Catastrophic flooding has left the Village of Niobrara in shambles after the Niobrara River raged through Thursday.
Already struggling under the water, the effects of the the compromised Spencer Dam wreaked havoc on the Knox County community as giant icebergs ripped through Highways 12 and 14. The raging waters destroyed the Mormon Bridge, located to the west of Niobrara en route to Niobrara State Park. Several businesses were destroy, along with buildings owned by the State of Nebraska.
As for Friday morning, the Nebraska Department of Transportation reported that the Tyndall Fire Department would be arriving to help fill the village water tower and the Niobrara Fire Department would be driving through the community trying to help residents get water. Niobrara is still without power at this time.
The community will hold an informational meeting Saturday at noon at the Niobrara Fire Hall for residents. Rides will be available for those who need them, and the community of Creighton will provide lunch. For more information or a ride, call 402-857-3795 or 402-336-7514.
The Niobrara Promoter’s hosted their 12th Annual Soup Cook-off on Feb. 16. Best soup was awarded to Faith’s United Parish’s Book Club (top) with their ABC soup. Representing the book club was (left to right) Georgia Johnson, Jayne Tschirren, Cindy Metzler, Karen Dryak, Mona Weatherwax, Kathy Meier, Jane Olson, Sheila Keeler. Best of show was awarded to the Zach family (bottom) of Terry Zach, Tanner Zach, Trisha Zach and Valorie Zach. Their theme was “We should have been cowboys but we’re not.”
Water is starting to rise in Niobrara. This road west of the football field (towards the river) has officially been completely covered with water and is freezing solid.
Large ice chunks seem to be accumulating on the Missouri River.
The Knox County Development Agency will be hosting Nebraska State Tourism Director, John Ricks at Sportsmen’s Bar and Two River Hotel Monday, Jan. 28 at 7:30 p.m. John will be speaking on Knox County’s Outstanding Marketing Award and Nebraska’s NEW "Honestly, It's Not For Everyone" Marketing Campaign. The public is invited to listen to John speak at this time.
Ground was broke Jan. 10 on the corner of Wounded Man Ave. and Visiting Eagle St. on the Santee Reservation for the new Family Resource Center. Organizer and social worker Misty Frazier said they been working towards that moment for three years.
“It feels relieving,” she said. “We have had roadblocks and unexpected things come up, so it is nice to be at a point of progression.”
Professor Jason Griffiths and his master students from the University of Nebraska College of Architecture were in charge of designing the project.
The new Family Resource Center is described by Griffiths as “unremarkable” on the outside, meaning the building is not the most eye-catching facility, but it’s the interior that is of most importance.
According to Frazier, the Family Center will provide many services to families and children. There will be space for classes and supervised visitations as well as examination rooms.
“We hope that an unassuming building would help mitigate fear and anxiety wherever possible,” said Griffiths.
Frazier agreed that it was important to have a place on the reservation that felt safe and private, especially for the children.
Currently, families have to drive to Norfolk or Sioux City to get the various treatments that will be available soon in Santee.
“It is important to have a place here where therapy and forensics is available and staff is trained to limit secondary trauma,” Frazier said.
The Family Resource Center will have plenty of space for supervised visitations for parents and children from abuse cases.
“Right now, the only place for supervised visits is a conference room, which is also used for many other things so it isn’t always available.” Frazier explained.
She also pointed out that Phase 2 of this project will introduce an outdoor play area she hopes will also be used for visitations.
“We are excited to have plenty of room to encourage positive parent interaction,” she said.
According to Frazier, the facility will also host parent and foster parent classes.
The Family Resource Center will be the first step in working toward a Child Advocacy Center. Examination rooms would be used to conduct forensic interviews. Frazier is also looking into art therapy.
All of the qualities that make this facility a great contribution to the community, also require a lot of privacy and confidentiality in order to be successful.
“Privacy is difficult,” said Frazier. “Everyone knows everyone's business just like any small town.”
According to her, privacy is a large part of feeling safe. Adults and children are more prone to talking when they know the information will stay confidential. Children feel more safe in an examination room when there are no apparent windows.
Providing privacy isn’t the only challenge Frazier has run into during the three-year project. Even finding a location perfect for the Family Resource Center was a struggle. She learned a lot about the construction process.
“The building also had to be close to the clinic,” she explained.
The clinic will collaborate with the center to perform examinations.
With a Family Resource Center that is intended to also become a Child Advocacy Center, Frazier said integrating the right staff is very important and needs the right credentials and training, which can be hard to obtain.
“There are close to 1,000 shadowing hours that need to be done,” Frazier explained.
