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A quiet day at the fair

Going into a show-and-go style beef show at Adams County Fairfest on Tuesday and not knowing what to expect, Suzanne Greenquist was nervous.

She and her husband Matt, who live south of Hastings, brought five children — the four oldest of whom would show cattle — and four animals. The Adams County extension staff members who checked in participants quickly put Suzanne’s mind at ease.

“Obviously it’s not what we hoped for, but as always the extension staff and everyone planning it has done the very best job they could have,” she said. “I was really nervous about getting four kids and four cattle off a trailer. There’s just a lot to do right before they go into the ring, but I knew they would work with us. I’ve always felt like the ring gets kind of crowded, especially for showmanship. From that point, if we’re finding the positives in it it’s kind of nice to have the kids be in the ring without too many other animals.”

aroh / Amy Roh/Tribune  

Matt Greenquist coaxes cattle out of the trailer after the family arrived at the Adams County Fairgrounds to participate in the Adams County 4-H beef show Tuesday. To prevent the spread of COVID-19, families arrived one at a time for judging.

From the point of registration, to loading their animals back into the trailer and leaving, the Greenquists were at the fairgrounds less than an hour on Tuesday.

While it was convenient, the Greenquist children missed the camaraderie of the fair.

“I’d say the most different part is not being here for the whole week with my friends,” said 13-year-old Emily, the oldest of the Greenquist children.

aroh / Amy Roh/Tribune  

With empty stands behind her, Mikeayla Samuelson participates in the Adams County 4-H beef show Tuesday. To prevent the spread of COVID-19 only immediate family members are allowed to attend the livestock shows at the Adams County Fair.

She did appreciate getting more interaction than during typical years with judge Gary Kubicek when it was just Emily and her brother Collin showing breeding heifers.

Her brothers Grant and Austin showed bucket calves.

For Kubicek, the most important aspect was ensuring 4-H’ers had a show.

“These young people have the opportunity to bring their animals and exhibit them,” he said. “A lot of these kids have spent a lot of time, a lot of hard work feeding, caring for, training these animals. The most important thing is that they get a show. We’re adaptable. We have to be adaptable. The important thing is that we adjust to the environment we have. The environment we have here today, yes, it’s different than a normal fair, but each of those individuals gets to show their animals, they get exhibited, they get to communicate with me on a one-to-one basis. It’s great. It’s fine. Is it something you want to do in the future? If that’s what it is that’s what it is. As long as we get those kids at the fair.”

aroh / Amy Roh/Tribune  

Suzanne Gangwish has the bleachers to herself as she watches as her children participate in the Adams County 4-H beef show Tuesday. To prevent the spread of COVID-19 only immediate family members are allowed to attend the livestock shows at the Adams County Fair.

It’s important to him to get to communicate with the exhibitor.

“I will typically do a lot of that anyway,” Kubicek said. “It’s just that here there’s more time for it.”

Tuesday’s beef show followed Monday’s sheep and goat show.

Wednesday is the rabbit show, Thursday is the poultry show and Friday is the swine show.

“We focused on these animals for the traditional fair week because there is a market, or an ending weight we are reaching, compared to our companion animals that you maintain past this year,” extension educator Beth Janning said.

Static 4-H exhibits will be on display at the county’s Wallace Building location. The display won’t be open to the public, but the extension office has created a YouTube channel to showcase projects.

“We’re going to do some pictures and do some things different with the exhibits to be able to showcase them,” Janning said.

The area around the show arena was partitioned with fencing that was opened when exhibitors drove in with trailers.

aroh / Amy Roh/Tribune  

Beth Janning , 4-H youth development extension educator, disinfects the fencing at the show arena during the Adams County 4-H beef show Tuesday.

With exhibitors showing just in family units attendance was kept to a minimum and the fairgrounds were quiet.

“It’s weird,” Janning said. “There’s just a weird feeling about it. But when they’re in the ring you get to still see their smiles. You still get to see their achievements. They’re getting that interaction with the judge. I also feel like our judge is taking good quality time with our kids.”

With social distancing making a livestock auction not possible, members of the Hastings Area Chamber of Commerce’s agriculture committee instead decided to raise funds to provide a premium for all market animals.

Doug Nienhueser, 4-H livestock auction chairman, said the committee sent letters to past buyers to solicit funds.

Those funds will be shared equally among exhibitors who showed animals, regardless of ribbon placing.

He said the plan is to disseminate the money next week, so funds can still be contributed through the Adams County extension office.

