Friday, October 21, 2016
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Supreme Court Rules Trails Illegal

The Supreme Court's ruling in an obscure Wyoming land dispute Monday could result in the loss of thousands of miles of bicycle trails or cost the government millions of dollars in compensation.

The justices ruled 8-1 that government easements used for railroad beds over public and private land in the West expired once the railroads went out of business, and the land must revert to its owners.

Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for the majority, said the case was decided based on an 1875 act of Congress and a 1942 Supreme Court decision involving Great Northern Railway.

That rling confirmed that the government merely had received easements without any long-term land rights, he said.  The establishment in 1983 of the federal "rails to trails" program didn't change the court's interpretation for easements that expired earlier.

The decision could jeopardize the "rails to trails" program, responsible for creating more than 1,400 bike and nature trails, many of them built along railroad rights-of-way.

The ruling came in a case brought by Wyoming landowner Marvin Brandt, whose 83-acre property is crossed by an old railroad line.  Brandt's victory has implications for about 80 other cases involving about 8,000 claimants.

"Thousands of claims pertaining to 1875 Act rights-of-way have been filed," the Justice Department said in its brief to the court.  "the United States will be obligated to pay just compensation on many claims in which ownership of the right-of-way is often a determining factor."


City Council Meets

The Valentine City Council met Thursday evening for a regular monthly meeting at the Valentine Library meeting room. The council held a hearing to listen to public comment on the city sales tax renewal. The council discussed possible language for a ballot issue with a planned vote in July. The vote would approve the renewal of the current sales tax that has been in effect since 2006. It would potentially have a question about using the funds that are now going to pay off the city swimming pool, to be used for other community projects which could include a new public golf course and expansion of Mid Plains Community College.

Terry Galloway presented the 2012-2013 audit for the city of Valentine. He stated that there was some very good news including general fund spending being held down by about $250,000 and street fund spending held down substantially as well. This in large part is thought to be due to the income from the sale tax which is one of the top five revenue sources for the city. Property taxes, per capita, have been kept down about 175 dollars per person, because of the sale tax, when compared to other communities of our size.

The council approved a request by Megan Hoefs and the My Town volunteers to paint a giant red heart on 1st and Main Street on May 9th.

They also approved a request for a special designated liquor license on June 14th from 5pm to 2AM for TC Colvin and the Raine Motel.

The council authorized the use of city land around the fish hatchery and old dump area for possible development of a golf course. There was also discussion about a grant application to the Sandhills Area Foundation to be used for a golf course. The council voted to support the grant request.

The updated City of Valentine Comprehensive Plan was adopted culminating months of work by city staff, councilmember’s and the public who participated in the process. The plan helps determine the direction of city growth for the next ten to 15 years.

Lana Higgins was appointed to the cemetery board to fill the term of Joan Johnson.


NE Driver License Offices Closed April 7-10

From April 7 through April 10th, all of Nebraska's 97 driver license locations will be closed. Offices will be open for normal Friday business hours (to those locations open on Fridays) on April 11, 2014. The DMV driver license staff will be attending statewide training. The Department of Motor Vehicles has online services available at, where qualified individuals can obtain permits, licenses and state identification cards.


Justice Center Administrator Terminated

The Cherry County Board of Commissioners met on Tuesday for a regular meeting. The board appointed John Wheeler to the county planning commission with one opening now remaining on the commission. Lanelle Stilwell was also appointed to the planning commission earlier this year.

Gary Weaver was appointed to represent the county on a new national telecommunications project known as FirstNet project.

The board decided not to change the date of the May 13th regular commissioners meeting. The 13th is the primary election day in Nebraska.

During the afternoon the commissioners met as a board of corrections and discussed overtime and holiday pay for employees. They also reviewed the justice center administrator position and voted to terminate the contract of Terry Van Houten after nine months on the job. The termination was to take effect immediately. In the interim, the county will rely on current employees to keep the justice center functioning.



Burwell Menacing Letter

A menacing letter sent to Burwell's city hall contains more than a dozen names of Burwell school administrators, teachers and students.

The letter didn't say would happen to any of those listed, but Garfield County Attorney Dale Crandall says law enforcement and school officials "are taking the threat seriously."

Investigators have been trying to find out who sent the letter, which was delivered Thursday. Classes at Burwell Junior-Senior High School were canceled Tuesday, and an increased police presence is expected there until the case is solved.


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