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By Luke Nichols/Daily Sun sports editor 

Beatrice's Ben Garland wrestles during the NSAA State Wrestling Championships Thursday at the CenturyLink Center in Omaha.

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Stoddard students celebrate Chinese lunar new year

On Thursday afternoon, second graders at Stoddard Elementary, along with nearly a quarter of the world's population, celebrated the Spring Festival or Chinese New Year.

Susan Bao was on hand to teach the students about Chinese New Year traditions. Bao is a native of China and gave the students a quick lesson on Chinese foods, activities and zodiac symbols, and she discussed the meaning behind the traditional red envelopes stuffed with cash that are given to children.

Second grade teacher Mary Camacho-Cook said it was a great way to introduce the kids to new traditions.

County approves bridge match program

On Wednesday, the Gage County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved an agreement that would provide 55 percent of estimated funds to replace two bridges in Gage County.

Gage County applied for the County Bridge Match Program from the Nebraska Department of Transportation to help replace a couple of bridges included in the 2018 road plan, which was also approved on Wednesday.

Without state assistance, the two bridges, one near Liberty and the other near Island Grove, would cost an estimated $270,400, but with the state’s assistance, the cost for the county was brought down to around $120,000.

Galen Engel, Gage County highway superintendent, said that the two timber bridges will be replaced with culverts. The cost of the Liberty replacement—which will include triple 120-inch culverts—was estimated at $138,800 and the Island Grove replacement—for triple 108-inch culverts—would cost around $131,600.

Mark Mainelli of Mainelli Wagner and Associates, who has provided engineering for the county, said that the state will pay for 55 percent of the cost, which will probably cover the culverts. The county will pay the remaining 45 percent, covering labor, equipment and incidentals.

Gage County Board Chairman Myron Dorn said that the benefit of the program to Gage County will be enormous.

“Here's $148,000 now not coming out of our budget,” Dorn said. “It's huge.”

Mainelli said the county will be looking to apply for more projects in the near future.

“They've got $40 million to spend and they're running out of time,” he said. “So, the next go round, I suspect will be bigger because they only have so much time to spend the money. We'd better get out there.”

Lawsuit against Ag Society dropped

A lawsuit against the Gage County Agriculture Society was dismissed this week by Judge Rick Schreiner.

The suit, initially filed in 2016 by Cindy Essam, sought roughly $39,000 for medical expenses after Essam was injured on the fairgrounds while volunteering at the Beatrice speedway, located on fair grounds.

The suit claimed that Essam suffered a skull fracture and other injuries after tripping.

Schreiner’s ruling explained that Essam was acting as a volunteer when granted access to a pit area of the track and had signed a waiver of liability. According to court documents, Essam acknowledged having signed the form several times.

In the ruling, Schreiner granted the Gage County Agriculture Society request for summary judgment and dismissed the suit.

Beatrice woman given probation in possession case

A Beatrice woman who was found guilty of attempted possession of methamphetamine and possession of drug paraphernalia was sentenced to 12 months of probation on Thursday afternoon.

Lori McAtee was arrested in June of 2016 after police obtained a photo of her in which she appeared to be smoking methamphetamine.

Before sentencing was handed down by Judge Julie Smith, McAtee’s lawyer, Chuck Bentjen said that during a trial lawyer conference in Wyoming last September, he brought the case to discuss.

“I brought this case because it was completely perplexing to me that a woman who is 53 years old was allegedly in possession of an illegal substance and has a problem. (She) makes it to age 53 and has absolutely no record of any substance abuse related crimes,” Bentjen said. “In fact, she got to that age and had no crimes at all.”

Bentjen went on to describe McAtee’s life, saying it had been rife with abuse and ex-husbands preying on her financially. Her experiences, paired with a difficulty understanding things, led McAtee into the situation she found herself in, Bentjen said.

At the time of her arrest, he said McAtee was homeless and had nowhere to go. She was staying with one of her ex-husbands when a friend offered to get her a hotel room, he said. When she arrived, Bentjen said, McAtee realized he had other intentions.

“Ms. McAtee thought he was just being nice in getting her a hotel room,” Bentjen said. “When they got there, he brought out the drugs. She went into the bathroom and texted her daughter-in-law and said ‘Get out here, now.’ Things transpired and she was not able to leave.”

McAtee’s daughter-in-law texted photos she’d sent to McAtee’s son, who then called the police, Bentjen said, because he wanted to protect his mother.

“(She) acknowledges that she held the meth, took the pipe and pretended to smoke it,” Bentjen said. “She claims all along that she never inhaled. Again... someone doesn't get to be 53 and be an abuser of drugs, especially with a low IQ like she has and low reasoning skills.”

The state recommended 24 months of probation, but Smith sentenced McAtee to 12 months of probation for the first charge, saying that McAtee had a minimal criminal history with no prior drug related charges. For the possession of drug paraphernalia charge, Smith fined McAtee $25. Smith also told McAtee to attend a money management class.