The year 2020 is bound to be long remembered for strange events, including the great lengths we went to control the spread of the COVID-19 virus, which became a factor in almost every aspect of life.

After months of dire economic news, things started to turn around toward the end of the year, with new owners buying the Parkade Plaza downtown as well as the Platte River Mall, in addition to the restoration of the Hotel Pawnee and downtown streets, which cheered the community.

It was a year for new experiences on many fronts.

As the year ended, the city council dissed the idea of mandatory face masks and spoke up in favor of individual choice.   

Here are some of the highlights of July-December 2020 from the Bulletin files.

We hope you have a Happy New Year!

July 1

The Midtown Motors used car lot in North Platte is downsizing to one location after 27 years. Owners decided to downsize in the wake of COVID-19 and the loss of employees, merging into their S. Jeffers location, which is centrally located to serve their customers. 

The director of the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services will be forced to declare a prison overcrowding emergency on July 1. A 2015 law requires Gov. Pete Ricketts to declare the emergency by July 1 if prison populations surpass 140% of design capacity. As of June 25, the capacity was at 151% across the state’s 10 prisons. ACLU Nebraska communications director Sam Petto cited Nebraska’s mandatory minimum sentences and lack of re-entry programs as contributors to the high population. 

July 8

The “cats in jail” program, which started shortly after the county detention center opened a decade ago, began by allowing qualified inmates to help the city at the animal shelter. The cats provide distraction and amusement during long hours in cells. Cats have been shown to reduce tension, stress, and blood pressure. Currently the Lincoln County jail has six cats that live in both the men’s and women’s quarters, and despite a social media rumor that the cats make the cells messy and unhealthy, the cells, the cats and the inmates are clean. The rumor was apparently was started by a disgruntled former inmate.

The century-old bricks were removed from East Fifth on July 6, the first step in the final phase of the downtown renovation. Thad Stark of the city engineering office said the $2.8 million project is ahead of schedule and is expected to be finished in September. 

Forty-four Nebraska graduates in the class of 2020 were honored June 30 for a perfect score on either the ACT or SAT college entrance exam. Gov. Pete Ricketts said, “Their top scores reflect years of hard work and academic discipline, as well as the contributions of their teachers and parents.”

July 15

A fundraiser is set on July 18 at the North Platte Stockyards to help the family of Sheila Viter, who died in a car-truck collision on March 23. Viter left behind three children, ages 17, 15, and 11. All proceeds will go into a trust account for her children. 

The NCORPE (Nebraska Cooperative Republican Platte Enhancement) board offered a contract to a developer to build a renewable energy project in southern Lincoln County, about 20 miles south of North Platte. The deal has been negotiated in several closed-door sessions and must be approved by the development company — Invenergy, headquartered in Chicago. The board voted 3-1 to offer the contract to Invenergy. 

July 22

The Quilts of Valor Foundation presented three veterans with quilts to thank them for their service. The goal of the foundation is to provide comfort and healing for veterans by wrapping them in quilts the foundation makes and awards. Since the group was founded in 2003, 252,370 quilts have been awarded nationally to active military and veterans. 

The city council discussed ordinances to update existing housing standards. Mayor Dwight Livingston has said that 600 homes in the city do not have electricity and more needs to be done in those types of situations. 

Days of high temperatures and strong winds combined to deplete crop soil moisture, which is vital as corn is silking and tasseling. Bob Klein the University of Nebraska Crop Specialist of western Nebraska said strong winds earlier in the growing season made it hard to control weeds because wind drift kept applicators out of the field. 

July 29

A smaller version of Nebraskaland Days will feature a pair of reduced capacity concerts on Aug. 14-15, featuring .38 Special and Granger Smith. The plan for the Wild West Arena show calls for capacities to be capped at 75%, and operators are committed to operating well under the limit. However, shows were later cancelled due to the virus. The four-day Nebraskaland Days Buffalo Bill Rodeo was held, but it was closed to spectators after the opening night, out of an abundance of caution. Spectators moved to the road ditch be as close to the action as possible.

