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Chamber honors community members during annual banquet

Schuyler Area Chamber of Commerce honored four individuals and one business during Saturday's celebration banquet at the Oak Ballroom.

Mary Peschel was recognized as an honorary chamber member.

“Mary is very enthusiastic and is always eager to try something new,” chamber board member Gwen Mach said while presenting the award. “She has worn many different hats over the years and continues to do so.”

Peschel is a member of many different organizations and groups, including the Nebraska Public Agency Investment Trust, Colfax County Recycling, Keep Schuyler Beautiful, Railside Green, Schuyler Garden Club and Trinity Lutheran Church. She recently retired as Schuyler's city clerk and treasurer after 37 years.

Peschel thanked the community for the recognition.

“This warms my heart so much to have been thought of in this way,” she said. “I want to thank you all for this so much.”

The Legacy Award was presented to Dan Wisnieski.

“This gentleman has always had a love and affection for the community of Schuyler and the people of Schuyler,” Chamber Executive Director Jackie Farrell said. “He has been very active in many community clubs, events and activities. He had a lot of fun and good memories early on with the Jaycees and there are many stories he could tell about the Great Platte River Raft Regatta and the Jaycees haunted house.”

Wisnieski served on the school board and was an active member in Rotary, Sertoma and the historical society. During his time on the chamber of commerce board, he helped bring a community fireworks display to Schuyler.

A surprised Wisnieski accepted his plaque and expressed thanks.

“I thought I was too old to be a legacy, but I guess not,” he said. “It’s been a lot of fun being a part of all these programs. I’ve learned a lot along the way from each one of them.”

Chamber Board President JoLynn Ratzlaff presented the Business of the Year honor to QC Supply.

“QC Supply has become a key resource for livestock construction, equipment and supplies, offering thousands of brand-name products,” Ratzlaff said. “It is a major supplier to the top swine and poultry producers in the U.S. and employs a team with decades of swine, poultry and livestock experience. Known for unparalleled customer service and quality products, QC has grown from a home business to a multichannel operation."

Lonnie Kitt, owner of QC Supply, accepted the award and reminded banquet attendees who is responsible for the honor.

“It’s not about me tonight,” he said. “It’s about our great employees and their great ability to help customers. Our customers are who helped us grow to be what we are today.”

The final award of the evening recognized John and Pam Eggleston as the Citizens of the Year.

“This year we are honoring this couple who have been involved in the Schuyler community for many years,” Farrell said. “And they strive to make a difference in the lives of children. They are kind, generous and caring. They are both dedicated members of the chamber and Eagles Club and active in the First Presbyterian Church. Together they have opened their hearts and their home.”

The Egglestons began their journey as foster parents in 2006 and have adopted four children since then.

“First of all, I’m a crier,” Pam said while wiping away tears. “John and I have been and will always be passionate for this community and everyone in it. We will do anything we can to help.”

Police department adds medication disposal box

Schuyler Police Department recently received a prescription drug disposal container for community use.

The MedReturn disposal container was purchased using a grant from the Region 4 Behavioral Health System.

Police Chief K.C. Bang said the addition will be “good for the community."

“There has been a nationwide increase in abuse of prescription drugs,” Bang said. “A lot of the time there are people that don’t need the drugs that misuse them in a lot of dangerous ways. The goal of this dropbox is to give Schuyler a safe spot for their unused or empty medicine bottles.”

The disposal box, located inside the police station at 1020 A St., accepts prescription medication, over-the-counter medication, vitamins, samples and pet medications.

Items that aren't accepted include hydrogen peroxide, inhalers, aerosol cans, liquids or lotions, medication from businesses or clinics, thermometers and needles.

The police department will dispose of all medications dropped off.

“This is a good tool to make the city that much safer for people,” Bang said. “People can bag it up, drop it off and no questions will be asked. No one has to talk to us if they don’t want to, they can just drop it and go.”

Items can be dropped off at the station from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Mondays through Fridays.

TransCanada says it's moving forward with Keystone XL

Pipeline builder TransCanada says it is moving forward with the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline and hopes to begin construction next year after securing enough long-term commitments from shippers.

A recently concluded "open season" resulted in firm, 20-year commitments to move 500,000 barrels per day through the pipeline, the company said.

While Thursday's announcement isn't a final decision, it shows TransCanada has no immediate plans to halt its nearly decade-long pursuit of the pipeline, despite recent developments in Nebraska.

"Interest in the project remains strong," the company said in a news release, and it will continue to work to sign more shippers while preparing for construction.

Opponents scoffed at TransCanada's assertion that construction could begin by 2019.

Anti-pipeline group Bold Nebraska issued a news release saying shipper support for the project is still "shockingly weak" and includes a subsidy from the Canadian government.

