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Group shows officer appreciation through lunch

Rashell Hillis of Hastings is thankful officers with the Hastings Police Department were caring even as she butted heads with them as she struggled with drug addiction.

She especially praised Capt. Raelee Van Winkle for staying in contact and making sure she didn’t relapse.

“She has been a very big supporter of my sobriety,” Hillis said. “She’s a fighter for people.”

And that’s the reason Hillis wanted to show Van Winkle and the rest of the department her appreciation in the midst of protests against police across the nation in the wake of George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis. She doesn’t oppose the protests, but wanted to highlight the good officers in her community.

Hillis was among a group of citizens who brought lunch to local law enforcement officers Friday. They brought 70 sack lunches to the Hastings Police Department and 30 to the Adams County Sheriff’s Office.

Hillis and Cristy Just of Hastings went out to local businesses and asked for donations.

“There wasn’t one place that said no,” Hillis said.

Allen’s of Hastings donated meat. Russ’s Market provided buns and cheese. Walmart Supercenter gave fruit. Tom Dinsdale Automotive donated cookies and chips. Pepsi donated soda and bottled water. Eileen’s Cookies and Special Scoops offered coupons for cookies and ice cream.

The group gave officers a paper sack with fruit, a bag of chips, cookie and coupons, each adorned with a sticker saying “Our community loves you.” Due to health concerns related to the novel coronavirus disease, COVID-19, the group couldn’t make the individual sandwiches, instead providing the ingredients to officers.

Just said it was easy to collect donations, though they only started two days ago.

When Hillis proposed the idea, Just said she was ready to help in any way she could. She said local law enforcement officers are engaged in the community. Her son is involved with the Special Olympics, so she has seen firsthand how officers help with that program.

“Our law enforcement is really heavily involved in the community,” she said. “This town has a real respect for their officers.”

Just said she met Hillis through a Facebook page where users could adopt people working through the coronavirus outbreak. Hillis had nominated Van Winkle for a gift through the group.

Van Winkle said she was touched that Hillis had nominated her and was surprised when a gift box arrived with goodies for her and her officers.

“She just has the biggest heart,” Van Winkle said of Hillis. “She just is a strong person who has a heart of gold.”

She noted that the coronavirus pandemic has taken a toll on officers. She said they appreciate the gesture of Hillis, Just and their group to provide lunches for officers.

“We sure do feel appreciated,” she said “We can’t thank her group and businesses enough.”

Van Winkle said many citizens have called, emailed or sent messages on Facebook to thank officers for their efforts.

“There has just been so much community support recently,” she said. “The amount of support we’ve received is heartwarming.”


Library continues to look at social distancing in effort to reopen

While Hastings Public Library staff members are looking forward to having patrons back in the building, the obstacle of social distancing still needs to be tackled.

“Our building just wasn’t laid out for encouraging social distancing,” Library Director Amy Hafer said. “So we’re trying to figure out the best way about that and how we could encourage social distancing as other businesses and other community organizations have done in this city.”

Hafer participated in the city’s weekly news conference Friday morning to talk about implementing contactless material pickup at the library as well as provide an update on the summer reading program, which began Monday.

She said 360 readers registered for the program, and they logged more than 12,500 minutes this week.

“We are super excited for the participation going on,” she said.

Old Hastings Tribune newspaper vending machines that were among those used by Hastings Public Schools for homework packets are being used to help disseminate summer reading program materials.

This week, 18 lockers were placed just outside the library doors to allow patrons to pick up materials they have requested to borrow.

Each patron can check out up to five items. The patron who requested the materials will receive a locker number, lock combination and have 48 hours to collect the materials.

The materials are kept in a bag to protect them from the elements.

Staff members are retrieving items in the order they were requested.

“We are playing catch-up a little bit,” Hafer said.

Retrieving materials began with materials requested in March when library closed.

“Bear with us,” she said. “We are trying to work through those as quickly as possible.”

Go to www.hastingslibrary.us or 402-461-2346 to request materials or sign up for summer reading.

“We’re excited about all the readers that are back to reading again,” Hafer said.

One action the city is taking to help businesses affected by the novel coronavirus disease, COVID-19, and subsequent directed health measures is a temporary outdoor dining application.

It was put together to allow the use of sidewalks for outdoor dining. The application goes before the Hastings City Council on Monday.

“This will be a simple application,” Mayor Corey Stutte said Friday. “It’ll be something people are able to fill out and it will be administratively approved.”

The city has been working with restaurant groups and property owners on the proposal.

“It’s been very good to work with them, and it’s been very good to move this forward,” Stutte said.

“If you’re a restaurant that’s interested in this we will be happy to meet with you starting Tuesday of next week,” he said.

This application doesn’t affect a restaurant’s liquor license or the ability to serve alcohol, but does provide an option to do so depending on the Nebraska Liquor Control Commission’s position.

Stutte thanked city staff members, as well as South Heartland District Health Department Executive Director Michele Bever, for their work on the plan.

“We really do hope this helps businesses as they move forward through COVID-19 as they continue to normalize their revenue streams,” Stutte said.

Bever said the health department resumed its monthly immunization clinic for the vaccine for children program, which is a federal program. It was the first such clinic in a couple of months.

South Heartland has seen seven new COVID-19 cases in the past week, bringing the district total to 307. That amount includes 277 in Adams County, 24 in Clay County, five in Webster County and one in Nuckolls County.

With no new deaths, the fatality toll remains at 11.

For the week of May 24-30, the rate of positive tests was 2.2% That amount is down from about 6% the last couple of weeks.

The health department recently introduced a new COVID-19 data dashboard.

