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Work to restore the Gage County Courthouse is progressing as planned. When completed, the building will more closely resemble its original look from the 1890s.

The Gage County Board of Supervisors unanimously voted against continuing the land option payment for a piece of land in west Beatrice that was originally designated for a new jail.

The land is located 458 feet north of the ESU No. 5 building at 900 W. Court St. in Beatrice. It begins at Highway 4 and tracks west.

In January 2009, the board approved a three-year purchase agreement on the 16.7 acres of land, agreeing to pay $5,000 per year to secure the deal. In November, Gage County voters overwhelmingly voted down a jail bond that would have financed construction of a new jail. The final vote for the $11.4 million jail bond was 1,481 in favor and 6,077 against.

Had the board decided to eventually purchase the land, it would have cost around $225,000. Supervisor Ron Fleecs made a pitch during Wednesday’s meeting for why the land could still be useful, saying it was a good piece of land for a good price.

“The site has access to Highway 136 and Highway 4,” Fleecs said. “We have all the utilities - sewer, water and electrical - available within 300 to 400 feet of the site and it was a good, level site to build on.”

Other supervisors spoke out against continuing the land option payments, despite agreeing that it’s a good location.

Chairman of the board Rex Adams said he believes it’s an excellent site, but feels the county would just be wasting money.

“What people have told me is they don’t like the west side,” Adams said. “I guess I would feel slighted if I lived on the west side because of the sentiment directed towards me, but most of the comments I have heard have been negative. I’m not going to vote for it because I don’t believe we’ll be in a position to purchase it within two years.”

Supervisor Dave Anderson agreed with Adams, saying the public “spoke loud and clear” about the proposed site.

“From every common sense point of view, from the dollars and cents to the value, it’s a wonderful location,” Anderson said. “But for whatever reason, (the west side) is good enough for the college and good enough for the National Guard, but this community just has a bias against the west side, so I guess I’m going to have to vote to save the $5,000. You can only push a rock uphill for so long, and I’m ready to quit.”

Supervisor Dennis Byars took the opportunity to talk about positive feedback he has received about the prospect of a jail being built at 700 Park St.

On March 16, four businessmen gave a pitch to the county’s law enforcement committee about tearing down the Kees building and building a jail at their own expense. They would then lease the jail to the county.

“I have had a tremendous amount of positive reaction,” Byars said. “People said to definitely look at that as an alternative as we go forward in the future. I just wanted to make a point of that.”

When it came time to vote on the land option, it was voted down 6-0 with Supervisor Shirley Gronewold absent from the meeting.

Fleecs also voted against the land option payment, but not before reminding supervisors of the good deal they’d be throwing away.

“I won’t be here anyway,” said Fleecs, who is moving to Lincoln when his term is over. “So it doesn’t make any difference to me anyway. But I’m not so sure the site was the reason for the bond being defeated. I think it had more to do with the times and what it would cost. But if you ever come to a point in time when you have to have another site, I hope you can find one for that price. It will be very difficult.”

Other items discussed at Wednesday’s meeting:

- The board approved changes to the county’s rock and gravel policy. Rock will be substituted for gravel on a dollar for dollar basis for county and township roads.

- The board approved a Visitors Improvement Fund grant of $10,000 to the Beatrice Bullets for facility improvements at the West Scott baseball fields.

- The board approved a Visitors Improvement Fund grant of $20,000 to the Beatrice Rotary Foundation for a Veterans Memorial Sculpture project.

- The board approved appointing KJ Patel, the general manager at the Victorian Inn, as a member of the Gage County Visitors Bureau Board.

- The board approved a District Courtroom Renovation project for $67,000 to be taken out of inheritance. These funds will go toward the ceiling portion of the project. Funding for the rest of the courtroom is being done through the “Friends of the Beatrice Courthouse” organization, which has raised $55,000 of its $150,000 goal. 

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