Old Geneva city pool demolished

*This story was featured in the Hastings Tribune on July 30, 2016. 

GENEVA — With temperatures nearing the triple digits during the month of July, Geneva City Administrator Kyle Svec admits that the timing of the closing the city’s pool wasn’t ideal, but it was necessary in order to meet next year’s deadline for opening a new water park.

To meet the self-proposed Memorial Day 2017 deadline for the water park, demolition of the city pool, which is near completion, had to start when it did, Svec said.

He said that to beat the heat Geneva patrons had the option to utilize one of the three area pools within a 12-mile radius in Shickley, Fairmont and Exeter.

“One of the reasons we wanted to get started during July is because it’s the driest time of the year and that’s good for dirt work,” Svec said. “I feel very good about where we’re at because we haven’t had any rain.”

The city pool closed for the summer on July 10 and destruction of the existing pool and bathhouse started a week later.

Workers earlier this week were removing pieces of the pool and bathhouse, along with old fencing and concrete before the construction of the new park on the same site begins.

Svec expects dirt to be laid for the new park in the next few weeks.

“They’re moving along very well,” he said.

The city plans to salvage parts of the old park, including a couple smaller slides and a mushroom-shaped sprayer from the baby pool.

Those items will be available for purchase by the public.

A refrigerator and camera system from the old water park will be salvaged and used in the new water park.

Among the features of the new water park are one large slide, a family slide, a climbing wall overlooking the pool and one diving board. The park will also include a lily pad rope feature, a splash pad for children and more shade structures for parents. Wifi and an expanded menu of food will also added.

The park project gained traction in 2015, after community members voted in Geneva’s first mail-in election to support both the water park and a half-cent sales tax to cover the cost.

Following the 62 percent in-favor vote, the city began working with officials and completed a final design, before starting the demolition in mid-July.


Arena home of “biggest small college” video board

*This story was featured in the Hastings Tribune on July 28, 2016. 

The game day experience is going to be noticeably different inside Lynn Farrell Arena at Hastings College with the recent addition of a new video board.

The college put the finishing touches last week on the installation of the new state-of-the-art video board inside the arena.

“It’s being promoted as the biggest small college video board in the country. There is just no one out there that is claiming that,” said Adam Maser, Hastings College sports information director. “I’m excited for it, because it’s something that no one else has.”

The ScoreVision video board, which is 10 feet by 33 feet, has live video stream, LED video, instant replay and Apple TV capabilities.

It is “basically a giant TV,” Maser said with the capability to provide a whole new format for motion graphic content during games.

The board is operated through the ScoreVision app on an iPad and will allow operators to keep score, record player stats, highlight player achievements and integrate graphics, sound and video on the display.

The data from games is automatically saved to in real-time and through a companion fan app, parents, students and fans can receive instantaneous live game information from anywhere.

“I’m excited about it, but I’m also nervous, because it’s new, it’s different and it isn’t at any of the schools we play against,” Maser said. “If it comes together, it can be fantastic and could be groundbreaking.”

While the board’s primary use will be for athletic events in the arena, the increased video functions will allow for the college to expand its horizons far from traditional scoreboard use.

The new features will leave the door open for use at events such as award ceremonies, graduation and the dedication ceremony for the Jackson Dinsdale Art Center on Aug. 20.

The plan to upgrade the scoreboard at the arena has been in the works for a while, according to Maser.

He said the college’s athletic department had discussed replacing video boards at both Lynn Farrell Arena and Lloyd Wilson Field in 2012. The college replaced the scoreboard at Lloyd Wilson Field with a Daktronics video board in the summer of 2014.

The college then negotiated plans for a video board at the arena, opting to go with ScoreVision, an Omaha-based company that specializes in creating state-of-the-art, LED scoreboards. Gordon Whitten, who graduated from Hastings High in 1989 and Hastings College in 1993, is the company’s CEO and co-founder.

Whitten, who was vice chairman of the Board of Trustees for the college in 2011, said that once the college expressed the need to replace the arena’s scoreboard he thought a partnership between ScoreVision and the college would be a good one.

