Sam Crisler, The Waverly News
EAGLE — Residents of Eagle will have the opportunity in the May primary election to decide whether the Cass County village will be officially recognized as a city.
Under Nebraska state law, a village is a municipality of 100 to 800 residents, but communities with more than 800 residents can continue to be recognized as a village if they choose to follow the governance format of a village – with a board of directors, as opposed to a mayor and town council system.
Eagle’s population first reached 800 in the 1980 census, and the village board elected to allow voters to decide whether Eagle would become a city or remain a village. Of 184 voters, a majority (99) voted for Eagle to remain a village, and Eagle has been officially recognized as a village ever since.
Four decades later, the population of Eagle is 1,065, and the question will once again be posed to the people of Eagle. This time, some members of the village board see the town’s listing as an important step forward as the area expects further population growth.
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“Right now we’re seeing strong growth,” said board member Travis Moore, “and we just think that if we want to continue to grow and we want to be able to have more control over the future and investing in the community, the city is going to be the form of government that will give us more opportunities.
Moore said having a mayor and a city council form of government would allow the mayor to more manage the day-to-day implementations of policies that the city council votes on, rather than relying on the five-member board. of the village to set policy and oversee day-to-day operations. Additionally, having a mayor to act as a spokesperson for the community could help attract future business and growth, he said.
“I think we’re going to continue to grow and we’re going to need someone who’s going to be able to be the administrator, who’s going to be the spokesperson and the cheerleader for Eagle, to help recruit new businesses. and promote the future growth of the community,” Moore said.
If the people of Eagle voted for the village to become a town, the new town would be divided into two wards of similar populations which would each be represented by a pair of town council members.
“There are challenges if you live in the older part of town versus (the newer part of town),” Moore said. “So I think it’s important to have people in the city government who would be aware of the issues that their part of the city is directly facing.”
Another positive of being incorporated as a city, Moore said, may be an outsider’s perception that a city is more prosperous than a village. He said in his experience with the Cass County Economic Development Board, he’s noticed that business owners or potential developers may view towns more favorably than towns.
Another board member doesn’t see it that way. Dan Meier said he doesn’t think Eagle becoming a city will have much to do with attracting business or continuing to grow.
“The majority of companies have been here for years,” Meier said. “People who have come and gone have nothing to do with whether (Eagle) was a town or a town.”
He said that maybe it was because he was “old school”, but he didn’t see the advantage of becoming a city rather than a village, and he said that many of his voters had told him they felt the same way.
“I love the village,” Meier said. “I like the small town vibe. And it seems that if you go from a village to a city, you change, you go to something different. I see nothing wrong with being a village.
Meier also said there’s a greater chance that taxpayers will have to spend more money to run a city, largely because of city office workers who will need to be hired.
“It may not be immediate, but over time it will cost more,” Meier said.
Eagle Village Clerk Nick Nystrom said there would be no tax increases on becoming a town and any increases would have to be voted on by the new town council. He said he hoped the opposite – that a city designation would lead to more growth and an expanded tax base.
“Just because you’re titled a city versus a village doesn’t necessarily mean your taxes will go up,” Nystrom said.
Meier voted with the rest of the board to put the decision to voters in the May primary election.
“I think the city, our people, should have a choice,” he said. “If they want it, I will support it.”
If voters choose to reorganize in town, Nystrom said the board would have six to eight months to hold a special election to select city council members and the new mayor. The council would also wait until after the primary vote to draw new ward boundaries.