The federal government shutdown was felt locally in Gage County with the closure of Homestead National Monument of America, the area’s largest tourist attraction.
The National Park Service site was closed and all of its services were put on hold following a federal government shutdown that began over the weekend after officials failed to agree on a spending plan by Friday night.
A notice of the site’s closure was posted on social media, and park superintendent Mark Engler said signage was in place on Monday to let visitors know that Homestead had closed.
“Due to the lapse in federal appropriations, we will not be operating Homestead and there will be no visitor services provided, no permits issued or programs provided,” Engler said during the shutdown. “Our mission is to take care of the park and serve the American people, so we look forward to the conclusion of this so we can get back and we think it will be soon.”
An agreement was reached late Monday as Congress voted to temporarily pay for resumed operations. The vote will allow federal workers to return on Tuesday.
Engler said Homestead has 12 full-time employees and eight part-time workers who were impacted by the closure.
One worker remained at Homestead to care for the two main buildings, the Heritage and Education centers.
An ongoing film series about one-room schools that had been showing on the weekends had to be rescheduled, as as field trips and distance learning classes the Homestead provides.
While the facilities were closed, Engler added that the trail system connecting the two buildings remained open during the shutdown despite Monday's winter weather conditions.
“If people want to go on the trails they can do that, but we will not be maintaining those parking lots and that sort of thing,” Engler said of the closure.
Homestead also closed when the federal government shut down in October 2013. That shutdown lasted 15 days and it was estimated that as many as 3,000 potential guests of Homestead missed out.
Police arrested a man after a juvenile had to be transported to the hospital with a high blood-alcohol level.
Police responded on Friday evening to a report of a 14-year-old juvenile who was under the influence of alcohol and unresponsive. Four witnesses told police the minor had talked about consuming alcohol with Michael A. Brooks, 25, before passing out.
Gage County Court documents state that witnesses said Brooks was seen with the juvenile and a large bottle of alcohol. When they confronted him, Brooks allegedly became angry and was asked to leave.
The juvenile was transported to Beatrice Community Hospital and remained unconscious for around seven hours and had a blood-alcohol level of .275.
When interviewed, Brooks appeared intoxicated and said he did not give alcohol to a minor and had not been drinking, himself. Documents state Brooks said that he had been at the residence all evening.
He was placed under arrest for child abuse, contributing to the delinquency of a child and procuring alcohol to a minor.
Bond was set at $5,000 with a 10 percent deposit.
Don Schuller has filed for candidacy for the Nebraska Legislature in district 30.
The seat is currently held by Sen. Roy Baker, who has announced that he will not be seeking re-election. Schuller says he hopes to carry on the tradition of leadership and representation for the people of District 30, if elected.
Schuller, a farmer and small-business owner from Wymore, cited his family and his deep roots in district 30 as the main factors that inspired his candidacy.
“Early on, my parents taught me the values of hard work and personal responsibility, and that giving back to the community is a promise we all owe,” he said in a press release. “Last year, I decided to run for Legislature to make good on that promise and give back to the community that has given me so much.”
Since announcing, Schuller said he has enjoyed getting to know voters from all over the district and will continue working hard to reach out to as many people as possible. If elected, Schuller said he will focus on finding reasonable, bipartisan solutions to lower property taxes, strengthen the public education system and create good-paying jobs to grow the local communities and ensure that working families can thrive.
“Ask any farmer, small business owner or homeowner in the district and they’ll all tell you that our property taxes are placing an unfair burden on their backs,” he wrote. “As Chairman of the Gage County Property Tax Group, I’ve never been afraid to speak up on this issue. You can expect the same from me as your state senator.”
In addition to farming, Schuller worked with the Natural Resource Conservation Service for more than 30 years, but said he also had to work several other jobs in order to provide for his family. He believes that his hard working background will allow him to be an effective representative for working and middle-class families throughout the district.
Schuller has also been active in the community, serving in leadership positions in groups such as the Sons of the American Legion, the Wymore Rural Fire Board, the Blue Springs COOP Board and the Gage County Property Tax Group, a group that advocates for fair tax policy.
Bob Morgan filed to run for a second term as Beatrice City Council member for the 1st Ward.
Morgan, who is also the campus director for Southeast Community College in Beatrice, said that the city has seen forward momentum in the area of economic development and he would like to see that trend continue.
Morgan said the city has chalked up some achievements in economic development with businesses like Hybrid Turkeys opening up shop in the industrial park and the downtown revitalization grants the city has awarded have been big steps forward.
“I think we've got some momentum going and we've had some good wins,” Morgan said. “I would really like to make sure we move forward again for another four years and have some positive effects on Beatrice.”
Morgan, who moved to Beatrice in 2001 and is completing his first term as a council member, said that going forward, the city will face challenges not uncommon to most municipalities, like a mounting number of infrastructure projects that have to be dealt with in a fiscally responsible way.
In the near future, he said, there are a number of infrastructure projects to be looked at, including the potential need for a new fire station, which will require careful consideration.
“I think it's a matter of just trying to prioritize and make everything fit into a fiscally-responsible budget for the next year,” Morgan said.