The Lincoln County Fair looked different this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the show went on regardless. Spectators were limited to 4-H members and their immediate family. Face masks were not required but recommended and social distances were encouraged. The exhibitors competed on a “show and go” basis, which meant they signed in, participated, and packed up to leave immediately after. 

The first annual Buffalo Bill Brawl Amateur Boxing Tournament was held in North Platte Aug. 1-2 at the D&N Event Center. Boxers from ages 8-78 appear competed for the first Buffalo Bill Brawl title. The event was originally scheduled to be a national tournament, with anticipation of more than 400 athletes, but was converted to more of a Midwest regional tournament for nearby states with similar health directives as Nebraska.  

Water continues to run into the gutter at the Lincoln County courthouse – flowing from the building’s heating and cooling system – as a long-running lawsuit over who is to blame for the somewhat dysfunctional system continues, unresolved.

The number of known COVID-19 cases ticked higher, prompting the library to cancel its schedule of lunch-hour presentations.

Aug. 5

The community playhouse season came to a halt Aug. 4, after one of the most popular musicals in playhouse history, Momma Mia! was performed. The music was the first playhouse activity in months. After performances ended Aug. 2, seven members of the cast tested positive for COVID-19. All productions and activities were indefinitely postponed, possibly until spring. 

An “early disruption” law enforcement program led to the conviction of a Cheyenne, Wyo. man for threatening to kill the President of the United States. Timothy Cessor, 27, was convicted July 29 of making a threat against the president. Cessor broke into his father’s gun safe, took a .40 caliber pistol and started driving towards Washington D.C. A few hours into the trip he called his father and said he was going to “Take care of Trump.” The case was investigated by the U.S. Secret Service and the Wyoming police department.  

Sen. Mike Groene went 1 for 2 with his bills in the legislature as the session wound down. Groene’s “micro TIF” bill passed overwhelmingly, and his bill to improve discipline in the schools failed by one vote. Groene vowed to bring the school discipline bill back in the future.

Aug. 12

Although Nebraskaland Days was cancelled, a ZZ Top tribute band took the stage at the Full Throttle Saloon in Sturgis, S.D., where the annual motorcycle rally drew an estimated 250,000 people. While an event like this is dangerous in a pandemic, the event rakes in $800 million a year, TMZ reported. 

The North Platte Regional Airport announced the launch of the airport’s master plan — a study of short-, medium-, and long-term development plans for the next 20 years. A National Guard vehicle maintenance facility is one of the first projects in the works, with hopes of opening at the airport in 2021 or 2022. 

City Administrator Matt Kibbon, who announced plans to resign a week earlier after only a couple months on the job, decided to remain in North Platte after all. Kibbon said he received several signs of support from North Platte residents.

A Mobile Food Pantry was held at North Platte High School to provide food to families in need. The pantry served around 400 families. Each family received at least one box of produce, a box of dry goods, and a loaf of bread, depending on how many people were in their household. The Mobile Food Pantry will be held on the second Tuesday of every month at North Platte High School. 

Aug. 19 

LB 814, introduced by Lincoln Sen. Suzanne Geist, bans “dismemberment” abortion. The bill defines a dismemberment abortion as a procedure in which a person purposely dismembers and extracts a fetus from the uterus using clamps or forceps. It does not apply to an abortion where suction is used to dismember a fetus or removal of a fetus that is already dead. The bill allows injunctions and civil action against any abortion provider found in violation of the bill’s provisions. 

Over several months, 75 historic photos related to Buffalo Bill Cody were restored, regrouped, and hung at Scouts Rest Ranch. The photos were grouped with explanatory plaques. Altogether, the display creates a tutorial of the life and times of the world-famous showman and his Wild West exhibition.  

With nearly 250 vehicles on display and three times the number of attendees as last year, organizers of the third annual Platte River Cruise considered the day a success. A half-dozen top-class car customizers attended from Utah, California, and Detroit. 

