Archway to Lose $75,000/Year in County Funds

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KEARNEY, Neb. A matter of saving tax payer dollars has left a hole in the pocket of a popular Kearney tourist attraction.

In a Buffalo County board meeting on Tuesday, commissioners voted 4-3 to not renew an interlocal agreement that expires later in 2016 with The Great Platte River Road Archway in Kearney.

That means the archway drivers can't miss while passing through Buffalo County is now losing $75,000 per year in county funding.

"I think it's a poor choice on the county and/or the city's part," said Kearney resident, Russell Hill. "I think it's a joint venture that that be funded by the county and the city."

But one board commissioner who voted against the funding says many in the county disagree, especially people who live in rural areas and don't get the same monetary benefits the city sees from tourists who spend money in Kearney while visiting the archway.

"Out in my area, most are not in favor of funding the archway at all. It's been that way for quite a while. And we're concerned about taxes getting higher, which, in general, they have," added commissioner, Dennis Reiter. "And property taxes have gotten to be a real issue with people, especially in the rural environment right now."

The archway does still get $75,000 from the city of Kearney and another $150,000 from the Kearney Visitor's Bureau, but it's unknown where it will fill in the gaps.

"The archway draws in business. It was put together by donated funding and it needs to continue," Hill stated. "$75,000 is a drop in the bucket for the city and the county."

The monument has proved to turn a profit since recovering from bankruptcy over the past few years.

"The archway is budgeted to be on the cash flow positive side this year. So, we're not in jeopardy of taking a step back. We just want to continue the momentum that we've got," said Eric Hellriegel, assistant parks and recreation director and a director for the archway.

Archway officials do remain confident in their high visitor numbers, which they say will spike during summer, their busiest time of year.

"We have a lot of events planned," added Jace Robinson, the archway's marketing coordinator. "We're working on a lot of events for the rest of the year so there's going to be a lot of community-oriented things that will hopefully give people in Kearney and Buffalo County a reason to engage with our archway."