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Lincoln Journal Star file photo 

Workers install the original Keystone pipeline near Highway 34 west of Seward in this 2009 file photo.

County officials didn't hear complaints when original Keystone pipeline crossed land

When the original Keystone pipeline cut through the extreme northeast corner of Platte County and down the length of Colfax and Butler counties in 2009-10, it stirred few complaints from property owners along the route.

Area officials said last week they expect a similar reaction following the Nebraska Public Service Commission’s narrow 3-2 vote to approve TransCanada’s “mainline alternative” route for the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, shifting the project east to run parallel to the original pipeline.

“I had no complaints,” said Mark Arps, who saw how TransCanada treated property owners from a personal standpoint and worked with the Canadian company on the job as Colfax County’s highway superintendent.

Arps’ wife's family owned agricultural ground along the pipeline path near Bellwood and he worked with TransCanada as construction proceeded.

“They treated (my wife’s family) real nice, doing exactly what they said they would do,” Arps said. “They kept their promises.”

The highway superintendent said TransCanada tore up county roads as the pipeline was going in the ground, but the company brought in its own certified grader operators to rebuild and gravel local roads.

The pipeline infrastructure also added to property tax payments going into local coffers, Arps said.

Last week's decision by the state commission rejects TransCanada's preferred route for the Keystone XL stretching across the outskirts of several area communities to the west of Columbus, including Albion, St. Edward, Genoa, Fullerton, Silver Creek and Stromsburg.

The Lincoln Journal Star reported that TransCanada didn't immediately say whether it will pursue Keystone XL construction along the alternate route through Platte, Colfax and Butler counties.

"As a result of today's decision, we will conduct a careful review of the Public Service Commission's ruling while assessing how the decision would impact the cost and schedule of the project," Russ Girling, the company's president and CEO, said in a Nov. 20 statement.

The alternative route would impact about 40 new landowners, mostly in Madison County, who aren't along the preferred route and don't have the original Keystone pipeline cutting through their land already, according to the Journal Star.

The alternative route to the north and east of Columbus would impact only a couple of landowners in Platte County, according to County Assessor Tom Placzek.

With the original pipeline, the assessor said, TransCanada did a “good job” of addressing any ag-related issues, such as the threat of environmental damage as a result of pipeline leaks.

“There were no complaints from what I heard,” Placzek said. “They didn’t impede things (crossing fields during construction) any longer than they had to and farmers were able to plant their fields.”

Colfax County Commissioner Gil Wigington said the county has had pipelines running through it for years and complaints were few and far between when the original Keystone began shipping crude oil from Alberta, Canada, to Steele City in southern Nebraska.

"I hope it gets built," Wigington said of the Keystone XL.

Local movie theater needs more viewers

The Schuyler Enrichment Foundation has put a lot of elbow grease into keeping the Colfax Theater open.

In 2002, a survey conducted by Schuyler Central High School showed a desire for cinematic entertainment in the community, and work began to renovate the former Sky Theater, which had been closed for decades.

After about five years, the Colfax Theater opened its doors to reintroduce Schuyler to a form of entertainment the city hadn’t seen in years. As time passed, upgrades such as a digital projector in 2013 and hearing loop in 2014 were made.

The only problem is attendance.

Member Guadalupe Marino said the foundation has been making changes in an effort to increase numbers.

“We have been trying to figure out a way to connect Spanish speakers and the movies,” Marino said. “We have had a few options to show movies in Spanish and we think that may help to bring more people in. There are also a few new concession choices for people to try out. We have been trying everything we can.”

Sally Jakub, another foundation member, said that language barrier may soon be a thing of the past.

“I recently got an email from a company called Theater Ears,” Jakub said. “It’s an application for a smartphone device that anyone can download. What it does is you choose the language you want to hear and the movie, and you can listen along with no problem. But there isn’t just Spanish. There’s a lot of different languages. This may be a new, interesting asset.”

Marino said the app and a movie in Spanish may be available at Colfax Theater in January.

One movie is shown per month at the local theater, which competes with Columbus for viewers.

“We show the exact same movies as Columbus, but they just come out later,” Jakub said. “So Schuyler has the choice to either wait or run to Columbus to watch the latest movies. But we are just five minutes away from anyone’s house. The theater is right here.”

While the foundation wants to do more with the theater to keep it open, Jakub said, "there just aren’t enough people that show up."

"There are a lot of bills and hidden expenses that people don’t realize. It takes money to run the theater and that money comes from donations and people filling the seats," she said.

Money remains in the Colfax Theater account, but Schuyler Enrichment Foundation President John Sayer said it's being stretched thin.

“Every month 130 kids come from the elementary school to see a show,” Sayer said. “That does help a lot. We just lose money every year that the theater has been open and while the money is still there, the foundation doesn’t want to go below a certain amount. Out of the 15 years it’s been open, we have only broken even twice."

Sayer said the theater will be offering two matinees next month to hopefully fill more seats.

“I wish the theater could be open all the time, but that just isn’t working right now,” Sayer said. The bottom line is we need people in the seats and volunteers. I just hope we can stay open.”

A decision will be made in about six months on the theater's future.

The Schuyler Enrichment Foundation welcomes comments and suggestions from the public on the theater.

Volunteer and paid manager positions are also available.

South Park closing at night to deter illegal activity

Schuyler City Council members voted last week to close South Park from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. each night in an effort to deter illegal activity there.

Police Chief K.C. Bang said local residents have reported potentially criminal activity at the park during the late-night hours.

“There have been multiple calls to the station about underage drinking and a lot of congregations of other unlawful activities in South Park,” Bang said, "all of which is not what the parks board wants the city to imagine the park being used for."

Bang recommended the 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. ban "to control the problem and make sure the park is safe for everyone.”

“If an individual is under the age of 16, their curfew is at 10 at night,” the police chief said.

Bang wanted the park closing time to coincide with this curfew.

“There is plenty of time during the day to enjoy the park,” he said. “It’s really a safety issue for the overall area of the park and we feel that people are not going to be enjoying the park at that time of night as they should be.”