Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Live In Nebraska? You'll Likely Live Longer Than Average


A new study finds that Nebraskans live longer than the average American.

According to the analysis by 24/7 Wall St., Nebraska's current life expectancy at birth is 79.5 years.  That compares to 78.8 years for the average American.

In the comparison of all 50 states, Nebraska is No. 31 (20th best), overall (but is tied with three states ranked higher, so we don't know why the Cornhusker State was given the short straw).

What is hold Nebraska down in this study?  The state's obesity rate is a whopping 29.5% (18th highest). 

However, Nebraska's smoking rate is only 17.3% (20th lowest).

Hawaii has the longest average lifespan at 81.2 years, followed by California and Connecticut.  The state with the shortest lifespan is Mississippi at 74.8 years.

To see the study, click here.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Dorchester 4th Grade Girls Basketball Goes 7-1 In YMCA League


The future of Dorchester Lady Longhorn basketball looks very bright as the community continues to produce lots of talent in girls athletics. 

Yesterday, Feb. 26, Dorchester's fourth grade YMCA basketball team won yet another game, albeit by only a basket. 

Coach Brent Zoubek led the fourth graders to a 7-1 record for the 2017 season.  

According to one fan who followed the games this year, the season showed continued promise for the future of DHS basketball, as the Dorchester girls fought off the Lincoln competition. 

Sharon Axline, a grandmother of a YMCA player, reports that the Pavlish family provided a pizza supper for the coach, team and their families after yesterday's game.

YMCA recreational basketball is offered for boys and girls in 3rd through 8th grades.

According to the YMCA website, the YMCA basketball league provides low pressure development opportunities.  Cost is only $15 per player.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

NEWS ROUNDUP: March 7 Is Baseball/Softball Parents' Organizational Meeting


Dorchester Baseball And Softball Organization Meeting Is March 7: Dorchester has begun to register kids interested in playing for the village's baseball and softball teams.  There will be a parent meeting for softball and baseball players on Tuesday, March 7, 6:30 p.m. at the Dorchester school. To download the registration form, click here.  Stephanni Olson-Renn reports that registrations, once completed, should be taken to the Dorchester School or the village office. She also reports, "We are still in need of coaches as well as someone to run the Sugar Shack."

Dorchester Junior High Play Set For March 14:  The Dorchester Junior High Thespians will be presenting the play, The Fairy Tale Network, written by John Woodard through special arrangements with Pioneer Drama Service on Tuesday, March 14, at 7 p.m. on the stage in the DPS Multipurpose Room (practice gym).  The public is invited to attend this show to see how three mice come up with story ideas for their new boss, the cat, by using the well-known stories of Little Red Riding Hood, The Three Pigs, and Goldilocks and the Three Bears.  

Milford School Spotlighted For Its Focus On Technical Education:  The future belongs to young people with real-world, valuable skills that will allow them to innovate and contribute to society's growth.  That's why we are sharing a Milford Times' story on Milford Public Schools' career training, which starts in seventh grade. Milford requires its students to complete 15 credit hours in vocational classes, or at least three classes in a career or technical field, before they can graduate.  Personal finance also is required.  The school offers four general career and technical classes: industrial technology, business, agriculture, and family and consumer science.  The MHS industrial technology program includes woodworking, robotics and welding, which offers dual credit welding through Southeast Community College.  The dual credit is made possible through SENCAP, a partnership with the local Educational Service Unit 6 and SCC, that provides career academies for high school students.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Home For Sale Near City Park Reduced To Just Over $80,000


Dorchester is one of Nebraska's best communities under 1,000 -- and it is getting noticed for the right reasons. Consider what our community has to offer:
  • A new K-12 school, built in 2008, with smaller class sizes and a school budget surplus.
  • A clean, peaceful, safe community.
  • A new water tower and sewer infrastructure.
  • The lowest school property tax levy in Saline County.
  • Affordable living.
  • One of the largest agri-businesses headquarters (Farmers Cooperative) in the state.
  • Friendly, helpful neighbors.
  • A 10-minute drive from employers in Crete, Milford and Seward. And just 25 minutes to Lincoln. Located next to two major highways and near I-80.
However, one challenge facing Dorchester is housing.  We've heard from readers who've said they would like to move to Dorchester, if only good homes were available.

