You are the owner of this page.
A1 A1
Board hoping to cut cost of courthouse work

Colfax County commissioners OK’d a bid letting for late this month in hopes that they can whittle down some of the expenses associated with renovating the exterior of the historic courthouse in Schuyler.

The three-member board set Nov. 28 as the date for a second alternate bid letting for concrete improvements that will make the nearly century-old building compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act passed in 1990.

In September, the board unanimously agreed to accept a $962,564 bid from Bierman Contracting Inc. of Columbus for the renovation project, but rejected the company’s $73,000 alternate bid to make the exterior landings and sidewalk ADA-compliant.

The commissioners, who hope to attract more bidders for the concrete work this month, approved Bierman’s alternate bids for precast sills ($8,000) and tempered glass ($700) for the windows.

An initial estimate from Omaha-based Alley Poyner Macchietto Architecture put the project's overall price tag at about $820,000, based on 2016 dollars.

The project was originally planned in two phases — the first restoring the north and east facades on the courthouse and installing and repointing terra cotta this year followed by up to four months of work on the south and west facades in 2018.

Now, all four sides of the courthouse restoration work will be done next year, beginning in the spring and extending about six months into the fall.

The board’s primary reason for the shift from a two-phase to a one-phase project is that it will take about six months to produce the terra cotta this winter.

The renovation work is needed because moisture has penetrated the downtown 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.

City reviewing rules for food trucks

The Schuyler Planning Commission discussed possible revisions to food truck regulations during its Oct. 24 meeting.

While no changes were approved during the meeting, City Attorney Dick Seckman did propose some potential amendments to the application for food truck operators.

“We would like to add more detail on these applications,” Seckman said. “It would be good to have more information on their truck, where they’re getting their utilities and whether or not they own or are leasing their property.”

Seckman also suggested requiring food truck operators to submit a list of all people who will work there so background checks can be conducted.

In addition to application changes, Seckman also suggested considering a time limit for how long food trucks can stay in certain areas.

“Setting a certain time period for trucks to stay in their spot can also be changed or looked at,” he said. “Our main concern is if a truck sets out picnic tables in front of their place, then it becomes a bona fide restaurant.”

Seckman also noted that city officials will research where food trucks are legally permitted. Residential areas can't be used for business and officials will look into whether areas zoned industrial or agricultural are OK for food trucks.

The city will continue researching the proposals before they're brought back for further discussion.

Peterson talks opioid abuse, marijuana use

COLUMBUS — The opioid abuse epidemic seen in some parts of the country hasn’t hit Nebraska — yet.

Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson said efforts are being made to get ahead of the problem and prevent it from becoming a major issue in the state, but abuse of powerful prescription painkillers is already on the rise.

“Our hope is we will never have a crisis here in Nebraska,” Peterson said Monday while addressing the Columbus Noon Lions Club at Hy-Vee.

Peterson made several stops in Columbus to speak on various topics at Columbus Community Center, Columbus High School and Columbus Middle School and also met with local law enforcement and other officials.

Opioid abuse and marijuana use were two discussion points.

Peterson said a state coalition was launched about a year ago to get ahead of the abuse of prescription opioids and the growing concern of synthetic opioid use. That coalition, which includes medical professionals, treatment providers and others, put the focus on prevention, treatment and law enforcement involvement.

“We don’t feel as though we have an opioid crisis, but things are now occurring that will really help us stay in front of it,” Peterson said.

A growing national awareness of opioid abuse is one positive step, along with a prescription drug monitoring program in Nebraska that started last January. That program requires prescriptions for controlled substances such as opiates to be entered into a state database that medical professionals can access.

New guidelines issued by the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services on how to prescribe drugs commonly used to treat acute and chronic pain are another preventative measure, Peterson said.

As far as marijuana goes, Peterson has been a strong opponent of legalizing it in Nebraska. He said people need to keep an eye on medical and community health issues coming out of Colorado, where marijuana is legal for both medical and recreational use.

Marijuana is a stronger product now than in decades past, Peterson said. His biggest concern is the impact it will have on youths by sending a message that using the drug “isn’t a big deal.”

He said the tobacco industry knew its best target was teenagers to get them hooked for life, and the marijuana industry is the same.

“We didn’t like it when the tobacco industry targeted young people. I don’t know why the marijuana industry gets a pass,” Peterson said.

The attorney general, who is seeking a second term, also supports a phase-out of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

More than 3,000 young immigrants who were brought to the country illegally as infants or children live in Nebraska under DACA protection.

Peterson said his opposition to DACA is based on upholding the Constitution and challenging the executive action taken by former President Barack Obama to create the program. Peterson said Obama effectively created new laws.

He said he has empathy for those young people in the program.

“The reason I joined those other states (in challenging DACA) was I had to peel back the emotional stuff and deal with the Constitution. Because if I say, ‘This one really emotionally appeals to me, I’m going to let it go,' then you are in a position to pick and choose. I took an oath of office to uphold the Constitution,” he said.

The issue needs to be addressed by Congress, not through executive order, he argues.

“You may be OK with this executive order, but next month if the president issues another executive order and it’s unconstitutional, how do I pick and choose?” Peterson said. “We are trying to keep the balance so it doesn’t matter who is the president. These important public policy issues need to be debated on the floors of the House and Senate.”

Work stalls on bridge replacement

A fix for a bridge that collapsed into Maple Creek along Road 17 southeast of Howells has apparently slowed to a standstill months after Colfax County officials placed the structure on the fast track for repairs last summer.

An elderly couple who own property near the bridge along the heavily traveled gravel road, located about 5 miles southeast of Howells, asked the board of commissioners last week for an update on repair efforts.

The couple told the three commissioners the creek’s flow is being restricted by worsening erosion and bridge debris. The husband and wife worry that if the area has heavy rains, water will back up onto their property.

The bridge removal and repair project is scheduled for a Nov. 14 bid letting, County Highway Superintendent Mark Arps said.

Arps was initially given authority in July to bypass the county’s normal competitive bidding process and seek price quotes from contractors who have the equipment and are capable of removing the 100-ton bridge deck from the creek.

The roads manager said he found only two contractors in the state capable of doing the work and the one hired for the job late last summer didn't show up. The contractor was expected to dismantle and haul off the old structure and begin to build a new bridge this winter, he said.

The contractor that agreed to do the work submitted a quote of $34,000 for the bridge’s removal. Rebuilding the bridge at a projected price tag of $800,000 is expected to happen next year.

Arps has said the closed bridge poses significant public safety concerns and threatens to continue erosion damage to the creek’s banks and bed. The county doesn’t have the manpower or equipment to get the job done, he said.

Meanwhile, the damaged structure is sinking farther into the creek bed.

The board has been looking at bridges along the creek from southwest of Howells running east to the Dodge County line that have been scoured out, especially during years of widespread flooding in 2008 and 2010, endangering the structures’ safety and life spans.

A bridge on Road R, between roads 16 and 17, is another target for rebuilding, but several other structures along the creek have sustained severe erosion around pilings.

A bridge on Road 17, between roads N and O, failed because of erosion and the road was closed in the last year.