Groundbreaking planned for first Prairie Gold home

Wednesday, July 29, 2015
East I Street residents, from left, Roz Buddenberg, Deb Lubbers and Ginny Odenbach look over schematics for a new home Prairie Gold Homes plans to construct in their neighborhood. (Bruce Baker/McCook Gazette)

McCOOK, Neb. -- Prairie Gold Homes will break ground on a new home on East I Street in the coming days and the inmate training, home construction, non-profit hopes to have it completed by the end of February.

PGH representatives coordinated a public meeting, Tuesday afternoon, sharing blueprints and discussing details of the project with area residents and community leaders. PGH staff recapped the history of the program, class selection process and provided contact information should questions arise in the future.

Construction will be limited to daylight hours, typically from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., according to PGH Executive Director Renee Bauer. Bauer said training programs are 10 weeks long and one house is typically completed by two or three classes. She hopes to have the East I Street home completed by the end of February but said she realized it was an aggressive completion date and weather would be a factor.

A front view of the home. (Courtesy drawing)

The home was designed to blend in with the existing neighborhood upon completion and a trio of East I Street residents in attendance appeared to agree, based on their review of the schematics. Deb Lubbers said it would be comparable to other homes on the block and Roz Buddenberg and Ginny Odenbach indicated they agreed.

The home layout is 1590 square feet with three bedrooms, two bath, an unfinished basement and an attached two-car garage. McCook Community Builders will ultimately be the seller for the home but PGH staff estimated it to have a sale price around $170,000.

Mark Wentz of the Nebraska Department of Corrections praised the effectiveness of the program as a training tool. Wentz said construction was a field with a steady demand for labor and the program helped provide several components critical to the success of a former inmate after returning home.

Wentz said inmates chosen for the class were typically 14 to 18 months from their release date and endured a rigorous screening process before being accepted. He said some inmates were excluded from the program solely based on crimes they committed.

"We typically receive 150 to 160 applications for about eight spots," said Wentz, adding misconduct reports and participation in other programs were among the factors considered.

Wentz said program participants were highly motivated to behave and with their approaching release date valued the opportunity to be trained in a skill.

"Having said that, if we encounter a problem the person responsible is immediately removed from the program," said Wentz.

PGH instructors Stephanie Poulsom and Joe Harrington recapped their recent experience with the first graduating class at the McCook training facility and assured attendees participants were monitored closely throughout the program.

Harrington said the job site would be cleaner than a typical construction job site and it was a point of emphasis for the program to teach organization and cleanliness.

Issues that arise during the construction process were directed to local PGH representative Dennis Berry or to Bauer (; or 402-434-3904). Poulsom and Harrington indicated they would also be available on-site but would always prioritize supervision of the inmates and Berry and Bauer would typically be best equipped to address concerns or answer questions.

Berry said the program used as many local contractors as possible and he was especially appreciative of the assistance provided by the McCook Economic Development Corp., McCook Housing and the Work Ethic Camp.

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