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Filling a need

When she and her family moved to the Hastings area, Kyla Habrock went through the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services’ list of licensed day care providers in the Hastings area alphabetically until she got to the T’s and found one with an opening.

“That’s a little nerve-racking to think this is the only space, whether we like it or not,” she said.

That experience led Habrock and her husband Mat, and Mat’s mother Jen Schwab, to purchase the former Golden Friendship Center at 509 S. Bellevue Ave. with the plan to turn it into a day-care center.

They hope to have an agreement in place soon with a provider.

“We are not going to be the day-to-day providers, but we can be partners with someone who can provide that exceptional care for children in this community,” Habrock said.

aroh / Amy Roh/Tribune  

Kyla Habrock is pictured with her daughter, Fallon, in the former Golden Friendship Center building Feb. 1. When Habrock and her husband Mat moved to Hastings they had difficulty finding day care for their daughter which inspired them to start a new day-care center.

Selling their house in Lincoln and buying a house in Juniata was relatively easy, but finding a day care for their daughter, Fallon, was a challenge.

“As soon as we knew we were moving I was calling for day cares,” Habrock said. “It was 23 calls later before I found one opening. I panicked and felt like everything was so easy maybe this isn’t the right decision for our family.”

They found a spot for Fallon where they are happy.

“But we know this is something where we are not the only ones that struggle with this,” Habrock said. “As we’ve met more and more people and made more friends in the community, our story could be anybody else’s story.”

They didn’t want to have drive to Grand Island every morning for day care.

Mat, who is a location manager for LandMark Implement, spends half of his time in Red Cloud.

“To go from Juniata to Grand Island to Red Cloud wasn’t going to be ideal at all,” he said.

They are aware of day care needs in smaller, surrounding communities as well.

The shortage of day cares in Hastings came up in the young professionals focus group as part as the city’s ongoing housing study.

“There are people choosing to live in Grand Island and work in Hastings, or vice versa, because daycare is not readily available here locally,” Mat said.

aroh / Amy Roh/Tribune  

Kyla and Mat Habrock with their daughter, Fallon, and Mat’s mother, Jen Schwab, are pictured in front of the former Golden Friendship Center building which they are planning to turn into a day-care center.

Their initial plan was to open a storage unit business because as they found moving from Lincoln to Hastings there is also a shortage of storage unit space in Hastings.

They purchased a lot on Second Street for that purpose. When they received an offer to sell that lot that was too good to pass up, they decided to use their earnings to help fill another need in Hastings.

“This is definitely filling a need,” Kyla Habrock said. “Although we don’t have experience in childcare, Jenny has a background in accounting and has business acumen and years of experience. Mat worked in state government. I’m studying nonprofit management.”

They are making sure the provider they choose is going to provide good, quality care.

“We have a vision of not just a space for children for nine hours a day, or whatever it is, but it being a really good way to supplement the development of those children,” Mat Habrock said. “By having the building it’s allowed us to work with potential providers or potential tenants.”

They’ve had conversations with business and industry representatives, asking what do the employees of these businesses need and how can this day care meet that need, including hours of operation that are advantageous to different shifts at local manufacturers.

“If we can help parents in that way by being able to match that consistency with relationships with their teachers I think that’ll be good,” Kyla said.

It’s fitting, they say, that the building they purchased for the day care had been used several decades by Adams County Senior Services as a senior center, but was built as an elementary school. It was once St. Michael Elementary.

“They were really excited to see it come full circle and see it used this way,” Mat said of the Adams County Senior Services board.

Mat knew Dave Rippe when they both worked for the state government in Lincoln. Rippe’s love of Hastings helped sway the Habrocks to move west when the LandMark job became available.

It was also Rippe who helped the Habrocks find the location for their day care. Rippe and his wife, Kristi, suggested the former Golden Friendship Center site, after Mat told him about the plan.

The building has only minor issues.

“The structural integrity of this building is incredible,” Mat said.

