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Dodge County board approves purchasing of cameras to monitor Platte River

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Highway 15 flooding

Water covers the road on Nebraska Highway 15 south of Schuyler caused by an ice jam on the Platte River in February.

The Dodge County Board of Supervisors approved an agreement with the City of Fremont and other entities to purchase monitoring cameras along the Platte River at its meeting Wednesday.

The agreement, which had its signatures unanimously approved, is also includes the Lower Platte North Natural Resources District and Papio-Missouri River Natural Resources District.

"Everybody felt that in the end, this was the right choice and had the most effective long-term benefits, and I think it's worthy of us entering into this agreement," Chairman Bob Missel said.

Missel said the agreement's origins went back to shortly after the state's flooding in March 2019 when discussions started on better monitoring of the Platte River.

"It kicked off a series of meetings initially with the Lower Platte NRD, Dodge County and the City of Fremont to look at what a camera system would cost and ultimately get some equipment out there, get this project going," he said.

After the first few meetings, Missel said the PMRNRD soon became involved in the process, as the organization is based downriver.

"They had an interest almost greater than us in some ways," he said. "If you think about what's happening for example at the Highway 77 bridge on the Platte, that impacts what's going on there."

Initially, Missel said it was decided that the project would not go through the United States Geological Survey as originally intended. 

"After further meetings and getting involved with the Papio-Missouri NRD, the group felt that going through the USGS was a better plan," he said. "And it has to do with information being made available through their systems, so it's easier to share it."

Missel said the project would require funding for up to five cameras, two stream gauges and supporting equipment to be placed at the Platte River and U.S. Highway 77 areas, as well as by North Bend.

The total cost of the project is $38,880, with a majority coming from the PMRNRD at $18,630. Dodge County, Fremont and the LPNNRD will pay $6,750 each.

The agreement was recently approved by the LPNNRD and will go to the Fremont City Council next, Missel said.

As the greatest risk of flooding in Dodge County is an ice jam, which occurred on the Platte River the last two years, Missel said he believes the project will benefit everyone involved.

"As you all know the devastation that can cause, having better information in place puts us in a better situation to react to those events as they play out," he said.

The board also discussed a flood plain compliance plan for Dodge County and the City of Scribner.

Missel said Deputy County Attorney Sara Sopinski had been working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency on the plan, as well as Zoning Administrator Jean Andrews and Scribner City Administrator Elmer Armstrong.

"We got a notification that said if we didn't get in compliance that they would take away our federal flood insurance standing for the county," Missel said. "So obviously that caused us to address this issue."

Missel said the plan of action includes considering the development of a full-time zoning administrator position for Dodge County. He said he would meet with Andrews and refer the plan to the finance committee for consideration.

The board also discussed a jail standards inspection report from the Nebraska Commission on Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Jail Standards Division.

Missel said the document had a noncompliance issue, which reported that computerized admissions and release data was being entered, but not summited by the software vendor according to specifications.

Missel asked Supervisor Greg Beam to discuss the issue with Dodge County Sheriff Steve Hespen to see if it was being addressed. Dodge County Attorney Paul Vaughan also asked Beam to ask which jail was having the issue, as the county uses the Saunders County Jail to house a majority of its inmates.

County Clerk Fred Mytty also told the board that the redistricting committee met last week, but needed to wait until the state finalized its own redistricting.

As the county has until Oct. 20 to finalize redistricting, Mytty said he would hopefully have a resolution for the board at its next meeting on Oct. 13.

The board also approved a certificate of cost allocation plan from WJE Consulting, which will reimburse the county with $22,844.

Mytty said the more percentage of welfare costs go toward child support enforcement, the more money the county receives back from the federal government.

The board also approved $320,065.33 in financial claims, including $172,775.20 to the Saunders County Department of Corrections for boarding and transporting inmates.

In other news, the board approved declaring Nov. 3 as County Government Day, allowing County Treasurer Gail Bargstadt to place tax sale certificates on delinquent taxes and certifying that Highway Superintendent Scott Huppert had completed the roads budget.

Ice jams can cause flooding concerns as snow and ice start to melt.

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