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State aid cut for school district

Schuyler Community Schools Superintendent Dan Hoesing told the school board Monday night the district will receive $1.3 million less in state aid for 2017-18.

Hoesing and the board’s financial committee will meet later this summer to finalize the district’s budget, but for now the superintendent said the budget will remain flat despite the decrease in state funding.

Hoesing said the state calculated the district's state aid based on a property tax levy of $1.02 for every $100 in valuation. The district’s general fund levy is currently 95 cents.

While the school board did authorize raises for faculty and other staff members, Hoesing said cuts in support personnel and other cost-saving measures have stabilized spending.

The board also decided to renew the district’s membership to the Nebraska Rural Community Schools Association, which Hoesing said has been a proponent of property tax relief.

In other business, Student Services Director Dave Gibbons reported that 411 students completed the June summer camp.

“If it doesn’t translate into better scores, it’ll at least translate into better students,” Gibbons said of the camp.

So far, 198 students are registered for the July STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) camp for kindergarten through eighth-grade students.

Board member Brian Vavricek noted that the district’s foundation board met earlier Monday. The annual golf tournament fundraiser will be held Aug. 5 and the foundation is working with the Schuyler Area Chamber of Commerce to organize the Labor Day dance.

The board also approved rates for field house activity passes for 2017-18, with the only change being an increase from $30 to $40 for adult passes.

Volunteers honor pioneers by caring for their graves

In 2010, Glen Mlnarik went to display flags for Memorial Day at Grove Hill Cemetery south of Howells and found a mess.

The sumac was twice the size it is now and covered some of the headstones. The trees needed trimming and the grass hadn’t been mowed in months, maybe years.

Like many early pioneer cemeteries, Grove Hill is no longer affiliated with a congregation and has to be maintained by volunteers. The previous group that signed up to care for the grounds simply stopped coming.

Mlnarik went to the Sons of the American Legion to see if they were interested in assuming responsibility for the cemetery’s care.

“I just didn’t like to see it overgrown,” he said. “If the Sons of the American Legion hadn’t taken it on, I would've done it myself.”

Mlnarik and Scott Lerch, a Sons of the American Legion member who regularly tends to Grove Hill, had to go in with chainsaws to clear the overgrown brush.

“Now our biggest challenge is getting a badger out,” said Mlnarik.

Grove Hill is the final resting place for James Smith Howell, the namesake of Howells. (Supposedly the “s” was added at the end of the town’s name by the post office). Three Civil War and two World War II veterans are also buried there.

The cemetery is a monument to the history of Howells. Mlnarik and Lerch said they don’t recognize any of the names buried there. Once a church is decommissioned and the families move away, it’s up to the community to care for these sites.

“We try to keep it the best we can, within reason,” said Lerch.

Nancy Hartman of David City got involved with Granville Cemetery near Cornlea when she heard the farmer who owned the land allowed his irrigation system to roll through the property.

“The farmer was destroying it,” she said.

Hartman had been involved in the negotiations that settled a border dispute between Butler and Platte counties that lasted more than a century. Someone concerned about the cemetery contacted her since she had that experience.

Hartman signed on without realizing how much work it would be.

“There was a lot involved in saving that cemetery,” she said.

They had to form an association, find a deed of incorporation and track down a descendant of someone buried there, all while fighting a lawsuit filed by the landowner.

In 2005, Platte County District Court ruled in the Granville Cemetery Association’s favor and the landowner filed an appeal. The case went all the way to the Nebraska Supreme Court, which decided in favor of the association in 2006.

Irvin Mueller was head of the association when it started and put a lot of work into making the cemetery what it is today. He led efforts to clear the grounds, repair tombstones and place simple white crosses over unmarked graves.

“Irvin and them did a whole lot before I got here,” said current association President Dan Wemhoff.

In 2010, the cemetery received a historical marker and in 2012 it was rededicated.

Granville was just the beginning for Hartman. She also submitted applications for historical markers for Streeter and Tracy Valley cemeteries.

“What we have today, we have to thank those people that settled this area,” said Hartman. “I think a lot of people take for granted what we have nowadays.”

Hartman said she’s also moved by what those pioneers went through. Gravestones tell the story of how tough life was on the frontier. Markers show how some families lost multiple members, often children, to diseases such as scarlet fever and typhoid.

“I don’t know how anybody could cope with losing three or four children all at once,” she said. “These people didn’t have any psychologists to go to or depression medication to take. They just had to support each other and tough it out.”

For LaVern Clausen, caring for the Danish Lutheran Cemetery located about 7 miles south of Howells is part of his family heritage. Clausen’s great-grandfather and great-great-grandfather are buried there.

