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Beatrice to 'level' elementary schools

The Beatrice Board of Education voted unanimously at a special meeting Thursday night to make two Beatrice elementary schools into grade level buildings.

Beginning next year Lincoln Elementary will house kindergarten through second grade while students in grades 3-5 will go to Stoddard Elementary. Paddock Lane will remain a K-5 school. 

Several months ago the the board began considering options to address a discrepancy in elementary class sizes and reduce the number of students being moved to different buildings.

The board held a series of public meetings at the grade schools to discuss four potential options. The district also conducted an electronic survey of elementary parents. 

The first option would have cut a section from third grade and add one to second grade and would require movements of students to different buildings. The second option would have left students in their current buildings but would require hiring a new staff member at a cost of around $80,000. The third option would have reduced a building to 1.5 section school and increase Paddock Lane to a three section school, requiring movement of students and staff.

The fourth, which the board approved on Thursday night, would create grade level schools.

After taking questions from several parents in attendance who were opposed to the grade leveling the board began its deliberation.

“I hope everyone can understand how difficult this decision has been and will be for the board to look at,” said Superintendent Pat Nauroth.

Nauroth recommended option four to the board.

Board member Doris Martin said that equalizing class sizes was very important, and this option would do just that. 

Board member Steve Winter thanked parents for coming out and addressing their concerns with the plan, and told them that their participation is  important in decision making for the board.

“These are concerns we've got to face and be able to try and remedy,” Winter said. “The people that don't come to these things, they're the ones that have the complaints on the street. They're the ones that haven't been to one meeting.”

Board member Janet Byars said that the board worked on a strategic plan six or seven years ago, and the possibility of grade leveling had been discussed, so it wasn’t a new concept. 

Following concerns about waiting for Nauroth’s exit to make a decision, Winter said that incoming superintendent Jason Alexander has been involved in discussions with the board and was in favor of the grade leveling.

Board member Lisa Pieper was not in attendance at the meeting, but sent along a note, read by board president Jon Zimmerman. Pieper expressed her support for the grade leveling, saying that she fully trusted the knowledge and expertise of the teachers and staff who were looking for a solution.

Zimmerman said it would have been nice if more people had shown up to the meetings, as it’s how the board learns what everyone in the community needs.

“We should point out, there's a lot of people not here that are in support of this,” Zimmerman said. “Unfortunately they aren't here to speak for it, which would be wonderful. I'd love to have people come and actually support things as opposed to just try and find other ways to do something.”

The board voted unanimously to approve the restructuring, which will begin  next school year.


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Vintage Venue celebrates the past, present and future of Beatrice

The former home of RadioShack, Vintage Venue at 620 Court Street in Beatrice is a wealth of forgotten history.

Vintage Venue officially opened its doors on Friday night for A Taste of Spring, an event for Main Street Beatrice. It was nine months in the making and took hundreds of hours of preparation to bring the building to its current state.

The building started its life in 1924 as the Spiegel Overland Car Company, a two story car dealership that sold Packards and Willys automobiles. There was even an elevator to lift cars up to the second level for display and for repair work.

In the 1930s, a Dodge and Plymouth dealer moved in and after that, it was an International Harvester tractor dealership.

Its look transformed when RadioShack moved in. Most of the windows were sealed up and the lath and plaster walls and ceilings were replaced with a drop ceiling and drywall and the hardwood was covered with a subfloor and carpeting.

When RadioShack’s owners retired, that’s when Colleen and John Schoneweis stepped in. They own Colleen’s Catering, which provides food for events around the area. They’d spent about five years looking for a place downtown to host weddings and events, but had come up empty-handed.

“At that point we had given up,” Colleen said.

They got a call with a tip that RadioShack’s owners were selling the business. They went for it, hoping there’d be something classic hiding under the modern facade.

They bought it as-is and the first step was hammering off a corner of the plaster and praying for brick. Under layers of drywall and plaster, there were the bricks.

The next step was to tear up the carpet, Colleen said. They tore off the first pieces and found a subfloor, which was a little disheartening, but once they broke through that, they found the original hardwood floors.

