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Thursday, June 18, 2015
Tuesday, June 16, 2015
By Leesa K. Bartu
Exeter Village Board chairman Alan Michl called the regular monthly meeting to order at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, June 9 with an unusually large audience.
The board approved last month’s minutes before hearing about the new ordinance code book from Joe McNally representing Municipal Code Services, Inc.
McNally presented the final updated version of the code book, “After you pass the book you have a three year buffer to change things. If you make additions or tweak some things there is no charge for a year.”
“I send out a newsletter after each legislative session is concluded with any pertinent bills to a town of your size,” McNally explained, “It’s best to continue updating the book so you don’t have to go through this process again.”
The board waived the three readings of the book and passed Ordinance 580 to accept the new ordinance book. Then the board passed resolution 15-05 to publish the books.
Fillmore County Zoning Administrator Jennifer Slezak presented the board with a conditional use permit that was filed for by Craig and Kelly True. The zoning board passed the permit and sent it back to the village board for approval as the True’s are planning to construct a building on a lot with no house on it. The True’s plan to build a home on the property later.
Along with the permit, the True’s had approached the board about closing several roads surrounding their property. The board initially discussed closing part of East Osage Street. Clerk Becky Erdkamp noted that “you are actually just vacating a platted street that has never been opened"
The board passed Ordinace 581 to close one block of East Osage.
Next for discussion was the closing of one block of North Empire Avenue listed in Ordinance 582. Adjoining property owner, Mike Hopkins, voiced his desire to have the road left open. Chairman Michl agreed,“I am not in favor of closing this road until I see what is going on out there.”
The True’s own the property on either side of the block of North Empire Avenue under discussion which is currently an unmaintained dirt road. “If you aren’t going to close the road then I want the road to be a real road. It will have to be rocked and graveled,” explained Craig True.
The board agreed to table this ordinance to a later date.
The board moved on to a discussion on closing a block of West Boundary. Adjoining property owner Hopkins again protested the road closing, “I want that road open because I don’t know what they are digging over there and with the noise late at night I can’t sleep. I want a buffer zone between us.”
The board decided to table that ordinance as well.
Michl explained their hesitancy in making decisions surrounding the True’s property, “There are concerns from area residents about what you are planning to do with the property including breaching the wellhead protection area with the hole you are digging.”
Michl continued, “What we are calling this is a manmade water structure. When you called digger’s hotline you stated to them that you were digging a pond. At the last [village board] meeting you talked about building a pond and a building and a house.”
“I needed fill dirt for a building. If I am in violation of something I want to know what it is,” explained True.
“It would be much simpler for us if we had a plan,” Michl
“In the business I am in when you call diggers hotline you tell them everything you are going to do. What other permits do I need? I’ll do whatever it takes,” noted True. “I’m really not trying to be in violation but I don’t understand all the permit process.”
The board explained to True that they were researching the requirements and directed him to visit with Clerk Erdkamp after research has been completed.
The board moved on to the next agenda item from Bob Mueller who was representing the Exeter Community Foundation. “At our last foundation meeting we discussed the possibility of improving the downtown area in Exeter. The foundation decided they would give $5,000.00 to the village to start the process of some of the things they want to be done to find the funds for downtown revitalization.”
He explained that the foundation would like the board to use the funds to get the training and momentum going to find grant monies using Southeast Nebraska Development District (SENDD). “There is a possibility that there could be a federal grant with a matching portion to tear down the tag factory.”
Patt Lentfer, the Fillmore County Development Corporation director, noted that “For a lot of these [grants]you have to be a certified community. All the training provided with SENDD gets you ready for other opportunities.”
Mueller recommended that the board contact SENDD and have someone come speak to the board. The board unanimously voiced wanting to have someone come to speak.
“To redo main street and tear the tag factory down without any help is just not feasible,” explained Michl
Clerk Becky Erdkamp updated the board on the current status of the tag factory, “We did get a response from the certified letter that was sent to Seth Jones where we declared the building a nuisance. He indicated he would still like to complete the donation process to the city. He also emailed village attorney Charlie Campbell.”
The board held a discussion on the liability of the building and Michl summed up the discussion, “Let’s go ahead and make sure they own it and go through the process of accepting the donation from them.”
The Board approved a motion to proceed with accepting the donation of the tag factory.
Lentfer approached the board about participating in another county wide housing survey. “Before we can find grants to help pay for a study we have to first see if communities are interested in doing this.
Wilbeck noted, “We discuss the lack of suitable housing here quite frequently. I think it is something we need to do.”
The board passed a motion to show their interest in participating in a housing study in the county.
The board reviewed the audit from the accountant before inviting resident Amy Skinner to address the board.
The board mailed Skinner a letter about abandoned vehicles on her property. Clerk Erdkamp explained that Amy was present to inform the board that the cars were in limbo in her late father’s estate.
Wilbeck noted that the board did not know the estate wasn’t settled.
Skinner asked exactly what the complaint was. The board read her the ordinance about abandon vehicles.
Schlegelmilch commented, “So you are here to find out why you are being contacted about your abandoned vehicles? We read the ordinance and it is illegal to have unlicensed on your property.”
The board heard an update on village maintenance from Supervisor John Mueller. He reported that he is continuing to work on the insurance issues from last summer’s hail storm. “We are getting all new air conditioning units at the fire hall, the senior center and new coils on the heat pump at the pool. The roofs will be replaced as well. All of the bids are within the insurance estimates.”
