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Govt-and-politics
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Several road projects slated for this year

Military Avenue, between Bell and Clarmar. Johnson Road, between Jack Sutton Drive and Morningside Road. Garfield Street, from 16th to 19th.

These corridors are among those that the city hopes to rehabilitate, resurface or reconstruct over the course of the next year.

Every year, the city must prepare an annual roadway report, which includes a one and six-year plan—a wishlist, outlining the projects that the city hopes to do in both the upcoming year and in the five years following it.

The current one-year plan features 16 different projects across the city, with estimated costs totaling more than $8 million. In addition to those listed above, other highlights include the Johnson Road Hiking Trail, which would tie into the proposed Rawhide Creek bike and pedestrian trail. Some projects are underway, including the ongoing sidewalk work and work to replace the asphalt and put in new sidewalks on Park Avenue, between 2nd and Military Avenue, which recently forced the Dodge County courthouse to close one of its entrances.

A project’s placement on the one-year plan does not mean it will necessarily get done; a confluence of possible factors might lead to projects being pushed down the line, and the plan is more of a wishlist, Public Works Director Dave Goedeken said.

In last year’s one-year plan, for instance, there were 15 projects on the list. Six were completed. Three others were started and were still under construction and are listed on this year’s one-year plan, including the Park Avenue project. Another six were delayed completely and are also part of this year’s one-year plan.

Those six delayed projects include a project on 16th street from Nye Avenue to Colson Avenue, near the St. Timothy Lutheran Church, as well as Bell Street Viaduct from Cuming Street to South Base.

“You never really get through all of your projects, but you try to put in there the projects that you hope to get done that year,” said Goedeken.

There are a handful of projects on the one-year plan that the city is certain will be done this year. Those include two pedestrian traffic signals along Broad Street, one near the City Auditorium and the other near 16th Street, and the ongoing Park Avenue work.

Additionally, the city just received bids on a project for the intersection of Morningside Road and Luther Road, which should be up for approval at the next City Council meeting. That project was also part of last year’s one-year plan and was delayed until this year.

“We’re making the intersection a little bigger for wider turns so that semi trucks that are coming through there going to the power plant or going to that new industrial area that we have down there, or going to the water plant, can get around the corner a little easier,” Goedeken said. “Plus, the intersection is just bad, it’s just starting to break up, so we’re completely tearing that out and putting it up new.”

And the project on Military Avenue, which Goedeken says has been a frequent source of complaints, is “ready to go out for bids soon,” Goedekin said.

“That’s a concrete street with asphalt overlay and we’re just milling the asphalt off and putting new asphalt down,” he added.

There’s also $220,000 in the budget each year for concrete rehab work around the city, Goedeken said.

Projects may get delayed or carry into the following year for a variety of reasons, Goedeken said, such as timing with the weather, going through permit processes or getting approval from the state or federal highway departments.

Pricing can also play a role. That’s happened with one project on this year’s one-year plan, which will now be put off until next year. That project, on Mayfair Avenue, from 16th street to 19th street, was put out to bid recently, but when the sole bid came back higher than estimated, the city decided to hold off and bid it out again this fall.

“Hopefully we’ll get better prices for next year,” Goedeken said. “It’s a gamble.”

Higher bids are becoming increasingly common in the area—in both private and public projects—as contractors get wrapped up in a recent glut of regional work, city officials and contractors say.

“You’ve got the [Costco and Lincoln Premium Poultry Plant] going on, we’ve got the Gallery 23 project going on and then whatever the state has going on in the area, and the county also, so the contractors are bidding higher because they’re all busy,” Goedeken said. “They’re trying to space projects out, they’re trying to find laborers, they can only extend themselves so far.”

Street maintenance from the Street Department is funded by state gas tax dollars that the city receives, according to Fremont’s Finance Director Jody Sanders. Fremont must match those gas tax dollars by 25 percent with local money, and chooses to do so through a sales tax that goes toward street improvements.

When it comes to budgeting for the projects on the one and six year plan, Sanders says that the finance department tells Goedeken to figure out “in a perfect world, when we get nothing but great weather all summer long, what projects could we conceivably get done,” Sanders said.

“So we budget for all of that, knowing full well that we’re probably not going to be able to get all of those things done,” she said.

Additionally, because Fremont does a two-year budget, the city is able to ensure projects remain included in the budget if they get delayed.

“It’s not possible, with contractors and weather and those kinds of things, it’s never possible to get all of those things done, and so there’s going to be carry over,” she said.

Sanders added that the biggest impediment to road projects is time—not funding.

“It’s not necessarily that our funding mechanisms for streets are tapped out,” she said. “It’s more, how much can possibly get done in one year.”

On the longer-term six-year plan, there are 37 total projects listed, including all of those from the one-year plan. The biggest in terms of estimated cost is the U.S. 77/U.S. Southeast Beltway Project, which would connect U.S. Highway 30, U.S. Highway 77 and U.S. Highway 275, and was envisioned to help Fremont accommodate expected growth from the incoming Costco project.

That project is being done by the state, but the city is sharing the cost. The city of Fremont will not pay more than $20 million for the project, which is estimated to cost $40 million, the Fremont Tribune has previously reported.