Great Plains Health was once again recognized as one of the best facilities in the United States for treating the deadliest type of heart attack, a STEMI. For the second consecutive year, the hospital earned the Mission: Lifeline Gold Receiving Quality Achievement Award for implementing quality improvement measures outlined by the American Heart Association for the treatment of patients who suffer severe heart attacks. 

Heisman trophy winner and former Husker Eric Crouch came to North Platte for a working gig – to erect a new playground near the hill in Cody Park. Crouch’s company serves a wide region.

A North Platte hairdresser insists on her right to appeal health department decisions that severely curtailed her business. She was referred to a department in Lincoln, but the department couldn’t help, so she went straight to the governor, who managed to cut through the red tape. Also, the opening of Hershey school was delayed for a week after a teacher and two students tested positive. And at the Lincoln county courthouse, County Assessor Julie Stenger told the county commissioners that more restrictive measures need to be adopted throughout the building, but the commissioners declined, noting the huge challenge of anticipating every possible problem. They told Stenger each department can adopt measures, such as mask requirements, as they see fit.

Aug. 26 

For the third year, Cirque Italia’s Water Circus returned to North Platte. The circus’s 15 performers performed around 13 pirate themed acts, with a newly added water feature. The team is excited to be back in North Platte and provide an escape for families to take their minds off the craziness of the world.  

An eastbound Union Pacific train derailed about three miles west of Maxwell — the fourth train mishap in the region in two months. In the latest derailment, a total of 38 cars derailed in two sections. The train was travelling on the south set of tracks when it came uncoupled. No one was injured and no hazardous materials were spilled. The cause of the derailment is under investigation. Critics said UP’s longer trains and job cuts were underlying causes.

Trey Schweitzer, 12, of North Platte was recently diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. Trey was flown to the Children’s Hospital in Omaha where it took several days to regulate his blood sugar level. To help lessen his family’s financial burden, the Army of Angels scheduled a benefit on Aug. 29 in the Platte River Mall parking lot. 

Head coach Jim Orcutt came out of retirement to take the reins of the North Platte High Girls Golf Team. The team shows great promise this season and is eyeing the state title.

A group of parents asked the North Platte public school board to lift the schools’ requirement of face masks, and instead make masks voluntary. More than 400 parents signed an unofficial petition, asserting their right to determine whether their children wear masks or not. The parents say the masks can be unhealthy and they agreed to hold the school district harmless if their child contracted COVID-19 without a mask. The school board declined to act on the proposal, saying Supt. Ron Hanson and top administrators have their blessing to take whatever precautions they deem necessary.

Sept. 2

A Bailey Yard worker was wrongfully terminated from his job by a Union Pacific manager, the National Railway Adjustment Board ruled. UP’s decision to terminate the worker was “arbitrary, capricious and an abuse of discretion,” the board ruled. The worker was set up to commit a minor infraction and then fired.

The board’s finding shines light on allegations that Bailey Yard workers often make – that they can be fired most anytime for “fake” reasons. It took two-and-a-half years for the board to rule on the dispute.

After the ruling, the worker was given the option to go back to work at Bailey Yard with his seniority rights intact and receive the years of wages that he lost, as well as compensation for lost benefits.

At about the same time, UP announced it would cut a primary operation in Bailey Yard in half, closing the east classification “hump” and consolidating the operation with the west side. The sluggish world economy was thought to be the cause of the decision, although UP spokeswoman Raquel Espinoza said the move was due to “improved customer shipment processing times.”

Each of the two humps had been operating at 50-60% capacity, management told workers.

The workers said the move would increase congestion and reduce safety, and if someone gets hurt in the west hump operation, it will take quite a while for an ambulance to arrive, because it would have to cross the entire width of the yard, and some tracks are bound to be blocked.

As the weeks went by, UP reopened the east hump at times to keep up with the workload. As the year ended, the east hump remained open.

City Administrator Matt Kibbon began looking for private operators for Iron Eagle, the city golf course. Taxpayers are weary of supporting the course after 20 years of covering its red ink. It is the first time the city has moved to divest itself of the course. 

