Year in Review
Jan. 30, 2019
HARTINGTON — A long-planned road improvement project will finally happen this year.
Cedar County Commissioners voted Jan. 22 to accept a bid of $593,375 from Elkhorn Paving Construction, Norfolk, to pave the road just south of the Hartingon city limits from Hartington Tree east to the county bridge.
The road paving project has been under consideration for over two decades, now.
Earlier this month, Hartington-Newcastle Public School Board members voted to accept a bid to pave the road that runs from the schools and connects to the county road. The Holy Trinity Finance Committee also agreed to accept the bid.
The County’s bid approval was contingent upon eliminating a proposed four-inch Bituminous base course and increasing pavement thickness to nine inches so heavy vehicles, such as busses won’t damage the road surface.
Jan. 30, 2019
HARTINGTON — Being an entrepreneur can be a thankless job at times.
But that is what makes recognition by the Hartington Chamber of Commerce for 25 years of operation even more special.
X-Pert Lawn & Landscaping, owned and operated by Brad Arens, was one of three business honored with an Anniversary Award at Friday night’s Chamber of Commerce banquet.
The other businesses honored were Hartington Care & Rehab for 50 years of operation, and First National Bank Northeast for 25 years in business here.
Arens was proud of the award, saying Hartington has played a tremendous role in showing support for his and many other local businesses.
“It’s nice. Hartington has been just great as far as in a business community. I have had a lot of support over the years and that means a lot to me.”
Arens said the business was originally started by his father, Duane Arens, and when he graduated college is when they expanded to incorporate landscaping into the business model.
“When I got out of college with my horticulture degree we expanded them into landscapes and things like that
and it just grew from there,” he said.
Arens said things started small with basic lawn care and mowing, but the business has grown to the point where mowing lawns is just a small part of the services the company now provides.
Now the business focuses a lot on landscaping for homes, helping homeowners show pride in their property.
“When we first started, the green industry — which is what we call our industry — was very few people maintaining things like they do now,” said Arens. “Over the past 25 years, the green industry has just kind of blown up and now it is kind of part of the building process. So it has changed tremendously over 25 years.”
Arens has also helped build quite a portfolio of his work that helps bring business in, and it also helps the community stand out in a positive way to anyone passing through town.
Jan. 30, 2019
HARTINGTON — Area federal workers placed on furlough because of the government shut down are back to work. Congress passed and President Donald Trump signed a continuing resolution to fund the government.
That means employees with the local Farm Service Agency, USDA, National Park Service and the Missouri National Recreational River have resumed regular operations.
Many Farm Service Agency offices reopened temporarily Jan. 17-18 and Jan. 22 to perform some limited services for farmers and ranchers.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture recalled about 2,500 FSA employees to open offices to assist agricultural producers with existing farm loans and to ensure the agency provides 1099 tax
documents to borrowers by the Internal Revenue Service’s deadline.
National Scenic River employees
are now also back to work at their
headquarters building in Yankton,
S.D. The agency has jurisdiction over the Missouri River in northern Cedar County and over Goat Island near St. James.
The National Park Service office provides information about the Missouri National Recreational River including showing of its new film River of Change during regular business hours. The 18-minute film features amazing aerial and scenic views of the river, up-close wildlife photography, and interviews of people that call the river their home and place to recreate.
Missouri National Recreational River protects 98 miles of relatively natural, free-flowing river, from Fort Randall Dam at Pickstown, South Dakota to Ponca State Park, Nebraska; excludes Lewis and Clark Lake. The park also includes 20 miles of the lower Niobrara River and 8 miles of the lower Verdigre Creek, both of which are tributaries of the Missouri River. Established in 1978, the stretches of the river that Congress designated as a recreational component of the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System Wild flows fast and wide through shale and chalk bluffs where willows and cottonwoods, and bur oak trees flourish. Wildlife is abundant throughout the MNRR.
Feb. 6, 2019
HARTINGTON — After nearly 18 years of welcoming travelers to Northeast Nebraska and the surrounding area, the Corps of Discovery Welcome Center on Highway 81 is closing.
It was a project that sought to offer a rest stop with a view of the Missouri River for travelers passing through the area, and a place where people could learn more about northeast Nebraska tourism attractions.
The Center is located on the west side of Hwy. 81 a mile south of the bridge that crosses into Yankton.
Typically during the winter, it closed from Dec. 23 through the end of February, but at a Board of Directors meeting Jan. 31, it was decided the Center will close and the property will go back to the Nebraska Department of Transportation.
The action had been contemplated for awhile, as other options were explored, but no other options seemed practical, said Board member Gary Kimm.
Kimm, a former president of the Corps of Discovery Welcome Center, is one of the group’s founding members.
Kimm said the ball started rolling when the Board received a $20,000 grant from the state of Nebraska as part of the LB144 partnership. It allowed for architect Glenn Mannes to be hired to develop a design for the building.
