Tiny Village of Seneca Ceases to Exist
Wednesday, 02 July 2014 08:53
Nebraska has lost a town.
The tiny Sandhills village of Seneca, just west of the line that divides the Central and Mountain time zones, ceased to legally exist as of 11:59 p.m. Monday.
But the demise of the 126-year-old village, which came after a 17-16 vote in a May election, didn’t come without last-minute acrimony.
A couple of Seneca supporters who wanted the town to remain an incorporated village claim that they were denied their day in court.
They maintain that the Thomas County Board moved quietly — and more quickly than necessary — to dissolve Seneca before their scheduled hearing before a judge Tuesday.
After a last-minute plea to delay the dissolution was rejected by the County Board on Monday, a group of Seneca supporters withdrew their lawsuit that had contested the residency of a woman who they said cast the deciding vote and the legitimacy of the petitions that led to the special election.
Three felony cases associated with the Seneca unincorporation vote will proceed but are not expected to reverse the town’s demise. Two people are charged with falsely claiming that they were qualified to vote, and another maintains that a petition circulator falsely swore that she had witnessed people signing the petitions.
A member of the Thomas County Board, as well as the county clerk denied that there was any funny business involved in the scheduling of the meeting that finalized the town’s demise.
Thomas County Clerk Lorissa Hartman said that, originally, the board had decided to vote Tuesday on when to dissolve the village. By state law, the board had 50 days after the vote to decide when to dissolve the village, and Tuesday was the 50th day after the May 13 vote, Hartman said.
But two of the three County Board members had scheduling conflicts Tuesday, so the meeting had to be moved. Hartman said that since it had not been determined if a new meeting could be scheduled before the 50th day, the decision was moved to June 17.
That’s when the board voted to dissolve the village effective at midnight Monday, on the eve of the scheduled court hearing.
Another member of the Thomas County Board, Norma Butler of Thedford, said she sympathized with the plight of Seneca, but she had little choice but to move forward with dissolving the town.
She said she would have felt the wrath of county taxpayers if she had voted to delay the demise of the town, because the county would have continued to pay the bills to keep streetlights burning in Seneca.
As it stands, the board is scheduled to meet July 15 to decide when to turn off the streetlights and how to dispose of around $50,000 in Seneca property that the county inherited. It includes a community hall that volunteers recently restored through donations of time and money. The county also gets about $26,000 from the village’s bank account.
Nebraska now has 529 incorporated cities, towns and villages — legal communities that have governing councils that can levy taxes, receive state funds and decide how to maintain streets.
- Excerpts of article written by Paul Hammel, Omaha World Herald
Upcoming Sales Tax Meeting
Wednesday, 02 July 2014 08:23
Residents of Valentine will have the opportunity on July 8th to have questions answered about the upcoming sales tax renewal vote on July 15th. Voters will decide whether or not to extend the current sales tax rate at 1.5%, which is the same rate that it has been since 2006. The tax would continue to be used by the city for infrastructure such as storm sewer renovations, curb and gutter work, and paving projects. It has also been used to support the fire and police departments and direct property tax relief.
On July 8th at 7 pm at the Valentine Public Library, there will be a discussion with questions and answers about the sales tax, including the proposed golf course and Mid Plains Community College expansion. Attend the meeting to become more informed about the sales tax issue.