Burt County Courthouse 2018

Burt County Courthouse in Tekamah.

Burt County Sheriff Robert Pickell officially tendered his resignation and announced his retirement through a letter addressed to the Burt County Board of Supervisors at their meeting held Dec. 27. He has been sheriff since 2005.

Pickell’s letter of resignation, dated Dec. 15, cited numerous issues he had with a growing state bureaucracy and state regulations as his reason for leaving law enforcement.

He wrote that he loved his job and the people he worked for, and with, but over the last few years the ever-increasing burden of administration has made it too much for him to bear.

The board voted to accept his resignation with the deepest regrets. Deputy Eric Nick was appointed interim sheriff, effective Jan. 1, 2020, until a permanent appointment is made.

Another Burt County Sheriff’s Department employee was recognized at the meeting. Carla Hart, long-time administrative official and county dispatcher, was honored for her years of “selfless service.” Hart has been with the county for more than 41 years. The supervisors declared that Burt County “is a better place to live because of her service” and that she will be missed in her impending retirement.

In other matters before the board during their last meeting of 2019:

—Two associates of Bluestem Energy Solutions of Omaha presented an application for a conditional use permit. The application had already cleared the Burt County Planning Commission.

Vice President (in charge of development) Matt Robinette and Vice President Will Crane informed the board about the solar generation, storage and distribution facility they had planned for installation in Silver Creek Township. The solar array would cover nearly seven acres located between six to seven miles north of Tekamah on the west side of Highway 75. The land is currently owned by John Hundahl.

The 6-megawatt-hour storage system will operate in conjunction with Burt County Public Power District.

Robinette said the $2.5 million project will generate thousands of dollars per year in tax revenue. The contract between Bluestem and Hundahl called for an initial obligation of 25 years for Bluestem, with the proviso for five 5-year extensions —for a total of up to 50 years.

Robinette and Crane addressed the concerns of the supervisors. Among the concerns were: What would happen to the land after the contract was up? What would be growing under the solar panels? Would there be glare troubling drivers on Highway 75? Security at the site and what is the county’s responsibility?

Each question was answered. At the end of the contract, the land would revert to Hundahl or to whomever he had sold the land and would be restored to its previous state. Native grasses and pollinator-friendly plants will be planted under and around the panels. The panels will be installed and angled in such a way as to eliminate the possibility of glare hampering drivers on the highway. A 7-foot-high chain-link fence will surround the installation. The county will not be responsible for enforcing any aspect of the contract between Hundahl and Bluestem.

District No. 1 Supervisor Cliff Morrow said that was his primary concern. He wanted the county to be absolved of any responsibility. District No. 7 Supervisor Carl Pearson agreed. He originally suggested a bond be required to cover the cost to restore the land, but thought that the county may have to enforce it. In the end, the supervisors were satisfied with all of the specifications and unanimously approved the conditional use permit.

—Burt County Highway Superintendent Ann Chytka and Roads Foreman Dale Huffman were on hand to update the Board on the “Road L, Oakland Northwest” project. County Road L, also known as N Road and 9th Street, runs east and west on the north edge of Oakland. The project calls for asphaltic concrete paving. Constructors Inc., of Lincoln, was awarded the contract with their proposal of $245,382.98.

Chytka also told the supervisors that about half of the townships have replied to the county’s inquiries on how they wish to handle their road maintenance.

For the full story, call (402)374-3015 to subscribe to the Burt County Plaindealer.

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