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Tri County students win big in emergency PSA contest

Two groups of students from Tri County Schools took home statewide awards for safety videos on Wednesday morning.

Public service announcement videos on severe weather awareness and emergency preparedness were created by seventh and eighth grade students at Tri County for a contest put on by the Nebraska Association for Emergency Management. The videos brought attention to fire safety and tornado safety and students were awarded $750 for their work.

The fire safety video by Breonna Meyer, Chris Janssen, Carter Holtmeier, Skye Washburn and Colton Bales won $500, and the tornado safety PSA by Samantha Rainey, Karli Sherling and Breanna Chapman won $250.

Laura Hintz, the president of the Nebraska Association for Emergency Management and John McKee, the emergency management director for Jefferson and Saline counties, provided the check to Tri County science teacher Ashton Feldkamp, and the award money will go toward classroom activities.

“I hope you learned what to do in severe weather situations and you're prepared for emergencies that happen in your lives,” Hintz told the students. “We look forward to seeing your submissions next year.”

McKee also told the students that their videos would be posted on the Nebraska Association of Emergency Management social media pages for the public to see.

This was the first year the contest has been held, said Hintz—who is also the emergency manager for Knox County. They received submissions from eight schools throughout the state. The contest is open to Nebraska seventh and eighth grade students in public, private and home schools, she said, and classes from Fairbury and Minden also took home awards.

The fire safety video features students standing in front of a fire before descending down an emergency ladder to safety. The students also offer tips on getting clear of a fire and checking doors before opening them. Students in the tornado safety video showed themselves in a car before seeking shelter in a nearby ditch and gave reminders to never seek shelter under an overpass.

“We were real pleased with the turnout we had and the quality of the PSAs,” Hintz said. “They put a lot of thought into them. They did a real good job on them.”

An upcoming Nebraska Association for Emergency Management contest invites Nebraska fourth graders to submit posters on severe weather awareness to the organization by Feb. 15. Rules can be found at

The winning videos can be viewed on the Daily Sun’s website.

County Board talks road projects

Gage County’s road and bridge plan features several projects planned for the county in the coming years.

The County Board of Supervisors discussed the one and six-year road plans, which will be approved at a future meeting.

Gage County Highway Superintendent Galen Engel described the proposal to the board during Wednesday’s regular meeting.

“As far as the one and six-year plan, there are 12 projects carried over from the 2017 plan to the 2018 plan on the one year,” he said. “On the 2018 year plan, there’s a total of 29 projects. On the six-year plan, there’s a total of 30 projects.”

Board member Gary Lytle questioned why 12 projects scheduled for 2017 weren’t completed.

“We want to make sure that what we have on the one-year plan is legitimate one-year projects, as opposed to something that stays on there for 20 years,” Lytle said.

Engel explained that the projects in question weren’t completed for a variety of reasons, including delays in negotiating with the railroad or simply not having enough time.

Board member John Hill pointed out that legal fees to fight the looming Beatrice 6 case are also playing a role in some road projects not being completed.

“Our legal fees are up to $1.7 million,” he said. “If we hadn’t had those to pay out and the ongoing expenses we anticipate from that, some of these asphalt projects would be taken care of and done and we’d be looking ahead to the others.”

While some projects have been pushed back, board member Terry Jurgens added that crews have also taken advantage of a winter with relatively little snowfall.

“We’ve been lucky county-wise with the winter we’ve had,” he said. “Everything road-wise throughout the county is about as good as you can get for this time of year.”

Engel described four of the projects as large scale, and they include federal bridge match programs and work to a bridge on the blacktop highway north of Odell.

Work on the Odell blacktop is scheduled to begin April 2 and last approximately two months.

Engel said that most of the projects included on the one-year plan are small timber bridges that will be replaced with culverts.

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Police arrest two for convenience store burglary

Beatrice Police arrested two men for burglary on Tuesday.

Sergeant Jay Murphy of the Beatrice Police Department said that Beatrice residents Austin Watts, 19, and Michael Grant, also 19, were arrested after being identified from surveillance video footage of a burglary at Nick’s Shell gas station on Monday morning.

The burglary took place at the convenience store at 900 Court St. in Beatrice before the store opened on Monday morning. The front lock was forced open and several hundred dollars worth of cigarettes, food and beverages were taken from the store.

Murphy said that Watts was identified by two different people, one within the police department and another who called in a tip.

“We ended up getting enough evidence to obtain a search warrant on Watts' residence,” Murphy said. “We served the search warrant and located some items from the burglary.”

After speaking with Watts and another person at the residence, Murphy said that they were able to determine that Grant was also a suspect.

Both men were arrested on Tuesday afternoon. Murphy said that neither had much of a criminal history, other than a few traffic violations.

The two men are being held at the Gage County Detention Center.

County unlikely to reuse fuel station tanks

Fuel tanks at a former gas station purchased by the county will likely be decommissioned as the property is renovated for the sheriff’s department.

The Gage County Board of Supervisors voted last October to buy the land and building at 620 N. Sixth St., directly north of the jail, for $250,000. The board voted the following month to purchase the lot with a small residence next to Buss Stop for $65,000.

The county intends for the sheriff’s department to use the building for evidence storage, as the result of a space shortage in the current facility.

The board and Sheriff Millard Gustafson have discussed ways to use the building to its full potential, including using the coolers to store blood, DNA and urine.

Another idea the county considered was using the existing fuel tanks to allow deputies to fill up patrol cars, which are currently filled at the highway department.

Board member Gary Lytle said using the pumps would come at a cost.

“The cost to set that up to be able to pump fuel was $18,730,” he said. “The reason for that is the pumps that the Buss Stop had did not have the card readers in the dispensers themselves. Everything was from the point of sale inside. So in order to have anything at the pumps out there for the sheriff’s department to be able to pull up, swipe a card and be able to fuel up, you got to put a terminal out there. That’s the reason you have this expense you have to have that pedestal out there with a computer and all the brains and everything.”

Lytle said the county could save money over the initial estimate by having deputies go into the building to swipe a card before filling up, though it would still cost the county money to set up the equipment and be less convenient.

Most board members said the best option is to have deputies continue filling patrol vehicles at the highway department as they have been.

“I don’t see spending $18,000-$19,000 over there when we are already able to do it down at the highway department,” Board Chairman Myron Dorn said.

The county’s next step regarding the property is to look into decommissioning the tanks. It was stated at the meeting that this isn’t something the highway department can do, and the board will seek cost estimates from companies for the decommissioning.

The board hired Terracon Consultants of Omaha in November to perform the study in support of acquisition of the Buss Stop. The study was to include a search for possible hazardous substances or petroleum products.