The map is nearly complete, and Antelope County will soon have a plan of attack on road repairs after a historic flood ripped through.
“We had 45 volunteers from Orchard, Royal, Brunswick, Elgin, Neligh, Oakdale, Clearwater and Tilden, along with the sheriff’s department, county workers, firefighters police and CVA going over every mile we could get to in Antelope County,” said Bob Moore, county emergency manager. “Every road had a physical eye on it to see if it was passable or impassible. There were roads we had to turn around, but we had eyes on every road in Antelope County.”
With the map all but complete, Moore said the county now knows their estimate was accurate of 65 percent roads impassable or needing maintenance. Moore said the map help plot out fire and rescue routes for emergency, help road closing signs to lead to lifting the emergency declaration sooner and route buses for the schools and better plan the maintenance of the roads.
“This morning it was a shot in the dark, but tonight, it opens up a picture for the county to have some passages,” Moore said.
A emergency declaration was issued in Antelope County on Wednesday, and rural travel has been banned since. The emergency management team met with school administrators on Sunday afternoon and asked them to “stand down for 2-3 days.” There will be no school in Antelope County through at least Wednesday.
Moore said they paired up volunteers, who took maps and marked every road. Using a 4 foot by 8 foot map in the courthouse, they then color coded every road to better gauge their situation. Red reflected closed or impassable, orange needs maintenance an blue is passable at this time.
“I see a lot more orange and red than I do blue,” said Neligh Police Chief Mike Wright.
Moore said the map will give Dittrich, who said the map will help him better plan how to attack the roads. Dittrich admitted he was choked up when he found out Moore was spearheading the project to map the county.
“He can walk over here and tell the guys which roads to work immediately and which are priority,” Moore said. “Now he can hit these roads hard and know where to go next.”
Dittrich said the map was put together faster than the GIS that the county had previously sought. This map will compliment the GIS.
“That is a snapshot of the whole county that an aerial photography can never provide this quickly,” he said. “This map is priceless.”
Dittrich said it was important to use local volunteers who knew the roads to gauge them.
Each township took hours to map, Moore said. Brian Hain and Cris Kurpgeweit were among the volunteers and said they spent nearly 8 hours in the Willow Township alone. They will have to finish Custer on Tuesday because of darkness.
“It was getting dark, and it needed to be lighter to get a good look at the roads,” Kurpgeweit said. “It’s not worth it to be out there after dark, so they’ll have to get fresh eyes on it tomorrow.”
Work began on the map at 9:30 a.m. Monday and by 8 p.m. was nearly complete. The only roads not checked at this time, Moore said, is a small portion of Custer Township. Officials said they are hoping the weather cooperates as they work on the roads.
After the recent historic flooding, owners of damaged structures that are located in the Floodplain are reminded that they need to contact their local Floodplain/Zoning Administrator.
FEMA requires that the Floodplain Administrator evaluates damaged structures to determine if it was substantially damaged before repairs can be made. Any structures that are substantially damaged will be required to come into compliance with the Floodplain Regulations.
To report a damaged structure in Antelope County’s jurisdiction, please contact Liz Doerr, Floodplain Administrator, at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 402.887.4248 or 402-841-8466. If the structure is located in any of the county’s towns or villages floodplain, please contact the appropriate offices to ask for a damage assessment.
Antelope County is lending a helping hand to farmers in emergency situations. Commissioner Tom Borer said those needing emergency assistance with livestock should contact Antelope County immediately.
Borer said county workers were helping the Ron and Kathy Billings family on Monday in an emergency livestock situation. Kathy Billings said they ran out of distillers and protein, but the feed truck couldn't make it to their farm due to the roads.
While the county worked on the road, Hurtig Well brought pipe and O& W Dairy provided a pump. Together, they helped Billings get much-needed livestock supplies.
The county is also seeking help with the roads. Borer said the county is trying to find more dump trucks and drivers.
