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City celebrates delayed National Night Out
  • Updated

Despite the event being postponed and changed in the face of the coronavirus pandemic, community members came out to support local law enforcement Tuesday for National Night Out at the Hastings City Auditorium.

For Terry House of Hastings, it was a way to show his support for police, firefighters and other first responders.

“We appreciate the hard work they do,” he said. “We love the way they have this.”

National Night Out gives law enforcement officers a chance to meet citizens in a positive setting. Fourth Street was blocked off between Hastings and Denver avenues, where officers with the Hastings Police Department, Adams County Sheriff’s Office and Hastings Fire and Rescue let people see the insides of service vehicles and handed out stickers for kids.

In order to promote social distancing, organizers developed a plan approved by the South Heartland District Health Department to allow visitors to enter the auditorium from the south, check out booths from area nonprofit agencies, and pick up a pre-packaged sack dinner before leaving through another set of doors. Tables inside the venue were spread out to discourage people from grouping together.

Considering the changes to the event, Greg Sinner, a member of the Hastings Area Chamber of Commerce’s Crime Prevention Task Force, said he thought they had a good turnout, though necessarily fewer than last year. He said the group wanted to continue the tradition, even though it looked different than usual.

“We support law enforcement,” Sinner said. “We felt the best way to show that is to continue to have it.”

lbeahm / Laura Beahm/Tribune  

Four-year-old Aliviah Devitt of Hastings eats a hot dog during National Night Out Tuesday outside the Hastings City Auditorium.

Due to the novel coronavirus disease, COVID-19, pandemic this year, the event was postponed from its normal weekend in August.

Organized by the Hastings Police Department and the chamber’s Crime Prevention Task Force, the event is designed to heighten crime and drug prevention awareness, generate support for law enforcement, strengthen community spirit and send a message to criminals that neighborhoods are fighting back.

National Night Out is sponsored by the National Association of Town Watch, Hastings Police Department and Hastings Area Chamber of Commerce. More than 10,000 communities from across the United States and Canada were expected to participate in the event. People were asked to lock their doors, turn on outside lights and spend the evening outside with neighbors and police.

Hastings started celebrating National Night Out as a community event in 1995.

Cpl. John Adams with the HPD helped organize this year’s event. He said it is a great way for police and citizens to interact in a positive setting.

“We always want to reach out to the public so they can see us,” he said. “We have good public relations with the community. We need to maintain and build on it.”

For the public, Tim LeBar of Hastings said, it was nice to have a family-friendly event with so many other activities being canceled during the pandemic.

“It’s great for the community to see police in a different setting,” he said. “It’s a way to say thank you for what they do.”


Business
AP
Asian shares mixed after Trump calls off stimulus talks
  • Updated

Stocks were mixed in Asia on Wednesday despite an overnight decline on Wall Street after President Donald Trump ordered a stop to talks on another round of aid for the economy.

Markets rose in Hong Kong and Sydney but fell in Tokyo.

Trump’s announcement via Twitter came after Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell urged Congress to come through with more aid, saying that too little support “would lead to a weak recovery, creating unnecessary hardship.”

Hours after his tweets about ending the stimulus talks, though, Trump appeared to edge back a bit from his call to end negotiations, calling on Congress to send him a “Stand Alone Bill for Stimulus Checks ($1,200)”

Some analysts characterized Trump's move as likely a negotiating ploy.

“I do not believe hopes of a stimulus deal are now gone forever," Jeffrey Halley of Oanda said in a commentary. “One of Mr. Trump’s favorite negotiating tactics, judging by past actions, is to walk away from the negotiating table abruptly. The intention being to frighten the other side into concessions."

With Chinese markets closed for a weeklong holiday, trading in Asia has been subdued.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng rose 0.4% to 24,087.46 and the Kospi in South Korea added 0.3% to 2,372.49. Japan's Nikkei 225 slipped 0.2% to 23,395.31.

Australia's S&P/ASX 200 jumped 0.8%, as investors were cheered by the government's budget plan, which included tax cuts, subsidies and other stimulus to counter the impact of the pandemic.

Shares fell in Singapore but rose in Indonesia.

The S&P 500 index slid 1.4% to 3,360.97 after gaining 0.7% before the president’s announcement, which he made on Twitter about an hour before the close of trading. The late-afternoon pullback erased most of the benchmark index's gains from a market rally a day earlier.

In a series of tweets, Trump said: “I have instructed my representatives to stop negotiating until after the election when, immediately after I win, we will pass a major stimulus bill that focuses on hardworking Americans and small business.” He also accused Speaker Nancy Pelosi of not negotiating in good faith.

Optimism that Democrats and Republicans would reach a deal on more stimulus ahead of the Nov. 3 elections had helped lift the stock market recently. Now, investors face the prospect that more aid may not come until next year, after the new Congress is seated, said Willie Delwiche, investment strategist at Baird.

“This isn’t just pushing it off until after the election, this realistically is pushing it off until spring,” Delwiche said. "I don't think this is just a one-day financial markets reaction. This really goes to the health of the recovery.”