Schwab, who moved to Juniata shortly after the Habrocks, was a real estate appraiser.

“I was really excited when we saw this because it’s just a very structurally sound building,” she said. “It’s a really well-built building that I think is going to stand here for a long time.”

The Habrocks pitched during Big Idea Hastings last year starting a company that would provide administrative services for local day-care facilities.

“The support of the community has been awesome,” Mat said. “Big Idea Hastings was a really neat way for us to understand how much of a need there was for this and how much support there was. It motivated us to go forward. I tell everybody this is a really special community. There are a lot of people that care and a lot of people that want to support each other.”

DNC chair calls for 'recanvass' of Iowa results after delays
Andrew Harnik 

This combination of Jan. 26, 2020, photos shows at left, Democratic presidential candidate former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg on Jan. 26, 2020, in Des Moines, Iowa; and at right Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., in Sioux City, Iowa. After a daylong delay, partial results from Iowa's Democratic caucuses showed Buttigieg and Sanders ahead of the pack.

WASHINGTON — The chairman of the Democratic National Committee on Thursday called for a “recanvass” of the results of the Iowa caucuses, saying it was needed to “assure public confidence” after three days of technical issues and delays.

“Enough is enough,” party leader Tom Perez wrote on Twitter.

Following the Iowa Democratic Party’s release of new results late Thursday night, former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg leads Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders by two state delegate equivalents out of 2,152 counted. That is a margin of 0.09 percentage points. Both candidates have declared themselves victorious.

However, there is evidence the party has not accurately tabulated some of its results, including those released late Thursday that the party reported as complete.

The Associated Press is unable to declare a winner.

Nati Harnik 

Precinct captain Carl Voss of Des Moines displays the Iowa Democratic Party caucus reporting app on his phone outside of the Iowa Democratic Party headquarters in Des Moines, Iowa, Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2020.

The state party apologized for technical glitches with an app that slowed down reporting of results from Monday’s caucuses and has spent the week trying to verify results. However, it was unclear if the party planned to follow the directive of the national leader to recanvass those results, a process that would likely require state officials to review caucus math worksheets completed at more than 1,600 caucus sites to ensure the calculations were done correctly and matched the reported results.

Iowa chairman Troy Price suggested in a statement Thursday that he would only pursue a recanvass if one was requested by a campaign.

The caucus crisis was an embarrassing twist after months of promoting Iowa as a chance for Democrats to find some clarity in a jumbled 2020 field. Instead, after a buildup that featured seven rounds of debates, nearly $1 billion spent nationwide and a year of political jockeying, caucus day ended with no winner and no official results.

Campaigning in New Hampshire, Sanders called the Iowa Democratic Party’s management of the caucuses a “screw-up” that has been “extremely unfair” to the candidates and their supporters.

“We’ve got enough of Iowa,” he said later Thursday at a CNN town hall. “I think we should move onto New Hampshire.”

Iowa marked the first contest in a primary season that will span all 50 states and several U.S. territories, ending at the party’s national convention in July.

As first reported by The New York Times, numerous precincts reported results that contained errors or were inconsistent with party rules. For example, the AP confirmed that dozens of precincts reported more final alignment votes than first alignment votes, which is not possible under party rules. In other precincts, viable candidates lost votes from the first alignment tally to the final, which is also inconsistent with party rules.

Charlie Neibergall/AP  

Iowa Democratic Party chairman Troy Price speaks about the delay in Iowa caucus results Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2020, in Des Moines, Iowa.

Some precincts made apparent errors in awarding state delegate equivalents to candidates. A handful of precincts awarded more state delegate equivalents than they had available. A few others didn’t award all of theirs.

The trouble began with an app that the Iowa Democratic Party used to tabulate the results of the contest. The app was rolled out shortly before caucusing began and did not go through rigorous testing.

The problems were compounded when phone lines for reporting the outcomes became jammed, with many callers placed on hold for hours in order to report outcomes. Party officials said the backlog was exacerbated by calls from people around the country who accessed the number and appeared intent on disrupting the process.

