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City purchases building for fleet and equipment maintenance
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The city of Hastings has agreed to purchase a 13,300-square-foot building from the Hastings Economic Development Corp. to provide more flexibility and service opportunities.

Members of the Hastings City Council voted 6-0-2 at their meeting Monday to approve a purchase agreement with HEDC to purchase the building located at 3505 Yost Ave. for $900,000.

Councilmen Shawn Hartmann and Matt Fong abstained.

Hartmann is the current president of the HEDC board of directors through his position as vice president of Hastings HVAC; Fong represents the council on HEDC’s board. Mayor Corey Stutte also serves on the HEDC board and abstained from discussion on the issue.

The property at 3505 Yost Ave., which was constructed in 2006, was formerly home to Corteva Agriscience. It includes 4,200 square feet of office space.

Members of the Hastings Utility Board recommended approval of the purchase at their Nov. 10 meeting.

“When this property became available, Dave (Ptak, city administrator) and I spoke pretty quick about it because Hastings Utilities has had a need for some time to expand our vehicle and equipment maintenance capability and footprint,” Utility Manager Kevin Johnson said. “We don’t have that ability at North Denver where we are right now. In addition, we also have a need in our warehouse and inventory management group to have more storage availability. This building provides an immediate opportunity for Hastings Utilities as well as the city.”

He said the building is a good value.

The utility department is in the process of constructing a substation garage adjacent to North Denver Station. The lowest, best bid for 6,000 square feet of construction was $800,000.

This is $900,000 for over 13,300 square feet.

Johnson said, pending decisions made around city hall, the building at 3505 Yost Ave. provides office relocation options for city hall staff. The utilities department isn’t currently planning to use the office space. The utility department is more interested in the nearly 10,000 square feet in the rear of the building.

“Those are immediate opportunities for us,” he said.

Future considerations include citywide fleet maintenance consolidation and citywide inventory management and consolidation.

Johnson said the building also provides the potential for fire response expansion into the north part of Hastings.

Money for the purchase will be taken out of available funds from the administrative budget, which is allocated to the rest of the utilities. The building will be used for fleet and equipment maintenance, servicing the utility department at large.

During the Nov. 10 Utility Board meeting, Johnson said planned improvements to the building including switching to LED lights, improving electrical service, adding a sprinkler system, adding heating to the rest of the warehouse area, adding security through the city’s information technology department, fencing, parking modifications and overhead doors in the back.

Many of those improvements would be done by utility staff.

In other business, the council:

  • Unanimously approved the contract between the city of Hastings and the Nebraska Department of Economic Development for a Community Development Block Grant.
  • Unanimously approved procurement procedures for CDBG programs.
  • Unanimously approved an agreement between the South Central Economic Development District and the city of Hastings for construction management services for the CDBG.
  • Unanimously approved moving City Council meetings and work sessions from the Hastings Public Library to the council chambers in the City Building, 220 N. Hastings Ave., beginning Jan. 10, 2022.
  • Unanimously approved a resolution to adopt the 2021 Little Blue Natural Resources District and Lower Big Blue Natural Resources District Hazard Mitigation Plan Update.
  • Unanimously approved Ordinance 4685 updating the list of emergency snow routes in the city code. Council members also unanimously suspended the requirement to vote on an ordinance three times to pass it.

Ricketts rails against U. of Nebraska chancellor, race plan
Gov. Pete Ricketts is railing against the chancellor of the University of Nebraska’s flagship campus in Lincoln, saying he was misled about a plan designed to address racial disparities on campus, even as the university system’s president tried to de-escalate the situation
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LINCOLN — Gov. Pete Ricketts railed Monday against the chancellor of the University of Nebraska’s flagship campus in Lincoln, saying he was misled about a plan designed to address racial disparities on campus, even as the university system’s president tried to de-escalate the situation.

Ricketts said he has “lost all faith” in University of Nebraska-Lincoln Chancellor Ronnie Green, who has endorsed the plan as a way to make the campus more diverse and inclusive.

Ricketts said Green told him the plan was an effort to increase the number of minority faculty, staff and students on campus, which Ricketts said was “a good thing.”

But Ricketts said Green didn’t tell him about other parts of the initiative, including a “ call to action ” statement that says structural racism in society is the cause of disparities between races and isn’t limited to individual beliefs or actions. The statement says the plan is intended to transform the university into a place where every person matters and gets “equitable outcomes.”

Ricketts, a Republican, has blasted the idea as “ideological indoctrination” that will encourage people to see each other through the lens of race instead of as individuals with unique strengths. He said he values diversity and has worked to increase minority employment within state government, including the hiring of several Black agency directors, but disagrees strongly with the university’s approach.

“I have lost all faith in Ronnie Green,” Ricketts said at a news conference in response to a question on the issue. “I don’t believe anything he says anymore. I don’t know how you get that back. I could not be more disgusted with what just happened.”

His statement came hours after University of Nebraska President Ted Carter released an open letter in support of the plan. A spokeswoman for Green said he wasn’t available for an interview, and referred back to Carter’s letter.