Today, we showcase a Dorchester home available right now.  And the price has just been significantly reduced to just over $80,000! Just southwest of the city park, this home is only five walking blocks from the Dorchester School. If you're ready to call Dorchester home, we encourage you to take a look.  Make Dorchester your home and grow with our community.

203 W 7th St.: 
Ranch house for sale in Dorchester. Updates include newer siding, windows, roof and doors throughout on the main level. Over 2,000 square feet with main level and basement. Located on a corner lot with a chain link fence. City park sits catty corner to this property. Built in 1974.

Click here for this home listing.  Pictures of the home may be seen here.

Dorchester Cub Scouts' Pinewood Derby Today At Legion Hall


Today (Saturday), Feb. 25, the Dorchester Cub Scouts, Pack 343, will be holding their Pinewood Derby at the Dorchester American Legion Hall.

The racing action begins at 1 p.m. sharp.

The Legion doors will open around 11:30 a.m.  Scouts and those who want to watch the racing are asked to arrive at the Legion Hall at no later than 12:45 p.m. so the races can begin promptly at 1:00. 

Scouts are reminded to wear their scout shirts for this official troop event.

For those scouts who don't yet have their Cub Scout shirts -- or if you are a boy interested in joining the scouts -- contact Amanda Cerny via Facebook or at the school at (402) 946-2781.

For those who don't know, the pinewood derby is a racing event for Cub Scouts in the Boy Scouts of America. Scouts, with the help of parents, build their own cars from wood, usually from kits containing a block of pine, plastic wheels, and metal axles.

On March 17, 1954, the first pinewood derby race outside of Cub Scouts was held at Griffith Park in Los Angeles.

As a reminder, the traditional Scouting divisions are Cub Scouting for boys ages 7 to 10½ years, Boy Scouting for boys ages 10½ to 18.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

NEWS ROUNDUP: Fast Home Sale Demonstrates Need For Newer Housing


Good Housing Sells Fast In Dorchester: More proof of that came this week. As we reported Tuesday, a nice home located just a half-block west of the school, went up for sale.  On Wednesday night, the home's current owner, Stephanni Olson-Renn, reported that less than 24 hours later, the house was sold. A similar situation occurred last summer when a newer home went up for sale in south Dorchester. "Looks like Dorchester is in serious need of housing," Renn said. "If you build it they will come!" 

DHS Students Win BBB Video Contest: Congrats are in order to four Longhorn students for taking first place -- and a $500 award -- in the Better Business Bureau's video contest for the Lincoln Metro and Greater Nebraska area.  As we reported earlier this year, the DHS sports marketing class submitted its commercial for the contest.  The commercial created by the Dorchester students is entitled: “Finding Trust: The Lonely Sow.”  It features a pig -- specifically a sow -- in search of a “hot date.”  She turns to online dating.  To win, their commercial needed online views.  The class’ goal was 1,500 views.  At last check, the commercial had compiled over 1,700 views.  The competition was aimed at giving students the chance to express their creativity while learning the values of BBB: being trustworthy, ethical, reliable and objective. 

DHS Boys Conclude Basketball Season: The Dorchester boys basketball team wrapped up a tough season on Monday night, falling in subdistrict play.  The young DHS squad lost to Lewiston by a count of 59-41. Scorers for the Longhorns were Havlat 8, Cervantes 2, Nelson 22, Hoffman 9.

For Better Or Worse, More Wind Farms Coming To Saline County: Saline County is the focus of two more wind farm projects by Aksamit Resource Management.  According to the Friend newspaper, the company is working on two wind farm projects in western Saline County: Milligan 1 and Milligan 3.  The story notes that Milligan 3 will have 37 turbines with, each tower standing roughly 260 feet tall to the hub with blades 180 feet long. According to ARM’s website, the project is expected to be done near the end of this year.  The larger project, Milligan 1, is expected to be completed by the end of 2018, and will have 87 turbines over 30,000 acres. Each tower will be 384 feet tall with 207 foot blades.  "According to county assessor Brandi Kelly, the turbines will not affect property values," but there is local speculation that the development could devastate the property values of homes in that area.  While some call this economic development, critics note that solar energy is becoming much more attractive, is more reliable, and cause less visual and noise polution than wind farms.  Moreover, critics have noted that if subsidies for wind go dry, the county or landowners could be left with the deconstruction costs since the developers would almost certainly be bankrupt by that time.

