A Nebraska state senator claims Gage County violated the Nebraska Constitution by contracting to house inmates across the state line in Kansas.
Omaha Sen. Ernie Chambers has asked Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson to weigh in on the contract approved by the Gage County Board of Supervisors in late September.
The one-year contract reserves 10 beds in the Washington County, Kan. jail for Gage County inmates. A similar agreement was approved with Dawson County in central Nebraska to reserve five additional beds.
Both contracts were at a rate of $45 per bed, per day, whether or not they are being used.
This amounts to $675 per day, or $246,000 per year to house inmates in the other counties.
In a letter sent Wednesday, Chambers alleged that it’s a violation of the Nebraska Constitution to transport an inmate to another state for any offense committed in Nebraska.
“Obviously, any person in the Gage County jail committed an offense within the state,” he wrote. “Such a person shall not be transported out of the state for such an offense. No contract can nullify the Nebraska Constitution.”
Chambers went on to say it’s a “bit much” to use Nebraskans’ tax dollars to pay another state when no product is received and called on Peterson defend the Nebraska Constitution.
“As Nebraska’s top lawyer, do you have any interest in seeing that the Constitution of Nebraska is not so flagrantly violated?” Chambers wrote. "Or are you of the legal opinion that a person lawfully may ‘be transported out of the state for an offense committed within the state?’”
Gage County Board Chairman Myron Dorn declined to comment on the alleged violation, but did say Gage County isn’t the first in Nebraska to house inmates across state lines. He cited Red Willow as one example.
A worker at the Red Willow County Sheriff’s Department said their inmates haven’t been housed in Kansas for three to five years.
Gage County inmates have been held sporadically in Washington County for more than a year, though no beds were reserved.
The $45 cost per inmate at Washington County is $10 more than the standard rate Gage County previously paid. Officials justified the additional $10 per day because this would reserve the beds for Gage County, as opposed to saving the $10 and hoping the jail has room for Gage County inmates.
Not having a contract in place led to Gage County inmates being held in as many as seven different counties in Nebraska and Kansas, wherever open cells were available.
Talks of contracting with jails intensified this summer as the number of inmates reached double the Gage County jail’s capacity of around 27.
The board approved the contracts 5-1, with Gary Lytle voting in opposition and Matt Bauman absent.
Roger Harris, who serves as the Gage County Attorney, did not return calls regarding Chambers' allegations Friday.
Ten juniors and seniors from Beatrice High School were among more than 200,000 high school students around the country to take part in national Manufacturing Day on Thursday.
As a part of Manufacturing Day, BHS students took a trip to several manufacturing sites around town, all part of a partnership between Beatrice High School, NGage and the manufacturers students visited.
“Keep your head on a swivel and have fun,” said NGage Executive Director Walker Zulkoski before students made their first stop at Continental Carbonic Products. “These guys do cool stuff, so take it all in.”
Continental Carbonic, which makes dry ice in a variety of forms. Located about a mile north of the Homestead, BHS students got a chance to see what goes into making dry ice.
Assistant Plant Manager Leroy Coffield walked the students around the plant, showing the different sizes of dry ice—which is carbon dioxide in its solid form. Coffield, who has been with Continental Carbonic for six and a half years, got his start in one of the company’s factories in Ohio and made his way to Beatrice about a year ago.
Coffield hopes the BHS students will find inspiration on Manufacturing Day, and come away with prospects for their future.
“I like to talk about the fact that we promote from within to try to get people to realize that hard work does pay off,” he said. “That's the biggest thing. Hard work and dedication pays off in the end.”
That’s the whole point to the tour, said Jen Prososki, a guidance counselor at Beatrice High School. High school is all about getting ready for the adult world and, while some kids will head on to college, some want to get out and start working right away.
“It’s just to let them know their options after high school,” Prososki said. “We want them to be college and career ready. That way they know, if they enjoy doing more hands-on work, they know that there are options here in Beatrice.”
A four-year or two-year degree isn’t for everyone, Zulkoski said. The purpose of Manufacturing Day, he said, is to show students that there are opportunities waiting for them in their own community.
“It's not like the old steel mills, dirty working,” he said. “There's some high tech stuff in manufacturing and by getting kids out to see it, it's going to open their eyes and their minds.”
Manufacturing can include a variety occupations, he said. There are the assembly line jobs, of course, but there are also sales, engineering and marketing jobs available. On top of that, there’s an opportunity to move around until you find the spot that fits you.
Students also visited Worldlawn Power Equipment’s world headquarters, which produces home and commercial grade lawnmowers, as well as snow throwers and other equipment.
Their final stop was at Neapco—founded as the New England Auto Products Corporation in 1924—which produces original and aftermarket driveline components for cars, trucks, ATVs and other vehicles.