Carter acknowledged in the letter that the university’s rollout of the plan was flawed and should have included earlier conversations with the university’s Board of Regents. Some regents, including Republican gubernatorial candidate Jim Pillen, have said they oppose the plan and criticized how the university handled it.

Carter said his partnership with Ricketts “means a great deal to me personally and professionally. I hope he will accept my pledge that we will do all we can to maintain our positive working relationship in support of his goal to grow Nebraska.”

He also said the university won’t hire candidates based on their skin color or close its doors to any qualified student, and will not limit the exchange of ideas on campus.

But he argued that the university can do more to create a welcoming, accessible atmosphere for all students, including those from disadvantaged backgrounds.

“These are uncomfortable conversations, with passionate opinions on many sides,” he said. “Not every Nebraskan, not every member of the university community, will agree with every element of the plan.”

Chief: No evidence parade-crash suspect knew anyone on route
A person taken into custody after an SUV plowed into a crowd of holiday parade marchers in Wisconsin, killing at least five people, has been identified as 39-year-old Darrell Brooks
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WAUKESHA, Wis. — The SUV driver who plowed into a Christmas parade in suburban Milwaukee, killing at least five people and injuring 48, was leaving the scene of a domestic dispute that had taken place just minutes earlier, Waukesha’s police chief said Monday.

Police Chief Dan Thompson said that there was no evidence the bloodshed Sunday was a terrorist attack or that the suspect, Darrell Brooks Jr., knew anyone in the parade. Brooks acted alone, the chief said.

Brooks, 39, of Milwaukee, had left the site of the domestic disturbance before officers arrived, and was not being chased by police at the time of the crash, according to the chief, who gave no further details on the dispute.

Police said they were drawing up five charges of intentional homicide against Brooks.

He has been charged with crimes 16 times since 1999 and had two outstanding cases against him at the time of the parade disaster — including one in which he was accused of deliberately running down a woman with his vehicle.

On Sunday, a joyous scene of marching bands and children dancing in Santa hats and waving pompoms gave way in an instant to screams and the sight of crumpled bodies as the SUV sped through barricades and struck dancers, musicians and others in the community of 72,000.

The dead were identified as four women ages 52 to 79 and an 81-year-old man. Members of a Dancing Grannies club were among those killed, as was a bank employee.

Mayor Shawn Reilly described the parade as a “Norman Rockwell-type” event that “became a nightmare.”

“It looked like dummies being thrown in the air,” said Nicole Schneiter, who was there with her children and grandchildren. “It took a second to register, like, ‘Is that what we really just saw?’ And then you looked in the road and there were just people laying in the road.”

At least nine patients, most of them children, were listed in critical condition at two hospitals, and seven others were reported in serious condition.

The chief said that while police were not pursuing Brooks before he entered the parade route, an officer did fire a shot to try to stop him but ceased shooting because of the danger to others. Brooks was not injured.

Brooks has two open criminal cases in Milwaukee County. In one case, filed Nov. 5, he is charged with resisting or obstructing an officer, reckless endangering, disorderly conduct, bail jumping and battery. Records show his $1,000 cash bond was posted on Friday.

In that case, a woman told police that Brooks deliberately ran her over with his vehicle in a gas station parking lot after a fight. She was hospitalized for her injuries.

In the other case, filed in July 2020, Brooks is charged with reckless endangering and illegal possession of a firearm.

His attorney in those cases, Joseph Domask, said he was not representing him in the parade crash.

The Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office said prosecutors’ $1,000 bail recommendation for Brooks was “inappropriately low,” given the charges. The DA’s office said it is investigating the matter.

Republican Rebecca Kleefisch, a former Wisconsin lieutenant governor who is running for governor in 2022, called the killings “yet another avoidable tragedy that occurred because a violent career criminal was allowed to walk free and terrorize our community.”

Brooks is an aspiring rapper. On a YouTube page, a video that has since been removed showed him rapping in front of a red Ford SUV resembling the one at the parade. The rapper uses the name MathBoi Fly on his Twitter and other social media accounts.

The horror of the crash was recorded by the city’s livestream and onlookers’ cellphones. One video shows the moment the SUV broke through the barricades and includes the apparent sound of gunfire.

“It was like a war scene walking through there” afterward, said Ken Walter, who had been riding in the parade in a hot air balloon basket towed on a trailer along with his wife and youngest son. “There were these piles of blankets with cops standing over them that you just knew were bodies.”

Walter said he saw a red SUV careen into view and watched it hit a member of his real estate-agency parade contingent, then barrel straight into members of the Waukesha South High School marching band.

The SUV continued down the parade route. Behind it, people were screaming, running, searching for family and friends and unsure whether they were still in danger, he recalled.

Schneiter said that after sheltering in a store, she emerged to see bodies in the street, along with strollers, chairs, candy and shoes.

Police identified those killed as Virginia Sorenson, 79; LeAnna Owen, 71; Tamara Durand, 52; Jane Kulich, 52; and Wilhelm Hospel, 81.

The Milwaukee Dancing Grannies posted on its Facebook page that its members were “doing what they loved, performing in front of crowds in a parade, putting smiles on faces of all ages, filling them with joy and happiness.”