To cut costs, the city is eliminating the yellow top recycling bins that are scattered through the residential areas. National demand for recycled items has been minimal for several years and the city program is struggling. It attracted the attention of those who are looking to cut the city’s expenses.

Sept. 9

An energized Daughters of the American Revolution chapter started a series of patriotic events that lasted through the fall. In one of the first steps, the Sioux Lookout Chapter of the DAR was on hand as Mayor Dwight Livingston proclaimed Sept. 17-23 as Constitution Week.

For six days, fugitive Rosendo Duran successfully dodged authorities after he snuck out of an unguarded room at the hospital, where he had been taken for a night of medical observation. Finally, on Sept. 3, the law caught Duran along the South Platte River. Nebraska State patrol Capt. Tyler Schmidt said Duran tried to check into the Motel 6 that morning but was turned away. Police, sheriff’s deputies, and state troopers gathered to search through the trees and brush along the river, where a tipster said he was probably hiding. Dogs were deployed in the search, and one of the dogs ultimately sniffed him out, Schmidt said.

Sept. 16

The community suffered the loss of beloved physician Dr. Leland Lamberty, who was said to have died of COVID-19 related complications, although it wasn’t clear if the virus was the primary cause of death or only a complicating factor. Regardless, tributes to Lamberty’s skill, dedication and compassion were plentiful, and the story of his death made national news.

“He truly loved practicing medicine and serving his patients, and it showed,” Great Plains Health CEO Mel McNae said.

Sheriff’s deputies seized a large collection of weapons from the home of Eugene Richter, after Richter was found with a loaded handgun inside a church. Richter was also wanted on a charge of stalking a woman. He was taken to jail, where he remains, held on bonds totaling $120,000.

The Col. Cody Car Club held its annual show and shine at Memorial Park, providing a welcome day-long reprieve from COVID-19 fears. The club decided to carry on with the show based on a majority vote of the members.

Sept. 23

Local election campaigns are heating up, with active races for mayor, several city council seats, as well was village and school board positions. In the process of covering the candidates, the Bulletin took a long look at the Quality Growth Fund reauthorization, another major ballot issue.

As the first brain surgery is performed at Great Plains Health, the hospital announced the opening of a gastrointestinal clinic too.

A state regulatory agency, the Public Service Commission, decided not to formally sanction Union Pacific for parking trains that blocked motorists from crossing railroad tracks near Grand Island. UP agreed to try to stage its trains differently and keep the crossings open, although no details of those plans were published. Two of the PSC five commissioners dissented, saying the railroad should have been fined for not only blocking the crossings, but not taking corrective action until the state agency got involved. 

Sept. 30

Mail-in balloting got underway, more than a month before the traditional Election Day, creating an “election season” instead of an “election day.” Each registered voter in Lincoln County received a postcard offering and encouraging them to ask for a mail-in ballot, in the most extensive effort yet to promote mail-in voting.

A North Platte couple announced plans to buy the Parkade Plaza shopping center, including the Alco building, which has been empty for many years. Jeff and Shea Caldwell, who own Whitetail Screen Printing and Cycle Sport downtown as well as the old Paramount theater building, hope to subdivide the old Alco store and bring it back to life.

The last bricks were laid on East Fifth downtown, as the $2.8 million street and utility reconstruction project came to an end, on time and about $100,000 over budget.

A group of parents asked the North Platte public school board to lift the schools’ requirement of face masks, and instead make masks voluntary. More than 400 parents signed an unofficial petition, asserting their right to determine whether their children wear masks or not. The parents say the masks can be unhealthy and they agreed to hold the school district blameless if their child contracted COVID-19 without a mask. The school board declined to act on the proposal, saying Supt. Ron Hanson and top administrators have their blessing to take whatever precautions they deem necessary.

