NEBRASKA CITY – After public input and a third reading of an ordinance to increase in the utility transfer, city commissioners agreed Monday to borrow over $2 million for site preparation and street improvements on a city-owned housing development.

Mayor Bryan Bequette says he believes most people in town recognize that more houses are needed.

Bequette: “This issue comes down to how do we go about getting that and  how do we fund it?”

The mayor said the city council invited developers, bankers, housings boards and economic development to a special meeting in 2017 on the topic of why Nebraska City housing was not keeping up with demand.

Public meetings were held in 2018 and 2019, where the public identified housing as their main concern.


Community Prosperity Initiative formed a housing committee to talk with investors about funding and Bequette said his viewpoint began to change.

Bequette: “I can side with Mr. (Jerry) Hammer, I know you spoke when we got the ARPA funds and we talked about buying properties to develop and I told you I was in your camp. As mayor I stayed in the camp of ‘where there is a need, a public need, a private entity will come and meet that need. I just knew it would happen.

And I waited and I waited and no developers came along.”

He said the situation is the same across rural Nebraska, where the financial risk to developers are too high compared to building in an urban area.

 Jerry Hammer

Bequette: “2017, 2018, 2019  still trying to find ways. We would probably be sitting around still trying to find a way had it not been for ARPA money for us to be able to purchase the land and the land deal that got.”

Jason Esser of Nebraska City said he does not like the idea of raising the utility transfer, but he believes it is the best option available to the city to break the cycle of rising housing costs based on a supply shortage.

The 1.25 percent increase in transfer fee will mean a yearly increase of $15 for every $100 in the monthly bill.

Robert Earl of Nebraska City urged  caution with increasing the cost of living in Nebraska City.

Former city commissioners Jim Stark and Jeff Crunk opposed the increased utility transfer fee.

Jim Stark, a former street commissioner who was elected public works commissioner in 2012, noted that the transfer fee was started a 3 percent in 2007 and was raised to 5 percent in 2011. Stark said the current increase to 6.5 percent may not be the last increase because it’s an easy funding source for the city.

Mayor Bequette said the city is under a spending lid.

Crunk questioned the annexation of the 30 acres purchased in the Kreifels subdivision as well as 13 acres given to the city. He said the city should not be taking land off of the property tax rolls.

Mayor Bequette said the idea is to increase the property tax base, so tax increment financing is not being used. He said the city hopes to increase valuation, create homes and encourage a robust housing cycle.