“Basically, Hastings College was ready to make a change and they looked at their options out there and they concluded that this had the greatest number of features and had the best value of anything they could find,” he said. “Then we started down a path of working that out.”

Whitten worked with the college’s administration, Maser and Chad Power, chair of the Hastings College journalism and media arts department, to coordinate an internship program at ScoreVision for Hastings College students.

The internship started this summer and allowed four students a chance to live in Omaha for the summer and learn about all the features the ScoreVision board and app have to offer, in order to help operate the board during the school year.

The partnership between the college and ScoreVision is something intern Tyler Murphy thinks will open the door for many possibilities.

“It’s an opportunity for athletes to see themselves on a scoreboard that would look appropriate in a Division I gym,” he said. “Beyond athletics, it offers students the opportunity to create pretty much anything they can dream up to be displayed on the board and it offers marketing or business students the opportunity to make connections in the community and create advertising content to be displayed on the board.”

Throughout the summer, Murphy has been learning more about the scoreboard and app in preparation for video board’s debut in late August for the opening of the art center.

“For the Jackson Dinsdale Art Center grand opening I’ve been working with David Sutter, Hastings College class of 1991, on a video showing the progress of construction, a little bit of what it will mean to the school and students and honoring Jackson Dinsdale,” Murphy said.

The video board is expected to be used a few times at the beginning of the school year, but it’s athletic debut will come on Sept. 7 in potential top-10 volleyball match-up between Midland University and Hastings College.

Gas line struck, homes evacuated

*This story was featured in the Hastings Tribune on July 28, 2016. 

SUTTON — A natural gas line was struck on Wednesday afternoon here, causing a gas leak and prompting the evacuation of a residential area.

The gas leak occurred in the alley west of Saunders Avenue near Myrtle Street at 12:52 p.m. when workers accidentally hit the gas line while replacing a telephone pole.

According to Assistant Fire Chief Tracey Landenberger, the gas line was believed to be mismarked.

Gas leaked for 20-30 minutes, according to Landenberger, and caused residents within a two-block radius to go two hours without access to gas. Landenberger said the leak impacted 12-15 residential homes and caused those individuals to evacuate their homes.

“It had a bigger impact on the crews to come out and fix it and it took a big toll on the volunteers with the heat,” said Landenberger, who also is the Sutton police chief. “But it affects everybody, including the people who had to leave their houses. It was just good that it was summertime, because people didn’t need their heat.”

Workers repaired the damages to the line in a little over an hour, and Landenberger expects no issues going forward.

Deshler hopeful mitigation plan can prevent future flooding

*This story was featured in the Hastings Tribune on July 26, 2016. 

DESHLER — After two major floods within the last two years, the city of Deshler is hoping to minimize the chance for another flood.

The effort to lessen the likelihood of another devastating flood comes in the form of a flood hazard mitigation study and a partnership between the city and the Little Blue Natural Resources District.

During a meeting in Davenport on July 12, the LBNRD and officials from Deshler entered into an agreement under the Interlocal Cooperation Act of the state of Nebraska and agreed to share costs of the study.

The agreement will allow the LBNRD and the city of Deshler to split 25 percent of the local contribution costs for the study. Both Deshler and the LBNRD will pay $6,250, while the Federal Emergency Management Agency is expected to cover the rest of the costs. The total cost of the project is estimated at $49,650.

Both parties are hopeful the study will help combat the flooding problem.

“We’ve had two incidents in the past 12 months,” said Julie Buescher, Deshler city clerk and treasurer. “It’s been a problem.”

The two most impactful floods came in May 2015 and April 2016.

During the flood of 2015, Deshler High School had to be used as an evacuation center for residents of the Parkview Haven and Meadowlark Heights Assisted Living Centers, said Al Meier, superintendent of Deshler Public Schools.

The school also suffered damages in the form of a flooded football field and track, as well as water damage to the elementary school.

“We had water coming into the elementary school … we had 3-5 inches of water in it,” Meier said.

The school received help from FEMA and district funds after the flood and has since repaired the damages to custodial rooms, vents and the football field, as well as the track.