Oct. 7

Downtown streets opened Thursday evening Oct. 8 to motor vehicle traffic for the first time since late February. At about the same time, Landon and Lane Swedberg opened a music and academic tutoring business downtown in the Brodbeck building at 104 1/2 East Fifth – one of the only downtown spaces that are unoccupied. 

A Pennsylvania company, Deep Water Ranch, purchased about 3,500 acres of land in southern Lincoln County, just a few miles south of Dickens for $16 million. The land was sold by Rolling Meadow Ranch, a Florida corporation. Not much information is available about Deep Water Ranch on the internet and searchable public records.

In another major real estate purchase, Whitetail Management closed the deal on the Parkade Plaza strip mall downtown for a price of $1.295 million. 

Although the construction season was relatively quiet during the spring and summer, building permits are now increasing at City Hall, Inspector Dave Hahn said. Two leading projects are the $5 million addition to the Lincoln County jail, where groundwork is underway. Also, the Cedar Room restaurant opened downtown on Dewey St. after a $625,000 renovation of a building that sat empty for many years.

A new Fat Dogs on S. Dewey is in the final stages of construction; Janssen Auto Group has completed a move to Halligan Drive; 48 new Pacific Place apartments are in the final stages of construction, and the new emergency room complex at Great Plains Health is open, completing a three-year expansion project.  

The November election campaign is in full steam, with candidates for mayor and city council speaking out. Some candidates are going door-to-door despite the COVID-19 situation. 

A confederate flag flying from the back of pickup truck at North Platte High caused a stir. One student got so mad about it that she stole it, and admitted it, after she said the pickup occupants yelled racial insults at black students. The flag was returned to its owner. Administrators were cool about it, expressing support for “the educational rights of each student” and encouraging everyone to “minimize disruptions to the educational process.”

They are coming back. All the musicians who cancelled their Nebraskaland Days concerts due to COVID-19 agreed to return in 2021, including headliners Luke Combs and Toby Keith. The concerts will be held June 25-26 unless an act of God or nature interferes. 

Oct. 14

In an extensive Bulletin report, a confirmed COVID-19 skeptic, Shane Sprague of Brady, voiced his doubts as well as his heartaches for his parents, who are confined to a North Platte nursing home. Sprague’s father tested positive for the virus and is isolated. His mother, and Shayne, are heartbroken that they cannot see him. Sprague believes the pandemic has been little more than a campaign to cause fear, panic and division.

North Platte school district enrollment dropped by 182 students, or 4.7%, since last year, according to an enrollment report for the school board. Board member Matt Pederson said a large part of the decrease is due to families moving out of town, due to job reductions at Bailey Yard and the closure of retail businesses.

In a plea to voters, Gov. Pete Ricketts wrote about the human toll of gambling, not only as an assault on values, but in contributing to addiction, poverty and homelessness.

The North Platte High Girls golf team claimed the state championship in domineering fashion, finishing 23 strokes ahead of runner-up Lincoln Pius X.

The North Platte High Girls softball team entered the state tournament as the No. 3 seed with a 26-9 record, led by several experienced players, including Abby Orr, who has been to state in three sports during her high school career.

Oct. 21

After more than a year of uncertainty, work on the restoration of the Pawnee Hotel got underway. Owner Jay Mitchell and his crew began restoring the 8-story, 1929 landmark. Mitchell and his crew of a half-dozen tackled the job with enthusiasm. “It’s only been empty for seven years,” Mitchell said, noting that it is made of durable concrete.

A Grand Island company offered to lease the Iron Eagle Golf Course for just $10 a year. The company, a subsidiary of Chief Industries, wants to create a master plan for the long-range future. The company is also interested in building homes for residents who are over 55 nearby. The city council authorized City Administrator Matt Kibbon to negotiate a deal with the company.

In response to readers, the Bulletin published the complete list of recipients of Quality Growth Funds during the last 16 years, as voters consider whether to reauthorize the fund. Some are concerned the money only goes to the “good old boys,” but the list shows otherwise. 

