The Sidney Sun-Telegraph - Serving proudly since 1873 as the beautiful Nebraska Panhandle's first newspaper

2019 Year in Review

 

January 1, 2020

January 2

Markers Brought Back to Life

Near the center of Sidney is Legion Park. Within Legion Park is a memorial that started with the inspiration of a Vietnam veteran.

To the south of the veterans memorial is a half-circle of plaques recognizing conflicts that have claimed the lives of soldiers. It is a quick history from the Indian Wars to the Iraq War. The memorial was recently given a well-deserved facelift.

January 4

Potter Bank Partners with Mortgage Firm

Potter State Bank is partnering with Pivot Lending Group, offering mortgage options in Cheyenne County.

The real estate markets in Colorado and Cheyenne County have created an attraction to Nebraska of buyers and finance companies, and of banks looking for ways to help buyers.

Potter State Bank and Pivot Lending Group are in a partnership that will soon offer another option to home buyers in the Cheyenne County area. David Olson, regional manager and senior mortgage loan originator for Pivot Lending, says they are the behind-the-scenes players for banks and credit unions. He said Pivot Lending Group approached Potter State Bank after watching the trend of Colorado buyers seeking real estate in the Sidney area.

He said recently the partnership was started about two months ago, and borrowers can expect service in the next 90 to 120 days.

“Colorado has gotten so expensive to own a home,” Olson said.

He added they looked at a financial institution that could serve Sidney, possibly to Scotts Bluff.

“Potter seemed to work for us,” he said. “We tend to do well with community banks that focus on agriculture.”

Frerichs Takes Office as Sheriff

Thursday morning, Adam Frerichs became the new Cheyenne County Sheriff’s after swearing to his oath of office.

Frerichs ran an uncontested race for sheriff. Sheriff John Jensen chose not to seek office. Frerichs said the transition is going well with the support of Jensen.

“He has really bent over backwards to ensure success” of the transition, Frerichs said.

He is entering office with the philosophy of balance, He believes his job is of ensuring laws are followed while still respecting residents.

“ My philosophy has always been to be firm, friendly and fair.  We have a job to do and laws that need to be enforced, but we can do it in a manner that is respectful to everyone involved,” he said.

January 11

Nursing Facility to Close

A Sidney skilled nursing center is being closed by the state. Residents and staff of Sidney Care and Rehabilitation Center were informed of the decision Wednesday by Ken Klassmeyer of Klassmeyer and Associates, the company that has been managing the center since last March.

That was when a Lancaster County Judge placed the center, and 20 others into receivership when the company, Cottonwood Healthcare, also known as Skyline, headquartered in New Jersey, could not make its payroll.

In making the closure announcement Wednesday, Klassmeyer said the Sidney facility has been unable to become financially viable.

“They have to be able to run off their own finances,” Klassmeyer said. “And this facility keeps losing money.”

The closure affects 27 residents of the skilled nursing center, and seven in assisted living. The Sun-Telegraph has been unable to confirm the number of employees affected.

The Sidney facility is one of three in the original group of 21 that is being closed due to continued financial hardship. Klassmeyer said when facilities are placed into receivership, essentially outside management, it is for a one-year period. Those three, including one in Wausau and another in Omaha, are the only closures at this time.

The announcement comes before that year is over because it doesn’t appear there will be a turn around, and under federal law employees are given 60 days notice prior to the closure. Klassmeyer said the facility will be closed by March 15.

Canadian Company Announces Move to Sidney

A Canadian company announced Tuesday it intends to purchase part of the Cabela’s corporate buildings and expand its operations to Sidney.

Mark Priemer, president of MMP Enterprises, spoke before the Sidney City Council Tuesday, announcing his company’s intention to open shop in Sidney. Priemer was introduced by Melissa Norgard, the city’s director of economic development. Norgard said that Priemer visited Sidney in late September. The visit include a tour of several businesses and buildings in the area, including Cabela’s. The result of the tour is Priemer is seeking to purchase the two-story corporate building for an American location of the business.

“We are in the dietary supplement business,” he said Tuesday.

He told the council he expects to employee 100 to 150 people after closing on the building.

Wednesday morning, Priemer said it could take a year to hire the 100-plus employees. He said MMP Enterprises is seeking positions from marketing to manufacturing and research and development.

“We very much look forward to working with you,” he said to the city council.

Priemer said he expects few changes to the building.

“The city has been wonderful,” Priemer said Tuesday.

