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Warm spring prompts question: Is it time to water trees, shrubs and turf?

By David Ostdiek, Communications Associate - UNL Panhandle Research and Extension Center

One of the warmest and driest Marches on record has many western Nebraskans running sprinklers on their lawns, trees and shrubs already.

Not so fast, advises Scotts Bluff County Extension Educator Jim Schild. Some trees and shrubs need water now, some do not, and some landscapes should be checked to see whether or not they do, according to Schild.

“What people should be watering are any evergreen trees and shrubs, because with all the wind we’ve had and the lack of moisture, evergreen trees and shrubs will be highly stressed this spring,” Schild said. Evergreens generally require about 1 inch of moisture a month during winter, he said.

Also, the turf underneath, or in the root zone adjacent to, evergreen trees and shrubs will be stressed because the trees have been depleting that moisture, according to Schild. But deciduous trees and shrubs, which dropped their leaves in the fall, have not been using the moisture over the winter. Those that went into the winter in good shape moisture-wise are probably okay, especially if they’re in mulch beds, Schild said.

As of the 24th, March 2012 has been the fourth-warmest March since 1872, according to the National Weather Service at Cheyenne. For average daily high temps, it ranks 2nd. And it is tied for the driest March on record.

Schild said another landscape area that might be water-stressed are lawns with a fairly good slope that face south, where the direct sun angle may have dried more than other parts of the lawn (areas of compaction or limited soil, for example).

Other areas of the lawn may or may not need water, depending on how much snow they caught during the winter months, Schild said. To determine whether they do, Schild advises poking a long, flat-headed screwdriver into the soil in about 10 different areas of the lawn.

“If you can poke down five to six inches, there’s enough moisture that at this point in time they don’t need to be watered,” Schild said. “However, if you have difficulty getting it into the ground, look at applying one-half inch of water to the turf.”

A lawn’s soil moisture should be checked weekly, Schild said. “If we start picking up spring moisture, typically bluegrass lawns will be okay during April, then sometime during May we need to start thinking about routine watering or turning on the sprinkler system.”

Schild issued a caution about using sprinkler systems this early, when a frost is still very possible: “Treat it like fall irrigations, and make sure the water is shut off and the anti-siphon portion of the system drains.”

Unless it gets extremely cold, homeowners shouldn’t have to worry about valve boxes below the soil line freezing. Soil temperatures during the last week of March were in the upper 40s and low 50s.

“We shouldn’t have to worry unless night-time temperatures get into the single digits, which historically it has done at this time of year,” Schild said. The record low temperature for April 1 was minus 5 degrees Farenheit in 1975.

The biggest concern associated with the extended warm period is what it has done to tree and shrub species, Schild said.

“Soil temperature is what usually initiates leaf development on trees. With this extended warm period the soil temperatures are a good 10 to 12 degrees above normal for this time of year, and a number of the tree species are responding to that and starting to leaf out. Heavy freeze could cause some damage to some of these species, especially trees that are not quite hardy for this area.”

So selecting trees and shrubs for the landscape is important, Schild stressed. Even though the Scottsbluff area is now in Zone 5 of the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone map (one step warmer than it used to be), homeowners should consider planting trees that have a little more winter hardiness and those that tend to break bud at a little later date.

Schild said the warm March also has prompted people to wonder whether they should be applying fertilizers and pre-emergent herbicides earlier. “My response is no because we can still go through some fairly cold temperatures,” he said. Crab grass is a warm season grass, and a night-time freeze will kill what has germinated. And fertilizing turf this early will promote growth. That means more watering and mowing earlier, and the early demand on the turf’s root system could make it especially vulnerable to mid-summer heat stress if it’s not maintained properly.

The Panhandle Research and Extension Center is on the World Wide Web at


District 1 American Legion holds convention

The District One American Legion, Department of Nebraska, held their 81st Convention in Hay Springs on March 31, 2012, with 115 Legion and Auxiliary members present. A joint business session was held in the morning, with discussions on veteran’s issues and children and youth presentations, an update was given by Allen Pannell the Director of the Nebraska Veterans cemetery in Alliance Nebraska. The Auxiliary held their annual auction before lunch.