That design was made into a model that was taken around to help interest investors and raise money for the project.
As the structure was built and the project took life, funding began to dry up as grants became more difficult to secure, Kimm said. The Lewis & Clark NRD helped secure the location for the building
Feb. 6, 2019
HARTINGTON — Chamber Coffee has long been a Friday morning staple in Hartington.
The event started out 35 years ago as a way to help promote community unity during Hartington’s centennial.
That weekly event will undergo a major facelift this year, though. At the January Chamber of Commerce banquet, there was quite a bit of discussion on ways to improve the weekly Chamber Coffees and make it easier for members to get together.
“There were some very good comments and I received additional emails from others with more ideas,” said Chamber President Karma Schulte.
Schulte said the Chamber officers met recently and all of the ideas were taken into consideration.
They came up with several plans, but admitted they may have to be “tweaked along the way.”
The first change will make the weekly Friday Chamber Coffee an event at the Hartington Senior Center each week with coffee and rolls provided by the Chamber of Commerce.
Feb. 6, 2019
HARTINGTON — A former hotel manager here was sentenced on theft charges Wednesday in Cedar County Court.
David Chang, 55, Yankton, S.D., was sentenced to two years probation, and a $1,000 fine during Wednesday’s court proceedings in front of Cedar County Judge Douglas Luebe.
Judge Luebe also ordered Chang to pay the local Cobblestone Hotel ownership group $7,500 in restitution. Luebe agreed to let Chang pay the bill in installments, but he must have the $7,500 completely paid in two years.
Judge Luebe said Chang has been given an opportunity to make things right — an opportunity at which he must succeed.
“This could have put you away for a considerable period of your life. That did not happen today, though,” the Judge said.
If the restitution is not paid on time, Chang will serve jail time, Luebe said.
“If the payments are not paid you will serve 60 days in jail without benefit of a hearing,” he said.
Chang pleaded “no contest,” to misdemeanor theft by illegal taking charges as part of a plea agreement offered by Cedar County Attorney Ed Matney.
The plea agreement reduced the charges down from what Chang had been facing.
He was originally charged with a felony theft charge. His past criminal activity also prompted a charge of being an habitual criminal because of criminal activity he was involved with in the 1990s.
Court documents show he was sentenced in 1994 in Pennington County, S.D., to a term of one year imprisonment for forgery. In 1999, he was sentenced in Minnehaha County on a charge of grand theft and was given a sentence of 1-15 years behind bars for that conviction.
These new charges both carried mandatory sentences of up to 10 years in prison. Both of those felony charges were dropped, however, in the plea agreement.
Court documents refer to Chang’s actions from Jan. 1, 2017, through Oct. 31, 2017.
Court records indicate Chang, who was manager of The Cobblestone Inn and Suites, had initiated a program that allowed customers to purchase one room and then get another room for free.
Chang was asked to discontinue the program by the hotel owners, but reportedly did not. In addition, the investigation revealed instances where checks that were for lodging were reportedly made out to Chang personally.
During Wednesday’s court hearing, Chang said since he was the manager of the hotel when the money turned up missing, he takes responsibility for it. He did not admit to any wrong-doing, however.
Feb. 13, 2019
HARTINGTON — RaDec Construction was hired as the Construction Manager to guide the construction of a new vo-ag building at Hartington-Newcasltle school.
The Hartington-Newcastle School Board Monday approved a $7,500 pre-construction contract with RaDec to begin looking at materials, gather pricing, collaborate on design, and work with the school’s architect, KPE of Omaha,
School officials are still negotiating with RaDec on the cost to actually take on the role of full-time construction manager on the project.
Supt. A.J. Johnson said a contract has not been signed because, “until we make some decisions, as to what we want, and what kind of design we are going to have, there is really no way for them to give us an accurate price.”
Once a contract is signed, the Hartington firm will oversee the bid process, as well as the contractors and subcontractors hired to build a new vocationalagricultural building here.
The building would be built to the east of the current vo-ag building. The original vo-ag building would then most likely be used for storage, Johnson said.
School Board officials have been discussing the need for an updated vo-ag building for a couple of years, now. School officials got a first-hand view of the condition of the building a few years ago when the school’s administrative staff was moved to the building so HVAC installation could take place in the main school building.
Feb. 13, 2019
HARTINGTON — Local students should be pleased with the Hartington-Newcastle school calendar for 2019-20.
Next year’s calendar includes a two-week vacation over Christmas and an extra day off at Easter.
“Just because the way Christmas falls next year, we felt we needed to extend break next year,“ said Supt. A.J. Johnson
The new calendar was approved Monday by the Hartington-Newcastle School Board.
Christmas break will begin Friday, Dec. 20. Students are then scheduled to return to classes Jan. 6, 2020.
