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County board hopefuls participate in community forum

County board hopefuls participate in community forum

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The candidates contending for a seat on the Gage County Board of Supervisors were able to discuss some of their viewpoints Thursday evening as the Beatrice Area Chamber of Commerce hosted a candidate forum.

Forum moderator James Nelson asked each of the candidates a series of questions. The forums were recorded and posted on the Beatrice Area Chamber’s Facebook page and shared to the Beatrice Daily Sun Facebook page.

Four non-incumbents are running for two contested seats on the board in the November election. In District 2, which covers townships Clatonia, Grant, Holt, Blakely, Midland and north Lincoln, are Emily Rohe Haxby and Monte Murkle. In District 6, which covers townships Barneston, Liberty, Blue Springs, Wymore, Island Grove, Rockford, Sherman, and South Logan, are Don Schuller and Don Schuster.

District 4 incumbent Dennis Byars is running unopposed, but attended the forum and spoke briefly before the other candidates to discuss his background and that he’s running again because he enjoys representing the people of Gage County.

Each candidate began by introducing themselves, all of them noting that they were born and raised in Gage County, with the exception of Murkle, who has lived in Clatonia for over 35 years.

Haxby said she is a fifth-generation farmer, and how through that has knowledge about financial management. She said she cherishes the community ties and values Gage County has.

Murkle discussed his years on the Clatonia Township Board, the Clatonia Fire and Rescue Board and the Gage County Planning and Zoning Commission. He said his involvement gives him experience working to achieve goals that better the county.

Schuller noted his current and prior participation in the Sons of the American Legion in Barneston, the American Legion Riders in Beatrice, the Wymore Rural Fire Board, the Blue Springs co-op board, the Wymore/Blue Springs Area Fund, the Friends of the Homestead National Monument board and the government affairs committee for the Beatrice Chamber of Commerce. He said he organized the Gage Taxpayers Organization to help the county obtain funding in the Beatrice 6 judgment, and that he continues to keep taxpayers informed on property tax relief.

Schuster said he’s been the chairman of the Logan Township Board for 14 years, the chairman for the Gage County Township Association and participates in several organizations with his church. He said he is aware of the challenges facing the county, and that he is not afraid to confront them.

When asked what a priority would be if elected, all four candidates mentioned improving rural areas. Murkle discussed adding new programs to the area, while Schuller, Schuster and Haxby noted the importance of repairing rural roads and bridges.

All candidates also stressed the importance of the county helping fund economic development using tax dollars, while also inspecting the budget to see where the money is spent. They all spoke in favor of keeping the Nebraska Inheritance Tax as an emergency fund, and giving money to NGage for economic development, but were unsure of how much the county currently pays.

A differing viewpoint was on the board’s recent approval increasing setback requirements for commercial wind turbines 3/8 to one mile for nonparticipating residences, and whether similar setbacks should be made for junkyards, communication towers, livestock, and nuclear, natural gas, coal or solar power plants.

Murkle said he discussed with the Planning and Zoning board that he was concerned about putting a mile setback on anything, as it could set a precedent to other things.

Murkle, Schuller and Schuster expressed wanting to do more research before executing a setback for other energy plants.

Schuster and Haxby both said they didn’t think the setback would involve livestock, as Gage County has been a farming community for many years.

 “I’m a proponent of setbacks, because it gives residents the opportunity to educate themselves and the choice of whether or not they want the impacts of the turbines on their property,” Haxby said. “I support people’s right to choose whether or not they want to make use of those opportunities, while protecting those that don’t …I’m not against clean energy, but it has to be in the proper location so that it does not hinder the economic growth of the county.”

In their closing statements, Haxby said she is passionate about environmental stewardship and personal property rights, and that she wants to make decisions based on what is best for the county now and for future generations.

Murkle said he hopes to improve Gage County’s Emergency Medical Service systems, and bring more public awareness to what the Board of Supervisors do in the community.

“People that are informed, they get involved,” Murkle said. “When you get people involved, the government works the way it’s supposed to.”

Schuster said if elected, he would strive to make sure decisions benefit his constituents, and hear their ideas.

“I am not afraid to speak up on ideas,” Schuster said. “I am here to listen to the constituents, and I want to bring back their ideas to the board.”

Schuller also emphasized listening to ideas, and that he always researches both sides of an issue.

“My philosophy is that if you want something to happen, you’ve got to make it happen," he said. "You don’t sit on your hands and hope somebody does it, or that it falls in place by itself.”

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