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State-and-regional
breakingalert
UPDATE: County roads taking hit from flooding; "more that are closed" than open

As northeast Nebraska continues to deal with widespread flooding due to melting snow and rain, several roads and schools around Dodge County closed down on Wednesday.

U.S. Highway 275 between West Point and Scribner was closed, as was U.S. Highway 91 from Nickerson to the county line, the Dodge County Sheriff’s Office said on social media. According to the Nebraska Roads 511 website, U.S. Highway 79, from North Bend to Snyder was also closed.

Dodge County Emergency Manager Tom Smith told the Tribune that there is an ice jam on the Platte River, and that Ridge Road in Fremont was facing some flooding.

Smith was dealing with a lot of county road closures throughout the day Wednesday, the most significant of which was County Road F, between Scribner and U.S. Highway 77, which he said is one of the county’s “most primary roads.” Closures also included the Scribner-Herman road and “basically every road near Maple Creek,” Smith said. Anything east of Highway 79 was likely closed or difficult to travel over, Smith said on Wednesday.

“We’re working with multiple departments on making sure that people are safe,” Smith said, later adding that the county road department was “out there doing damage assessment.”

“Everybody’s just got to exercise caution,” Smith said.

When asked about county road closures on Wednesday, Dodge County Zoning Administrator Jean Andrews said the county had “more that are closed than we do that are open.”

The county was working to barricade all of the closed roads, and usually helps provide barricades on roads managed by townships. But with the county dealing with so many closures of its own, many townships were scrambling to find their own barricades, Andrews said.

“If you don’t have to travel anywhere, don’t,” Andrews said.

In the aftermath of the flooding, the county will face a new challenge in acquiring gravel to repair the roads, Andrews said.

“It’s just going to be horrendous,” Andrews said.

The Dodge County Sheriff said in a Wednesday Facebook post that drivers should “USE EXTREME CAUTION if you must travel” on county roads.

Cedar Bluffs Fire Chief Rob Benke had a similar warning regarding the county roads.

“There’s so many of them that have water running across them,” Benke said. “Nobody should be on a country road right now. Nobody.”

Two roads in the city of Fremont were closed as of 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday, according to City Administrator Brian Newton: Airport Road between Linden Avenue and 23rd Street and Ridge Road.

In a press release, state officials recommended checking the Nebraska Department of Transportation’s 511 website at www.511.nebraska.gov or dialing 511. They also added that the flooding is “a rapidly changing event” with road conditions changing quickly.

“Please remember, just a few inches of water can impact your vehicle’s ability to navigate, cause it to stall or even float it,” the press release said. “Should you encounter water over a roadway, never drive through it. Turn around — don’t drown.”

Gov. Pete Ricketts urged Nebraskans to continue monitoring the weather and area waterways in the coming days, to be prepared “for historic levels of flooding, even if it has not hit their community yet.”

Meanwhile, in Winslow, the fire chief made rounds to residents to inform that they may want to consider evacuation, though there was no mandatory evacuation, Smith said.

Wahoo Neumann Schools dismissed students at 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday “due to the immediate danger of water running over our highways.”

Scribner-Snyder Community Schools closed school at 10:15 a.m. Wednesday, as the city reported on its Facebook page that flood gates would be going up.

North Bend Central Public Schools also announced that it had closed on Wednesday. In the morning, the North Bend City Council ordered a sand truck and sandbags as a preventative measure for businesses and buildings in the area.

According to Council Member Ken Streff, as of 11:30 a.m., dozens of volunteers, consisting of community members, school staff members and students, had put together about 2,800 sandbags. He emphasized that it was a precaution.

“Nothing is flooding in terms of homes or businesses due to the river or rain situation yet,” Streff said. “We’ve heard, obviously there’s flooding around us in some ditches, and obviously the river is close and the Shell Creek in Schuyler is fairly close.”

North Bend Central Superintendent Dan Endorf said he decided to close schools at 4:30 a.m. Wednesday morning because of “significant flooding in and around North Bend” and dense fog.

