KEARNEY — With 13 projects totaling $34.4 million on the city of Kearney’s to-do list this summer, residents and visitors will encounter new streets, park amenities and buildings taking shape in every corner of the town.
“It may be one of our busiest summers for managing projects. We’ve been preparing for this since about the middle of last year,” said Eric Hellriegel, Kearney’s assistant city manager.
Some of the work residents and visitors will see involves major street construction on 11 blocks of Avenue N in east-central Kearney. That project was delayed in early 2000 because of coronavirus uncertainties. Also on the calendar is the $1.5 million kickoff of an 11-acre botanical garden, a $7 million airport terminal addition and a $9 million indoor tennis facility.
Swimmers will get a refurbished water slide at Harmon Pool, southwest Kearney residents will get a pedestrian bridge to enter Yanney Heritage Park, and children in southeast Kearney will get a splash pad and new playground equipment at Collins Park.
Kearney’s municipal sales tax will pay for many of the 13 projects, but money for other projects is from federal stimulus sources or other sources.
Donors, grants and funds from the University of Nebraska at Kearney will pay for the indoor tennis facility. Footings for that structure are being laid. The tennis center will house six courts and administrative offices for the city’s park and recreation department, and will occupy a tract on the south side of the 110-acre University Village development near UNK’s west campus.
Federal CARES Act stimulus money and Federal Aviation Administration airport improvement funds will pay for the two high-dollar projects at Kearney Regional Airport — a $7 million terminal addition and $6 million in taxiway reconstruction. Uncle Sam also is paying for a 76-stall parking lot expansion worth $950,000 at the terminal.
Hellriegel said the CARES Act money for the terminal was a windfall for Kearney. He said officials weren’t anticipating the funds for the $7 million addition, but it will enhance the experience for air travelers and corporate types who travel frequently to Kearney.
“You can look at our growing economy,” Hellriegel said, “We have quite a few prominent businesses in Kearney. The airport is an economic development tool, and it’s a quality of life thing. We are one of the only communities our size that has service to both Denver and Chicago. It’s an exciting time to be in Kearney and see these pieces come together.”
One of the 13 projects — $2 million in structural repairs to the Second Avenue overpass — was delayed in 2000 because of the pandemic uncertainties. The overpass still is in limbo.
Last year city leaders were concerned sales tax receipts might fall off and make it impossible to pay for the overpass repairs.
Kearney’s sales tax revenues have rebounded, but Hellriegel said it’s now difficult to get a contractor to do the repairs. No contractors submitted proposals the last time the city called for bids on the overpass repairs. Hellriegel said unless there’s a creative way to attract bidders, it’s probably too late to proceed with the Second Avenue overpass work this summer.