The floors were covered with nails and glue and decades of auto shop damage and they needed some work. Most of the wood was salvageable, save for the part nearest the elevator that cars had driven over for decades. They replaced that small section with new flooring and sanded down the rest.

The drop ceiling was removed, revealing the wooden beams and supports, as well as the original knob and tube wiring that had been hand-drilled through the beams 90-some years before. They left the original wiring in place for decoration, but had the electricity updated using modern, safer techniques.

They replaced the heating and air conditioning with a 25-ton roof unit. The plumbing was upgraded and the smaller, old bathrooms were refurbished with hand-made wooden stalls.

The new venue boasts 5,000 square feet of usable space and can seat more than 400 and hold upwards of 600 people if they’re standing.

“As a caterer, you've heard for years that there's a demand for this, but there's nothing local that compares,” John said. “It's big enough and people want the vintage look, too. If you go to the Haymarket, you see this look. That's where we got the idea.”

The windows had been boarded up with two-by-fours, drywall and plaster, but they were replaced as well, using a $60,000 façade improvement grant from the city of Beatrice. Previously, the storefront only had a small window up front, but after being replaced, a line of windows lets daylight into the building, just like it had when it was originally built.

“It was so amazing to be in here working as the windows went in,” John said. “It got lighter and lighter and lighter.”

They booked their first appointment for a June wedding back in July and their first gala on Friday night brought in more than 200 people.

People have been watching the progress of the building since it began around nine months ago, Colleen said. Sometimes so much that it will stop traffic, John said.

“There’s lots of horn honking to get going,” he said. “We hear the honking.”

“There was one time I was looking at it when I was heading out,” Colleen said. “I had to quit doing that, I can just go inside.”


Patrick Ethridge / Photo by Patrick Ethridge 

AND THE WINNER IS: Anytime Fitness trainer and owner Bryan Seibel (center) holds up Jessica Lyons' hand after she won a timed challenge Friday in the last Fitness Challenge workout of the year. Jeff Carrel is also pictured offering his congratulations. 


Jeff Carrel does step-ups at Anytime Fitness Friday. 


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Drugs and weapons found in Fairbury search

FAIRBURY -- Four people were arrested on multiple charges after authorities served a search warrant in Fairbury Thursday morning.

At around 6:30 a.m. Thursday, authorities with the Fairbury Police Department, Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department and Saline County Sheriff’s Department served a search warrant at 1015 Fourth St. in Fairbury.

According to a press release, the warrant was issued after police received information that several pieces of stolen property were in the residence, along with drugs and weapons. During the investigation, officers were informed that several subjects in the residence were possibly armed.

During the search, four suspects were initially detained. After the residence was secured, officers conducted a search of the property. Officers located suspected methamphetamine, equipment and packing used to distribute narcotics, marijuana, drug paraphernalia, stolen tools, a stolen dirt bike, surveillance cameras, ammunition and numerous weapons that did not include a firearm.

The four individuals arrested, all from Fairbury, include Jeffery S. Stotler, 26, Dominic E. Konetzki, 21, Daniel L. Shibley, 25, and Shianne E. Bassett, 23.

All four were arrested for possession of a controlled substance, possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver, theft by receiving stolen property, possession of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Stotler was also arrested for possession of a deadly weapon by a prohibited person, and Shibley had outstanding warrants out of both Gage and Jefferson counties.

No officers were injured during the investigation. Stotler received medical treatment by Jefferson County Ambulance Personnel for a minor head injury that occurred during a brief altercation after he tried to elude law enforcement when they made entry into the residence, the press release stated. The incident remains under investigation.

Officers are attempting to obtaining arrest warrants for additional subjects involved in the investigation.


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Cruisin' at Sonic

With temperatures nearly 80 degrees Thursday, classic car owners brought their rides out to Sonic Drive-In for the first Sonic Cruise night of the year. Approximately 40 classic cars, hot rods and modern sports cars stopped by for the event and several car lovers came out to have a look and enjoy the weather before another blast of cold is forecast to move into the area over the weekend. See the weather forecast on page A6 of today's Daily Sun.