The Nebraska Legislature’s Resources Committee heard testimony Thursday on two bills that would relocate the state Game and Parks Commission’s headquarters.
LB562, introduced by Bayard Sen. Steve Erdman, would relocate the commission’s headquarters from Lincoln to Sidney.
In addition to giving Sidney an economic boost, Erdman said, the move would put headquarters staff in close proximity to the large parks and wildlife populations they manage in the western part of the state.
Under LB668, introduced by Sen. Dan Hughes of Venango, the headquarters would be located in a county with a population of 10,000 or fewer and at least 200 miles from any city of the primary or metropolitan class.
Hughes said he introduced the bill to start a discussion about the drawbacks of concentrating state agencies and their employees in Nebraska’s capital. He said moving the commission’s headquarters would provide needed jobs and population growth in rural areas of the state.
“I don’t care where Game and Parks headquarters goes,” Hughes said. “It just needs to be somewhere outside of Lincoln.”
Roger Gallaway, mayor of Sidney, testified in support of Erdman’s proposal. He said the city could offer Game and Parks and its employees office space left vacant by Cabela’s and Bass Pro Shops, a new housing development, easy access to Interstate 80, good telecommunications infrastructure and a talented labor pool of approximately 25,000 workers within a 70-mile radius.
“We see this as an opportunity not only for Sidney but also the state,” Gallaway said. “We are more than capable to do what it takes to make such a facility a success.”
Timothy McCoy, deputy director of the state Game and Parks Commission, testified in opposition to both bills. He said moving the commission’s headquarters away from Lincoln could impede the agency’s collaboration with the Legislature, governor, University of Nebraska-Lincoln and other state agencies.
McCoy said his biggest concern is the potential monetary and personal costs of moving headquarters staff.
“They have homes, families, children in school — a change like this where we require them to move is going to require them to [make] really difficult decisions,” he said.
The committee took no immediate action on either bill.