Category Archives: Regional News

A Case of Eclipse Fever

BEATRICE –  Never has a few seconds of darkness received so much attention, but Beatrice-area officials are gearing up to capitalize on a total solar eclipse, in August of next year.

The Beatrice-area is smack dab in the middle of a pathway where the total eclipse will last the longest…2 minutes, 35 seconds…

:15                  “got mooned”

NGageSignBeatrice Area Chamber of Commerce President Lora Young, talking about one of the marketing efforts for the August 21st event.  Events are being planned for the Friday night and weekend leading up to the Monday full eclipse.

:15                  “the fairgrounds”

Safety will be a key concern, with local officials planning to sell the special glasses that allow people to view the eclipse, without damaging their eyes.  Young says the chamber is getting regular inquiries from groups planning to come to the area.   She cites one group from Minnesota.

:31                  “about Beatrice”

The Gage County Fairgrounds is being marketed as an area to camp, for those coming to the area for the eclipse.  Discussions are underway about holding various events.   Gage County Board member Gary Lytle says despite some jokes about the eclipse, there are people who take it very seriously.

:10                  “they’re out there”

Young says in that instance, there were enough people interested to charter two jets flying across the ocean, to follow an eclipse.

Young says one goal is to emphasize the whole thing as a family event….not just a visit for two minutes of darkness.

Area Schools Attend 5th Annual Explore-It Career Fair

BEATRICE – Over 450 students from 13 area schools had the opportunity to attend the 5th annual Explore-It Career Fair at Southeast Community College Tuesday morning. Students were able to talk to 35 different employers in fields that interested them and possibly discover something new. Work Force Coordinator for the Department of Labor Kari Janssen says the event helps promote jobs around our area instead of moving to a different city or even state.

“The purpose of the Explore-It Career Fair is to put the work force of tomorrow, so our students today that will be in these fields tomorrow, in touch with the employers in this area. So that if their education or their training or interest might take them out of this area or out of the state, to remember to come back. Because those industries and those careers that they would be interested in are right here in this area.”

In the past the career fair was open only to high school students but this year they opened it to 8th graders. Janssen says some people were apprehensive about them being too young but she was confident that they were already thinking about what they wanted to do.

“I do know there is talking to the students in the schools as young as 8th grade, 7th grade, and on some levels even the 6th grade. And I think by that point the students do know what industries they might be interested in, so it’s time to start honing in as to ‘I want to be a doctor.’ Well what type of doctor? There’s tons of different types of medical professions. Or ‘I want to be in hospitality.’ Look at all the different realms you can do with hospitality.”

Janssen says there are careers around our area she thinks students may not know are available.

“Trucking industries, you know that is a real big boom, and Crete Carrier and Gana trucking are here today. So not just being an over the road truck driver but there’s dispatchers, there’s accounting, there’s billing, there’s HR, that are all involved within that area. Culinary arts is one of those growing industries and they are represented here today. The fine arts. Nebraska Game and Parks. Medical, so just when people think medical in general, they might be doctors or nurses, but there are so many others from therapies to social workers and different positions within a hospital or nursing home facility.”

Janssen says the event was different for employers because they aren’t looking to hire people. They are just informing students on what makes their job special for the area and help students find something that interests them.

Blood Draws Allowed as Evidence in Brandon Plante Trial

MADISON – Blood taken from a Norfolk man accused of vehicular homicide will be allowed as evidence at his upcoming trial.

In a decision filed Tuesday, Madison County District Court Judge Mark Johnson overruled four motions to suppress blood and urine samples taken of 23-year old Brandon Plante. Plante’s attorneys had argued those samples were inadmissible as evidence, citing a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling stating that police can’t forcibly draw blood from individuals suspected of drunken driving without a warrant.

But in his decision, Johnson wrote that the blood draws were justified and allowed under exceptions allowed in the Supreme Court’s ruling. Court documents indicate that there is reason to believe Plante was driving under the influence of alcohol on June 26th, when he crashed head-on with another vehicle on U.S. 81, killing Norfolk residents Tar Eh and Yeh Htu.

Plante is scheduled to go on trial in December.

