A look back at the last six months

Last week we reviewed some of the stories making headlines in the Custer County Chief during the first half of 2011. This week, we take a look back at some of the important stories and events from the second half of the year. While much of the country has struggled this past year with a low economy and a high unemployment rate, our region has managed to not only remain healthy - but to grow! That is an accomplishment we should all be very proud of. As you read through these tidbits of the year that was, I urge you to pay special attention to the number of new businesses, renovated businesses and additions - plans for new schools and community improvements, like swimming pools and fitness centers. Central Nebraska is indeed a great place to live, and many of the headlines of the past six months testify to that. May 2012 prove to be as exciting a year for Custer County and the surrounding area! JULY The west edge of Broken Bow continues to grow, and late last week plans were announced for the addition of another office along West Highway 2. The new USDA Service Center will be built on the west edge of Broken Bow at the new Custer Campus location. An early morning fire over the weekend ended in the total loss of a home near Merna, and prompted a search for the home owner. According to Merna Fire Chief Dave Beals, the call came in at 12:10 a.m. Saturday, July 9, of a house fire on the Victoria Springs Road east of Merna at the Robert Schmitz residence. Apparently he had gone out of town for the weekend and returned home Sunday evening to find his home gone. Hooker County Tribune publisher Gerri Peterson is this year’s recipient of the National Newspaper Association’s Daniel M. Phillips Leadership Award. She will be honored this fall during the association’s 125th Annual Convention in Albuquerque, N.M. Effective Oct. 1, 2011, an additional 2 percent city occupancy tax will be added to the tourism tax on hotel and motel rentals. The tax was put into effect with the final reading of Ordinance 1100 at Monday’s city council meeting. The Chamber’s 4th Annual BBQ Contest has been moved from its past time slot of the Custer County Fair Saturday prior to the parade, to the Saturday of Crazy Days. Along with the date, the location for the BBQ contest has also changed. The BBQ contest will now be at the Custer County Fairgrounds, Saturday, July 16. District 25 voters will get a third opportunity to decide on a bond issue for school improvements on the elementary level. That was the decision reached by the Broken Bow Board of Education Monday as they approved a bond resolution in the amount of $5.83 million. The vote on the resolution was 5-1, with Haumont voting no. A special poll election will be held Sept. 13, with the final decision being up to the taxpayers. Bill Kann, chief executive officer of Comstock Music Festivals, says he is not giving up on bringing back the magic he fell in love with years ago in Comstock. And he is asking the legions of fans who have grown to love the festivals not to give up either. While the Comstock Country Music Festival organizers continue asking for patience, investors in last year’s festival say their patience is wearing very thin. They say they are still waiting for their money, and have serious doubts about the future of the festival For more than 35 years the Broken Bow Swimming Pool has been a fixture in the community and surrounding area. Soon the pool that’s served the community for three decades will close its door for the final time. In May 2010, residents voted 508 to 504 to approve a $3.25 million bond for the construction of a new pool and water parkAUGUST Central Nebraska celebrated Friday with the ribbon cutting at a new $1.8 million educational facility in Broken Bow. Custer Campus will now serve as the new home of Mid Plains Extended Campus in Broken Bow. “You want to see how a community grows? You are seeing it here today!” Gov. Dave Heineman told the estimated 400 present for the open house and launching. Grocery Kart is celebrating a Grand Re-Opening this week, officially opening a 6,500 expansion to their store. The new addition offers, a full service deli and beer and wine shop as well as additional retail space. Work on the expansion was started approximately one year ago. A Sunday morning fire destroyed a hay barn owned by Marlene and Ken McGaughey just east of Broken Bow. Early that morning, the McGaughey's son was alerted by a passerby at around 5:45 am that their 40-foot by 60-foot steel-sided barn was engulfed in flames. Anderson Inc. has their eyes on Custer County. They would like to build an elevator and 124 car shuttle train loading facility off State Highway 2 east of Anselmo on the BNSF line. The project received its approval from the Custer County Zoning Commission last week. Triple T Steakhouse, formerly Doxees Steakhouse, will open on main street in Callaway Sept. 1 - just in time for the community’s annual Kite Flight celebration. The steakhouse is owned and operated by mother and son, Mickey and Todd Gavin. Midwest Energy officially withdrew their request to build five wind turbines within the Air Port’s land jurisdiction Thursday. Tom Swierczewski, Midwest Energy Senior Project Developer told the Chief that they have withdrawn the application with the Airport Authority, and that it is their desire to work with a community in their development of Wind Energy. SEPTEMBER The country, and Chief area, remembers the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001 - 10 years later. Deputy Roy Crites was working for the Custer County Sheriff’s Office at the time of 9/11. He said then Sheriff Ted Henderson came into the room and said,”Holy cow! I think we’re under attack!” Crites spent one year in Iraq and two years in Afghanistan as a member of the International Police Service. More than 45 percent of registered voters in the Broken Bow school district went to the polls Tuesday to cast their vote on whether or not to approve a $5.8 million bond for an addition and renovation to North Park school. The unofficial results of that election are: 960 - YES 697 - NO This was the third attempt at a school bond for the district, and is less than half the cost of the previous bond requests. A small group of community members met with several UNL students Monday evening to discuss the assets, drawbacks and future vision for Broken Bow. The students are