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Design team talks Keene expansion at public forum

Representatives from Alley Poyner Machietto (APM) Architecture took input from a group of local residents regarding Keene Memorial Library’s proposed expansion project at a public forum on Thursday.

Along with APM representatives, Keene Library staff, and Friends of the Library members also attended the meeting regarding the estimated $8-$10 million expansion and renovation project at Keene.

“What we want to know is, the phrase that I keep using is, your dreams and desires for the best public library we could possibly have,” Jeff Hoffman, expansion committee chair, said at the meeting.

According to Library Director Tina Walker, the expansion project would provide for a separate children’s area, more parking and community meeting space, and make the building American with Disablities Act (ADA) complaint.

In a recent interview with the Tribune, Walker also shared the library’s expansion wish list.

The expansion, estimated to be 13,000 square feet, would consist of two stories east of the current building and be connected to it.

Walker said the children’s area will take up the bottom floor of the expansion to provide safety and security for them and to eliminate noise for other readers. This area will include a children’s program room, children’s staff offices and an open teen area.

The upstairs portion of the expansion would have a large community meeting room that can be divided into multiple meeting rooms if needed. It would have high technology and a catering kitchen.

Walker also said the expansion will include new family restrooms, an ADA-compliant elevator and doors.

The bottom floor of the older (current) building will provide a quiet reading area for adults and a computer lab. The top floor will consist of offices and adult non-fiction reading materials.

“We made a small ‘want list’ and we’re waiting for those community forums in February and March to see what the public wants. We will be including community feedback in our design,” Walker told the Tribune at the time.

The community feedback comes by way of a series of meetings, like the one held at the May Brothers Building on Thursday, where APM representatives looked to seek community input.

“We want to make sure that we are constantly listening throughout the design process, because we recognize that this is not our library, this is your library, so we want to get it right,” Denise Powell, APM community liaison, said.

According to Powell, the design team from APM working on the Keene expansion have worked on 50 different libraries throughout the country including multiple in Nebraska.

“We are currently renovating the library in Norfolk and we have done libraries from Scottsbluff to Papillion and everywhere in between,” she said.

Two members of the APM design team also spoke to the crowd at Thursday meeting, they include architect Ryan Fischer and interior designer Nancy Novak.

“We have two phases to this project and what we are doing in this first phase is kind of a big vision study,” Novak said. “So we want to reach out to the community and gather information that will help us create a vision for the new library. That includes how much square feet do we need, what is going to be happening on the inside, what kind of program space is needed, those kinds of things.”

Novak also spoke about how libraries have changed over the recent years with increased technology and the need for more community and programming space.

“The library is the living room of the community, it is not just a place to source information anymore it is a place for people to come together,” she said. “So the community room that you have now fit about 30 people in the east building and 60 in the main building. We are looking at a 150 plus person space so we can bring the community together to have large activities, meetings, families could rent it for reunions. Spaces that are free to the community, just as the information in the collection is free to the community.”

Fisher emphasized that the actual design of the expansion and renovation are a long way from being set in stone, but through rough evaluations of the current building the team noted several possible changes.

“One of the things we noticed is the multiple entrances, ideally you want to have one main area you step into and then that circulation desk,” he said. “It’s very visual and it is kind of intuitive so you know where you need to go, it also allows staff to see what is going on. So the multiple entrances on both side might be a little problematic right now.”

He also pointed to the current separation of the staff area and the children’s area, citing that ideally those two spaces would have a closer proximity.

Another possible change would be increasing natural light within the building by adding more windows.

“The building is a great example of classical modernism, it’s gorgeous, but the natural light coming into that building is somewhat limited right now,” he said. “That connection to the outdoors is critical for any space, but especially for a library. So one of the things we have been asking ourselves is how do we let more light in and how do we let more people outside view what is going on inside the library.”

According to Walker, APM plans to begin its design phase in March or April.

“Their intent is to roll out all the results of the community input and to have a semi-finished product available to show people before the bond issue in May,” Walker said at an advisory council meeting in January.