Marketing Director Dee Sharma said they are very impressed with the community.

“We’re very excited for you to be here,” said Mayor Roger Gallaway.

MMP Enterprises has a 49,000 square foot facility in Canada. MMP Enterprises was founded in 1981 to serve the dietary supplement, food and skin care industries, according to the company’s website.

February 1

Haynes Inducted Into Nebraska Aviation Hall of Fame

There are people who aren't satisfied with driving the highways and byways. They want to see life from a few hundred, and higher, feet above the ground.

Each year, the Nebraska Department of Aeronautics recognizes outstanding members of the Nebraska aviation industry.

This year's inductees include a woman with ties to Sidney who also taught her father how to fly. So far to date, it is the only record of a daughter flight instructor teaching her father student how to fly.

Terri Haynes' roots are in Cheyenne County, although she now lives northwest of Sidney.

For Haynes, a small western Nebraska airport has come with a variety of aviation opportunities. She began as a certified flight instructor at Chadron in 1982. It is a role she continues today.

She has taught many students from the region, and several have continued a career in aviation. In addition to flight instructing, she has had many experiences in pilot services such as aerial photography, fire spotting, aerial surveillance, aircraft ferrying, and numerous airplane rides for youth.

She was appointed by Gov. Ben Nelson, to serve on the Nebraska Aeronautics Commission, a position she held for seven years. She also served on the Nebraska Airport Planning Committee for the Nebraska Department of Aeronautics. The many trips to Lincoln allowed her to take along her favorite co-pilot, her dad.

In 1990, her dad, Harold Perkins, decided to complete one more accomplishment and earn his private pilot certificate under her instruction. To date, they have not found another flight instructor-student combination of “daughter teaches father to fly.”

Former Cabela’s Office Space to Return to Retail Use

A small group of western Nebraska investors is making plans to re-open a former retail space most recently used as offices for Cabela’s.

It’s been a while since the small strip of offices at 601 Glover Drive has had much traffic to speak of, but most recently it held offices of Cabela’s Ventures and related offshoots.

The building housing the former offices was recently purchased by 59 Properties, LLC, which plans to again use the space for retail or commercial uses. County records show the $1 million purchase was made in December.

The building was originally built in 2001, housing three tenants: Corral West Ranchwear, Crafty Corner, and Quizno’s Subs. Cabela’s later purchased the building for office space. That space was later consolidated to other buildings when Cabela’s began to change its business plan, and the space became unused.

When asked why the group chose to invest in the space, Matt Monheiser, spokesman for 59 Properties, LLC, said the group felt Sidney’s current business climate has a lot to offer.

“Sidney has something going for it has not had in the past 20 years, an economy that is diversified and affordable housing,” Monheiser said. “If you look at the situation from the past where Sidney was it looks devastating, but when you analyze the basic fundamentals of Sidney, the town offers tremendous opportunity.”

February 6

Highby Outdoors Opens Its Virtual Doors

After months of planning, hope, and a little consternation, the newest addition to Sidney’s business community, Highby Outdoors, is open.

The new online retailer announced Monday that it was open for business, launching its outdoor gear business bright and early.

“Highby Outdoors plans to raise the bar of the outdoor gear shopping experience with today’s launch of its new online retail business based in Sidney,” the company opened in a release announcing its opening.

According to the release, the company will initially offer an extensive line of outdoor products through its website, HighbyOutdoors.com. The product lines will include hunting, firearms and shooting, fishing and marine, knives and tools, camping and outdoor supplies. The release said the company plans to later add additional merchandise categories.

The company also indicated it hopes to later add retail locations and catalog operations.

Dalton Store Retains History

Convenience Store Meets Coffee Shop

Some of the charm of a small town is the “cathedral,” as a sociologist might call it. It is the place where people meet for no more reason than to share a cup of coffee or carbonated drink, and the relationship that develops by meeting at the same table. It is what sets apart the mom and pop diner from the express fast-food counter.

It is one of the goals of Michelle and Shad Benish and their family, to have a place in Dalton where residents and visitors alike can stop in for a groceries, gift items or just a sandwich and a cup of coffee. Beware however. Make it a habit and you may soon be treated as one of the family.

High School Students Open Coffee Shop

The west side of Sidney High School frequently is bustling with excitement. One could say it is all abuzz about the new buzz: coffee and like products.