members of the UNL landscape architect program, and with the help of Professor Kim Wilson and Sandy Scofield of the UNL Rural Initiative, they will be working with the community to develop a comprehensive plan for the city. The outcome will be full of ideas for projects, ways to involve the citizenry, different approaches to consider and suggestions based on community input. The Broken Bow City Council passed the first reading of Ordinance 1106, which would allow the use of all terrain vehicles (ATVs) and utility vehicles (UTVs) on city streets.OCTOBER Sandhills residents turned out in force last Thursday in Atkinson for a special public hearing convened by the State Department on a proposed pipeline to be built across Nebraska by TransCanada (partnered with Conoco Phillips). The proposed route passes through the Nebraska Sandhills and over the Ogallala Aquifer. The pipeline will slice across 92 miles of the Sandhills and 250 miles of farm and ranch land. Mary Landkamer was presented with the 2010 Nebraska Genealogist of the Year award by Nebraska State Genealogical Society president Floyd Smith. The presentation took place at the Historical Museum, where Mary served as curator for 26 years. Dry conditions and high winds sent a number of fires out of control last week, causing destruction and devastation across the area. The largest and most devastating of those fires was near the town of Stapleton. More than 50 fire departments and numerous volunteers battled an out-of-control fire which began Tuesday afternoon, Oct. 4, south and west of Stapleton. Early damage estimates are reaching $4 million, with reports of damage to 12 pivot irrigation systems; cropland and as many as four homes have been affected. Jennie M. Melham Memorial Medical Center and the City of Broken Bow have struck a deal. Tuesday, the city and the hospital entered into a 50-year lease agreement for operation and maintenance of the Ellen B. Marchek Tennis Center and the land that sits between the indoor center, and the outdoor courts. The hospital is going to use the land to build a fitness center Ansley and Litchfield’s Boards of Education have approved an agreement to coop girls’ and boys’ athletic programs for 7-12 grade students. Part of the programs will be phased in during the existing school year, starting with junior high wrestling, junior high girls’ and boys’ basketball and track along with high school girls’ and boys’ track. Next fall, the remainder of the 7-12 athletic programs will be implemented. Nebraska State Bank and Trust has opened its new branch in Broken Bow. The Nebraska State Bank East Branch offers extended hours and a full range of services to the community. The new branch, located on East Highway 2 in Broken Bow, has a full-service lobby and teller line, two drive-up lanes and a drive-up ATM. NOVEMBER In the past couple of weeks, construction has finally begun on the mammoth wind turbine project, officially known as the Broken Bow Wind Farm. Developed by Midwest Wind Energy of Chicago, the project will involve the construction of 50 300-foot wind turbines on 14,000 acres of land, creating 80 megawatts of power. The Georgia Boys head home with this year’s bragging rights, following the 51st Annual One Box Pheasant Hunt in Broken Bow. With one box of shells to work with, the five-member team scored 75 points with 15 pheasants, the daily limit, to place first. Scot Holcomb never had intentions of going into the building renovation business, or the landlord business. Yet he has found himself in both - in what may be one of the most talked about happenings in Broken Bow this year. Holcomb hosted an open house Tuesday for the public to view the newly renovated Executive Plaza apartments - formerly the Glaze Building. The Andersons formally ‘broke ground’ Friday on a 3.8 million bushel capacity grain elevator east of Anselmo. The facility is slated to be open in time for the 2012 harvest. Custer County Board of Supervisor District lines have been redrawn. State law says that each district within a county must be organized so that the population base is as even as possible. Custer County’s population went from 11,793 to 10,939 in the last census. Broken Bow’s population gain from 3515 to 3559 helped move the lines off balance. Bethany Knudsen and Dustin Spanel have partnered on a new western store in Broken Bow. The Outfitter, located in the former Jostens building, is set for a grand opening next week with a full line of “everyday clothing.” DECEMBER After eight months of countless meetings and deliberations, members of the Farmers Cooperative Grain Company in Merna, voted to merge with Cooperative Producers, Inc. of Hastings. The business operations of the two cooperatives will be combined as of Jan. 1, 2012. The Thomas County Commissioners approved a proposal to conduct an open road race on the Halsey-Purdum road at a meeting Dec. 6. The "Loup 2 Loup Open Road Race" will be held Aug. 9, 2012, and is an addition to the 12th annual Sandhills Open Road Challenge scheduled for Aug. 11. For the past three months, nine UNL landscape architecture students have been studying the community of Broken Bow - the businesses, the residential areas, the parks. Monday evening that group of students presented their final plans to the community consisting of their ideas for improving what we have and creating what we need for community growth and development. For the past 18 years, people have been singing the Blues in Arnold. This week many folks are experiencing a case of “the blues” as the announcement was made that the annual South Loup River Blues & BBQ, more commonly known as Blues Fest, is calling it quits. The Broken Bow Board of Education’s December meeting centered around the discussion, and ultimately decision, of a roof design for the North Park building project The final motion the board voted on calls for the installation of a tapered EPDM roof on the existing North Park building, and a minimum 2-12 pitch standing seam roof on the new building, except on the multi-purpose room which is a pre-engineered structure. The motion passed 5-1, with Haumont voting no. Broken Bow Extended Campus Coordinator Don Davis says they have seen about a 12 percent increase in enrollment this semester over previous years here - an increase he attributes to the new building. In all, more than 200 people took some type of class at the Broken Bow campus during the fall semester.