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Missing girl, trooper crash leading single stories in 2012

Monday, December 31, 2012

McCook's new city facility was one of the major construction projects undertaken in 2012.
(McCook Daily Gazette)
McCOOK, Nebraska --A McCook girl who was reported missing and later safely found, was the top story viewed in 2012 at the McCook Daily Gazette website.

In a July 14 story, ("Missing girl found," 6,014 hits) Katie Brawdy was reported as being found in an abandoned farmhouse north of Stratton, Nebraska, after being reported as missing for about a week. According to information released by the McCook Police Department, she apparently ran away from home and remained with friends until found.

Another top story, with 4,831 views, involved a Nebraska State Patrol trooper who survived a vehicle accident ("Three survive fiery crash," April 23. )

Southwest Nebraska continues in a severe drought, ending the year more than a 13 inches below normal precipitation.
(Grant Strunk/McCook Daily Gazette)
In a two-vehicle accident, Nebraska State Patrol Trooper Jeffrey Van Stelton of McCook suffered injuries to his legs, pelvis and an arm, and was flown by helicopter from Community Hospital in McCook to the Kearney hospital.

The accident happened just before 2 a.m., on Highway 34, four miles west of Stratton, when an eastbound 2008 Ford Fusion, driven by a 17-year-old male driver of the Denver, Colorado area, crossed the center line, striking Van Stelton's westbound 2010 Dodge Charger patrol car nearly head-on. The cruiser came to rest in the south ditch and burst into flames. The Ford came to rest on the highway.

The third top story viewed in 2012 with 3,977 views was about the Bartley, Nebraska, man who changed his plea from not guilty by reason of insanity to no contest, in the Jan. 21, 2011, murder of a 14 year old McCook girl. ("Murderer faces life sentence in death of Kailee Clapp, 14." Sept. 6)

Stathis Sebastian Mobley Kirkpatrick, 20 years old, appeared in Red Willow County District Court and accepted a plea agreement that, in exchange for his plea of no contest, dropped the charges of using a knife to commit a felony and throwing away or abandoning human remains. He was charged on a single charge of first degree premeditated murder of Kailee Clapp. On Nov. 20, District Court Judge David Urbom sentenced him to life imprisonment. The sentence leaves no possibility of parole, unless at some point it is commuted to a term of years.

Another story that garnered many Gazette viewers was about the California man who turned up missing, last seen on an Amtrak passenger train in Denver, Colorado. ("Missing man may have fallen off of train," Sept. 19)

The 69-year old California man, Charlie Dowd, disappeared from an Amtrak train somewhere between Denver, Colorado, and Chicago, Illinois. Portions of railway along the trains route were searched and the body of Dowd was found Friday, Sept. 21, near Haigler, Nebraska. The body was spotted by a BNSF railway worker. Officials reported that Dowd had become confused and had wandered off the train, thinking it had stopped.

The death of a 6-year-old McCook boy of brain cancer snagged many online readers in December. Isaiah Jose Casillas died Dec. 3 after fighting brain cancer ("" Dec. 15) The community rallied around Isaiah's battle with cancer, including having benefits for his family's medical expenses. Isaiah also met University of Nebraska Husker football running back Rex Burkhead, who, along with other Husker athletes, participates in "Uplifting Athletes," a national nonprofit organization that aligns college football programs with rare diseases.

The weather made headlines across the nation in 2012 and in Southwest Nebraska as well, as the McCook weather station recorded 38 days of temperatures of 100 degrees or higher, the first setting a new record high for the date on May 12 with a temperature of 102 degrees. The torrid temperatures finally came to an end on Sept. 4, when the mercury reached 100 degrees. The old record was 34 days, set during the dirty thirties, undoubtedly contributing to that generation's severe drought.

A 10-day streak of temperatures of 100 or above occurred July 15-24, 2012.

As of Dec. 27, the McCook weather station also recorded 17 new record highs and five new record lows.

As extreme as the temperatures were, they were easily eclipsed by the severity of the drought. As of midnight Dec. 26, McCook had recorded a meager 9.35 inches of precipitation, on track to record a deficit of more than 13 inches, year-to-date.

Major construction projects in the city continued, with the McCook Municipal Building on West Fifth, the new McCook Community College Event Center, on West M, across from Weiland Field, the renovation/upgrades at Hillcrest Nursing Home, the completion of Phase II at Community Hospital and at East Ward Village, at the former East Ward Elementary School. East Ward Village will provide affordable housing for low income senior citizens.