“It’s been a rough year with all the pandemic stuff,” he said. “They’ve purchased their animals. They’ve trained them. They’ve done all the work. They’re just not getting to show them at the fair like what we would want them to be able to exhibit. We wanted to reward them somehow with some sort of a premium, to be able to help them a little bit. We wanted to make sure they got a little bit of a reward for their hard work and dedication.”


National coin shortage hitting locally

A national coin shortage is affecting the ability of some businesses to accept cash and provide change for purchases at their stores.

The scarcity is partly a result of the lack of coins and cash in circulation during the current novel coronavirus disease, COVID-19, pandemic, the Federal Reserve announced last week.

Over the weekend, a handful of large retailers asked customers to use their debit or credit cards when possible, and if they were using cash, to pay with exact change.

Among those bigger entities is Walmart, whose Hastings store is following similar guidelines. Menards in Hastings is requiring exact change for cash purchases.

Officials with local grocers Allen’s and Russ’s Market, who both bank locally, say they are aware of the situation but haven’t yet experienced the effects.

It’s nothing to fret over, says Five Points Bank president Terry Anstine. It’s more of an inconvenience on both sides, he said.

“It causes a few headaches for the grocery and convenience stores — the people who have to make change,” Anstine said. “It’s just an inconvenience, really. I don’t think it’s of any dire financial causes to anybody.”

Five Points has had no trouble with its distribution and inflow of coins. Some of the bank’s biggest clients are vendors who regularly deposit their change.

“The big banks all centralize their currency orders,” Anstine said.

The people who will be affected most by these temporary regulations are those who don’t use debit or credit cards. The National Grocers Association estimates cash accounts for 20% of all grocery transactions.

Ironically, one of the primary reasons for the coin shortage is due to the increases in card swiping during the pandemic.

Anstine, who has been in banking since 1984, estimated over 90% of transactions these days are with debit cards.

“The debit card transaction volume for little, peon amounts ... it has exploded,” he said. “That should, theoretically, reduce the need for stores and restaurants to give change back.”

One other possible reason for the shortage is with bank lobbies being closed, people aren’t bringing in their personal coin jars or “Cool Whip bowls,” like Anstine uses, to collect their pocket change.

“As corny as it sounds, I think that’s a lot of it,” he said. “The average Joe who goes home and throws his change in a jar, if no one takes the jar in, and every household does $50 or $60 a year they turn into cash or put into their account and that isn’t happening, it kind of has a snowball effect.”


Covid-19
6 Thayer County COVID-19 patients attended Clay Center golf event

Eight newly confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus disease, COVID-19, among Thayer County residents have been linked to recent golf outings, the Public Health Solutions District Health Department announced Tuesday.

Six of those eight cases, plus an additional case in a Jefferson County resident, have been linked to a tournament at the Crooked Creek Country Club in Clay Center on July 3, the health district said in a news release.

The two other Thayer County cases appear to be related to a separate golf tournament in York, said Public Health Solutions, which serves Thayer, Fillmore, Jefferson, Saline and Gage counties.

Alarm bells related to the Clay Center event went off in the middle of last week when the first positive cases among tournament participants were confirmed outside the South Heartland Health District, which includes Clay County. The clubhouse at Crooked Creek was closed to walk-in traffic on Wednesday.

As of Saturday, positive cases of COVID-19 had been confirmed among residents of both the South Heartland and Public Health Solutions districts with a common tie to the Clay Center golf course. Officials of both districts were investigating the cases to identify close contacts of the infected individuals and instruct them to quarantine.

In a social media post on Saturday, the country club said positive cases had been confirmed among both patrons and staff, but that officials there were unaware of any staff members having COVID-19 symptoms while working.

South Heartland has advised anyone who visited the Crooked Creek golf course or clubhouse between July 3 and July 8 and didn’t wear a mask or maintain social distancing while there to take precautions and self-monitor for symptoms for 14 days from the last date they were on the premises.

The precautions include always wearing a mask or cloth face covering when around others and keeping 6 feet apart from others.

Michele Bever, South Heartland executive director, said as of Tuesday evening, two recently diagnosed cases of COVID-19 among South Heartland district residents have been linked to the Crooked Creek golf event.

The South Heartland district encompasses Clay, Adams, Webster and Nuckolls counties.

In Tuesday’s news release, Public Health Solutions said contact investigations related to the new cases remain in progress, and that PHS has made more than 100 investigatory calls in connection to them.

Officials anticipate more positive cases as individuals develop symptoms or seek testing in the days ahead, PHS said.

