BEATRICE – Now that the City of Beatrice has been named recipient of a $21.3 million federal RAISE grant, the work really begins.
The grant is part of the bipartisan Infrastructure bill passed by Congress and signed by President Biden. Nebraska Congressional members who voted in favor of that bill include House member Don Bacon and Senator Deb Fischer.

Beatrice City Administrator Tobias Tempelmeyer said a first step will be approving the grant agreement with the federal government. "We are anticipating receiving that sometime within the next month. That's what the federal government has said. Now, with that being said, we were awarded the Safe Streets For All grant on our ADA transition plan May 21st, and today I was scheduling a meeting with them for sometime in late July to talk about what may be in the grant agreement, so it might be a little longer than a month."

The funds must be obligated by September of 2028 and spent by the city by September 30th, of 2033.

Mayor Bob Morgan said getting the grant is a blessing for the community and will allow the city to transform its downtown corridor along Court Street, which includes rerouting truck traffic a block south of Court Street.  "And, I would challenge the hope and the help from Main Street, from NGage, from the Chamber of Commerce and us, up here... that simply moving the highway one block is not the total answer. Now, we need to go to work and find the future of businesses that are going to line Court Street, as a pedestrian friendly community. That is going to take some time that we have to start taking those steps, now."

Morgan said it will take a lot of work and partnerships to make the project happen, adding that it’s about more than just the money.  "Because if you look at the number of people it will take to get this project completed, you're going to see an economic increase in sales tax, and people who are working on our projects, and again, that is another benefit that we don't always necessarily see. From that standpoint, there's a whole lot more to come. This is kind of like a baby step one."  Morgan said the need for housing is another key issue the city faces.

City Councilman Terry Doyle, who chairs a special council committee on downtown redevelopment, said a lot of local partners were behind the effort to promote the idea of revamping the downtown area.

"There's been a lot of discussion about this and it wasn't just in the last ten or fifteen years. I was here 40 years ago and it was in a comprehensive plan that long ago. I can't tell you how many times this has come across the city council's desk. I'm just really proud of everybody here for all of the votes we've taken in the last several years. They've all been eight to zero."

Doyle said the grant is likely the most consequential item for the community since a floodplain relocation program the city undertook decades ago.  "That was transformative for this community and we were able to get it done...and I think most of those people were very happy with the way we did that. It gave us some of the best city parks in all of Nebraska and to have a great trail system. That was really the last thing that I can think of, that is even close to what we're doing right here."

Tempelmeyer said contact with the City of York may help find out how more about how the money is transferred…either directly or by reimbursement for work that is completed. York received a RAISE grant two years ago for a pedestrian project including a walkway overpass over U.S. Highway 81.

The City of Beatrice hired Washington D.C.-based Merchant McIntyre, a firm that helped maintain connections with members of Congress and seek out grant support on behalf of the city.