City Councilman Don Preister wants Bellevue to get in line for state funds that could help pay for a new conference center proposed for Twin Creek.
Changes to the Nebraska Civic and Community Center Financing Act, signed April 24 by Gov. Dave Heineman, allow cities of Bellevue’s size to apply for up to $750,000 in assistance if the purpose is to build a civic center or recreational facility.
The money would come from the state’s Civic and Community Center Financing Fund.
That fund is fed by revenues derived from new sales taxes generated by civic centers built with assistance from the fund.
The Ralston Arena at 72nd and Q streets is the latest example of such an arena. The cost of building the arena is being retired in part by the redirection of state sales taxes generated by the arena.
Seventy percent of the new tax revenues is being used to retire the Ralston Arena’s debt. The remaining 30 percent goes to the state fund for distribution to other Nebraska communities seeking to build civic centers.
Preister hopes to make Bellevue one of those communities. The city is being asked to build a $7 million conference center west of 36th Street and Raynor Parkway.
Steve Johnson, managing partner of the Twin Creek Development Co., has said the conference center would attract a hotel and would open the gates to retail and commercial development of the vacant land in front of the Marcus Twin Creek Cinema.
Preister said the city should get in line for the state funds just in case it approves construction of the center.
The changes, which were introduced by State Sen. Annette Dubas of Fullerton, establishes $750,000 as the maximum grant for cities with populations between 40,000 and 100,000. Just Bellevue and Grand Island meet that population threshhold.
Cities with populations between 10,000 and 20,000 – which would include Papillion and La Vista – may apply for grants up to $400,000. Cities with populations below 10,000, such as Springfield and Gretna, may apply for $250,000 grants.
The cities of Omaha, Lincoln and Ralston are ineligible because they have already been assisted by the fund.
Kevin Andersen, a consultant with the Nebraska Department of Economic Development, which oversees the fund, said the application deadline for this year passed on Feb. 15 but that a second round of applications might be accepted this fall.
The fund was created in 2011 and has since provided more than $3 million to municipalities building civic centers, according to Dubas.
Andersen said the fund holds just over $2 million.