The afternoon session was held by the Legion and issues of Children and Youth, Boys State programs and legislative issues in the state, Membership, Americanism, and Children and Youth awards we handed out to the individual posts in the District. American Legion Riders Liason spoke about the benefits they bring to the organization. They are working on getting a Charter started in District One. They are asking eligible riders to step forward and help.

The Auxiliary held their business session, and discussed various issues.

An evening Banquet was held with a fine prime rib supper, entertainment was provided by the Hay Springs theatrical group. The guest speaker for the banquet was the Department Commander George Cyboron. Commander Cyboron spoke on the history of the American Legion which was organized in May 1919.

Presentation of scoop shovel award was given to Burdette Burkhart as a honorary member of the District. The main winner of the scoop shovel award was presented to Orville Weyers from Hay Springs, this award started in 1937.

Certificate of Appreciations was given to Karol Lockman, Darrell Marshall, Darius and Sharon Maltbie for their outstanding work in the VA Hospital in Hot Springs, SD.

A certificate of appreciation was also given to Larry Johnson for serving as the Sargent-at-arms for the last 13 years. The new Sargent-at-arms is Gene VonFarrell of Crawford.

A special National presentation was presented to Gunnar Riis for his being a representative and all the work he has done to help the veterans for the past 20 years.


Bank of the West supports American Indian College Fund

Bank of the West was proud to acknowledge the recipients of scholarships from the 2011 Bank of the West Tribal Scholarship Program during the 31st Annual Conference of the American Indian Higher Education Consortium in March.

The bank provided a grant of $10,000 to the American Indian College Fund, which awarded $1,000 each to 10 tribal college students attending Oglala Lakota College, Sisseton Wahpeton College or Sinte Gleska University. The students participated in tribal activities as well as academic competitions and award programs. Approximately 900 people attended the conference that was hosted by the South Dakota Tribal Colleges.

According to the American Indian College Fund, high levels of poverty among American Indians often make college education unattainable. The poverty rate among American Indians is 47% on reservations (source: U.S. Census Bureau), the highest of any racial or ethnic group in America.

“Bank of the West recognizes that education and job training are critical elements that advance and build a skilled workforce, which in turn leads to vibrant, healthy communities,” said Branch Manager Patty Faulk, from the Bank of the West branch in Gordon, Neb. “We were proud to support these 10 deserving college students and wish them every success in attaining their future educational goals.”

One of the scholarship recipients was Melissa Martin, a full-time working mother of seven children who has maintained a 3.56 – 4.0 GPA. In the current 2011 Scholarship Report, Martin wrote: “Thank you. Your generosity enabled me to graduate with an associate degree in Entrepreneurship in June 20, 2011. Now I am working toward my bachelor’s degree in Business Administration.” Martin aspires to being a business owner in her community.


Area students win medals at CSC Scholastic Contest

Students from the region were among the medalists at the 52nd Scholastic Contest at Chadron State College on Friday, April 13.

Each year, the Scholastic Contest attracts the region’s brightest high school students. The annual event began in 1961 and is believed to the oldest and largest of its kind in the region. This year’s contest had 1,427 entries from 50 high schools.

Gold, silver and bronze medals are awarded to the top three placewinners for each test. The seniors who win gold in the Scholastic Contest qualify for CSC’s Scholastic Achievement Award, which covers the in-state portion of tuition for the next academic year. The winning school in each of the five divisions wins a plaque.

More information about the event, including a list of students who finished in the top 20 percent of each exam, may be found at

Medalists from the Region: Drew Bryant, Cody-Kilgore High School, Bronze, Accounting; Anlan Cheney, Cody-Kilgore High School, Bronze, Vocabulary; Emma August, Gordon-Rushville High School, Gold, Consumer Issues; Audra Sasse, Gordon-Rushville High School, Gold, Nutrition and Family Health; Charmayne Strong, Gordon-Rushville High School, Gold, Veterinary Sciences; Jackie Bruns, Gordon-Rushville High School, Silver, Eagle Cook-Off (team event); Brittany Hoagland, Gordon-Rushville High School, Silver, Eagle Cook-Off (team event); Melissa Jech, Gordon-Rushville High School, Silver, Agronomy and Rangeland Management; Shea Lindsey, Gordon-Rushville High School, Silver, Human Development and Family Life; Shea Lindsey, Gordon-Rushville High School, Silver, Teaching Presentation; Cali Mulcahy, Gordon-Rushville High School, Silver, Eagle Cook-Off (team event); Krystal Nelson, Gordon-Rushville High School, Silver, Chemistry; Jordan Shadbolt, Gordon-Rushville High School, Bronze, Flash Fiction; Izoebelle Schneider, Hay Springs High School, Silver, Simulated News Reporting.

