One of the biggest stories in Chadron during 2017 occurred just as the final third of the year began, when police searched a Main Street home and seized several firearms, explosive materials and 17 pressure cookers.
The search was the result of a reported threat against a local business. Curt Beseke’s home on Main Street, as well as two cars were searched in October, and a bomb technician said the home contained “all the materials needed to manufacture explosives. Multiple firearms, including military-style weapons, were also seized.
To date, Beseke has not been formally charged in connection with the materials, and the investigation, including the examination of several computers and phones, continues.
October also saw the continuation of an investigation into alleged hazing on the Chadron State College wrestling team. Luke Zeiger, 24, Cooper Cogdill, 22, Chance Helmick, 21, and William Cogdill, 21, were all arrested Oct. 13 on suspicion of hazing and third degree assault, both misdemeanor charges. The arrests came after the men were accused of hazing in September. The four men were all removed from the wrestling team and un-enrolled from the college. As the year drew to a close, all four entered a pre-trial diversion program in which they agreed to community service and to writing letters of apology. If they complete the terms of the agreement, the charges are expected to be dismissed later this year.
A court case in connection with a fatal September 2017 accident is also carrying over into the New Year. Kimberly Eagle Bull of Pine Ridge, S.D., is accused of vehicular homicide, driving under the influence, transporting a child while intoxicated, three counts of child abuse and false reporting. All are felonies except for transporting a child while intoxicated and false reporting.
She is accused of being the driver of a minivan that lost control on Slim Buttes Road and rolled Sept. 9, 2017. Christina Roubideaux, 6, died the next day from injuries suffered in the crash. Four others were also in the car at the time, including two more children; all of the passengers were transported to the hospital with injuries.
While the year began with a dispute among citizens about the feasibility of constructing a roundabout at the intersection of Highways 20 and 385, it ended with a compromise between the city and state. The Chadron City Council in November and December considered and approved an ordinance to reduce speeds on Highway 20 in the area of the intersection, and the Nebraska Department of Transportation signed off on the arrangement.
Now that the ordinance has been approved, the NDOT is expected to make the signage changes this year, making the speed limit on Highway 20 45 miles per hour just west of Stockade Road, dropping to 30 miles per hour 700 feet east of Linden Street (roughly in front of GMC of Chadron). The 30 mile per hour speed limit will continue through the intersection and on to the east part of town, as it currently does.
Another story that is expected to be resolved this year is a dispute over the number of dogs owned by a rural Dawes County couple. Matt Brodrick and Shelby Kriss appealed a decision by the Dawes County Zoning Board that would have required them to drastically reduce the number of dogs they own. Together, the couple, who lives east of Chadron, own nearly 30 dogs. A Board of Adjustment appeal at the end of the year granted them the right to keep 18 of the dogs, despite opposition by their neighbors. The couple was scheduled to appear before the Dawes County Commissioners Tuesday to request a special use permit to keep the remainder of their 27 dogs.
As 2017 drew to an end, local resident Jack Nemeth took part in what he called an opportunity of a lifetime as the winner of the year’s Bighorn sheep lottery tag. In early December, he headed to Fort Robinson for the hunt and took down a full-curl ram from 275 yards out.
The year also ended with active volunteer Jane Druecker celebrated for her work. Northwest Community Action Partnership named Druecker as its Volunteer of the Year, noting her 21 years with the Retired Senior Volunteers Program. She has actively served at nearly half of the 50 non-profit sites supported by NCAP.
The final third of the year was also a promising one for area schools. In Chadron, the Chadron Public Schools Foundation voted to grant $50,000 toward renovating the auditorium seating. The upgraded seats will replace the original 1960 plastic chairs with theater-style seats, allow for handicapped seating and a section of removable seats to allow for an orchestra pit.
Northern Panhandle schools were also pleased to learn the results of the first-ever mandated ACT testing of high school juniors, a new requirement as part of statewide testing. Nearly all of the high schools in Dawes, Sheridan and Sioux counties exceeded the statewide average scores in two or more content areas.
Under the new system, students are ranked as either developing, on track or at ACT benchmark. Developing students likely need additional courses before they would be able to access credit-bearing courses at Nebraska colleges. On track students are approaching college readiness and may be able to take college level courses without remediation at some institutions. Meeting the ACT benchmark means a student is equipped to succeed in first-year college classes and have a 50 percent chance of earning a B or better.
To be considered proficient, a student must earn an ACT score that puts them in the on track or ACT benchmark rankings.