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Two more Facade Improvement Grants approved

The Beatrice City Council approved another two façade improvement grants on Monday evening, with one loan going to one of their own.

The council approved a loan of $6,700 for Michael and Shelley Schaefer’s building at 608 Court St. and a loan to Richard and Linda Clabaugh for $5,000 for their business at 501 Court St.

All of the loan agreements are structured in the same way as past agreements, said city administrator Tobias Tempelmeyer. After improvements have remained in place for five years, the loan is forgiven by the city. Grant recipients must foot the bill for at least 25 percent of the total cost and receipts for improvements are turned into the city, which then turn them over to the state for reimbursement.

Improvements made to the properties have to stay in place for a full five years. If they don’t, the city must repay the state for the grant money.

“The only thing I want to clarify is that all these projects don't have five years to complete the project,” Tempelmeyer said. “They have about 12 months to complete the project, it has to be done by Nov. 1, 2018. They have to keep the improvements for five years.”

The first loan agreement of the night was for the Schaefers’ Beatrice movie theaters on each side of Court Street.

Council member Dwight Parde asked if the Schaefers had an outstanding loan with the city on which they were running far behind with paying back.

“Technically, this goes to Michael and Shelley Schaefer,” Tempelmeyer said. “They are not behind on any payments because the CBG loan we have outstanding is with Canned Hams, Inc., which is legally a separate entity. But Canned Hams, Inc. is, yes, behind on payments to the city on a CBG loan.”

The council voted in favor with four to two votes, with Parde and Rich Kerr against, and Mayor Stan Wirth cast the deciding vote to approve the loan. Council member Phil Cook abstained from voting.

Next up, the council approved a $5,000 loan for Clabaugh Pharmacy at 501 Court St. The business is owned by council member Richard Clabaugh, who abstained from the vote.

The loan agreement passed unanimously.

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Volunteers rehab Marine's home

With saws spinning and hammers pounding, volunteers worked to give a retired Marine’s house a much-needed sprucing up.

Habitat for Humanity and Exmark teamed up on Wednesday to do a rehab on Thomas Grosky’s Beatrice home. They installed new siding, new windows and, sometime in the near future, they’ll be refurbishing the inside as well.

Allen Grell from Habitat for Humanity said it’s something they do every three years. They’ll find someone whose home is in need of fixing up and work with community partners to get it done.

Grosky was recommended to Habitat by Schoen’s Roofing of Beatrice. After neighbors and community members voted for him, Schoen’s put a new roof on his house—which had been leaking before being replaced—and told Habitat he’d be a good fit for a rehab, Grell said.

“We're putting all new windows in,” he said. “Energy efficiency. Now we're putting siding on. It'll be vinyl, so he won't have to worry about repainting it. Later on, as more money comes into Habitat, we'll come back through the year and look at work on the interior.”

It’s not an inexpensive endeavor, he said, with an estimated total cost of around $30,000 for the rehab.

The dozen or so Exmark employees volunteering to spruce up Grosky’s home also brought a super-sized check for $5,000 made out to Habitat for Humanity. Exmark and Habitat for Humanity have worked together on four major projects so far, said Patty Kaufman and Merry Coffey of Exmark.

“It makes everybody feel good,” Coffey said. “We never, ever have a problem getting people to volunteer for our projects around the community.”

Grosky, a veteran of the United States Marine Corps, was working as well, helping put up the siding and getting things into place. All the attention had him feeling really grateful, he said.

It’s like a new house, he said. He’s struggled a bit lately to make ends meet and keeping up on the house he bought nine years ago.

“It's a blessing from the whole community,” Grosky said. “I mean, who am I? For them to choose me, it's like, wow.”

In addition to providing help with the rehab jobs, Exmark has given lawnmowers to Habitat for Humanity in the past, Grell said, and they’re always ready to lend a hand for a home in need of revitalization.

Exmark has several yearly community giving projects, Kaufman said, including the recent construction of the splashpad at the Beatrice YMCA, and they always have plenty of employees ready to volunteer. There might have been more, she said, had there not been a big conference going on out of town, but the twelve workers there on Wednesday were happy to be giving back, fueled by donuts and the promise of pizza at noon.

A handyman by trade, Grosky said he was feeling fantastic about the new windows and siding, but even more, he was amazed by the people around him.

“I know it's a cliche, but it really does restore your faith in the kindness of people,” he said. “I just figured I was a cantankerous old Marine. Everybody's been amazing to me.”

Work begins on rural water tower

Southern Gage County residents may notice a decrease in water pressure this week as the Wymore rural water tower is drained and cleaned.

Dave Clabaugh, manager of the Lower Big Blue Natural Resources District, said draining of the tank for the routine maintenance was completed Tuesday afternoon.

The Rural Wymore Water Project was an initiative to provide water to rural locations in Gage County. Wymore and other towns are not impacted by the work.

The tower is drained every two years for maintenance, which is performed by Utility Service Group, the same organization that maintains the city of Beatrice’s tanks.

Pumps will provide the customers with water until work is complete and the tower is refilled.

“That system is all gravity fed, so when you take the tower out of service you have to keep pumps running to keep lines full,” Clabaugh explained. “We’ve got to open up valves because you can’t put too much water in the pipes or they’ll blow. There’s kind of a fine art to what we’re doing.”

Clabaugh said the system will impact around 220 hookups, and the NRD began receiving calls about decreased pressure when draining started.

“People on the end always lose pressure first,” Clabaugh said. “We’ve already had calls of people barely having water now.”

If all goes as planned and no unexpected maintenance comes up, the work will conclude by Friday and the tower will be refilled.

The 150-foot tower, located east of Wymore, was built in 2013.

Construction on the $4.2 million project that covers 130 miles began in 2012 and was put into service the following year.

The 100,000-gallon tower is cleaned for maintenance around every two years.

This year’s work includes things like replacing a broken ladder inside the tower that will require sanding and welding.

Eventually, the tower will need more intense work, such as repainting.

Pleas entered in drug case

A Beatrice man will be sentenced in December after accepting a plea deal in Gage County District Court Wednesday.

Brian A. Hunkins, 46, entered no contest pleas to two charges, possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute and possession of a legend drug. His sentencing is set for Dec. 6.

Two additional charges of possession of a firearm by a prohibited person and possession of drug paraphernalia were dismissed as part of the agreement.

Hunkins was arrested in early March after being found hiding in a closet while authorities were searching for another man accused of crashing into a Beatrice building and leaving the scene.

Deputies and the U.S. Marshal’s Metro Area Fugitive Task Force went to 212 N. Ninth St. in Wymore searching for man suspected in the crash after the departments obtained information that he was associated with someone who lives at the residence.

A female resident answered the door and gave authorities permission to search the residence, according to Gage County Court documents.

During the search, authorities found Hunkins hiding in a bedroom closet.

In the same bedroom and in plain view was a H&R 922 revolver in an open safe within reach of Hunkins, who is a convicted felon prohibited from possessing a firearm.

Deputies also observed multiple glass pipes and prescription pill bottles.

The female resident gave authorities consent to further search for drugs, court documents state, and 3.2 grams of methamphetamine was recovered, along with a digital scale and $724 cash.

One of the pill bottles found contained 58 Vioxx pills, a legend drug. Another $31 and a baggie with white residue were found in a vehicle in the garage.