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Council approves one and six-year road plan

The city’s one and six-year road plan was approved unanimously at the Beatrice City Council meeting on Monday night.

The one and six-year road plan is a report the state of Nebraska requires the city of Beatrice to file each year with the Department of Transportation to show how money is being spent on street repair. The plan lays out a road map for upcoming street projects. After being approved by the Beatrice Board of Public Works on Jan. 31, the plan was sent to the city council for final approval.

While the first two years outlined in the plan are pretty good indicators of where the city plans to go with construction, the following four years have some room to adjust what could be on the schedule in the future.

In 2018, the city has two concrete reconstruction projects scheduled for the summer, one on Bell Street from 10th to 12th street, and the other is Summit Street from Seventh to Ninth street. It's estimated that both projects will cost a little over $300,000.

There are also mill and overlay projects scheduled on the truck route on Ella Street from Third up to Sixth street, and an asphalt project on the west side of Beatrice in a redevelopment project that will be paid for using Tax Increment Financing.

Highway 77 will be the big project for 2018, stretching from Industrial Row and running all the way to Pickrell. The city’s responsibility stops at the corner of Hickory Road, and all of the construction will be performed by the state. The construction on Highway 77 is designed, bid out and managed by the Nebraska Department of Transportation, and the city pays the bill for the work performed.

Initial state estimates for Beatrice’s share of the project were around $950,000, but City Engineer James Burroughs said that when the state went out for a bid on the project, they came back with an estimate of $1.45 million, or about $500,000 more than the original estimate.

Burroughs said that City Administrator Tobias Tempelmeyer worked with the state and the remaining $500,000 would be paid for with a contingency fund that would pay $100,000 each of the next five years.

“They'll come in and do patch repair on the areas they feel are bad,” Burroughs said. “So, you'll see them cut certain areas out, pull that concrete out, pour concrete back.”

When the added expense comes in, he said, it is a process to repair cracks in the roadway.

“They're going to shoot an oil down that has fiberglass strands in it that are four inches long, basically,” he said. “That's so they can kind of span all those cracks, and then they'll come with an armor coat over the top of that.”

Following that treatment, the state will overlay the roadway with two or three inches of asphalt.

Looking down the road to the sixth year in the plan, officials are preparing for a project that Street Superintendent Jason Moore said will fix numerous drainage issues the city has had along 19th Street.

“I think we've all probably seen the flooded intersections through there,” Moore said. “I think we stepped back and we told ourselves, OK, if we're going to do this, maybe we need to put this out at year six so that we can start saving for it, knowing that if we're going to do this, we need to start at storm sewers.”

Spanning the stretch of 19th Street, between Court and Lincoln streets, the project would be threefold. The concrete road would be reconstructed, ADA-compliant curb ramps would be replaced and the storm sewer would be upgraded with new pipe, manholes and inlets. A new detention cell would help prevent the drainage channel that runs past the Big Blue Water Park from overflowing with the excess storm water flowing from 19th Street into it.

Overall, it’s a big, expensive project, Burroughs said, but it would fix a drainage problem that’s plagued the city for more than 50 years.

“It is and it will be a large project,” Moore said. “But the storm sewer is something that we have to fix. You can't just fix the concrete.”

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Exmark looking to expand in Beatrice

Exmark Manufacturing is looking to expand to a new building in Beatrice.

On Monday, the Beatrice City Council approved an application for a Site and Building Development Fund grant from the Nebraska Department of Economic Development for $250,000 for Exmark to expand its facility in Beatrice.

The lawn and turf care company is planning a $8.5 million expansion that includes purchasing an existing warehouse building in the Gage County Industrial Park. Exmark plans to use 25,000 square feet of the 84,000 square foot building as storage space and the rest will be office space for the company’s divisional office.

The fund is the same as one received by Neapco in 2014, and a company has to be invited to apply for the grant, said City Administrator Tobias Tempelmeyer.

The grant comes from a department of economic development and can only be received by a local governmental entity or a non-profit organization, which means the city of Beatrice is responsible for applying for the funds, Tempelmeyer said.

“We receive them, we have an agreement with Exmark in this case, where we would forward the funds on to them,” he said.

Included in the application is a letter from Exmark President Judy Altmaier confirming the company’s commitment to purchase the property at 415 Industrial Row in Beatrice and plans to spend around $8.5 million on the project.

The company lists the purchase price for the site at $2.635 million and estimates the rehabilitation of the building will cost $5.362 million, with an additional $453,000 going toward architect, engineering and legal fees.

“Quite honestly, this might be the easiest grant process there is,” Tempelmeyer said. “The grant application, you see, is two pages in your packet, quite smaller than most DED grants that we have. The monitoring is a lot easier to do as well.”

The city council approved applying for the funds unanimously.

Farmers claim county wrongfully denied fertilizer tank permit

A trial date has been set in a case alleging Gage County wrongfully denied a permit for fertilizer tanks last year.

Holtmeier Brothers Inc. filed a claim last April in Gage County District Court after its permit to build anhydrous ammonia tanks in Gage County was rejected by the County Board in March.

The board voted 3-4 to reject the special use permit for two 30,000-gallon tanks, a scale and outbuilding located five miles west of Beatrice and two miles north of Ellis on 117th Road.

Anhydrous ammonia is a source of nitrogen fertilizer, widely used in the area for its efficiency.

The board rejected the permit, despite the fact that the operation met all setback requirements, following an outcry from area residents concerned about their safety in the event of a leak, damage to the roads and even potential theft of the chemical by drug manufacturers.

Zoning regulations require the tanks to be 50 feet from property lines and structures and 450 feet from public assembly places and rail lines, but the regulations don’t stipulate a distance from neighboring residences. There are six residents within a half mile of the proposed site, and 12 within a mile.

Planning and Zoning unanimously approved the permit to the County Board for approval.

It was previously stated at a meeting that regular training will be held for those working with the tanks, and that the total 60,000-gallon capacity is a relatively small operation that would be the equivalent of around three semi truck loads.

The trail is set for March 29.

Gage County officials warn of attempted Facebook extortion

Area residents are being advised to be careful who they communicate with online after multiple Gage County residents reported an attempted extortion.

Gage County residents have reported to the sheriff’s office that while on Facebook, they interacted with an adult female, who claimed to live and work in Omaha.

The victims had private video messages with the woman. During these consensual conversations, the suspect obtained compromising video clips of the victims and the suspect threatened to release the video to their families, friends and employers, a press release stated.

The victims were contacted by text messages and told to send money via Wal-Mart Moneygram to a “Daniella Coopers” in Mali, a country in Africa. The victims report being told to send thousands of dollars and were even instructed to sell their vehicles, or the suspect would send the video to their family and put it on YouTube.

One victim sent the suspect a small amount of money, but the suspects continued to threaten the person, eventually attempting to set up a payment plan, where the victim would send several hundred dollars each week.

Victims have contacted the Gage County Sheriff’s Office and informed investigators of the incident.

A press release from the department stated the victims were advised to not make payments to the suspects and that the suspects would not release the video, because they would then lose any power of coercion over the victims.

There have been reports of this type of activity throughout Nebraska, the press release stated, and when Facebook shuts down one profile, the suspect then opens a new profile. Two consistent features of these extortion attempts include the name of Daniella Coopers and that the victims are told to send money to a location in the Republic of Mali.