010    $1.40 million
2011    $4.67 million
2012    $4.10 million
2013    $4.79 million

Business activity in 2013
The past year saw numerous changes in the business community.
Two new businesses opened in Imperial during 2013. Tiffany Reeves and Jacci Brown purchased the building at 509 Broadway and used the building’s address as their new name.
The new business is a clothing boutique and offers a full coffee bar.
The owners of Tequila’s Mexican Grill in McCook expanded their operation to Imperial in 2013.  They purchased the building that formerly housed Smokin’ Leroys and opened their restaurant in late spring.
This summer, Harchelroad Motors completed construction on a state-of-the-art collision and restoration center on east Hwy. 61 just west of the Alco Store.
They had been operating their body shop out of a building at the corner of Hwy. 61 and 12th Street after their main store was destroyed by fire in 2009.
Luhrs Seed and Conditioning constructed a second seed condition unit at their location northeast of Enders.
The new unit nearly tripled the number of bushels that can be cleaned. In addition, they added new storage bins and a new warehouse for seed tote storage and seed treating.
Markee Ag Services purchased the former T-Junction restaurant building to site a new dry fertilizer plant.
The old building was torn down and a new building to house the plant was constructed on the same site.
Right next door, the former Bart’s Corner convenience store was purchased by Frenchman Valley Coop. Work is presently underway to pour concrete around the fuel pumps.
St. Isidore’s Gift & Thrift, run by Catholic Social Services, purchased the building at 527 Broadway, remodeled it and relocated their store there. They also have a counselor on-site who is available each Thursday by appointment.
Titan Machinery added land to the south of their existing building to expand their machinery display area.
New feedlots were constructed by Dave and Rita Hogsett and John and Theresa Schilke.
Several businesses closed in 2013, as well. Two businesses located in the Broadway Professional Plaza, The Attic and Mud Buckets, closed.
Others included Bart’s Corner, Pribbeno Construction and Stan’s Repair in Champion.
Service-wise, Veterinary Services added another professional vet to their staff, Darcy Moreland.     
Business ownership changes
Several  businesses changed hands during the past year.
Kip and Jan Bremer purchased the drive-in at 1134 Broadway, previously JJ’s, and opened in May as the Twist & Shake.
The two chiropractic practices in Imperial both sold during 2013.
Calvin Weiss sold his practice to Dr. Jason Mathews of Benkelman. He renamed it Mathews Family Chiropractic.
Dale Longan sold his long-time practice here to Holyoke, Colo., natives Daniel Koch and his wife, Kristen.  The business will be known as Koch Chiropractic Clinic.
Stan and Phyllis Jones of Benkelman sold Top Hat Ag aerial spraying to Rob and Rebecca Aslesen.  The business, which is located at the Imperial airport, is now known as  Aerial Farm Services/Helena.
Ownership of Champion Mill and lake was officially transferred from the state of Nebraska to Chase County.
New homes in 2013
Seven new homes were built in 2013, with only one of the seven in Imperial.
That was a home for Debra Bauerle at 1723 Wesley Drive.
Rich Norman and Jacque Banks built a new home in the Genesis 2000 Addition east of the airport.
Dirk and Gail Dinnel built a new home overlooking the Frenchman River at 34026 Highway 6, about two miles east of the Hwy. 6/61 junction near Enders Lake.
Derek and Jennifer Stafford  built a new home at 73701 Ave. 336 east of Imperial.
Jeff and Ramona Schilke built a new home in the country at 32454 Rd. 742 northwest of Imperial.
Kent and Julie Wedel built a new home northwest of Imperial on the Chase-Perkins County line at 32737 Rd. 750.
Randy and Kathy Geier built a new home in Wauneta, west of the school, at 502 West Vinta Street.
Permits have been issued for a number of other homes either planned or presently under construction.
Wauneta business changes
In Wauneta, two new businesses opened and two others changed ownership.
Wellstone Industries, a water well development company based in Wray, Colo., opened a new location in Wauneta at 119 South Arapahoe.
Little Broncs and Tots Daycare, located at 149 North Shawnee, is owned and operated by Lindsay Anderson and Dawn Doetker.
The Hair Chateau, located in the former Crossroads building and owned by Cindy Nichols, was purchased by Ariel Fanning.
Marci Burgess purchased Tommy’s Sports Club on Wauneta’s main street and is now known as Tommy’s Sports Club II.
County helping feed world
Residents of Chase County continue to give back by helping feed starving children around the world. Response has been overwhelming for the Feed My Starving Children program, coordinated by Southwest Nebraska Meals for God’s Children, and the Mercy Meals project in Wauneta, coordinated by the Lutheran churches in Wauneta, rural Wauneta and Imperial.  
This year, the FMSC MobilePack™ held in Imperial packages more than 521,000 meals during their five-day event.
During 2013, Mercy Meals packed more than 288,000 meals.
Dating back three years to the first FMSC event, the two entities have packaged 1.57 million meals for starving children around the world.
Local economy strong
The region is still feeling the benefits of record commodity prices two years ago.
While corn and wheat prices declined in 2013 from those record highs, farmers reported positive yields.
Drought conditions held on for another year in 2013, making it two consecutive years that rainfall was below average.
That forced farmers to run pivots far more than they wanted under new allocation rules adopted by the Upper Republican Natural Resources District.
While the allocation remained at 13 inches for the year, the amount of carryforward that could be used was limited to seven inches during the allocation period.
The URNRD’s Rock Creek augmentation project in southwest Dundy County became operational in 2013. Water pumped from the project will help keep Nebraska in compliance with Kansas.
In addition, construction began this fall on a second augmentation project located in Lincoln County.
It’s a joint project of the Upper, Middle and Lower Republican NRDs and the Twin Platte NRD.
This project is expected to come online in early 2014 and will drop water into Medicine Creek. With pumping from both the Rock Creek and Lincoln County projects, Nebraska is expected to remain in compact compliance.
Farmers enter the 2014 planting season with guarded optimism as prices for corn and wheat have been declining since this year’s harvest.
National corn inventory is nearly twice of what it was at this time last year, putting some downward pressure on prices.
If some type of adverse weather event were to occur in corn belt country this year, a rise in prices would be expected.