You can tell they’re pretty proud.
Earlier this week, Lonny Niewohner and Elmer Armstrong stood inside Scribner’s new fire station. Firetrucks and rescue squads were parked in rows. Nearby, firefighters’ gear hung on red-painted racks topped with helmets ready for use.
Niewohner is chief of the Scribner Volunteer Fire Department and Armstrong is the city administrator.
Both speak with gratitude for a generous donor and cooperation between the city council and the Scribner Rural Fire Protection District.
And they speak with pride about the more than $1.3 million project which provides the department with new facilities and a central location for trucks and equipment.
The fire department took occupancy of the new fire station at Third and Baker streets in December. The old fire hall at Third and Howard streets is being used to store the city’s utility department equipment.
Built in the 1960s, the old, concrete block fire hall had served the department well, but became too small for the equipment, Niewohner said.
“We had equipment parked in several other buildings throughout the town,” Niewohner said, adding, “We were talking about some remodeling to try to make it larger.”
Then city officials learned Ken Furstenau, a 1945 Scribner High School graduate who died in 2014, had left $3 million to build a new city building on the town’s Main Street.
Funds were used to build the new Furstenau Municipal Building that houses city offices, library and a community center. That building was dedicated in 2017.
Niewohner said $900,000 of the leftover funds were put toward a new fire station.
The city council and the fire protection district manage the fire department through an inter-local agreement.
Armstrong said the district put a new roof on the old fire hall and paid off the city balance on a joint firetruck. It then purchased the land that the new fire station is on and donated an estimated $400,000, Niewohner said.
The new fire hall houses all the fire and rescue equipment, which includes two pumper and two tanker trucks, three rescue squads and three units for grass fire and a personnel vehicle. The new station enhances safety since all trucks and equipment are centrally located.
“There’s more room in the station between the units so you can safely enter and exit the units,” Niewohner added.
Armstrong noted that the new truck bay alone is almost 2 ½ times the size of the old one.
The new fire station is 165 feet by 90 feet. The new truck bay alone is 90 by 117 feet.
A smaller area in the fire station also houses an antique firetruck, which is on display.
More work is yet to be done, such as additional paving for parking, Armstrong said.
Niewohner said there have been many donors to the project throughout the community, including sweat equity and cash by firefighters.
The department has 36 volunteer fire personnel (including paramedics and EMTs), who serve an area that includes the city of Scribner and expands about 6 miles out in each direction — a 90-square-mile area. The department is involved in mutual aid with other communities as well.
“The best part about the new fire station is seeing the sweat equity—people who worked together,” Niewohner said. “There was a lot of stuff we had to do and raise money on our own for some small stuff, because the budget was pretty tight.
“It’s great to see everybody work together and with the new station, it really helps to build camaraderie in the department.”
Armstrong said the city is updating the inter-local agreement with the rural district to meet fire protection needs in the area.
“The rural fire protection district and the city council work very well together. They’re very good to work with,” Niewohner said.
Niewohner added that the Furstenau funds have been used to update equipment such as a cascade system that fills air-pack bottles for fire scenes, power washers to clean equipment and trucks, air compressors and other items.
“This guy was a godsend to the town,” Niewohner said.
After the completion and opening of the Dillon Family Aquatics Center early last year, the Fremont Family YMCA has now begun work to transform its old swimming pool areas into new facilities that should be open to members before the end of 2019.
Both the former lap pool and instructional pool have already been filled in with sand and gravel to make way for what will become a new 5,000-square-foot free weight training area, as well as a new approximately 5,000-square-foot multi-purpose area that will be covered in turf.
“It’s going to be turfed. We’re going to put padding on the walls and paint,” YMCA President and CEO Jerry Rinne told the Tribune.
Rinne added that the turf being used on the new multi-purpose area is being procured from the University of Nebraska’s outdoor practice field.
“We are getting the practice field turf from next to their indoor facility,” Rinne said. “It still has the lines on it, so it will look like a mini football field when it is complete.”
The old instructional pool has already been filled to the brim with sand and gravel, and the process to make that happen included some ingenuity by contractors, said Rinne.
“The deep end was 9-feet deep, so there is a lot of sand in there,” he said. “The reason they closed the street (Lincoln) down is they have a conveyor belt and they actually were able to take it through two windows so they didn’t have to wheel barrow all that sand in there.”
Rinne added that the new turfed multi-purpose area will be used for a variety of activities.
“We can do baseball, soccer, football, boot camp fitness classes, and then kids can also come play on it and enjoy it,” he said.
He also encouraged any local sports teams that might be interested in utilizing the facility to contact the YMCA about using the area when it is completed.
Along with the additional of the multi-purpose area, the Y’s former lap pool has also been filled in and will be transformed into a free weight and powerlifting facility which will expand the Hazel R. Keene Wellness Center from approximately 10,000 square feet to 15,000 square feet.
The repurposed space will also make way for an outdoor weightlifting area, which will be located just to the south of the old lap pool along Lincoln Avenue.
“We will have garage doors on Lincoln and we will actually build an outdoor weight room for people to enjoy,” Rinne said.
The garage doors leading outside will replace several large plate-glass windows in the former swimming area, and the new outdoor weight room will be fenced in.
According to Rinne, the project’s general contractor Fauss Construction estimates that most of the interior work on both projects will be completed by March and the entire project is estimated to be completed by this summer.
For more information, or to inquire about future use of either facility, contact the Fremont Family YMCA at 402-721-6952.
MainStreet of Fremont, the organization that aims to bolster downtown Fremont’s economic vitality and image, has a new executive director.
Cortney Schaefer is the executive director, effective Jan. 7, taking over the position from former director Shannon Mullen, who resigned to focus efforts within the Fremont & Dodge County Convention & Visitors Bureau, which shares office space with MainStreet at 529 Main St.
“I hope to carry on the magnificent role that Shannon has done for MainStreet of Fremont, and I hope to be able to widen our memberships as well,” Schaefer told the Tribune.
Much of her first year will be focused on learning the intricacies of the job and “continuing on everything that Shannon has done and the MainStreet board has done.” Then she hopes to bring different and new events for downtown Fremont as well.
One idea she has for a new event includes an “Art Walk,” which would allow artists to display their work, perform their music or otherwise showcase their talents outside on the sidewalks in the downtown area.
“We have a lot of local people that are very great artists and just don’t have the space, and being able to display that would be wonderful,” Schaefer said.
Schaefer is new to the Fremont area. Prior to coming here, Schaefer was an airport operations supervisor for the city of Wichita Falls in Texas. She managed the airport, which saw about 46,000 passengers per year.
Prior to that, Schaefer served six years in the United States Air Force as a medic.
A press release from MainStreet of Fremont praises her skills in “operations management, organizational strategy and marketing.”
Former director Mullen told the Tribune that it’s been an “absolute honor” serving as the director for MainStreet of Fremont and working with all the area businesses in the role.
“I’m looking forward to the many new challenges that we will be facing from our Convention & Visitor Bureau standpoint and developing the sports commission within Fremont, which is our big push for 2019,” Mullen said. “I’m hoping that I left the community in as good or in better shape as it was when I first took over.”
She added that she was excited for Schaefer, calling her a “true professional” who would do great things for Fremont.
Jill Gossett, MainStreet of Fremont board chairwoman, issued a statement praising Mullen’s five years of leadership.
“Working with Shannon, MainStreet has accomplished many goals and has set our organization up for success and a smooth transition to our new director, Cortney,” Gossett said. “MainStreet looks forward to continuing to work in collaboration with our various partners and all of our members as we embark on our 25th anniversary.”