If anyone has livestock emergencies or can assist with roads, Borer said to call him at 402-929-0191.
One person was transported to the hospital after an accident on a washed-out Antelope County road early Sunday evening.
Flood waters left exposed culvert on 530th Road, leading to a northbound SUV being unable to cross the county road thanks to a more than 10-food gap in the rural road. The driver of the vehicle was wearing his seatbelt at the time of the accident, according to officials, and was transported to Antelope Memorial Hospital by Neligh Rescue.
The road was not marked as being closed prior to the accident; however, all rural travel has been banned by declaration of emergency by county officials. The accident — located north of the intersection of 854 Rd (Pierce-Neligh Road) and 530 Avenue — occurred about two hours after emergency officials met with school administrators to discuss keeping schools closed through at least Wednesday due to road conditions. Officials will discuss The potential of opening school again on Thursday will be discussed during a 4 p.m. meeting on Wednesday.
Responding to the scene was the Antelope County Sheriff's Office, Neligh Fire Department and Neligh Rescue. Antelope County Road Superintendent Casey Dittrich was also there, as well as County Commissioner Dean Smith.
“The Women,” an eight-week biblically-based open discussion Bible study, is coming the area this month.
The discussion starts Wednesday, March 13 at Sugarz Cafe in Orchard. On March 14, it will be held at Kountry Korner Cafe in Page and will move to the Veranda at Divots in Norfolk on March 15.
For more information, contact Bridget at 402-925-8614.
By TESSA HAIN
Antelope County 4-H
4-H is a community of young people, ages 5-18 (as of January 1), who are learning leadership, citizenship, and life skills. 4-H empowers youth to reach their full potential working and learning in partnership with community members.
4-H is education for life that uses a learn-by-doing approach.
Come join us on March 31 from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the fairgrounds for a 4-H Open House, to learn what 4-H is all about.
We will have a variety of activities through the evening and current 4-H members will be showcasing some of their former projects. 4-H is an educational program that helps young people develop new skills, explore possible career choices and serve their communities. 4-H has something to offer for everyone.
It is not just for farm kids. 4-H empowers youth to reach their full potential by working and learning in partnership with community members. 4-H is education for life that uses a learn-by-doing approach.
Youth between the ages of 8 and 18 by January 1 of the current year may join 4-H.
The Clover Kid program is for children age 5-7 as of January 1 and features educational projects and activities that are non-competitive.
Youth may join a club in their area or may be an independent member. For help in finding a local club, please contact the Antelope County Extension office.
Please plan to attend the 4-H Open House on March 31 from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. if you are interested in joining 4-H as a youth member or a volunteer! We would love to have more volunteers for our growing 4-H program.
Deadline to enroll in Antelope County 4-H is April 1st. Call the Antelope County Extension Office and get enrollment information today or go online to http://antelope.unl.edu/antelope4h.
With a beaming smile, he proudly opened each office door as if seeing the building for the first time.
While giving a tour of the newly-renovated Educational Service Unit 8 in Neligh, administrator Bill Mowinkel couldn’t hide his excitement on Monday afternoon. From an upstairs window, Mowinkel gazed out to the south.
“One of the neatest things from here, I thought, is you can see all the way to the river,” he said. “And the red Old Mill matches our red siding and the ESU sign downstairs, so we tied it into the community.”
Making his way to the top floor—what used to be an old storage room with a dark brown painted floor—Mowinkel’s enthusiasm increases with each step.
“That’s a 120-year-old floor,” he said. “Bob Rotherham refinished that. Isn’t it beautiful?”
The room now boasts refinished fir wood floors and tin ceilings, along with the newly-added cubicles for itinerant staff members and offices for the special education department.
“These are the original tin ceilings,” Mowinkel said. “This whole area is historic.”
Keeping history alive, he said they decided to enclose the metal stairs that were previously on the outside of the building.
