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County buying property next to Buss Stop

Gage County is acquiring more property in Beatrice that will likely be used by the sheriff’s office or jail.

Last month, plans were announced to buy the Buss Stop filling station next to the jail.

The County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved that agreement to buy the land and building at 620 N. Sixth St., directly north of the jail, for $250,000.

On Wednesday, the county voted to purchase the lot with a small residence next to Buss Stop for $65,000.

“There’s a little house there right to the east of the Buss Stop,” said board Chairman Myron Dorn. “The owners approached (the county attorney’s office) and wanted to know if the county would also be interested in that property.”

The property, being sold by James Earnhart, has an appraised value of $63,760.

County officials have stated there are no definite plans for the property, other than stressing it’s not being purchased with a new jail in mind.

One thing that has been discussed is the need for additional evidence storage as the result of a space shortage in the current sheriff’s office.

It’s also possible that the county could use the station’s fuel tanks for sheriff’s department vehicles, which are currently filling up at the highway department.

“We will first want to know what condition they’re in,” Dorn said. “That was part of the agreement, that we get a report on the condition of all of that. Then that does open up the possibilities of using them and that decision hasn’t been made.”

Regarding Wednesday’s purchase, which will likely close later this month, possibilities range from making use of the residence to using the lot for parking.

“There’s been discussion about demolishing it and putting in a parking lot or other future plans, but no decisions are made right now,” Dorn said. “There’s been a lot of discussions about what to do with it, but no decisions made.”

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BCH looks to prevent lung cancer deaths with early detection

November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month, and Beatrice Community Hospital is hoping to prevent more deaths from lung cancer by catching it early.

Using a low-dose CT scan, the hospital can screen patients at higher risk for lung cancer and spot the disease while it is in the early stages.

“Lung cancer is the number one cancer killer, so it's the cancer that kills the most people, even though it's not the most common,” radiologist Dr. Kim Coleman said. “It kills more than breast, colon and prostate put together.”

One of the big reasons for that, she said, is that doctors have been able to screen for early signs of breast, colon and prostate cancers, while lung cancer typically required symptoms to be present before treatment.

Like mammograms, colonoscopies and routine physicals, Coleman said she hopes the low-dose CT scan will help to bring down lung cancer mortality rates in smokers.

With early diagnosis of lung cancer, survival rates are higher than 90 percent, Coleman said. If it’s diagnosed at an advanced stage, it’s almost reversed, with nearly 90 percent of people dying from the illness.

“It's a pretty deadly cancer if we find it advanced,” she said. “And it's a pretty painful deadly cancer. It doesn't kill you quick like a heart attack, it goes to your brain and it goes to your bones. It's painful.”

Jesse Young, the director of diagnostic imaging at BCH, said the low dose CT scan uses about one-sixth the amount of radiation produced by a typical CT scan, and it’s less invasive than many tests for cancer. In fact, patients are able to remain clothed during the procedure.

During the scan, the patient lies down on the table and he or she is positioned inside the big, doughnut-shaped CT machine. The X-ray tube inside spins around the patient, taking pictures of their lungs as it spins and, finally, reconstructs an image of the lungs.

The whole process takes about 15 seconds, Young said. The entire appointment will only take about 10 minutes.

“When they come for the test, the test takes no more than 10 minutes,” Young said. “There's no needles, there's no smashing, no tubes, no squeezing.”

“It's very easy,” Coleman added. “It's easier than going to the dentist.”

The test looks for nodules, or small masses of tissue in the lungs, Coleman said. With yearly visits, she said, they’ll measure nodule growth from year to year to check for changes.

“That's where it's really important that people stick with that annual screening,” she said. “Because that's where we get a little clue when it changes that it could be an early cancer.”

During trials of the low-dose CT scan, the people who were screened were found to be dying less often from other smoke-related diseases like heart disease and emphysema, she said.

The people most at risk are smokers between the ages of 55 and 80 who are either still smoking or have quit smoking within the last 15 years.

The scan is recommended for people who have smoked for 30 pack-years or more, or the equivalent of a pack each day for a year. If a person has smoked two packs a day for 15 years, Coleman said, that counts as 30 pack-years, as does three packs a day over 10 years.

The scan, which is available at most hospitals, is covered by Medicare and most insurance companies for the people who fall into that group.

