Antelope County high school and junior high artists earned 20 Judge's Merit Awards at the Niobrara Valley Conference Art Show in Tilden on Friday.
Neligh-Oakdale senior Madison Grosserode hauled in four merit awards herself, excelling in painting, photography, miscellaneous and collage and assembly. Taylor Bolling of Clearwater wasn't far behind as she earned three merit awards for her works in pencil, painting and design.
The complete list of Judge's Merit Award winners include:
High School -
Madison Grosserode - Neligh-Oakdale - Lily Pond - painting
Skylar Eacker - Ewing - Camo - painting
Taylor Bolling - Clearwater - Deer In Woods - painting
Rebecca Frick - KPCS - Purity - painting
Brie Magdefrau - Elkhorn Valley - Maybe I'm Too Nice, Enemies, Bitterdays - pencil
Taylor Bolling - Clearwater - 4-H - pencil
Haley Peek - West Holt - Cassie - pencil
Abbigail Holz - Niobrara - Childhood Memory - sculpture
Kira Dickau - Stuart - The Horse - sculpture
Kira Widger - Elgin - Spooky Boi - sculpture
Krystal Fulsaas - Neligh-Oakdale - My Imagination's Family - black and white
Rachel Pavelka - Verdigre - Nature's Order - print making
Brie Magdefrau - Elkhorn Valley - They Pictured Us As Sunflowers - mixed media
Rane Vesley - Verdigre - Paint Pallette - miscellaneous
Rachel Pavelka - Verdigre - Amidst the Lily Pads - batik
Madison Grosserode - Neligh-Oakdale - Abstract Design - collage and assembly
Kiersten Wheeler - Boyd County - Moose - photography
Amanda Dietz - Neligh-Oakdale - Penn Lake - photography
Madison Grosserode - Neligh-Oakdale - Paint Brushes - photography
Blake Bartling - Verdigre - Jumping Jellyfish - photography
Taylor Bolling - Clearwater - Show Horse - design
Eli Thiele - Clearwater - Dundee - scratch art
Brie Magdefrau - Elkhorn Valley - The Climb - digital art
Madison Grosserode - Neligh-Oakdale - Sit On My Life - miscellaneous
Gracie Beddow - West Holt - Grandma - charcoal
Junior High -
Matthew Koehlmoos - St. Mary's - Dad - sculpture
Will Paxton - Stuart - William - miscellaneous
Trenadi Dodds - Stuart - Bottom Of My Heart - miscellaneous
Blake Henn - Elgin - Blue Bird - sculpture
Kennedy Penne - Elkhorn Valley - Elements & Principal of Design - sculpture
Aubrea Howard - Elkhorn Valley - Rooster - sculpture
Karli Nielsen - Niobrara - Owl - pencil
David Durre - Elgin - David's Meltdown - miscellaneous
Johnathan Fessler - Stuart - Leaf - photography
Brooke Wilcox - Elkhorn Valley - Winter's Beauty - colored drawing
Winter Henry - Niobrara - Henry - colored drawing
Halie Faus - Boyd County - Marilyn - colored drawing
Alyssa Buck - Neligh-Oakdale - No Title - mixed media
A “what shall we name the new team?” survey has been distributed to all 6th-11th grade students, all staff and each family in Orchard, Clearwater and Ewing schools. Members of the community who wish to complete a survey may pick them up at the school offices and return by noon on Friday, May 3.
Results will be tabulated and presented to 6th-11th students in class meetings, where they will work to determine the top three choices from each school. Four students from each grade level (6-11) from each school will determine the overall top three choices and present for approval from the three school boards.
As the March flood waters receded, devastated fields and livestock losses were left in the wake.
About 15 farmers and livestock producers attended a meeting in Neligh on Friday to learn what flood recovery resources are available to them. The meeting was hosted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and UNL Extension in the courthouse basement meeting room.
Several USDA programs are out there, but the deadlines are quickly approaching, according to Jamie Keep, county executive director of the Farm Service Agency.
“If you remember nothing else, remember you need to come in by April 29 if you have livestock claims to make, and if you want to apply for ECP, it’s May 25,” Keep said.
She encouraged the producers to call the FSA office.
“Even a phone call is better than starting nothing by that date,” Keep said.
She said most people have been coming into the FSA office for the Emergency Conservation Program (ECP), which provides cost-sharing to producers who have “severe damage to farmland and pastures due to a natural disaster.”
“So, we have people coming in all of the time—a lot of it, right now, has been for fixing their fences or debris removal, which they are already getting started on,” Keep said.
She said sand and other flood deposits are considered debris removal.