Endorf praised volunteers and city leadership for their work. By the afternoon, Endorf said as many as 100 people had shown up to volunteer. He said that the district asked that any of its staff that was able to come to the building come out and help with the sandbagging efforts. School cooks provided a meal for all the volunteers and helpers. Custodians had been working since before dawn.

“Last week, our community rallied around our boys basketball team, and today our communities rallying around each other,” Endorf said. “There were people coming from every walk of life that came to our boys’ basketball tournament. This week, again, those same people are coming out of the woodwork and everybody’s pitching in the best they can to get us prepared for the potential of pretty significant flooding.”

Volunteers were working indoors at Frontier Cooperative.

Via Facebook, the Dodge County Sheriff urged drivers to be smart about going down roads with water.

“Remember, if water goes over roadways, Turn around!” a post read. “Be sure to also respect individuals that may have roadways shut down. It is for your safety.”

The most recent observed values show Pebble Creek near Scribner approaching major flood stage. At 2:45 Wednesday afternoon the creek was at 23.3 feet according to the National Weather Service, well over its flood stage of 18 feet. The record of 24.48 feet was set on August 5, 1996. There was no flood stage forecast provided by the NWS.

Maple Creek by Nickerson was observed at 14.24 feet at 3:16 Wednesday afternoon, up from 5.68 feet observed just after 7 a.m. Flood stage is 11.5 feet and moderate flood stage is 13 feet. The creek is forecast to crest at 15.1 feet at 1 a.m. Thursday morning.

Logan Creek at Uehling was observed at 19.55 feet at 3:15 Wednesday afternoon. The creek is forecast to reach 20.2 feet by 7 a.m. Thursday morning. Flood stage for the creek is 18 feet.

The Elkhorn River near Winslow was observed at just above flood stage at 17.18 feet at 2:45 Wednesday afternoon. It is forecast to reach 22.2 by 7 a.m. Thursday morning. The record is 20.4 feet and was set on June 5, 2010. At West Point, the Elkhorn River was at 13.79 feet at 3:31 p.m. and is forecast to reach 14.8 feet by 7 a.m. Thursday morning. Flood stage there is 12 feet.

The Platte River at North Bend was observed at 8.73 feet at 3:15 Wednesday afternoon and is forecast to reach 9.7 feet by 1 a.m. Friday morning. Downriver at Leshara, the Platte was observed to be at 7 feet at 3:15 p.m. and is forecast to reach 10.1 feet by 7 a.m. Friday morning. Flood stage at both locations is 8 feet.

Wahoo Creek near Ithica was observed at 20.39 feet at 3:15 p.m. Wednesday afternoon, just over a foot above flood stage. It is forecast to reach 22 feet by 7 Thursday morning. The record of 23.22 feet was set on August 2, 1959.


Local
spotlightalerttop story
Pathfinder Chorus announces spring shows

Steve Slykhuis hopes area residents will come to hear the world premiere of a song.

A special arrangement of that song will be part of the Pathfinder Chorus’ latest show, “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Station.”

Show times are 7:30 p.m. March 22 and 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. March 23 in the Nell McPherson Theatre at Fremont High School. Cost is $15 per ticket. The tickets may be ordered online at pathfinderchorus.org or by calling Ken at 402-677-3426 or at the door.

Those who attend will hear and see a performance by a men’s a capella singing group that is an eight-time finalist in the Barbershop Harmony Society’s International Contest.

This year, the show also will feature the Main Street quartet — the 2017 international champions. In addition, a pop medley the quartet sang four years ago has more than 4 million views on YouTube.

The guest quartet consists of members Mike McGee, Myron Whittlesey, Tony De Rosa and Roger Ross — all of whom have been or currently are performers at Disney World with the Dapper Dans of Main St. USA. Outside of barbershop singing, they have performed in film, television, radio and musical theater.

“They are great singers and very funny,” said Slykhuis, Pathfinder president and master of ceremonies.

During the local shows, the Pathfinder Chorus will sing familiar songs such as “Africa” by the band Toto and “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” from The Lion King movie.