TestNebraska is returning to Adams County with a testing event 8 a.m. to noon June 10 on the Adams County Fairgrounds.

As many as 200 people can be tested during the event on Wednesday. New with this testing event, there no longer are criteria to participate. Before now, only people with certain risk factors could qualify.

Bever said the last seven cases were traced to social gathering with no masks and no distancing, or close contact at work where masks aren’t used and social distancing is difficult to maintain.

“We need to continue to take this opportunity to practice social distancing and mask wearing even as we’re opening up, so we can continue to keep the curve flat,” she said.

She was asked about a Black Lives Matter peaceful protest, planned to start 5 p.m. Sunday at the Adams County Courthouse.

“We’re glad to have opportunities for safe and peaceful protests,” she said. “For everybody, every gathering we have consider social distancing and the mask wearing, as well.”

Eric Barber, president and CEO of Mary Lanning Healthcare, said the hospital still has just one positive case.

“We have plenty of capacity to continue normal operations,” he said. “We don’t anticipate that being an issue in the near future.”

Mary Lanning has more than adequate supplies of personal protective equipment and drugs.

“Our supply line has really done a great job of keeping up when we peaked however many weeks ago that was,” Barber said.

The hospital is introducing a slightly more relaxed visitor policy beginning Monday.

Now, one adult visitor per patient is allowed where, with just a few exceptions, they weren’t allowed to go before.

Ron Pughes, Adams County Emergency Management director, spoke about the use of masks.

“When you walk into some place and you’re doing the right thing by wearing a mask, please don’t harbor ill feelings or comments towards those who choose not to,” he said. “Protect yourself and take the measures necessary to protect yourself.”

Adams County residents who need masks can call the Emergency Management Office at 402-461-2360.


Financing looks favorable for county paving projects

As Adams County plans to repair 14 miles of rural road as well as pave the Adams County Office Building parking lot, the financial part of those projects looks favorable.

Members of the Adams County Board of Supervisors voted 7-0 during their regular meeting Tuesday to approve a resolution authorizing the “not to exceed” amount for the interim financing.

The supervisors approved at their April 7 meeting 2020 asphalt contracts with Werner Construction of Hastings for $2.8 million for 14 miles of asphalt overlay as well as a $377,876 Werner bid for seven miles of asphalt removal. Among those 14 miles of overlay, eight miles would be on Bladen Avenue, four miles would be on Holstein Avenue, and 1.75 miles would be on Adams Central Avenue.

The supervisors approved on May 19 creating a Rural Road Improvement District encompassing those 14 miles.

Andy Forney with D.A. Davidson, the county’s bond counsel, was on hand during Tuesday’s meeting.

He said the next step in the process for these general obligation and highway bonds is to do the interim financing. The interest rate he was using for projections was 1.1%.

“This morning we were actually processing some bonds for another county,” he said. “The two-year notes were actually sub-1%. If nothing changes in the market in the next couple of days, we’re hoping we can get rates at or below 1% for the notes. That would be very exciting.”

The overall market is near six-decade lows, he said.

“It’s really not a bad time to be doing some of these projects,” he said.

The supervisors also unanimously approved a $235,903.05 bid from Heartland Concrete Construction of Hastings to pave the Adams County Office Building parking lot with concrete. Heartland had the lowest of five bids.

The engineer’s estimate for the project was $273,304.

Awarding the contract for concrete work at the ACOB parking lot comes after the supervisors rejected a $190,279.50 bid on March 17 for surfacing the ACOB parking lot with asphalt. It was the only bid received.

The engineer’s estimate for asphalt was $125,430.

“This is a little bit more, but from what everybody says this is going to last us forever and ever,” Supervisor Scott Thomsen said. “The drainage they’ve come up with is so much better than what it is today.”

The asphalt bid did not address any sidewalk or curb damage.

“This gets all of that,” Highway Superintendent Dawn Miller said.

The project also includes paving the portion of the parking lot near Howard’s Glass, which will be paid for by Howard’s Glass.

Thomsen said based on the $273,304 engineer’s estimate, Howard’s Glass was willing to participate at $22,000.

“They were willing to do that, and this will even be less since the bid came in less,” he said.

Miller said the Howard’s Glass portion of the project should be $15,000-$18,000.

Also during Tuesday’s meeting, the supervisors received arguments and evidence from attorneys and other landowner representatives as part of an isolated land hearing concerning land owned by Maxine Strasburg and the Ronald D. Strasburg Testamentary Trust.

Acting on the advice from Deputy County Attorney Dave Bergin, the supervisors approved waiting to make a decision in the case, so board members can first review the evidence provided. The approved motion also keeps open the possibility to receive more evidence.

In other business, the supervisors:

  • — Reviewed an agreement with Heartland Pet Connection for the boarding of animals.
  • Received the SASA Program update and budget request of $12,500, which is the same amount requested last year.
  • Received the Adams County Historical Society program update and budget request of $12,400, which is the same amount requested last year.
  • Received the CASA budget request of $36,000, which is the same amount requested last year.
  • Reviewed zoning plans for the Hastings Rural Fire Building.
  • Unanimously approved interlocal gravel and road maintenance agreements — in two separate votes — with Ayr, Blaine, Cottonwood, Hanover, Highland, Juniata, Little Blue, Logan, Verona, West Blue and Zero townships.
  • Unanimously approved Delta Dental group insurance renewal.
  • Unanimously approved employee health insurance plan and rates for 2020/2021.
  • Unanimously approved $11,607.04 in one-time Region 3 matching funds, which is a result of additional mental health cases served due to COVID-19.