After Tragic Ending On Friday, Winside Football Gets an Uplifting Surprise

It is a Tuesday afternoon practice at Winside High School and everything seems normal in the small northeast Nebraska town, however, it is anything but. The Class D-2 eight-man football squad is down to just 11 players, including three freshmen, thanks to a rash of injuries. The most recent one, to junior fullback Trey Meis, was devastating. Head Coach Kent Lawson remembers the play vividly.

“As he slipped out of the backfield he was caught there and wrapped up,” Lawson said. “In kind of a swinging motion, contact to the front part of his hat and the ground was shortly thereafter.”

Trey was out with a severe head injury. He hobbled to the sideline before losing consciousness. Play was halted and eventually the game was called as Trey was life-flighted to a Sioux City hospital. The situation was tense.

“It was frightening,” Lawson said. “Not so much the symptoms, but the rapid nature in which they started to take place that was what was frightening especially.”

It was over an hour before the life-net helicopter took off. After that, it was time for Winside to regroup.

“You know, it had a tremendous toll on a few of them. We have a couple of young men who are very close friends,” Lawson said. “We still had, after an hour and 15, we still had a number of young men who were hurting and hurting through the weekend.”

Trey suffered a subdural hematoma, a form of brain bleeding. His condition improved through the weekend, with the team getting updates via a Go Fund Me page set up for the Meis family.

Then came Monday and another blow. School administration and Coach Lawson decided it was best the Wildcats forfeit this Friday’s contest against Emerson-Hubbard.

“I think for them it was a little bit of relief because they have time to continue to regroup and get Trey home and get normalcy back. For others there was some frustration, you know they’re competitors and they want to play,” Lawson said.

The latest update from the Meis family stated there was a setback and Trey wasn’t expected to leave the hospital until Wednesday. So with that news and no game to prepare for, the team plodded through practice on Tuesday.

Only an appearance from an unexpected visitor could cheer them up.

Coach Lawson stopped practice with an announcement.

Trey was back.

After four days of uncertainty, the team crowded around the Meis family’s F-150 and greeted their friend. Football players reunited with their fallen teammate and a coach with his player.

Winside could feel normal again.

_____________________

The Meis family’s Go Fund Me page can be found here: https://www.gofundme.com/2r5zazgy

Beatrice Humane Society Puppies Find Forever Homes Being Therapy Dogs

BEATRICE – Two shelter puppies took the first step to their new forever homes Tuesday morning with one unique twist. That step was onto an airplane. The Beatrice Humane Society received two St. Bernard/Boxer mixes nine weeks ago but Beatrice Humane Society Manager Bryce Caulk says the puppies were spoken for almost as soon as they came in.

“When they came into the shelter. Just a few days after, once they were available and they had their vaccines and everything done, he immediately picked him out.”

These two pups named JD and Jameson are brothers but will be going to separate homes. They will still get to have playdates and see each other because their owners are best friends. Caulk says he’s glad to have been able to keep the brothers close together.

“I posted on my personal Facebook just because I know a lot of people and a lot of networks and just so happens one of my good friends I’ve worked with before in rescue was looking for a St. Bernard/Boxer mix to train for therapy service dog. His mother had just passed away so he was like, right now is the time he is really looking for something to do and it just so happened that his picture really jumped out and caught his heart. A few days after he came in, Jameson, and he agreed to adopt him, his brother JD came in and I sent him a picture and I said ‘Hey do you know any of your friends that might want to adopt them so they can stay together?’ His best friend chose to adopt him too so they are both going to go up there.”

JD and Jameson will also be enjoying life as therapy dogs for the local hospital. This process takes from 8 to 12 weeks after the general obedience training. Caulk says because they are so young they will not have to be treated any differently as therapy dogs.

“Being a puppy there isn’t really much they will have to evaluate because puppies normally have a really good demeanor. In your breed your St. Bernard and your Boxer are very good family pets. They are very smart so you aren’t really going to find much aggression or anything in those breeds. Just treating them like a normal puppy.”

The puppies took a flight from Beatrice to Chicago and will then drive to New York then move to their forever home in Connecticut.

One Injured in Concrete Truck Rollover

JANSEN – A man was flown to a Lincoln hospital Friday after the concrete tuck he was driving rolled over near Jansen.