“With your debris removal, as long as you are not making any changes below the plow line, so if you need to move sand off of your fields and pastures, that is all considered debris removal,” Keep said. “All of that work you can get started on right away after you make your application.”
She said “the kicker” is that nothing is technically approved until the FSA receives funding.
“So when you come in to do your application, you will sign on a waiver that you agree to start all of this without funding,” Keep said.
Landowners who need to do grading and shaping, such as filling holes, so it can be farmed again, can apply, but can’t begin the work until they receive written approval from FSA, she said.
“That’s the hardest part for everybody right now because it’s the time of the year that you need to be in the field, and we don’t know how long it will be that you’ll need to wait before you get approval,” Keep said.
Joe Meis of Elgin asked when he could start “filling ditches” in his farmland.
“The biggest one is probably 2 feet wide and 4 feet deep,” Meis said.
If it’s below the plow line, the NRCS will need to make a field visit, said Chris Hoffman of the Platte County FSA.
“Some of these should be planted in the next 10 days,” Keith Heithoff of Elgin said.
Hoffman said they understand their concerns.
“Some of these you may want to take care of without cost-share,” he said.
Cory Furstenau asked about pushing sand deposits back into the hole on his land.
Again, Hoffman said it must first be approved by the FSA.
“Don’t put it in if you want cost-share,” he said.
Keep also recommended that farmers talk to their agents if they have crop insurance.
“Talk to them first because we don’t have the same rules in how we handle things,” she said.
Donna Farrell Taylor asked about assistance for lost land near the riverbank.
“I was just wondering if there was going to be any help for ground that is just gone, where cropland fell into the river and was swept away?” she asked. “There’s no way you can restack 10 foot banks.”
Hoffman suggested that she check into options with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
When she asked about the sand left behind, Adam Nolan of the Natural Resource Conservation Service told her landowners are required “to move those sand deposits out of the flood plain and on the uplands.”
Heithoff asked a follow up question about flood ravaged land.
“A lot of that ground is lowered in value because some of the top soil washed off your good ground, do you go to the supervisors and ask for an adjustment on your taxes because your ground is going to produce less?” he asked.
Hoffman and Keep said that didn’t involve the FSA office.
“This is about as bad of a flood as we ever hope to see and it’s going to take time to get everything back to where it was,” Hoffman said. “We’ve got these programs and we’re trying to get them to you as quick as we can.”
He said the State of Nebraska did something “that was really quite impressive” when they went directly through Washington for help.
“We got an environmental thing completed so that NRCS and FSA didn’t have to go out and visit every one of these sites,” Hoffman said. “We jumped all that.”
This has allowed the landowners to do the debris removal and fencing without delay, he said.
“That got everybody out in the field and going,” Hoffman said. “Otherwise we wouldn’t be doing this, probably, until fall at the earliest.”
Adam Nolan of the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) said funds are available to plant cover crops and May 17 is the deadline to apply for funding.
“It’s a straight payment of around $37 an acre to plant that cover crop, but it’s got to be at least three species,” he said.
Nolan also mentioned an Emergency Animal Mortality Initiative, which ends May 1. He said cost sharing is available for burial, composting or rendering of the lost livestock.
Another livestock loss program is available through the FSA, Keep explained. She said the Livestock Indemnity Program compensates eligible livestock owners for eligible livestock death losses that occur in excess of normal mortality as a result of an eligible adverse weather event during the calendar year.
“In short, with this extended cold and wet period we’ve been having this year, and if you have losses from the flood, you have the option to come in and apply for assistance in our office,” Keep said.
Although initial losses may not be enough to trigger a payment right away, she encouraged producers to report them.
“It’s an application for the whole year, you want to keep telling us,” Keep said. “In order to get a true account of what you really lost, you have to keep reporting it to us.”
She said if the livestock owner has animal losses at a feedlot, the animal owner is required to make the application.
Keep said the compensation values on the animals varies, depending on the type.
“There are three different thresholds for calves, based on their weight,” she said. “Calves weighing 0 to 400 pounds are $471; 400 to 799 pounds are $661; 800 plus pounds are $969; bulls are $1,191 and cows are $916.”
Wayne Ohnesorg, UNL Extension Educator, said the extension office doesn’t offer any programs to apply for; however, they have informational resources. He recommended that producers visit www.flood.unl.edu.
“This is where the university is concentrating all of our resources for flood information, and it can be anything from homeowner to agricultural,” Ohnesorg said.
UNL Extension Educator Ben Beckman said livestock producers may contact him if they have questions about feeding or grazing plans.
Although “it’s been a really generous thing” that numerous hay donations are pouring into the state, Beckman said producers should be cautious where they are feeding it.
