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Probation office will call new location home

The Dodge County Board of Supervisors during its Wednesday meeting unanimously passed a resolution approving a new location for the District 6 Probation Office, currently located at 320 N. Main St. in Historic Downtown Fremont.

The bond-funded project costs approximately $1 million with full renovations, and the property transaction of $350,000 will occur Dec. 15. Lon Strand, District 3 supervisor, spoke about how the move has been a long time coming.

“Mr. Chairman, I am guessing, historically, this (process) started about two years ago when a probation officer came to our committee and said that in the near future they would be needing more space,” Strand said directing his comment at Chairman of the Board Bob Missel. “At that point we started the search.”

Initially, Strand said members of the Board looked at the old downtown KHUB building as a possible location, with the knowledge that substantial renovation would need to happen. An architect was hired to see if the building would be a feasible location, and ultimately it was determined that it was not.”

“We found out that the building was not going to be a viable financial solution for us,” he said. “The space was far from adequate, plus the renovation costs were going to be too much. So we continued our search.”

The next property the Board locked its eyes on was the old Schweser’s building, currently occupied by Fia + Belle. An architect was once again contracted to analyze the building and help with a plan of attack moving forward, but public outcry ultimately played a large factor with the county not moving forward with the purchase.

“That property went to the wayside by means of citizens not wanting us to put that particular office in that particular area,” Strand said.

At that point, Strand said the Board stepped back and looked at other options. One option was remodeling a former doctor’s office, which proved to be too much a financial obligation. Another option was building an office from the ground up, but ultimately, the right building presented itself.

“This would be our fourth try at this – we’ve looked at several, but we have been serious about three and this is our fourth,” Strand said. “I really appreciate Rob (George) being involved with real estate, because he knows the pulse of Fremont and what is available.”

Strand said the new location is cost effective and should be a good fit for the probation office’s needs.

“I’m glad we were patient because this — I’m very confident — probably saved the county between $200,000 and $400,000 by going where we are going,” he said. “It’s a great location and it’s something I would like to move forward with.”

Missel explained how the move will benefit all parties involved with the District 6 Probation Office.

“The wonderful thing about this property is its size and its ability to expand in the future, which has always been a big piece of this,” Missel said. “There are growing needs with the probation office, and to remind those of you that aren’t aware, the probation office is an inter-local type of agreement with multiple counties, so their workload has increased substantially throughout the years. They were fairly doubled up where they were functioning, so this certainly has appeared to be a good deal for us.”


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First Lutheran plans Cocoa & Carols

Mike and Amy Spies don’t mind singing for somebody’s supper.

And getting other people involved in a jubilant chorus.

Again this year, First Lutheran Church in Fremont will be site of Cocoa & Carols — a fundraiser that benefits a program called The Banquet.

The public is invited to the holiday event on Dec. 20. Cocoa will be served at 6 p.m. The show starts at 7 p.m. in the sanctuary of the church at 3200 E. Military Ave., Fremont.

Admission is free. A freewill offering will be accepted for The Banquet, which provides a free meal to people in the community on Thursday nights.

“Every Thursday, there’s a group of dedicated people who volunteer and put together this wonderful meal and feed people,” Mike Spies said.

Folks leave with full stomachs. Children who might not have a coat when they walk in — leave with one.

“That’s what this is about,” Mike Spies said. “All we’re doing is singing for their supper.”

Mike Spies is the show’s producer and master of ceremonies. Amy Spies is musical director.

This marks the fifth year for what the Spies describe as a musical variety show.

“We’ve got a wonderful show planned for this year,” Mike Spies said. “We put together a show of some of the most talented people we know. Fremont has a wealth of talent.”

Audiences will hear and see performances by The Pathfinder Chorus, the church’s adult choir, The Hands of Faith Puppets and a quartet called FROGS (Four Really Old Guys).

“We will have a lot of other talented individuals, not only from First Lutheran Church, but from the Midland (University’s) arts department,” he said.

