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Weekly Columns!

All your favorite weekly columns and letters to the editor- online!

 Editor's Notebook by Bill Blauvelt Country Roads, by Gloria Garman-Schlaefli A Different Slant, by Chuck Mittan

Editor's Notebook, by Bill Blauvelt
Mid to late summer is budget time for our governmental subdivisions in both Kansas and Nebraska. Kansas starts the budget process a bit earlier but by Oct. 1 both states have concluded the process and determined the amount tax payers will be asked to contribute in the coming months.
It's an important time and the legislatures of both states require the publication of public notices regarding the budgets and discussion of and adoption of the budgets in public session. Seldom does a citizen ever appear at a budget session and ask questions. Monday evening members of the Superior City Council went through the process which required two public hearings and the adoption of three motions. At one point in the proceedings, Mayor Schmidt allowed the required public comment and said, "That's you Mr. Blauvelt." I didn't have anything to say but a quick inventory of the room confirmed what the mayor already knew. I was the only non-city employee present.
The process was much the same at Monday evening's school board meeting.
Valuations are up sharply this year and most taxing authorities expect their mill levy will be going down. For the City of Superior, the levy is dipping from 45 cents per $100 of assessed valuation to just under 43 cents. But that doesn't tell the entire story, spending is going up. Superior property owners will be asked to contribute $292,126.85 this year.
The budget adopted Monday night by the Superior school board allows for district spending in the coming fiscal year to increase more than $800,000 over the current year.
In the last issue of The Express, it was reported the Nuckolls County valuation had topped $1 billion for the first time. Fifteen years ago the valuation was about a quarter of that.
I'd like to say the valuation increase was caused by a sharp uptick in the local economy with new homes and businesses and an expanding number of jobs. That isn't the case. Our population continues to decline. Each year we have fewer homes suitable for habitation. The new Superior elementary school was designed with two kindergarten rooms, both much larger than the rooms they replaced in the old South Ward building. This term each kindergarten room has 11 students. A few years back each room would have had twice the number of kindergaren students.
Fifty years ago The Express reported, Boyd Imler, the local telephone company manager, said more than 2,000 people attended the open house to show off the company's new Superior office. The building still stands but the doors are locked and nobody works there. A service man occasionally comes from Hastings to care for the equipment housed in the building.
One hundred years ago thousands of Nuckolls County residents were attending the county fair. The Nelson Gazette published an extra edition during fair week on pink paper. That week The Gazette reported more than 500 automobiles were on the fairgrounds each day plus many more buggies and spring wagons. Both the Burlington and Rock Island railroads were running special passenger trains to Nelson to accommodate the fair crowds. Attendance one day topped 6,000 people. The previous day it topped 4,000. The poultry show had more than 400 entries.
More recently, this newspaper reported 250 people attending a business firm's open house. Fair attendance was good this year but it wasn't anywhere near 6,000 people per day. If everybody now living in Nuckolls County went to the fair on the same day, the attendance would be less than 6,000.
From this editor's vantage point, it appears we need to tighten our belts and learn to do with less. If property valuations decline, our subdivisions will have a hard time funding current operations.
I hope valuations don't drop but the value of our farm commodities certainly have in the past year. I suspect the high grain prices pushed farm land prices up. With grain prices falling, land prices may also fall. If that happens, valuations will also fall and our subdivisions will run short of funds.
This week I have had an opportunity to visit with two people interested in starting part-time business ventures in Superior. Both have ideas for services that are needed in Superior and they realize that at least initially the businesses would require considerable work without much financial return. They have a plan to obtain the needed equipment and building space but the deal breaker in both instances has been insurance. For one, liability insurance wasn't even available. For the other liability insurance was more than the expected profits and more than the amount budgeted for building rental.
I understand their plight. There was a time when I served as a canoe rental agent for a company based at Lincoln. That company closed and the owner wanted to sell me the canoe equipment kept in Superior. The price was reasonable and the annual rental history indicated I could pay for the equipment. Insurance was the deal breaker. For the small number of canoes I would have in Superior, the liability insurance premium exceeded the anticipated gross income. As a result, canoes are no longer available for rent in Superior.
So you ask what is the connection between insurance and taxes?
In both cases we are asking someone else to provide something we don't want to provide ourselves.
Taxes are high because we want government to provide us with a vast array of services. Insurance is high because we don't want to take responsibility for our own actions. If we do something stupid and have an accident, we want someone else to pay for our mistake.
Inflation has numbed us to the real cost of many things.
Consider the plight of the person who retired 15 years ago when the Nuckolls County valuation was a fourth of what it is now. If the levy held constant and the valuation on their property followed the county trend, their property taxes quadrupled. While taxes on their home may not have quadrupled, interest rates on money they had saved and expected to use to fund their retirement years have plummeted.
We like to focus on the positive but it may be time to consider some alarming warning signs.