“You don’t know where it’s coming from,” he said. “We’ve got some noxious weed species that might get brought in with it.”
“We can end up with something that’s not a noxious weed where it is, but if it gets here, the conditions are better for it to become a noxious weed,” he said.
She shivered while hunched over in detox. Ribs protruding and face gaunt, Kirstie Koch sat alone in the cell of the Antelope County Law Enforcement Center sweating and shaking what remained of her 103-pound body.
“Opioids, meth, benzos. I was a walking pharmacy,” she said.
Raised in Elgin until she was 12, Koch had four jails under her belt by age 24. This time she “peed hot” during a court appearance in Wayne County. Already facing possession of a controlled substance, failing the drug test meant immediate time behind bars.
But this time, she was sent to Antelope County — sent “home” and to Sheriff Bob Moore.
“He’s saving lives here,” Koch said, taking a deep breath to hold back the tears. “How someone is treated when they’re incarcerated at the lowest time of their life — are you kicked when you’re down or lifted up — makes a world of difference on how you act when you get out of here. He’s saving lives and helping people.”
Becoming An Addict
Addicts choose drugs for many reasons. For Koch, it was to self medicate. She doesn’t use her mental illness as an excuse, nor does she deny her drug use. Still, being in jail didn’t immediately fix her problem either. Koch said her other stints in jail actually made her addiction worse until she finally accepted help in Antelope County.
“You are ripped out of your environment and tossed into a place where four walls close on you fast. For anybody, it’s a struggle, but if you put mental health issues on top of it — anxiety, depression, I have bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder — so you throw in a bunch of mental health issues into the mixture, and it’s pretty much a living hell to be incarcerated,” Koch said.
Between staffing and medical issues, Moore said both the other law enforcement agency and Koch’s parents determined Antelope County would be a better fit for housing Koch. As one of the few facilities with a predominantly female jail staff, Antelope County is often paid to house female inmates for other counties.
Although Koch grew up in nearby Elgin, neither her nor Moore connected the dots for most of her first day at the Antelope County Jail. Koch, who was listed as from Norfolk, described herself as a little girl with pigtails when she lived in Elgin, where Moore then served as chief of police. Moore remembered Koch as a youth riding her bike and struggled to recognize her as the drug addict in front of him.
“When you walked in to talk to me, I was 103 pounds. You could see my ribs and my face was sunk in. I was shaking and sweating from detox. I wouldn’t have even recognized myself,” she said to Moore. “I don’t know if you even remember coming in to talk to me, but I remember you.”
There wasn’t an instant connection between the two. She was a drug addict, and he was the sheriff. To her, Antelope County was just another jail. Koch spent two weeks locked up before being bonded out. She was out for four days before being sentenced to six months on her previous charge.
Koch said she was arrested for being in possession of oxycodone and benzodiazepines, but she was also addicted to methamphetamine. She may have been clean for the two weeks while in jail, but that just a break away from her drug use.
“I never really stopped, except for the two weeks I was incarcerated here, which were hell,” she said.
Worse Before Better
Moore said Koch was “problematic” at the other three jails, and she was equally so when she arrived in Neligh.
“Emotionally, she was all over,” Moore recalled. “She’d cry and then she’d get angry. All of a sudden, she would be nice and then suddenly upset again.”
Koch said she often threw items in her cell and punched the glass. Moore said her parents were in contact with him and talked about her mental illness. While they didn’t use it as an excuse, they gave Moore insight into what was going on with Koch and helped lead her to medical assistance.
“Dr. (Doug) Dilly talked to me as a person, not as an inmate trying to get a fix,” Koch said. “That means a lot to me because you get a stigma attached to you as an inmate, as an addict. I have a deal with him, and as long as I’m honest with him, he’ll continue to be honest with me and give me the care I need without that stigma attached. He’s a great doctor.”
Moore said Faith Regional sees inmates inside the jail. Rather than spending hours driving inmates back and forth and waiting at the Neligh clinic, Dilly typically visits them. Koch said Antelope County treats access to medical staff and medication differently than other facilities, which eventually helped her rehabilitation.
But simply being on medication wasn’t enough. Koch said using street drugs camouflaged her real issues. Moore said Koch often had one great day, but shut down the next, with no clear reason for a change. One of the most trying times, he said, was when her grandfather unexpectedly died, and she was unable to attend the funeral due to being incarcerated.
Unexpected events, even phone calls from loved ones or significant others, can trigger emotional reactions, he said.