“There was a moment in the night where, it became clear, ‘Oh, the phone number just became available to the entire country,’” said Iowa state Auditor Rob Sand, who was answering calls for the party. “It was a pretty big problem.”

President Donald Trump relished in the Democratic turmoil.

“The Democrats, they can’t count some simple votes and yet they want to take over your health care system,” Trump said at a White House event Thursday celebrating his impeachment trial acquittal. “Think of that — no, think of that.”

The chaos surrounding the reporting breakdown seems sure to blunt the impact of Iowa’s election, which typically rewards winners with a surge of momentum heading into subsequent primary contests. But without a winner called, Democrats have quickly turned their focus to New Hampshire, which holds the next voting contest on Tuesday.

Buttigieg and Sanders will emerge from Iowa’s caucuses with the most delegates to the party’s national convention, regardless of which one eventually wins the contest. They have each won at least 11 national delegates, with a handful of delegates still to be awarded, according to the AP delegate count. Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren has won at least five delegates, while former Vice President Joe Biden has won at least two and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar has at least one.

Iowa will award 41 pledged delegates to the Democratic National Convention this summer. There are 11 delegates still to be awarded as the state party sorts out the final results of the caucuses.

Candidates must win a majority of pledged delegates to the party’s national convention to win the Democratic nomination for president on the first ballot. This year, that’s 1,191 pledged delegates.

The two Iowa leaders, Buttigieg and Sanders, are separated by 40 years in age and conflicting ideology.

John Bazemore 

FILE - In this Nov. 20, 2019 file photo, Chair of the Democratic National Committee, Tom Perez, speaks before a Democratic presidential primary debate in Atlanta. Perez is calling for a “recanvass” of the results of Monday's Iowa caucus.

Sanders, a 78-year-old self-described democratic socialist, has been a progressive powerhouse for decades. Buttigieg, a 38-year-old former municipal official, represents the more moderate wing of the Democratic Party. Buttigieg is also the first openly gay candidate to earn presidential primary delegates.

Sanders narrowly lost the Iowa caucuses in 2016 to Hillary Clinton and pushed the party to make changes to the process this year, including releasing three different sets of results: a tally of candidate support at the start of the caucuses, their levels of support after those backing candidates with less than 15% got to make a second choice and the number of state delegate equivalents each candidate receives. The AP will determine a winner based on state delegates.

Given the tight race, former DNC Chairwoman Donna Brazile said the party needs to “get this right” so the eventual nominee isn’t saddled with questions of legitimacy.

“It’s a combination of embarrassment and not being prepared for the various mishaps that can take place when you try to do something new and different,” she said.

Party activist John Deeth, who organized the caucuses in Iowa’s most Democratic county, Johnson, said he welcomed a recanvass and would help as needed.

“It makes sense to look everything over again and get it right,” he said.

Deeth said that he believed the review would uncover some data entry errors as well as some math and rounding errors in how delegates at each precinct were awarded. Volunteers running the precincts did their best, he said, but likely made some minor mistakes.


Peoples reported from New York. Associated Press writers Ryan J. Foley in Iowa City, Iowa, Will Weissert in Manchester, N.H., Bill Barrow in Atlanta, and Stephen Ohlemacher and Emily Swanson in Washington contributed to this report.


This story has been corrected to show that Iowa’s state auditor is named Rob Sand, not Rob Sands.


Catch up on the 2020 election campaign with AP experts on our weekly politics podcast, “Ground Game.

Citizens want to save viaduct

A group of Hastings residents is attempting to reverse the Hastings City Council’s decision to raze the 16th Street viaduct.

Alton Jackson, Paul Dietze and Norm Sheets met with city of Hastings staff to start the process of circulating a petition to make that happen.

“We just miss that overpass,” Jackson said. “All of us had gone and looked at it and just wondered if it was really in as bad of shape as what maybe some were telling us it was. I’m sure it needs some repair. My issue is spending $1.5 million-plus to tear it down when we could repair it and have a second (overpass) out of there.”

