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Thank you for visiting my website. It is an honor to represent the people of the 47th legislative district in the Nebraska Unicameral Legislature.
You’ll find my contact information on the right side of this page, as well as a list of the bills I’ve introduced this session and the committees on which I serve. Please feel free to contact me and my staff about proposed legislation or any other issues you would like to address.
Sen. Steve Erdman
I love football and October is the heart of football season. Baseball may be America’s favorite pastime, but football is America’s favorite sport. In Nebraska we have two seasons: Football season and waiting for football season. The future of football, however, is in peril.
The future of football is in peril because fewer parents are allowing their sons to play football these days. According to a recent HBO/Marist poll 87 percent of parents said in 2013 that they would allow their sons under the age of 18 to play football, but by 2016 those numbers had fallen to 75 percent of parents. The growing concerns relate to concussions and long-term brain trauma.
A recent study of the brains of NFL football players made an alarming discovery. The study found that out of 111 NFL football players’ brains 110 were diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy, otherwise known as CTE. CTE is a brain disease which is found in those exposed to repeated head trauma, and it is marked by an abnormal buildup of Tau proteins in the brain. CTE can disable neuropathways in the brain, resulting in memory loss, confusion, impaired judgment, aggression, depression, anxiety, impulsive behavior, and even suicidal thoughts. So, CTE is a real concern for athletes who play football.
Some of our youngest Nebraskans are now trailblazing a new way for saving America’s favorite sport. Some of Nebraska’s high school football players are now leading the way in new research to address this problem. Football players in the Omaha Public School district have been outfitted with new high-tech football helmets equipped with sensors designed to detect hard blows to the head. The helmets have been equipped with the new InSite Impact Response system, which alerts coaches via a handheld electronic device whenever a player receives a hard blow to the head. Once alerted, coaches may then remove the affected player from the field to have him analyzed for head trauma and concussions.
Omaha’s high school football coaches are reporting that the new helmets are alerting them about hard blows to the head on average about once or twice per practice or game. The helmets have already helped coaches and athletic trainers detected some concussions they would not have otherwise detected. If one player is taking a lot of hits, for example, coaches may use the information provided by the helmets to correct a receiver’s receiving style or a running back’s form, or tweak a defensive player’s tackling technique. Playing with the proper technique significantly reduces head injuries on the field.
This helmet experiment hasn’t been cheap, though. Each of these new specialized Riddell Speedflex helmets costs $400 apiece. Fortunately, this year the helmets were donated to all seven OPS high schools plus Creighton Prep and Belleview East and West. Nevertheless, these specialized helmets will likely become the new norm in football.
As a legislator, I want to do all I can to keep students safe in school, especially in after school sports. But for now, common sense would suggest making use of these kinds of available technologies whenever we can afford to do so in order to save lives, reduce the number of concussions, and stave off as much head trauma as we possibly can. Football is life – So, let’s make sure our kids live long enough and healthy enough to enjoy it as much as we have.
The Building Maintenance Committee, of which I am the chair, held its final meeting of the year at the Tecumseh State Correctional Institute last week. While the primary purpose of our meeting was to assess and approve work to rebuild chillers and to replace roofing at the facility, it was also a time to get updated on the progress being made for better security at the prison.
The biggest problem facing the Tecumseh State Correctional Institute has been staffing. On the day of our Building Maintenance Committee meeting, for example, staffing was down 93 people. On average, staffing has been down 30 percent. Consequently, prison guards have been working 12 hour shifts plus mandatory overtime in order to make up for the staffing deficiencies. Overtime at the Tecumseh facility alone adds up to almost one million dollars per year. The Tecumseh facility has also been borrowing protective custody staff from corrections centers in Omaha. Because the Tecumseh facility is not located near a population center and because wages have been low, retention of employees has been the most glaring problem.
The issue regarding pay has recently been addressed. On October 2 Scott Frakes, the Director of the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services, announced a $2,500 recruitment bonus for the first 100 new hires, and current employees will be able to take advantage of some new merit based incentives. Hopefully, these bonuses and incentives will alleviate the staffing deficiencies.