The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office says a call came in at about 12:45 p.m. Friday reporting an accident two miles east and a mile and a half north of Jansen on 575 Avenue.

Emergency services arrived to find a loaded concrete truck on its top after it rolled into the east ditch. The driver, who was wearing a seatbelt, was trapped inside the cab. The man was helped out of the vehicle and flown to Lincoln with multiple trauma injuries. His name has not yet been released.

The truck was traveling north on the road and appears to have lost control on the gravel surface. The truck was owned by Beatrice Concrete and is considered a total loss. The investigation is ongoing.

In addition to the Sheriff’s Office, Jefferson County Ambulance District 33, Jefferson County Rescue, Jansen Rural Fire District, Fairbury Rural Fire District and Fairbury City Fire were on the scene.

More Mosquito Pools Test Positive for West Nile in Jefferson County

For the second time this year, Mosquitoes pools have tested positive for West Nile in Jefferson County.

The first report was issued on September 8, 2016.

The occurrence of more positive pools serves as a reminder to all, of the importance of avoiding mosquitoes and their bites.

West Nile is transmitted to people by mosquito bites and we typically see increases in West Nile virus in late summer and early fall.   Continue to prevent mosquito bites by:

  • Using insect repellent containing Deet when you are outdoors.
  • Avoiding going out at dawn and dusk, when mosquitoes are active.
  • Eliminate standing water around your homes and in the community.

If you have questions regarding West Nile virus or mosquito prevention, please contact Public Health Solutions at 402-826-3880

Just a few days left to vote for Team Jack founder in NASCAR contest

ATKINSON — There’s only a few days left to vote for Andy Hoffman, the co-founder of the Team Jack Foundation, to win the NASCAR Foundation’s Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award.

Online votes will determine the winner from among four national finalists. Voting ends at 4 p.m. Monday. Go to NASCAR.com/Award to vote.

The award honors a volunteer who embodies the ideals of charity and community that Betty Jane France, founder of The NASCAR Foundation, championed throughout her life. France died last month.

Each finalist will receive a minimum $25,000 donation to a children’s charity. The winner will receive a $100,000 donation. Each finalist also receives a trip to a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race and a trip to The NASCAR Foundation’s Honors Gala in New York City, where the 2016 award winner will be announced.

The Team Jack Foundation works to raise money and pediatric brain cancer research.

“I am humbled and grateful for our efforts with the Team Jack Foundation to receive this recognition,” said Hoffman, of Atkinson, Nebraska. “This nomination helps the Team Jack Foundation make this disease a national priority, which is our No. 1 goal.”

Hoffman and his wife, Brianna, have led efforts in establishing the Team Jack Foundation and have helped raise over $3 million for pediatric brain cancer research. The Hoffmans’ son, Jack, has been battling pediatric brain cancer for several years.

Andy Hoffman’s “passion for fighting pediatric brain cancer is unprecedented. From investing personal resources to volunteering countless hours each year, Hoffman is helping lead a nation in the fight against the number one cancer cause of death in children,” a NASCAR Foundation spokesman said.

Recently, Hoffman successfully lobbied for a $3 million brain tumor program at the University of Nebraska Medical Center that was matched by the State of Nebraska. Today, the Team Jack Foundation has three staff members, an eight-person board of directors and a scientific advisory board.

“When our son was diagnosed with brain cancer and we found out that the treatments were over 30 years old, we knew we had to do something, not just for our son, but for all children,” Hoffman said. “This donation to the Team Jack Foundation will be a game changer. It will give these children hope. It may be the difference in funding a new clinical trial or not.”

Nebraska State Patrol will join agencies from five other states to crack down on speeding drivers

Motorists enjoying the first colors of fall are advised to leave their lead foot at home this weekend.

The Nebraska State Patrol will join participating law enforcement agencies from Kansas, Iowa, Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma in a Regional Speed Enforcement Campaign. Troopers will be on the lookout for motorists operating above the speed limit on Saturday and Sunday.

“We are excited to partner with our fellow law enforcement agencies to draw attention to the need for voluntary compliance as we work to reduce serious injury and fatality crashes,” said Col. Brad Rice, superintendent of the Nebraska State Patrol. “Increasing visibility in a six state area for a concentrated period of time will help to raise awareness and encourage motorists to obey all traffic safety laws.”