Country Roads, by Gloria Garman-Schlaefli
During recent evenings, we have enjoyed sitting on the west patio of our farmhouse. It reveals wonderful views and sounds. The western skies are panoramic, blue clouds with rays of light from the setting sun streaming out. Colors are light orange with a bit of pink and yellow, announcing sunset is taking place. Trees along the creek are not their usual green; they are a more shaded color as darkness approaches.
Silence is interrupted by the cooing of doves and the sharp sound of locusts buzzing from all directions. In the distance, the neighbor's calves that have just been weaned are bawling.
Many small insects fly here, there and everywhere. A favorite insect of many, the dragonfly, is present in large numbers flying in front of me. How unusual they are! They have been around since prehistoric times. They have 360-degree vision and see a wide spectrum of colors, even better than humans. They can move straight ahead, up and down, backwards, or stop and hover. Dragonflies are speedy, capable of flying 30 miles per hour.
They dine on flies and mosquitoes, and once they set their sights on a target insect, they have a 95 percent kill rate, better than lions and sharks. I hope they dine on many mosquitoes in our farmyard.
As fast as the dragonflies arrived, they were gone from my sight.
The sun disappeared and night was here. It was not long ago that total darkness would not come until 9 or 9:30 p.m. Now nightfall is 8:30 p.m. Fall is arriving.

A Different Slant, by Chuck Mittan

Next month, I'm heading to the Rocky Mountains for the Mile High Horror Film Festival in Denver, Colo. It's the fifth year for the festival, which has quickly gained a reputation as one of the premier horror and science fiction genre film festivals in the nation.
I wouldn't say I'm a big fan of the genre, but I like some of films. I like science fiction more than conventional horror. I am, however, a big fan of film festivals in general, as well as being a big fan of the Rocky Mountains. It is also among the small number of film festivals nationwide that have a screenplay competition along with the film categories.
And it is among the most expensive film festivals I've ever attended, with the cost of all-access passes being nearly double what it is at the average festival I attend. That probably explains why they only give one pass to screenplay finalists, rather than two. But I am fortunate enough to be getting one this year, because I have a short script that is among the 10 selected for the finals. Couple that with an offer of a free place to stay, courtesy of a friend I met at Lew Hunter's Superior Screenwriting Colony, and I can't pass it up.
In the past, they have done an excellent job of booking celebrities to accompany special anniversary screenings of classic horror films. Actor Corey Feldman attended the 2012 edition of the festival and hosted a 25th anniversary screening of "The Lost Boys." Actress Linda Blair attended last year for a special 30th anniversary screening of "The Excorcist." "Rowdy" Roddy Piper, professional wrestler turned actor, was also on hand last year for a special screening of John Carpenter's "They Live."
What I'm most looking forward to at this year's festival is the screening of a special 3D edition of "Creature From The Black Lagoon," to commemorate its 60th anniversary. The star of the film, original "scream queen," Julie Adams, will be in attendance to discuss her memories of working on the film. "Creature From The Black Lagoon" (1954) is one of the original Universal monster movies, alongside "Dracula" (1931), "The Wolf Man" (1941) and "Frankenstein" (1931). It is one of the most recognized creature films in horror movie history. Adams was born in Arkansas in 1926 and has enjoyed a long and interesting film career that began in "B" westerns in 1949.