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Pop-up park nearly ready for visitors

Jeremy Siffring’s hands have been in countless projects during his time spent as landscaping manager for Siffring Landscaping & Garden Center, LLC.

But he’s never been part of a project that requires turning a vacant parking lot into a community Pop-up Park and greenspace.

“This is a unique project for us working on top of a parking lot,” Siffring said during a Tuesday interview with the Tribune. “This is the first one that we’ve done and it’s the first one completed in the state that we know of.”

The project, being completed in the lot south of the May Brothers building at the corner of Fifth Street and Park Avenue, will give people in the Fremont community a nice area to hangout, have lunch, read a good book or complete numerous other activities.

The project is the brainchild Glen and Nancy Ellis, owners of the May Brothers building, and is being funded through numerous grants, which cover approximately $12,000 of the total $18,000 expense.

On Tuesday afternoon, a team of five Siffring Landscaping and Garden Center employees spent their day moving dirt, stringing lights in trees, spreading mulch and preparing for sod to be placed around the lot.

Siffring said that he and his team worked on the lot Thursday and Friday of last week, took the three day Labor Day weekend and went back to work Tuesday.

“We should be all done today (Tuesday) except for the sod, and the sod is going to be here tomorrow morning (Wednesday),” he said. “And then we will wrap it up tomorrow afternoon … By the time we do some cleaning and final touches it should be ready by Thursday.”

The concept for the park was created by Siffring Landscaping & Garden Center. A large amount of dirt was placed in the majority of the lot to sustain plant life. A variety of trees, shrubs, rocks and flowers have turned the recently-vacant lot into its own park. A large area for sitting and completion of activities is present in the center area of the greenspace.

Shannon Mullen, executive director of MainStreet of Fremont, said that the Pop-up Park was originally scheduled to be open Sept. 1-21, however, Labor Day weekend slowed down progress. The plan, she said, will be to go before Fremont City Council to see if the park can remain open a few days longer than originally planned.

Several activities are scheduled to happen in the Pop-up Park, including: a 9 a.m. Friday Fremont Area Chamber of Commerce Coffee, along with Saturday’s Artisan Market and Husker Tailgate party. Other entertainment opportunities will be available throughout the month, Mullen said.

In addition to grant funding, area residents played a role in funding the pilot-project by purchasing different trees and shrubs from the park that will be transported to their homes by Siffring when the park is torn down at the end of September.

Mullen is excited to receive feedback about the pop-up park, this will play a role in deciding whether to make the Pop-up Park a permanent fixture of the Historic Downtown Fremont area.

“I just want it to be utilized, we really want people to come and take advantage of it,” she said. “The more people that come out just to give us feedback – good, bad or indifferent – will be a positive. It will let us know if a permanent downtown project – whether at this downtown location or another – will be warranted.”

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Nebraska leaders respond to Trump's DACA action; issue now in hands of Congress

Nebraska’s governor, attorney general and other state Republicans stood firmly in favor Tuesday of President Donald Trump’s action to rescind the DACA program.

Meanwhile, state Democrats branded Trump’s decision a cruel act that threw thousands of families into disarray.

It was mostly Nebraska Democrats, with one exception in Republican Rep. Don Bacon, who said they would continue to support young immigrants, called Dreamers, who have enrolled in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program since 2012.

In Nebraska, more than 3,300 young people were enrolled in the DACA program as of March. The Center for American Progress estimates 2,933 are workers, and that Nebraska could stand to lose $150.2 million annually by removing those workers.

Half again as many Nebraska immigrants are eligible for the program, either now, in the future or if they had the proper education, the center reported. The permits, which allow the young people to work and study without being deported, are renewable after two years. No more applications are being accepted.

Most Nebraska Republicans cited rule of law and separation of powers in their support of Trump’s action.

Gov. Pete Ricketts said Trump made the right decision in ending President Barack Obama’s “unconstitutional” DACA program.

“The president cannot unilaterally change the rules and grant amnesty to people who come to the United States outside the law,” Ricketts said.

Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson said U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ announcement that the DACA executive order will be rescinded immediately and the program phased out over the next six months is an important step in protecting the rule of law and the separation of powers set forth in the Constitution.

Peterson said his purpose for joining in a letter with other state attorneys general asking for DACA to be rescinded was to prevent any president from unilaterally using executive orders to create laws.

The duty to address immigration issues properly belongs to the legislative branch, he said, adding bipartisan bills currently before the House and Senate addressing the DACA issue are the proper forums for debate.

U.S. Sen. Deb Fischer said Obama’s unilateral action in 2012 went beyond his constitutional authority.

“Today, President Trump took steps to address this executive overreach by the previous administration,” she said. “Congress now has the opportunity to address the legal status of the DACA recipients as part of a broader discussion on border security and legal immigration reform.”

By mid-afternoon, Sen. Ben Sasse had not responded to a request for comment.

Bacon, who co-sponsored the federal Bridge Act, which extends protections for DACA recipients while Congress works toward an updated immigration policy, reassured DACA recipients he was committed to keeping those who are law-abiding in the country.

“I understand why many people are unsure of what the future holds for them and the fears they are feeling,” Bacon said. “This is the only home many of these children, students, friends, and neighbors have known.”

The Trump administration’s announcement recognizes that the Constitution gives lawmaking authority to Congress and laws cannot be changed by executive order, Bacon said.

Congress needs to work on a balanced and compassionate approach that ensures law-abiding DACA recipients are able to stay in the country, he said, but also addresses employer compliance with immigration laws, secures our border and improves our visa program.

“I am eager to work on a solution as soon as possible and I urge my colleagues in the House to make this a priority as well,” he said.

Rep. Adrian Smith, in saying Trump’s action was correct, offered no promises for DACA recipients.

“The DACA program violated the separation of powers established by our Constitution and should never have been created through executive action,” he said. “This and many other aspects of our broken immigration system, such as border security, have gone too long without being addressed.”

Congress and the President must come together to create strong, permanent immigration policies rooted in the rule of law, he said.

Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, too, said the issue is the responsibility of Congress, adding “necessary humanitarian exceptions must be nested in policies that further robust border security, interior enforcement against illegal activity, and foreign policy initiatives to mitigate the pressure for economic migration.”

In May, 24 Nebraska lawmakers approved a nonbinding resolution (LR26), introduced by Omaha Sen. Tony Vargas, opposing any federal action to rescind protections for DACA youths. Seventeen declined to vote, one senator opposed the resolution, and seven were excused and not voting.

In 2015, the Legislature passed a bill (LB623) and then voted 34-10 to override Ricketts’ veto of it, to allow young immigrants who grew up and were educated in Nebraska to obtain driver’s licenses. The next year, lawmakers passed a bill (LB947) that allowed DACA enrollees to obtain professional and commercial licenses.

Vargas said Tuesday the actions taken by the Trump administration to end the DACA program were shameful and shortsighted.

These DACA youth live, study, work and pay taxes in Nebraska.

“We can’t turn our backs on them,” said Vargas in a statement including three board members of Metro Community College and the Omaha Public Schools.

“We must stand by the educational, economic, and community investments we have made in these young people and their families. And we must acknowledge both the talent investment and the economic impact they have on our local economies.”

Omaha Sen. Sara Howard also urged Nebraska’s congressional delegation to do the right thing and pass legislation during the six-month delay.

“Our country’s greatest strength has been our openness to immigrants and the diversity they bring. I will continue to do all that I can to support these students and to fix our broken immigration system,” Howard said.

The Nebraska Republican Party said Obama, or any U.S. president, has no power to change the laws of the country unilaterally.

“To continue the deferred action program would have undermined our Constitution and the role of the Congress to implement laws. Congress now has the opportunity to properly address our broken immigration system, starting with securing our border,” the party said in a statement.

Several Nebraska Democratic leaders stood in support of the Dreamers.