“Here’s where the danger comes,” Moore said. “When she shuts down and she’s withdrawing and has mental health (issues), that’s where the suicide comes. That’s what plagues our jails terribly, and that’s why people like Kirstie cannot be ignored…. That’s how we lose people in incarceration. You have to educate your staff and tell them that sometimes they’re reaching out.”
But Moore said recognizing the difference between a red flag for danger and simply acting out isn’t always easy.
The Breaking Point
Koch admitted she was a problematic inmate. She didn’t like to be told no, and there was one specific jailer she went toe to toe with often. It was a constant battle, and the day Koch reached her breaking point — her changing point — was no different.
“I was in this dorm right over here,” Koch said, pointing. “I remember walking up to the window and smacking my fists up against it as hard as I could and just falling down to the ground sobbing. She could have yelled at me and ripped me up by my arm and drug me to the isolation cell.”
But the jailer didn’t.
Koch can’t remember what set her off that day. Just weeks out of detox, she said there were highs and lows as she fought the need for drugs.
“It was probably a small thing, like I couldn’t shower at that time, but it set me off with a temper tantrum punching walls,” Koch said.
Her anxiety was high. Placing her hand on her chest, Koch said for whatever reason — at that moment in the cell — she felt like she was going to pass out and all she could do was explode.
“It was like going uphill on frickin’ quicksand, so my anxiety was all pent up,” she said, gently tapping her chest with her hand.
Just moments before that changing point, Koch said she and the jailer had been at odds over her behavior. But the jailer recognized what was happening and made a split-second decision that forever changed Koch’s life.
“She hugged me,” Koch said as a tear slipped down her face. “She told me she was going to get some medicine to help me. She asked me if I needed to go to the library or to the rec and walk around. . . . She treated me like I was a human being going through a hard time, and that’s when I knew they cared. In a lot of jails they don’t, but here they do.”
At first, Koch wanted to keep the jailer anonymous, but then she said, “I should name her name. It’s Coriann (Schmoldt) because she’s a very good jailer. She’s a very good woman, and she’s firm, which is why I always fought with her. She’d stand her ground, and at the time, I wasn’t used to hearing the word no. She’d be firm, but when I needed her, she was there.”
Hearing the story caused Moore’s lips to curl just slightly beneath his mustache. With an almost smile, the sheriff turned his head and said, “Respect needs to come from both sides of the glass. We need to respect you, and we’re asking you to respect us. That’s where the breakdown comes in a jail is when that respect isn’t met halfway on both sides.”
Just Bread & Water
Koch said she’s heard rumblings of people from Antelope County saying inmates are treated too well and “only deserving bread and water.” The attitude reminds her of other jails, where she was housed — and did not leave rehabilitated.
“Do you know how traumatizing it is to get thrown in there and locked away for a couple of months at a time, treated like crap, fed and watered horribly, going to bed hungry and cold?” she said. “It messes with your head. Not only does it not help you become a productive member of society, it hinders you because it messes with your head and makes you think you’re not worth it.”
Koch said that a positive attitude has the opposite effect. Positive behavior, she said, promotes a positive response. “Treating me like I have feelings and have a future makes you believe you are a person and you have a future,” she said. “Being treated like that reinforces your belief that you are somebody.”
Having been in four jails, Koch said she knows first hand the difference in facilities and credits Moore and his staff for being the difference.
“This is a world-class staff, a five-star staff right here,” she said. “Every one of them, and I give that credit to Bob. He hand picks who gets to work on his team, and you can tell. He doesn’t let anyone come on who is negative or hurtful.”
Koch said she overheard jailers in other facilities bragging about the way they mistreated inmates. But that behavior never occurred in Antelope County — not under Moore’s watch.
“That’s not what I’m about,” Moore said. “If that person you treat like crap at 6 p.m. is hanging dead in their cell at 10 p.m., was all the laughs and jokes worth it? That’s exactly what can happen because we don’t know what’s going on in their head. … It can be an unbelievable recipe for suicide, and if we don’t recognize why she’s acting out, these behaviors don’t need someone who thinks it’s funny.”
Someone To Be Proud Of
Entering the jail on Monday afternoon, Koch greeted every jailer by first name, offering them a smile and wave as she said hello. Walking to the library, she immediately slid into the familiar chair and looked at ease. But when Moore walked in, Koch jumped up and wrapped her arms around him like he was a grandparent — not the sheriff.
“Good to see you, Kirstie,” Moore said smiling.
Monday marked Koch’s third visit to the Antelope County Law Enforcement Center since being released last October. Now at age 25, and balancing a part-time job with three to four Narcotics Anonymous meetings a week, Koch said she looks forward to stopping at the jail in Neligh.
She wants Moore and the jailers to see for themselves that she’s continuing her rehabilitation.