The Sidney High School Coffee Shop held at ribbon cutting with the Cheyenne County Chamber of Commerce Friday morning. The opening of the coffee window is the result of work from several disciplines at Sidney High School and their associated students.

“This has been a really good learning experience for all of us,” SHS student Tomiyah Munier during the ribbon cutting.

The Sidney Public Schools Coffee Shop/Student Store offers coffees, lattes, frappacinos, hot cocoa and cold drinks. They also offer Raider t-shirts and sportswear. The coffee shop accepts cash, debit or credit cards.

It is open in the mornings and may expand to game times and events.

The project started about a year ago as a manufacturing business and expanded into marketing, eventually taking the shape of a business that can serve students, faculty and staff, and the public.

“I think it is a great start,” said School District Superintendent Jay Ehler.

The coffee shop is student-staffed and managed, according to teacher Lacy Russell, with teacher oversight.

February 8

Renkowski Builds Sidney Business into a Multi-State Service

Cody Renkowski really wasn’t looking for a career position when he came out of college. Rather, he wanted to follow his passion of shooting sports and wanted a job that would allow him time to pull out the shotgun and keep shooting.

With that in mind, he started a small spray company, servicing lawns and killing a few weed patches here and there. But now, less than 10 years later, he’s found another passion and grown that small business into one of the top weed management businesses in the nation.

He still manages to find time to knock a few clays out of the sky, but gone are the lawn care accounts, which last year were sold to another group. Now, Renkowski Vegetation Services focuses on keeping bare ground bare, and keeping the weeds and grass down around some of the nation’s high wires with a number of management methods.

Renkowski started his business spraying Russian Olive trees and Phragmites, a tall perennial grass that’s become an invasive species along Nebraska’s creeks and rivers. When a friend asked if he could spray some dandelions in a yard, he said “sure,” and the fledgling business grew quickly from there.

He later added fertilizer application, then purchased the local K-Lawn business, providing complete fertilizer and weed management on local lawns.

“Overnight, that side of the business was bigger than the turf,” Renkowski said.

February 20

Start Up Company Combines Experience, Passion

An outdoor enthusiast, be it hunting, fishing, camping or just a well-prepared day-hiker, learns the importance of each piece of equipment working at its top level, doing what it is designed to, when it is needed. When a product doesn't do as needed, the situation could determine the success of the experience.

The lesson is if you want to get the right equipment the first time, talk with someone who uses it. That is part of the motivation behind a new company due to open in Sidney.

Nexgen Outfitters is a participant in the Western Nebraska Community College Innovation and Entrepreneurship program in Sidney. Trent Santero, co-founder of Nexgen Outfitters, is among a small group of local people starting an online company serving outdoors-minded people. The program carries a entrepreneur with a vision to the reality of being a business owner. Santero commends the program for the dedication the staff offers to new business owners.

Sharing Resources

WNCC Meeting Connects Resources with Potential Entrepreneurs

Starting a business is seldom as easy as hanging a shingle on Main Street with the resulting crowds of customers beating down the door.

It is the process of developing a vision, a product or service, a market approach, learning all of the skills and finding the resources to make the dream a reality. On Friday, Feb. 15, Western Nebraska Community College in Sidney hosted a lunch meeting for people starting the own business and for people interested but not ready to start their own business.

At the start of the meeting, Sidney WNCC Campus Director Paula Abbott reviewed the history of the college's Business Innovation and Entrepreneur program.

“We're here to help you,” Abbott said to the business representatives.

The Business Innovation and Entrepreneurship program is designed to assist start-up businesses toward independence. The program started when the cosmetology department was facing closure. Abbott said one of the goals of WNCC is to make students employable. The business Innovation and Entrepreneurship center that developed where the cosmetology had been located does that by taking away some of the initial stresses and challenges of opening a business. The business center offers office and work space for up to two years for qualified projects. There is also the opportunity to network with programs offered by the college, and other entrepreneurs in the business center. The goal is that at the end of the two years, the business would have its own address and operation.

The meeting included representatives from several state agencies that help entrepreneurs start a business. Margaret Aikin, Scottsbluff Center Director of the Nebraska Business Development Center (NBDC), said her job is to serve the client and help him or her become a successful business.

“Everything I do is free to the client who uses my service,” Aikin said.

February 22

Street Improvement Plan in Conflict with State

Counties and municipalities in Nebraska are required by the State to submit one-year and six-year road work plans.

This year’s plans could be in conflict with State highway department plans.