The chorus, which again has qualified for international competition, will debut its contest set at this month’s performances. The set consists of two numbers by songwriter Stephen Foster (1826-1864), known as the father of American music.

These songs are “Hard Times Come Again No More” and also “Gentle Annie” — an arrangement of which was made exclusively for the chorus by former Pathfinder member Adam Reimnitz.

“It’s literally a world premiere of that particular arrangement of music,” Slykhuis said.

Approximately 65 singers from high school age to men in their 80s will sing during the show.

Pathfinder shows feature a theme and this year is no different.

The premise of the group’s spring show involves radio station personnel who have enlisted a focus group to compare music throughout the years. Their objective is to determine what style of music the station should play now.

Thus, the chorus will sing songs from the 1940s to today.

The spring show is the chorus’ main fundraiser of the year. Proceeds help pay for music, coaching, tuxedos and rehearsal space rental.

“People don’t realize every sheet of music we have for all our members — we have to pay royalties on,” Slykhuis said. “Every time we download a learning track or a piece of music, we pay the creator a royalty — so that can be a significant expense.”

Slykhuis said this year’s Barbershop Harmony Society’s International Chorus Competition will be in Salt Lake City during the July Fourth weekend.

“We all pay our own way to that, but this (show proceeds) helps pay for the music and the coaching that gets us there,” Slykhuis said.

Members look forward to the events and Slykhuis noted that some high school-age singers have joined the chorus.

“We’ve added seven young men under (age) 25 to the chorus in the last four months, including three high schoolers,” Slykhuis said. “It’s very exciting.”

Slykhuis said younger men can benefit from being in the group.

“Young men get to see male role models from all professions and ages who continue to love to sing and that helps show them the value of singing throughout life and the joy it brings,” he said.

Slykhuis encourages the public to attend the show.

“They should come to this concert to have fun,” Slykhuis said. “You’re going to hear great music, laugh at some stupendously bad jokes and see a world class quartet.”


Local
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City Council
Fremont City Council OK’s Luther Road design plan

The Fremont City Council approved a resolution regarding the design of the extension of Luther Road to the south of Morningside Road following an hour’s long discussion on Tuesday night.

Council members unanimously voted to proceed with a design plan prepared by Director of Public Works and City Engineer Dave Goedeken for an extension of Luther Road south from Morningside Road that has an estimated construction cost of $1.05—$1.3 million.

The council approved design was passed by a 7-0 vote and proposes a 38-foot wide roadway from Morningside Road to the south end of Deerfield, centered in the right-of-way with a buried stormwater pipe system.

The plan was one-of-three options brought forward by Goedeken after concerns were raised by residents of Deerfield Subdivision—which abuts the yet-to-be construction extension of Luther Road—at a previous council meeting.

On Jan. 29, Councilmember Brad Yerger brought forward a resolution regarding an initial proposed design for the Luther Road extension that proposed a 24-foot wide roadway, offset to the west of the right-of-way centerline, with an open drainage ditch on the east side of the roadway.

The resolution, which was not passed, instructed Goedeken to develop a design plan that would not offset Luther Road to the west of the right-of-way centerline and also called for the elimination of any plans to create an intersection between Deerfield Avenue and Luther Road south of Morningside Road.

Deerfield Avenue runs parallel to and is located to the south of Morningside Road within the Deerfield Subdivision, and dead ends near the current three-way junction of Luther and Morningside.

Yerger said he brought forward the initial resolution on Jan. 29 due to multiple complaints raised by his constituents who live within Deerfield Subdivision.

“The reason for including this tonight was I received several letters, calls and comments from constituents in my ward seeking explanations about this road project and seeking an opportunity to speak out in opposition of the proposed Luther Road extension location and the opening of intersections into Deerfield,” Yerger said at the council meeting on Jan. 29.

At the meeting on Jan. 29 the council instead voted to continue the matter until the March 12 meeting and instructed Goedeken to provide additional design options for the Luther Road extension project.