“I’ve been back because I want them to know they helped me, and I’m still doing good,” Koch said, stopping for a moment to hold back tears. “When a team is this respectful, you want to do good and want to show them. It’s almost a pride thing. I want them to be proud of me.”
In response to the devastating flood that swept through the area last month, the Haigler, Neb. Fire Department has banded together to make a difference for Antelope County residents.
“I would like to say how awful we feel down here in the far southwest corner of Nebraska, that all of you are going through this terrible mess,” the Haigler Fire Department wrote in a letter along with the donations.
“They wanted to do something good for up this way,” Sheriff Bob Moore said. “They brought a horse trailer loaded with food, blankets, all kinds of clothing, horse feed, dog food, water, all kinds of food items.”
Moore said half of the horse trailer went to Boone County with half remaining in Antelope County.
“They just headed out and called our dispatch center and said, ‘We have half a horse trailer full of stuff we’d love to give to your county,’” Moore said.
Among the items donated included expired fire jackets and steel-toed boots.
“We are sending them to hopefully go to the farmers or people who are cleaning mud out of their houses or trying to dig animals out of the muck,” a member of the Haigler Fire Department wrote.
The Haigler Fire Department received a grant to purchase the new boots that were among the donations.
“We are hoping they can be used to protect feet where there is a lot of debris.”
In addition to the coats and boots, the Haigler Fire Department also sent fencing equipment, dog food, horse feed, towels, blankets, water, non-perishable food items, hygiene products and more.
“Anybody that’s facing hard times, whether it’s flood-related or you’re just struggling at this time, these items are for you,” Sheriff Moore said. “This is no questions asked. If people are in need, please come and get what you could possibly use because that’s what it’s here for.”
The items are available for pick up in the basement meeting room of the Antelope County Courthouse.
Eight Antelope County students will receive a special recognition from the Niobrara Valley Conference.
Students that are being awarded the NVC Scholastic Medal for scoring a 28+ on the ACT include Julia Thiele of Clearwater, Kira Widger and Hunter Reestman of Elgin Public, Kimberly Frey of Elkhorn Valley, Cole Belitz, Emma Bixler and Hailey Bixler of Neligh-Oakdale and Kyle Schumacher of Pope John. The medals will be sent out to their respective schools.
Here is the full list of NVC Scholastic Medal recipients by school:
Boyd County - Sydney Atkinson, Lane Carson
Clearwater – Julia Thiele
Elgin Public - Kira Widger and Hunter Reestman
Elkhorn Valley - Kimberly Frey
Keya Paha – Katie Lewis
Neligh-Oakdale - Cole Belitz, Emma Bixler, Hailey Bixler
Niobrara - Abbigail Holz
Pope John - Kyle Schumacher
Rock County - Brodee Fleming, Brendan Bussinger
St. Mary's - Ansley Kramer, Jacob Pongratz, Betsy Crumly, Abby Everitt, Brandi Ruzicka
Stuart – Reaghan Engel, Colton Kaup
Verdigre - Bailey Frank
West Holt - Lindee Wentworth
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is working to implement programs that may aid in flood recovery efforts in the agricultural community and University of Nebraska-Lincoln is leveraging its informational resources through Nebraska Extension, the outreach mission of the land-grant university.
A meeting will be held about flood disaster relief for agriculture on Friday, April 19, from 10:00 to 11:30 a.m. in the Antelope County Courthouse Basement Meeting Room in Neligh.
Presentations will be given by Jamie Keep (FSA), Adam Nolan (NRCS) and Ben Beckman (Nebraska Extension).
Topics will include USDA programs for livestock losses, emergency loans, field damage and rehabilitation and more. Nebraska Extension will share key publications and online resources. There is no fee to attend.
For questions, contact Jamie Keep (402-887-4176) or Nebraska Extension Antelope County (402-887-5414).
This meeting is sponsored by Nebraska Extension and USDA.
Two Nebraska Unified District #1 students qualified for National SkillsUSA after competing at the Nebraska State Conference in Grand Island last week.
Faith King qualified for nationals in Middle School Job Demonstration A after winning the state contest and Madison Melcher qualified in High School Job Demonstration Open after also winning at the state contest.
Also placing at the state contest were Aubrey Jackson, 3rd place Middle School Job Demonstration A; Levi Cronk, 2nd place Middle School Job Demonstration A; Bryna Umphress, 3rd place Middle School Job Demonstration Open and Ashley Melcher, 2nd place Middle School Job Demonstration Open.
King and Madison Melcher will go on to compete at the National SkillsUSA Conference June 24-28 in Louisville, KY.
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