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Inspections department talks changes

Beatrice’s Building Inspection Department had a busy year in 2018, a trend some city officials expect to continue this year.

During a presentation at Monday’s City Council meeting, Rob Mierau, Chief Building Inspector, discussed the department and some of the changes it’s undergone in the last few years.

Mierau said the department received 1,055 inquiries last year, including demolitions, plumbing, special use permits, water tap fees and general inquiries.

The department issued 532 building permits in 2018 that generated $196,400 in permit fees.

Mierau said he was the seventh building inspector hired in a 12-year period, and he’s currently been on the job for around four years.

He speculated there are a few reasons for the high turnover, and that he’s worked to correct some of the issues that were present with the department.

“Some of the things we talked about that I had seen from a far is that this department really needed stabilized, organized and to bridge some gaps between all departments and better communication with all the departments throughout the city and us,” he said.

At the time he started, Mierau said much of the work was still being done with paper and pencil and was in need of a digital upgrade. He added that predesecors may not have realized how many permits and inquiries the department deals with on a regular basis.

“The workload probably is higher compared to most cities in this position and the idea that maybe previous inspectors didn’t want to do the enforcement side of things or knowing what the volume of enforcement was going to be when they took the job,” he said.

Mierau also suggested changing the department’s name to something more broad since the it handles permits, inspections and code enforcement.

Council member Ted Fairbanks said it’s evident the department is treating people equally based on the fewer number of complaints received.

“Since you’re getting less complaints my assumption is that you’re treating them all the same,” he said. “That was a problem with past building inspectors. We’d get some personalities involved and this guy would get this and this guy would get that.”

Mierau said there’s been a lot of back and forth between himself and contractors to build good relationships, and being consistent remains a top priority.

“Our goal is to try and help people do things within the rules that are in place,” he said. “The worst thing we can do is tell somebody they can do something because they’re somebody’s buddy, or whatever the case may be… I would just suggest if these are the rules in place let’s stick to these. If we want to change the rules let’s look at changing the rules.”

Anytime Fitness to expand

Anytime Fitness of Beatrice is expanding its location at 2317 N. Sixth St. The 1,300 square foot expansion will allow the facility to add more services and equipment.

Among the changes, a large group training area will be added to the current space to allow for more personal training services. 

“It’s a lot different than a one-size-fits-all big exercise class," said Bryan Seibel, owner of the Beatrice Anytime Fitness. "Group training is unique and adaptive to the needs and current fitness levels of each person in the group. We want to keep the groups to smaller than 10 so we have more time for individualized contact, but just in a group setting. Staff members and myself will all be leading the classes at different times of the day."

The new area will also be home to the club's free weights. There will also be additional bathroom and shower amenities and office space.

Members will continue to have 24 hour access to the entire facility including the expanded area 365 days of the year.

“As we’ve grown over the past 13 years, our members’ needs have changed and the fitness industry has changed. It’s critical that we adapt, grow and respond to give our members the best experience possible,” Seibel said.

The expansion completion date will likely be this Spring, but weather could play a role in how quickly the project is finished.

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Remains found near Blue Springs not human

Remains found near Blue Springs were determined to not be from a human.

Just before 7 p.m. Monday, the Gage County Sheriff’s Office was dispatched to the Blue Springs area for a suspicious item found on the bank of the Big Blue River.

According to a press release from the department, a local resident found what appeared to be a jaw bone with some teeth. Deputies responding to the call notified a Gage County Sheriff’s Office investigator, who requested they send photographs of the jaw bone to him.

The investigator forwarded the photographs to the Nebraska State Archeologist, who through his education, training, and experience as an anthropologist was able to identify the jaw bone as belonging to a type of  pig. Since the remains were not human, no further investigation was needed.

106th Legislature convenes in a wave of hope

The 106th Nebraska Legislature convened for the 90-day session in a wave of optimism, bathed in the warm light of a January sun flooding the George Norris Legislative Chamber.

Senators, their families and friends exchanged handshakes and hugs, some meeting for the first time as a crop of 13 lawmakers took the oath of office for their first four-year term in the Legislature.

"Thank you for this beautiful day," said Sen. Mark Kolterman of Seward in an invocation to open the session. "Thank you for the ability to come together as your elected servant-leaders to lead this state as legislative policymakers."

Kolterman, who took the oath of office for his second term representing District 24, reminded his colleagues that they gathered to serve the citizens of the state, "to pass well thought-out legislation" as pleasing to God as to their constituents.

Wednesday morning proceeded with deliberation, as Nebraska Supreme Court Chief Justice Mike Heavican administered the oath to new senators and officers of the Legislature.

Sen. Jim Scheer of Norfolk was re-elected by his peers as speaker of the Legislature, a position he promised to wield for the next two years with integrity and honor.

Upon his election, legislative pages carried boxes of doughnuts to senators row by row, a gift from Scheer -- not in thanks for his election to leadership, but in gratitude for a newborn grandson in Texas.

While the selection of committee leadership was a sore spot for the Legislature two years ago, Wednesday's mood was lighthearted, but cautious.

Ending his invocation, Kolterman asked that the 106th legislative session "be a fun experience for all involved."

"I want us to meet in the spirit of cooperation," he said. "It doesn't have to be a negative experience."

Will it hold?

"I hope so."