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Villanova head coach Jay Wright, center, celebrates with his team after beating Michigan 79-62 in the championship game of the Final Four NCAA college basketball tournament, Monday, April 2, 2018, in San Antonio.

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Council discusses new fire station

On Monday night, the Beatrice City Council discussed the potential for a new station for Beatrice Fire and Rescue and the steps the city would need to take to make it happen.

While there are still details that need to be worked out, like location and cost, the city is getting serious about bringing the new fire station to the public for a bond measure at the November ballot.

The current fire station beneath the City Auditorium opened in 1965 and the apparatus bay used by Beatrice Fire and Rescue as well as Beatrice Rural Fire isn’t big enough for all the vehicles needed said fire chief Brian Daake. The current apparatus bay has 6,000 square feet of garage space, but consulting firms have said the department would need anywhere from 10,000-16,000 square feet, Daake said.

“Right now, in our most congested bay, we've got four fire trucks, the ambulance and a mutual aid air trailer that all have to come out of that door,” Daake said. “So, if we have to get the hazmat truck out, we have to move four vehicles to get that thing out of the way, which does not help us provide the service that we do with the community.”

Daake said that Beatrice Fire and Rescue and representatives from the city have been in talks with companies from Lincoln who are working pro bono to review the needs of the station. About 25,000-30,000 is the ballpark range of what the companies are suggesting, Daake said.

Daake also said that they’d recently met with Beatrice Rural Fire who are on board for a new fire station and were willing to attach themselves to some financial commitment as well.

The city has been talking about a new fire station for quite some time, said city administrator Tobias Tempelmeyer. If the city is going to take the next step to be ready for the November, they’ll have to make some decisions before submitting to the county clerk.

When it comes to construction, Tempelmeyer said there were three options available. There’s the design, bid, build method where the city would hire an architect to design the building, then go out to bid for a construction company who would then build it, the design-build method—as used on the Carnegie Building and at the Beatrice High School House of Orange—where a firm would design the building and build it and the construction manager at risk method where the design and construction are separate contracts and would have a guaranteed maximum price.

“Ultimately, if you're going to take this thing out for a vote, we've got to know a dollar amount,” Tempelmeyer said. “We've got to know how much we're going to be asking for. We don't want to ask for too little that we can't complete the project and we don't want to ask for too much either.”

Councilman Rich Kerr said that if the city is going to try for a bond measure, they’re going to have to sell it to the public. Mayor Stan Wirth said that it would help to have some sort of conceptual drawing to show what the building would look like in order to have something tangible for the public to see what they’re voting on.

Tempelmeyer said they’d work with designers and the fire department to determine things like how big a footprint the building would need, how many bays the station would need and to find out what the needs and cost would be.

Councilman Dwight Parde asked if there was a chance that Beatrice Rural could stay at the current station, and Tempelmeyer said that they could, but it would depend on the needs of the city. If the fire department moves out, other departments would be ready to move in, he said.

“Hopefully within two weeks we can sit down and meet again and kind of decide what we want to do and how we're going to move forward,” Wirth said. “I kind of like the idea of maybe getting an architect onboard and just getting the process started.”

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Council approves Highway 77 agreement

The Beatrice City Council approved a supplemental agreement that will pay off the city’s share of Highway 77 improvements over three years.

Work on the stretch of highway between Beatrice and Pickrell began Monday morning. The portion from Industrial Row to Hickory Road falls within the city limits of Beatrice and the city will pay roughly 50 percent of the costs for improvements.

The initial agreement the city signed with Nebraska Department of Roads (NDOR) was for $934,372.84. When NDOR put the project out to bid, the bids came back higher than anticipated, said city administrator Tobias Tempelmeyer. The city’s share increased to $1,451,721.27 for the project to repair the roadway, which the city asked to pay back over a few years.

“We talked about some different terms,” Tempelmeyer said. “I asked for five years to be able to pay the remaining $500,000 over five years, NDOT came back and said they could not do that because allowing it to go out that long would be extending credit of the state, but they could do three year payments.”

The first of the three payments will come in January of 2019, with the final payment being made in January of 2021.

No interest will be paid on the payments, though Tempelmeyer reminded the council the final amount is still an estimate.

The council approved a bid for work on Bell and Summit streets as part of the city’s one-and-five-year road plan that came in significantly under what had been budgeted, Tempelmeyer said.

That will work in the city’s favor, he said, as will the $100,000 contingency for the street department that the council budgeted for the next fiscal year.

The council approved the supplemental agreement unanimously.

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New coffee shop opens downtown

A new coffee shop calling downtown Beatrice home is celebrating its grand opening this week.

The Coffee Bistro’s first official day of business is Wednesday, welcoming the public to try its food and drink offerings.

Mark Ruby, who co-owns the business, said The Coffee Bistro will offer a variety of lunch and breakfast menu items, in addition to coffee and other drinks.

“Our menu is designed for fast lunches when you don’t have much time to eat,” he said. “We have some breakfast sandwiches that we make here and we have scones and muffins, then for lunch we do paninis, wraps and soups.