Clerk Erdkamp reported that Boy Scout from Troop 359, Jack Dinneen, will be replacing the roofs on the ball shed and the park picnic shelter in metal for his Eagle Scout project and wanted some guidance on color choices. The board asked that it be something that matches the area. The board also discussed the cement that another Boy Scout, Elliot Erdkamp, is going to place around the sign in Gilbert’s park for his Eagle Scout project.
Erdkamp reported that March tax revenue was $11,077.71 and keno funds for April were $805.73.
She also reported that she has been in contact with the person who physically owns the care center building and received a check from them for the delinquent water bill. The owner has asked the village to mow the property and send them a bill.
Exeter-Milligan Superintendent Paul Sheffield reported on the progress of the JPA project. “We amended the budget, as needed. The bonds have been issued and the first bond payment has been made. Bids for the project are due Thursday, June 11 by 2 p.m. We expect to have the two new entries to the gym completed by November 23 for basketball season and the entire project has a July 1, 2016 completion date.”
The board set the next meeting or July 7 at 7 p.m.
Sunday, June 14, 2015
Stephanie Grace Whitson (left) autographs her newest book “Daughters of the Regiment” for Fairmont Public Library board member Georgia Schropfer.
The evening of Wednesday June 3 found a small group in Fairmont eagerly awaiting the arrival of an author who has embraced Nebraska as her home and found her niche writing about the pioneering spirit of women in the state.
2014 marks Stephanie Grave Whitson’s 20th anniversary as a published novelist, “If you would have told me in 1994 that I would still be writing 20 years later I would have said ‘you’re nuts.’”
With more than 25 books to her credit Whitson has found her place in the Christian historical romance fictional market. She started writing when a small group of graves in a cemetery near her rural home wouldn’t leave the train of her thoughts.
Her candid presentation to the audience at the Fairmont Public Library began with a description of her constant perusal of non-fiction and the inspiration she finds in history, “I am reading real history about women who lived in history that interested me. There will be a bunny trail, something that will pop up and I will think, ‘Wow, what was that like for her.’ Or ‘What kind of woman would survive that?’ and then I continue to learn more and more about the real history.”
The majority of Whitson’s books are about Nebraska history, are well-researched and true to fact, but are entertaining as well, “The way it works for me is I put imaginary characters into real events. The history that is in my books is as accurate and true as I know how to make it but the people are figments of my imagination.”
Whitson gave a background of her newest book “Daughter of the Regiment,” which immerses the reader into the world of the Civil War. This book, while set in Missouri, reflects a trend that was quite often seen on both sides of the Civil War in which the commanders would bring along their wives or daughters to the camp and they would stay with the regiment and serve as cook, nurse and even so far as to serve alongside the men in battle. “I always want to write books that are respectful of the real history and honor it and don’t take it lightly,” Whitson explained.
This fall her work will be seen in “Basket Brigade” a trilogy about the basket brigade of 1861 in Decatur, Il. . Similar to the Nebraska phenomenon, the North Platte Canteen, the women of Decatur would receive a telegram of the number of wounded Civil War soldiers on a train and prepare baskets of food to be presented when the train stopped in Decatur. Whitson tells one of three stories in the book based on a quote that she saw in the Illinois State Museum display on the basket brigade.
Whitson’s story follows the life and troubles of a young woman who places a note in the basket, trolling for a young single man as she advertises herself as young and single with lots of blond hair.
Her visit to Fairmont came out of one of her “bunny trails.” In 1978 while visiting the Nebraska History Museum Whitson noticed a quilt on the outside of the sod house replica in the museum and became intrigued when she read the backstory of the quilt.
The quilt was made by the daughters of Mattie and Uriah Oblinger from the maternity dresses Mattie wore before she died in childbirth. That information triggered research on Whitson’s part leading her to a vast storehouse of letters and photos of the Oblinger family who homesteaded in Fillmore County.
“It’s a very rich archive because we don’t have a lot of letters. They just weren’t kept and the actual letters and a lot of the photographs from the family are housed in the archives in Lincoln. It was a big thrill for me to ask for Urriah’s papers and see the actual letters of these people who homesteaded in Fillmore County in 1872. What is unique about their story to me is that they were very deeply in love and they talk about how they feel about each other in their letters. It has always fascinated me this one family is such a microcosm. They spanned from the Civil War until Uriah’s youngest daughter who was involved in vaudeville and drove a taxi cab in Washington DC during World War II,” Whitson explained.
During her research on this family, which has now spanned over three decades, Whitson could never found the location of Mattie’s grave until she contacted Fairmont Librarian Wanda Marget.
Marget found the cemetery and grave at the Fairview Cemetery west of Fairmont. Marget and Whitson toured the cemetery taking pictures of all of the gravestones and then toured the ground where the Oblinger family had homesteaded along with the land where Mattie’s brothers, Giles and Samuel Thomas homsteaded.
Whitson had shared some of the Oblinger’s family history in her book, “Home on the Plains: Quilts and the Sod House Experience,” but is dabbling with expanding it into a book based on their life and love story.
Currently Whitson is immersed in writing a book about the Pony Express station store by Fort Kearney and the audience presented yet another “bunny trail” for her to follow. They brought up the Oak Grove Pony Express station in Oak, Neb. and the massacre which occurred there in 1864. Whitson noted that so much of the Pony Express history is conflicting and not well documented but was very interested in this event.
Learning about the trials of pioneering women in Nebraska has helped ground Whitson when she has felt overwhelmed with the struggles facing her own family, “Learning about the past gives me my own perspective for today. Learning about those women’s stories just amazes me. I used to think I was a pretty hardy person but the more I learned about these women. I know I couldn’t do it.”
Whitson graciously visited with the crowd at Fairmont while autographing copies of her books.