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BCH welcomes first baby of 2019

It didn’t take long for Beatrice Community Hospital and Health Center to welcome its first baby of the new year.

Jesara Christie Pritchard is the first Beatrice baby of 2019. She was born at 12:20 p.m. on New Year’s Day, weighing 7 pounds, 1.3 ounces and 19.5 inches long.

Her parents, Jesse and Nicole Pritchard of rural Beatrice, said they didn’t initially realize the due date was so close to the first of the year when they found out they were expecting.

“Then when we saw the due date was Jan. 2 we were like, ‘oh my gosh, it could be Christmas or New Year,’” Jesse said. “It’s a special time. We just want a healthy little girl.”

Jesse, a native of Stromsburg, met Nicole in her home country of Brazil while visiting on a mission trip through his Lincoln church.

The couple moved to Beatrice around two years ago and will celebrate their fifth wedding anniversary on Jan. 10.

Nicole said her family is excited to visit and meet Jesara for the first time.

“Her grandparents are still in Brazil and will come see us in a couple weeks,” Nicole said. “My mom wants her to learn a lot of languages since I’m from Brazil. At least two.”

Jesara is the couple’s first child. They were looking for a name that started with “J” like her father’s, and chose Jesara because they thought it was beautiful.

The couple’s hope for Jesara’s future is that she stays happy and healthy.

“We just feel so blessed,” Jesse said. “We’ve been praying about our future little girl and feel like God has blessed us with a healthy little baby. We’re really excited.”

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Probation given in theft cases

A Beatrice man was sentenced to probation Thursday in two felony cases, both related to shoplifting.

In one of the cases, 36-year-old Christopher Haynes was sentenced to a total of 36 months probation for second offense shoplifting, attempted assault on an officer and third-degree assault. The shoplifting and assault on an officer charges were both reduced as part of a plea agreement.

In a second case, he was also sentenced to a total of 36 months probation for third-offense shoplifting and criminal mischief. That sentence will be served concurrently to the other case.

Prosecutors in the case requested a term of incarceration, though District Court Judge Rick Schreiner sentenced him to probation instead, saying it would be an opportunity for Haynes to get the treatment he needs.

“I was somewhat astonished that someone would risk being convicted of a felony for a bottle of liquor, which kind of told me the extent of the addiction here,” he said.

In the most recent case, Haynes was arrested after assaulting a police officer following a shoplifting report last August.

Police were dispatched to Sunmart for reports of a shoplifter. An employee recognized Haynes from past incidents and court documents state Haynes was seen in surveillance footage taking a bottle of Wild Turkey alcohol valued at $23.99 and concealing it in his pants before leaving the store.

Prior to locating him police received a call of a physical altercation in the 1000 block of North Fifth Street. Police saw Haynes in the area and were told by another man that Haynes assaulted two women and came at the man, prompting him to use pepper spray on Haynes.

He was placed under arrest and allegedly began kicking the door, ultimately kicking it into the officer and scraping the door jam across the officer's arm.

In the other case Haynes was arrested last May for also shoplifting from Sunmart. Following the report officers searched Haynes and found a full bottle of Southern Comfort valued at around $17 concealed in his sleeve. He also damaged two other bottles at the store.

Scott Koperski /   

Christopher Haynes

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Incoming senator speaks to concerned taxpayers

Incoming state senator Myron Dorn spoke at a meeting of the Gage Taxpayers Association Wednesday night to discuss a draft for a new sales tax bill he intends to propose to the Nebraska Legislature.

The mood in the room was optimistic about the bill, and many attendees took the opportunity to ask the senator about an issue that matters deeply to many.

Dorn said that he supports all facets of the effort to relive Gage County taxpayers of the tax burden that the federal judgement for the Beatrice 6 will impose. This includes other bills that will go before the legislature regarding the issue, and the ongoing court battle over the judgement.

Dorn shared news about the legal work, and said that the lawyers employed to work on the case had heard from the U.S. Supreme Court that the court was going to continue looking at the case until Jan. 18 so they can further study the county’s request for appeal.

“Don’t anybody get their hopes up.” Dorn said, “This doesn’t mean it’s going to be good bad or wrong, but that was a little bit of good news.”

The meeting of the Gage County Taxpayers Association was organized by Don Schuller, and also hosted a panel of guests from across the state to discuss the relationship between property taxes and education funding in Gage County.

Currently, Nebraskan counties cannot collect sales tax in a community where sales tax is already being collected in cases where a county is paying off a federal judgement. Dorn, the former Chairman of the Gage County Board of Supervisors, plans to introduce a bill that will change that, allowing Gage County to tap into another resource for paying off the $28.1 million it has been ordered to pay to the Beatrice 6.

The majority of the payment is likely to come from property taxes, but Dorn is hopeful that if passed in the state legislature, the bill will allow the County Board to take some pressure off of property taxpayers. The board previously voted to raise property taxes to their legal limit to pay off the judgement.

The bill specifically calls for a ½ cent increase in sales taxes across the entire county which would be imposed by a supermajority vote of the county board. The board recently passed a resolution to support Dorn’s bill unanimously.

“This would only be used to pay off the federal judgement.” Dorn said, “It’s designed strictly to give some relief to property taxes.”

He said he expects the bill to raise $1 million per year if passed.

Dorn was clear that the bill is not certain to pass, and he said the bill may even die in the revenue committee.

The Beatrice 6, Ada JoAnn Taylor, Thomas Winslow, James Dean, Kathleen Gonzalez, Debra Shelden and the estate of Joseph White served a combined 75 years in prison for the 1985 rape and murder of Beatrice resident Helen Wilson. DNA evidence eventually exonerated all six from involvement in the crime.

The group sued Gage County for violating their Civil rights. The U.S. Supreme Court is currently being asked to hear the case, though county officials say it is a long shot.