“Jack Conger told me, ‘Don’t tear down the steel steps,’ ” Mowinkel said. “Jack said he and his friends used to sit on these back in the 40s. We just enclosed them. So, he’ll be happy to know they are still here, the original ones.”
He said while they kept some of the historic elements of the building, they also made many new improvements and added technology.
“That room that’s really unique — that’s all staff-designed,” Mowinkel said. “It’s called a flex-learning lab. There’s a sound booth in there for recording their Wednesday webinars.”
He and the ESU 8 staff members are excited about the newly-renovated space, he said.
“I’m tickled to death with it,” Mowinkel said. “Our staff is just ecstatic. Every one of them that comes over has said, ‘Wow! It even exceeds our expectations.’ I think it’s hard to visualize just how massive it really is until you’re in it.”
In fact, the employees were so excited that many of them moved into their new offices on Monday and Tuesday, even though their furniture hasn’t all arrived yet. Mowinkel said they were anxious to move after working out of five separate rental buildings in Neligh during the construction process.
“They’ve been doing such a good job with less than ideal situations,” he said. “Our goal is to be out of all but one of our rentals by April 1, but I’m not forcing people. Our furniture isn’t in yet. They’re just so tired of being on top of each other that they want to move over here. And I can appreciate that.”
Mowinkel said the best part of the project is the ability “to get everyone back under one roof.”
“The best part about getting everyone back under one roof is for collaboration and team unity,” he said. “We used to be in the same building and we would meet regularly for break or whatever. During construction, we had to schedule a place to have a team meeting.”
Aside from their furniture being delivered, Mowinkel said the renovated building is ready for occupancy.
“It’s just basically painting and touch up work,” he said. “The renovation project back here was pretty extreme. We literally got rid of the old Christiansen building to make our conference center.”
Mowinkel said the $4.388 million project really got underway after the former Brian Christiansen — or more recently, Bearinger Tax— building behind the ESU was purchased and demolition began in September of 2017. The ESU8 board gave its approval months prior.
“We had an 18-month contract,” he said. “Probably in the fall of 2017 is when we really thought it was going to become a reality,” he said. “All of 2018 was construction and the finish work in 2019.”
Unlike most major renovations to educational buildings, this project did not need to be funded by a bond. Mowinkel is grateful to the foresight of previous administration and board members.
“It never could’ve happened if Don Thompson and that board from 20-30 years ago wouldn’t have started this fund,” he said.
Because of the fund, Mowinkel said they had money available; however, the legislature now limits their cash reserve, making them unable to accumulate money for such a project.
“That’s why we had to get the attorney general involved,” he said. “To say, ‘Hey, we’ve got this money. This is our plan. Will you approve that for us?’ He told us yes, but that we had a limited time to get it done. That gave me a push. That’s when Senator Baker became involved and worked with us, making sure we dotted those Is and crossed those Ts.”
Mowinkel said the ESU8 board set a limit of $5 million for the project and the bid came under budget, allowing them to finish the top floor and purchase new furniture and appliances.
“We bid the first time ourselves, without construction management involved, and all of the bids were well over $5 to $6 million,” he said. “It lowered the cost by about 25 percent to bring on construction management.”
Radec Construction of Hartington served as construction management company for the project. Mowinkel said he was pleased with the company and the large number of local subcontractors they brought on board for the project.
“I was thrilled with Radec — and the amount of what I call local subs — subs within our seven-county area that we serve,” he said.
Five subcontractors were from a 15-mile radius, including Clearwater, Neligh and Tilden.
“I think using local subs means something to the general public because the dollars stayed in our seven counties,” Mowinkel said. “Not all of it, but easily the majority of it. Just keep turning the dollars over locally. The thing that’s also nice about local subs is when something isn’t quite right, you can call them and they are there in a day.”
There were some interesting things found during the construction process.
He said swastikas and planes shooting fire down on swastikas were found in the wall. Some of the walls were multicolored or covered in blue and green floral wallpaper.
