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AC hires new high school principal

Adams Central Junior-Senior High School will introduce a new principal to its halls for the 2020-21 academic year.

Scott Harrington was approved as the new principal by the Adams Central Board of Education Monday night during the board’s monthly meeting.

All board members except Greg Mucklow were present.

Harrington currently serves as the K-12 principal at Sterling Public Schools in Sterling, a small town northeast of Beatrice. He has held that position for four years. Before that, Harrington was a teacher in the Norris Public Schools near Firth for 11 years.

“I think Mr. Harrington will be a great addition to our staff down the road. We’re looking forward to getting him here and getting him started,” Superintendent Shawn Scott said.

Sterling Public Schools has had recent challenges with superintendents, with multiple people serving in that role in the last four years. Harrington reportedly has been a source of stability through those transitions.

“He brought a lot to Sterling,” Scott said of Harrington. “Everybody I talk to said he has been holding the school together.”

The AC district received 17 applications and conducted three interviews.

The current principal is Dave Barrett, who is retiring after 40 years in education.

The board also approved the bid for a new parking lot. The district received four bids and chose Heartland Concrete and Construction.

Scott said the bid came in at around $1.9 million. The board also approved to option the teacher parking lot on the east side of the high school.

The district initially planned to choose a contractor after bidding for the roundabout construction at U.S. Highway 6/34 and Adams Central Avenue was complete. Scott said he hoped waiting would produce a more competitive bid, since construction crews already would be on site. But, he said, the $1.9 million bid already was lower than expected.

The U.S. 6/34 roundabout project bidding is expected to end later in February.

The board also adopted its capacity resolution, setting the limit for enrollment.

The elementary student population is slightly down from previous years, along with the high school. The special education student population is slightly up.

Scott emphasized that option enrollments still are available and the district can take in 95 potential students for high school and 13 students for elementary school. Second grade through fourth grade cannot accept any more option students.

In other business, the school board:

Accepted the resignation of four teachers, including Linda Johnson, who served for 22 years.

Approved the payment of $1,084,916.79 from the General Fund budget.

Renewed contracts with district principals and directors.

Donated $500 to each student for the Close-Up trip to Washington, D.C.

Adopted the school calendar for the 2020-21 school year. The calendar is consistent from last year except for a no-school day during the state softball tournament.

Heard a report on the after-school program with the Hastings Family YMCA.


Daily death toll tops 100

BEIJING — China’s daily death toll from a new virus topped 100 for the first time and pushed the total past 1,000 dead, authorities said Tuesday after leader Xi Jinping visited a health center to rally public morale amid little sign the contagion is abating.

Though more offices and stores in China were reopening after the extended Lunar New Year break, many people appear to be staying home. Public health authorities are closely monitoring whether workers’ returning to cities and businesses resuming worsens the spread of the virus.

In a bid to boost morale, Xi was featured on state broadcaster CCTV’s main news report Tuesday night visiting a community health center in Beijing and expressing confidence in the “war against the disease.”

The country’s president and leader of the ruling Communist Party was shown wearing a surgical mask and having his temperature taken before expressing his thanks to health workers on behalf of the party and government. “We will most definitely win this people’s war,” Xi said.

Xi’s appearance comes amid questioning of the government’s handling of the crisis, particularly the failure of local officials in the worst-hit city of Wuhan to clarify the extent of the crisis. Public anger has been inflamed over the death of a young doctor from the virus who had earlier been threatened along with seven others by police for warning online of the potential for a major outbreak as early as December.

Xi paid his respects to health workers, but much of his message was focused on calling for citizens to follow the party’s dictates and aimed at minimizing the potentially massive economic impact of the outbreak.

“The fundamentals of China’s long-term economic development remain unchanged and the impact of the novel coronavirus epidemic on the economy is short-lived,” Xi was quoted as saying by the official Xinhua News Agency.

Xi called for “greater efforts to minimize the impact of the epidemic on the economy” and for attention to be paid to “preventing large-scale layoffs,” in a likely nod to the precarious situation of Chinese workers on the fringes of the economy with little security and few benefits.

The virus outbreak has become the latest political challenge for Xi, who despite accruing more political power to himself than any Chinese leader since Mao Zedong, has struggled to handle crises on multiple fronts, including a sharply slowing domestic economy, the trade with the U.S. and push-back on Chinese increasingly aggressive foreign policies.