School Standings: Division III -- St. Thomas More High School at Rapid City (S.D.) 10.243, O’Neill High School 10.121, Chadron High School 9.452, West Holt High School at Atkinson 8.821, Valentine High School 8.778, Gordon-Rushville High School 6.971, Wright High School (Wyo.) 5.28, Bennett County High School at Martin (S.D.) 4.415, Mitchell High School 4.357, Ainsworth High School 4.193, Kimball High School 1.594, Saint Francis Indian School (S.D.) 0;

Division V -- Rock County High School at Bassett 8.315, Hay Springs High School 7.405, Leyton High School at Dalton 6.38, Arthur County High School 6.182, Banner County High School at Harrisburg 5.919, Hyannis High School 5.65, Anselmo-Merna High School 5.45, Rapid City Christian High School (S.D.) 4.435, Potter-Dix High School 3.779, Stuart High School 3.485, Sioux County High School at Harrison 2.917, Cody-Kilgore High School 2.821, Thedford High School 1.314, Edgemont High School (S.D.) 1.125


Hay Springs City Council creates airport advisory board, appoints three

By Ang Gilchrist At their regularly scheduled meeting on April 10, the city council voted to create an Airport Advisory Board. The three community members appointed to the board include Mary Hansen, Russ Reichenberg, and Jim Varvel. City council member Randy Turman will also have an active roll on the board. The purpose of the board will be to collect and present information and projections to the council in regards to maintaining the current airport and hangers, looking into fund raisers, grants and other available funding.

With increasing state budget cuts, the City of Hay Springs,like many other municipalities, has been struggling with keeping a positive cash flow. Area airport authorities, including Rushville and Chadron, will be asked for their input as to what has or has not worked for them at their respective airports.

There was a public hearing held just prior to the regular council meeting, where over 35 community members and pilots were present to voice their opinions and concerns in regards to the future of the grass strip airport.

Karl Storjohann lives south between Hay Springs and Chadron and has rented a hangar at the Hay Springs airport for several years. He expressed his concern over the strong possibility of the hangar rent being raised, as the council had suggested at a previous meeting. Storjohann said he had been told that since he didn’t actually live in Hay Springs, he shouldn’t have a say in the future of the airport. He said that although he didn’t actually live in town, he did his part to support the community where he maintains his plane, presenting evidence that he had spent over $17,762.00 in the community since late 2007. He went on to say that he would seriously consider other area airport hangars if the rent was to be raised at Hay Springs. One council member said that the hangar rent was considerably lower than area hangars, however it was presented that those hangars that charge more rent also offer paved runways, fuel, and airplane maintenance/ mechanics.

The council answered that raising the rent and lease amounts was being looked at as an option and that they weren’t trying to make money off of the airport, but just trying to get closer to breaking even. According to the council, the airport is the only entity that lost money last year, saying that the pool and RV Park made money for the city. The city fiscal year ends in September and the council is looking at all options and changes that need to occur before the budgeting of the next fiscal year.

Ernie Schmidt, a pilot from Sydney, Neb., stated that the Young Eagles has used the local airport for the past two years and that the grass strip was inviting to young pilots. He also reiterated previous comments that the airport was a vital asset for emergency medical needs, stating, “There is a lot of potential at this airport.”

Local business owner and pilot, Mary Hansen, suggested to the council that they develop an Airport Authority. According to the Nebraska Legislature statute 3-502, an Airport Authority would consist of five members(residents of the city) appointed by the mayor with the approval of the city council. The board would have “full and exclusive jurisdiction and control over all facilities owned or thereafter acquired by such city for the purpose of aviation operation, air navigation, and air safety operation.” Mayor Ron Housh said that the council would have to have the city attorney look into the facts and state laws regarding creating an Airport Authority.