Jane Kleeb, chairwoman of the Nebraska Democratic Party, said the president’s decision was reckless, wrong and cruel.

“America must continue to lead the way on welcoming immigrants to our great state and country. We believe in the hard work of immigrant families,” Kleeb said.

“Trump is a coward for not making the heartless announcement himself and taking questions on what the real motive is behind this reckless move.”

Marta Nieves, chairwoman of the Nebraska Democratic Party Latino Caucus, said Dreamers bring intelligence, compassion, diversity of thought and perspective, skills, talents and passion to life and to the nation.

“They have been contributing their creativity, and taxes, to the economy and their communities,” she said. “They inspire us to value the best in our nation.”

Danielle Conrad, executive director of ACLU of Nebraska, said hundreds of thousands of young immigrants came out of the shadows five years ago and accepted, in good faith, the government’s offer to live, study and work here if they passed a criminal background check.

“Today, the government and President Trump went back on their word, threw the lives and futures of 800,000 Dreamers and their families into disarray, and injected chaos and uncertainty into thousands of workplaces and communities across America,” Conrad said.

She urged the Nebraska congressional delegation to follow the lead of Congressman Bacon in standing with Dreamers, and said Attorney General Peterson and Gov. Ricketts should end their “misguided and hurtful attacks” on young immigrants.

MCC receives $25,000 grant from FACF

A substantial grant from the Fremont Area Community Foundation is lessening the financial burden placed upon students enrolled in this year’s inaugural Fremont Area Diesel Academy.

The $25,000 grant being awarded to the Metropolitan Community College Foundation will help fund tools needed to teach students enrolled in the Fremont Area Diesel Academy, a program open to Fremont area junior and senior-level high school students.

The Fremont Area Diesel Academy helps students earn both high school and college credit while gaining valuable industry skills. With the support of the Fremont Area Community Foundation, MCC will acquire tools to be used in the classroom at Fremont High School.

Todd Hansen, executive director of MCC’s Fremont Center, said during a Tuesday interview with the Tribune that four students are enrolled in the academy, which is being held twice-weekly in a second-floor training room at Butler Ag Equipment, 2831 N. County Rd. 20th Avenue in Fremont.

Three students are from Fremont High School and one student is enrolled at Douglas County West.

“The Fremont Area Diesel Academy advances our shared priorities to support activities which provide educational benefits in Fremont,” Hansen said through a released statement. “Our current high school career academies and advisory boards work closely with local employers and organizations to provide industry-relevant training programs.”

Melissa Diers, executive director of the Fremont Area Community Foundation, said through a released statement that this team effort of a project inevitably will benefit students.

“We are pleased to support this innovative educational opportunity for our area youth,” Diers said. “Preparing our young people for success in life and vocation, ideally right here at home, is vital for a successful community. We are happy to be a partner in the collaborative effort to bring this program to the Fremont area.”

The creation of the Fremont Area Diesel Academy stemmed from several conversations had between MCC, the Greater Fremont Development Council and a variety of business leaders who saw the overall lack of certified diesel techs in the area.

“The college, along with the Greater Fremont Development Council, met with business leaders in the community who talked about how there is a shortage of diesel technicians in the community; so the college thought it would be worthwhile to start an academy of high school students to help fill some of that void,” Hansen said.

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Omaha woman dies in single-vehicle accident south of Fremont

An Omaha woman died in a single-vehicle accident Saturday evening south of Fremont, the Dodge County Sheriff’s Office reported Tuesday morning.

Deputies from the DCSO were dispatched at 10:47 p.m. in regard to the accident occurring along U.S. Highway 275 in Dodge County.

The vehicle, driven by Alexandra P. Farley, 22, of Omaha was traveling southbound when it left the roadway and rolled.

According to the DCSO, Farley was ejected from the vehicle and pronounced dead at the scene.

Farley was not wearing a seat belt and its unknown at this time whether alcohol was involved.

The case remains under investigation by the DCSO and the Fremont Police Department.