The National Health Commission said in its daily update 108 deaths had been reported over the previous 24 hours, increasing the total to 1,016 deaths in mainland China since the illnesses began appearing in December. The total is well beyond the toll of the 2002-03 outbreak of SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome, which is caused by a different coronavirus related to the current pathogen.

The number of newly confirmed cases fell slightly to 2,478 from 3,062 the day before, bringing the total to 42,638 on the mainland, some of whom have since been cured and released from hospital.

Chinatopix via AP  

A man wearing a protective face mask covers himself with plastic before entering a supermarket Monday in Wuhan in central China’s Hubei province..

The crossing of more grim thresholds is dimming optimism that the near-quarantine of some 60 million people and other disease-control measures might be working.

In Hong Kong, authorities evacuated an apartment block after two cases among its residents raised suspicion the virus may be spreading through the building’s plumbing.

It was reminiscent of the SARS outbreak that killed hundreds in the semi-autonomous Chinese city. The biggest number of connected cases in that outbreak were in one apartment complex where the virus spread through sewage pipes.

Britain, meanwhile, declared the virus a “serious and imminent threat to public health” and said it would forcibly detain infected people if necessary. France tested scores of children and their parents after five British tourists contracted the virus at a ski resort.

The director-general of the World Health Organization said that the agency is still unable to predict where the outbreak is heading but that he believes there is still an opportunity to contain it.

“In recent days, we have seen some concerning instances of onward transmission from people with no travel history to China,” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “The detection of the small number of cases could be the spark that becomes a bigger fire, but for now, it’s only a spark.”

The Beijing city government told residential compounds in the capital to close their gates, check visitors for fever and record their identities. The government also warned people to strictly abide by regulations requiring wearing of masks in public and to avoid group activities.

More than 440 cases have been confirmed outside mainland China, including two deaths in Hong Kong and the Philippines.

Of those, 135 are from a cruise ship quarantined in Yokohama, near Tokyo. Japan’s Health Minister Katsunobu Kato said the government was considering testing everyone remaining on board of the 3,711 passengers and crew on the Diamond Princess, which would require them to remain aboard until results were available.

Britain issued its “imminent threat” declaration after a British man who caught the virus in Singapore in January appeared linked to several other confirmed cases in Europe. Five Britons, including a 9-year-old boy, contracted the virus in the French Alpine ski town of Contamines-Montjoie after staying in the same chalet as the British man.

Jerome Salomon, head of France’s national health agency, said 61 people including the boy’s schoolmates were tested and proved negative for the virus.

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AP journalists Mari Yamaguchi in Tokyo and Danica Kirka in London contributed to this report.


Council awards bids for two street department trucks

Members of the Hastings City Council approved contracts during their meeting Monday for a pair of 33,000-pound gross vehicle weight trucks.

Council members voted 8-0 to approve the $243,207.96 bid from Bergkamp Inc. of Salina, Kansas, for a 2021 Freightliner, M2 106 Cab and Chassis Asphalt Pothole Patcher Body.

Financing for the truck includes a $100,000 down payment and $143,207.96 at an interest rate of 3.93% for two years — $75,852.38 each year.

The bid from Bergkamp was not the lowest among the three received bids for that truck.

However, it was recommended by street department staff because the low bid, $209,972 from Nebraska Truck Center of Grand Island, didn’t include certain safety features.

Councilman Chuck Rosenberg said he discussed the bids with Street Superintendent Steve Kostner and felt confident approving the Bergkamp bid.

“I think we’re making the right move by accepting this bid,” he said.

Council members also unanimously approved a $124,015 bid from Nebraska Truck Center for a 2021 Freightliner 108 SD-Klute Dump Body and Snow Plow.

The city had planned to pay $70,000 upon delivery followed by a $56,319 payment next year with a 4.25% interest rate.

However, Finance Director Roger Nash said Daimler Truck Financial does not finance for less than a two-year contract.

The only other financing option was a direct loan from a bank. Nash said the city has never passed a resolution allowing direct borrowing.

He recommended paying the entire amount and to budget accordingly next year, which the council approved.

Rosenberg thanked city staff members for their due diligence.

“You guys did a great job, and these are really reputable companies we’re purchasing from,” he said.

