NFAT receives $150,000 from the city

North Fork Area Transit got a big boost from the City of Norfolk during its Tuesday night City Council session.

In a 5-1 vote among current council members, the city agreed to contribute $150,000 to the transit organization to help fill the gap in needed funding as the NFAT struggles to get back on its feet. Councilor Kory Hildebrand was the only member to vote against the measure.

The contribution helps the transit organization take a big step toward reaching its fundraising goal of $500,000, which it is seeking to raise by the end of the month.

Officials said if they can raise the necessary funds by Tuesday, February 28, they will receive a matching grant from the Johnny Carson Foundation, which will allow them to resume operations in the city.

The foundation agreed to match the funds raised by the NFAT under the stipulation that officials raise the full amount by close of business on Feb. 28, just one week away.

Prior to Tuesday night’s council session, NFAT officials confirmed that $230,000 of the needed funds had been raised. Those funds were raised primarily through sponsors who depend on NFAT to provide transportation services for its workers.

Norfolk Mayor Josh Moenning said the investment in NFAT has been good for the community.

“It was an eye opener for me personally when this system started to grow and then went away…just how much usage there was between different services. … Everyone here tonight agreed that transport services in Norfolk are needed.

The city’s contribution, however, comes with stipulations, according to city attorney Danielle Myers-Noelle.

“What you have before you is a resolution authorizing a one-time contribution of up to, but not more than, $150,000 to North Fork Area Transit,” Noelle said.

Noelle explained that for the NFAT to receive city funds, it must meet the following guidelines.

“The city’s $150,000 can only be received after all other necessary funds have been raised.

— NFAT must appoint a city council member to its board of directors.

— The original transportation finance agreement between NFAT and the city will be terminated.

To date the city and county have provided more than $1 million in funding to NFAT. The state had sent a mobility management team to help the organization recover and resume operations.

The transit organization suspended operations Jan. 6 in the wake of its former general manager Jeff Stewart’s alleged theft of more than $740,000.

Officials said the amount of stolen funds could be as high as $1.5 million, and investigations into the theft continue.

A warrant has been issued for Stewart’s arrest by federal, state and local law enforcement, and he remains at large.

The Norfolk City Council met Monday evening in the boardroom at 309 N. Fifth St. All council members were present, except Justin Webb and Justin Snorton. About 40 citizens and municipal staff attended the meeting. The session lasted just over two hours and ended with the council vote to close the sessions. Below is a summary.

— Board members received a presentation from the Nebraska Public Power District.

– Mayor Josh Moenning issued a proclamation naming the week of Monday, February 27 through Friday, March 3 “Public Schools Week.”

— The Council considered and approved an ordinance to enact a section of the city code to allow golf vehicles to be used on city streets and establish provisions under which golf vehicles may be used.

— The City approved a Building Engineering Services Amendment with Olsson Inc. for sanitary sewer rehabilitation on an Omaha Avenue project for an amount not exceeding $16,800.

— The City approved a contract with Elkhorn Paving Construction Co. of Norfolk for a paving district (Walters’ East Knolls 14th Addition) for $249,267.

— City approved an agreement with Waterwise Landscapes, coordinated by Nebraska Statewide Arboretum Inc. and funded by the Nebraska Department of the Environment and Energy, to reimburse the City of Norfolk up to $25,000 for eligible expenses associated with the implementation of the cost of tree planting and lawn conversion share project.

— The Council has approved an agreement with KABOOM! Inc. in partnership with Integrity Marketing Group, a Dallas-based firm with two local partners, McMill CPAs & Advisors and Premier Marketing, to build a new playground at Liberty Bell Park for an amount not to exceed $8,500.

— Council has approved the placement of a sculpture at the 25th Street and Benjamin Avenue traffic circle at the request of the Norfolk Arts Council.

— City has agreed to purchase a landscaped frame playground from Outdoor Recreation Products, through a Sourcewell contract with a state offering price in the amount of $122,378.40 plus $4,550 transportation for a total of $126,928, to be placed at Warren Cook Park.

— The city approved an amendment to the original engineering services agreement with JEO Consulting Group for the final Johnson Park project for $44,500.

— In a 5-1 vote, the council agreed to a resolution pledging to contribute $150,000 in city funds to North Fork Area Transit (NFAT) to help NFAT reach its goal of raising $500,000 to receive funds grant matching from the Johnny Carson Foundation. (See story on page 1.)

— After the open session, the board decided to meet in closed session.

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