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T'was the season

Carols have been sung, presents have been given, and for those who celebrate Christmas, the holiday season has come to a close.

While it’s fun to keep a real Christmas tree during the month of December, as January rolls around many Beatrice locals will be looking for an environmental way to dispose of their pieces of the tradition.

This is why the city of Beatrice provides a free tree drop off service on the corner of First and Ella streets allowing people to properly dispose of their Christmas trees. The city will be collecting the trees until Jan. 20.

City Administrator Tobias Tempelmeyer said the collection has become a tradition in its own right.

“We’ve offered the service for a countless number of years—far longer than I’ve been around,” he said.

Tempelmeyer said the response from the public is always positive and appreciative.

The city accepts all real Christmas trees, but will not dispose of artificial trees.

Tempelmeyer said the city runs this program as a service to the people of Beatrice and to cut down on illegal disposal of the trees.

“Christmas trees are a tradition, but people need ways to dispose of them,” he said.

He added locals occasionally dispose of trees improperly, leaving them in rural ditches or elsewhere. This is harmful to the environment and makes the Beatrice area’s appearance less savory.

The city takes the trees and feeds them into a wood chipper where they are mulched and used for several purposes, including landscaping projects in Beatrice parks. Some of the chips are taken to the landfill and used as cover.

Tempelmeyer said the city does incur some cost on the project, as they must pay for labor, equipment and gas for the wood chipper. However, he said, the actual cost is negligible as city employees handle the work.

People are expected to police themselves and be polite about using the service, Tempelmeyer said. He said there have been few problems in the past surrounding the tree pickup, and the city is proud to help Beatrice locals.

Governors group calls for end to shutdown

Leaders of the nonpartisan National Governors Association are calling on President Donald Trump and Congress to end the partial government shutdown.

In a letter sent late Monday, they said a "shutdown should not be a negotiating tactic as disagreements are resolved" and warned that the shutdown, now in its 18th day, is impacting residents and state governments.

The letter was signed by the organization's chairman, Montana Democrat Steve Bullock, and vice-chairman, Maryland Republican Larry Hogan.

While the letter doesn't bear all their signatures, the organization represents some of the most prominent politicians in the nation from both major parties. Governors do not have a direct role in striking a federal budget deal.

In the letter, the governors don't take a stance on whether a wall should be built on the border with Mexico — which Trump has insisted on. Instead, it argues that a shutdown isn't an appropriate way to handle policy disputes.

"Governors stand united in telling the federal government to open the doors of currently shuttered agencies while you find a long-term, bipartisan compromise on the issues that currently divide Washington," the letter says.

The organization says governors are seeing a toll from the shutdown — and that it could get worse.

About 800,000 federal employees are furloughed or working without pay, leading to financial struggles for them and "potentially siphoning dollars from state economies."

The governors also warn that federal court operations could be curtailed by next week and that shorelines face a safety risk because of reduced Coast Guard capabilities.

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Plans advance for new Beatrice hotel

City officials are taking steps to allow a new hotel to be built in Beatrice later this year.

During Monday’s City Council meeting, ordinances were approved to plat a MyPlace addition to north Beatrice where the hotel will be built.

“This is the first step in a two-step process tonight vacating a portion of a plat around Holiday Inn Express,” said City Administrator Tobias Tempelmeyer. “It’s the plat that goes just north of Holiday Inn Express between them and Farm Credit Services and wraps it back on the west side of the property down to the south to Commerce Street.

“As we talked about at previous council meetings, this is where the location of the new motel would be located in Beatrice, on that new plat between Holiday Inn Express and Farm Credit Services to the north.”

Plans for the hotel were initially discussed last July when Beatrice Lodging LLC applied for $500,000 in tax increment financing (TIF) funds to complete the project, which would build a three- to four-story MyPlace Extended Stay Hotel in north Beatrice.

The new hotel was driven in part by a lodging study led by the area's economic development group, NGage, that showed demand for more than 50 additional rooms in the area.

Planning and Zoning recommended the council approve the plat, and Tempelmeyer said the city hasn’t heard a firm start date for construction.

“Not that I’ve necessarily heard any start dates and those types of things, but just based on how paperwork is moving again my guess is they’re looking for a spring construction start,” he said.

Plans discussed last year called for a 47,000 square feet building.

The hotel will occupy around two acres of land and the TIF application stated the estimated assessed value once completed will be $2.3 million.

The hotel will create up to six full-time jobs and up to 10 part-time positions, depending on the time of year.