In other business, the council:

Unanimously approved Ordinance No. 4619 amending city code chapter 34 addressing agricultural districts. Council members also unanimously approved suspending the requirement to vote on the ordinance three times for passage.

Unanimously approved Ordinance No. 4620 amending city code chapter 34 by adding wellhead protection overlay district. Council members also unanimously approved suspending the requirement to vote on the ordinance three times for passage.

Unanimously approved Ordinance No. 4621 amending city code chapter 34 by adding dark sky overlay district. Council members also unanimously approved suspending the requirement to vote on the ordinance three times for passage.

Unanimously approved a two-year lease agreement between the Hastings Police Department and the Nebraska Department of Administrative Services on behalf of the Nebraska State Patrol for office space in the HPD station at 317 S. Burlington Ave. at a cost of a little over $700 per month.

Unanimously approved updated Downtown Revitalization Program guidelines.

Unanimously approved a resolution signing the 2019 year-end certification of the city street superintendent form. The Nebraska Department of Transportation requires each municipality must annual certify the appointment of the City Street Superintendent to the NDOT using the Year-End Certification. The city of Hastings received an incentive payment of $7,500 for having a certified street superintendent.


Gunman dead, two officers hurt in shooting at Arkansas Walmart

FORREST CITY, Ark. — Two police officers were wounded and a gunman was killed Monday morning in an exchange of gunfire at a Walmart store in eastern Arkansas, authorities said.

Forrest City Police Chief Deon Lee said one of the officers was taken to a hospital about 45 miles to the east in Memphis where he was in surgery, and the initial prognosis is “he’s going to be OK.”

The officers responded to the Forrest City Walmart after someone called police to report a man who was making threats and was “kind of talking out of his head,” Lee said at a news conference Monday afternoon. Arkansas State Police Spokesman Bill Sadler said local authorities have identified the suspect as Bobby Joe Gibbs, 40, of Forrest City, though the state crime lab has yet not confirmed his identity.

Lee identified the injured officers as Lt. Eric Varner and Detective Eugene Watlington. Both are assigned to the criminal investigation department and neither was wearing a bullet-resistant vest, Lee said.

The mayor heaped praise on the officers.

“Due to their heroism and quick response, no civilians were injured,” Forrest City Mayor Cedric Williams said.

Walmart spokesman Scott Pope said the company was helping with the police investigation. Walmart is based in Bentonville, Arkansas. Once the Arkansas State Police Criminal Investigation Division completes its investigation of the shooting, it will forward the case file to the local prosecutor to review the officers’ use of deadly force.

Tammy Priddy, 57, works at Simmons Eye Center in the Walmart. She said she was preparing patient records for the day when she heard eight shots. She said she hid under a counter in the lab until the gunshots stopped.

“The first two shots kind of startled me, and then a coworker came in and said it was gunfire,” Priddy said.

She and a coworker ran from the building and officers outside the Walmart ordered her to get as far away from the building as possible. She was not injured.

“I was too afraid to think of anything except to get to safety,” she said. “We kept our minds straight to where we were safe and we were able to get to safety.”

Police formed a perimeter with yellow crime scene tape around the Walmart parking lot after the shooting. Police cars with flashing lights blocked roads to the store. The store was closed and employees were sent home. A small strip mall and two gas stations saw no business Monday afternoon, as they were within the police perimeter.

Mary Martin, who said she was Gibbs’ aunt, went to the Walmart after she heard about the shooting. She said Gibbs didn’t have a job, but had previously worked as a DJ.

“He was a good person. He loved his family,” she said.

When asked about the description of Gibbs “talking out of his head” at the store, Martin responded: “That doesn’t sound like Bobby.”

It’s not the first time in recent months that a Walmart store has been the scene of a shooting. A man was injured in a shooting at a Walmart in Memphis earlier this month, three people were fatally shot at a Walmart in Duncan, Oklahoma, in November, and a gunman killed 22 people at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, on Aug. 3.

The retailer came under criticism for having insufficient security at the El Paso store on that day and has since quietly expanded security at all its stores in the city to include an armed off-duty police officer and a security guard.

A spokeswoman for the company said in November that the hiring of off-duty officers in El Paso was not a blanket policy. It’s unclear what security measures were in place at the Forrest City store on Monday.

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AP writers Cedar Attanasio in El Paso, Texas, and Andrew DeMillo in Little Rock, Arkansas, contributed to this report.