According to councilman Turman, “We (the council) have never voted or made a motion to close the airport. We are looking on how to improve it.” He went on to say that he personally felt there was enough community support to keep the airport open and that, “At this point I don’t see the airport closing”.

The next regularly scheduled Hay Springs City Council meeting will be held May 8, 2012 at 7:00 p.m.


Two NRPPD employees fined $2000 in civil penalties, appeal pending

By Ang Gilchrist

The State of Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure Commission has ruled in favor of a complaint filed by Michael Van Buskirk, alleging that publicly funded radio advertising was used to campaign against him in the months leading up to the November 2010 Board of Directors election for the Nebraska Rural Public Power District(NRPPD).

“As an individual, I feel like justice has been served as a result of this process. Now it is up to the district to make these tough choices based on the decision,” said Van Buskirk.

He hopes the district will learn from this and address the matter, preventing it from ever happening again.

The complaint filed was directed towards NRPPD employees Rolland Skinner, General Operations Manager, and Les Tlustos, Consumer Service Director. In the ruling filed April 20, 2012, Skinner and Tlustos were ordered to pay $2000.00 each as a civil penalty. They each have the opportunity to appeal the commission’s decision to the District Court and that process is already in the works.

According to Skinner, “We disagree totally with their conclusion and we are starting the appeal process.” Skinner went on to say that they (NRPPD) have an obligation to present educational, accurate, and factual information to their customers and that until the legal process was complete, he wouldn’t comment further on the ruling. When asked, Tlustos added, “Everything in our ads was true.” Skinner and Tlustos are represented by Terry Curtis of Alliance, Neb.

According to the Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law and Order provided to the Sheridan County Journal Star by Van Buskirk, the original complaint was filed on October 21, 2011 and has been through hearing proceedings leading up to the recent ruling. A summary of the stated facts includes:

* During a radio interview and an article printed in the Sheridan County Journal Star in April 2010, Van Buskirk expressed his support for wind energy, rate containment, and economic growth and announced those topics as his platform in seeking a position on the Board of Directors for NRPPD. He also criticized the board for its failure to contain rates and support wind energy, reinstating his platform for his campaign.

*Later that month the Sheridan County board considered a resolution on the subject of renewable energy and held a public hearing. All three men were in attendance, with Skinner testifying that wind energy was not efficient and Van Buskirk expressed his support of the use of wind energy. The Sheridan County board adopted a resolution in favor of renewable energy.

*Following Van Buskirk’s radio interview, Skinner and Tlustos, along with the Panhandle Rural Electric District manager, did their own radio interview to “correct inaccurate statements which they felt had been made by Van Buskirk.” Skinner and Tlustos also sent proposed articles to four area newspapers in May 2010 that were critical of wind energy. *During the first nine months of 2010 and previous months, Skinner and Tlustos aired once-a-month radio infomercials as part of NRPPD’s longstanding policy of public service announcements to educate consumers about public issues.

*Beginning in October 2010 Skinner and Tlustos aired three different infomercials on four different area radio stations. The infomercials ran between October 4 - November 2, 2010. The ‘wind energy’ infomercial was played 73 times, the ‘energy duplication’ infomercial aired 25 times, and the ‘rates’ infomercial was played 74 times. The infomericials were intended to correct what they viewed as misinformation presented by Van Buskirk through his radio interview, the newspaper article, and the (passed) county board resolution dealing with wind energy and rates.

*Van Buskirk’s name was never mentioned in any of the infomercials and no member of the board directed that those infomercials were to be run immediately prior to the election. *Van Buskirk was contacted by constituents concerned about the timing and content of the infomercials ran by Skinner and Tlustos. On October 21, 2010, Van Buskirk asked Skinner and Tlustos to stop running their infomercials dealing with wind energy, energy duplication, and rates. They refused to stop and Van Buskirk’s complaint was immediately filed with the commission.

*No similar infomercials were run during the months following the election in 2010.