In order to help quell future rioting at the prison, Brad Hansen, the warden, has instituted a new tiered approach to inmate housing and benefits. Inmates now have to earn their perks through good behavior, whereas before they did not. The most aggressive inmates are now being housed together under the strictest conditions and are denied most pleasantries. After an inmate’s behavior improves, he may advance to the next tier, where his prison life becomes a little bit more comfortable and enjoyable.
The warden has also made some physical security improvements to the facility. Previously, two prison guards had been assaulted during the riot on March 10, 2015 when inmates took control of two housing pods. In order to provide better security for the staff, the warden has installed a new escape hatch. In the event of another loss of control, prison staff will be able to leave through the escape hatch and confine the riot to a single housing pod.
Another way the Tecumseh prison is improving is through better programming. The Tecumseh prison has revamped some of its most critical programs. For instance, 21 percent of the inmates at the Tecumseh facility are now sex offenders. Last year programs for sex offenders did not require inmates to accept responsibility for their sexually deviant behavior. The new programs, however, require these felons to accept responsibility for their sex crimes. The pathway to reform cannot begin until an offender admits that he did something wrong.
Moving forward, the Tecumseh Correctional Institute will need to address a wider range of psychological problems held by their inmates. This means that more psychiatrists and counselors will be needed to meet the psychological needs of the inmates. The inmates need more psychological help. The biggest question to be solved, however, is this: How do we pay for it? The Tecumseh State Correctional Institute did not renew its contract with outside mental health practitioners. Instead, all mental health practitioners will now work directly for the State, and this could get expensive.
Scott Frakes and Brad Hansen have taken some positive steps forward towards improving security at the Tecumseh State Correctional Institute. Most importantly, though, the State cannot afford another uprising, another senseless murder, or another needless assault on an inmate. The bottom line is that I want our correctional institutions to exhibit a culture of discipline, where safety, security and control reign as our highest priorities.
Last Friday the Health and Human Services Committee held a quarterly briefing and hearing on Heritage Health. Heritage Health oversees our three Managed Care Organizations for all Medicaid recipients in our State. These three Managed Care Organizations are Nebraska Total Care, United Healthcare, and Wellcare. Last Friday’s briefing and hearing focused on meeting the needs of our healthcare providers.
The good news coming out of Heritage Health has been that patients are being better served than they were a year ago. Clean claims continue to be processed, adjudicated, and paid at a good rate, patients can obtain services in other states and more is being done to provide for healthy pregnancies.
The bad news is that our Managed Care Organizations continue to frustrate our healthcare providers. For instance, some healthcare providers testified at the public hearing that payments on claims are inconsistent, customer service is poor, and that they lose money waiting for authorizations to come through. Some healthcare providers have complained that billing is not worth the wait. If we don’t treat our healthcare providers well, they may stop doing business with Heritage Health.
There are three key areas that Heritage Health must improve on in order for our Managed Care Organizations to provide better service to our healthcare providers. The first problem area involves overpayments to our healthcare providers. This is the most complicated of the three problem areas. When overpayments are made to healthcare providers, the overpaid amount is not necessarily returned to the Managed Care Organization; instead, some of our Managed Care Organizations insist on applying the overpaid amount to a future claim. This makes the accounting process very confusing. Even worse is the fact that the Managed Care Organizations have no way of telling when an overpayment has been made. This places the burden of catching the over-payment on the healthcare provider. In short, this presents a nightmare kind of scenario for our healthcare providers. So, going forward the HHS Committee and Heritage Health will need to find a way to place this burden back on the Managed Care Organizations, where it belongs.
Second, healthcare providers are entitled to interest on overdue claims which are not their fault. Interest payments need to be made to our healthcare providers when they are not at fault for an unpaid claim. For instance, sometimes a clean claim is erroneously denied by no fault of the healthcare provider. Other times a claim may erroneously be deemed unclean by no fault of the healthcare provider. Because these kinds of cases may drag on and on for months without a resolution, once it is determined that the claim should be paid, it ought to be paid with interest to the healthcare provider.