Council members voted 6-2 during their final meeting of 2019 to approve the “tear-down” option of a resolution that also included an extensive repair option; a new bridge with a shorter span option; and constructing a new viaduct at a different alignment option. The tear-down option was the cheapest provided by engineering firm Olsson, estimated to cost $1,464,140.

Council members Chuck Rosenberg and Scott Snell dissented.

The extensive repair option is estimated to cost $3,095,120 and would extend the life of the existing structure 25-30 years.

The 85-year-old structure has been closed to traffic since the end of May 2019 based on an engineering assessment that highlighted severe deterioration.

“Some of us were talking, and there are so many people who said ‘Hey, we really miss that; let’s look into it.’ That’s what we’re doing,” Jackson said. “We’re just asking that we slow it down and not tear it down and let somebody look at it and see if the citizens want to go ahead and repair it. That’s what we believe is going to happen. Almost everybody I’ve talked to believes we should spend a little money and fix it.”

He said he believes the viaduct is too good to demolish.

“Would I build it there if it wasn’t there? No. But it’s there, and it’s in better shape than what I think a lot of people believe that it is,” he said.

Jackson said crashes on Burlington Avenue have slowed traffic there since the closure of the 16th Street viaduct.

“The last one I couldn’t get through,” he said. “I went around on Elm, but if you’re from out of town you wouldn’t know where to go.”

The petitioners also are upset at the detrimental effect closing the viaduct has had on businesses north of the structure.

To get the referendum on the November ballot, petitioners must collect 2,221 valid signatures within six months of Jan. 29, which is the date City Clerk Kim Jacobitz authorized the prospective petition for circulation.

Those 2,221 signatures represent 15% of registered voters in Hastings.

“We want to get it on the November ballot, so people can vote on it,” Jackson said.

He doesn’t believe collecting enough signatures will be difficult.

Jackson, who owns Jackson’s Car Corner at 315 W. Third St., has petitions available to be signed there, among other locations in Hastings.

“People have been coming in and wanting more sign-up forms and asking to sign it,” he said.

Petitioners want to bring the decision about tearing down the viaduct to a public vote.

“We believe it’s a lot more valuable to repair than tear down, and I think that will be the will of the people,” Jackson said.

He said while nearly everyone he talked to is against tearing down the viaduct, he knows not everyone feels that way and he hopes the petition drive doesn’t become contentious.

To authorize the petition, the primary circulators worked with Jacobitz and City Attorney Clint Schukei.

“When we went up to talk to Kim Jacobitz and the city attorney, I was very clear that this isn’t something we wanted to get into a conflict with somebody,” Jackson said. “We’re going to leave here and everything’s going to be civil during this conversation, and it was. They were great. They did their job. They did a great job, and they made us feel comfortable.”

As someone who restores old vehicles and old buildings, Jackson said he hopes to save an old viaduct, too.

“That’s just me,” he said. “I’m kind of like the people in Europe that don’t tear anything down.”

He hopes voters in Hastings agree with him.

“I believe with all my heart that that’s going to happen and this will be saved and then we’ll go to the next step and ask for a good decision to be made,” he said. “Now it gets to be the will of the people.”

'Curing the disease' would take more than a bandage

A senior engineer at an engineering firm hired by the city of Hastings to inspect the 16th Street viaduct said the extensive repairs needed to make the viaduct drivable again would be similar to giving a 60-year-old a facelift.

“You make it look better, but underneath you’re still 60 years old,” said Jay Bleier, who works for Olsson Associates in Hastings.

Olsson conduct an inspection of the viaduct in spring 2019 following a regular evaluation of the structure in November 2018 by the Nebraska Department of Transportation as part of NDOT’s bridge inspection program.

Both inspections found deficiencies, and the city closed the viaduct at the end of May 2019.

Olsson presented the city with four options: Demolish the structure; perform extensive repairs; build a new bridge with a shorter span; and construct a new viaduct at a different location.

