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County roads plan includes major bridge projects

Work on three major Colfax County bridge projects along Maple Creek — two replacements and a repair — should be getting underway during the next few weeks.

The bridge projects, all on the county’s one-year road improvement plan, include one on Road 17 between N and O roads on the east side of the county.

That bridge collapsed into Maple Creek last spring and has been closed since then, said Colfax County Highway Superintendent Mark Arps. Work was expected to get going last Friday if the weather permitted.

“We’ve been very aggressive about getting these bridges fixed or replaced before they fail,” said Arps, who will present the county’s one- and six-year roads plans during a public hearing scheduled for Feb. 13.

The price tag for replacing the Road 17 bridge is an estimated $800,000.

A bridge along Road P about 8 miles southeast of Howells is scheduled to be replaced and a bridge on Road R will be repaired.

Work on the Road R bridge will get going in a couple of weeks, Arps said.

Of the more than 25 projects listed on the one-year roads plan, all but a handful are bridge projects.

“Just about all of them are bridges built in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s that are reaching the end of their life spans and are beginning to fail,” Arps said.

The bridge problems along Maple Creek can be traced primarily to soil erosion caused by rain events during the last 18 months to two years that continued to make creeks deeper and wider, Arps said.

The highway superintendent said he and the three-member county board have reached the conclusion that there will be a “lot of ink on the map” of the county’s upcoming projects.

“We believe an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” he said.

The county’s smaller bridge projects, those that span 20 feet or less, are being replaced by metal culverts. The small projects average about $40,000 apiece.

The one-year roads plan does include three small asphalt overlay paving projects — a 1-mile stretch near Howells on Road 14 and two 1-mile stretches on Road 10 and Road B near Schuyler.

Six projects on one-year street plan

Schuyler City Council members were introduced to six proposed street projects on the one-year plan during their last meeting.

JEO Consulting President Steve Parr said none of the projects are set in stone yet, but they're being designed.

“We are currently preparing the plans and specifications on the projects so it can go out to bid,” Parr said. “Right now we are designing according to water, sanitary storm sewers and lighting.”

One proposed downtown project calls for improvements to B Street from 11th Street to the south right of way along the Union Pacific Railroad tracks. At this time there is no cost estimate for the work.

Another project covers A Street from 11th Street extending a half-block south and plans are to rebuild the B Street sidewalk near the railroad crossing.

The second sidewalk project runs along the east side of Colfax Street from the Cobblestone Inn to QC Supply.

Parr said two intersection projects included in the one-year plan likely won't happen in 2018.

The projects at 10th and Banner streets and 14th and Chicago streets are more likely to occur in 2019, according to Parr.

Colfax County youths compete with robots

COLUMBUS — Isaac Baumert cupped his hands over his mouth as he waited to see whether his team's creation would work as planned.

The programmable robot built using Lego bricks moved across the table and paused at an obstacle. It didn't perform as expected.

Baumert let out a groan of disappointment, then made some adjustments with the help of teammate Brielle Wolfe as the First Lego League competition continued.

The two are part of the Colfax County Automatons, one of more than 30 teams that took part in Saturday's robotics event at Columbus Middle School.

Youths ages 9-14 competed in the regional event by showcasing robots they built and programmed. The robots had a limited amount of time to perform different tasks related to water systems, matching the competition's hydrodynamics theme.

This is the second year the Colfax County team has taken part in the event, which focuses on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) skills.

Team members are able to utilize what they learn in the classroom and build on that knowledge, said Julie Kreikemeier, a coach of the Colfax County Automatons along with Scott Reiner.

“I want them to have fun and I want them to understand that there is more to science and math and engineering than what you learn in the classroom," Kreikemeier said. "This is taking what you learn in school, the same math and science principles, but putting them in a completely different context."

Team members, who also include Ryan Brichacek, Jayda Kingston-Sucha, Wyatt Kluck and Bryan Scott, said they learned how to work together while meeting at least once a week since September to create and program their robot.

That's only one part of the competition. Teams also must come up with a project for the theme. The Colfax County team made a water purification machine.

Projects are presented and judged, then combined with the robotics scores to determine the winners. Teams that place high enough qualify for state.

The Lego Ninjas from Platte County received first place in the robotics portion of Saturday's event and will advance to state along with the Nance County 4-H team. A total of 12 teams advanced to the state competition set for Feb. 17 at the Strategic Air Command & Aerospace Museum.

Big gap in bids for courthouse project

There's a pretty distinct gap between the two bids Colfax County commissioners received for concrete improvements that will make the nearly century-old county courthouse compliant with federal law prohibiting discrimination against people with disabilities.

The three-member county board received bids from two Columbus contractors, Bierman Contracting Inc. for $62,000 and B-D Construction for $124,917. The only difference in the bids opened last week was B-D allowing 120 calendar days to complete the work and Bierman allowing 295 days to get the work done.

Board Chairman Gil Wigington said the commissioners will award a bid to one of the contractors at their Jan. 23 meeting.

The board has spent the last few months trying to pare down some of the expenses associated with renovating the exterior of the historic courthouse in Schuyler.

In September, the board unanimously agreed to accept a $962,564 bid from Bierman Contracting for the renovation project, but rejected the company’s $73,000 alternate bid to make the exterior landings and sidewalks compliant with Americans with Disabilities Act rules.

The commissioners approved Bierman’s alternate bids for precast sills ($8,000) and tempered glass ($700) for the windows.

During the last couple of months, workers have removed the damaged terra cotta embellishments from the courthouse and done some patching of the building’s exterior. It will take about six months to produce new terra cotta.

The renovation work, which is expected to extend into the fall, is needed because moisture has penetrated the courthouse's exterior in spots, separating the bricks from the walls and cracking and wearing away the glaze on the clay-based terra cotta embellishments.