Other top stories in the McCook area included:


* Red Willow County, Nebraska, commissioners agreed to pay Greg and Janet Hepp of McCook $160,000 for two apartment houses north of the courthouse in McCook The purchase price represents the value of the property and rental income for 20 years, commission chairman Earl McNutt said. In February, commissioners decided to build a jail and to allow the public to vote on how a new, 24-bed law enforcement center, estimated to cost $5 million, will be funded: whether the 41⁄2 cents special tax levy for construction be outside the tax levy, or figured within the state levy limit of 50-cent and part of the county's general budget. Controversy ensues, with some citizens objecting to the location on Norris Avenue or that the jail site should been discussed with more public input. Red Willow County voters decided in a May ballot that the jail levy would come within the county budget.

* Mid Plains Community College President Michael Chipps announces he is leaving the college; Dr. Richard Tubbs, Vice-President and CEO of MCC, announced his intention to retire a week later. In May, Purdy accepts a three year contract as president, offered by the MPCC Board of Governors, for an annual base salary of $155,000 and additional benefits that combine for a total compensation package of $208,792.

* "The Go To City of Southwest Nebraska!" is the new marketing slogan for McCook created by a group of representatives from local organizations,including Community Hospital, the McCook Area Chamber of Commerce, City of McCook, Red Willow County Tourism and Visitors Committee, McCook Public Schools, Mid-Plains Community College, Heritage Square Committee and McCook Economic Development Corp. The marketing plan includes a website, gotomccook.com


* The McCook Lady Bison basketball team earns a trip to the state finals with a win over Alliance. This is the first time since 1995, and just the third time in school history, that the Lady Bison have been to state basketball finals.


* At an April 16 board of trustees meeting, Hillcrest administrator Peggy Rogers resigns, effective immediately. Jerry Rothmeyer of Wellfleet, Nebraska is appointed as interim administrator.


* Titan Machinery Inc. announced that it has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Curly Olney's Inc., which comprises two Case IH dealerships, in McCook and Imperial, Nebraska. The acquisition is expected to close about July 2. Curly Olney's has been in operation since 1968

* Commissioners agreed during their regular weekly meeting Monday to authorize the transfer of up to $300,000 from the county's inheritance tax fund to Hillcrest Nursing Home's operations budget, if it becomes necessary. Randy Dean, a member of the nursing home's board of trustees, said that the cash flow problem started with the termination of a billing clerk in February and no Medicare and Medicaid billings were done.

* Hillcrest Nursing Home officials may need to ask Red Willow County commissioners to take out a $1.1 million loan to help rectify a cash flow problem.Nursing home interim administrator Jerry Rothmeyer and board member Randy Dean told commissioners that Medicare and Medicaid claims were not filed and that income from the sale of bed licenses that was to have generated $250,000 did not go through as quickly as anticipated.


* Red Willow County, commissioners authorized a $1 million bank loan for Hillcrest. The money will be borrowed from McCook National Bank for five years at an interest rate of 3.55 percent. The annual payment will be $221,000. County attorney Paul Wood told commissioners that the resolution authorizing the loan directs how the loan will be repaid with revenues generated by the nursing home and / or a tax levy not to exceed 7 cents (on each $100 of value on all taxable property within the county).


* The new, $10 million McCook Community College Event center is unveiled to the public. The center is a 53,400 square-foot facility with an estimated seating capacity of 2,004 in the competitive gymnasium and also includes 10 locker rooms, seven athletic offices, two conference rooms, an auxiliary gymnasium that can be used for baseball and softball winter training, a weight room, a catering kitchen and concessions.

* Temperatures continue to stay high and rainfall non existent, during August in Southwest Nebraska

* Colinda Nappa is hired as the administrator at Hillcrest Nursing Home.


* Hillcrest Nursing Home remodel of the 100 wing is officially completed with a ribbon cutting. The renovation project created nine new deluxe resident suites, a residents' lounge, new ambulance port and therapy and shower rooms.


* The Middle Republican Natural Resources District votes to participate with three other NRDs to buy a 19,500 acre- farm in southern Lincoln County, so the water used now to irrigate its crops can be piped to the Republican and South Platte rivers. The cost is $83 million and will be paid by occupation taxes on irrigators.


* Work continues on the new McCook Municipal Facility on West Fifth, that will house the city fire and police departments as well as administration offices.

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