County Board candidates discuss Beatrice 6, jail issues

September 27, 2018

Two candidates for the County Board of Supervisors attended a candidate forum Tuesday night to share their thoughts on issues from the Beatrice 6 case to jail overcrowding issues.

Candidates Eddie Dorn, Republican, and Paul Weber, Democrat, are each running for the District 1 seat on the County Board. The winner this November will replace current board chairman Myron Dorn, who is seeking a seat on the legislature. The District 1 seat is the only County Board position on the ballot this November.

Weber said he’s lived in Nemaha township for 27 years and has three children and seven grandchildren. He’s a graduate of Holmesville High School and was an educator at Central City and Norris high schools.

Weber served eight years on the Norris School Board, 10 years on the Nemaha NRD Board and was on the Gage County Planning and Zoning commission for around six years.

Dorn said he’s lived in the same Gage County location all his life and is running for a seat on the County Board to remind residents it’s a great place to live.

He’s currently on the Filley Township Board and has been involved with the Filley Rural Fire Department, Cemetery Board, Ag Society Board, Filley School Board and Freeman School Board.

The candidates started the event by discussing their thoughts on the board’s decision to raise the mill levy to the legal limit as a means to pay for the Beatrice 6 judgment, a move that could hurt farmers who may struggle to afford the increase.

“That Beatrice 6 thing is going to put a big halt to a lot of things, I’m guessing,” Dorn said. “I’m willing to learn more about it once I get on the board. I’ve heard that the townships aren’t going to get hurt as bad as first anticipated. I hope the roads and bridges are going to be maintained even though we have to fund this judgment.”

Weber said the board did the right thing by raising the taxes after running out of alternatives.

“They went through all the procedures of what needs to be done,” he said. “It seems like they’re doing a good job on that. I just feel they need to maintain and try to make sure they’re not overspending, which they’re not doing. I think they’re doing a great job.”

The board voted to raise the levy 12 cents to pay off the $28 million verdict awarded to six people wrongfully convicted of a Beatrice murder more than 30 years ago.

Weber and Dorn were also asked about the current state of the jail in Gage County. Around nine years ago, voters rejected a bond issue to build a new, larger jail in Gage County. The bond issue would have replaced the jail built in the 1970s, which seems to need constant repairs and maintenance. The jail is also not big enough to hold all of Gage County inmates.

Gage County has been responsible for up to 60 inmates at at time, while the jail can only hold around 30. As a result, the county has contracted with other jails to house its excess inmates in other counties. Those contracts total nearly $250,000 annually.

Weber said the county needs a new jail, but questioned if this is the right time to build it because of the Beatrice 6 ruling.

“I would be in favor of it, however I can’t see how we can afford to do this with what’s going on,” he said. “Moving people out of the county, I know it’s expensive.”

Dorn suggested making punishments more severe as a means of keeping repeat offenders from returning to jail, where they have it “too easy.”

“I would say yes we need a new jail but as far as affording a new jail it’s going to be awful tough to do,” Dorn said. “To me I think we’ve got to find punishment worse than jail. It seems like they’re repeat offenders going back all the time because they’ve got it too easy. Somehow we’ve got to discourage them not to want to go to jail.”

The candidates were also asked if they supported the County Board’s decision to purchase property next to the jail, spending money while the Beatrice 6 judgment loomed.

The board voted last October to buy the land and building at 620 N. Sixth St., directly north of the jail for $250,000. The building was formerly Buss Stop filling station. The board voted the following month to purchase the lot with a small residence next to Buss Stop for $65,000.

The properties were purchased to be used for evidence storage due to a lack of space at the current jail and sheriff’s office, a move Dorn said was the right one.

“I understand that you have to keep evidence,” he said. “It seems like these trials are getting drawn out longer and you’ve got to keep your evidence longer and keep it secured. When you’re out of space and need more space you have to expand. It was convenient to be that close to the jail. I think you’ve got to look at that aspect too. When it’s that close like that it’s more valuable to you.”

Weber also said the purchase was the right one, given the growing need for storage space.

“It’s close to it and you have to store somewhere,” Weber said. “I would say with what we have right now, I don’t know what the price, was but I’m sure it was probably needed to store the information and everything.”

The 2018 general election is Nov. 6.

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