Hoffman also recently talked with the Tribune about a bond issue proposed for $2 million each ($6 million total) for the library expansion, Fremont City Auditorium renovation and the addition of a lazy river to the Splash Station. Walker said there would be a $31-a-year increase in homeowner’s tax if all three pass.

She also said other Nebraska cities where libraries are expanding are putting in funds toward those projects. She said $2 million will be needed to get started.

“I can’t even file for a Peter Kiewit grant until we hit 50 percent of what we need,” she said, adding, “the total project cost will not be known until April until they get a design finished. It’s estimated at $8 (million) to $10 million right now, but we don’t know that.”

Sam Pimper / Courtesy  

A crowd of kids enjoy a program during the annual Summer Reading Program at Keene Memorial Library. According to members of the design team from Alley Pyner Machietto Architecture, one goal of the library expansion project is to create a larger space for events like the popular Summer Reading Program. 

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Washington Elementary 4th graders host "Hall of History"

An entire hallway of Washington Elementary School was laced with Nebraska history on Thursday, courtesy of the school’s fourth graders.

The school hosted the “Nebraska Hall of History” event to commemorate the anniversary of Nebraska’s statehood on March 1. Students prepared presentations on important events and people in Nebraska’s history and displayed their research on decorative posters. They stood in the hallway displaying their posters and gave their to presentations to other students, their families and members of the community, who were invited to stroll through history.

“Part of our curriculum is that the fourth graders learn Nebraska history, so for second quarter and this quarter, we have been talking about events in Nebraska and people in Nebraska,” said fourth grade teacher Shanna Karlin. “It gives them an opportunity to practice their speaking skills and step out of the box a little bit, but it also requires them to practice research and create something visually that represents the information that they have learned.”

For the assignment, students had to explain the cause and effect of their chosen historical moment, or the cause and effect of their chosen historical figure’s actions. They also had to conduct research, write an essay and include a map outlining the location where their chosen topic occurred.

“The cause and effect was a huge thing for them to understand,” said fourth grade teacher Ben Zuch. “For instance, like Lewis and Clark, they were put on a mission—why did they have to do that, and what was the outcome of it? It was a great thing for them to see the whole picture of it.”

Topics included the Lewis and Clark Expedition, the Dust Bowl, the Great Depression and several important figures who were born in Nebraska.

Sammy Contreras, 10, chose to do his presentation on actor Henry Fonda, who was born in Grand Island. Holding a colorful poster in the shape of grapes to honor Fonda’s role in the 1940 film “The Grapes of Wrath” Contreras told the story of Fonda’s move from Grand Island to Omaha and eventually New York to perform on Broadway.

He had known about the Hall of History project for years and always wanted to participate.

“I’ve always wanted to do this since I was little—when I was very, very little, the first time I came was when my brother was at the school,” Contreras said. “It was really exciting.”

Contreras picked Fonda because acting is on his shortlist of possible future careers.

“When I grow up, I have many options so I want to be a train driver,” Contreras said. “But I couldn’t find anything about trains, so instead I looked for NASCAR racers but I couldn’t find any. So instead, one of the other options was being an actor, so I chose Henry Fonda.”

Contreras’ mother, Angelica, came to support him.

“He didn’t want to tell me anything about it because he said it is a surprise for me and for everyone,” she said.

Zuch, Contreras’ teacher, was excited to see the students’ work.

“This is my first year over at Washington so it’s been a really cool experience,” he said. “I’ve seen the kids work really hard.”

This was the third year that Washington Elementary School has done the Hall of History, though it has traditionally done similar events in the past, including the Hall of Presidents and the Hall of States.

Courtesy photo, Rader Photography 

Don Ortmeier, John Gibney and Greg Ortmeier are shown at a past fish fry. The Knights of Columbus 1497 in Fremont is having fish fry events every Friday until March 23 in the downtown auditorium at Fourth and Union streets.. The public is invited. No fish fry will take place on March 30.