The farm harvest went along at a quick pace, boosted by warm weather. No one was jumping for joy over yields, but they were average or better. At the Bryce Huebner farm, they were hoping to finish picking corn by the end of October, something his father Mitch had only seen happen one time in 40 years.

The Brazilian parent company of the meatpacking conglomerate, JBS South America, agreed to pay $280 million in fines to the U.S. government to settle anti-corruption charges. The company conducted a bribery scheme to expand its U.S. operations, the Justice Department said. JBS, which owns the meatpacking plant in Grand Island, is the largest beef processor in the world.

Oct. 28 

The number of COVID-19 cases in the North Platte area grew significantly, with 125 new cases reported in just five days. A total of 11 deaths are thus far attributed to the virus in the six-county health district, with 14 more deaths under investigation. Twelve residents have died at Centennial Park Retirement Home. Once the virus gets into a retirement home, it is very hard to get rid of it, authorities say.

The North Platte Catholic Schools endowment hosted the annual fundraiser, GREEN, and for the first time, it was a virtual, online-only event. Organizers were pleased when receipts climbed 20% higher than the year before.

As of Nov. 14, the use of electronic cigarettes was prohibited in stores, offices, restaurants, bars and indoor work areas in Nebraska, putting e-cigarettes under the same restrictions as traditional cigarettes.

The North Platte High football team not only advanced to the state playoffs, they defeated Lincoln High in the opening round, 33-13.

The annual “Beatdown” of mixed martial arts fights in North Platte was finally set Oct. 30, after the bouts were postponed several times through the year due to COVID-19 concerns and state restrictions on the size of gatherings.

Nov. 4

Mayor Dwight Livingston looks back on his military service in Vietnam in the book, “They Were Soldiers.” The book contains profiles of 48 veterans, including former U.S. Defense Secretary Colin Powell and former U.S. Sen. Chuck Hagel, as well as Livingston. Livingston spent a year as a military policeman the Da Nang Air Base, the primary in-country arrival point for U.S. troops and supplies.

Voters selected Brandon Kelliher to be North Platte’s new mayor by a large margin over John Hales. Also, the Quality Growth Fund was overwhelmingly renewed for another 10 years by a 3:1 ratio. First-time candidates won the four city council seats that were up for grabs, and Angela Blaesi edged Brooke Luenenborg for a seat on the North Platte school board. Statewide, voters approved legalized gambling and limited the amount of interest that can be charged for “payday” loans. Both statewide issues passed by big margins.

In the face of increasing numbers of COVID-19 cases, the North Platte Wal-Mart Super Center closed in the middle of the week for a day-and-a-half of deep cleaning, sending hundreds of shoppers to other places around town.

As the holidays approach, so do concerns about suicide. The Bulletin presented an in-depth report on how people can intervene.

Nov. 18

A 20-year-old man was allegedly killed by his girlfriend after a long turbulent relationship. Harlie Saathoff, held on a $1 million bond, is charged with the second-degree murder of Bryce Wood.

COVID-19 threatens to overwhelm the Great Plains Health hospital. Nearly all the beds available to treat COVID patients are full, and the staff is thin. Nurses who have recently retired are invited to come back to work to ease the strain, and hospital officials plead with the public to keep a safe social distance and wear masks in public.

More positive economic news arrived — new owners bought the Platte River Mall in a deal facilitated by Nebraskaland National Bank President Mike Jacobson. The new owners are Mike Works and Justin Hernandez of Lincoln. The “new blood” is expected to eventually bring more retail businesses to North Platte. 

Objections by residents of the northeast corner of the city forced city officials to modify the proposed comprehensive plan for development. When it comes to annexation in the future, the area along East 12th was downgraded from a No. 1 priority to a No. 3 priority.

Lincoln County Sheriff Jerome Kramer announced plans for his office to oversee security at the courthouse instead of a private company. Kramer said the same guards would be at the front door, but they would be under a local contract and management.