A new group of “Carols” will participate as well. When the event began, a group of eighth grade girls became backup singers.

During the very first show, Mike Spies referred to the girls as “The Carols.”

Those girls grew up and have gone to college.

A couple of this year’s “Carols” are high school seniors so this will be their last year. Other “Carols” are new.

Music for the program begins on a light note.

“We start out fun and relaxed and transition to: Let’s remember the real reason we’re celebrating,” Amy Spies said.

“There’s some really beautiful pieces,” Mike Spies said.

Amy Spies said producing Cocoa & Carols is a way they can help The Banquet, which takes place throughout the year. Volunteers shop for the food for The Banquet, cook, serve and clean up afterward.

Dinner guests are served a meal with a main dish, vegetable, dessert and oftentimes a roll, sometimes salad or fruit.

“In the summertime, they get the grill going,” Mike Spies said.

In the winter, The Banquet also sponsors “Joseph’s Closet” — a couple of racks with coats, gloves and hats. People can take what they need when they come on Thursdays.

The Spies appreciate work done by The Banquet’s volunteers.

“You the people who come in and the passion of the volunteers, who put this together,” Mike Spies said. “It makes you want to help somehow.”

After attending another musical fundraising event, Spies also noted that many people don’t carry cash these days. But he hopes Cocoa & Carols guests, who can afford to donate, will have a couple of dollars on hand to contribute to The Banquet.

“These volunteers can do a lot with a few dollars,” he said.

“And donations are a huge part of how The Banquet can sustain that ministry,” Amy Spies said.

Mike Spies also believes attendees will benefit from Cocoa & Carols, saying they find joy and leave with glad hearts. He noted something else:

“In this time of communicating via text and social media, people don’t get out any more like we did when we were kids to go to events where you have to socialize with other people face to face and go to live performances,” he said. “We want to keep that alive.”


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Holiday planetarium show returns to Midland

Midland University is set to continue a holiday tradition as the annual “The Star of Bethlehem” planetarium show returns to Lueninghoener Planetarium later this month.

The presentation is scheduled for 2 p.m. on Sunday, December 17 at Lueninghoener Planetarium located in the Swanson Hall of Science at 798 North Irving Avenue on the university’s campus.

The is no admission charge for “The Star of Bethlehem” show and seating is limited to 70 people and will be available on a first-come, first-serve basis.

“Lueninghoener Planetarium has a long history of presenting a ‘Star of Bethlehem’ show, and we’re excited to continue this popular Christmas tradition on the Midland University campus,” Dr. Lance Johnson, chairman of the biology department at Midland, said.

“The Star of Bethlehem” is produced by the Eugenides Foundation of Athens, Greece and takes viewers back more than 2,000 years ago to the little town of Bethlehem to investigate what the star was that guided the three wise men to the birthplace of Jesus.

According to released information from the Midland Communications Department to show presents historical and scientific facts in order to unravel the mystery in a special audiovisual show.

Those attending should note the program depicts flying and may cause dizziness and/or disorientation for some viewers.

The audiovisual show is accompanied by music of the season, as the narration guides the audience through the various historical and astronomical information of the Christmas story, along with facts astronomical facts about the calendar.

Along with “The Star of Bethlehem” show there will be a brief history of the Leuninghoener Planetarium and the entire presentation will last approximately 45 minutes.

“We’re able to present this full-dome planetarium show thanks to Midland alumnus Jack Dunn and his wife, Elizabeth Klimek, who donated projection equipment and procured this and other shows for our use free of charge,” Johnson said.

Designed by Dr. Gilbert Lueninghoener, the planetarium opened its doors in 1965. For many years, Midland University presented its own “Star of Bethlehem” show using the star ball originally designed by Dr. Lueninghoener.

Those with questions involving the presentation of “The Star of Bethlehem” are encouraged to contact Midland’s Communication Department at 402-941-6247.