The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 1.3%, to 27,772.76. The Nasdaq composite lost 1.6% to 11,154.60. The Russell 2000 index of small-cap stocks gave up 0.3%, to 1,577.29.

Powell, the Fed chair, has repeatedly urged Congress to provide additional aid, saying the Fed can’t prop up the economy by itself, even with interest rates at record lows. “The expansion is still far from complete,” Powell said in a speech to the National Association for Business Economics, group of corporate and academic economists.

Trump's mention of $1,200 stimulus checks is a reference to a batch of direct payments to most Americans that has been a central piece of negotiations between Pelosi and the White House. Pelosi has generally rejected taking a piecemeal approach to COVID relief.

Without more stimulus, analysts expect that growth will slow significantly in the final three months of the year. Last month, Goldman Sachs slashed its forecast for growth in the fourth quarter to just 3% at an annual rate, down from a previous forecast of 6%, because they no longer expected an aid package to be approved. That would leave the U.S. economy 2.5% smaller at the end of 2020 than a year earlier, even after a large rebound in the July-September quarter.

The stimulus cutoff coincides with a slowdown in hiring, as employers added 661,000 jobs in September, the government said Friday. That was down from 1.5 million in August and 1.8 million in July.

A report on Tuesday showed that U.S. employers advertised slightly fewer job openings in August than the prior month. But the number was nevertheless better than economists expected.

Several big challenges lie ahead of markets. Chief among them is the still-raging pandemic, as so clearly illustrated by Trump’s COVID-19 diagnosis and brief stay in the hospital. The worry is that a ramp-up in infections could cause governments to bring back some of the restrictions they put on businesses early this year, which sent the economy hurtling into a recession.

The upcoming election adds to uncertainty about tax rates and regulations on businesses, while tensions between the United States and China continue to simmer.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 0.74% from 0.75% late Tuesday. While that’s still very low, the yield has been generally climbing since dropping close to 0.50% in early August.

In other trading, U.S. benchmark crude oil shed 80 cents to $39.87 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It jumped $1.45 to $40.67 on Tuesday. Brent crude, the international standard, gave up 70 cents to $41.95 per barrel.

The U.S. dollar bought 105.67 Japanese yen, up from 105.62 late Tuesday. The euro weakened to $1.1728 from $1.1734.

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AP Business Writers Alex Veiga, Stan Choe and Damian J. Troise contributed.


Adams County increases weight limit to 94k for 11 miles of Showboat
  • Updated

In an effort to enable agricultural commerce, but still protect a well-traveled road, members of the Adams County Board of Supervisors approved a new gross weight limit for 11 miles of Showboat Boulevard.

The supervisors voted 7-0 during their regular meeting Tuesday to post the maximum weight limit for Showboat Boulevard from the Glenvil corner at Assumption Road to the Webster County line at 94,000 pounds, but not allow the 15% overage weight made possible through the Nebraska Legislature’s recent passage of LB931.

The stretch of Showboat Boulevard between Assumption Road and U.S. Highway 6 already has a legal load limit of 94,000 pounds.

Highway Superintendent Dawn Miller brought to the board’s attention a resolution the board passed in 2011 to set weight limits for that portion of Showboat Boulevard, which included a gross weight maximum of 80,000 pounds.

Since then, the county repaired the Pauline bridge in 2018, which boosted the bridge’s weight capacity to 100,000 pounds.

“Until this resolution is reconsidered we can’t change the load rating on there,” Miller said. “It was done by the board. It’s got to be removed by the board.”

Board Chairman Lee Hogan, who also chairs the county Roads, Bridges and Weeds committee, said he has received several complaints from farmers in the Pauline area questioning the 80,000-pound load limit, especially when the county rehabilitated the bridge.

He said he had no problem increasing the load limit.

According to LB931, unless posted otherwise, permits may be issued allowing trucks to exceed the maximum weight allowed by law by 15% up to 150 days per year.

“Through LB931 a farmer can, not only through harvest, but just to bring his stored grain to market anytime during the year, but he has to have a permit in his possession issued by the road authority gotten through the treasurer’s office, or as appointed by the road authority,” Miller said.

The road authority is the jurisdictional authority, which in this case is the county board.

Hogan proposed allowing a maximum weight limit of 94,000 pounds, rather than the current limit of 80,000, but then not allowing the 15% overage.

He called a limit of 80,000 pounds unrealistic.

“I think 94,000 is realistic,” he said.

Miller said each road authority has the capability to post its roads accordingly. The signs would state the new limit of 94,000 and that the 15% overage isn’t allowed.

“They have to have a permit for that extra 15%, and the permit would not be available,” she said.

The 15% overage is for roads only, not bridges.

Showboat has the highest volume of traffic of any farm-to-market road in Adams County, because of the farmers who come up to Hastings from the south to deliver loads to CPI and AGP, Miller said.

“You’ve got a lot of out-of-county usage on that roadway,” she said.

Adams County has addressed with minor surfacing to full-blown repairs almost all of the county’s asphalt roads, including long stretches on farm-to-market roads.

