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Beatrice Fire and Rescue responds to downtown Fairbury blaze

A fire broke out in downtown Fairbury last Friday at around 12:30 p.m. inside a hair salon on Fourth Street.

Seven local fire departments responded to the Dec. 29 blaze, including Beatrice Fire and Rescue, which brought extra support when they were called in about an hour after the fire started.

Beatrice Fire and Rescue Chief Brian Daake said that mutual aid was first requested by the Fairbury Fire Department for Beatrice’s air trailer, a portable air system used to refill the breathing apparatuses worn by firefighters.

“They requested us for the ladder truck, so we went over there,” Daake said. “Basically, by the time we got over there, they had done a heck of a good job knocking the fire down. We just sent a crew in upstairs for a little while to do overhaul and try to make sure that the fire's out. Then, they let us come back.”

Daake said that Beatrice Fire and Rescue doesn’t often respond to out-of-town fires, maybe only once or twice a year, though the Beatrice Rural Fire District does go out a bit more than they do.

Daake commended the volunteer Fairbury firefighters as well as the responding units from Daykin, Steel City, Jansen, Diller and Plymouth fire departments.

“They did a really nice job of knocking the fire down,” he said. “It was basically just going in there and looking for hot spots.”

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Baby New Year: First BCH baby of 2018 born Monday

New Year’s Day was full of firsts at Beatrice Community Hospital.

The first baby of the new year, Bentley Vculek, was born late Monday afternoon. He was the first child for new mom, Aubree Vculek, the first grandchild for Amy Vculek and the first great-grandchild for Anita and Kim Wienke.

Bentley was born a few weeks early, after doctors decided to induce his mother, Aubree, on Monday, making him the first baby to be born in Beatrice in 2018, something Diane Vicars, BCH’s director of public relations, said the hospital has been celebrating for a long time.

“It's a celebration, just like watching the ball drop,” Vicars said. “It's just kind of a tradition that you celebrate the birth of the first baby at the hospital.”

The hospital awards the mother of the first baby born with a congratulatory basket full of newborn essentials such as diapers, clothes, toys and other fun items for a baby’s first few days.

More than 200 babies are born annually at Beatrice Community Hospital, Vicars said, and sometimes, since BCH is smaller than the hospitals in Lincoln, they have to wait a couple of days to welcome the first baby of the year.

But Bentley was born on New Year’s Day, which is a bit of a family tradition, Anita Wienke said.

“22 years ago, I was doing this,” she said, having given birth to her son, the first baby of 1996, in Superior.

At the hospital on Tuesday, Aubree was holding Bentley after he’d been passed around the four generations of family members there to meet him.

She was tired, but said that having the first baby of the new year was interesting, but different.

Kim Wienke, the youngest of five children, but the first of his siblings to be a great-grandfather, had just one word to describe how he was feeling.

“Old,” he laughed.

Anita said she was happy and a bit relieved that her granddaughter wasn’t under the same pressure she was under on the day her son was born in 1996.

“I had my son right before Nebraska was playing in the Fiesta Bowl,” she said. “The doctor said, 'We've got to have this baby before kickoff.'”

Anita successfully gave birth before the game, and the Huskers went on to beat the Florida Gators 62 to 24.

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Beatrice man arrested for attempted murder

A Beatrice man was arrested Sunday for attempted murder after allegedly threatening to kill a woman.

George W. Oakes, 46, was arrested after the victim’s father called police to report an assault.

The victim told police that Oakes threw her across a couch and held her face down into a cushion, screaming at her. According to Gage County Court documents, the victim said that after around 15 seconds, he let go and allegedly said he was going to get a knife and kill her.

Oakes allegedly ripped the cord of a heating pad the victim had been using from an outlet and wrapped it around the victim's neck while sitting on her chest.

Court documents state he pulled the cord until the victim blacked out. He then questioned the victim and twisted her head if he believed she was lying to him.

The victim tried to escape, but was allegedly dragged back to the basement by her arm.

Documents state the two stayed up through the night and Oakes eventually calmed down. He drove the victim to see her father, and when they were alone, the victim asked him to call police for her.

Police noted bruising around the victim's entire neck, ligature marks around her neck, bruising on her left arm, red marks on her right arm and bruising on her buttocks.

She complained about pain to her entire back and stomach, neck and arms, and that it was difficult to swallow.

When interviewed, Oakes allegedly told police they were watching television the night before and the victim was talking about leaving him.

Oakes told police that he got upset, grabbed the heating pad the woman was using and attempted to strangle her with it.

When the victim attempted to flee outside, he allegedly grabbed her and dragged her to the basement. She fell on the bottom step.

Oakes was arrested for second-degree attempted murder, second-degree domestic assault, terroristic threats, use of a weapon to commit a felony, false imprisonment and strangulation.

His bond was set at $10,000, with a 10 percent deposit in County Court. His next hearing date is Jan. 30.

City sees spike in building permits in 2017

The city inspections office had a busy year in 2017, with hundreds more building permits issued than in previous years.

Beatrice Chief Building Inspector Rob Mierau said in an email that the department processed more than 865 building permits, which are required for buildings, plumbing, mechanics, signs, encroachments and demolitions.

That compares to 550 permits issued in 2016 and 524 in 2015, a difference of more than 300 for 2017.

Mierau wrote there are a variety of factors that led to the increase, including better enforcement of city codes to ensure the proper permits are being obtained. He added more people are investing in the community, as demonstrated by the number of permit applications.

Mayor Stan Wirth said the increase in permits is an economic highlight for the area, and added that the recent housing study, which identified the need for more housing in Beatrice, may be one factor.

“The housing study that was completed was extremely beneficial to our area, just from the standpoint of we’re seeing a lot of progress being made in the number of housing permits that were pulled this year versus the last couple of years,” he said. “It was up substantially. There are planned developments going into next year that are also going to be really beneficial to our area.”

The department moved from a part-time to a full-time Code Compliance Officer (CCO last May, and in 2016, the department implemented a new electronic permitting system that allows workers to be more efficient, keep better records and easily access those records.

There’s also an electronic system for managing code violation cases, which is another module in the same software as the permitting system.

The system allows the department to create form letters, envelopes, and manage code violation cases.

The department was expected to surpass 1,100 cases by the end of the year.

City Administrator Tobias Tempelmeyer said new housing developments prompted the additional permits, and that the city has an ultimate goal of making the process even more user friendly in the future.

“It’s getting better, but where we want to end up is where contractors or homeowners can apply online, have it approved online and no longer need to come down to submit plans and those things,” he said. “We’ve made steps in the right direction, but still have work to do.”

The Building Inspections Department also administers zoning ordinances, which also saw an increase in 2017.

Mierau wrote the department had approximately 60 zoning-related applications filed in 2017, nearly double the amount from his first two years in the position.