Third, clarification is needed to determine when the clock starts and stops on a resubmitted claim. When a healthcare provider resubmits a claim, it becomes unclear as to whether or not the clock on the new claim restarts. Should the clock continue on from the original claim, or should it restart after the claim has been resubmitted? This is an issue that frustrates our healthcare providers and which could be easily resolved through a simple policy statement.
The bottom line is that the Legislature needs to make sure that our healthcare providers get paid for their services in a timely manner, that they receive good customer service, and that their concerns get heard. I want our healthcare providers to enjoy doing business with Heritage Health.
Recently, the Health and Human Services Committee of the Nebraska State Legislature held a round table discussion on the topic of massage therapy. At issue were the requirements needed to become a licensed massage therapist in the State. Specifically, legislators want to know if the requirements and the costs are too high. If the requirements and the associated costs are too high, they may discourage individuals from pursuing a career in massage therapy or from practicing massage therapy in our State.
Currently, Nebraska State Statutes require a minimum of 1,000 hours of in-class instruction and training. These 1,000 hours are broken down into 100 hours of instruction in each of the following seven subject areas: Anatomy, Health Service Management, Hydrotherapy, Hygiene and Practical Demonstrations, Massage, Pathology, and Physiology. The remaining 300 hours are devoted to subject areas related to the clinical practice of massage therapy.
The American Massage Therapy Association only recommends a minimum of 500 hours of supervised, in-class massage therapy instruction and training in four subject areas: Anatomy, Physiology, Theory and Practice, and elective subjects. Consequently, South Dakota, Colorado, and Missouri only require 500 hours of in-class training. Iowa requires 600 hours. Because Nebraska requires 1,000 hours of instruction and training, our massage therapists have acquired an excellent reputation for competence and expertise in the field.
Those who have been licensed in another state and who wish to practice massage therapy in Nebraska must still meet the 1,000 hours requirement. However, there are various ways they can meet the requirement. For instance, 50-60 minutes of in-class instruction or training at a college or university equals one hour towards the requirement, and one full semester of instruction or training equals 15 hours towards the requirement. Applicants can also obtain up to 100 hours towards the requirement for each year of full-time practice as a massage therapist, and an additional 100 hours may be obtained through continuing education programs. Finally, all applicants must pass a national Board examination with a minimum score of 75 percent.
Many massage therapists in Nebraska have found it difficult to make a living working in the field of massage therapy. It is common for students to acquire student loan indebtedness ranging from $10,000 – $17,000. Maintaining an office, tables and supplies add to the cost of doing business. Moreover, those working in rural areas often have to travel to where their clients live, and current laws forbid mobile units from operating in the State.
Besides lowering the requirements, I believe there are two things legislators can do to lower the cost for those seeking a career in massage therapy and to help them succeed in their businesses. First, when students enter into the practicum component of their training, they work on real clients. However, they do not get paid for the work they do. Instead, all fees collected go to the massage therapy school. Making matters even worse, students pay tuition to work on these clients. This would be like a farmer making his laborers pay to harvest his corn. Therefore, I will support legislation which allows these students to get paid and/or tipped for the work they do with clients. Second, I will support legislation which allows for mobile units to operate in our State.
2017 is proving to be a hard year on our nation for natural disasters. Wildfires in the Pacific Northwest continue to burn out of control, Hurricane Harvey wreaked havoc on the southern coast of Texas and the state of Louisiana, Hurricane Irma leveled several islands in the Caribbean before sweeping its destruction up the Florida peninsula, and now Hurricane Jose is on its way here. It seems as though every section of our country has been adversely effected in some way.
Now is the time to pray for our fellow Americans, and to support them in any way we can. I salute those who served in the Cajun Navy in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, and I hold them up as examples for the rest of us to follow. I am proud that our own president donated one million dollars of his own money to help the people of Houston recover. As those in the devastated areas begin to rebuild, ask yourself what you can do to help. When my own home was hit by the Bayard tornado earlier this year, several volunteers came and helped me clear out the fallen trees and debris, and I remain thankful for their help.