During the April 2016 flood, the Nebraska Rainfall Assessment and Information Network reported more than 5 inches of precipitation fell just southeast of Ruskin during a 24-hour period.

The damage from that particular flood was extensive, too, including damages to area ballparks and city parks and the destruction of playground equipment.

Buescher hopes the study will help find solutions to the flood problems.

“I guess they’re hoping to identify what some of the issues are to why it’s happening and some of the solutions to keep it from happening,” she said.

Mike Onnen, general manager of the Little Blue Natural Resources District, says the study will be extensive.

“The firm that has been selected will be looking at all the elevations of the structures,” he said. “Hopefully by next year they will have all of that data collected.”

The study will include an examination of the structures in the flood plain and running storm frequencies to determine the level of flood it would take to damage those structures located in the flood plain. Onnen said moving structures out of the flood plain and rechannelization of Snake Creek to prevent the likelihood of flooding also are preventative measure possibilities.

After receiving funding from FEMA, conducting field work and planning, the city of Deshler is expected to review its options and conduct a public meeting before final plans are put into place.

Kids pedal for ribbons, soda and chance at state

*This story was featured in the Hastings Tribune on July 25, 2016. 

On a cool and windy day, kids and parents alike gathered at Windmill Park Sunday afternoon for the Adams County Fairfest pedal tractor pull.

This year’s competition featured 30-plus kids, ranging from ages 4 to 12 and gave them all a chance to win a purple ribbon and a free soda.

For 9-year-old Nicolas Reynolds, the event was a new, but worthwhile experience.

“My dad asked me if I wanted to do it, so I did it,” he said. “I really liked getting to ride the tractor.”

For the event, kids climb aboard a pedal tractor equipped with various weights on the back of the tractor. The rider pedals down the track to see who can travel the furthest distance. The weights and tractors vary by age group and tends to get heavier the further the tractor goes.

“We have like six tractors and they’re all lengthened. The older you get, the longer the tractor is,” said event coordinator Cindy Ash. “(Bruce) changes the skid plate that makes it harder to pull.”

The kids are separated by age and sex and are then paired with the corresponding size of tractor.

While every participant received a reward, only three kids from each class earned the right to represent Adams County at the Nebraska State Fair.

“They qualify for the state pull at all the county fairs,” Ash said.


Cindy and her husband, Bruce, have plenty of experience with kids’ tractor pulls, considering they attend about 20 county fairs a year. Despite the long weekends spent at fairs, seeing the kids’ reactions during the event is reward enough.

“I just like seeing the kids’ faces,” Ash said. “They like to win and they even like to lose. It’s just a good kids’ event for any age and really any person can do it.”

Poultry show tests 4-H’ers knowledge

*This story was featured in the Hastings Tribune on July 23, 2016. 

On a warm Friday morning, 4-H’ers gathered beneath a tent at the Adams County Fairgrounds to showcase their most prized poultry.

The show, which didn’t allow for the entering of live birds last year because of the threat of avian flu, was back to normal this time around.

This year’s broilers class — one of four different classes of competition — featured kids of all ages showing off the birds they’ve worked with for six straight weeks.

“Everyone gets chicks from the same production facility on the same day, so they start out of the gate running at the same place,” said Lynn Devries, extension educator for Adams County. “The broilers is a six-week project from the start of day one baby chicks until today, where they’re market ready.”

The morning kicked off with the broiler’s competition, followed by the showmanship, bantam class and clover kids competitions.

Every 4-H’er receives a ribbon for their submissions, which can act as an incentive for the extensive preparation needed to enter these birds into the show.

“A lot of preparation is needed for any show,” said 16-year old Dariana Burr of Juniata. “We have to get the cages ready, bathe the birds, polish their beaks, trim their nails, clean their legs. Birds are so dirty, so that takes a lot of time.”

After getting the birds ready for competition, 4-H’ers bring their birds to the fairgrounds and anxiously wait to hear from the judges.

Birds are judged according to the American Standard of Perfection standards, and depending on the class, can be judged on any number of things including meat capacity, plumage, comb quality and health of the bird’s feet.

