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JEO looking into flood plain relief

JEO Consulting Group gave two presentations at last week's Schuyler City Council meeting that could give the community some relief regarding the updated Platte River flood plain.

Jeff Henson, the firm's hazard mitigation and emergency planning department manager, proposed a flood plain analysis that would provide property owners with actionable steps to mitigate their flood risks and reduce their flood insurance premiums.

Henson said he’s proposed similar studies in communities along the Platte River that were affected by the Federal Emergency Management Agency's updated flood plain maps. The redrawn map for Schuyler, which put the downtown area and a majority of the properties south of the railroad tracks in the flood plain, took effect in 2016.

Henson didn’t have a cost estimate for the proposed study, but said a FEMA grant may cover 75 percent of the expenses.

Mayor David Reinecke and City Attorney Richard Seckman supported the study, saying it could help the city gather additional information about the flood plain and potential levee costs.

“We’re getting free education at this point,” Seckman said. “You can’t say no to free education.”

The second proposed study was presented by Dan Fricke of JEO, who is based in Omaha and has a grandmother who lives in Schuyler.

During the process of planning a levee along the Platte River in Sarpy County, Fricke said the Lower Platte North Natural Resources District found the gauges indicated water flows lower than expected. JEO is proposing a check of gauges farther upriver to determine if there’s a change to Schuyler's flood risk.

“We think there’s some benefit to remapping this area,” said Fricke, though he cautioned that the project is at its earliest stages.

If changes are found that would reduce the flood risk for Schuyler, JEO would recommend a remapping process with FEMA.

No cost estimate was presented for that study, and the city council asked Fricke to present more information at a future meeting.

In other business, the council approved Dewayne Kracl’s bid of $5,697 for stage four of the police station security upgrades. The project's fourth and final phase will install cameras along the building's perimeter.

The council also approved:

• Closing Higgins Drive from 4-8 p.m. Aug. 31 for a Schuyler Community Schools activity.

• Closing Higgins Drive, South Park Road, West Ninth Street between the city limits and Gold Street and Gold Street from Ninth Street to Higgins Drive on the morning of Sept. 4 for a 5K fun run/walk.

• Using a portion of South Park for a sand volleyball tournament on Sept. 3.

• Purchasing a diving board for the pool from Aqua-Chem Inc. for $1,025 plus shipping costs.

It's not Czech Days without polka music

CLARKSON — You can tell you're getting close to the Czech Days festivities in Clarkson when you hear the familiar um-pa of the tuba along with an accordion playing a polka tune.

"It's not Czech Days without polka music," said Tim Prokopec.

Prokopec is a Clarkson native, so he grew up with the Czech culture and polka music.

"When I was little my grandma and I drove around and listened to all the polka music," he said.

Prokopec recently learned how to play the accordion, and performed with about a dozen others led by Jeanne Rasp of David City. The group includes musicians from near and far.

"It's neat, you can get people from all different places and you all know the same songs," said Prokopec.

Rasp's father, Jim Sousek, led the group for 27 years, but it wasn't until Rasp retired when she decided to learn the accordion. She's been leading the group at Czech Days for 11 years.

Most of the group members are retired or nearing that age, so Rasp is happy to see some young people picking up the accordion.

"From what I heard, in the '60s it was a big craze," she said. "This place in Fremont sold accordions and it couldn't keep up. Then it died down."

One of those old accordions inspired Betsy Paprocki to learn the instrument when she was running for Czech Queen in 2013 and needed a talent to showcase.

"My dad bought one and it sat and collected dust in the kitchen," Paprocki said.

But she's not seeing the accordion make a major comeback. Other than Prokopec, she knows one other young person learning the instrument.

"I'm kind of an odd duck," she said.

Prokopec isn't self-conscious about playing the instrument.

"It's good therapy," he said. "It always gives me an upbeat spirit."

Board expected 'final' courthouse restoration documents

Colfax County commissioners were hoping to be able to review the final construction documents and specifications for the exterior renovation of the historic county courthouse during the June 13 meeting.

It didn’t work out.

Chairman Gil Wigington said he was expecting to see the “100 percent final draft” of documents that would go out to the public and potential bidders for the renovation of the nearly century-old courthouse.

The board’s agenda called for the approval of Omaha-based Alley Poyner Macchietto Architecture’s request for proposals from contractors. The winning bidder is expected to be selected in August.

Wigington was a bit agitated that the draft of bid documents and specifications didn’t include a stamp of final, but would now have to be pushed back a couple of weeks.

“I like to see everything before I agree to it,” Wigington told Daric O’Neal of Alley Poyner Macchietto Architecture, adding that the commissioners are a governmental body that makes decisions in a public setting.

“You don’t approve something before it’s done. These missed deadlines are concerning,” Wigington said. “We have to protect the interests of Colfax County citizens.”

A vote on bid documents and specifications for the restoration project was expected to occur at Tuesday's meeting, with a four-week advertising and bid process to follow.

Commissioners already made some changes in how the renovation work will be done.

Originally, phase one of the project called for restoring the north and east facades on the courthouse and installing and repointing terra cotta this year. Phase two called for up to four months of work on the south and west facades from April to July in 2018.

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

The primary reason for the shift from a two-phase to a one-phase project is it will require about six months to produce the terra cotta, the board chairman said.

The firmest preliminary cost estimate the county board has received for the project is about $820,000 from Alley Poyner Macchietto. Earlier cost projections ranged from $380,000 to $1 million.