The Sidney City Council had decided to save toward prioritized street projects. Those discussions addressed what streets to work on, how extensive the projects would be and setting a budget for the cost of the work. The council and Street Superintendent Hank Radtke agreed that 13th Street would be one of the priorities for a new surface. Planned work also includes Elm Street between 13th and 17th Streets, at an estimated cost of $400,000.

In the Feb. 12 meeting, Radtke said the State plans to work on Road 17J. The project, according to Radtke, is a complete tear-out and replacement at an estimated cost of $9.2 million. The City’s share of the project is 20 percent, about $1.8 million. The concern is the City has a Streets budget of about $2.4 million. Mayor Roger Gallaway said he is concerned that the City doesn’t have long-range plans for the streets.

“It is just as serious a concern today,” said Radtke. “For me, it is the elephant in the room.”

March 15

Communication Center to Install New Tower

The Cheyenne County Communications Center needs to expand its territory, electronically. To do so, the Communications Center is planning to have a second radio tower constructed adjacent to the current tower.

“It has been at capacity for a while,” Communicators Director Heidi Gillespie said Monday afternoon.

She said the need was made known when companies she worked with while assessing how to include Deuel County dispatching services into Cheyenne County’s system noted there was “almost no real estate” left on the existing tower, Gillespie said. She said she was advised to make a plan to update the system.

She applied for and was awarded an Homeland Security grant to fund a new radio tower.

“I wanted to secure the grant before I went to the commissioners,” she said. 

She stressed the new tower will not replace the existing tower. The new tower will be located near the existing tower, but will be based on the ground, with a concrete foundation.

March 27

City Looking to Purchase Cabela’s Building for UST Global

In a move to ensure a new company remains an anchor in the community’s future, the Sidney City Council is proposing the purchase of a three-story building at the intersection of Thirteenth Avenue and Illinois Street.

The building is the home of Xpanxion, a UST Global Group company.

In September 2018, Xpanxion announced it will be leasing up to 65,000 square feet of space and employing up to 200 workers in the Sidney community. Xpanxion announced in 2018 the Sidney location would serve as a major service delivery center for UST Global’s healthcare practice. The company announced services will include healthcare platform-based solutions, operations and supporting digital services.

Sidney Economic Development Director Melissa Norgard said the intent is for the City to purchase the building, then lease it to UST Global. The purchase of the building will protect job investments by the company.

April 5

County Escapes Serious Damage - Cattlemen Have Recourse

While the southern Panhandle didn’t take the severe damage and losses of those in eastern Nebraska, local entities, in particular cattlemen, still suffered hardship from the cyclone blizzard that struck the area in mid-March.

Cold, wet conditions came with extremely high winds, subjecting cattle - particularly new-borns - to dangerous conditions. With warnings of the pending severity of the storm going out days before it actually hit, cattlemen with the facilities were able to shelter their animals a little more. But for some, that wasn’t a viable option.

No one can put a number on cattle losses in Cheyenne County. Farm Service Agency executive director Brad Fraass said by FSA rule he can’t specify county losses, but said they were slightly higher than normal. Fraas did say as of last Friday, reports were still coming in and he had been told of new losses discovered after drifts behind a tree line melted down.

Aside from cattle losses, the county escaped in relatively good shape.

April 10

Memorial Planned for Former Teacher

Students of Sidney schools lost an asset, and friends and family want her remembered.

Tammy Sherman was an integral part of the West Elementary School community, according to principal Gene Russel.

Sherman died March 24 after losing her battle with cancer. But the story is how she conducted herself up to her last day in the classroom. Russel described her as a highly-dedicated fifth grade teacher. He said she continued making lesson plans through her last day in the classroom. She endured the pain cancer was wreaking on her body to ensure her students would excel. 

She started teaching in the Sidney Public School District in 2015. A celebration of her life was held March 30.

“She definitely had high expectations for her students,” he said. “We are so sad to see her go.”

Emily Thomas and Natalie Jobman, representing the Cheyenne County Chamber of Commerce and the Sidney Public Schools, asked the board to memorialize Sherman’s commitment to West Elementary students with a tree and a plaque in her memory. 

April 12

Martinez Loses Postconviction Appeal to Supreme Court

A man convicted of a 2012 murder in Sidney has been denied postconviction relief by the Nebraska Supreme Court.

Larry Martinez was convicted in July 2012 in the shooting death of Mandy Kersham and was later sentenced to life in prison. Martinez later appealed the conviction, which was denied.

