Friday, March 28, 2008

Baseball/Softball Sign-Up On April 3

Soon, the cry of "Play ball!" will echo throughout the village.

In preparation for the upcoming season, the Dorchester Baseball & Softball Parents Association will hold a meeting this Thursday, April 3, at 6:30 p.m. at the Dorchester Fire Hall.

It is important that all parents with children who want to play on the diamond attend this meeting.

The meeting agenda will include player sign-up, discussion of finances, committee voting. Also discussed will be maintenance and improvement plans for the ball field and dugouts.

The Parents Association will be accepting applications for all coaching positions. All ideas and concerns are welcomed and encouraged.

Those with questions should call on of the following Parents Association representatives: Corbey Aaberg at 826-7046; Lisa Wells at 826-0774; or Brian Pribyl at 826-3045.

'Meet The Candidates' Forum To Be Held April 8

Nebraska's primary election is only six weeks away. On May 13, Dorchester area residents will have several candidates to choose from for local office -- including five candidates running for the Dorchester Village Board.

The Dorchester Area Community Association (DACA) has asked the five candidates running for the village board to participate in DACA's "Meet the Candidate" forum. The forum will be held Tuesday, April 8 at 7 p.m. at the Dorchester Community Building.

"The sole purpose of this event is for the voters to meet the candidates and come away with information that will help them to make an informed decision in casting their vote," said Carol Olson, president of DACA.

DACA has asked each village board candidate to name and explain his top three priority issues. Candidates have also been asked to answer questions on issues important to DACA members, including the issues of street paving and community involvement with projects and activities.

Candidates and all Dorchester voters are urged to attend this important civic event on April 8.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Grant Writing Training Available May 13-16

Recently, in our posts regarding street paving and other possible Dorchester improvement projects, Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) have been mentioned. We at the Times have found ourselves becoming a bit envious of the generous sums received by other communities through this program.

The CDBG program is a long-running federal program. In Nebraska, CDBG dollars are distributed through the state (and its Department of Economic Development), despite that they come from the Housing Dept. in Washington, D.C. The CDBG program is intended to address a wide range of community development needs -- from streets to water infrastructure.

Here's an important event we thought Dorchester leaders should know about. There will be CDBG certified training offered May 13-16 at Southeast Community College’s Continuing Education Center, 301 S. 68th St. Place in Lincoln. May 13 will cover CDBG program requirements for “Labor Standards” and how to “Prepare for a Dept. of Economic Development Monitor Visit." May 14 will focus on “Environmental Reviews." And May 15 will review “Grantee Financial Management”. On May 16, topics pertinent to Certified Administrators will be reviewed.

To learn more about training and registration, contact Jason Seamann at (800) 426-6505 or at jason.seamann@ded.ne.gov

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

New 'Homes For Sale' Feature Added To The Times

The Times has added a new feature to our Web site in an effort to highlight homes for sale in Dorchester and the surrounding area. The new feature will be permanently located in the Times' left column.

By clicking the address of each home listed, readers can learn about the details regarding each house, including the asking price and photos. We believe this new feature will serve area families and individuals looking to relocate within the community, as well as former Dorchester residents who are considering moving back.

We encourage readers to inform us when homes go up for sale in the area, or if we have forgotten to list a home already for sale. Our e-mail address is Dorchester.Times@gmail.com. Only homes with a dedicated Internet site, maintained by either a realtor or owner, will be listed on the Dorchester Times.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

More Paving: Crete's Example & Our Position

Times reader "Mike" has informed us of a paved road project much closer to home.

Today, the Nebraska Dept. of Economic Development (DED) issued a release commending the City of Crete for its use of federal Community Development Block Grants. The press release states: "(S)ome areas of Crete were in desperate need of updating. Gravel roads, prevalent in certain areas, had the accompanying problem of little or no drainage systems to alleviate standing water and erosion. The unpaved roads were steadily becoming a dilemma; the gravel roads could not be plowed after snowfall, creating a dangerous obstacle for residents in the area who rely on them for daily travel. Knowing that such a large street improvements project would cost a bundle, the city of Crete looked to the Nebraska Department of Economic Development for funding. The city applied for and received $267,500 in Community Development Block Grant funds, which they matched with $257,500 in local funds giving them $525,000 to begin the endeavor.

"... Since the successful completion of this public works project, standing water is no longer a concern for residents in the area. Water mains have improved water quality and pressure. Snow removal, potholes and mud are no longer problems for the area, and driving conditions are generally much safer. Street maintenance is also much easier. Not only is the area much safer and easier to access, but it is also much more appealing."