As Americans, we are rugged and we are tough, but we are also very kind and generous with our resources. When natural disasters hit other countries, we are usually the first ones to respond with kindness and generosity. Kindness and generosity are core American values. They define us as Christians and they define us as Americans. So, let us seize the opportunities before us, and let us show the rest of the world once again who we really are by showing kindness and giving generously to those who live in these devastated areas of our country.
Natural disasters test our spiritual strength as well as our moral fortitude. In such devastating times as these, I am reminded of some of the words of President Abraham Lincoln: “The only assurance of our nation’s safety is to lay a foundation in morality and religion.”
Amanda Gailey, Associate Professor of English at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln, and Graduate Teaching Assistant, Courtney Lawton, need to be fired immediately! On August 25th Gailey berated and intimidated, Kaitlyn Mullen, a sophomore student at UNL, as she quietly manned her recruitment table for Turning Point USA, a national organization with chapters on college campuses across the nation.
Professor Gailey’s behavior was immoral, unprofessional and unacceptable. According to the Statement on Professional Ethics provided by the American Association of University Professors, professors are expected to “avoid any exploitation, harassment, or discriminatory treatment of students.”
According to NU Regent, Hal Daub, Professor Gailey’s protest was a premeditated and organized effort to intimidate and shut down Kaitlyn Mullen. Daub has cited as evidence the presence of pre-made protest signs which were revealed in a video of the incident. According to Daub, this is not a free speech issue; it is a conduct issue, and I agree.
Unless Amanda Gailey is fired, a double standard will exist at the University of Nebraska between students and staff and between liberals and conservatives. For instance, on August 19, 2017 UNL Chancellor, Ronnie Green, spoke to approximately 5,000 incoming freshman at UNL’s New Student Convocation. At the end of that speech, he said, “Each member of the university’s community, whether that’s faculty, whether it’s staff, whether it’s you as students, whether it’s your colleagues as graduate students here on campus, should be a role model for others, and lastly, we take action when we observe something or someone being treated unfairly or in a demeaning manner. It’s our core belief as a university here at the University of Nebraska. It’s non-negotiable. It’s who we are.”
So far, these core values are non-negotiable and apply to everyone at the University of Nebraska, except Professor Amanda Gailey and English Department, Graduate Teaching Assistant, Courtney Lawton, who called Kaitlyn Mullen a Neo-Fascist on her protest sign and verbally assaulted her as a “Becky”.
The conduct of these two individuals has had a debilitating effect on the student body at UNL. For instance, I recently attended an area school board function where I sat next to a gentleman whose daughter attends UNL. Because she was afraid, she called her father and asked him what she should do if she ever got one of these professors. These conservative students no longer feel protected by the university.
Violence and intimidation tactics from Left-wing extremist professors are quickly becoming the norm on American university campuses. Recently, University of Tampa Sociology Professor, Kenneth L. Storey blamed Hurricane Harvey on Texans who voted for Republicans. Furthermore, I still remember when Assistant Professor Melissa Click at the University of Missouri called for some back-up “muscle” in order to eject student journalist, Mark Schierbecker, as he filmed Professor Click berating Tim Tai, another student journalist who was trying to photograph their Concerned Student 1950 protest campsite on the university’s quad. Freshman enrollment at the University of Missouri – Columbia has fallen 35% since that incident.
American universities never seem to mind it when conservative students get picked on by extremist liberal professors, but as soon as someone spots a banana peel hanging from a tree limb at Ole Miss, all Greek life suddenly comes to a screeching halt! Therefore, the time has come for the University of Nebraska to take some corrective action, and I expect them to terminate the employment Amanda Gailey and Courtney Lawton immediately. The university may find a replacement professor in the same manner they would if the instructor suddenly became hospitalized or died.
