Nebraskans face important local choices
By Nancy McGill
The Nov. 8 general election is in less than two weeks and Nebraskans will have two pressing choices, minus their presidential picks — the death penalty and the Southeast Community College bond issue.
Southeast Community College
Among their choices, voters will choose whether to approve a $369 million bond for Southeast Community College and its 15-county area, Thayer included.
Bob Morgan, SCC director for the Beatrice campus, visited a Hebron Chamber of Commerce meeting to explain the roots of the institution’s strategic plan that bloomed into a master overview of the college’s facilities for its Lincoln, Beatrice and Milford campuses:
•Replacement and renovation of facilities on the Beatrice campus ($127,054,064);
•Renovation on the Milford campus ($88,604,757);
•Renovation on the Lincoln campus and new health science and emergency services facilities ($62,706,798);
•New campus near downtown Lincoln in the Telegraph District at approximately 21st and M Streets, ($79,479,495);
In addition, the SCC Board of Governors voted to establish six learning centers that surround its 15-county area in Hebron, Falls City, Nebraska City, Plattsmouth, Wahoo and York.
The centers will serve counties that do not have an SCC campus and assist high school juniors and seniors in obtaining college courses in trade and industry, small business, agricultural business, general education and health sciences.
Morgan said the Hebron Learning Center is not included in the $11,345,400 bond. He said SCC will pay to rent the building from Thayer Central with a target opening in late March.
Money from the bond would expand the learning center.
Morgan said SCC has never had a bond and currently has no indebtedness.
Justine Petsch, the southeast regional director for Nebraska Farm Bureau membership was also at the chamber meeting. The Nebraska Farm Bureau is opposed to the 25-year bond.
“There is no guarantee on where the money is spent and it is not being used in Thayer County,” Petsch said.
According to the Farm Bureau, the bond levy will pad SCC’s existing levy with an increase of 51 percent and the total tax increase on agricultural property over 25 years in Thayer County would be $14,988,379. The annual increase for Thayer County would be $599,535.
Also against the bond are the Nebraska Cattlemen.
A voteno369.com website lists those opposed. More information on SCC’s plan and figures for each individual project within the master plan may be found at https://www.southeast.edu/facilitiesmasterplan2016/.
Vying for a county commissioners seat are incumbent Chris Frye and Rick Dageforde.
Frye has served as county commissioner for eight years and considers the hiring of Road Superintendent George Gerdes to fill retiring Richard Hinrich’s position a solid accomplishment for the county.
He said the largest challenge to date was realizing the county had lost nine bridges and had water over the roads in more than 200 locations during the flood in May of 2015. The county also lost thousands of yards in gravel.
To improve his service to the county, Frye attended numerous Nebraska Association of County Officials classes.
Frye said the commissioners have been conservative with county funds to maintain or reduce the tax levy. He serves on the Trailblazer RC&D Council and Blue Valley Community Action Board of Directors.
As commissioner, he is the board representative for the Thayer County Weed Department and Thayer County Health Services.
When asked about challenges for the county, Frye echoed the sentiments of other county leaders.
“Our biggest challenge in the future that we see is the ability to encourage our young citizens to return to Thayer County to live and raise their families.”
Rick Dageforde has never served in public office, but is running to help county residents with whatever he can.
“I am listening to whoever needs help,” he said.
Dageforde wants to ensure county funds are properly spent and federal funds are appropriately used.
He doesn’t see a lot of problems facing the county.
Dageforde has lived in Thayer County most of his life, has always been a farmer and holds a welding degree from Southeast Community College.
Thayer Central Board
Deb Craig will vacate her seat after eight years of service.
“It is a huge time commitment and we’ve done some very good projects,” she said.
The district has completed the first phase of major building improvements, which allowed the primary grades to join the junior and high school campus this year.
One of her pride moments was securing a $25,000 from Thayer County Economic Development Alliance for entrepuernership and technical education.
She said serving on the board of education is a learning experience and well worth the time.
“The youth are the most important thing we have in our community. We have a good administration, good students and good parents. I feel very lucky from a school board standpoint with quality staff and support,” she said.
Vying for the board are Rob Marsh, Michael Prellwitz, Tyler Tietjen and Curt Mumm. Three seats are open.
Rob Marsh is an alumni and lifelong resident of the area.
He said he is committed to devoting the time and energy needed for the board of education.
“I care a great deal about our school system. I also understand how important our school system is to the area as a whole,” Marsh said. “I feel that one of my strengths is the ability to bring people of differing opinions together.”
Marsh was instrumental in developing the Titan Beef Booster program in and united local producers, business and the district.
“Our model has now expanded to over 40 schools within the state. I continue to host a farm-to-school program that brings our students to our farm to learn where their food comes from,” he said.