Another Saline County Bridge Closing: The Friend newspaper reports that the bridge on County Road S between Highway 15 and County Road 1200 will be vacated.  County commissioners voted 4-1 to close the bridge earlier this month.  The bridge over Spring Creek, located about three miles northeast of Western, washed out in the May 7, 2015, storm.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Nice Home For Sale Close To School


Dorchester is one of Nebraska's best communities under 1,000 -- and it is getting noticed for the right reasons. Consider what our community has to offer:
  • A new K-12 school, built in 2008, with smaller class sizes and a school budget surplus.
  • A clean, peaceful, safe community.
  • A new water tower and sewer infrastructure.
  • The lowest school property tax levy in Saline County.
  • Affordable living.
  • One of the largest agri-businesses headquarters (Farmers Cooperative) in the state.
  • Friendly, helpful neighbors.
  • A 10-minute drive from employers in Crete, Milford and Seward. And just 25 minutes to Lincoln. Located next to two major highways and near I-80.
However, one challenge facing Dorchester is housing.  We've heard from readers who've said they would like to move to Dorchester, if only good homes were available.

Today, we showcase the latest Dorchester home available right now.  And it's a dandy! Just a half-block west of the school, its backyard is the peaceful Nerud Field (football field and baseball diamond). The home is on a paved street with easy access to the highways. If you're ready to call Dorchester home, we encourage you to take a look.  Make Dorchester your home and grow with our community.

602 W 9th St.: 
Small town living at its best. Invite the neighbors to cheer on the home team from the your backyard, which has been beautifully landscaped. Three large bedrooms up include a master suite with a full bath and hers and hers closets. The laundry room is right off of the garage and offers a place for coats and boots. The mostly finished basement with egress in the family room, has a 4th, n/c bedroom. This home has been well loved and it shows throughout. Built in 1995.

Click here for this home listing.  Pictures of the home may be seen here.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Hastings Conference Revives Memories Of Dorchester's Bigfoot Sightings


You may have heard it reported this past weekend, but Hastings hosted the first-ever Nebraska Bigfoot Conference last Friday and Saturday.

According to the Hastings Tribune, the two-day conference included filmmakers, investigators, researchers and educators.

The Hastings article spotlights a former Benedict resident whose family experienced a Bigfoot encounter in 1973.

The woman is quoted as saying: “A gentlemen from York saw it run across the highway from our house. He doesn’t talk about it anymore, but he came up to my folks’ place and could hardly talk. My mom said his eyes were really big and when he could finally get some words out they called the sheriff.  My boyfriend and I came home from a football game and there were spotlights going in the field and on the road. They were looking for something. That night, everyone was kind of nervous about it. My brother, Gary Reetz, who is seven years older than me, felt like someone was watching him from the barn. He and his buddies got guns out and looked for it.”

According to the story, signs that an intruder had visited the area included a “Stop Ahead” sign pulled out of the ground and left at the scene. Little else was ever mentioned about the incident or subsequent investigation."

The Hastings article recounts other sightings, as well -- from those who attended the conference last weekend.

As faithful readers of this blog know, several years ago, the Dorchester Times published a controversial story about possible Saline County sightings of a Bigfoot -- the elusive forest-dwelling man-ape, also known as a Sasquatch.

As we reported back in 2008, a longtime Dorchester area resident -- now deceased -- once told a Times staff member that he had clearly seen a creature resembling Bigfoot. While his family dismissed the accounts, the elderly resident insisted the creature really existed.


According to the resident, the Bigfoot-like creature was spotted in the woods of Turkey Creek near Pleasant Hill in the mid-1980s. The creature was witnessed for about 30 seconds as the gentleman was driving along what is now County Road II, south of Pleasant Hill.  The creature, described as over 10-feet tall, quickly disappeared into the thick vegetation surrounding the creek, according to the witness' account.

The Times was also told of another Dorchester area resident, a World War II veteran, who had seen what is called "the Johnson Creek monster."  According to our sources, in the early 1970s, this individual and his son saw it several times at their residence, which was near Johnson Creek.  
This individual's son has reported that the entire family once saw it in their yard.  The details given made it sound as though the specimen resembled a traditional Bigfoot as depicted in popular culture, except smaller. It was described as a small, upright ape-like creature.

To be clear, the Dorchester Times is highly skeptical of the existence of Bigfoot. 