Also, we note that Gothenburg this month received $250,000 for engineering, paving, storm sewer, curb and gutter work. The city will provide $259,351 to complete the project.

For information on Community Development Block Grants, contact Elizabeth Martin at 800-426-6505, 402-471-4168, email: ncip2.intern@ded.ne.gov, or visit the Web site: www.neded.org.

We also want to further explain the Times' position on paving, especially since we have received some comments from residents who disagree with our support for paved streets.

Yesterday, we stated why paved streets would greatly improve Dorchester's quality of life. However, we also believe paving makes more sense economically -- in addition to the increased property values that would come with improved streets.

Engineers preparing street development cost estimates look at two major project cost components: 1.) Capital outlay (up-front construction and materials costs) and 2.) Operations and Maintenance (long-term costs associated with keeping the system operational).

With a paved street system, capital outlay is large and maintenance costs are relatively low. With a dirt/gravel road system, capital outlay is less, but maintenance costs are significantly higher. Last year, the Village of Dorchester budgeted more than $70,000 for maintenance of streets, according to our sources. Of course, this does not include the cost of labor for village employees who must do the work.

Since the days of the "great paving debate of 1979," many, many Dorchester dollars have been spent on upkeep of gravel roads -- money that could have been used for permanent paving projects over the past 30 years. In the end, a paved, curbed road system is more economical, safer, more attractive and may even improve Dorchester's water quality due to cleaner runoff.

Monday, March 24, 2008

How To Pay For Street Paving?

Recently, there has been a growing chorus of calls from Dorchester residents who want village leaders to more seriously consider a plan to pave Dorchester's streets. Last weekend, the nine staff members of the Dorchester Times voted unanimously to support efforts to pave the majority of the town's streets.

With paved streets will come new home construction; more home improvements; increased property value; less damage to vehicles; better air quality; less money spent on gravel and city employee labor; a renewal of community pride; and a better quality of life in general. Supporting paved streets is the easy call. Finding the means to pay for them is a much more difficult task.

We decided to explore the methods of revenue collection used by communities currently paying for new paving projects. We found a variety of approaches.

The City of Lincoln, for example, relies heavily upon "impact fees" that are applied to new homes built in the city's outer limits. Back in 2003, former Lincoln Mayor Don Wesely used a bumpy, dusty gravel road as a backdrop to defend the Capital City's use of the controversial impact fees. Wesely called gravel roads an eyesore and said that an unpaved road is "less safe than a paved road, dusty, a daily problem for the residents ... and the wrong way to build a community."

Smaller communities, closer in population to Dorchester, have similar impact fees. Ceresco has a water and sewer development fee of $2,250 per lot. Malcolm has a tap fee for sewer and water of $250 per lot, plus a sewer and water fee of $2,250 per lot. These fees are used, at least in part, for road improvements.

Of course, Dorchester doesn't have a boom in new home building -- not yet, anyway. Considering that about 75 percent of Dorchester's streets are unpaved, Dorchester would likely need to utilize a bonding program.

Many cities taking on new paving projects have residents vote on a bond issue, typically paid for by an increase in property tax. In the examples the Times found, senior citizens were often exempt from the property tax increase if they are at least 62 years’ old in the tax year. Also, most bonding programs exempted the disabled and families who had a very low income.

There were some more creative and affordable ways of accomplishing the paving mission. Some communities held special fundraising drives to offset the overall cost. One community even found "sponsors" who donated substantial sums and renamed streets after the largest donors.

We also found one story from rural Washington state in which a small community paved all of its graveled streets thanks to a state grant and donated labor and machinery from a heavy equipment operation school.

The city of Kittitas, Wash. found a team of heavy equipment operators who donated their time, supervision, heavy equipment and the labor in the street paving project. The benefit for the school is that students and others in the program received on-the-job training in an actual project. Washington's state government granted Kittitas $112,644 for paving several streets within the city in the cooperative program. The state funding came from revenue generated by the statewide gas tax, which is similar to Nebraska's gas tax formula. (A large portion of Nebraska's gas tax is dedicated to counties and local governments for road projects.)

