Balancing security, access frustrates Ralston board
The installation of controlled-access security systems at all Ralston Public Schools buildings is progressing, and the system should be operational by mid-March.
Ralston also is working to implement new procedures for evacuations, lockdowns, and fire or tornado drills.
“We're taking a look at everything,” said Brad Dahl, assistant superintendent for business. “Controlled access is one thing, but we also have found we need to take a look at our responses to other situations that may arise.”
The security system will require building staff to use keycards for entry.
Visitors, including parents, must identify themselves at the school entrance via an intercom system. Once in the building, visitors must stop by the school's office to sign in.
Ralston school board members acknowledged some frustration in needing to take such measures.
“We don't want to have parents feel frustrated in the changeover of this process,” board President Linda Richards said. “I'm angry. What I'm angry about is that I have to do this, and it's a sad day that we're at this point. But the question is how to balance security with the statement: 'This is our school and you're welcome here.' ”
Dahl said the safety committee has tried to be as sensitive as possible in the balance between public access and security.
“We do realize security can be inconvenient, but we can be more vigilant, more active in it.”
Bellevue may eye bond issue after losing federal aid
Bellevue Public Schools Superintendent Frank Harwood has started talking about a bond issue.
That hasn't been discussed in the school district for decades, but it marks the new reality as Bellevue's military population changes.
The district lost its designation for federal Impact Aid, which for decades helped build, repair and fund schools.
The last time the district asked for a bond issue was 1974, when voters approved $15 million in debt to address overcrowding and build Bellevue West High School.
Harwood said that situation will change at some point in the next few years, as schools reach capacity and need to be repaired. A bond issue probably wouldn't go before voters for two years, during the presidential election cycle.
The district is far from deciding projects for a bond proposal. But Harwood said the need will eventually be there, and the district won't have a way to pay for the projects.
Until this year, Bellevue has received $6 million or more in Impact Aid from the federal government, a program that benefits a handful of school districts that have a large federal presence in their boundaries. The federal government does not pay property taxes, so federal land with students living on it can hurt the resources of local schools.
Bellevue's growth, coupled with the privatization of the former Capehart military housing, resulted in the district no longer qualifying for the program.
Bellevue's property tax levy is at the maximum allowed under state law, which means asking voters for a bond issue.
Papillion mayor: Business turnover creates opportunity
Papillion Mayor David Black says recent business turnover in downtown Papillion presents more opportunities than it does challenges.
Multiple businesses have moved out of the area in the last year, only to be replaced by several new ventures.
“It's sad that a business closes,” Black said. “But once in a while, a little bit of turnover creates a little bit of vacancy. Any healthy market needs some level of vacancy for people to come into. If everything is filled, there's no new opportunity.”
Junque Factory and Papillion Hardware are among businesses that left the area.
The owners of Papillion Hardware retired. The owner of Junque Factory relocated to focus on another business.
Savannah's, a boutique selling women's accessories, also is leaving downtown after opening in April 2010.
“I don't get enough traffic,” owner Lynn Mayer said. “We had people come in after four years who didn't know we were there.”
Five new businesses will join the downtown area in the next month.
Twisted Vine, which will feature a wine bar, boutique and studio space for painting, will set up shop in the former Papillion Hardware space.
The former Junque Factory will become the Bell Place Shoppes with Photo Art by Kim, the Sawdust Factory, N-E Things Country and LOOManations.
Kim Ahlers, owner of Kajoma's and president of the Historical Downtown Papillion Business Association, said she is optimistic about downtown's direction.
“I am so excited to see where we grow from here,” Ahlers said. “Every time a new business opens its door, it validates that Mayor Black has worked so hard promoting downtown Papillion. I really hope this is just the beginning of what's to come.”
Economic growth rises to top priority for Bellevue
Economic growth emerged as the City of Bellevue's focus during its annual strategic planning session.
Consultant Mary Lee Fitzsimmons directed the daylong session, which settled on three goals for the next three years.
The need for economic growth led that list, followed by achieving efficiencies in government activities and comprehensive financial planning.
The topic of economic growth included: reviving delayed capital improvement programs, developing the riverfront, building a recreational area on city land near 36th Street and Capehart Road, advocating for missions at Offutt Air Force Base and redeveloping Olde Towne and Fort Crook Road.
City Administrator Dan Berlowitz said the city will never have enough money to do everything, but that priorities are being set.
“We are making sure that projects that are truly high-priority projects are recognized as that, and don't get shoved down below,” he said. “That's why it's really important that we have a legitimate assessment.”
Will Nebraska's 'oldest city' become the 'patriotic capital'?
With a new Missouri River bridge on the way, Bellevue Mayor Rita Sanders is thinking about a civic makeover.
The city has long billed itself as Nebraska's oldest, dating the founding of the city to 1854, finding its origins in Joshua Pilcher's fur trading post along the Missouri River in 1822.
But Sanders said Bellevue might be better served with a different image, and she is leaning toward stressing the city's longtime relationship with the U.S. military.
“There's nothing concrete, yet,” she said. “There are some things spinning around, but I think we need to do this. My vote is for the most patriotic city in Nebraska, something like 'Nebraska's Patriotic Capital,' ” though she said the slogan requires some “wordsmithing.”
She said she will sit down with Assistant City Administrator Larry Burks and Jim Ristow, president of the Bellevue Chamber of Commerce, to discuss the proposal. She said she hopes to get the branding campaign in place by July 4.
Sanders also said the city's logo, an image with an airplane in the upper portion and the historic First Presbyterian Church in the lower portion, might get a makeover.
“We've been talking about calling Bellevue the 'first' city instead of the 'oldest' city, since that's really what it is,” Ristow said. “ 'Oldest city' implies nearing death, but 'first city' is more fun.”
Ristow said discussions are in the early stages, and other ideas are likely to emerge before the campaign is finalized.
Gretna gains 80 acres in zoning jurisdiction
The City of Gretna picked up another 80 acres in its zoning jurisdiction at the new Aspen Creek subdivision, near 180th Street and Highway 370.
The subdivision would have been split between city and county zoning control.
Sarpy County Board member Jim Warren, who represents Gretna, said the change made sense.
“Two-thirds of the subdivision was already in Gretna's jurisdiction,” he said. “It's simpler for everybody involved to include the whole thing.”