One aspect of competition in particular requires a special amount of courage, knowledge of the bird and speaking skill. The showmanship portion involves a participant explaining the anatomy of the bird, identifying the types of feathers and posing the bird in front of a judge, along with the crowd, which can be quite the daunting task.

But for Burr, she tends to think of the opportunity as a chance to perfect some real life skills.

“The speaking experience, getting out in front of people, it’s really hard, but it helps you later on with college, high school and job interviews,” she said. “It’s just a great way to learn.”

While the 4-H’ers are often eager to receive recognition for their work in the form of purple, blue or red ribbons, to some, the competition can also be used to teach a lesson or two.

“I think it (the competition) just gives them a lot of confidence and some independent skills, as well. Many of our 4-H’ers are building responsibility and showing they can grow and take care of an animal,” Devries said. “It’s a project with a little guidance from their family. It’s something they can do on their own.”

In Burr’s case, being a part of a family full of 4-H’ers has not only kept her involved with 4-H, but has even prompted her to ponder a career working with animals.

“My mom was a veterinarian, so it makes you really get familiar with it,” she said. “I think I could see myself being a vet in the future.”

Thayer County Fair exhibitors cope with heat

*This story was featured in the Hastings Tribune on July 22, 2016. 

DESHLER — With scorching temperatures hovering around the 100-degree mark on Thursday afternoon at the Thayer County Fairgrounds, fairgoers, 4-H’ers and livestock were feeling the heat.

The high temperatures forced the Thayer County Fair Board to tweak the fair schedule, which led to the decision to postpone the horse judging contest. Instead of judging horses, more of an emphasis was put on keeping all parties involved — including the animals — safe.

“It’s been pretty warm, but for the most part everyone is dealing with it and taking the proper precautions to keep their animals safe,” said Jacie Milius, Thayer County extension educator.

The horse judging originally was scheduled for 3 p.m., but the decision to postpone the event allowed for fair organizers to regroup and prepare for the night’s festivities.

While fair organizers were prepping for the night portion of the fair, livestock owners were busy in the 4-H Beef Barn tending to livestock in an effort to keep them cool. Preventative measures were taken, such as the placement of numerous fans and misters in the barn, along with steady refills of water to ensure the safety of livestock and poultry entries.

“In the middle of the afternoon, we normally go fill up buckets so they can drink some water,” said 12-year-old Cayden Huber of Hebron.

The heat also has caused livestock owners to pay special attention for signs of heat-related issues and even forced a tweak in the animals’ feeding schedule, among other things.

“A lot of early mornings and late nights … they don’t eat as good in the heat,” said livestock owner Tyson Hissong. “We feed in the morning anyways, but we just do it earlier and later to deal with the heat. They’re like humans: When it’s hot out, you don’t want to eat. When it’s hot out, they don’t want to eat.”

Hissong said the heat also has made livestock owners spend less time moving their animals out of the shade, which has had an effect on the preparation portion of the entry shows.

He also noted that the heat has forced many 4-H’ers to spend less time in the 4-H barn and more time at home.

Cayden was forced to get creative to stay out and about at the fair.

“We brought a mini fridge!” he announced with a smile.

While the livestock tend to receive a bit of special attention during the dog days of summer, so, too, do the people attending the fair.

Much like with the animals, a number of measures to ensure safety and fun were put in place well before the afternoon.

The Deshler Fire Department set up a booth inside the Thayer County Fairgrounds Activity Center equipped with free bottles of water, blood pressure machines and nurses on site.

In conjunction with those efforts from the fire department, the Thayer County Emergency Management team had a trailer set up right outside the Activity Center to help, too. The team was prepared to help fairgoers stay cool and stay safe.

While the horse judging event was the primary event affected by the weather, it wasn’t the only one.

The Thayer County Fair parade, a signature event of the county fair, runs past the Parkview Haven Nursing Home and traditionally allows for members to sit on the lawn and watch the parade.

The heat didn’t entirely stop Parkview Haven members from watching the parade, but they were forced to take precautions in the form of sun hats and plenty of water.

Overall, Milius has simple advice for those attending the fair.

“The people who come to the air just need to know that if they get too hot to come inside, drink plenty of water and be smart.”