Nov. 26, 2015


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Judge binds Stillwell case over to district court

County board approves diversion programs

Superior negotiating for solar farm construction

Auditor praises Superior utilities

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The Superior Express & Jewell County News 26 November 2015


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Judge binds Stillwell case over to district court

James Stillwell, the Superior man accused of stabbing his wife on Oct. 29, made his first appearance Tuesday in Nuckolls County District Court.
The preliminary hearing was held in the Nuckolls County courtroom to establish probable cause to bind the case over to district court. Stillwell is charged with first degree assault and use of a deadly weapon to commit a felony, both Class II felonies that can carry up to a maximum of 50 years in prison.
Stillwell appeared in court with his attorney, Ben Murray of Hebron. The state was represented by Nuckolls County Attorney Sarah Bockstadter, along with George Welch, an attorney with the Nebraska Attorney General's Office. Presiding over the hearing was Judge Michael Burns.
Bockstadter called the state's first witness, Jon Paddock, a police officer with the Superior Police Department, who testified that he knew Stillwell because he had contact with him pertaining to police matters prior to the incident on Oct. 29.
Paddock said he was off duty when the incident occurred, but was called to the scene by his chief, Perry Freeman, who he met when he arrived. Paddock testified that at the scene, he encountered a witness who told him she observed James Stillwell run from the house, jump into the vehicle she knew to be his and speed away. Paddock testified the witness said a short time after that, she observed Patricia Stillwell on her hands and knees on the sidewalk in front of the house, a knife protruding from her back.
Paddock said the knife ­­ which he described as a folding, tactical-type knife ­­ remained in the victim when she was transported by Superior EMTs to Brodstone Memorial Hospital.
Bockstadter asked if Paddock was present the next day when Stillwell was apprehended in Jewell County. He said he wasn't. Bockstadter asked if he had any knowledge of injuries to Stillwell when he was arrested, nearly 24 hours after the alleged stabbing. Paddock said he heard Stillwell had a lot of cuts on his body, some of them requiring sutures. He also said it was the opinion of the arresting officers that the injuries were self-inflicted. Several sharp instruments were reportedly recovered from Stillwell's vehicle after his arrest.
In cross examination, Paddock was only asked by Murray to clarify that the alleged stabbing was in Nuckolls County, but the arrest was made in Jewell County. Following that, the prosecution rested.
Judge Burns said the state had provided sufficient evidence to bind the case over to district court on both charges. Information is scheduled to be filed in Nuckolls County District Court at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, with Judge Vicky Johnson presiding. Stillwell remains in custody in the Saline County Jail in Wilber. Bond remains at $500,000.

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County board approves diversion programs

The Nuckolls County Board at Monday's regular meeting approved the establishment of both juvenile and MIP diversion programs as proposed by Sarah Bockstadter, Nuckolls County Attorney.
Bockstadter said she recently attended a regional summit for county attorneys sponsored by the Nebraska Supreme Court, where she learned Nuckolls is among a small number of Nebraska counties without a juvenile diversion program. She said she believes it's important to have such a program on record and suggested using the program in Webster County, where she also serves as county attorney, as a model. That program utilizes a diversion coordinator located in Hastings.
She said she would also like to establish an MIP (minor in possession) diversion program for 18 to 20 year olds facing alcohol-related charges. This program would include alcohol abuse education and utilize the same diversion coordinator in Hastings. These young men and women wouldn't qualify for the juvenile diversion program because of their age. The objective of the program would be to keep these first offenses (repeat offenders would not typically qualify for diversion) off the person's permanent record and save the county money in court and hearing-related expenses. Fees for the diversion program are paid for by the offenders or their parents.
Bockstadter was also on the agenda to discuss courthouse security along with Sheriff Brad Baker, but Baker was unable to attend. She said her main concern is for the safety of her secretary, who is often alone in the county attorney's office, located on the second floor. She would like to at least see the installation of a panic button in the county attorney's office, and possibly the two court offices ­­ county and district court. These would be linked directly with the on-duty sheriff's dispatcher. This is what is used in Webster County, she said.
The board and Bockstadter also briefly discussed overall courthouse security, but without Baker's input, little was decided, except a general consensus that courthouse security needs improvement. The commissioners tabled any decisions about courthouse security or panic buttons until Baker is available to discuss the issues with them.
Commissioner Tim Zikmund, who serves as the county's representative on the South Central Economic Development District board, presented SCEDD's activity report for October and November. Those in Nuckolls County include an environmental review for the Nelson Housing Authority, the ongoing nuisance abatement project in Superior, town hall meeting in Lawrence with task forces established to prioritize community needs, development of a solid waste management plan with the City of Superior and assisting Superior in obtaining a downtown revitalization grant.
In other business:
· Gary Warren, county highway superintendent, informed the board of his plans to purchase another dump truck for rip-rap. He said Eggers Motors in Superior has a 1986 Kenworth in good condition but with a bad motor. One of the county dump trucks Warren wants to retire has the same Caterpillar motor which is good and the road department has an 18-foot box for the truck. Replacing two dump trucks is included in this year's road department budget.
· Commissioner Zikmund will contact Sen. John Kuehn on behalf of the board to express opposition to LB 344, which would grant general obligation bonding authority to natural resource districts (NRDs), essentially giving them the authority to issue unlimited amounts of bonding without a vote of the people.
· It was reported the county court office, relocated to the first floor for the duration of the courthouse mold remediation project, will move back to the second floor within the next few weeks. County Court was moved to the first floor commissioners room and the board has been meeting in the upstairs law library. The commissioners will meet downstairs again when their room is vacated by county court.
· Commissioner Doyle Christensen requested the deadline to have items added to the board meeting agenda be 4 p.m. Thursday. He said he would like another day to prepare for Monday's meeting, in the event there is research or reading to be done. Neither of the other commissioners objected.
· Meeting as the board of equalization, the commissioners approved a tax exemption application from the Superior Good Samaritan Center for a 2005 Ford.
· Deb Larson, an insurance agent from Hastings, presented information about supplemental insurance policies offered by her company.
· The board gave permission for the courthouse to be closed at noon on both Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve, both of which are on Thursday this year. The courthouse is also closed today and tomorrow (Thursday and Friday) for the Thanksgiving holiday.