Nonetheless, we can't forget the sincere accounts we have heard about the Dorchester area Bigfoot-like creatures.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

DVFD Fundraiser Draws Huge Numbers


Saturday evening, Feb. 18, the Dorchester Volunteer Fire Department held its first annual chili cook-off at Dorchester's Community Hall and American Legion Hall. (UPDATE:  The winner was Brant Pracheil, while Sharon and Harold Axline took second place; coming in third place was Velder Taxidermy and Big T's Restaurant.)

From all reports e-mailed to the Dorchester Times, the fundraiser was a smashing success. 

One source told us that she estimated around 375 attending the cook-off.

A freak February warm spell likely helped attendance as temperatures pushed 70 degrees as the doors opened at 4:30 p.m.

York's Max Country radio station, 104.9 FM, was even there to provide coverage.

This was a major event for Dorchester's volunteer firefighters and rescue personnel, intended to help provided much needed funds for new equipment and to help cover expenses.

Those who attended were able to sample an amazing array of nine different chili soup concoctions, made by Dorchester business owners.  (Correction: There were nine servers, not eight as we originally reported.)

Businesses that took part in the event were:
  • City Slicker's Restaurant;
  • Novak Auction Service
  • Big T's BBQ Pit Stop;
  • Farmers Cooperative;
  • Sharon Axline's Hair Salon;
  • Tyser Auto Sales/Tyser Repair;
  • BP Agronomics (Brant Pracheil);
  • Bill Velder Taxidermy; and
  • Mrs. G's Country Cooking.
Besides chili, the gathering featured sandwiches, hot dogs and cinnamon rolls (donated by Mrs. G's Country Cooking), along with a silent auction.  The auction's top prize was a seven-night stay in a Florida Keys condo, donated by Greg and Becky Tyser.  Other items an engraved bench, oil changes, radios, fire extinguishers, quilts, lawn chairs, meal certificates at local eateries, toy farm implements, and many other items.

The Times has not yet received word on a dollar amount regarding total funds raised last night, but those attending who we've spoken to said the fundraiser was one of the best community events in recent memory.  One told us, "We wish this were a monthly event."

Must have been some good chili!

Friday, February 17, 2017

NEWS ROUNDUP: Dorchester's Chili Cook-Off, Polka Party Both This Weekend


Dorchester Firemen's Chili Cook-Off Is Saturday:  Tomorrow, Feb. 18, is the Dorchester Volunteer Fire Dept.'s first annual cook-off.  This is a major event for Dorchester with a good-sized crowd expected to attend.  Those wanting to sample an amazing array of chili soup by great (and maybe a few mediocre) chefs should get to the Community Hall and Legion Hall.  Dorchester business owners will be the chili cookers.  There will also be sandwiches, hot dogs and cinnamon rolls. Serving will start at 4:30 p.m.  Winners are expected to be announced around 8 p.m. A silent auction will be another feature of this community gathering.  Free-will donations will also be accepted.

Polka Party This Weekend At Dorchester Legion Hall: Are you ready to party to polka? Another popular polka party will be held at the American Legion Hall this coming Sunday, Feb. 19.  Angie Kriz and the Polka Toons will be providing the tunes.  Sunday's event will kick off at 3 p.m. and continue until at least 7 p.m.  Only a $5 cover and the Legion kitchen will be open.  Free-will donations will be accepted.  Proceeds will go to the Dorchester American Legion.

Dorchester Farmers' Market Planning Underway: It is time to consider if Dorchester area citizens want a Farmers Market this year.  At the last discussion, organizers considered having the market on Wednesdays from 4-6 p.m.  Head organizer Laura Sysel requests feedback from the community regarding the best time of the week and location. (Specifically, Sysel is asking if the city park a good location or if the event should be returned to the church parking lot?) Sysel is also looking for some help to run the event.  E-mail her at laura.sysel@gmail.com or call 402-580-8533.

Dorchester Baseball And Softball Signups Have Begun: In the late 1800s, Walt Whitman said, "I see great things in baseball. It's our game, the American game. It will repair our losses and be a blessing to us." Dorchester youth can now begin to register for the village's baseball and softball teams.  With practice beginning in about six weeks, it's never too early. You can download the registration form by clicking here.  Stephanni Olson-Renn reports that registrations, once completed, should be taken to the Dorchester School or the village office. She also reports, "We are still in need of coaches as well as someone to run the Sugar Shack."

