OMAHA, Neb. - Years of bickering in the tiny north-central Nebraska town of Long Pine has erupted into a free-for-all that dismantled the town's fire department and has seen the doors of City Hall locked to the public.
The strife in the town of about 300 came to a head when the City Council voted Monday to dismiss 15 members of the volunteer fire department. The council presented a list of grievances against the volunteers. Among them were accusations that they held illegal meetings, had alcohol on city property and were not in compliance with workers' compensation and liability insurance requirements.
The city's former mayor, Sue Brown, says the conflict began more than three years ago, when plans to renovate the town's fire hall were abandoned after a new mayor was elected.
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Here is the most recent activity on this story. From kbrbradio.com:
* Long Pine City Council hires firm to investigate the Long Pine Foundation
(Posted Feb. 16)
The Long Pine City Council Tuesday, during its second special session in as many weeks, unanimously voted to retain a law firm to investigate the Long Pine Foundation’s handling of funds related to the Long Pine Palace and fire hall project.
The council agreed to pay a $2,500 retainer to the firm Jacobsen, Orr, Nelson, Lindstrom and Holbrook to research the Long Pine Foundation’s handling of funds, and will pay the firm an hourly rate of $175.
“We see discrepancies that need to be looked at,” Councilman Craig Bernbeck said.
Asked how hiring this law firm was different to a previous firm that researched the same issue, Bernbeck said the previous attorney did not find all of the foundation’s discrepancies.
Brenda Bernbeck with the city clerk’s office later told KBRB the city had spent $11,719 in legal fees to the previous firm, Sederstrom and Erickson, since 2008.
Resident Lynn Robertson read a statement imploring the City Council not to move forward with hiring a second law firm.
“I am very concerned about the fiscal integrity of the city of Long Pine,” Robertson told the council members. “Please act responsibly in upholding your office for the best interests of the city of Long Pine and vote against this special agenda item to spend yet another huge amount of taxpayer revenue on an issue that has already been explored exhaustively.”
Mayor Al Graves said there was no way to determine how much would be spent with the new law firm as it conducted its investigation.
Following the meeting, Long Pine Foundation President Linda Alberts said she had no idea what city officials were after.
“Every cent we have raised for the fire hall project is in an account in Omaha under the control of the Nebraska Community Foundation,” Alberts said. “I have no idea where they think this wrongdoing is coming from.”