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Nuckolls among counties to receive disaster declaration

Work scheduled to begin on Highway 4 east of Lawrence

Christmas lights to remain on courthouse trees

Superior native is volunteer of the year in Logan, Iowa


Nuckolls among counties to receive disaster declaration

Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts received notification Thursday from Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) officials that President Barack Obama approved a request for a presidential disaster declaration for parts of Nebraska impacted by severe storms, tornadoes, straight-line winds and flooding from May 6 to June 17.
The president, through FEMA, issued a public assistance declaration that provides assistance for emergency work and the repair or replacement of disaster-damaged facilities in the following counties: Cass, Dundy, Gage, Jefferson, Lancaster, Lincoln, Morrill, Nuckolls, Otoe, Saline, Saunders, and Thayer. The declaration allows federal emergency funding to be used in providing assistance to state and local governmental agencies and some nonprofit organizations. It also includes federal funding on a cost-sharing basis for hazard mitigation measures for all counties in the state.
"Nebraskans affected by this severe weather and flooding appreciate the approval of FEMA funding for these storms," said Gov. Ricketts. "Federal assistance will help the recovery process following storms that caused millions of dollars in damage in the state."
W. Craig Fugate, FEMA administrator, named Christian M. Van Alstyne as federal coordinating officer for federal recovery operations in the affected area.
FEMA officials said additional designations may be made at a later date if requested by the state and warranted by the results of further damage assessments.
"These 12 counties are just some of the counties affected by historic rain and flooding this year," said Bryan Tuma, assistant director of Nebraska Emergency Management Agency. "Other counties may be added after additional assessments can be completed."
NEMA's preliminary damage estimates to public infrastructure in the initial 12 counties exceeds $13.5 million, with the most severe impacts to roads and bridges.
Eligible costs include removal of storm debris, emergency protective measures and repair or replacement of disaster-damaged roads, bridges, public buildings, critical facilities, such as water, sewer and power systems, and other public facilities.
The next step in the process, according to Tuma, involves applicant briefings for the initial 12 counties which will provide information to applicants on how to submit information for projects. Those will be scheduled prior to July 20.
"We have been in contact with FEMA Region VII and developed a timetable for FEMA personnel to arrive in Nebraska and staff a joint field office with NEMA," Tuma said. "The severe weather throughout the entire region has complicated the process with regards to completing preliminary damage assessments (PDAs). There are a number of counties that sustained damage from May 6 to June 17 where PDAs have not yet been completed. We have instructed county officials to evaluate and document damages as best they can."
FEMA and NEMA staff will conduct preliminary damage assessments for possible inclusion in the declaration in at least 15 additional counties beginning July 20, Tuma said.

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Work scheduled to begin on Highway 4 east of Lawrence
Weather permitting, construction work is scheduled to begin this week on Highway 4, starting east of Lawrence at Reference Post 73+81, and ending at the junction of highways 4 and 14 at Reference Post 83+61, according to the Nebraska Department of Roads.
Werner Construction, Inc., of Hastings, has the $613,942 contract for the 10-mile asphalt overlay project. Traffic will be maintained during construction with flaggers and a pilot vehicle. There will be a 12-foot width restriction during construction. Work on the project is anticipated to be completed in July. The department of roads' project manager is Kevin Kohmetscher of Hastings. Motorists are reminded to drive safely through work zones.