The Danish Lutheran church was dissolved in the 1930s and in the '60s Clausen’s father, uncles and family friend Harold Anderson, now deceased, decided to care for the grounds as a way to pay respect to their ancestors. Now, Clausen’s generation is doing the same.

“I just appreciate what they’ve done for us throughout their lifetime,” said Clausen. “You just have an appreciation for your elders.”

Two of Clausen’s three children have moved away, but he hopes his son Chris will take over the cemetery maintenance one day.

“As long as we’re able, it’ll be taken care of,” said Clausen. “It’ll be taken care of for a while, that’s for sure.”

Dylan Bloom lives, sings about small-town life

The Dylan Bloom Band’s songs are filled with details about small-town life.

“Everybody out here’s got a nickname,” Bloom sings in one song. “Where anyone would lend the shirt off their back, or a ride down the road if you run out of gas.”

Bloom doesn't just sing about rural life, he lives it.

Raised in North Bend, he worked at a feedlot between Humphrey and Madison. Bloom lived in Lincoln for a few years to get the band off the ground, but found the urban setting didn’t really suit him.

“I prefer the peace and quiet of the farm life,” he said. “Also, for me all the jobs I’ve done growing up have been ag, and it’s hard to do that in Lincoln.”

He’s now living on his great-grandmother’s farm outside Ames, which has been in the family for 150 years. And now that he’s back in the peace and quiet of the country, he’s finding inspiration for new songs.

“I write about all that good stuff about living in a small town,” Bloom said. “Living in a small town is like having a big family if you live in the right community.”

He’s got scarce time to catch up on farm work during the summer, though, as his band travels the Midwest.

“It’s definitely the busy time of year right now for us just because of all the county fairs and stuff going on," he said.

The Dylan Bloom Band was named one of the “Ten Lincoln Bands You Should See Live” by the Lincoln Journal Star in 2015 and this year the group was nominated again for “Best Country Act” by the Omaha Entertainment and Arts Awards.

“I’m hoping we can nail that baby down this year,” Bloom said.

Since playing the Colfax County Fair last year, Bloom’s kept busy. His band released the album “Population 1213” and recorded a single in Nashville that will come out this month.

In addition to county fairs across the Midwest, Bloom's band performed at Country Stampede in Manhattan, Kansas.

He’s looking forward to returning to Leigh to perform July 22 at the Colfax County Fair.

“It was an absolute blast (last year),” said Bloom. “And what’s amazing is that a lot of the folks can relate with the music we played. It’s just a ton of fun.”

Many of Bloom's family members and friends still live in the area, so the local shows give them a chance to see him perform. And as someone who’s done the same farm jobs as his audience, he wants to give them their money’s worth.

“We just love to bring a good time to people. They work their butts off and they pay good money to see us play,” Bloom said. “Our goal is to let them have the best time they could have.”

The July 22 show is scheduled for approximately 9:30 p.m. at the fairgrounds in Leigh. There is no admission charge for the county fair.

Reininger family named parade grand marshals

LEIGH — Kay and the late Dave Reininger of Leigh and their family will be the grand marshals for this year’s Colfax County Fair parade, scheduled for July 23 in Leigh.

Dave and Kay Reininger have been very active in the Colfax County Fair and their community.

Dave was a director and president of the Colfax County Ag Society for 39 years before unexpectedly passing away in April 2016. He was key in the many improvements made at the Colfax County Fairgrounds and strived to make the Colfax County Fair one of the best county fairs around. His dedicated service as a Colfax County Ag Society member was recognized with him being named the 2010 Fair Person of the Year at the Nebraska Association of Fair Managers Convention. In 2015, Dave and Kay were selected as Nebraska State Fair grand marshals, an honor their whole family was able to participate in.

Kay spent as much time as Dave at the fairgrounds, assisting during the fair in any way she could. She operated the fair office, fielded phone calls and ran errands, all while watching their own children and later their grandchildren show livestock and exhibit other projects at the fair.

Dave was a member of the Blue Banner 4-H Club, as were their children and now grandchildren. Kay and Dave were also very active in the community, their church and the PLA-CO Pork Producers, where they both served as officers. They were among the original founding members of the Clarkson Czech Dancers, dancing for more than 40 years.

Their children, Julie (Mark) McMullin of Leigh, Lori Reininger of Lincoln and Mark (Megan) Reininger of Lincoln, were all very active in 4-H, exhibiting every year at the Colfax County Fair. The six grandchildren, Jeremy, Matt, Ben, Stephanie, Kyle and Ryan, have either been in or currently are members of the Blue Banner 4-H Club and also exhibit in other areas of the fair.

The Colfax County Ag Society named the Reiningers grand marshals for this year’s parade in recognition of their contributions to the fair.