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NGage elects new member to board at annual meeting

NGage held its annual meeting at Classic’s at the Beatrice Country Club on Tuesday night, and while the economic development group focused on the successes of the past year, they also had some business to attend to before the dinner.

The board member representing NGage for the city, Pat Nauroth, superintendent of Beatrice Public Schools, was beaten out by Matt Morrissey of Black Hills Energy. James Lenners, who represents NGage for the county-side, was also re-elected by the NGage board.

The organization will take a three-pronged approach to the rest of the year when it comes to points they’d like to focus on, according to NGage Executive Director Walker Zulkoski, 

He said the first focus will be on quality of life and communicating how great Gage County is for the people who live and work here.

“If we're telling our story and how much we love it, then hopefully we can get more people to move here,” Zulkoski said.

Second, they’ll focus on finding space for companies interesting in coming into Beatrice and Gage County. They’ll be trying to get some buildings constructed on spec and identifying sites for industry, he said, so that when companies come looking for a place to expand, they’ll have a site all ready to move into.

The third focus is targeted recruitment, Zulkoski said. Instead of chasing every project that many other communities, counties and even states are going after, they’ll be looking for the right match. They’ll be choosing the ones that they think will fit the area’s workforce and economy best and dedicating their time to winning those, Zulkoski said.

“Getting people to move home, getting people engaged, getting sites identified and due diligence done and buildings built would be the goal,” Zulkoski said. “But as far as job creation, things like that, we're not setting numbers on how many jobs we create because we don't have enough people to fill them anyway, so we're going to look at a way that makes more sense.”

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Valentine's Day royalty crowned

The spirit of Valentine’s Day was alive and well at Husker Health and Rehabilitation in Beatrice on Wednesday.

The nursing home held its annual Valentine’s Day celebration, complete with live music, heart-shaped cookies and the crowning of a Valentine’s Day king and queen.

Voted by residents and staff, this year’s queen was Carmen Frerichs.

After her name was announced, Frerichs was serenaded by local pianist Jim Hinz. Hinz, who has been legally blind since childhood, routinely entertains the guests at Beatrice Health and Rehab with his piano playing and singing.

Once Frerichs was crowned and seated at the head table surrounded by heart-shaped ballons, it was time to crown a king.

That honor went to Robert Davison who reluctantly traded his ball cap for a crown.

Once seated together, the pair shared a non-alcoholic toast to their newfound titles and enjoyed some special Valentine’s Day treats.

“It was very unexpected,” Frerichs said.

Davison also cracked a slight smile and admitted, “It feels good for a change!”

“It’s not your typical Valentine’s Day celebration,” said Kailey Mustin, activities director. “We do it every year as a way to make them feel special. It’s nice to celebrate them.”

County approves one and six-year road plan

The Gage County Board of Supervisors approved a one and six-year road plan on Wednesday morning that has more than two dozen projects listed for the 2018 year.

Many of the projects listed for 2018 are bridge replacements, culvert repairs around the county and a shoulder project between Wymore and Liberty.

Mark Mainelli of Mainelli Wagner and Associates, who worked on the road plan with Highway Superintendent Galen Engel, said that looking at last year’s road plan shows they got a lot finished. There are some projects that say “delayed,” Mainelli said, but many of those were delayed because they were submitted to the County Bridge Match Program from the Nebraska Department of Transportation but were not approved, though they will be resubmitted.

“Generally, the county and the county staff did an excellent job on accomplishing what we said we wanted to do last year,” Mainelli said.

Mainelli said that the money being spent by the county on road projects is being spent in a thoughtful way. There are plenty of projects that need attention, he said, but by spreading it in multiple locations across the county rather than focusing on a handful of bigger projects, it’s a boost to the economy.

The closure of even the most minor roads would be sad to see, he said, because it would limit the use of the land for years to come. Mainelli said that there are studies which show that repairing even a road with daily traffic of five vehicles will pay off in the long term, especially in farm communities.

“It's not necessarily the number of vehicles, it's the millions of dollars that come out of those fields that we need to take a look at,” Mainelli said. “When you look at state highways, they look at average daily traffic, when I look at ours, I look at millions of dollars in every square mile coming in and out of there. Between cattle and hogs, and corn and soybeans, and everything else.”

Working on smaller projects like culvert repairs does mean that, eventually, the county will run out of projects that can be performed by county staff. The county will have to start investing in contractors to complete work as time goes on, Mainelli said.

“We have thoughtfully looked at each region and spread the infrastructure around,” Mainelli said. “So, if there's a congested area that there's options for everybody, so we're spreading it out evenly across the county so each constituent sees improvement.”