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Clock tower will be ticking again

The clock tower at the southeast corner of A and 11th streets could be ticking again by the end of the summer.

Schuyler City Council approved spending $2,400 in local sales tax revenue dedicated to downtown redevelopment on the restoration project during last week's meeting.

Schuyler Economic Development coordinator Kem Cavanah said the clock worked when he moved to Schuyler in 1992. However, the clock stopped sometime between 1993 and 1995, according to Cavanah.

During the May 16 meeting, Cavanah told the council Mark Burkey, owner of Lincoln-based City Clock Company, was asked to take a look at the clock to determine whether it could be repaired.

Cavanah said Burkey assessed the clock June 1 and believes he can have it working by Aug. 1.

In other business, Mayor Dave Reinecke's nominee for the vacant Second Ward city council seat was sworn in.

Antonio Rodriguez is the first Latino to serve on the city council. He ran against fellow Councilman Dan Baumert in 2016, losing by 24 votes in the general election.

"It’s an opportunity for the Latino community to have a representative on the city council," Rodriguez said. "I hope to represent our community well."

The council also approved a resolution that allows City Clerk Lora Johnson to approve or deny special designated liquor licenses on the council's behalf. City Attorney Dick Seckman said the resolution is modeled after versions in other Nebraska communities and will expedite the process.


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Plenty to do, see and eat at Czech Days

CLARKSON — Czech Days organizer Rob Brabec said it takes a lot of time to put the Clarkson celebration together, but the effort is worthwhile for the weekend filled with Czech dancing, accordion music, dinners and much more.

“That’s what it’s all about,” Brabec said. “And plenty of beer.”

The annual event is a big draw for Clarkson residents and those who have moved away as it brings the community together.

“It’s also a good homecoming for people to come back and visit,” said Brabec. “It gives the community something to look forward to every year. If you don’t have something in your town, pretty soon everybody stops working together.”

This year is the 55th anniversary of Czech Days, which runs Friday through Sunday and attracts people from across the state and Midwest.

“I suppose the majority are within a 25-, 30-miles radius,” Brabec said of the crowds. “We do pull a lot of people from out of state.”

Brabec, who has been on the Czech Days committee since 1989, serving as chairman for four years, said the event brings between 7,000 and 10,000 people to the small community of Clarkson, which has a population around 600.

“We make room,” he said.

Petr House Bed and Breakfast owner Karen Brabec — one of Rob’s distant relatives — said her two houses are booked for the weekend months in advance.

“They are full from year to year,” she said. “I have one room left because someone backed out on me, and it’ll get filled.”

Other attendees stay at area campgrounds, bed and breakfasts and hotels. The event is a nice financial boost for businesses.

“Through the summer, that’s my busiest time,” Karen Brabec said.

She will also be celebrating a milestone during Czech Days.

“It’s my 50th class reunion,” she said, noting that the event was scheduled for this weekend “because everyone comes back home for Czech Days.”

While in town, hundreds of people stop by the Clarkson Bakery, owned by Karen Brabec's daughter Kim Scott and famous for its kolaches. The fruit-filled pastry has a special place in the celebration — Scott donates a dozen for the Czech Queen and those needed for the kolache-eating contest.

“We’re trying to do some prep work this week because people come to Clarkson and they’re expecting their kolaches,” said Scott, who hires a high school student to run a kolache stand outside the Clarkson Opera House during the weekend.

She and her crew stay up all night baking to prepare for each day.

“It’s a lot of hours, it’s hot, so you want to come home and at least sleep a little bit, but not too much,” she said. “We’re happy to do it.”

The Clarkson Museum has been preparing for Czech Days since April, according to Ruth Waters, who is president of the local historical society.

“We have over 7,000 items in the museum that have to be cleaned," she said of the prep work.

She also has to recruit volunteers to help run the museum, where an estimated 600 to 700 people will check out 22 rooms filled with Czech artifacts over the weekend.

“When they leave, their reaction is, ‘Oh wow,’” Waters said.

With items from the 1800s to the present, Waters said "there's a lot of reminiscing for all generations" at the museum.

For more information about Czech Days, visit www.clarksonczechdays.com.


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Business moves some, but not all, scrap from roadway

RICHLAND — A Richland business got part of the message from Colfax County officials about moving its aging farm equipment off the asphalt roadway on the northwest edge of the village.