The bottom line is that we can no longer tolerate this kind of extremist behavior from our esteemed faculty at the University of Nebraska. To the contrary, the University of Nebraska must become a place which welcomes the free flow of ideas from both liberals and conservatives. Tolerance is a value which must protect students, staff and faculty on both sides of the political aisle.
Because I serve on the Health and Human Services Committee, monitoring the status of Heritage Health is an important part of my job as a Nebraska State Senator. Heritage Health oversees the physical healthcare, behavioral healthcare, and pharmacy programs for Nebraska’s Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) clients. Heritage Health contracts with three Managed Care Organizations, namely Nebraska Total Care, United Healthcare, and Wellcare.
Recently, the members of the Health and Human Services Committee met with the management of these three Managed Care Organizations. Today, I would like to report on the progress these three Managed Care Organizations have made in the last few months in order to better serve the people of Nebraska and especially the constituents of Legislative District 47.
By far, the biggest complaint we’ve received in the Legislature has been that claims have not been getting processed, adjudicated and/or paid in a timely manner. Last February, for example, the percentage of clean claims getting processed, adjudicated and/or paid within 15 days was approximately 70 percent of the time. This led to the creation of Corrective Action Plans for our Managed Care Organizations. Today, however, I can report that clean claims are now being processed, adjudicated and/or paid within 15 days of receipt at least 98 percent of the time. Our goal is to get to 100 percent of the time.
Non-clean claims may still take longer than 15 days. We are working on getting all non-clean claims processed, adjudicated and/or paid within 15 days as well. Generally speaking, non-clean claims occur when errors or handwriting appears on a claim form, there is an omission of information, when further documentation is needed, when issues of medical necessity arise, or when claims are filed outside of the filing deadlines.
One issue that has come to my attention from the constituents of Legislative District 47 is out of state care. For some constituents, driving to Lincoln or to Omaha is too far and presents too much of a burden to bear. However, I can now report that by the end of September all three Managed Care Organizations will have contracts with providers in Colorado. This development will bring some much needed relief to those who have difficulty driving long distances. Please check with your Managed Care Organization and get prior approval before you schedule an appointment at a medical clinic or a hospital in Colorado.
Much is being done to improve preventative care for pregnant women. The State saves money whenever pregnancies and birthing processes go well. We can avoid many problems down the road simply by taking proper care of pregnant women. Whether the issue is taking prenatal vitamins, getting an ultrasound, or keeping doctor’s visits, Heritage Health is doing more to provide for healthy pregnancies.
Finally, if you find that you are still having difficulty getting your claims processed, adjudicated and/or paid after 15 business days of receipt, please feel free to call my office at: (402) 471-2616. We will work with you to get your claim(s) paid.
None of the newspaper columns I have submitted have generated more response than the one I wrote during the week of July 4th on LR 3. LR 3 is the Legislative Resolution introduced by Sen. Burke Harr of Omaha in January to redesign the Nebraska State flag. Besides what has been written in the newspapers, I have received more positive feedback from the public on this article than on any other. Nevertheless, I feel the need to respond.
Last week Sen. Harr said that he never orchestrated the flying of the Nebraska State Flag upside down at the capitol building in Lincoln. I have no reason to doubt Sen. Harr’s word, nor do I wish to judge his intentions on this matter. I believe he is telling the truth. I have always known Sen. Harr to be an honest and upstanding man, so I thank him for clarifying this matter.
When it comes to evaluating what constitutes a “fact,” however, I must take issue with Sen. Harr. By definition, a fact is something which has actual existence. In other words, something which is factual has a presence in physical reality. Legislative facts, then, exist within a written piece of legislation. This definition is important because Sen. Harr would have us believe that his immaterial thoughts and his good intentions somehow constitute legislative facts, but they do not. Let me explain.
Last week Sen. Harr accused me of getting “two facts wrong”. The first wrong fact was the issue regarding the flag flying upside down at the State capitol. While I did not get the fact of the flag flying upside down wrong, I was mistaken about who actually raised it. The second fact that Sen. Harr accused me of getting wrong, however, was the associated cost of redesigning the Nebraska State flag. Sen. Harr stated that the associated cost of $250,000 “would be a valid concern if only it were true.” Well, it is true after all.
