A 1999 Nebraska Supreme Court survey highlighted concerns about the inaccessibility of the Valley County Courthouse for some residents. As a result, the County Board discussed the need for an elevator. An architect was hired to develop a plan and cost estimates. It was soon discovered that installation of an elevator would also require construction of a fire escape with exits on each floor and a fire sprinkler system.
Efforts were made to find funding with help from the Central Nebraska Economic Development District (CNEDD). In 2008, CNEDD staff filed a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) application with the Nebraska Department of Economic Development (DED) and ultimately received $250,000 to remove architectural barriers at the Courthouse. This project had many driving forces to make it possible. The Valley County Board, the local Chamber and Economic Development Board, and CNEDD were active participants in the project’s decisions and application process. Valley County citizens’ positive response to the survey also led to the elevators installation.
To comply with required matching funds, the County sought the cooperation of Loup Valley Rural Public Power in applying for and receiving a 10-year interest free loan through the U.S. Department of Agriculture in the amount of $360,000. The County also used funds from an Inheritance Tax Fund. In addition, two local families donated towards the courthouse renovation.
Valley County residents will undoubtedly benefit from the courthouse improvements. Many citizens are required to visit offices located on second and third floors to title or license vehicle, pay taxes, register to vote, and attend County Board meetings, among other tasks and obligations. These and other services provided by the County are now accessible to all citizens.
Randy O’Brien said, “As former Mayor of Ord, it has been great to see what Valley County Supervisors have been able to do with the courthouse renovation and the addition of the much needed elevator that was partly financed with the state CDBG funds. Without the help of the CDBG funds these types of projects would be very hard to do in a community and county of our size.”