WAHOO – A majority of the headlines in 2018 had something in common – election.
Combining the May Primary Election and November General Election, Election 2018 is the top news maker in the Saunders County area for the past year.
The City of Wahoo started the election activity by putting a .5 percent local sales tax on the May ballot. The additional sales tax was tied to costs for the Chestnut Street Improvement Project. Wahoo voters in May overwhelmingly said yes to this as a way to help pay for the nearly $6 million project.
Voters in Prague were not as agreeable to a proposal to use sales tax money to fund infrastructure improvements. The Village Board of Trustees put on the May ballot a 1 percent local sales tax for improvement to Highway Avenue. Sixty-five percent of the voters said no to it.
Many area people threw their hat into the ring for last year’s election.
On the May ballot, there were four Republican contenders for the District 5 county supervisor seat. Incumbent Larry Mach won the race and retained his seat.
District 3 Incumbent Craig Breunig faced challenger Tom Hrdlicka in District 3. Breunig retained his seat.
Three republicans vied for chance to advance from the Primary Election to the General Election for supervisor District 7. Frank Albrecht got the nod from Republican voters in that district and also got the win over Democrat Kristy Fritzinger in November.
A tight race in May developed between County Assessor Cathy Gusman and Deputy Register of Deeds Rhonda Andresen. Both women were vying to become the newly elected county assessor/register of deeds. When all ballots were counted and recounted, Andresen claimed the win by two votes.
Wahoo Public Schools had space on both the May and November ballots. Seven candidates ran for three spots on the Board of Education, which required both elections to pick the winners.
The district also had a $26 million construction project on the November ballot. In July, the Board of Education decided to send the project, which would have required a bond issue to pay for the addition onto the high school and other campus improvements, to the district’s voters. The 2,167 votes against and only 1,256 votes for sent the board back to the drawing board for another solution to district needs.
The November ballot was also crammed with races for NRD districts, township boards and villages boards. Several of the township and village races ended in ties among write-in candidates, which called for a recount of the votes.
The City of Yutan put a local sales tax question on the fall ballot. The initiative failed on a vote of 244 to 223. Yutan East Ward voters also selected a new representative on the city council. Matt Thompson got the nod over Incumbent J.C. Long.
Countywide, voters selected a new county treasurer in the fall. Amber Scanlon beat Danielle Shelitto for the post in the courthouse.
In Wahoo, voters picked Jerry Johnson over Chris Davis to be mayor and Karen Boop over Mike Kleffner for Ward II city council.
The November General Election drew a 64 percent voter turnout. The number of ballots added to ballot counting machine issues and caused a delay. Service had to be called in the morning after election so ballots could be counted.
The word “construction” made many appearances in the news this past year too.
The Chestnut Street Improvement Project in Wahoo got the green light to go out to bid. When the bids came in, ME Collins Contracting of Wahoo got the contract and began work in June. Construction continued throughout the year, as weather permitted.
Progress on the new Wahoo State Bank building in downtown Wahoo was made as well. By year’s end, the building was closing in on completion.
Building in several locations in the county took place in conjunction with the Costco chicken processing plant near Fremont. The county gave the nod in January for permits for the construction of broiler barns. More permits, including those for hatchery barns, were also issued during the year. Lincoln Premium Poultry, who is operating Costco’s plant, has targeted a 60-mile radius for its farm contracts.
Construction finished up on a new building for a long-time Wahoo business. The new Bomgaars in the Airpark subdivision opened for business in April.
Hammers were also busy at the Eastern Nebraska Research and Extension Center near Ithaca. An expansion project onto the August Christenson Research and Education Center provided more office and conference rooms.
East Butler Public Schools moved into new space as well. The $566,000 addition onto the school in Brainard allowed the expansion of the district’s pre-school program. The additional classroom space also helped some crowded areas elsewhere in the building.
Road construction on Highway 109 had many motorists either waiting for pilot cars or finding detour routes. Highway 79 south of Valparaiso was also under construction. The road opened to traffic by end of the year.
Weather made plenty of headlines during 2018. The year started off bitter cold, with wind chill advisories keeping many people indoors on New Year’s Day. Later in the month, snow accompanied the cold. For the first time in its 59 years, the Saunders County Livestock Association banquet had to be postponed two days because of a blizzard.
By spring, wet weather caused a few problems for farmers again. Producers had to work around rain to get the seeds into the field. In the fall, more rain caused some delays with harvest.
A one day snow storm on Oct. 14 caused some delays for travelers and activities as well. The Wahoo area received a 3 inch blanket of snow by early afternoon. Then it quickly melted as temperatures began to warm up.
Election, construction and weather were not the only news events during the year.
In August, the Lower Platte North Natural Resources Board of Directors voted to end an operations agreement with Nebraska Game and Parks Commission take over management of Lake Wanahoo recreation area. By the end of the year, a new park permit system was in place and began Jan. 1. Improvements to the recreation area, including an education building and island primitive campsite, were also developed in 2018.
The NRD also continued planning for flood control along the upper banks of Wahoo Creek. The Wahoo Watershed Project took several steps forward.
Emerald Ash Borer crept closer to Saunders County in 2018. It was announced in September that the beetles that are killing ash trees were detected in Lincoln and Fremont. Pockets of Saunders County were placed in a treatment consideration de-
tection zone at that time. By the end of the year, the entire county was placed in a quarantine for transport of ash tree wood.
Beetles were not the only bug making news. Mosquitoes carrying the West Nile Virus also made an appearance. While West Nile is not new, the number of cases confirmed last year took a sharp increase. More than a dozen cases were reported by the Three Rivers Public Health Department, up from one case the previous year.
Several celebrations were held in 2018. The Wahoo Fire Department celebrated its 140th anniversary with an open house during Fire Prevention Week in October. In April, the Wahoo Public Library held an open house to celebrate its 95th anniversary. The library held activities all year long in conjunction with the anniversary celebration. Camp Calvin Conference and Retreat Center celebrated its 60th anniversary in August.
The Cedar Bluffs community had a new attraction. A splash pad was built at the town’s park and opened in July.
Raymond Central Public Schools purchased 67 acres of nearby farmland for just over $42,000 in August. Superintendent Derrick Joel said there were no immediate plans for the property, but that the purchase would protect the school’s interests.
Names making the news included Bruce Ferrell, who became the new Wahoo police chief in February. Yutan Public Schools tapped Mitch Hoffer in March as its new superintendent. Morse Bluff farmer Dan Wesely served as the president of the Nebraska Corn Growers Association and Prague Czech Queen Lydia Rosno was crowned the state 2018-2019 Czech-Slovak queen in June.
Don Clark opted not to refile last year for another term as Saunders County register of deeds. He retired after 40 years and as the longest serving elected official in Saunders County.