Brent Wasenius / Kayla Wolf / Lincoln Journal Star 

Fremont Bergan senior Reagan Toelle, left, and Superior's Hallie Miller chase after a loose ball during the second half of Thursday night's Class C-2 state tournament game at Lincoln North Star. The Lady Knights suffered a 40-35 loss. 

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Arrest made in string of arsons

A Fremont man who was arrested for arson after allegedly setting a car on fire in January, has also been arrested and charged for a string of arsons throughout Dodge County over the past several months, including a fire at the Robert Hunt Family Sports Complex in Scribner.

According to the Dodge County Sheriff’s Office, 20-year-old Zachary T. Wanamaker was arrested and charged with multiple counts of arson and criminal mischief regarding a string of seven fires in Dodge County that occurred in December and January.

Along with Wanamaker, 18-year-old Connor Miller of Hooper was also arrested and charged for his involvement in the case.

Wanamaker was arrested and charged with five counts of 2nd Degree arson, a Class III felony, two counts of 3rd Degree arson, a Class II misdemeanor, two counts of felony criminal mischief and five counts of misdemeanor criminal mischief.

Miller was arrested and charged with one count of conspiracy to commit 2nd Degree arson, a Class III felony, and two counts of accessory to a felony, a Class IIII felony.

Both men are currently being held in the Saunders County Jail.

The incidents that led to Wanamaker’s arrest include a fire reported at a vacant house just north of Fremont on December 28, two fires reported at vacant house south of Nickerson and a shed in rural Ames on December 29, a pole shed fire in rural Nickerson on December 30, as well as two portable restroom fires reported on January 8 and 11th.

The string of alleged arsons also includes a blaze that extensively damaged the Robert Hunt Family Sports Complex in Scribner on January 5.

In the early morning hours of January 5, Scribner firefighters were called to the scene of the large, two-story building — a structure with concrete block walls, and a roof with wooden rafters covered by metal.

“By the time we got called, it was so far gone, we weren’t able to attack. It was more of a defensive type of mode,” Scribner Fire Chief Lonny Niewohner said at the time, adding that firefighters had to proceed with caution due to the cold weather.

Dedicated in September 2009, the building was mostly used for ball programs and games as a concession stand. The structure’s lower level housed restrooms, a kitchen area and storage facility. The upper level also included a small kitchen.

According to Dodge County Sheriff Steve Hespen, there were no reported injuries in any of the alleged arsons, and the largest monetary loss was the fire at Robert Hunt Family Sports Complex which is estimated at over $200,000 in damage.

“We had, through the investigation of all these fires, developed two suspects and a vehicle description in the arson cases which involved us and the Nebraska Fire Marshall’s Office,” Hespen said. “We had deputies working overtime doing surveillance around the county trying to find the individuals involved with these fires.”

The final fire over the two month period came on January 12 when Fremont Police Department officers were dispatched to a report that someone poured gasoline on a parked vehicle and set it on fire in the 700 block of West 11th Street in Fremont.

At the time, witnesses told police they saw the suspect flee the scene in a silver-colored car described as being a Mazda.

A short time later, a FPD officer saw a car matching the description in a business parking lot located in the 400 block of West 23rd Street. The car was driven by Wanamaker.

Police said that Wanamaker ran when the officer attempted to make contact with him while he was inside of the business. A perimeter was established and Wanamaker was apprehended and taken into custody with the assistance of the Dodge County Sheriff’s Office Deputy K-9 Unit.

Wanamaker was arrested and charged with 3rd Degree domestic assault, arson and obstructing a police officer. The estimated damage occurring to the vehicle Wanamaker allegedly lit on fire was estimated at $1,600.

According to Hespen, the vehicle Wanamaker was driving during the time of the car fire arrest matched the description of the vehicle Dodge County Sheriff’s Office was investigating related to the string of seven other fires.

Following Wanamaker’s arrest by FPD on January 12, the Dodge County Sheriff’s Office conducted interviews and subsequently issued arrest warrants for both Wanamaker and Miller regarding the other fires. The pair were arrested and charged on February 13th, according to the Dodge County Sheriff’s Office.