“We use those as our main menu. It’s designed to be quick so you can get in and out if you need to or stay as long as you like.”

For guests who opt to stick around a while, the location has in and outdoor seating and free Wi-Fi.

The coffee served is organic, fair trade coffee. Hot tea and smoothies are also on the menu for those wanting something other than coffee.

Ruby was working a corporate job around five years ago when he decided to get into the coffee business. But first, he wanted some experience.

He wound up managing a Starbucks in Omaha for a year to learn the ins and outs of the industry, before opening a shop with his wife, Cindy, in Fremont. After four years the couple decided to relocate to Beatrice, her hometown, and immediately began scouting locations for The Coffee Bistro.

“Our lease was up and we thought it was a good time to come back home to Beatrice,” he said. “We moved back here in November and looked for a spot to reopen our coffee shop here after we got settled. We wanted it to be a café style. We didn’t want a drive-thru, we wanted it to be relaxed atmosphere a place to sit back and enjoy, meet friends and maybe do some homework or relax.

‘We wanted to be downtown and so I was looking for an older building with exposed brick and that kind of stuff. We needed a place that would fit our needs and this did. This works well for us.”

The block was the focal point of a downtown revitalization grant a few years ago.

Michael Sothan, director of Main Street Beatrice, said the project has helped draw business to the area of downtown Beatrice.

“I think it worked for them because they could really picture people sitting outside during the nicer days and enjoy themselves,” He said. "North Fifth Street is a busy street, but with no truck traffic. It’s aesthetically pleasing to sit outside and enjoy your coffee or sandwich, and that is certainly a good thing.”

The Coffee Bistro at 106 N. Fifth St. is open from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

Nebraska senators send budget bills to Ricketts

The Nebraska Legislature sent its $8.8 billion in budget adjustments for two fiscal years to Gov. Pete Ricketts Tuesday, with enough votes to put it into effect as soon as he signs it.

But some senators wanted a last say -- or maybe not the last -- about a provision embedded in the mainline budget bill (LB944) they say targets Planned Parenthood and takes away its Title X funding.

Lincoln Sen. Anna Wishart took to the microphone, as one of the senators most heavily involved in negotiations to compromise on the Title X provision and save the funding of federally qualified health centers.

"I have never faced such a trying issue as an elected official," Wishart said. "This budget process has been one of the most painful lessons I have had in my short time as a senator on the growing political nature of our Legislature."

The compromise would allow clinics to refer patients for abortion in emergency situations, in which a physician determines a pregnancy would cause death or serious impairment of the woman's physical function, and thus allow most of the Title X clinics to continue providing essential reproductive services to low-income men and women, she said.

With it, neutral, factual, nondirective information about prenatal care and delivery and pregnancy termination would not constitute a referral for abortion.

It was not enough, Wishart said.

"While that amendment saved lives and health clinics," she said, "it did not address the blatant carve-out of Planned Parenthood that remains in our budget. And for that I am disappointed in myself."

She has been heavily criticized by people inside and outside the Capitol, she said, and mostly in her own head.

She accepts responsibility for not being able to educate and negotiate with enough of her fellow senators to remove "this cancerous language from our budget," she said. But she defended herself against anyone who would say she didn't try or didn't care about women's health care.

She promised to come back next year sharper and more prepared for tough negotiations, and with as many pieces of legislation possible to protect women's health care.

During the debate, Lincoln Sen. Mike Hilgers reiterated the provision wasn't meant to target any one provider, but the provision provides a mechanism to ensure Title X and taxpayer dollars are not going to fund abortion services.

The bill with the provision has an emergency clause that would require it to go into effect as soon as it is signed by the governor. At the same time, there are contracts that included Planned Parenthood that do not expire until July 1, said Omaha Sen. Burke Harr.

He asked Speaker Jim Scheer Monday to check on what would happen with those contracts when the bill went into effect this month. He sought and received a letter from the Department of Health and Human Services CEO Courtney Phillips verifying the response from the governor's office.

Phillips said HHS would not make any funding changes in the delivery of Title X program services to current providers before July 1. The department would need that time to provide notice of changes made by the bill, she said, and to allow for compliance by providers.

Planned Parenthood of the Heartland is one of those providers.

Meg Mikolajczyk, Planned Parenthood of the Heartland public affairs manager, said regardless of whether the new Title X rules go into effect July 1, the fight isn't over.

"We will keep fighting for our patients, and we are exploring all options. Our doors will remain open, and we will continue to offer all of our services. We will work with each patient individually to ensure they receive the care they need," she said.

Omaha Sen. Sara Howard said those who worked on the compromise, including her, stood up for the women who don't have a lobbyist, who are low income and still need these health services. They made sure some clinics, not all of them, could continue to provide Title X services, she said.

"I've been accused of playing politics," Howard said. "I would argue that the only people who played politics are the ones who sat on the extremes and said no, as opposed to the ones who said, 'I'm going to try to think about the women who need this more than anyone. ... I'm going to think about the ones who don't have a voice.' And that's what we did."