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NRD, street paving, kidnapping Imperial’s top 2013 stories PDF Print E-mail

By Jan Schultz
The Imperial Republican

Anyone in Chase County who does not know what NRD stands for has not been following news of major impact in their community.
NRD stands for Natural Resources District, whose Upper Republican office headquarters are in Imperial, and was again at the center of much of the news in 2013.
News staff at The Imperial Republican picked the NRD, specifically its ground-breaking augmentation projects in Dundy and Lincoln Counties, as the top news story of 2013.
The NRD has topped the news rankings most of the years the past decade.
Rounding out the top five were new rental home construction, Julie Hanes’ kidnapping ordeal, Sage Addition/East 2nd Street projects and the upcoming April 2014 release of the “Heaven is for Real” movie.
The URNRD’s Rock Creek augmentation project became operational in 2013. That pumping in Dundy County helped keep the Upper Republican NRD and State of Nebraska in compact compliance.
On another front, the Lincoln County augmentation project has the same goal of keeping Nebraska in compliance with its compact settlement with Kansas. During 2013, bids were accepted for development of the N-CORPE project with operation to begin early this year.
When fully operational, the project will be capable of pumping 60,000 acre feet of water per year to be used towards compact compliance.
The Rock Creek project is the sole effort of the URNRD. The Lincoln County project is being developed by N-CORPE, an entity formed through a cooperative local agreement between the Upper,  Middle and Lower Republican NRDs, as well as the Twin Platte NRD.
Here is a recap of the other top 10 news stories.
Rental home construction
Activity is very noticeable in the Cornerstone Commercial Park where 10 rental homes are being built by Dana Point Development, a California-based firm that has done extensive rental home construction in Nebraska. The city offered a number of incentives to help get the project off the ground. Dana Point in also building four homes in that area that will be for sale by the company.
Imperial native Julie Hanes unwillingly became the center of a nationwide story when she was kidnapped in broad daylight from her Lincoln hair salon in late in August. Prayers were answered when she was released by Dwayne Lawrence from a cornfield the next day, just outside of Imperial. Lawrence then took his own life by gunshot.
With the ordeal starting in Lincoln, the Hanes’ kidnapping was also the 10th most read story in 2013 on the Lincoln Journal Star’s website.
Street paving
Much of 2013 saw torn-up streets in the city’s Sage Addition in northwest Imperial, after property owners there requested a Street Improvement District for concrete streets and storm sewer work. The project included several blocks of the adjoining West 12th St. A separate project paved East 2nd Street which borders the 10 new rental homes under construction there.
‘Heaven’ movie
The buzz started again over the “Heaven is for Real” story involving the Burpo family of Imperial, as Sony Pictures announced the release date for the movie based on the best-selling book. The movie trailer was out in November 2013, advertising its April 16, 2014 opening during Easter week.
Hospital staffing
A settlement with former hospital administrator Lola Jones was reached during 2013, paying her $150,000 after being released of her duties. The hospital board also released Dr. Jeff Kasselman from the staff early in the year.  Gary Bieganski was hired as interim administrator and started in February and committed for a year with an annual salary of just under $300,000.
Police chief resignation
Rob Browning resigned abruptly as Imperial police chief in October after serving a year and a half at the helm and 16 total years on the force. His resignation brought 50 people to a council meeting in November. Former Sgt. Ryan Wisnieski was appointed as Browning’s replacement effective Jan. 6, 2014.
Fire hall
Early in the year, members of the Imperial Volunteer Fire Department (IVFD) changed directions on where their new fire hall might be located after some on the city council believed the planned site on Broadway, owned by the city, should be retained for retail expansion. The city and school board are in negotiations on possible sale of the Wellington football field as a possible location.
Champion Mill ownership
It had been discussed for more than two years, but it became official on July 1, 2013 that Chase County became owner of the Champion Mill and State Historical Park. The Game & Parks Commission transferred the property to the county as a cost-saving measure, as they have done with several other state park areas.
New reading program
Unhappy with the level of progress being seen on state reading comprehension tests, the Chase County Schools board of education adopted the Reading Wonders program in June for grades K-6. It came four years after the school instituted the Reading Mastery program.
In the voting for the Top 10 story list, all nine staff members at The Imperial Republican voted on a list of 12 news stories from 2013, ranking them one to 12 with one being most important.
After a tally of those votes, the story with the lowest number of total votes was ranked the No. 1 story for the year. Stories were ranked from there based on the vote tally.