BPD canine program will continue

The Blair City Council approved the continuation of the police canine program during its regular meeting Tuesday night.

The current dog, Duke, will need to retire before the end of the year due to hip issues, according to Blair Police Chief Joe Lager.

Lager said the department has significant funds from a benefactor that will be used to purchase a new dog and pay for training. The cost of the dog is about $10,000, he said. The new patrol vehicle, which was recently purchased, can be outfitted for the new canine unit.

The department will have a new handler. Four officers have shown interest, Lager said.

The current handler, Sgt. Travis Lyon, is seeking to keep Duke once he retires. That's a decision the council has yet to approve.

During the council's Feb. 1 retreat, Lager offered information on the program, including three letters of support from Blair Community Schools Supt. Randy Gilson, Blair High School Assistant Principal Mark Gutschow and Washington County Attorney Scott Vander Schaaf.

“As to enforcement, the vast majority of our criminal drug cases are the result of traffic stops. It is during these stops that canine assistance is extremely valuable in locating hidden narcotics,” Vander Schaaf said. “In the prosecution of these same crimes, it is my experience, defendants and/or their attorneys quickly look for plea negotiations when they learn that a canine unit was the probable cause for the discovery or search.”

Vander Schaaf said the canine unit also promotes officer safety.

Council approves one-, six-year plan

The council approved the one- and six-year plan for city streets.

Al Schoemaker, director of public works, outlined the projects for 2020, which include the continuation of the final design of the Blair South Bypass, brick work on South, 15th and 17th streets and the resurfacing of state Highway 91 from 25th Street to the intersection of 19th and Washington streets by the Nebraska Department of Transportation.

The Highway 91 project includes new curbs and gutters in some portions and sidewalk improvements. Schoemaker said that project is to be let for bids Feb. 27. Work is expected to begin late spring or early summer.

Included in the one-year plan are asphalt overlay projects. However, Schoemaker said he was waiting a report from JEO before determining a plan those streets.

Blight and substandard study approved

The council approved a proposal from JEO for a Blight and Substandard Study and a General Redevelopment Plan for the area known as the “Blair Core Area.” That area includes the central part of Blair and portions of South Highway 30 corridor.

The proposal will re-evaluate areas that were last included in a study in 2002. Some areas from the previous study could be removed, while others could be declared blighted and substandard to allow the city to utilize redevelopment funds, City Administrator Rod Storm said.

Board appointments approved

The council approved three mayoral board appointments as part of the consent agenda.

Blair Mayor Rich Hansen appointed Sarah Boeka to the Blair Park Board, Pastor Mark Degner to the Blair Housing Authority Board and Rebecca Fox to the Blair Planning Commission.

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