LEXINGTON — In an effort to make the Dawson County courthouse more secure, on Monday, July 27, those visiting will have to pass through an x-ray and metal detector.
Several changes have come to the courthouse as the Dawson County Sheriff’s Office works to make sure the building is safe, including limiting visitors to the east entrance only and temperature checks by deputies, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
A further layer of security will be coming in the form of an x-ray and metal detector, which were purchased due to the Bailey Boswell trial being conducted in Dawson County.
While the high profile trial has been pushed back to September, Sheriff Ken Moody told the Dawson County commissioners, during their meeting Wednesday, the devices would be in place on July 27 and all those arriving at the courthouse will have to pass through.
It was noted in past meetings several neighboring counties, such as Lincoln County, have already implemented these types of safety measures in their courthouses.
Moody also presented the June crime report to the commissioners, stating calls for service numbering 509, had gone up. The sheriff’s office had also opened back up to foot traffic.
Lt. Shane Tilson said the Dawson County Jail opened back up to take on probation sanctions on July 1.
While the daily population of the jail looks down, around 66.7, compared to past numbers in the 90s, Tilson said this is due to people bailing out, or being released by the judges for a later court date, due to COVID-19 concerns.
The numbers of federal prisoners is also down, said Tilson, but 18 were being booked into the jail on Wednesday. This is also due to worries about the virus spreading, but Tilson thought numbers would likely return to somewhat normal rates by September.
Moody also presented the distress warrant report and noted $23,000 had been collected as of Wednesday.
Representatives from several area museums, including the Dawson County Historical Museum, Robert Henri Museum and the Gothenburg Historical Museum, came before the commissioners with an annual budget request and updates.
DCHM Executive Director Crystal Werger said 2020 had been a slower year and for a time the museum was open only by appointment for several months due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but recently fully opened last Tuesday.
Werger said she has been following the recommendations of the Nebraska Museum Association on how to conduct museum operations during this time. Masks are optional and the museum is not hosting any large events for a few months.
There was an uptick in visitors since the museum fully opened back up, Werger said it seems like people were ready to get out and noted around half of the visitors were locals and the others were travelling. She noted social distancing is not too difficult in the museum, due to the space and the lower number of visitors.
Werger said the renovations to Kirkpatrick Memorial Park have helped to draw people to the area and to the museum as well.
The DCHM still hopes to host its annual Trivia Night fundraiser in November.
Ann Anderson, representing the Gothenburg museum, said the facility is not open at the moment, as it is run fully by volunteers and many do not feel safe returning yet, due to the pandemic.
The Gothenburg museum is taking this time in doing renovations and recently spent $2,000 redoing their basement. Anderson noted things are currently, “in flux,” but they are excited for the changes.
During their annual meeting last November, it was noted volunteers had racked up a total of 21,000 hours at the museum. Mondays are also a work day, with volunteers showing up to help with what needs to be handled each particular week.
The Gothenburg museum hopes to participate in the community’s annual harvest festival with a branding party, where participants can show up with their own brands and mark a piece of wood.
Anderson noted most of the funding for the museum comes from the tax levy and grants, as well as funding from the county.
Peter Osborne, director of the Robert Henri Museum said they have been open since Memorial Day and have been taking visitors from the community, as well from around the country, with an abundance of caution.
While the Henri doesn’t required masks, there has been a set route for visitors to take through the space to promote social distancing. Osborne said he felt 2020 was going to be a, “lost season,” but have been seeing a steady number of visitors.
One of the major projects which were under taken was a repaint of the museum, which Osborne said was much needed. Also over the winter electrical and plumbing work was done. On the technology side, Osborne noted their rebuilt website as well as a security system guarding their painting collection he feels comfortable with.
Osborne said the Henri Museum has recently received publicity in the form of an article in the July-August edition of the Nebraska Life magazine. The neighboring 242 House is also on the Nebraska Passport Program, which may help to draw visitors to the Henri Museum as well.
“Thank you for all of your support,” Osborne told the commissioners.
Funding was requested in the amount of $90,000.00, the commissioners took their request under advisement.
Eric Camler, community liaison for Congressman Adrian Smith, joined the meeting by teleconference to give the commissioners an update from Washington and to field any questions.
Camler said 2020 has been an unprecedented year due to the pandemic and the CARES Act has been on the radar for many in all forms of government. An error in the paycheck protection program was corrected so rural hospitals could benefit, which Smith played a role in, Camler said.
The United States Department of Agriculture, USDA, has also rolled out their own care package for ag producers, including around $9 billion for livestock producers.
Smith also has his attention on the current status of the dicamba, an herbicide, which has faced legal challenges, Camler said. Smith wants to make sure agricultural producers have access to dicamba.
There has also been talk in the halls of Washington D.C. about another care package or some type of federal aid, said Camler.
When taking questions, Commissioner Dean Kugler noted the United States deficit in June shattered all records as spending outpaced revenue by $864 billion. Kugler noted this situation will become untenable and asked, “When is Congress going to worry about this?”
Camler said the situation was high on Smith’s priority list and this situation will affect discussions surrounding another round of aid.
Commissioner Bill Stewart asked about the state of trade agreements.
Camler said there was good news in the form of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, USMCA being passed and going into effect July 1.
He noted China had made a major corn purchase, as outlined in phase one of the agreement with phase two coming up, Camler said its important China be held accountable to hold up their end of the bargain.
There is also a free trade agreement being discussed with the United Kingdom, Camler said they have been in the process of leaving the European Union and it leaves the nation as a, “free agent,” to make their own trade agreements with their allies.
While the UK is a small nation, Camler said they can be a big player in the trade world.
During the board of equalization meeting the commissioners considered extending the Homestead Exemption Application filing date to July 20.
County Assessor John Moore said the commissioners have the authority to make this extension if the landowners made the proper filings.
The commissioners approved the extension for Delbert Dishman, Gene Libal and Jean Cissell.
In other action the commissioners,
- Approved a special designated liquor license from the Elks BPO Cozad Lodge for a wedding reception.
- Approved a special designated liquor license for O and K Bottle Shop for an upcoming event.
- Received second quarter 2020 paid-time-off reports
- Approved submission of the 2020 Emergency Performance Grant
- Chose not to go on a jail inspection, citing COVID-19 concerns.