The State of Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure Commission consists of seven commissioners. All seven commissioners concurred to the ruling of a civil penalty of $2000 each to Skinner and Tlustos, stating “...specifically finds that during the months of October and November 2010, Rolland Skinner and Les Tlustos, and each of them, as public employees of the Northwest Rural Public Power District, a Nebraska governmental entity, expended public funds of said public power district for the purpose of campaigning against the election of a candidate,” in violation of Nebraska Law Section 49-14, 101, 02(2).

Van Buskirk was subsequently elected in 2010 to the NRPPD Board to serve a six-year term, unseating a 12-year incumbent. The NRPPD Board will hold its regularly scheduled meeting this Thursday, April 26, however this matter is not on the current agenda. More information will be presented as it is received, pending the appeals process.


Two locals finish 26.2 mile Boston Marathon

By Ang Gilchrist

Despite brutal temperatures reaching 89 degrees, two local residents completed the Boston Marathon held last Monday, April 16. The Boston Marathon is the world’s oldest annual marathon, dating back 116 years, with runners representing over 80 countries around the world. Although open to any athlete 18 years or older, the individuals must qualify on a certified course in the prior 18 months before the marathon and complete a stringent application process to receive an invitation. On average, 20,000 runners begin the marathon, but far fewer are able to complete the course. For many runners, qualifying to run the Boston Marathon is an achievement in itself.

Gordon resident Roberta Jacobson has been running marathons for over 10 years and credits her passion to watching her sister run a marathon. Five years ago she began focusing on attaining her qualification into the Boston Marathon, and in May of last year, Roberta reached her goal. She completed the Lincoln, Neb. National Guard Marathon with a qualifying time, earning a spot on the starting line of this years run. Jacobson made her trip to Boston a mini-vacation, accompanied by her husband, Merlyn, and children Joe and Denie. They were able to enjoy playing tourists for a couple of days before her big day.

As Jacobson began the marathon, she wasn’t sure she would finish what she had strived to achieve for so many years, stating, “at mile two I was ready to quit that race.” But she pushed herself through the physically demanding challenge, taking advantage of every ‘spray tent’ she passed. She said that the crowd of spectators was so supportive along the route, offering her ice, fruit, water, gatorade, pretzels, and liquorice, along with spraying water with hoses and sprinklers, helping to maintain her body functions and temperature.

Jacobson said her most memorable moment occurred as she began the 23rd mile of the 26.2 mile run, when her family appeared “out of nowhere” to cheer her on and yell encouraging words of support. She said the next thing she knew, her husband was running beside his jeans! Mind you, it was 89 degrees at this point in the day. Although his run was short, it was a much-needed boost for Jacobson.

Shortly after, Gordon resident Mandy Packett joined her and the two women ran the last three miles of the Boston Marathon together. Jacobson explained that she and Mandy have been running together for years and that Mandy and her husband, Heath, actually planned their family vacation around the Boston Marathon so that she could be there to support her friend. Jacobson finished her first Boston Marathon in 5:20:20, a time that she intends to shorten in the future.

“I’m grateful I had the opportunity to run the marathon,” said Jacobson. She admitted that she isn’t super-athletic, but she does enjoy running and tries to complete one marathon a year. She also competes in half-marathons and marathon relays, which involves 4-5 runners each covering a leg of the marathon. According to Jacobson, there are a lot of runners within our community and anyone can set their mind to running a marathon, “Believe in yourself, set your goals, and achive them!”

Rusty Bellina of Hay Springs has maintained a true passion for running marathons, and said he was up to the challenge of completing the “largest marathon, top in the world.” He just ran the 2012 Boston Marathon in 4:52:14, finishing 22nd out of 83 runners in the 70-74 year age group. Bellina said that of the 83 runners, only 72 completed the marathon, the others dropping out because of the extreme heat and health issues. When asked what was his most memorable moment of this run, he said it was crossing the finish line, stating, “this is not a race, it is an experience.”

Running in Boston marked the competion of Bellina’s 74th marathon. Bellina travels throughout the world to run, accompanied by his wife, Dee. He has finished marathons in all 50 states, along with Athens, Greece, London, and Berlin. His next marathon will be May 5, in Provo, Utah. He is looking forward to spending some vacation time with his wife in Stockholm, Sweden this July, where he will be running the marathon celebrating the 100th Anniversary of the Summer Olympics. Bellina has a total of nine marathons scheduled for this year and he said he plans on running marathons, “As long as I can.” After 24 years of coaching and teaching, he retired from the Hay Springs School District in 1996. In his spare time, he is a volunteer coach with the Hay Springs track team.