This time around, Martinez filed for postconviction relief, claiming his council was ineffective for not raising his mental capacity in support of an argument that his statements to law enforcement should have been suppressed for being involuntary, and also for not raising an argument that his mental capacity precluded him from acting with the premeditation, deliberation, and intent necessary to be found guilty of first degree murder.

According to the Supreme Court report, the district court denied Martinez’ motion without an evidentiary hearing. In its order, the district court reasoned that Martinez could have raised both of the claims at issue in this appeal in his direct appeal, but did not. The district court also found that, even if it was assumed that Martinez’ counsel provided deficient representation, Martinez could not demonstrate he was prejudiced.

April 19

WNCC I&E Center Celebrates Success

A year and a half in the making, Western Nebraska Community College held an open house and ribbon cutting for its Innovation & Entrepreneurship Center Wednesday.

The center is testiment, said Sidney Campus Executive Director Paula Abbott, to what can be accomplished when people put their heads together to find a solution to a problem. Abbott reviewed how members of the chamber of commerce and Sidney’s economic development director got together to see what could be done to help people displaced by layoffs at Cabela’s.

That brainstorming resulted in the I&E Center, developed to help people stay in Sidney. One of the goals, she told those gathered, was to fill the needs with available resources.

“There were a lot of people with need, and there are resources out there to help,” Abbott said. “What we needed to do was to develop a way to connect state resources with the people in need.”

She thanked college President, Dr. Todd Holcomb, for his support when she pitched the idea.

“I’ve pitched a thousand ideas to him, and this is the one he accepted,” Abbott said, bringing laughter across the room.

“We wanted to make this the best innovation center possible,” she said.

April 24

Sidney Event Recognized by Suicide Prevention Organization

A local program working to bring attention to the impact of suicide was recognized recently for its efforts. In 2018, the Walk Out of Darkness event needed a new leader, a coordinator. Liz Borgmann took on the challenge. The AFSP also urged involvement in the event by youth. Borgmann met with the Unified Raiders who then became a vital part of the event.

The Walk Out of Darkness suicide awareness event netted $6,800, nearly 200 percent of the goal, Borgmann said. The event had about 177 participants. Not all supporters attended the event, she said. Borgmann and the Sidney community was recognized at the AFSP Nebraska Chapter Leadership Conference on April 13.

April 26

Council Approves Building Purchase 3-2 Following Emotional Hearing

The Sidney City Council held its second public hearing on the proposed purchase of a three-story building at 13th Avenue and Illinois Street Tuesday.

The council previously addressed the proposal with four members of the council present. Mayor Roger Gallaway was absent on a previous engagement. The proposal did not pass after a 2-2 vote.

On Friday, April 12, a special meeting of the council was held to consider a second public hearing on the proposal. In the meeting, with all five members of the council present, Mayor Gallaway said he felt there were questions left unanswered in the previous public hearing. In the special meeting, Economic Development Director Melissa Norgard said the UST Global president planned to attend the next hearing.

Tuesday, the council met before an overflow room of concerned citizens and company representatives.

Nearly two hours were spent hearing testimony from Sidney residents and business owners, and UST Global President Kevin Adams. Mayor Gallaway instructed the crowd that testimonies would be limited to 3 minutes and were to stay on subject; no direct attack on individuals. Gallaway also said the public hearing is not an opportunity to cross-examine city staff, council members or other speakers.

May 1

Miller Office Products Sells Business to Eakes Office Solutions

North Platte — Eakes Office Solutions announced Monday it has purchased Miller Office Products of Sidney. 

Miller Office Products has been locally owned and operated since 1987, serving the office product needs of businesses in Sidney and surrounding areas.

“We are thankful to everyone for their patronage and support over the last 32 years and have enjoyed working closely with area businesses,” said Tim Miller, owner of Miller Office Products. “My wife Dixie and I have determined that this is the right time to sell our business to Eakes Office Solutions. We are now looking forward to enjoying time with our family and traveling.”

Kevin Hafer, Managing Partner at Eakes Office Solutions, commended the Millers for their business approach.

“Tim and Dixie ran their business on the same principles as Eakes: providing quality products, reliable service and a high level of customer care,” Hafer said. “We look forward to continuing that tradition.”

As part of Eakes Office Solutions’ continued growth, the acquisition of Miller Office Products will broaden Eakes’ services into the Nebraska panhandle and strengthen business relationships in the area.

 

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