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lnichols / The Associated Press 

Tiger Woods hits on the 12th hole during the second round of the Valspar Championship golf tournament Friday, March 9, 2018, in Palm Harbor, Fla.

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BPS hosts parent nights on elementary restructuring

This week, administrators and board of education members from Beatrice Public Schools started a series of meetings with parents on proposed changes to the elementary school structure.

The four options were laid out at last month’s board of education committee of the whole meeting, where elementary principals Betty Replogle and Kevin Janssen discussed the possibilities with the board. This week, administrators took questions from parents and addressed concerns at Paddock Lane and Lincoln elementary schools. Next week, at 6:30 p.m., they’ll be holding open parent meetings at Lincoln Elementary on March 13 and at Stoddard on March 15.

On Thursday night, Kevin Janssen went over the four options with about 24 parents who had gathered in the Lincoln Elementary library.

Option one would mean the schools stay nearly the same. Lincoln, Paddock Lane and Stoddard would remain kindergarten through fifth grade schools, but that would involve moving students between sections and could lead to siblings being separated. It would also cut a section from second and third grades, causing class sizes to increase.

The second option would be to continue to leave students in their current elementary schools. It would also decrease the third grade at Lincoln down to one section and move a teacher over to Paddock Lane for a third section of second grade.

The third option would reduce either Lincoln or Stoddard to a 1.5-section school, which would be in the model of the old Cedar Elementary before it became the preschool. Paddock Lane would become a three-section building and Lincoln or Stoddard would have some grades with one or two sections.

Option four would level the buildings, turning Lincoln into a kindergarten through second grade school. Stoddard would then become a third through fifth grade school, Janssen said, but Paddock Lane would remain a kindergarten through fifth grade school due to special education and other programs inside the school.

“I understand that none of these options are great,” Janssen said. “But they're the options that we're faced with at the current moment. We have to do what is best for all kids.”

The fourth option would require busing third through fifth grade students from a hub at Lincoln Elementary to Stoddard Elementary, Janssen said

Superintendent Pat Nauroth said that the board hasn’t discussed the cost officially, but the shuttle between Lincoln and Stoddard would be a service provided by the district and parents wouldn’t be charged.

In order to make up for the district’s budget shortfall, a parent asked if the district could sell the property across from the high school—which was purchased to build a new elementary that voters didn’t approve of. It could be sold, Janssen said, but the money would have to go back into the district’s building funds budget. It couldn’t be used to hire a new teacher, he said, but it could potentially be used to renovate existing buildings.

Next Monday, Nauroth said, the school board will again be discussing the options at its monthly meeting, but no decisions will be made that day. There are two more parent discussions to come, he said, which will be addressed at the March committee of the whole meeting and followed by, he hopes, a decision at the board’s April meeting.

Board of Education President Jon Zimmerman said that the board first heard the options about a week ago and hadn’t yet come to a decision on which option would be best.

“We don't know,” Zimmerman said. “We are hearing this and deciding everything now, with you. Y'all keep saying we don't listen, we do what we want. Well, we listened and we bring stuff to you. This is why we're doing this.”

Nauroth, who is leaving the district at the end of this school year, said that they’d been talking with incoming Superintendent Jason Alexander to get some input from him as well. They’re trying to look at the problem from every angle, he said, starting with staff, going to the board and now they’re looking to parents for opinions.

Realistically, Nauroth said, the option that’s probably the easiest to make adjustments on is the grade level building. The other options can be done, he said, but it would require moving kids around to different schools.

“You're trying to balance two things,” Nauroth said. “One is providing a quality education for kids, the other one is being a good steward of the taxpayer's money.”

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Beatrice Landfill moves into new cell

Picking up trash that the wind carries away from the Beatrice Landfill is something of a Sisyphean task.

Each of the Styrofoam cups, lose papers and Walmart sacks that the wind hurled from the top of cell four at the Beatrice Landfill and across neighboring fields, workers would pick up. The next day, as soon as a mild breeze picked up, the trash would be scattered across the fields all over again.

But on Wednesday, a new cell opened up at the Beatrice Landfill which, according to landfill Superintendent Jason Moore, should make things a little easier on landfill employees and on the landfill’s neighboring farms.

Over the course of years, cell four had grown to become the highest point in the landfill. Tens of thousands of tons of garbage came in from Beatrice and the surrounding area and any wind gusts would send lose trash floating into the sky. They had wind fences in place, Moore said, but those would get so laden with trash that the wind—which is supposed to flow through them—would topple them.

