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Homeowner lauds county flood plain administrator

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

McCOOK, Nebraska -- It's not often that commissioners hear compliments. More often, it's with complaints that people approach the county board.

However, when Con Fielding was hit with mortgage insurance costs that could have doubled, he turned to Red Willow County's flood plain administrator, Gary Dicenta, to help him straighten out a question about the meandering Republican River and its flood plain near his home southwest of McCook.

"Mr. Dicenta worked really hard for me, and helped me out," Fielding told county commissioners during their weekly meeting Monday morning. Fielding's topic wasn't an action item on the agenda, but he appeared anyway. He said he wanted commissioners to know just how much he appreciated Dicenta's help and perseverance.

"They (the mortgage insurance compay) wanted to double my insurance (because it appeared his house was in the flood plain), and my house is NOT in the flood plain." He continued, "My house was there in the '35 (Republican River) flood, and it didn't float down the river."

Dicenta said that mortgage and insurance companies typically use a clearing house to determine whether a property to be insured is or isn't within a flood plain, which, if it is, increases the cost of insurance. On a map, it would appear possible that Fielding's house could be within a flood plain.

However, Fielding said, the river takes a jog further north, north of his house. "The '35 flood went way north of me," he said.

The Republican River flood of 1935 is called "Nebraska's Deadliest Flood," killing 113 people and nearly 41,500 head of livestock. History records nine inches of rain and two crests - the first, on May 28, that receded slightly, and a second crest, on June 1, that exceeded the first. At one point, the water rose six feet in thirty minutes. One account states that the Republican rose 10 feet in 12 minutes in McCook. Water was 20 feet deep in some places.

A total of 341 miles of highway and 307 bridges were destroyed, and 74,500 acres of farmland was under water.

The discharge was 280,000 cubic feet per second -- more than 320 times the normal flow. According to witnesses, the roar of the water could be heard coming down the Republican Valley five miles away.

Fielding said that he and Dicenta have worked since July to straighten out Fielding's mortgage company, letting it know that the Republican doesn't straight-line it past Fielding's house.

Dicenta said the help he provided Fielding "is just another service of the county," paid for within his duties as the county's flood plain administrator. Unless there is surveying required, the help -- like that provided to Fielding -- is free of charge to county residents.

Commissioners accepted the recommendations of Prochaska & Associates architects and Monday awarded bids for kitchen and storage equipment for the new jail.

Hockenbergs of Omaha will provide kitchen equipment and set-up for $30,575, and include coordination of hook-ups with subcontractors.

Midwest Storage Solutions Inc. of Omaha will provide filing storage, property storage, laundry storage and the master control module for $37,518.

Commissioner Earl McNutt said jail construction is very nearly on schedule for completion by mid-summer.

Commission chairman Vesta Dack said she has heard compliments on the selection of the brick color for the jail. "It won't match (the courthouse) perfectly -- it doesn't have the age," but, she said, it's close enough that people are commenting on the color coordination.

Dicenta told commissioners that the county's Bridge No. 71630, four miles east of Bartley, on County Road 719 over the Silver Creek, is in fair to good condition and has no maintenance issues or repair requestions.

It is a steel bridge that is labeled by state and federal standards as a "Fracture Critical Bridge," meaning that if one element of such a bridge fails inspection, the whole bridge fails. This label -- and more stringent inspection requirements for bridges all across the nation -- originated with the collapse of the Interstate-35W Mississippi River Bridge, an eight-lane, steel-truss arch bridge that carried interstate traffic across the Mississippi River in Minneapolis, Minnesota. During the evening rush hour of Aug. 1, 2007, it suddenly collapsed, killing 13 people and injuring 145.

Dicenta said that lots of steel bridges are in the "Fracture Critical" category. Their inspection is much more indepth than those of timber bridges, he said.

The county's bridge over Silver Creek was built in 1972, over an existing timber bridge that was widened with steel. It is inspected every two years by one of five or six engineering firms that contract with the state Department of Roads to inspect fracture critical bridges in the state.

Lori Peterson and Jamie Mockry (Mockry is of McCook) represented Consolidated Management Company of Des Moines, Iowa, and Jeff Green represented CBM Managed Services of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, in informational presentations to commissioners about food service for the new jail.

Both would hire locally; workers are employees of the company, not the county. Both have inmate "trustee" worker programs.

Each offers breakfast, lunch and supper, with calorie counts ranging from 2,400 per day to 2,800 per day; sack lunches for those in court or on work release; special medical/religious food needs/restrictions; and special holiday meals.

Each company has experience in correctional facility kitchens.

Each charges on a sliding scale depending on the number of meals required for prisoners and staff.

In other action, commissioners:

* Decided to allow county treasurer Marleen Garcia to use their third floor office for her annual tax sale on Monday, March 3. Commissioners will not meet that day, but will meet the following four Mondays of March.

* Declared "surplus property" a portable loading dock from the household hazardous waste program and a 2004 Ford Taurus car from the county assessor's office.

* Approved a change in the irrigation feed from two inches to 1 1/4 inch for the new jail and move it to the north face.

* Approved a request for payment of $266,676 from Beckenhauer Construction for the jail.

* Received a copy of a letter sent by the county's flood plain adminsitrators Gary Dicenta to Nationstar Mortgage indicating that the house of Cornelius "Con" Fielding is not in a special flood hazard area.

* During a board of equalization meeting, approved motor vehicle tax exemptions from Evangelical Free Church, the Southwest Area Training Services (SWATS) workshop, and Good Samaritan Hospital of Kearney, which houses and staffs a long-distance ambulance service in McCook.

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