Mowinkel decided to leave something for the future generations to find as well.
“I left one time capsule in the wall,” he said. “I put an ESU magnetic sticker in it and our annual report, which nobody knows where it’s at.”
Mowinkel said the newly-renovated building utilizes the 12,000 square-foot space much more effectively.
“Our space was utilized so poorly before,” he said. Everybody was tucked in a corner, there was no flow to it. It’s such a good building, but it never had a big plan to make it all flow. Somebody needed an office, they built an office. Somebody needed a place to store stuff, they built a little closet area.”
Mowinkel said the plumbing was outdated as well.
“We were fed by two, 1-inch lines for water and now we have two, 4-inch lines,” he said. “It needed a renovation. It’s a 1901 building, so it’s 118 years old. And the other one is 100 years old. It was time to do a major overhaul and utilize the space. The square feet was here, there were just walls and corridors everywhere.”
Although ESU 8 has a brand-new look and a new main entrance on the south side of the building, Mowinkel said many things will remain the same.
“We have a different address, but the same location, same phone number and same quality staff,” he said with a grin.
ESU 8 will host its first event in the newly-renovated building with the Junior High Quiz Bowl on Tuesday, March 12 at 9 a.m. and the High School Quiz Bowl the following day.
The events will be hosted, in their entirety, in the new space. Participants will use the ESU 8 main entrance on the south side of the building, beginning the day in the new conference center.
Mowinkel said he is thankful the project finished one month ahead of schedule.
“We are able to officially host our first event next week,” he said.
When a rural Oakdale man saw a dog attacking his pig last summer, he grabbed a 20-gauge shotgun and headed out to protect it. In his haste, he tripped, fell and shot himself in the leg. His girlfriend called 911.
Robert Boyd, 38, was rushed to the hospital for his gunshot wound. Authorities later cited him for illegally possessing a firearm because he is a convicted felon.
Boyd pleaded guilty to attempted possession of a deadly weapon by a prohibited person, a class IIA felony, in Antelope County District Court last December. On Wednesday, he appeared for sentencing on the charge in front of Judge James Kube.
“You know, I’m like a little fish in a big pond,” Boyd told the judge. “We’ve got all these big farmers out there...I’ve got two animals and what I’ve got, I don’t want to lose. It was hard enough losing one of my pigs. You know, that’s kind of like my income.”
He realizes a gun shouldn’t have been in his possession, he said.
“Getting shot, that hurt, honestly,” Boyd said. “It was no fun. But it happened. I shouldn’t have had the gun, and I understand that, but my livestock, I don’t want to lose them, that’s money out of my pocket.”
He said he was just trying to protect his livestock and was glad his girlfriend wasn’t the one injured.
“Honestly, I’m glad it was me, the one that got hurt,” Boyd said. “My girlfriend, you know, I wouldn’t wish that on anybody, especially her. You know, I went out there to do that because I felt it was my responsibility as well. You know, I would feel just as bad if she would’ve got shot. I was glad it was me and not her. You know, she means more to me than my animals do.”
“I hope so,” Judge Kube replied. “She hopes so.”
The judge told him that he understood his explanation; however, it didn’t change the fact that it is illegal for Boyd to possess firearms.
“You’ve got to know you can’t have firearms,” Judge Kube said. “Now it’s unfortunate that you got shot, but I can’t really consider that as part of your punishment, although if you think about it, it probably was. Probably more so that you were careless in using the firearm, didn’t have surefooting, tripped and had an accident happen. You’re right, you could’ve tripped, had the firearm engage and shot her or shot somebody else or maybe shot the pig you were trying to protect. That’s what happens when you run around with loaded firearms. The point is, you’re not supposed to have those.”
Antelope County Attorney Joe Abler told the judge he would not make any recommendations for sentencing.
“I understand the circumstances he was trying to protect his livestock,” Abler said. “It’s still illegal, technically a violation of the law. I won’t make any specific recommendations.”