UPDATE: Girls Basketball Season Ends With Loss To No. 2 Falls City SH

Photo courtesy of Faye Weber Photography

UPDATE FROM WILBER: The DHS girls basketball team's season has come to an end after the Longhorns lost in the finals of the D2-1 subdistrict tourney.  The state's No. 2 team in Class D2, Falls City Sacred Heart, pulled away from DHS for a 57-24 win with an 18-point second quarter. Baylee Velder had 10 points for the Longhorns.

The Lady 'Horns end the season with a 11-13 record.
____________

On Tuesday evening, Feb. 14, the DHS girls basketball team shocked the Nebraska high school basketball world by upsetting local powerhouse Exeter-Milligan (18-5), ranked No. 3 in Class D-2.  The final tally was 59-57 at the Class D2-1 subdistrict competition held at Wilber-Clatonia High School.

The district final will be 6:30 p.m. Thursday, as DHS will go against the state's No. 2 Class D-2 team, Falls City Sacred Heart, which is 22-1 on the season.

The Lincoln Journal Star reports:

The Dorchester girls basketball team knocked off No. 3 Exeter-Milligan 59-57 thanks to a strong start in the Class D2-1 subdistrict semifinals Tuesday at Wilber-Clatonia High School.

The Longhorns led by seven at halftime before the Timberwolves took a one point lead to end the third quarter. Dorchester buckled down on defense and held Exeter-Milligan to just eight points in the final period. Makenna Bird and Jacee Weber each had 13 points to lead Dorcheser and Sydney Hall scored 12 points for the Timberwolves.

In the opening game, No. 2 Falls City Sacred Heart clamped down on defense in the second half, allowing just 12 points, for a 52-27 win. Randee Witt scored 12 points while Alexis Barnes, Jade Hill and Haylee Heits each had 11 points.

____________________

February has not been kind to the Dorchester High School girls basketball team.

The DHS girls basketball team suffered a five-game skid to close its regular season.  

Of those five losses, four were losses by four points or fewer.

The Lady 'Horns are now 10-12 this season and now must find a way to win in a very difficult district tourney or their season is over.

Here is a look at the Lady 'Horns last five games of the season.  Prior to these games, the DHS girls had a 10-7 record:

Feb. 2: Lost to Nebraska Lutheran   34-38  
Feb. 3: Lost to Giltner                    47-50  
Feb. 6: Lost to Cross County           41-45   
Feb. 7: Lost to Hampton                 38-67 
Feb. 10: Lost to McCool Junction    40-41

To keep the season going, DHS will have to find a way to win at their Class D2-1 district tournament at Wilber Tuesday night.  That's when DHS will take on powerhouse Exeter-Milligan (18-5) at 7:15 p.m.

The district final will be 6:30 Thursday.  Falls City Sacred Heart, which is 21-1 on the season, is also in the tournament.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

OUR OPINION: Communities Quit Working When Their People Do


Communities are like any other organization -- they stop working when their people do.

It's odd that so many people today want to change the world, but never stop and think how they can improve life for those people they know in their own neighborhood.

Psychologists tell us that there are really just a handful of characteristics needed in building better relationships. Most important are:

1.) Loyalty;
2.) A common purpose;
3.) A serving heart; 
4.) Open communication; and
5.) Patience.

Oddly enough, these are the same ingredients to build and maintain a strong community. 

When is the last time you've asked yourself, "What have I done to help Dorchester? What more can I do tomorrow to improve Dorchester?"
The best part of a small town is that one person really can make a difference.
On three different occasions this week, Times staff members heard from out-of-town visitors how much they liked our small town.  One visitor from Hastings said, "You really have something special here."  

Sometimes, we take for granted the involved, peaceful and safe community we have. After all, life moves a little more slowly in a small town.  We assume all the good aspects to Dorchester will always be there -- or they'll eventually return. 

But we are seeing small towns around us facing new challenges.  Friend recently lost its grocery store, just as Dorchester did six years earlier.  Exeter is talking co-oping its successful girls volleyball program with Geneva (Fillmore Central). Wilber lost its famous full-time bakery.

You could blame population loss, but that's not a key reason.  While our area hasn't seen a boom in population since the 1920s, we haven't seen large population loss, either.  In fact, except for the farm community, population has held steady.  

Instead, it's apathy that hurts communities.  The smaller they are, the more apathy hurts.
The fact is, our area businesses, organizations and schools (and school activities) suffer when people quit participating; when people quit supporting one another; when people quit caring.  
Don't we have enough of that in the cities?  The worst part is the example being taught to the next generation.