Gage County has a higher than average rate of smokers than the rest of the state, Young said. The number of smokers who were 55 or older was somewhere in the neighborhood of 800 to 1,200 people, he said, and members of this group may want to consider getting screened.

While doctors are mandated by Medicare to discuss smoking cessation with patients, Young said that the screening doesn’t come with a lecture on not smoking.

“Once they're here for the test, we don't mention smoking, there's no pressure,” he said. “We're just here to do the scan.”

While, of course, smoking isn’t healthy, said Diane Vicars, director of public relations at BCH, the goal isn’t to force patients to stop smoking, it’s to scan people with risk factors for a deadly disease.

“This is not an anti-smoking campaign,” Vicars said. “This is a CT lung cancer screening awareness campaign.”

The screening offers peace of mind, Coleman said, but it’s only beneficial if it’s done year after year. It’s still a relatively new procedure, and it’s not for people who already show signs of lung cancer, like coughing up blood or having chest pains. It’s like a mammogram, she said, patients should come in before they find a lump in the breast tissue.

One of the biggest roadblocks to people having the scan, they’ve found, is denial, Young said. People who have smoked for years and have the mindset of “I don’t want to know.”

October was Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and it was hard to miss, Coleman said. Even football players wear pink to remind women of the importance of regular mammograms, she said, and she hopes the low-dose CT scan becomes a regular part of keeping people at risk healthy.

“Do it now,” she said. “Find it early.”

“If you develop cancer, you're going to find out at some point,” Young added. “So why not find out at a point when we have a high likelihood of treating the disease?”

New county zoning director announced

Gage County’s recently-hired emergency management director will serve a dual role after being appointed to also serve as the planning and zoning director by the County Board.

Lisa Wiegand was announced as the leader of the emergency management department in September, and has been working to build relations with area departments, meeting with fire and rescue squads in the county.

Wiegand will now serve as the planning and zoning director, a role previously held by Nancy Niedfeldt, who will continue her other county role with the highway department.

“As we went through the process of hiring Lisa as the emergency management director, part of the discussion at that time was about the zoning and possibility of taking that over,” County Board Chairman Myron Dorn said. “The board had discussions with both Lisa and Nancy and decided to go ahead and make that appointment.”

Niedfeldt has served in the position for around five years. Dorn said the position added a bit more than $3 per hour to Niedfeldt’s pay, and no changes in compensation have been discussed at this point.

The change was prompted in part by Wiegand’s extensive history with zoning in Gage County. She was the chair of the Planning and Zoning Commission before leaving for a brief stint as the county tourism director last November.

Wiegand had volunteered with Planning and Zoning Since 1998, and was part of the commission when zoning regulations were first implemented in 2000.

In addition to her experience, Dorn said the responsibilities of the planning and zoning director are more time consuming than they were just a few years ago.

“When (Niedfeldt) took that spot over, zoning didn’t seem to be quite as chaotic or intense,” Dorn said. “There wasn’t near the interest, I will say that, in zoning as there has been the last year or two. The interest in projects and things, especially special use permits, has picked up.

“At times, there’s quite a bit of interest in those. That has become more of a challenge than when Nancy started there in 2012.”

As a result of the change, anyone applying for a special use permit will need to visit the emergency manager’s office. More information and permit applications are also available in the county clerk’s office of the courthouse.

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Three arrested by task force

Area law enforcement, in cooperation with the Metro Area Fugitive Task Force, arrested three people on drug charges this week.

Beatrice Police Lt. Mike Oliver said Dennis Stege, Jarod Hicks and London Maguire were each arrested, while authorities are still searching for a fourth suspect the task force was after.

Oliver said all three were arrested for possession of methamphetamine, possession of drug paraphernalia and possession of marijuana, and that Stege was also arrested for child abuse since drugs were in reach of a child. The arrests were made on Tuesday.

Oliver said the task force, which includes police, deputies and federal marshals, can provide additional resources to get offenders off the streets.

“It’s good to get the criminals off the street,” he said. They have time to do surveillance and kind of watch these people. They don’t normally have permanent addresses. They just float from house to house. If you happen to run across them, you do. If you don’t, you don’t. (The task force) has the time to come in and be able to run surveillance and track them down.”