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

News Briefs: Bruha, Cochnars Receive Honors

  • Bruha Receives All-State Basketball Honors: The Lincoln Journal Star has named DHS junior Brandon Bruha to its honor roll for Class D-1 boys basketball. Bruha received honorable mention for his efforts on the basketball court this season. We at the Times tip our hats to Brandon.
  • Cochnars Inducted Into Czech Musicians Hall of Fame: Seven musicians were recently inducted into the local Czech Musicians Hall of Fame during a ceremony and accordion jamboree at Ron’s Tavern in Milligan. Included in the short list of inductees were the late Alfred and Teresa Kohl Cochnar of Dorchester. The Cochnars founded the popular U-Neta Orchestra in 1938, playing in many states and across Nebraska. Alfred played saxophone, clarinet and trombone and handled bookings. Teresa played lead trumpet and wrote arrangements. The orchestra had 40 years of consecutive bookings until 1978. Later in life, Teresa played the Polka Mass at Sacred Heart Church in Crete and directed and arranged music for area choirs and rural schools. The Czech Musicians Hall of Fame was created in 1999. A plaque with the engraved names of inductees is mounted in Ron’s Tavern.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

DACA: No July 4 Community Celebration & Fireworks This Year

Following the March 11 meeting of the Dorchester Area Community Association, it appears Dorchester's annual Fourth of July celebration and fireworks display will not take place this year, thanks in large part to a lawsuit stemming from an incident nearly three years ago.

According to DACA president Carol Olson, eight members attended Tuesday's meeting. One of the main issues on the agenda was whether to again organize the July 4 activities and finance the evening fireworks.

Olson reported that "the start-up funds that would normally be used to kick off the Fourth of July celebration have been consumed by attorney fees related to a July 4, 2005 incident."

"Therefore, the $2,500 that the DACA normally provides Jeff Stilwagon for the evening fireworks would all have to be raised prior to July 4, a daunting task for a small community," said Olson. The eight members attending the meeting voiced concern that too much for too long has fallen on too few shoulders & the question was raised if they were “up to the task?" The answer came in a vote of 7 against and 1 for moving forward with the celebration.

Other agenda items included scheduling the Great Nebraska Trash Off for Saturday, April 12th at 1 p.m. All were in agreement to join Friend and possibly Exeter in a community garage sale event for Saturday, June 14.

It was also decided that DACA would host a “Meet the Village Board Candidates” forum at the next DACA meeting, April 8 at 7 p.m.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Editorial: Dorchester Would Gain As NCIP Community

There is a plethora of opportunities for Nebraska's smaller communities to enhance their future prospects. Some of those opportunities, however, stand out from the rest.

For 45 years, the Nebraska Community Improvement Program (NCIP) has recognized communities for outstanding community, economic and leadership development efforts. The program encourages communities to develop a community planning process then work to implement a plan with a strong reliance on community volunteers. Every Nebraska community with a population of 50,000 or less is eligible to participate in NCIP.

As reported earlier by the Times, Dorchester next month will be featured in the Sunday Lincoln Journal Star's Hometown section. This month's featured community, Cook, Neb. (population 330), is a NCIP community. There is no reason Dorchester shouldn't be, as well.

Communities wanting to participate need to submit an Intent to Enter, Community Goals sheet, and Government Resolution by March 31. These documents can be found in the NCIP Awards Guide, which can be downloaded at http://www.neded.org/. If current or prospective Dorchester leaders want more information, they can contact Lindsay Papenhausen at 402-471-6587 or at lindsay.papenhausen@ded.ne.gov.

Participation in NCIP is one way in which Dorchester residents could show pride in our town and leaders could encourage more volunteerism by gaining recognition for community accomplishments. Without an organized effort, it can be difficult to articulate exactly why a town is a great place to live. Moreover, it can be hard to figure out exactly how to make it better. We hope Dorchester leaders at DACA or the Village Board consider looking into joining the state's Community Improvement Program.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

York Workshop Will Help ID Economic Development Funding

Thanks to reader "Mike," the Times has learned of a nearby workshop that will help Dorchester leaders and candidates for office learn more about available funding for community and economic development projects.

The public funding workshop will be held this Thursday, March 13, at York's Holiday Inn & Convention Center -- right off Interstate 80. There is no cost obligation.

According to an Omaha firm, Kirkham Michael, many communities whose leaders have attended the workshop have attained financing for infrastructure planning, water and wastewater system improvements, streets, and other needed improvements. The firm's staff will conduct the workshop, along with "experts in the area of public financing."

The workshop begins at 9:30 a.m. and ends at approximately 3 p.m. Lunch will be provided. For those interested in attending, call Rich Robinson with Kirkham Michael at (402) 255-3840 or Cindy Mainquist at (402) 255-3808.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Get Ready For Easter Egg Hunt, March 22

The Easter Bunny is getting ready to visit the village.

Plan to bring the kids to Dorchester's community Easter egg hunt on Saturday, March 22. The hunt will begin promptly at 2 p.m. at Nerud Field and the high school football field, according to Dorchester Volunteer Fire Dept. secretary Bret Cerny.