We wanted to take this space and quickly recognize the following individuals who really stand out right now for their hard work and efforts to help Dorchester grow and thrive:

Jason and Kathy Duhrkop, owners of City Slickers, and their staff for improving their business and bringing special events like the June 4 concert to Dorchester.  (Everyone in town, especially elected leaders, should be asking how they can help.)

Timothy J. Vejraska, owner of Big T's BBQ Pit Stop, and his staff for giving Dorchester a viable mainstreet once again.  Combined with City Slickers, Dorchester officially has the best restaurant and pub options in Saline County.  And Big T's is now open 7 days a week!

Amanda Cerny and other organizers of Boy Scout Troop 343.  It's great to see Dorchester boys back in scouting, learning valuable life lessons and skills from role models in the community.

* The coaches of Dorchester sports. (You know who you are.)  It's easy to coach when throngs of kids go out; it's more challenging when you have to work hard with the players you're given.  From DHS wresting, to both basketball teams, to younger kids' basketball, to little league baseball, you're doing great work and it's getting noticed.

* The entire leadership of the Dorchester United Methodist Church.  In many ways, the church remains the fabric of the community.  We also commend the members of the community church on main street for their work to maintain a well-kept, clean property in a visible part of town.

* Dorchester School educators and school leaders. We know it's a challenging time to be in public schools, but Dorchester needs you and your dedication.  We don't take you for granted.

* Dorchester Volunteer Fire Dept. and Rescue.  This group is the most under appreciated group in town.  If we could give them tax breaks as a way to say thank you, we would.

* All those involved in Dorchester's volunteer groups, from the Community Foundation to the Legion to the Elementary parents group. You all don't get the credit you deserve for keeping Dorchester moving forward.

* All members of the community who've made improvements to their properties, large or small, as well as those working hard to improve Dorchester's quality of life Also, we commend those young Dorchester residents who've stayed in Dorchester or returned to make Dorchester an even stronger community.  Our future depends on you.

As we said above, communities quit working when their members do.  

Please use the comments section below and nominate anyone you think deserves to be recognized for their hard work to improve our community.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Need A Job? We Have Some Leads For You


Need a job? Know someone who's looking for a job?  

The Times has poured over all our sources to help ensure that Dorchester area residents who want to work can work. 

Specifically, we looked over 
NE Works, a website run by the Nebraska Labor Department.

The agency's site shows 297 job opportunities within 10 minutes of Dorchester, including several in Crete and Milford.  

Among the opportunities nearby are:
  • Miller at The Crete Mills in Crete.
See all the openings by clicking here and entering your zip code and selecting your preferred distance.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Looking Back: Saline County In 1861


Recently, we stumbled upon an 1861 map of Nebraska -- when the Cornhusker State was still just a territory, not state.  (You can click on the map to the right for a closer look.)

few years before the 1861 map was made, the Nebraska territory had encompassed what is today six or seven separate states.  But by the late 1850s, Nebraska had taken the physical form of the familiar shape we know today.

What makes this 1861 map significant is that even before the North and South were waging war, triggered in large part by the Nebraska-Kansas Act, many Nebraska counties had already been formed.

In fact, six years before Nebraska would become a state, about half of today's 93 counties were already in existence.

Many of those counties had different names than they do today.  For example, today's Jefferson County was Jones County, while today's Thayer County was Jefferson County. To our north, present-day Seward County was Greene County.  Saunders County -- which today contains towns like Wahoo -- back then was located in the far southwestern corner of the state, in the area of present-day McCook.  Clay County was crunched between Lancaster and Gage.

There were also some counties with some unfamiliar names, like Shorter, Izard, Black Bird and L'eau Out Court counties.  And several counties in 1861 had much different geographical boundaries than they do today.  Lancaster County, for example, was only half its modern-day size.  Same is true for Gage.

But Saline County today is pretty much the county that appeared on that map from 156 years ago.

That's something not every Nebraska county can claim.

Congratulations, Saline County. You're a true original.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Storm Spotter Training For Area Residents Is March 9


Years ago, there was a song made for those who wanted to be a cowboy.

But what about those who want to be a storm spotter?

Luckily, there will be a storm spotter training event hosted next month by Jefferson/Saline/Gage Emergency Management -- and anyone interested is invited to attend.

The storm spotter training will be held in Beatrice on March 9 at 7 p.m. at the Homestead National Monument education center (8523 West State Highway 4, Beatrice, Neb.).