The state called the landfill up with complaints from neighbors and they’d send crews out to clean up, only to return the next day once the wind had strewn more trash across the fields.

The landfill has a part-time worker who comes in every day, year-round just to pick up the trash that’s been blown around, Moore said.

“We have to fight it every single day,” Moore said. “I'm hoping now that we get into cell five, we see a big turnaround, but litter will always be something we have to work with, just how much litter we have to pick up.”

Construction started on the new cell last summer and took about four months. Construction, which included laying down clay and several barriers that would allow leachate from the garbage to flow to a retention pond, was finished in September of last year. The landfill had inspections by the Department of Environmental Quality completed in the third week of February, and this past Wednesday, they were able to start running the new cell.

They’re still using the wind fences, although they are significantly less full of plastic bags and other debris, and unless they see a rare and particularly severe west wind, things should be a bit tidier, Moore said. The new cell sits 20 feet below the current landfill grade and the valley it sits in is shielded from the wind.

There’s still work to do, though, Moore said. The winds that whipped through the landfill between 30 and 40 miles per hour earlier this week really spread the trash around, coating the fences surrounding the landfill, covering the neighboring fields with litter and decorating the cedars and cottonwoods that surround the landfill with plastic bags.

The four landfill workers needed some help with one last push to get the area spruced up, Moore said, so he called up six guys from the street department—Moore also serves as street superintendent—to help out this week.

“Lot of plastic bags, feed bags, pet food bags, grocery sacks hung up in the trees,” said Dallas Hanshaw, who’d been out picking up trash around the landfill since Wednesday with the crew. “We find a lot of old check stubs. I found one back here that was like 1971.”

The trees that surround the landfill—which Hanshaw helped plant back in the early 1980s—were originally set to block the public’s view of the landfill, but these days, Moore said, it serves as both a wind break and it catches a lot of the floating material before it can move across the roadway.

The street department crew had been out all week cleaning up the ditches around the landfill, filling dozens of big, black leaf bags with the trash dispersed by heavy winds, picking up everything that was outside the landfill’s footprint or visible to the public.

Moore said that he’s really happy the landfill is able to move into the new cell. They’ll still be using cell four, but only for really heavy stuff. Anything loose or coming in from the garbage trucks will be heading into the much less wind-susceptible cell five, which will keep a place that’s full of trash a whole lot cleaner.

“I really think with us getting into cell five, property owners are going to see a difference,” Moore said. “They're not going to see the litter like they have.”

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Taco John's to close temporarily

After 40 years in Beatrice, Taco John’s is closing. Temporarily.

On Sunday, fast food Mexican restaurant Taco John’s, owned by Dave and Sheila Rosno, will be shutting its doors for the final time, but it will be coming back in a brand new building right next door.

“We're closing Sunday and then we'll be closed for three weeks,” Sheila said. “We won't open until the day after Easter.”

The date could change, Dave said, as they still have to tear down the old building and pour concrete in its place for a new parking lot. If the weather stays sunny, they’ll be able to pour the concrete before giving it two weeks to set.

The new building shell was erected in about four days back in January and crews from Caspers Construction set to work getting the inside of the building completed. Once Taco John’s closes, they’ll be moving the equipment over to the new building for installation.

The new Taco John’s will be able to seat 70 people and will have a larger parking lot than the old building.

The city of Beatrice announced earlier this week that one lane of traffic along Highway 77 will be closed to allow the contractor to finish construction of the new entryway starting on March 19. They expect the lane to be closed for about a week.

Demolition of the old Taco John’s building is expected to begin on Thursday, March 15.

Two arrested for drug use in parking lot

Kaleb Robinson

Two men were arrested after a Beatrice police officer allegedly saw them using drugs in a Beatrice parking lot.

At around 5 p.m. Thursday, a Beatrice police officer witnessed Brandon Dickson, 29, and Kaleb Robinson, 30, using narcotics inside a vehicle in the Walmart parking lot.

Court documents state the officer saw the two repeatedly bend down and lean up. Robinson was observed to have a syringe in his hand at one point and appeared to use the syringe on himself.

The officer, who was in an unmarked vehicle, pulled Robinson from the vehicle and placed the two under arrest with assistance from other officers.

Police found a loaded syringe and a crushed pill in a container inside the vehicle.

They were arrested for possession of methamphetamine and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Bond for both suspects was set at $5,000, with a 10 percent deposit. Further hearings in the cases are set for April 3.

Scott Koperski /   

Kaleb Robinson