Some people go to the training and can’t get enough hours to complete the shadowing portion. She also said she wishes to employ Native American interviewers and staff, in hopes the interview outcomes improve.
Frazier said the biggest learning moment through this process was how many partnerships it takes to get something like this done.
There are several partnerships between Frazier, the council, UNL Architecture department, contractors and entities funding the project. Funding and construction was no easy task.
“There were times I felt like giving up,” she said.
Frazier submitted grant proposals as there wasn’t funding coming from the tribe.
“The budget was strapped at the time,” she explained.
Frazier secured funding while Griffiths found donations of brick by Glen-Gery Brick and International Masonry Institute, windows from Acadia, CLT wall cost deductions from Structurlam and in-kind donations of services from engineers Shaffer & Stevens.
After funding was found, Frazier then had the task of finding architects and contractors.
“It was hard finding someone to take on a project in rural Nebraska that wasn’t already booked into late 2019,” she said.
With everything falling into place, Frazier can breathe a sigh of relief.
“It is nice and exciting to be at this point,” she said.
The ground breaking on Jan. 10 was a small gathering of 4 tribal members and partners from Omaha.
“The project wouldn’t have been possible without them,” Frazier said.
There will be a benefit for Richy Johnson on Sunday, January 27 from 11 p.m. to 2 p.m. at the Niobrara public elementary multipurpose room. They will be serving pulled pork, cheesy potatoes, salads and deserts. There will also be a live auction, silent auction and raffles that start at 2 p.m.
Donations are welcome and Modern Woodmen Camp 8993 will be matching funds up to $2,000. Donations may be dropped off at Sportsmen's Bar in Niobrara or contact Tyler Wilson.
Pheasants Forever and the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission (NGPC) will be hosting an advanced prescribed fire workshop at the Country Café in Niobrara on January 23.
Workshop speakers familiar with fire will discuss how it can be used to benefit the land manager’s objectives and discuss the challenges of Eastern Red Cedar encroachment.
Fire has shaped Nebraska’s landscape for thousands of years, however during the 20th century we became very proficient in its suppression and prevention.
According to Pheasants Forever Biologist Brian Teeter, this lack of fire has resulted in negative consequences in the health and diversity of our prairies and forests which are critical to our wildlife and agricultural economy.
“You don’t have to travel very far to see that the eastern red cedar is rapidly expanding and is negatively affecting our grazing lands but there are also less obvious benefits that range from improving wildlife habitat to increasing forage quality,” Teeter noted.
In recent years however, the state has seen an increase in the use of prescribed fire on private lands, something Teeter is excited to see.
“We strongly believe that returning fire to our landscape is imperative and we have recognized the need for proper training and education in regards to safely implementing the practice.”
Pheasants Forever along with the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission responded to this interest by setting up workshops across the state to help educate and train participants about the benefits and implementation of prescribed burning.
The advanced workshop runs from 10:30am to 3:00pm covering the challenges and strategies for Northeast Nebraska cattle producers in dealing with eastern red cedar trees and the use of landscape-level prescribed fire.
A $10 registration fee covers all training and training materials, refreshments, and a noon meal.
Attendees are asked to please pre-register to reserve a meal. Please contact Ashley at 308-850-8395 or visit www.NebraskaPF.com to register.
Pheasants Forever works closely with NGPC, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Nebraska Environmental Trust and other conservation partners to help Nebraskans plan prescribed fires.
Since 2008, they have hosted 92 workshops with a total of 2,053 attendees.
University of Nebraska College of Architecture master students are helping the Santee Sioux Nation Family Resource Center (SSNFRC) become a reality. After years of planning, consultation and design, this new center is breaking ground January 10 at 2 p.m. on the Santee Sioux Nation Reservation at the corner of Wounded Man Ave. and Visiting Eagle St., Niobrara, with an estimated fall 2019 completion date.
This 950 square foot facility encompasses a Child Advocacy Center and a Services and Support Center for residents and members of the Santee Sioux Nation. Among the amenities, the center will have rooms for private interviews, observations, examinations and a large room and kitchen for family reunions.
The work on the SSNFRC facility began late in 2015 as a collaboration between The Nebraska Children and Families Foundation (NCFF), The Santee Sioux Tribal Council (SSTC) and the PLAIN 2015-16 design research studio, instructed by Architecture Associate Professor Jason Griffiths. In the spring of 2016, Griffiths and design-build master students created the concept designs and assisted with construction documents for the project in consultation with SSTC and NCFF.
With the concepts in hand, this allowed the design team to raise funds and begin negotiations with construction professionals.