Nov. 25

Sen. Mike Groene got into a dust-up with some eastern state senators for saying he finally got his wish when he contracted COVID-19. That seemed like a callous, reckless statement to his critics. Groene said he knew he would eventually get the virus and was not at high-risk due to his strong immune system and no underlying conditions. He said the nation could be reaching the point of “herd immunity,” when the majority of the population has caught the virus, and cases will begin to decrease.

The Pawnee Hotel restoration crew found the large White Horse mural plus a display of Native American art behind interior paneling in the old bar at the hotel, as well as drawings and lots of original chairs and other furniture throughout.

Phil Moreno of North Platte became a happy man to know he would be with his family for Thanksgiving after spending 19 days in critical condition with COVID-19 at Great Plains Health. Moreno credited infectious disease specialist, Dr. Eduardo Freitas, with obtaining an experimental drug that saved his life.

The mysterious death of Nick Legas was ruled a homicide, Sheriff Jerome Kramer said, after months of investigation. Legas’ body was found floating in a canal on June 8. An autopsy showed he had no water in his lungs or esophagus, but he did have signs of blunt force trauma and strangulation. No suspects have yet been arrested.

Dec. 2

In the face of an unprecedented national situation, the Bulletin took a long look at claims of tampering with votes in the presidential election, which Donald Trump still refuses to concede. Votes in a handful of highly populated counties in a half-dozen states – traditional Democratic strongholds – swung the election for Joe Biden. Trump’s attorneys believe it was a coordinated effort to steal the election, pointing out that Republican observers were not allowed to watch mail-in ballots be counted. The attorneys said that Dominion voting machines were less than tamper-proof, and in many cases, vote tallies could not be cross-checked.

After a prolonged discussion, the city council created a light industrial zone at Front St. and Oak for an electrical contracting business, despite the concerns of some neighbors, who feared the business would disrupt the mostly residential area.

Husker Radio and Dusty Trails teamed up to offer horse-drawn carriage rides on the downtown streets on Thursday nights before Christmas.

Dec. 9

A North Platte firefighter, Casey Schiel, revealed his invention — a night light that helps convince children to close the bedroom door before they go to sleep. If interior doors are closed, the severity of house fires are greatly reduced, which can easily mean the difference between life and death.

In October, Schiel’s invention was named North Platte’s best “Big Idea” in a contest organized by the North Platte Young Professionals.

Plans are taking shape for two new restaurants in North Platte in 2021, Wilkinson Development announced. One will be a Pepper Jax Grill in the new “Fat Dogs” mini-travel center that is under construction near McDonalds. The other will be a locally operated upscale restaurant in the Holiday Inn on the south side of the I-80 interchange.

The city cemetery department received a bill from a fake Florida company for $180 for hosting the Bulletin’s website — clearly a scam. Parks and Cemetery Director Lyle Minshull thought our readers would like to see the bill, so we published it. Authorities advise people who are confronted with an attempted scam to notify a news service, which helps spread awareness quickly.

Dec. 16

The first doses of COVID-19 vaccine arrived and were given at Great Plains Health. Nurse Mel Pendleton received the first dose. He was more excited to be vaccinated than “any shot in my life. My whole goal was to come of this vertical and above ground.” Health workers hope the vaccine will finally change the course of the pandemic.

The city council unanimously agreed to send the health district notice that their existing authority over health procedures will be terminated in early April. Ninety days’ notice is required. The termination letter will fulfill campaign pledges of many candidates to take a fresh look at the agreement.

The city council denied a $200,000 offer to incentivize a Grand Island-Kearney collection agency to open a branch in North Platte. Councilman Pete Volz hopes North Platte can stand on its own as a good place to open a business, and said the credit company had more to gain from coming to North Platte than North Platte stood to gain.

Dec. 23

The Pawnee Hotel opened on two nights for public viewing. Hundreds of visitors looked it over with mouth agape at times, imagining how it once looked and how it can look again. Owner Jay Mitchell wants to open the first floor and possibly the second by early August. He said the work is ahead of schedule.

The city council won’t support a mask mandate, according to the consensus of opinions during a prolonged work session discussion led by Mayor Brandon Kelliher.