Sponsored by the DVFD and the Dorchester American Legion Post 264, the community Easter egg hunt is one of the highlights of the holiday weekend.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

A Dozen File For Village & School Boards

Dorchester has a dozen candidates vying for five open seats in its school and village governing bodies. The 12 candidates who have filed for the Dorchester Board of Education and the Dorchester Village Board will appear on the May 13 primary election ballot.

The following seven individuals are running for the three open Dorchester School Board seats:
  • Ron Kahle (Incumbent)
  • Bill Boller (Incumbent)
  • Jeff Jacobson
  • Lindsey Zoubek
  • Kelli Burkey
  • Lisa Wells
  • Mikki Hoffman

The following five individuals are running for the two open seats on the Village Board:

  • Dean Pracheil (Incumbent)
  • Brandon Koll
  • Lyle Weber
  • Todd Jensen
  • Jeff Jacobson
As a result of the large number of candidates, March 3 was the filing deadline for both races and no more candidates can be accepted. Under state law, if an insufficient number of challengers file for a local office, that contest will not appear on the primary election ballot and the filing deadline will be extended until July 15. However, the adequate number of filings for both boards make the extended deadline unnecessary.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Never Forget The 1927 School; Order Your Remembrance T-Shirt

Dorchester area residents and DHS graduates all across the country can now show off their Dorchester School pride.

Readers of the Dorchester Times may purchase a special edition t-shirt featuring detailed artwork of the 1927 school building, which will be razed in mid-May. The shirts make a great gift for anybody with ties to our community. The drawing will be on the back of the shirt. On the front will be the following saying: "Pride in our past. Faith in our Future." Colors available are banana (pale yellow) or sand (tan).

The cost of each shirt, regardless of size, is $10. To order your own t-shirts, email Dorchester art instructor Mrs. Lutjemeyer at sschelbi@esu6.org. Or simply provide sizing following information and send it to Dorchester Public Schools, Attention Mrs. Lutjemeyer, 506 W 9th, Box 7, Dorchester, NE 68343. Orders are due no later than next Friday, March 14. Checks should be made payable to Dorchester Schools. Be sure to specify color (sand or banana) and size (Youth M, L or Adult S, M, XL, 2XL, 3XL).

Monday, March 3, 2008

News Briefs: Dorchester Will Be Featured In Journal Star

  • Dorchester Will Be Featured In Journal Star Series: The Lincoln Journal Star yesterday (March 2) unveiled a new series called "Under 1,000" to spotlight Nebraska small towns with fewer than a thousand residents. The newspaper announced that Dorchester will be the second community featured in the series. The story on our community will run in the April 6 edition of the Sunday Journal-Star in the Hometown section of the paper. For the next 18 months, on the first Sunday of each month, the newspaper will report on one town from each southeast Nebraska county. The first town featured was Cook, Neb. -- population 330 -- in Johnson County. The town of Cook was noted for its several community awards, including being named the "Best Small Town in America" contest run by Jack Daniel Distillery, as well its designation as a "Community of the Century" by the Nebraska Community Improvement Program and a "Tree City USA" by the Arbor Day Foundation.

  • Dorchester's Jacy Hewitt Takes 2nd Place In Selling Bee: It has been brought to the attention of the Times that Dorchester eighth grader Jacy Hewitt finished in second place at the recent Saline County Spelling Bee held in early February. Our congratulations to Jacy.

  • Saline County Named As Prosperous Rural County: According to three University of Illinois researchers, Saline County is a prosperous rural county, along with 29 other Nebraska counties in rural Nebraska. The Illinois study, called "Why Some Rural Communities Prosper While Others Do Not," challenges the conventional wisdom about rural America. The researchers say that prosperity does not necessarily hinge on population growth. They focused instead on the "outcomes" of rural America that people seek — low unemployment, low school dropout rates, little poverty and good housing — and whether rural counties rank "above average." Rural people "are so used to thinking of themselves as the poor cousins that the very fact that hundreds of rural areas do better than the nation as a whole was a big surprise. Rural prosperity exists," said Andrew Isserman, a rural sociologist who led the study.

  • Havlat Sings Anthem At Qwest Center: Dorchester High School junior Amy Havlat was selected to perform the Star-Spangled Banner at the recent 2008 Nebraska State High School Wrestling Tournament at the Omaha Qwest Center. Havlat was selected from among more than 40 other students who submitted their audition recordings to the Nebraska School Activities Association. We salute Amy for her performance and recognition by the NSAA.