I would now like to respond to Sen. Harr on a purely “factual” basis – his word, not mine. First, Sen. Harr said in his recent article that LR 3 “…only creates a task force to have a conversation about design.” This is not factually true at all. LR 3 states explicitly: “The task force shall develop a recommendation for the design of a new flag for the State of Nebraska which conforms to the flag design principles of established vexillologic organizations.” LR 3 says absolutely nothing about starting a conversation, nor does it say anything about the possibility of redesigning the flag. Furthermore, we should never be so naïve as to think that a task force of this kind would ever come back to the table with a recommendation of not changing the design of the flag. So, Sen. Harr would have us believe that his mental ideas or his good intentions about the task force possibly redesigning the flag should somehow count as legislative facts when they do not.
Concerning the cost of redesigning the Nebraska State flag, I want the constituents of Legislative District 47 to know that there is no substantive difference whatsoever between LB 954, which was introduced back in 2002, and LR 3, which was introduced by Sen. Harr last January. These two pieces of legislation are almost identical, save for the reasons Sen. Harr included for changing the flag design provided by the Vexilogical Association. Both LB 954 and LR 3 call for a task force to redesign the flag, and neither piece of legislation ever stipulated how the flags were to be purchased and distributed. Sen. Harr does not know how much LR 3 will cost the taxpayers of Nebraska because the fiscal note has yet to be released! However, when LB 954 was introduced back in 2002, the fiscal note estimated the cost of purchasing and distributing 5,000 to 10,000 flags at somewhere between $200,000 to $400,000. So, my estimate of $250,000 was a conservative estimate!
Once more, Sen. Harr’s idea of replacing the old flags with new ones on an as needed basis is found nowhere in LR 3, nor has he submitted any amendments to this effect. Conversations he has had with editors at the Omaha World Herald simply do not count as legislative facts. If LR 3 had been passed into law this year, the flags would not have been distributed on an as needed basis because no such language exists in LR 3 nor in any amendments. Furthermore, I do not believe that such an idea would significantly reduce the cost of purchasing and distributing 5,000 – 10,000 new flags over time. In 2002 the fiscal note attached to LB 954 put the individual cost of an all-weather outdoor nylon flag at $40.00 each. Today, these same flags retail at $55.00 each. Once you do the math you will see that I underestimated the lowest cost by $25,000 just to be fair.
The State does not pay to replace flags at our public schools. This expense would get added onto our property taxes. Therefore, I thank Sen. Harr for expressing his interest in lowering property taxes and I look forward to working with him to find a solution which will benefit both our rural as well as our residential communities. So, let us continue to honor the Nebraska State flag, which was designed by our forefathers back in 1925.
Last Thursday the Nebraska Department of Education released its new standards for science education in our Public Schools. These standards are updated every seven years. Because I serve on the Education Committee, these new science standards are of special interest to me. More than any other subject, science reveals our philosophy of education.
When I compared the new 2017 science standards to the old ones from 2010, two topics immediately jumped out at me. Both of these topics are hotly contested in the political arena. Before I share my analysis of the new science standards, let me say that students and families have the right to decide for themselves concerning the truth of all controversial topics in science. My issue is not with teaching these topics, but why these topics are no longer being treated as scientific theories.
The first topic I noticed was biological evolution. In 2010 the science standards specifically referred to biological evolution as a theory. In 2010 students were expected to “describe the theory of evolution,” and to “apply the theory of biological evolution to explain diversity of life over time.” The new science standards omit this language altogether. Instead of analyzing biological evolution as one possible theory among many for the origin of life, the new standards seem to turn students into apologists for biological evolution. For instance, the new standards will require students to “Communicate scientific information that common ancestry and biological evolution are supported by multiple lines of empirical evidence.” Elsewhere the new standards state that students shall “demonstrate understanding of how multiple lines of evidence contribute to the strength of scientific theories of natural selection and evolution.” To me, these kinds of statements communicate an unnecessary and preferential value judgment in favor of biological evolution.