The city plans on issuing revenue bonds in 2019 or 2020 to pay for that project, Sanders said. Those bonds would not require a tax raise—they would be paid back by the city over time.

“The gas tax dollars that would be coming in, we’re pledging part of those,” she said.

Other six-year plan projects include a resurfacing of part of U.S. 77 between Inglewood and Fremont, a project on Pierce Street, between Military and Linden, and another on Luther Road, between Military to 23rd Street.

Looking into the future, Goedeken said the city might need to look at more projects around Cloverly Road, especially with the Costco plant coming into that area.

“It’s already busy,” Goedeken said. “You have the semis coming down there hauling grain, plus their going down to Fremont Beef and Hormel and all the other businesses down there, so it’s taking a little more traffic, so that’s somewhere out there in the future where we’re going to have to do some form of improvement on that road.”


Local
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Band members recall the Purple Onion

Back in the mid-1960s, the Purple Onion was the place to go.

At least in Oakland.

It wasn’t a bar or night club. It was actually a building on the Burt County fairgrounds.

But on Tuesday nights in the summer, it was gathering place for hundreds of area teens who came to hear homegrown bands like The Touracos, The Lip and The Fenmen.

Dancing to popular songs from The Beatles, The Temptations and The Young Rascals, teens who came to the Purple Onion did more than have fun with their pals.

They made long-lasting memories and friends.

Decades later, some of the musicians who performed in the Purple Onion will return to play when the town celebrates its 150th anniversary.

Set from May 25-28, the celebration will include a host of activities — including concerts, a parade and fireworks — to commemorate the founding of this small community in 1868.

On May 25, The Lip will return to play music from 8 p.m. to midnight in the beer garden at the Oakland-Craig football field in the park. The public is invited. Admission is free.

Those who attend can hear familiar tunes and learn more about the Purple Onion and the bands that played there.

The popular hangout got its start after Barry Johnson and his brother, Galen, Clay Friis, all of Oakland, and Joe Liang formed a rock ’n’ roll band in the early 1960s. Barry Johnson, along with Friis and Liang, were students at Wayne State College.

“We started a band and my dad, Dwain Johnson, booked our band around the area,” Barry Johnson said. “We started playing rock ’n’ roll, Beatles songs, the British stuff that was going on at that time.”

Johnson recalls the Beatles craze.

“I remember exactly where I was when The Beatles were on the Ed Sullivan (TV) Show,” Johnson said. “I was picking up a date at Pile Hall at Wayne State College and I just sat there with my mouth open and looking at these guys and listening to them.”

Band members would play Beatles music with Barry on drums, Galen, bass, Friis, lead guitar, organ and piano, and Liang, lead vocals.

Liang was the son of a Presbyterian minister from Bancroft whose family came from China.

“He didn’t even know a cuss word when he joined our band,” Johnson said of Joe, adding, “He was a girl-magnet and the little groupies just gathered around him like crazy.”

The band got its name, “The Touracos, from a South American bird. Band members also obtained defective, talking parrot toys, which they mounted on their equipment and gave away to fans.

Band members were practicing in the Johnson home when neighbors started complaining about the noise.

So after obtaining permission, the band started practicing in a building on the Burt County Fairgrounds.

“Kids would come by and listen and pretty soon, they started dancing,” Johnson said. “My dad said, ‘If they’re going to dance, we’re going to charge them.’”

So the band made a deal with the fair board and with help from their fraternity brothers painted a larger building as a rent payment.

By then, the band was playing at area high school proms and other dances. They’d make deals with prom organizers. Band members would take down the decorations if they could have them.

They ended up with lots of crepe paper and other items which they used to decorate the inside of the fairgrounds building. Friis also said he had a napkin from a California bar called “The Purple Onion.”

Band members adopted that name for the building and even made a sign for it. Friis said the band opted to play on Tuesdays since other towns had public or teen dances on Saturday nights.

“We started playing and we booked in other bands on Tuesday nights from about 8 o’clock until midnight,” Johnson said. “We brought in some of the bigger bands.”

That included The Rumbles, one of the most popular rock ’n’ roll bands of the Midwest.

In the meantime, The Touracos had inspired other young musicians.

Tim Anderson of Lincoln said two things defined his high school years in Oakland — being in a band called The Fenmen and working at the town’s newspaper.

Anderson, whose mom was a church organist, remembers when The Touracos began making music.

“It started this frenzy in Oakland of every guy wanting to be in a band,” Anderson said.

A band called, The Others, formed. The Fenmen, who were younger than the Touracos, consisted of Anderson on keyboards; Bryce Darling on drums; Kent Richards, lead singer and rhythm guitar player; Bill Elmquist, lead guitar player; and Randy Johnson, bass.

The Touracos, The Others and The Fenmen played at homecoming and street dances and proms.

“There were lots and lots of dances,” Anderson said. “It’s about the only thing you did in northeast Nebraska for fun.”

Anderson remembers when The Touracos opened the Purple Onion and built a stage inside.

“The Touracos’ girlfriends ran a concession stand,” Anderson said.

He remembers what fun the teens had.