Eighteen children ages 3 to 16 were brought to Children’s Wisconsin Hospital, including three sets of siblings, said Dr. Amy Drendel, medical director of the emergency department.

They suffered injuries ranging from scrapes on their faces to broken bones and serious head injuries, she said. Six were listed in critical condition.

The Waukesha school district canceled classes Monday and Tuesday and said extra counselors would be on hand for students and staff. The parade’s lineup included cheer, dance and band entries associated with district schools.

The parade, held each year on the Sunday before Thanksgiving, is sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce. This year’s parade was the 59th one.

Waukesha is about 55 miles from Kenosha, where Kyle Rittenhouse was acquitted Friday of all charges in the shooting deaths of two men and the wounding of a third during unrest there in 2020.

Senior class helps end team title drought for Blue Devils
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LINCOLN — The final whistle blew, the stadium lights were flashing, and pandemonium broke out on the west side of Memorial Stadium at the end of Monday’s Class D-2 state championship.

A Kenesaw fan base, made up of a number of supporters that nearly matched the town’s population, erupted with jubilation as the Blue Devils were crowned state champions. A school that has been “so close” in various postseason moments finally eradicated the phrase “falls short” from its vocabulary.

The town of Kenesaw and many former Blue Devils hoisted the state championship trophy vicariously on the shoulders of five senior football players as the Blue Devils defeated Sandhills/Thedford 46-40.

“The fans, they’re big in this (championship). Huge attendance for our school, for our community. This is awesome,” said Kenesaw head coach Craig Schnitzler.

aroh / Amy Roh/Tribune  

Kenesaw fan Jackson Morgan cheers on the Blue Devils during the Class D2 state championship Monday at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln.

“These seniors, they’ve had this on their mind; they’ve talked about it, they played it out in their mind, and they’ve worked for it all season long and in the offseason.”

The five seniors who led the Blue Devils to their first team state championship in school history were Tyson Denkert, Trey Kennedy, Sean Duffy, Drake Olson and Eli Jensen. Most of the group has been starters for all four years, but all five have made an impact throughout their careers. During their time as Blue Devils, they collected a record of 39-5 and competed in more playoff games than any other group before them.

They’ve experienced heartache at the end of their first three seasons, each cut short in the playoffs; but now they have capped a remarkable season with a perfect 13-0 record. Their rewards: gold medals, a state championship trophy, and lifelong memories.

“We’ve been playing together since third grade, and this has always been a dream of ours, and now we’ve got it done,” Denkert said. “We knew what we were expected to do, and we finally got it done.”

aroh / Amy Roh/Tribune/  

Kenesaw’s Tyson Denkert strips the ball from Sandhills/Thedford’s Trae Hickman during the Class D-2 state championship Monday at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln.

Only one Kenesaw football team had ever reached the state championship, in 1990. Some of the players from that team became youth football coaches in Kenesaw and trained the young athletes who grew up to be this year’s senior class. There, they witnessed the birth of this dream of winning the state championship.

“Ever since we were little, we’ve been wanting to do this, and it’s finally true. The first one in Kenesaw history, and the fans are all behind us; it’s just a really great feeling,” Duffy said.

All five seniors called the others in the group their best friends. Duffy said the bunch are respectful young men who enjoy being a helpful part of the community. But they also like having fun being kids.

That sentiment is perhaps most evident in the film studies the day before the game. With most of the prep work already in place, those “film sessions” more often resemble a playground.

“We just do a whole lot of beating the crap out of each other, or playing indoor baseball, or just screwing around in some sort of way,” Kennedy said. “It’s just nice to have your best friends be your teammates on the field.”

aroh / Amy Roh/Tribune  

Kenesaw’s Eli Jensen tackles Sandhills/Thedford’s Kyle Cox during the Class D-2 state championship Monday at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln.

The road to the championship began during the offseason, when the team put in the work to hone their skills and get better physically. But the journey became tougher when the Blue Devils were declared No. 1 in the preseason Class D-2 rankings. The senior class knew they had to not only perform on the field, but also make sure every player on the team was doing his job in practice and during the games.

“We keep everybody in check, but we’re pretty chill and we just love hanging out,” Jensen said of the senior group. “All of that hard work has paid off, and we finally got to this point.”

Monday’s victory also marked the final time all five players will be on the field together, but the sadness brought with that notion is quickly replaced by the thrill of a state championship and the joy of the memories made during their time as teammates.

aroh / Amy Roh/Tribune  

Kenesaw’s Sean Duffy and Trey Kennedy celebrate their Class D2 state championship Monday at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln.

For Drake Olson, it was also the last game he played with his dad, Casey, being one of his coaches. Drake could not have planned a better way to end the coach-player relationship between father and son.

“There was a lot of emotion because this was something my dad never got to do. It was good to be able to run to the sideline and give my dad a hug after the game,” he said.

Nearly the whole town may have been in Lincoln on Monday afternoon to support their Blue Devils, but the D-2 state championship now has a permanent home in Kenesaw. It’s been a long time coming for the school, but the wait is finally over.

“These fans have been behind us all the way,” Denkert said. “I’m glad we finally got to give them something like this.”