The other topic which caused me concern was climate change. In 2010 the science standards merely asked students to describe the “natural influences” on the global climate. By way of contrast, the new scientific standards now ask students to “…illustrate the relationships among Earth systems to the degree to which those relationships are being modified due to human activity.” To assume that human activity can modify Earth’s systems is to choose sides on a politically charged and hotly debated topic in science. Again, these kinds of statements communicate an unnecessary and preferential value judgment in favor of climate change.
In the 20th Century Karl Popper championed the idea of falsifiability in science. He reasoned that good science does not simply try to prove its favorite theories to be true, but it also attempts to show its favorite theories to be false as well. If a scientific theory is not disprovable, it should not be considered good science. By choosing sides in controversial scientific debates, we rob our students of the opportunity to learn what good science really looks like. Instead of leading students to favor one scientific theory over another, shouldn’t we really be in the business of teaching students how to think scientifically for themselves by weighing all sides of an issue? Instead of indoctrinating children in the “strengths” of biological evolution and climate change, imagine what the outcome would be if we were to teach the weaknesses of these scientific doctrines as well. Philosophy of education is better when we teach students how to think, rather than what to think.
I am the chairman of the Building Maintenance Committee, which is a Special Committee of the Nebraska State Legislature. The Building Maintenance Committee consists of six Senators who oversee the work of the State’s Task Force for Building Renewal. Together, the Building Maintenance Committee and the Task Force for Building Renewal provide maintenance to many state owned buildings across the state. The list of buildings we service range alphabetically from the Abbott Visitor’s Center at Chimney Rock National Historic Site in Bayard, NE to the Youth Rehabilitation and Treatment Center in Kearney, NE.
Last week the Building Maintenance Committee met and surveyed three different sites in southwestern Nebraska. After getting an update from the Task Force for Building Renewal, we reviewed the projects scheduled for the year, and then we set out to observe these three sites in need of renovation work. These three sites also reflect three of the greatest challenges to maintaining our State’s buildings.
Financing repairs is usually the biggest hurdle. The first site we observed last week was the Work Ethic Camp located in McCook, NE. The Work Ethic Camp is a minimum security prison which now houses twice as many inmates as it was originally designed to hold. This facility needs boilers, an HVAC system, a new fire sprinkler system, and new vinyl siding. Altogether these repairs for the Work Ethic Camp add up to $1,186,500.00. These repairs have been prioritized so that the greatest needs will get taken care of first while the others will have to wait for funding. Speaking of funding, all of the money used to make these repairs come from cigarette taxes.
Finding the right talent for the job can also be a challenge. The second site we visited was the historic home of former U.S. Senator, George Norris, who used to reside in McCook, NE before he passed away in 1944. The historic Norris home stands in need of stucco repair on some of the exterior walls of the house. Because this is a historical building, renovation work must be kept in stucco in order to restore the house to its original form. But, finding a contractor who works in stucco in the greater McCook area will likely be the most challenging part of this historical restoration project.
Sometimes building repairs simply take on a sense of urgency. Our final tour took place at the Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture located in Curtis, NE. Because the campus is a converted high school, many of the buildings are very old. During the tour we discovered a new problem that we did not know exists. Some of the walls in the library are cracked and are showing signs of water damage. Water and books are never a good mix. Rainwater has been collecting in and around the building. So, the personnel from the Task Force for Building Renewal instructed the college’s own maintenance crew about how to re-direct the rainwater; thus, providing an immediate and inexpensive solution to the problem.
These are just three of the highlights from the Building Maintenance Committee’s meeting and tours from last week. The Building Maintenance Committee and the Task Force for Building Renewal tackled many more problems last week than just these three, but space does not permit me to report about everything we observed. For now, the citizens of Nebraska should take some comfort in knowing that the state’s facilities are actively being cared for.
Pictured below is the historic George Norris House located in McCook, NE.