Norfolk attorney Charles Balsiger, who was filling in for public defender Pat Carney, requested a probation sentence for Boyd.
“I’ve had a chance to review his presentence investigation as well, and I can’t help but notice the checkered past that Mr. Boyd has with regard to previous convictions,” Balsiger admitted.
However, he said Boyd had successfully completed his last probation sentence in 2017 and felt his client would “perform well on probation.”
Judge Kube sentenced Boyd to 12 months of probation, ordered him to pay $150 in court costs and sentenced him to 90 days in jail at the conclusion of probation with credit for 37 days previously served. The jail time may be waived if probation is successfully completed.
In other matters, three others were sentenced on misdemeanor charges or for probation violations.
After purchasing a car, Travis Mace found the seller’s checkbook left inside and used it to write three checks totalling more than $1,500.
Mace said he “wasn’t thinking straight” when he wrote those checks, and he appeared for sentencing on attempted theft by deception, a class I misdemeanor.
His attorney Martin Klein said the best outcome for this case would have been drug court, but it wasn’t available.
“There’s really no other explanation for what happened, other than his drug use,” Klein said. “Although he hasn’t admitted it to me, I would assume that he probably wrote those checks to support that habit at the same time.”
Klein requested a probation sentence for his client, stating that he would benefit from the program’s regular drug testing “to keep him clean and keep him employed.”
“His wife may be in a little bit worse shape in this court, and this way—he has three kids and one on the way—they will have at least one of their parents at home to take care of them if Mr. Mace is out,” he said.
Mace admitted that he has “lost everything” because he was using methamphetamine.
“Meth has ruined my life,” he said. “I want to and am willing to change my life around for myself and my family.”
After Mace pleaded for a probation sentence, the courtroom was quiet for more than five minutes as the judge contemplated his sentence.
When Judge Kube finally broke the silence, he said, “I wasn’t ready to give you probation. Quite honestly, this is a theft, writing checks, restitution, normally that’s not something you give probation for.”
However, the judge said he believes Mace has an underlying drug problem that appears to be the driving force behind his criminal activity.
“Methamphetamine can and will ruin your life,” Judge Kube said. “You’ve experienced part of that. You’ve lost your job and obviously find yourself in this situation.”
The judge said Mace is fortunate he still has the support of family and friends because “many times addicts have burned those bridges.”
“You’re starting to circle down the toilet, basically,” Judge Kube said. “You haven’t been flushed yet. You still have people in your life that care about you and are willing to support you, so I’ll give you probation.”
The judge sentenced Mace to 18 months of probation and ordered him to pay $452.78 in court costs and $1,588.85 in restitution ($650 to First National Bank, $100 to Jennifer Cox and $838.85 to Verizon Wireless).
Christopher Brady, 28, appeared for sentencing on information to revoke his probation, along with his attorney Charles Balsiger.
The county attorney said Brady previously violated his probation sentence and was already granted a six-month extension before violating his probation a second time.
“He was cited and found to be in possession of an open container in a motor vehicle by the sheriff’s office, as well as not following other conditions of his probation,” Abler said.
In addition, the county attorney said “Mr. Brady’s been in and out of court here quite a few times” and “testing positive.”
“We’ve given the defendant quite a few chances,” Abler said. “I understand that Mr. Brady did well and cleaned up for quite awhile, but the state is here to say, ‘When is enough, enough?’”
Brady admitted to violating his probation and requested sentencing on his original charge of driving under revocation, a class I misdemeanor.
“I can’t get my drinking under control,” he told the judge. “I just want this whole thing behind me because I lost a very good job. I wish I would’ve stuck with probation, but obviously that didn’t work. I just want to be able to get this behind me and get out and get my job back and provide for my kids.”
Judge Kube said he was going to revoke Brady’s probation sentence.
