Small Nebraska towns get spiffed up with federal funding boost

By: - October 24, 2022 5:00 am

Wood River, Nebraska, is renovating an old nursing home in hopes of growing population and business. (Courtesy of Mayor Greg Cramer)

LINCOLN — Five Nebraska towns, including two with only 100 or so residents apiece, have been awarded a total of about $2 million to develop projects ranging from sprucing up Main Street to building a center for seniors.

The funds announced by the Nebraska Department of Economic Development come from the federal U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Community Development Block Grant program.

Wood River Nebraska
Big change in a small town has a 1970s-era Wood River structure being transformed to a center for seniors, a future library and food pantry. A child care program recently opened there, too. (Courtesy of Wood River Mayor Greg Cramer)

New purpose for old nursing home

Leaders in Wood River, Nebraska — population about 1,300 — plan to use their $433,000 award to further redevelop an old nursing home facility. They hope the new multi-use center will help draw more families to the Hall County community.

More specifically, the CDBG grant is to be used to build a senior center in a part of the 25,000-square-foot structure that had sat vacant a few years.  A previous federal grant allowed the community to convert part of the same complex into a child care center.

That child care program served more than 100 kids this past summer, said Mayor Greg Cramer, and has a waiting list that includes families outside of town.

He said future plans call for a library and food bank to help fill out the property that was originally built in the 1970s. Cramer credits a local nonprofit and its volunteers for pushing a vision of growth.

Wood River Mayor Greg Cramer (Courtesy of City of Wood River)

“We want to keep the projects rolling,” he said.

Small town boost

Other grantees:

In the city of Ainsworth, population about 1,600, a $433,000 award aims to improve Main Street from where it intersects with Nebraska Highway 20 north to the Wastewater Treatment Plant.

In Bartlett, which has just over 100 residents, $420,479 will go to improve Randolph Street from Fourth to Fifth Streets.

In Filley, which has 120 or so residents, a $315,000 is to improve infrastructure on Livingston, Gage, Lancaster and Johnson Streets.

Wayne, population of about 6,000, is to receive $433,000 to expand its trail system from residential areas to a major retail corridor. The project will create nearly a mile-long, six-foot-wide concrete trail parallel to Highway 35 on the west end of town. The new trail is to be accessible for users who are mobility constrained.

State economic development officials say the CDBG monies are intended to help communities with projects that enhance public health, well-being and economic vitality.


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Cindy Gonzalez
Cindy Gonzalez

Senior Reporter Cindy Gonzalez, an Omaha native, has more than 35 years of experience, largely at the Omaha World-Herald. Her coverage areas have included business and real estate development; regional reporting; immigration, demographics and diverse communities; and City Hall and local politics.