“It was blast,” he said. “They’d sell the place out every Tuesday night. It was probably about dollar to get in and we just had a great time — and being on the fairgrounds, the sound of the music didn’t bother anybody.”

Anderson said the band members’ parents even stopped by to hear The Fenmen play.

“And they’d travel with us,” Anderson said. “We started playing when we were 15 so we couldn’t even drive. So my dad bought us a van. Usually one of the dads would drive it or, occasionally, my dad would hire an upperclassmen to drive. My mom would bring a station wagon full of all of our girlfriends.”

Reynold Peterson, a member of The Lip (which began as The Dead Lip), recalls how he and a friend cleaned the Purple Onion building for spare change on Wednesday mornings and dreamed about playing there.

They would get their chance.

Band members included: Peterson, drums and singer; Noel Rennerfeldt, keyboards and bass; Barry Erickson, guitar; Dan Worth, keyboards; Tim Jensen, bass; Sid Lindstrom, rhythm guitar. Jensen and Lindstrom have since died. Laurie Richards is a new member.

Peterson has many good memories.

“It was just a hoot,” Peterson said. “There wasn’t anything else to do in the summer. There was the pool … You could get a job working on a farm or go swimming or go golfing. This was one of the options and this was more fun. We got paid for having fun and it was great.”

Anderson also recalled, however, all the work that went into learning the music and lyrics in those days.

“Now with the Internet, any song you want learn you can look up and find the lyrics and the chords and you can probably find a YouTube video of how to do every part it,” Anderson said. “Back in those days, none of that existed so you would just sit and listen to a record over and over again, writing down the lyrics, figuring out what chords they were playing and then you would try to make it sound as much like the record as you could.”

After a few years, music tastes were changing and as the students got older their band days came to an end.

Anderson would become a journalist after getting his start at the Oakland Independent, where he went from emptying trash and melting lead to taking sports photos and writing stories.

He worked for several newspapers, the last nine years of which he was at the New York Times. There, he was in charge of the news design department. People who worked for him, laid out pages of the paper.

In 2005, Anderson moved to Lincoln and taught journalism for 11 years at the University of Nebraska Lincoln.

Barry Johnson worked in the Gambles store in Oakland with his parents, then later became a schoolteacher. Johnson said his brother is a retired school administrator and retired army lieutenant colonel, Liang is a retired pharmaceutical salesman and Friis lives on area acreage and has livestock.

In 1995, area bands gathered for a Purple Onion reunion in Oakland, which Friis said was well-attended.

Former band members and fans look forward to the event later this month.

“All of our high school friends, who are now in their 60s will show up, and for three hours feel like teenagers again,” Anderson said. “They won’t look like teenagers, but they’ll act like teenagers.”

And members of The Lip are getting ready to take the stage.

We’re practicing now,” Peterson said. “We’ve got to make sure we learn the songs that we’re supposed to know. It will be a hoot.”


Brent Wasenius / Evan Nordstrom 

Nicole O’Haver of Midland University lays down a bunt during the opening round of the  Great Plains Athletic Conference Softball Tournament at Christensen Field. The Lady Warriors suffered a 6-1 loss to Mount Marty. 


Education
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UNL Entomologist to give presentation on pollinators at Keene

Wu-Smart 

If you are a home gardener, farmer, or someone who just loves food and flowers, the importance of animal pollinators can’t be understated.

According to information released by the United States Department of Agriculture, three-fourths of the world’s flowering plants and about 35 percent of the world’s food crops depend on animal pollinators to reproduce.

So whether you are growing food to feed the world, or flowers for your own enjoyment, chances are bees, butterflies, moths, birds, bats, beetles and other insects play a role in making that happen.

Next week the Nebraska Conservation Education Fund (NCEF) will be hosting an event that will give local residents a look into just how important pollinators are to the ecosystem, as well as ways to foster their success at Keene Memorial Library.

“With farmers back in the fields and people planting backyard gardens again, we thought it would be a great time to remind people why Nebraska needs pollinators and what to do to reinstate their habitats,” Jamison Willis of NCEF said.

NCEF will be hosting a Promoting Pollinators event at Keene Memorial Library, 1030 N Broad St, on May 10 from 5-7 p.m.

The program will feature presentations by the UNL Department of Entomology including Dr. Judy Wu-Smart and Ph.D. Student of Entomology Surabhi Vakil.

Both of them are experts in their field, as far as insecticides as well as pollinator habitats,” Willis said. “Recently they (UNL) have been trying to push more community outreach with Master Gardeners as well as with the Extension offices.”

Dr. Wu-Smart has been an Assistant Professor and Extension Specialist for the UNL Bee Lab since 2015.

“I’m developing a pollinator health program to help understand the underlying pest and pathogen stressors in bee health and their interactions with environmental factors such as pesticides and lack of forage,” she said in a released statement by UNL.

The event is free and open to the public, and according to Willis will be geared toward young adults and older including gardeners and farmers.

“This is aimed at basically anybody that wants to learn more about bee habitats,” he said. “This will be a great program for people who want to learn more about developing a healthy garden, as well as to learn more about what pollinators do for agriculture in and around the Fremont area.”