“It always disappoints me when people don’t take that opportunity to try to change their life,” the judge said. “You say you’re going to get treatment and try to get your job back, that’s no different than what you should’ve done while you were on probation.”
Judge Kube said now that the structure of probation is missing for Brady, the “prognosis is very poor.”
“If you can’t do it on probation, most likely, you’re not going to do it now,” he said. “You have a woman who wants to marry you and have two kids. Those kids need you. They don’t need a drunk in their lives. They don’t need someone who is going to say, ‘Alcohol is more important than you kids. Sorry, I understand you need me, but I need the bottle.’ At some point, you’ve got to figure it out or your life is going to keep going down.”
Judge Kube sentenced Brady to six months in the Antelope County Jail and left the 15-year revocation of his driver’s license in place.
“I’ll leave it up to you,” the judge said. “I hope you make the right decisions. That’s really all it comes down to, making good decisions.”
Cory Romej, 41, also appeared for sentencing on information to revoke probation. He was represented by attorney Brad Montag. A domestic violence-related charge violated his probation order.
Since then, Abler said Romej “has remained sober, working hard and being a parent to his kids”— even after his wife recently passed away—so he didn’t object to the judge extending his probation sentence.
Montag requested that Romej be allowed to continue probation.
“Cory’s got four kids that he’s taking care of,” he said. “He’s always been a hard worker. He continues to do that.”
Judge Kube said he was pleased to hear that Romej was working hard and providing for his children.
“You’ve had a tragedy in your life, but you haven’t let that get the best of you,” the judge said. “You’ve made the decision to be a responsible parent, a responsible adult. That’s really all society wants from you.”
Judge Kube said he didn’t see any reason to revoke Romej’s probation, but decided to tack on an additional 90 days to his current probation sentence.
“Finish up your program,” he said. “Keep doing what you’re doing, keep being a good dad.”
An Antelope County Commissioner pleaded not guilty to a misdemeanor charge on Wednesday.
Eli Jacob, 65, of Clearwater, pleaded not guilty to theft by unlawful taking, a class II misdemeanor, in Antelope County Court. He is being represented by attorney Jason Doele of Norfolk and Madison County Attorney Joe Smith has been named the special prosecutor in the case. The case is being heard by Judge Donna Farrell Taylor.
The charge stems from an incident that occurred between Jan. 1-31, 2019, according to a complaint filed by Smith on Feb. 22. The complaint is for property valued at $500 or less.
Jacob's pretrial conference was set for April 10 at 2 p.m. in Antelope County Court.
Finding all of the right furniture, fixtures and appliances for a house can be challenging, but Orchard Lumber makes the process simple.
Orchard Lumber acts as a one-stop shop, providing people with everything they need for new construction or remodeling of a house, except for hardwood flooring and carpet.
“We offer Mid Continent Cabinetry, like your kitchen cabinets, bathroom cabinets and office cabinets, Onyx showers – your basic building materials,” said Orchard Lumber manager Taylor Johnston. “We also have an insulation blower that if they buy the insulation here, they can take the blower for free.”
This year, in addition to windows, vanities, countertops, custom-sized doors, vinyl hand railings, plumbing and other products or services, Orchard Lumber will also carry fertilizer pumps and banjo fittings, she added.
The business can get its hands on just about anything, with orders it places arriving within a week or two, she said. Upon receiving those, it then takes only about a couple of weeks to complete them for customers.
By ordering through Orchard Lumber, people receive free shipping, as well as a discount when working on a whole house.
“If you get a whole house through us, we can give you a discount if you get everything,” Johnston said.
With setting up a home, Orchard Lumber also has a list of names of contractors who work with the business if construction is needed.
In order to provide the best deals for its customers, it can often beat quotes brought in from competitors, according to Johnston. Additionally, through the month of March, it will offer 10 percent off all cabinetry, doors and windows.
“We like to work with our customers and get our name out there and show them that we have good-quality products for unbeatable prices.”
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