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Christmas lights to remain on courthouse trees
The Nuckolls County Board and members of the county safety committee met with a representative of the Nelson Community Club to discuss the Christmas lights on the large evergreen trees on the courthouse lawn.
The board first expressed concern about safety and liability regarding the lights several years ago. Last year, when one of those trees fell over during a strong storm, the board had them inspected by a licensed forester, who apparently said they were all healthy. At least one board member at that time said he was in favor of removing them, because they had grown too large for their placement and posed a safety hazard if others should fall. When that news got out, there was enough public outcry to save the trees. However, concern about the safety of the trees transitioned into a concern about the safety of the lights on the trees.
When asked by the commissioners to weigh in, the county safety committee recommended having the lights removed from the trees, considering the cables that have to be strung on the ground when they're in use and the trouble with the lower strands getting in the way of the lawn mower. Two weeks ago, the board voted unanimously to follow the committee's recommendation and have them removed.
Russ Snyder represented the Nelson Community Club at the meeting; Don Williams, Royce Gonzales and Debbie Klein were there as members of the safety committee. Snyder said the lights were purchased for $1,800 by the club utilizing funds from the city's iron pile. They were put up using all volunteer labor. He also said nearly $100,000 in iron pile funds have been donated to various community projects throughout the years. Dan Corman is the only commissioner who was on the board when permission to put up the lights was granted.
"We get a lot of compliments about them during the holidays, and a lot of requests to keep them up and lit," Snyder said. "With a little common sense, they're not going to cause a problem for anyone."
The biggest problem is the trees are now too tall to remove and replace the lights every winter, and too tall to even maintain them without the use of a bucket truck, which must be parked on the highway to reach several of the trees. Snyder said if the lights come down, they won't go back up. The board agreed with that, at least. Volunteers have agreed to remove the lower strands ­­ which can be reached from the ground ­­ that might get in the way of the groundskeeper each spring before mowing begins, and replace them again in the fall.
Williams, who is chairman of the safety committee, held firm on the committee's recommendation to remove the lights. Gonzales asked the board if they had considered requiring everyone who deals with the lights to sign a waiver.
Testing the temperature of the water by sticking a foot in, Corman moved to allow the lights to remain as long as they are presentable. That motion died for lack of a second, and more discussion ensued. Doyle Christensen then moved to allow the lights to stay as long as they are presentable and the volunteers sign a waiver. That motion passed 2-1, with Tim Zikmund opposed.
"I don't know why we have a safety committee if we're not going to follow their advice," Zikmund said.
In other business:
· The commissioners met as the board of equalization, hearing valuation protests from Dale Delka and Rassmuss and Bonnie Pedersen, none of whom were present for the hearings. The BOE also approved an exemption application from Mid Nebraska Individual Services for two motor vehicles, a 2008 Ford Focus and a 2006 Ford van.
· The board approved a funding request in the amount of $2,500 from the Central Nebraska Child Advocacy Center, the same amount as last year. The center's executive director, Brady Kerkman, was present at the meeting. He explained that fund-raising is often difficult to fight child abuse and neglect, because people don't want to think or talk about it. The center is headquartered in Grand Island and serves a 10-county area.
· The board met in executive session twice, once to discuss litigation with the commissioners, county clerk and county attorney present; once to discuss personnel with the commissioners, clerk, Gary Warren and Cindy Buescher from the road department present. No action was taken as a result of either of the closed sessions.
· A new three-year agreement was approved between the county and Sequoia Consulting Group.
· Discussion was held about which dehumidifiers to purchase for the ongoing basement mold remediation project. It has been suggested they purchase four dehumidifiers and two sump pumps. No decision was reached.
· The board approved extending the warranty on the road department's 2012 John Deere G motorgrader to seven years or 7,000 hours. The cost of the extended warranty, which is the longest available from John Deere, is $4,400.


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Superior native is volunteer of the year in Logan, Iowa
Ragene Darling, a Superior native and 1977 Superior High School graduate, has been named volunteer of the year by the Logan, Iowa Chamber of Commerce and will serve as grand marshal of the Fourth of July parade.
Darling has been a Logan resident since 1981 when he was hired as the 5-12 band teacher for the Logan-Magnolia Community School District. He has served on different committees and boards in the town over the years. He served for more than 10 years on the swimming pool committee and was president for two years. He has volunteered at the Methodist Church and the Logan Chamber of Commerce.
He currently serves on the Harrison County Development Board and was named to the Harrison County Foundation Board. He was also cochairman of the recent Logan Car Show sponsored by the chamber.
Ragene and his wife, Mary, editor of the Logan Herald-Observer, were active in the choir at the Methodist church. He has also served on the Logan City council.
He retired from teaching in 2009 and devoted more time to volunteering with chamber of commerce. Logan hopes others are inspired to volunteer by his actions. He noted a recent playground installation at Miilliman Park attracted 30 volunteers. He noted other communities aren't that blessed. "My hometown is dying out in the middle of Nebraska," Darling said. "If you like Logan, then do something for it."

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