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Superior negotiating for solar farm construction
Superior will become a greener community if action taken by the Superior City Council progresses as expected. Monday evening members of the council voted unanimously to negotiate with American Electric Power of Columbus, Ohio, for the construction of a solar energy farm capable of generating one megawatt of solar energy.
Chris Peterson, a member of the council committee studying energy solutions, said the company has the needed background in solar development and contacts with the Southern Power Pool that may be helpful should Superior want to buy electrical energy from someone other than the Nebraska Public Power District. To generate the amount of power authorized, approximately 6 acres of land will be needed.
A location has not been determined but conversation at the council meeting revolved around land the city owns near the wastewater treatment plant.
Under the current wholesale power contract with the Nebraska Public Power District, Superior is allowed the option of using either wind turbines or solar panels to generate up to two megawatts of power. This plan would use half of that authorization and allow the community to test solar generation. Other Nebraska communities including Central City are also developing solar generation.
Current federal law allows financial incentives for the development of solar and wind energy but those incentives are not available to public utilities.
By contracting with American Electric Power, the company can take advantage of the incentives and after a period of years transfer ownership of the solar farm to the city.
According to company promotional materials, the company was founded in 1906 and currently owns 32,000 megawatts of generating capacity and 40,000 miles of electrical transmission line. It serves 5 million customers in 11 states. The company's stock is traded on the New York Stock Exchange.
If the solar farm is built, it won't be the first time electrical power has been generated locally for the use of Superior residents. The community's first electric plant was located across the street from the current city utility department office on a portion of the land now occupied by Ideal Market. That plant operated only a few hours a day and used steam to spin the turbines. Later the dam and mill race originally built to power a flour mill was utilized by the Southern Nebraska Power Company to supply electrical energy to Superior and several other communities. That company was a local investor company. But the Nebraska legislature's decision making the state all public power marked the end of the local power generator. The long-standing water right was transferred to what has become the Bostwick Irrigation District and the power generated from Republican River water was to be replaced by power generated at Missouri River dams.
In a related move the council authorized the sending of another letter to the Nebraska Public Power District advising Superior may elect in 2018 to obtain up to 30 percent of the community's electric power needs from another source.
This is in addition to a letter sent previously which advised the wholesale supplier that Superior may elect to obtain up to 30 percent of its electric power from another source in 2017.
The city previously decided not to accept the early contract renewal offer proposed by Nebraska Public Power. The wholesale power supplier has offered incentives for the early renewal but Superior is one of several customers not opting to do so. NPPD's early renewal plan is now being challenged in court.

The City of Superior parks department has a new 30 x 50 storage building

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Auditor praises Superior utilities
A special meeting of the Superior City Council was called for 6:30 p.m. Monday with Terry Galloway, a representative of the firm that conducted the recent city audit.
Mr. Galloway's audit report contained both good and bad news for the city.
Galloway praised the operation of the city's utility departments noting the reserves were good, capital assets were being maintained and updated while rates were being well managed.
He noted the city sales tax rate of 1 percent was below average. Most Nebraska communities now have a city sales tax of 1.5 percent.
His discussion of the general fund was not so rosy.
Ideally, he said the city should have a reserve of $455,000 in the general fund but in reality the reserve is only $54,000. This is up from $29,000 last year and the city anticipates it will increase once the swimming pool bonds are paid off.
Possible ways to increase the general fund reserve were discussed but there didn't appear to be a clear directive.
The city tax levy is currently near the maximum allowed Nebraska communities.
In regular session later in the evening, the council declared Howard's Glass to be a nonresponsive bidder and banned the Hastings firm from bidding on city contracts for a period of two years. The company has a long record of providing satisfactory service to the city.
However, it has not completed a contract awarded last April to make the entrance to the utility office building handicapped accessible. Neither has the company responded to a Nov. 20 deadline issued in October. Larry Brittenham, utility department manager, said the company has failed to respond to numerous emails and telephone calls.
The city will now rebid the project.
It will also be necessary to again seek bidders for rebuilding the wastewater department's west clarifier drive. Three companies were thought to have been interested and were invited to bit but none submitted a bid before the deadline. The companies will be contacted in an effort to determine why they chose not to bid on the project.
An ordinance was passed on first reading banning the sale and lighting of free-floating devices such as sky lanterns. The devices have previously been sold by fireworks dealers but are considered to be dangerous.
The council approved retaining Sara Bockstader as the city's prosecutor. She will replace the late Tim Schmidt.
Bockstadter, the acting Nuckolls County attorney, will bill the city $135 per hour for most of her services including travel time plus expenses.
As part of Monday's meeting, the council held a 20-minute executive session with Attorney John Hodge concerning threatened litigation.
After reviewing five proposals, the JEO Consulting Group was retained for the first phase downtown revitalization study. BVH Architects will serve as a subconsultant on the project. The companies will be gathering information and preparing a plan that will be presented to the public on Feb. 16 after consulting with community members.
Superior is among several Nebraska communities competing for multi-year grants to help fund downtown revitalization. Following an inspection earlier this year, Superior was qualified to advance to the next round of competition. This study is a required component of that round.
As part of the housing needs study completed earlier this year, the council Monday evening agreed to enter into a housing partnership with the Superior Development Corporation.

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