The training will be conducted by National Weather Service (NWS) meteorologists.

It should be noted that trained spotters will not be recognized in Saline, Jefferson or Gage counties or by the NWS unless you attend a session conducted by a NWS expert.  It is recommended that spotters attend a session every two years to keep up on any changes.

For questions, call John McKee at (402) 729-3602 or (402) 821-3010.

Now go be that eye in the sky.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Family Fun Event Is Feb. 12 At Tabor Hall


Need to get the kids out of the house on a winter weekend? We have good news for you.

There will be a Family Fun Day at Tabor Hall on Sunday, Feb. 12.  

The event will be held from 3 p.m. until 6 p.m.

Everyone is welcome.  (The address for Tabor Hall is 1402 County Rd. I, Dorchester.)

There will be many activities for the kids, as well as raffle prizes.  

Popcorn, hot cocoa and other goodies will be served.

Each family is asked to bring an appetizer or dessert to share.

The event is being sponsored by Tabor Lodge No. 74.

See you at Tabor Hall!

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Legislature Considering Vacant Housing Fees For Small Towns


For years, small town residents across Nebraska have complained about vacant properties, only to be told by lawyers or judges that there is little the law allows communities to do about them.

Be warned, vacant property owners: That could be changing soon -- for both residential and commercial property owners.

The Times has been sent information from an informed reader regarding LB256, a bill pending at the Nebraska Legislature that would crack down on the problem of vacant properties.   

The bill, offered by Albion Sen. Tom Briese, was heard earlier this week by the Urban Affairs Committee.  The legislation "would provide communities an additional tool to address problem properties and housing shortages."  According to Sen. Briese, "existing nuisance ordinances have limited application for vacant properties, which can hinder economic growth and are a concern for many small communities." 

Under LB256, a municipality could adopt an ordinance that would allow it to:
  • identify and register vacant properties;
  • collect fees;
  • plan for rehabilitation of vacant properties; and 
  • encourage occupancy. 
The registry could apply to commercial or residential property.  

If adopted, a vacant property registration ordinance would require registration of a property vacant for 180 days or longer. An initial registration fee of no more than $250 for a residential property and $1,000 for a commercial property would be assessed. Supplemental fees would be allowed and exemptions to the fee requirement could be provided.  Unpaid registration fees and fines would become a lien on the applicable property upon notice to the county.

Greg Ptacek, economic development director for the city of Neligh, testified in support of the bill. Approximately 10% of Neligh’s housing stock currently sits vacant, he said, which creates a housing crunch in the small community. The fees and fines associated with a vacant property ordinance could provide a necessary financial incentive to property owners in Neligh and other municipalities across the state, he said.  “If we were to take 5% of those houses and put them back on the market … we would have about 4,000 [more] homes in Nebraska,” Ptacek said.

Lynn Rex of the League of Nebraska Municipalities also testified in support of the bill.  She said, the bill would give small and medium-sized communities more ways to encourage owners of problem properties to cooperate with city government and find solutions. “Financial pressure does work when you’re trying to deal with vacant properties,” Rex said.

No action has yet been taken on the bill, aside from the hearing, but if you like what you hear, call or send and e-mail to your state senator (Sen. Laura Ebke if you live in Saline County) and ask them to support the bill.  

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Great Ideas Awaiting Dorchester: Housing Construction By Students


Occasionally, we receive some really great ideas in our inbox at Dorchester.Times@gmail.com.  

This week, one such idea was submitted.

As a result, we are starting a new series called "Great Ideas Awaiting Dorchester."

Today's idea centers around Dorchester's need for family housing.

The reader who proposed it called it his "gap housing plan" to fill in vacant lots in and around our community.

Here are the essentials of the "gap housing" proposal:
  • The plan would require school leaders and Dorchester's village board members to coordinate.
  • Using residential lots donated or purchased by the city -- preferably empty or neglected lots within town -- Dorchester students who enroll in industrial arts classes would build a home over the course of one or two school years.
  • Students working on the new house would specialize in areas such as interior design, construction, electrical, plumbing, roofing, etc.
  • Instruction would occasionally be provided by SCC educators from Milford, as well as area contractors and home builders, contracted by DPS.
  • Profit from the sale of the home would be returned to DPS' industrial arts and vocational training programs to boost future efforts.
In an era when educators and parents have awakened to the reality young people need real-world skills before they enter the real world, this idea has merit.

We hope DPS and village leaders will give it some consideration.