A sheriff’s deputy delivered a verbal warning to Vollbracht Inc. about moving the rusting relics off the roadway after a county board meeting four weeks ago in which commissioners complained that the grain dryers and other objects had been parked for up to a couple of decades on the two-lane road.

“When somebody shows up with a badge, a gun and a copy of the state statute, it gets results,” County Highway Superintendent Mark Arps said on June 13.

“It took a couple of weeks (for the business to move some of the equipment off the road),” he said.

The Richland business moved some of the machinery off the pavement, but not everything that was stored there illegally, Arps said.

The highway superintendent said other pieces of equipment remain within the county’s right of way, which extends 44 feet from the middle of roadway in each direction.

“We need that equipment out of our right of way,” Arps said.

The commissioners instructed County Attorney Denise Kracl and Sheriff Paul Kruse in May to begin issuing citations for violations of the state law that prohibits anyone from “depositing wood, stone or any other material on any part of any lawful public road in the state.”

Violators, according to the law, are guilty of a Class III misdemeanor for a first offense, Class II misdemeanor for a second offense and Class I misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail, for a third offense.

The obsolete grain-drying equipment and other scrap farm machines have been parked for years along the short strip of pavement that was a stretch of U.S. Highway 30 before its expansion to four lanes from Columbus to Schuyler.

In addition to Vollbracht Inc., one other business operates along the roadway.

The county roads department needs some right-of-way space to use as a staging area for a repaving project along the Richard spur, a 1/3-mile stretch of asphalt that connects the village to the four-lane highway.

Arps is hopeful the project, with a price tag of about $300,000, will get going later this summer.


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Brick streets: The cost of character

As David City planned its downtown improvement project, Mayor Alan Zavodny said community members had a difficult debate about whether to keep the brick streets.

One meeting had to be moved to the library to accommodate the large crowd.

“People felt strongly that was part of the character of David City,” said Zavodny. “And some people felt that the time for brick had passed and we needed to modernize.”

The debate centered around the extra cost for removing and replacing the bricks. Project designer Al Hottovy with Omaha-based Leo A Daly said the extra labor increases the construction expenses.

“It makes it a little more complex,” he said. “When you pave the street with concrete, you typically use a paving machine. In this case the bricks are laid down individually or by pallets.”

Keeping bricks on some of the streets in David City added a little over $315,000 to the $9 million project.

“It’s a little bit more money, but in terms of keeping the historic integrity of the downtown, in David City the city council agreed to spend a little more money and take a little more construction time to do it,” Hottovy said. “There was a lot of support from the citizens to keep the character of the brick streets.”

The city reached a compromise. Some parking areas and the street in front of the fire department will be converted to concrete to accommodate the weight of the vehicles. But most driving lanes will continue to be brick.

Schuyler has authorized Wahoo-based JEO Consulting Group to complete an infrastructure study as an initial step for a major downtown revitalization project. Although it's too early to know exactly how much the brick streets will add to the project's cost, JEO consultant Steve Parr estimates it would be similar to David City's situation.

“The brick paving is going to cost probably twice as much (as concrete),” he said. “But there is something to be said about preserving the past.”

The brick streets, particularly 11th and B streets, where the Lincoln Highway passed through town, contribute to the downtown area's historic designation.

“Our application for entry into the National Register of Historic Places was wrapped around the Lincoln Highway,” said Schuyler Economic Development coordinator Kem Cavanah. “It’s not just any brick street, it has historical significance. It ushered in the modern motor vehicle era. America drove through downtown Schuyler.”

Because of its designation, Parr is working with the Nebraska State Historic Preservation Office to ensure infrastructure projects will maintain the streets’ historic value.

The infrastructure study is expected to be ready in August, and Cavanah plans to include it in an application for grant money from the Nebraska Department of Economic Development. He worked to have the downtown designated as a historic district in hopes of securing a $350,000 grant.

Aside from the economic opportunities, Cavanah sees value in preserving the brick streets, even if there is a cost.

“You preserve the past for future generations. That’s important,” he said. “It would sometimes be easy to do away with the old and usher in the new, but that’s not always the best decision. Sometimes the best decisions do not always equate with the cheapest cost.”