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 27 percent of crash fatalities in 2015 were related to a driver exceeding the speed limit or driving too fast for conditions. The Nebraska Department of Roads said that more than one out of every 20 Nebraskans were convicted of speeding on state roads in 2015.

The State Patrol will conduct high-visibility patrols on high-traffic corridors to include Interstate 80, state highways and county roads during the enforcement effort.

Inside Beatrice: Finance Director

BEATRICE – The City of Beatrice has a budget. The community members of Beatrice fund that budget. But the money that accumulates comes from more than just paying taxes at the courthouse and goes to more than just paychecks of city employees.

Finance Director for the City of Beatrice Linda Koch says her job is more than just budgeting on fund.

“Well, I take care of all of the financial statements, take care of the budget process for all of the city funds. We have the Board of Public Works funds, which are electric, water, and WPC. Then all of the city general funds, which entail the police and fire protection, the parks, the library. Our street fund is separate and then all of our miscellaneous funds like when we bring in Keno revenue and the economic development fund and any grant funds and our capital improvement funds. So we do have a lot of different fund to keep track of the city finances and some of them are restricted and have to be kept track of separate.”

Each of the funds come from different areas, along with the taxes that are paid at the courthouse, the city also gets money from the water park, motor vehicle tax, Keno play, and more.

“When you go shop in Beatrice and you pay sales tax the state gets 5.5%, the city gets 1.5%. The retailer pays the 7% to the state and then the state remits back to the city, once a month, our share of that, so 1.5%.”

Money also comes from simply getting gas.

“The street fund receives money from the state which is called Highway Allocation Dollars and that money comes from the gas tax. When you pay at the pump, no matter where at, that is divvied up, the state has a formula for how much of that we get back and that has to go to the improvements of our streets and running of the street fund.

All of these funds help to keep rates even for members of the community. This happens because of the two, three, and five-year budget plans the city has. Koch says she likes the capital improvement plans most.

“I like the capital improvement plan over five-years so that way all of our funds we don’t, like I said, have spikes, in we need a lot of money this year and don’t need a lot of money next year. We try to plan it out so we are spending about the same amount every year in order to provide for equipment. You know, we have a fire truck and that’s a pretty expensive cost. Some stuff we will bond out over so many years so we can kind of keep that funding source for those projects level throughout the five-years.”

When large purchases arise, such as the purchase of a new fire truck, the city bonds money in order to help keep rates steady.

“The Legislature allows communities to levy $.05 for public safety. And we will bond out money every three to four years for those big purchases for public safety equipment. We can use that $.05 levy to repay those bonds on that equipment. So we will buy police cars, the firetrucks, the ambulances and that type of thing that are major purchases. That one year you need $700,000 well you can spread that out over three to four years then you repay the bonds.”

For large purchases that are not planned Koch says the city has to amend the budget to modify for those changes.

“If we have any changes, something came up, such as the year we had the lightning strike and the flood. Then of course we had expenses that were unanticipated and over our budget amount so we have to amend our budget before the end of the year to account for those expenditures.”

And when something must be fixed right away the city has a 30% reserve fund in case of emergencies.

“That’s why we have cash reserves. It’s very important that the city has at least three months cash reserves or about 30%, that’s where we are sitting right now if you take all of our funds together for things like that, that might come up like the lightning strike or the flood. Yes, we do get reimbursement once in a while from the insurance company or from FEMA for the flood. That money doesn’t come back in right away and of course we have to repair the electric system, we have to repair the 911 center right away, so we have to order those things and pay for it. So it is important the we have cash reserves on hand. To account for those unanticipated expenditures that may happen when we have to amend our budget.”

Koch says she just wants people to come to her for questions instead of listening to people that may not have all the information.

“Like I said, I just encourage the citizens, both the budget book that is approved by the council and our financial report are on the city’s website. If you ever have any questions regarding the city’s finances or budget I had a gentleman stop in the other day and ask about a grant we received for the trails. You know, I’m more than happy to talk with people and explain where those funding sources are coming from, getting grant money and to pay for something. I’d rather the citizens understand where their money is going than listen to the coffee shop talk of what they think may be happening.”

When community members spend money in their community chances are the money is going back to the community.