“The risk of bringing the virus back to members of your household, workplace or community (is) greatly increased when face coverings are not used and social distancing is not observed while participating in events or gatherings,” said Kim Showalter, health director for Public Health Solutions. “One healthy adult may contract the virus and have a very mild case of illness but unknowingly transmit to a friend or family member who may work with at-risk individuals such as at a long-term care facility or hospital.

“As we see positive cases increasing, it is more important than ever to take the necessary precautions when going out in public. Although you may not become seriously ill, your actions can absolutely affect vulnerable individuals in your community. Wearing a face covering, practicing social distancing, avoiding large gatherings, and vigilant hand hygiene is our best defense in slowing the spread of this virus.”

The recent increase in the tally of positive cases in Thayer County has prompted government agencies there to again restrict access to public buildings that had been reopened. The Hebron city office and all Thayer County buildings are closed to the public at this time

“I would like to urge the citizens of Hebron to be considerate of the health of others and I encourage people to please practice social distancing and wear a mask if possible,” Hebron Mayor Doug Huber said in a social media post announcing closure of the city office until further notice.

In a news release Tuesday evening, Bever, of the South Heartland health department, said the public needs to know cutting corners on social distancing and other COVID-19 precautions can put communities at risk.

“Whenever people gather and are not physically distancing from others or wearing masks, it increases the risk of spreading this virus,” Bever said. “I want people to know that any of us can infect other people two days before we ever get symptoms ourselves. That’s why it is important to take precautions whenever we are out and about around other people — at work, at church, at the store, at sports events, at bars and restaurants, and any other place where people are gathered together.”

In recent contact tracing, Bever said, South Heartland has found an average of nine or 10 “close contacts” for new COVID-19 cases on its work list — and that’s too many.

“We would like to see that number come down to the low single digits so that there are under four close contacts to any positive case,” she said. “This would help slow the spread of the virus and reduce the number of people who are exposed and need to be in quarantine. We can get there if people take the necessary precautions when they are out in public and especially at larger events.”

South Heartland on Tuesday evening reported four new positive cases of COVID-19 being confirmed in the district since the previous night. The new cases include one in Adams County (a man in his 60s), two in Clay County (one man and one woman, both in their 20s), and one in Nuckolls County (a man in his 60s).

South Heartland District case counts and trends can be found on SHDHD’s dashboard of local COVID-19 case statistics. This dashboard, along with updates, guidance, news releases and other COVID-19 information and links can be found on the SHDHD website: www.southheartlandhealth.org.

The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services provides daily updates to Nebraska’s coronavirus COVID-19 cases on its Data Dashboard at http://dhhs.ne.gov/Pages/Coronavirus.


News
Hebron voters approve retooled pool bond issue

HEBRON — Voters here again approved a bond issue for construction of a new municipal swimming pool Tuesday, opting for a smaller bond amount than in a previous election and stipulating that property tax would backstop a half-cent city sales tax in covering the debt service payments.

According to unofficial election returns from the Thayer County Clerk’s Office, the ballot question for city voters was approved by a tally of 366-191, or 65.7% to 34.3%. The election was conducted entirely by mail.

The bond issue approved Tuesday would be for $2.5 million, as opposed to the $3.5 million amount Hebron voters approved at the previous mail-in special election in December 2019. That ballot question, which authorized the 15-year bond issue plus enacted the additional half-cent sales and use tax (Hebron already had a 1% city sales tax), passed by a margin of 660-199, or 64.4% to 35.6%, but drew the ire of some in the local business community who complained the project would impose too much of a financial hardship on the community for too little public benefit.

One change in the new ballot question, aside from authorizing a bond issue that is $1 million smaller, is that it expressly stipulates property tax would be an available source of revenue to cover the debt service if sales and use tax revenue and other sources were insufficient. Apparently, the December 2019 ballot question was deficient in that regard.

Now, as before, city leaders are counting on grants to cover a significant portion of the pool project, which would replace a nearly 90-year-old facility that has been leaking 20,000 gallons of water daily, has a cracking deck and uneven deck slope, a worn-out slide tower, and reduced electrical and mechanical functionality. The pool reportedly nearly had to be closed for the season in 2018 because of its poor condition.

Since the previous bond election a few months ago, the city has been awarded a $562,000 federal grant through the Nebraska Department of Economic Development for the project.

According to a May 27 article in the Hebron Journal-Register, the city now is working with the Lamp Rynearson engineering firm from Kansas City, Missouri, to design the new pool. The city previously was working with the the Nebraska-based JEO Consulting Group.