Matt Miller, safety and environmental manager at Neapco, told the students that even if they decide they’d like to attend college while working there, they can make it happen.
“You can come here, work full-time, go to college full-time and get both of them knocked out at the same time, and still not be missing anything or accruing any tuition,” Miller said. “It takes a little time and a little extra effort, but you're going to find out from a majority of us that we all started out on the floor and worked our way through.”
Erin Chadwick, an NGage employee assisting with the tours, said the goal of the day was all about opening the students' eyes to possibilities.
Seeing the clean, comfortable facilities that offer good working environments were different than the dirty, sweltering factories that a lot of people tend to picture when they consider manufacturing.
“I think the locations that gave tours today were so different in scope,” Chadwick said. “It's pretty eye-opening for them, I think. There's been some light bulb moments.”
Working with high school students and getting them engaged with local industries is the key to keeping a younger generation in Beatrice, Zulkoski said.
“We have great industry and really good jobs," Zulkoski said. "We just need to get that information out into the schools and to the kids so they stay here or come home.”
The village of Adams is hoping to enhance its ball field and playground areas to draw more visitors and tournaments to the northern Gage County town.
The project recently received a $10,000 visitor’s improvement grant for the project from Gage County.
The funds will be used for an ADA accessible playground area at the ball fields in Adams, which will cost a total of nearly $35,000.
Lora Young, the director of the Beatrice Area Chamber of Commerce, said the new equipment will help draw families with younger children to Adams.
“They are enhancing their park and enhancing their ball fields to bring in tournaments and this is a piece of that,” she said. “The advisory committee felt this was a good piece to help with that park and their whole long scheme, plan of developing. When you’ve got teams in, you need a place for younger kids to play, and that enhances it all.”
The project will begin as soon as the funds are available, and is expected to take between six and eight weeks to complete.
According to the grant application, equipment deemed dangerous has already been remodeled, and an awning and net to catch foul balls from the baseball fields will also be installed.
Jenny Lempka of Adams said at a recent County Board meeting that an overall plan calls for a new crow’s nest at the fields, with hopes that Adams will continue to be a destination for a variety of sports tournaments.
“The ultimate goal, long-term, is not only improving our facilities, but eventually inviting tournaments and additional activities to the community,” she said. “We need some new playground equipment that’s more centrally-located for these two ball fields.”
Myron Dorn, the chairman of the County Board of Supervisors who also represents the Adams area, said the improvements are a smart move as Gage County continues to be a destination for baseball tournaments for a wide range of ages.
“Adams is a little bit like Beatrice, there’s always a need for more ball fields,” he said. “Adams used to always have one, now they have two. There’s enough games scheduled you can’t reschedule a rain out. The youth and the sports is just phenomenal.”
The park annually hosts 4,000 visitors, and officials are hoping to see a 2-3 percent increase after the upgrades are installed.
Heading down the Trail of Treasures this weekend but unsure about the weather?
There are plenty of indoor options in downtown Beatrice that will help you save a bundle without getting drenched.
NE Rescued Treasures—which recently opened their new downtown location at 619 Court St. on Oct. 2—aren’t technically on the treasure map, but they originally wanted to be, said owner Scott German. The store will be offering discounts over the weekend at the hybrid thrift shop and art gallery.
Their original pieces, made by artists from three states, take reclaimed items, like glassware, old fans and light bulbs, and form pieces that are functional and a little whimsical. On the thrift shop side, there’s traditional fare, like board games and Halloween decor, as well as antique tools and an old school desk.
German, who runs the store with his wife and children, said the shop always offers discounts to veterans and members of law enforcement.
Across the street from Rescued Treasures in the old Apple Studios storefront at 612 Court St., BG Hive is an official Trail of Treasures stop run by Glenna Dorn.
Dorn previously held a Trail of Treasures sale from her garage, but said she’s hoping to attract more downtown traffic.
“It’s a great place to have it,” she said on Friday afternoon. “We’ve had about 15 people so far.”
She’s got novelty cake pans in the shapes of lobsters, pigs and more, as well as designer jewelry, woodcut figurines and images made by her father, Pampered Chef merchandise and Tupperware items.
Other vendors on the Trail of Treasures include the Gems and Junk thrift shop at 500 and 502 Court St., which will be open until 6 p.m. on Saturday. The Bargain Box Thrift Store right next door at 506 Court St. is also participating and will be open until 3 p.m. on Saturday, and there will be a sale two doors down from the Black Crow Restaurant at 405 Court St. until 6 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday.
Antiques Paradise will be on the Trail of Treasures on Saturday from 9:30 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. Finally, the Indian Creek Mall at 2205 N. Sixth St. will hold a craft show from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. on Saturday and on Sunday from noon until 5 p.m.