For the SCC bond, Marsh, as an SCC alumni, feels technical schools are a key component. He is also aware farm economy is depressed. It is his hope SCC will make its improvements in the most cost-effective way possible.
Marsh’s concern is the $369 million bond may be too much for the local economy to support while taking into account current and future financial obligations of the district.
Incumbent Prellwitz has served the school district for 16 years.
He said his main interest in serving the district was for the schools and the community.
“It’s a lot more complicated than what people think. The system is regulated by state and federal policies and laws most people have no clue on,” Prellwitz said.
For the future, Prellwitz said it’s unfortunate, but school security needs to be increased. He also sees consolidation.
“I don’t see how our taxpayers are going to afford three high schools in this county. We’re asking taxpayers for more and more, and we’re getting less from the state,” he said.
On the SCC bond issue, Prellwitz said he understands what the college is trying to do and he isn’t opposed.
Prellwitz himself attended a junior college at very little cost.
Thayer Central has offered duo credit courses, he said.
One of his daughters graduated with nine college credits and the other, with 18.
“I have known other kids that had almost enough credits to graduate from junior college,” he said.
He also thinks taxpayers should be involved in the legislative process and especially in the state formula that determines the distribution of state aid.
“Every year, the legislature wants to change the way it distributes state aid. They’re not doing it. If they had a solid plan, it would help schools and taxpayers to understand what is going on from year to year,” he said.
Tyler Tietjen has never served and was approached by people to represent the southwest portion of the district.
“I think the board, administration and staff has done a great job. I just want to get on and help make the school the best it can be,” Tietjen said. “I’m sure it’s quite a commitment.”
Tietjen has served on the Byron Community Foundation Board, the Byron Community Building District, Byron Lion’s Club and Byron Volunteer Fire Department.
Tietjen sees both sides of the SCC bond. He is a farmer and understands the high valuations, and the need to educate the young.
As far as activities, Tietjen would like to see the FFA and Titan Beef Boosters programs excel.
“I’ve heard a lot of people comment about the good beef meals and the kids are learning where their food comes from,” he said.
Incumbent Curt Mumm has served for 12 years. He is running for another term because he has the knowledge and experience of how school policies and budgets work.
“Early on, I learned that a school board member, like any other elected official, shouldn’t seek office as part of a personal agenda or as a vehicle for self-promotion,” Mumm said.
Mumm has served on the policy and building committees during his time with the district.
He said when he first took the seat, there hadn’t been any building improvements since the 1970’s.
“We made great strides in this area and if I were re-elected, I would like to continue to work with the building committee,” Mumm said.
Mumm has had four sons attend Thayer Central and he coached junior high basketball from 1994 to 2012.
“I’m thankful for the many relationships and friendships I’ve been fortunate to develop while working through the school in my different capacities,” he said.
Mumm is unsure about the SCC bond because on one hand, the improvements seem to be for mostly Lincoln and Milford and on the other, kids need a quality education they can use to return to their rural communities and make their towns stronger.
“After looking beyond the original jaw-dropping figures, I’ve learned that any entity – public schools or private business or community hospital – can get more built and be more cost effective than making improvements in stages,” he said. “These projects end up paying far less in interest as well. It’s a question that as a taxpayer is a tough decision.”
Mumm believes the future is bright for Thayer Central, the staff is excellent and the board’s work with the building committee is positive.
One percent local option
sales tax – Deshler
Mayor Naomi Grupe said Deshler is one of the few towns in Thayer County that does not have a sales tax option.
She said people do not refuse to pay the tax when they shop elsewhere.
“It will help us with our budget needs,” she said. “We were hit twice just within a year and things are coming back along well, but we’ve had losses,” she said about the flooding in May of last year and April of this year.
The Deshler swimming pool would be one project benefitting from the option. The water isn’t staying in the pool like it should because of a leak.
The town is financially strapped and improvements include town streets.
“It’s one of the hardest things to do is to vote for more taxes, even though you pay it wherever you go,” Grupe said. “I’m going to vote for it.”
Additional local races
Deshler has three seats open for city council. Candidates are Glenn Bartling, Andy Christianson, Travis Miller, Jeanette Fintel, Arlis Hohl and Alan Holle.
For the Village of Chester, Adam Tipton, Joseph Carbonneau, Loren Pachta and Mark Miller are vying for three seats.
The Davenport School District has four candidates for three seats, Brad Williams, Jeff Hoins, Rod Tegtmeier and Ryan Miller.
Referendum Measure 426
Those who do not want the death penalty will vote to retain. “Retain” means to keep the Nebraska Legislature’s vote to replace the death penalty with life imprisonment for the crime of murder in the first degree.
Voting to “repeal” the death penalty means voters disagree with the legislature’s decision and would like the death penalty in place. Under the repeal vote, the maximum penalty for murder in the first degree is death.