“Over the next year, I was able to maintain enthusiasm and develop details of the project through other classes,” said Griffiths.
“These efforts paid off through material donations of brick by Glen-Gery Brick and the International Masonry Institute, windows from Acadia, CLT wall cost deductions from Structurlam and in-kind donations of services from engineers Shaffer & Stevens.”
With commitments and financials in place, the NCFF appointed Actual Architecture founder and UNL Architecture Professor Jeffrey L. Day as the architect of record for the final stages of the project including preparing construction documents, construction contract administration and collaborating with Griffiths, the PLAIN studio and contractor Woody Roberts Construction.
“The Santee Sioux Nation Family Resource Center is a fine example of how the College of Architecture can bring a meaningful change for Nebraskans who live in challenging situations. Teaching architecture through design-build presents a unique opportunity to provide quality buildings for people who would not normally have the benefit of our profession,” said Griffiths.
A facility located in a remote, rural Nebraska community under federal jurisdiction with the confines of a tight budget presents many challenges that would understandably exclude most working architects. However it’s precisely those difficulties that give College of Architecture students unique learning experiences in design-build education, explains Griffiths.
“The process is long and often appears to move slowly but it also provides a true test of the patience and broad, creative thinking needed to make a good building,” said Griffiths. “Through design-build, students learn to apply their knowledge to real world situations while maintaining a high quality of architecture.”
Griffiths explains the SSNFRC is a great example of architectural work that elevates ordinary building forms through careful consideration of spatial arrangements.
“It illustrates how the functional aspects of a building can develop into a symbolic architectural language,” said Griffiths. “In this case, the message lies in the eloquent arrangement of two squares that are linked together in the corners, a symbol for uniting people whose lives have been disrupted by difficult circumstances. From the exterior, the building appears unremarkable. Its double gables convey the plan arrangement in two simple facades each with a square window. However this simplicity is a pretext for a message of stability that we want the project to convey.”
Through careful consideration and input from stakeholders’ consultations, the students created a facility that was cognizant of the environmental situations surrounding the building’s occupants.
“Children and families coming to this building do so in difficult emotional circumstances. We hope that an unassuming building would help mitigate fear and anxiety wherever possible,” said Griffiths. “To provide privacy, windows selected for the façade that look into examination rooms are partly obscured with a ContraVision, one-way screen, brick pattern, while the larger windows that open to the gathering spaces invite the kind of reconciliation that we hope the building will help achieve.”
Additionally, this building will be the first, fully-conditioned, cross-laminated timber (CLT) building in the Great Plains region. CLT is an emerging form of construction that offers an alternative to concrete and steel construction. It provides a clean, fast-track assembly system with the benefits of carbon sequestration.
“These CLT advantages add to a profound sense of warmth and stability on the interior. The wall and roof panels, produced from solid 4’ thick Douglas Fir, provide a natural finish with a palpable sense of solidity that is rare in contemporary architecture,” said Griffiths. “Once completed, SSNFRC will become a showcase for advanced forms of engineered lumber construction and will demonstrate how the College of Architecture is promoting new, innovative, forms of architectures to the next generation of architects.”
Delberta Peterson of Niobrara shares a special tradition with her family at Christmas time. Every year she places an envelope in her Christmas tree. This envelope holds a check to a charity organization of her choosing.
Peterson first started this donation tradition when her husband, Gail, passed away in 2005.
“I didn’t want the grandkids to forget about him,” she said.
Gail was very active in the community. He was on the school board, township board, church council, planning commission when the town moved and even a Justice of the Peace once.
“The kids always thought a lot of their grandpa,” Peterson added.
She believes donating to others is the best way to continue giving back to the community in his honor.
If she recalls correctly, Peterson got a letter from Lutheran Family Services asking for donations around Christmas time the year Gail passed. Like a sign from God or fate, she got the letter just as she was looking for a way to remember her late husband.
Most years the check is sent to Lutheran Family Services but this year she wrote it out to her own church in Niobrara to go towards world hunger.
The envelope tradition seems to be working as the grandkids don’t let Peterson forget about it.
“One year I sort of forgot and my grandson said ‘aren’t you going to put the envelope on the tree,’” she said laughing.
Every year after the Christmas meal and presents, Peterson takes a moment to grab the check and announce where the money is headed.
“The most fulfilling part is knowing everyone gets to remember Gail for at least one moment,” she said.
Kyle Crosley was honored for serving three full terms on the Niobrara Public School Board of Education.
Kyle served as the Treasurer for many years as a officer. Kyle will be replaced in January by Matt Moody.