Olsson later updated the cost estimates for the different options.

Some Hastings area residents have argued, including in Voice of the People letters published in the Hastings Tribune, the viaduct would be drivable again if only it had an additional wrap of concrete and metal around the columns, also called piers, that have exposed rebar.

Bleier, who is a credentialed engineer with a professional engineering license and holds a master of science degree in civil engineering, said the structure has deficiencies beyond just exposed rebar.

Olsson bridge experts Tyler Cramer and Emilie Hudon also worked on the evaluation.

“You have a lot of moving pieces on this viaduct that are not performing adequately,” Bleier said. “It’s not just the columns.”

Between the columns and the bridge deck are joints that move to allow the bridge deck and the road above to expand and contract with changes in temperature.

“Those are locked in place right now, and that is why you’re seeing damage to the upper structure of the bridge as well as the abutments,” he said.

Those joints are supposed to move and allow the structure to stay in place.

“They are not moving,” Bleier said. “They are frozen open. Which means every time that bridge moves it is causing more structural damage to the bridge as well as to the deck above. Now you’ve got damage to the deck. You’ve got damage to the abutments, which you can clearly see as badly damaged as those are.”

The condition of the viaduct has created a safety concern because it is delaminating.

“You have concrete actively falling to the ground below,” Bleier said. “Even if you have a piece of concrete that is ‘only’ a 50-pound piece of concrete that falls from the bottom of that deck and hits someone or something, it’s going to damage whatever that is severely. If it is a person it quite possibly would kill them. So you do have that immediate safety issue. That is an imminent threat to public safety.”

The extensive repair option, popular among people who oppose demolition of the viaduct, is estimated to cost $3,095,120 and would extend the life of the existing structure 25-30 years.

While that option is far less than Olsson’s $12,466,370 or $13,014,550 estimates to construct a new structure — depending on the design and location — and only little more than twice the estimated cost of demolition, Bleier said it still means rehabilitating an 85-year-old structure.

“You can do anything if you have enough money to do it,” he said. “The question is, if you do that and you keep that existing structure in place, how much lifetime can you expect to get out of it?”

All of those repairs — making sure the deck is properly reinforced, making sure the columns are properly reinforced by wrapping them and replacing those joints — it would only mean another 25-30 years of life out of the bridge.

Bleier said the 85-year-old viaduct has existed well beyond its design lifespan and served the community for a long time.

“The problem with that is that you do get fatigue in the structure,” he said. “So you can’t expect another full lifetime out of it by repairing it. Just because you make the columns look like new doesn’t mean they are going to behave like they are new. It’s kind of like giving a 60-year-old a facelift.”

There are instances where wrapping columns is appropriate.

If reinforcement below the existing concrete is in good shape, then light steel and concrete could be used to reinforce the existing structure.

The existing rebar and concrete could be tested to evaluate the structural integrity, which Bleier said is a $15,000-$25,000 process.

“All that would tell you is what condition the existing rebar condition is in,” he said. “No more, no less. That wouldn’t be any part of the repairs.”

Those repairs are just a bandage.

“You’re not curing the disease by doing that,” he said. “We need to cure the disease if you’re going to keep that existing bridge in place, and that costs a lot more than just putting a bandage on it.”

Bleier doesn’t like the idea of having to tear down a bridge.

“I’m never a fan of that, but there comes a point when you consider the cost that it takes to save that existing structure and the amount of useful lifetime you can expect out of it that it’s just not as feasible as replacing it completely, and on top of that you do have a safety issue right now,” he said. “In my opinion, I think the community is much better served by getting a new structure, whether it’s in this existing location but it also gives the community the opportunity of exploring new locations where maybe you want something a little further away from Burlington that will serve more people. We’re going to have a growing population up in the north (in North Park Commons) that is going to want to get into the city. Maybe those people would be better served by a structure that’s a little further to the east and you might be able to accommodate more people that way. The only way to know that is with some studies.”