Jane Kleeb, the group's founder, accused the company of "posturing" because of recent negative headlines surrounding Keystone XL and some of its other projects.

TransCanada's announcement comes just shy of two months after the Nebraska Public Service Commission approved an alternative route for the pipeline through the state — running through western Colfax and Butler counties — opting against the company's preferred route to the west of Columbus.

That decision raised questions about the pipeline's fate, requiring the company to gain land rights from new property owners and inviting fresh legal challenges by landowners, environmental groups and Native American tribes that oppose the Keystone XL.

“The Keystone XL pipeline will never be built,” Kleeb said in a news release. “TransCanada clearly does not have the support necessary for this project, since the company could secure just 500,000 (barrels per day) of commitments from shippers on its 830,000 bpd-capacity pipeline — and that’s only with a giant subsidy gift directly from the Canadian government.

"What’s more, the landowners’ lawsuit challenging the Nebraska Public Service Commission’s approval of an illegal pipeline route is still set to be heard by the Nebraska Supreme Court in late 2018.”

TransCanada spokeswoman Robynn Tysver said support from shippers brings the company closer to making a final investment decision.

"TransCanada is continuing outreach in the communities where the pipeline will be constructed and is working collaboratively with landowners in an open and transparent way to obtain the necessary easements for the approved route," the company said in the news release.

If completed, the pipeline would carry oil sands crude from Hardisty, Alberta, to a terminus in Steele City, en route to refineries along the U.S. Gulf Coast.

The Keystone XL was first proposed nearly a decade ago, and was originally scuttled by then-President Barack Obama in 2015. President Donald Trump breathed new life into the project soon after he took office last year.

At the time, Nebraska regulators still hadn't OK'd a route for the pipeline in the state. The Public Service Commission's decision Nov. 20 — approving a route, but not the one the company preferred — came as a surprise to many.

But with Thursday's announcement, the company showed no signs of backing down.

"We thank President Donald Trump and his administration for their continued support and appreciate the ongoing efforts of Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts, the Nebraska legislative and congressional delegation, Omaha Federation of Labor, Nebraska State AFL-CIO, our customers and various stakeholders to advance this project," said Russ Girling, TransCanada's president and CEO.

Local prosecutors support 'yes means yes' bill

Platte and Colfax county prosecutors are on board with a measure to bring more clarity to the state’s standard for prosecuting criminal sexual assault cases if progress continues on boosting victims’ rights.

“As long as we’re not blaming the victims of sexual assault. We don’t want to do that, ever,” said Platte County Attorney Carl Hart while discussing a bill that would adopt affirmative consent as the guide prosecutors use to take sex assault cases to court.

“We’ve really evolved on victims’ issues in the last 40 years,” Hart said. “It’s been a necessary cultural shift.”

His Platte County office prosecuted a decade-high 30 sexual assault cases in 2016, up three from 27 in 2015. The office handled 25 sexual assault cases in 2009 and 19 in 2008.

Colfax County Attorney Denise Kracl was happy to see Lincoln Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks’ bill (LB988) introduced earlier this month.

“I applaud lawmakers that we’ve at least started the conversation,” said Kracl, who prosecutes sexual assault cases through her office and also serves as president of the board for the Center for Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Survivors in Columbus.

“We’re very much in support of the affirmative consent standard,” said Lia Grant, executive director of the local victims’ support group.

Currently, state law says a victim must express a lack of consent through words or conduct as the standard for criminal sexual assault cases.

With the newly introduced bill, consent means words or overt actions that indicate a knowing and voluntary agreement, freely given, to engage in sexual contact or intercourse. A person could also still withdraw consent with words or conduct.

According to the bill, these things would not imply or give consent: current or previous dating; social or sexual relationship by itself; how the person is dressed; the victim's use of drugs or alcohol.

The bill mandates an affirmative consent standard requiring a clear, unambiguous and voluntary agreement to participate in a specific sexual activity.

Instead of the common rule of "no means no," which implies that unless a person says no, the other person in a sexual encounter assumes there's permission, an affirmative consent would be required.

Hart, along with law enforcement, just wants a clearly defined affirmative consent standard in investigating and prosecuting cases.

“It’s not up to me, it’s our burden and we’ve always taken it on while looking at situations on a case-by-case basis,” he said. “I’m interested in following the law, whatever it is.”

“No means no” oftentimes puts the burden on the smaller, less aggressive member involved in a relationship, Kracl said.

“Tell me, why do we make victims fight back (under today’s standard)?" Kracl said.

“We were ready for this conversation 10 years ago, but when we pass it is when we’ll make real progress,” she said.



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Volume 147, No. 22

8 Pages in 2 Sections