“The rest of our asphalt, we have kept it up, we don’t have any emergency spots now,” Miller said.

Miller is targeting work on 12th Street for next year, when the surface there will be 19 years old.

Also during Tuesday’s meeting Miller updated the board on road projects.

She said nearly all 14 miles of asphalt on the county’s docket this year is completed. That includes eight miles on Bladen Avenue, four miles on Holstein Avenue, and a mile-and-three-quarters on Adams Central Avenue.

Shoulder work is being completed on Bladen Avenue, and then minor shoulder fill will be completed on Holstein Avenue.

The county used the seal coat Onyx east of Kenesaw, as well as on Roseland Avenue from U.S. Highway 6 south to the Roseland village limits, and on Smith Avenue north of Kenesaw.

The work was done by a paving crew from Hall Brothers Inc. of Marysville, Kansas.

“It goes down at about bathwater temperature, it doesn’t go down really hot, so any crack sealing we’ve done on that it doesn’t melt it,” Miller said.

In other business Tuesday, the supervisors:

  • Unanimously approved release of securities in the amounts of $225,000, $215,000, $2 million and $1 million from Five Points Bank.
  • Unanimously approved an interlocal agreement with the Little Blue Natural Resources District for mitigation funding. Adams County owes $4,166.67, which is the county’s portion of the 25% match. That match can be made in-kind through participation. Emergency Management Director Ron Pughes said he thought Adams County would meet the in-kind match requirement and not owe anything.
  • Unanimously approved the request from the Adams County Sheriff’s Office Fraternal Order of Police to place a vending machine, which will be located near the first-floor restrooms, as a FOP fundraiser. FOP members will service the vending machine.
  • Unanimously approved, as the Board of Equalization, approval of levy rates based on the 2020/2021 budgets filed.
  • Unanimously approved an addendum to the SCALES law enforcement interlocal agreement to add Minden.
  • Unanimously approved paying a $12,210 invoice from Wellness Partners for payment of a blood draw for 112 county employees, out of the county’s health fund account.
  • Unanimously approved an administrative plat for the West Fork North 6th Subdivision on 88th Street, west of U.S. Highway 281.
  • Unanimously approved signing quit claim deeds between Adams County and the Frerichs and Kerr families, as well as Laux Land LLC in connection with the southeast truck route.

Kearney County voters to decide township, surveyor questions
  • Updated

KEARNEY COUNTY — Kearney County voters will decide in the general election if the county should retain elected township boards or dissolve them and adopt a commissioner form of county government.

The question of whether townships should be dropped as political entities will be one of two issues put forward by the county Board of Supervisors for voters’ judgment in the Nov. 3 election, for which early voting already has begun.

The second question is whether the county should retain the county surveyor’s position as an elected office or make it an appointed role.

According to a fact sheet from the Nebraska Association of County Officials, Kearney County is among 24 of Nebraska’s 93 counties still operating under the “township” form of government, in which each township has its own governing board and the county has an elected Board of Supervisors.

The township form of government has been allowed in Nebraska counties since the state’s early days in the 1800s, but never was universally adopted. Historical records indicate 30 counties were using the township form of government in 1898. The state’s voters defeated a proposed constitutional amendment to eliminate the township form of government statewide in 1998.

Other Tribland counties with a township form of government include Adams, Clay, Fillmore, Franklin and Harlan. But Adams County voters approved dissolving townships in 2018, and that change takes effect in January 2021.

Hall County made the switch to a commissioner form of government effective this year. Fillmore and Harlan counties are the others in Tribland to have posed the question of switching to voters in recent years. The question was defeated in both of those counties.

According to NACO, as of December 2016, only one of Kearney County’s 14 townships remained “active” in requiring property tax.

Mirage Township, which has the town of Axtell within its boundaries, uses property tax dollars to fund and operate the Axtell Public Library.

Under Nebraska law, townships’ ability to collect property tax falls is subject to whatever allocation might be granted to them by the local County Board of Supervisors. Township voters then have the ability to override that allocation at the ballot box so they can tax themselves an extra amount as necessary. But in Kearney County, the townships signed over their road maintenance and other responsibilities to the county many years ago, so there’s little or no work left for them to do, other than paperwork for the township board.

Three-member township boards are elected on a nonpartisan basis, but in many townships candidates don’t actively file for office, so the seats are filled on a write-in basis.

If Kearney County voters approve dissolving the townships, the change will be effective at the end of the third calendar year following the election. The seven-member County Board of Supervisors would become a seven-member Board of Commissioners, but members would continue to be elected by district. And townships would continue to be designated for surveying, mapping and geographical reference purposes.

The surveyor question on the Kearney County ballot will determine if the surveyor’s post remains elected.

According to a fact sheet posted on the county website, the position currently is filled by the Board of Supervisors through appointment because no one filed for election to it in 2018.

If the position is eliminated as an elected post, the change would take effect in January 2023, and the county board would continue to fill the office by appointment for terms of four years. Otherwise, the office will remain to be considered an elected post and would appear next on the ballot in 2022.