The new school year will begin on Thursday Aug. 15. That day will end with a 2 p.m. early dismissal. The last day of the 2019-20 school year will be May 19. Graduation for the HNS Class of 2020 will be May 16.
Feb. 20, 2019
HARTINGTON — The Hartington Economic Development Corporation has plans to expand the Westfield Acres housing development.
The group recently purchased land from Avera Medical Clinic. They plan to turn that land into three new lots.
The infrastructure is already in place, Hartington Economic Development Treasurer Brandon Baller told members of the Chamber of Commerce at their annual meeting last week.
The next step before putting the property up for sale for housing, is to have the land re platted
The group would also like to begin work on Phase II of the Westfield Acres project. That plan would include developing at least 16 new lots immediately to the south of the current Westfield Acres addition. No time frame is yet in place for that work, however, Baller said. Preliminary costs for the project have come in much higher than expected, he said.
Economic Development Board President Chris Miller said the industrial park is also at full capacity. The group has purchased land between Bomgaars and the old cheese plant, where they want to start a new industrial park site, Miller said.
The Development Corporation also held its election for Board members and election of officers Wednesday.
Gary Kruse and A.J. Johnson both earned three-year spots on the board. Ed Bottolfsen and Dan Kathol are both retiring from the Board.
The officers were all re-elected to their positions.
Chris Miller was re-elected as Board President, Peggy Year was re-elected as Vice President and Baller was re-elected as Treasurer, as Preston Leise maintains his position as Board Secretary.
Feb. 20, 2019
HARTINGTON — A strong work ethic and great community and family support have helped area youth stand out in a national study.
According to a national report compiled by the Bridgestone Group of Boston, youth in Cedar and Knox counties are doing a better job with economic and social mobility than most other youth in rural America.
The Bridgestone Group worked with the National 4-H Council to complete its research and compile the information.
Cedar County Extension Educator Jackie Steffen and Knox County Economic Development Director Megan Hanefeldt guided Bridgestone Group personnel around Cedar and Knox county communities last year to help them gather information.
Steffen held an Open House at the Cedar County Extension office Friday to better explain the 41-page report to area residents.
Cedar and Knox county communities are well represented and often mentioned in this national report, Steffen said.
Steffen set up 25 site interviews last year with community leaders, and business owners across Cedar and Knox counties.
She also helped organize youth focus groups in Laurel, Randolph, Wausa, Crofton, Bloomfield and Verdigre to allow the group to get more one-onone information from students.
The goal of the study was to find out what is working in these communities, Steffen said.
What researchers found often times surprised them, she said.
“They were surprised the Opioid Crisis hadn’t necessarily reached here. That’s not to say we don’t have drug abuse problems, but we don’t have them to the same extent as many places,” she said.
The report then goes on to explain possible reasons as to why the national health epidemic has not taken root here.
Researchers found the family, community and religious support networks here are big factors in the kids’ success.
“People around here care about their neighbors, and their neighbors’ kids,” she said. “They have community pride and it shows.”
A “we all need to work together attitude’ is also prevalent here.
“Our communities expect people to participate. We just have expectations that people will opt in,” she said.
There is also an ever-present stay-busy mind set, she said.
“Kids get up early to work out and lift weights or go to practice for speech, swing choir or sports, while others have to help out on the farm or have jobs. Kids always seem to be busy here,” she said.
Steffen said the report also noted the local newspapers also do a good job of showing area youth that they matter and the community is proud of their successes.
“Our local media and the way they support the kids — that really helps to build our kids’ esteem,” she said.
An early emphasis on the importance of finding a career pathway was also noted.
Now that the report is out, area residents have a couple of options, Steffen said.
“We can pat ourselves on our backs now and put this report on a shelf and walk away, or we can take this information, look at it and try to see what we’re doing right and try to figure out what we need to do to stay where we’re at or improve upon where we’re at,” she said.
Feb. 27, 2019
HARTINGTON — The Hartington-Newcastle School District is marking an anniversary this week.
There were a lot of unanswered questions when the Hartington and Newcastle School Boards first agreed to merge their school districts back in 2014.
Many of those questions have since been answered as the school district is set to mark its fifth anniversary this year.
In February 2014, the State Department of Education approved a merger plan between the two northeast Nebraska school districts. The two districts officially became one July 1, 2014.
Former Hartington Supt. Randy Anderson guided the merger process. At the time, he said it was a necessary step to keep both communities strong.
Supt. A.J. Johnson said the merger is working well for both communities.
“In general, I think we’ve had good support from Newcastle,” he said.
Johnson has gone out of his way to make sure the Newcastle facility is being used.
He has scheduled the Newcastle facility to host One Act District play competition there twice and the facility has also hosted the Lewis and Clark Conference One Act Play competition.
In addition, the Newcastle football field has also been used for a varsity football game.