Congratulations to both runners on completing the most prestigious marathon in the world.


Three Mustangs receive RHOP scholarships

The Rural Health Opportunities Program (RHOP) is a cooperative program between Chadron State College and the Univeristy of Nebraska Medical Center. The purpose of the program is to recruit and educate traditional students from rural Nebraska who will return to practice in rural areas of the state. This program represents a commitment and dedication to the education of Nebraskans and quality health care for citizens of the state. Teale Beguin of Rushville was selected to participate in the nursing option. Ronelle Stevens of Rushville was selected to participate in the pharmacy option. Tessa Retzlaff of Clinton was selected to participate in the clinical laboratory science option.


Neb. Patrol: Vandalism in Whiteclay 'concerning'

Associated Press

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) _ State law enforcement officers were helping patrol a small Nebraska town Monday following the vandalism of two beer trucks earlier this month near a South Dakota Indian reservation where alcohol is banned.

Col. David Sankey, the superintendent of the Nebraska State Patrol, said more officers will keep watch on the tiny Nebraska town of Whiteclay during beer deliveries because of an uptick in vandalism from protesters opposing beer sales.

Whiteclay sits on the border of South Dakota's Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, a poverty-stricken area that prohibits alcohol but is nonetheless plagued by alcoholism.

Activists have protested in Whiteclay for decades with marches, campsites and road blockades designed to stop alcohol from crossing into the reservation. The Oglala Sioux tribal government filed an unsuccessful federal lawsuit last year that sought $500 million in legal damages from the town's four beer stores, its distributors and the global manufacturers.

Sankey said most of the protests over the years have remained peaceful, but authorities are concerned that the vandalism could escalate. Many of the activists are not from the area, he said, and they're avoiding arrest by crossing back onto the reservation, where Nebraska authorities have no jurisdiction.

"The level to which these folks have increased these activities is concerning to us,'' Sankey said during a conference call with reporters on an unrelated issue. "Most of the folks over the years have demonstrated. They've perhaps blocked the highway, perhaps tried to block entrance to one of the retail outlets, but it's been mostly peaceful. This group in the last few weeks has escalated their level of violence, and it's certainly got our attention.''

Authorities have made no arrests. Sankey said the patrol is working with the Sheridan County sheriff's office in northwest Nebraska, as well as the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs. A phone message left with the Oglala Sioux Department of Public Safety, which oversees law enforcement on the reservation, wasn't immediately returned Monday.

Vandals have hit two beer trucks in the last three weeks and reportedly threatened one truck driver with a knife. In the first incident on May 3, activists reportedly told a beer truck driver to leave town, and then flashed a knife. They then started stomping on beer containers in the shipment, smashing them against the truck and throwing them into the street. The truck's two front tires were slashed, said Vic Clarke, a Whiteclay grocery store owner who witnessed the attack.

The second vandalism act happened on May 13. It caused more than $10,000 in damage to a beer truck owned by High Plains Budweiser, said Jeff Scheinost, president of the Scottsbluff-based distributor.

Two of the company's trucks had stopped for a delivery at Stateline Liquor when a sport utility vehicle drove up from the south, Scheinost said. Between five and seven people jumped out and smashed both of the truck's headlights, two of its windows and the windshield, and slashed its right-front tire.

No one was hurt. Scheinost said three of his employees were inside the store at the time, and a fourth who was unloading the truck ran inside to get them. By the time his workers returned, Scheinost said the vandals were gone.

Scheinost said workers made another delivery on Monday without incident, while the Nebraska State Patrol and Sheridan County sheriff's deputies stood watch.

"There was a significant presence,'' he said.

A cellphone message left for activist Olowan Martinez, who has recently protested in Whiteclay, wasn't immediately returned. The Native American from Porcupine, S.D., has previously said that the protests were peaceful, but intended to send a message that the beer suppliers aren't welcome in the area.

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