It was a positive step forward. Going into this year’s 60-day legislative session, Gov. Pete Ricketts, Dist. 34 Sen. Curt Friesen and a number of other Nebraska lawmakers listed property tax relief as one of their priority issues for 2016. Now that the session is in the books, most would agree that progress was made on this most elusive issue, though it remains a work in progress. Two property tax bills were signed into law by session’s end. LB 958 directs $20 million into the Property Tax Credit Relief Fund, earmarked specifically for agriculture. That much-needed relief will come in the form of tax credits on year-end property tax bills. The other, LB 959, does away with the minimum levy adjustment used in the state aid formula. As it stands, if a school district’s general fund levy falls below 94 cents it makes that school less able to receive state aid. This bill should make many more rural districts eligible.
In the past few years there’s hasn’t been a day when I head to my basement office area and say, “We’ve got to downsize.” I pass by the storeroom and look at the stuff that has gathered ... and remained untouched since moving into the house in 1975. Of course, the majority of “the stuff” belongs to the betterhalf and she has cluttered our domain for the past 40-plus years. For you wives, that above statement will bring instant response and just as in previous years I again lose the argument as to what “must go” and what “can stay.” For example, what is a 78-year-old guy supposed to do with a pair of clamp-n steel-framed roller skates that haven’t clamped on a pair shoes since I was in the seventh grade? I can counter that question to ask what the betterhalf is going to do with her rollerblades she hasn’t laced up since she broke her wrist in the early ‘90’ and now are in a box in her closet.
Over the years the postal service has been regularly criticized for what the public felt were inefficient services and poor financial planning. That appears to be changing with the announcement the price of 49 cent first-class stamps will now sell for 47 cents. Normally that announcement would be greeted, but not in our household. A few weeks ago the betterhalf just purchased a roll of the “Forever stamps” for 49 cents each. Perfect timing for the post office, but not for the betterhalf. Her stamp roll purchase will not break our household budget although it did cause her to grumble a little. With tongue-in-check I remarked maybe she could go to the post office and ask for a rebate.
Momentum is building at Aurora’s I-80 intersection. Just a few months after Friesen Ford opened its classy new dealership, announcement came this week of another new development just across the highway bringing more jobs, more investment and more visibility to the busy intersection. The Nebraska Department of Roads has purchased 20 acres south of Timpte, Inc., with plans to build a new maintenance yard within the next two years (See related front page story). At first glance this project may not look as exciting as a new dealership, but upon closer look is a perfect fit for that piece of property, as well as its host community. Aurora has hosted an NDOR maintenance yard for decades, providing nine local jobs and convenient access to road crews when heavy winter weather hits. This project will provide closer access to the Interstate, while also giving NDOR an expanded facility for today’s larger vehicles, as well as up to three more employees.
A culture of giving continues to make its mark on Aurora and Hamilton County. Over the past several decades, the tradition of making donations both large and small to help enhance our community and leave a legacy has made a profound difference. The latest count lists some 20 foundations with a combined value of nearly $80 million. That is an astounding sum for a community our size, setting an example for other cities of all sizes to follow. One of those fine organizations passed a milestone this week, as the Memorial Foundation celebrated its 25th anniversary. Memorial Community Health Inc. is an important spoke in the wheel of Aurora’s quality of life, and the foundation, along with a Thrift Shop organization that in itself has contributed nearly $1.5 million over the years, is an integral part of MCHI.
Spring has been on my mind a lot lately. With the weather starting to warm up, slowly but surely, the stores around town have started to get out their flower supplies and gardening tools. My husband and I recently got a plot in a community garden in town. I have never been so excited yet terrified all at the same time. I have so many plans of this little piece of ground. The only problem is I have no idea what I am doing or where to start. Of course I want to plant it all -- tomatoes, peppers, carrots, squash, cucumbers, lettuce, etc. I fear our plot will be standing vacant after numerous attempts to plant produce. Luckily, after looking at the plot, my husband seemed pretty confident in our abilities to grow something, even if it just turns into a plot of sweet corn. He seems to know what he is doing, and that’s good enough for me.
“He’s got his head in the sand,” was a comment when we humans visualized an ostrich. Now it looks like the human race is following suit by having their heads in a box – specifically placing a virtual reality (VR) headset over the ears and eyes. For us oldsters who are falling behind in new-world technology, we better get accustom to individuals and VRs because sales of these units are projected to be sky high. Already several high-end manufacturers are in the process of shipping thousands of VRs around the world and low-end versions using smartphones as screens have for several months been on the market The possibilities of these devices are numerous. Gaming, TV, film, teleconferencing, education, travel, sports and other forms of work or play are subjects available with a VR. And I thought the only people we had to worry about were those who were texting when walking or driving!
The Sowergate mystery has been resolved. The process of creating a new design for the state’s license plates hit a road bump last week when it was discovered that the Sower image used to symbolically tip the hat to our state’s leading industry was inspired in part by a sculpture on the campus of Michigan State University. It was an honest mistake, brought to light by Omaha artist Jeff Heldt, who submitted a similar design in a license plate design contest back in 2002. Putting the brakes on this design was a good call by the Department of Motor Vehicles, and a fairly simple one at that once the dilemma was revealed. Borrowing anything from a fellow Big 10 school to use in a state-sponsored design would be a mistake, and in this case an error every single vehicle-driving Nebraskan would be reminded of frequently. No need to go there.
It’s been a tough week for the betterhalf. I got an indication of that when I asked her how her day was going and got a short answer telling me the whole week has been “not good.” Let us begin with Monday when she awoke in the wee hours of the morning with a painful toe that necessitated her adjourning from the bedroom in search of a heating pad and then spending the rest of night on the family room sofa. As she gimped around at breakfast time she announced that she couldn’t walk shelter dogs, but did manage to leash up our dog to her bicycle and pedal around a block or two. Her effort resulted in having the pain leave her toe and move to the bottom of her foot. While being immobile, she was back on the sofa with heating pad being alternated with an ice pack for the bottom of her foot. She also had added a hot pack to her eye where she was “doctoring” a blocked tear duct that had recurred.
It has been a couple of weeks now and I am still trying to condition myself to daylight saving time. I’ve tried going to bed at that new hour later bedtime, but unfortunately I now wake an hour later at 6 a.m. instead of my old regular 5 a.m. rise-and-shine. I’ve reversed my plan and just go to bed at daylight savings’ 8 p.m. Then I wake up at 4 a.m. instead of my hoped for 5 a.m. The old body just doesn’t want to get in sync. Compounding the problem my weak mind at 4 a.m. even becomes confused and I just roll over and fall back asleep. Personally, I support the more than 15 states who are considering alternatives to daylight savings time. One supporter said it best when he hoped, “Maybe Nebraska also will see the light.” *** Speaking of sleep, I occasionally (the betterhalf sez more than occasionally) fall asleep in the easy chair after lunch. My sister-in-law has a theory that a fully-stretched stomach pulls the eyelids down over the eyes.