Goedeken presented three potential design options at the meeting on Tuesday.

The first option followed the original design as presented on Jan. 29 which included the eight-foot offset of Luther Road to the west, and proposed building a 38-foot wide road from Morningside Road to Samuel before narrowing to 28-foot wide to the south end of Deerfield Subdivision. It also included an open drainage ditch system and had an estimated cost of $750,000 to $1 million.

The second proposed option would keep the Luther Road extension centered in the right-of-way for the entire length of the roadway and would require a stormwater pipe system to be installed through the entire length of roadway. It also called for a 38-foot wide road from Morningside to Samuel, before narrowing to 28-feet from Samuel to the end of Deerfield. The cost for the second option proposed by Goedeken was estimated at $950,000 to $1 million.

On Tuesday, the council settled on the third option presented by Goedeken which proposes a 38-foot roadway throughout the extension project, keeps the roadway centered in the right-of-way throughout, and requires a buried stormwater pipe system. The estimated cost of the approved option was the most expensive of the three, coming in at approximately $1.05 to $1.3 million.

The concerns raised by residents of Deerfield mostly focused on wanting to keep the roadway centered in the right-of-way, not installing an open drainage ditch system, and not wanting to connect Deerfield Avenue to Luther Road as part of the extension project.

After all was said and done on Tuesday, the resolution passed 7-0 by the council and addressed two-out-of-three of those concerns as the proposed road will be centered in the right-of-way and will feature a buried drainage pipe system.

While the resolution does call for Deerfield Avenue to be opened and connected with Luther Road, council members and Goedeken will try to address possible compromises at a future date including potentially adding speed bumps to Deerfield to cut down on cut-through traffic between Deerfield Subdivision and the yet-to-be built Morningside Pointe Subdivision.

The resolution passed by council also did not allocate funding for the project, but rather instructs the City to pursue that specific design plan when going out for bids on the project this spring.


Govt-and-politics
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County Board
CASA to hold fundraisers in courthouse

CASA of the Midlands, an organization that provides Court Appointed Special Advocates to child victims of neglect or abuse who may be wrapped in court, will host several fundraisers at the Dodge County Courthouse throughout the year.

The Dodge County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the fundraisers during its meeting Wednesday morning. The fundraisers include bake sales on March 27 and Nov. 13, and root beer floats sold on June 12 and Aug. 14.

CASA of the Midlands is a relatively new organization — the CASA program was originally run by the County Attorney’s office, but it branched off into its own non-profit, with plans to expand into Washington and Saunders Counties. And while it operates as its own entity, it has an office on the fourth floor of the Dodge County Courthouse.

The fundraisers will likely take place right by the entrance of the courthouse, just before the security clearance. They’re necessary to help the group maintain funding now that it’s not a county-run entity.

“The funds that we’re using are all grant dollars, there aren’t any county dollars,” said President Meggie Studt at Wednesday’s meeting. “So we need these fundraising opportunities to earn money so we can support [Executive Director Happy Aldana’s] position, also the volunteers.”

CASAs are volunteer workers who help advocate for a child during court hearings to ensure that their needs are met. And while the work is provided by volunteers, it costs $28 per CASA volunteer to be entered into the organization’s database, which documents their work, Aldana told the board. Other expenditures come from office supplies and court reports.

Casa of the Midlands will also soon be featured on the official Dodge County website, as part of a separate decision made by the board on Wednesday.

The board voted to give the County Clerk’s office discretion to include links to non-county offices on the county government website.

The decision was spurred on by requests from two area organizations to be included on the website: CASA of the Midlands and the Nebraska Extension Office.

“The whole point of that website is it’s a public service to give out information,” said County Clerk Fred Mytty. “I think you can expand it any way you want.”

The board also briefly discussed whether organizations would have to come before the board if they want to be added to the website, or if Mytty could have “carte blanche to load links as requested,” as chairman Bob Missel said.

They ultimately agreed that there would be nothing wrong with giving Mytty discretion in deciding whether to include links as requested.