PONCA, Neb. -- In coming weeks, the routines high school seniors have followed for years begin to end.
As high school graduations take place, seniors realize the paths they've traveled together now will branch out in several directions. Sports and activities that defined them will, in many cases, be put aside as they move on to college.
Three seniors set to graduate from Ponca High School on Friday won't be saying goodbye to everyone. They won't be hanging up their basketball shoes either.
Teammates on youth, school and summer teams since third grade, Connor Day and Max Masin will continue playing basketball together at Doane University. Classmate Emma Kneifl will join them at the Crete, Nebraska, college to play basketball on the women's team.
They didn't all plan to choose the same college, but they're happy it worked out that way.
"It's awesome. You get to carry it on for four more years. You're not fully saying goodbye to playing basketball with everyone here," said Connor, the son of Susie and the late Gene Day.
It's easy to understand why they'd want to keep playing together. Connor and Max ended their high school careers with back-to-back Class C2 basketball state championships. Emma played on a girls team that qualified for the state tournament her junior year and finished fourth. She missed her senior season after tearing an ACL in her knee during volleyball season.
For a smaller school like Ponca, it's a special achievement to send three players from the same class to play at the same college.
"We had an amazing team and we all became good friends. Hopefully we can bring that to Doane," said Max, the son of Sean and Wendy Masin.
The move from high school to college athletic competition is likely to be a big adjustment. It will be nice to have two friends on campus to share that transition with, said Emma, the daughter of Chad and Julie Kneifl.
"It'll make it a lot easier. They'll be in basketball too, so it'll be someone to talk to," she said.
Connor, who went to school in nearby Newcastle with Emma until seventh grade, made his college decision last fall. Emma decided to give basketball another shot after having doubts if she wanted to play again after her knee injury. Max chose Doane in March, the same month the three signed their official letters of intent.
"After we signed, it kind of hit me we were all going there," Max said. "It shows how good Ponca is."
For the next few days, they're still Ponca High School students. Then it's off to Doane, where they'll help with basketball camps in June and take part in workouts before returning home for the rest of the summer.
Emma, a guard who plans to major in health and society, expects to get full medical clearance to resume all activities soon and be ready to go when basketball season starts.
Max and Connor look forward to stepping on the court together again as they have so many times over the past decade.
"It'll make things easier," said Connor, a guard who will major in biology. "I already know where his shots like to be and vice versa."
It's one adjustment they won't have to make, said Max, a post player who will study computer science.
"You can always rely on at least one guy that you know," he said of teaming up with Connor again.
The three soon-to-be Ponca grads will get to know all their new college teammates once classes and workouts start in the fall, but there's something about seeing a familiar face on a campus full of strangers.
"It'll be nice to have friends there," Emma said.
SIOUX CITY -- The Sioux City Council on Monday moved forward a project that will bring more than 500 new parking spaces and more retail development to the southern edge of Pearl Street downtown.
The council voted 4-0 to begin the 30-day notice period for a proposal to build an $11 million parking ramp at the southwest corner of Third and Pearl streets between the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Sioux City and the Tyson Events Center.
The four-story ramp, which will be funded half by the Hard Rock and half by the city, is expected to include approximately 530 parking spaces along with 15,000 square feet of first-floor commercial space.
The 30-day notice period is required since the land sits in an urban renewal area. Councilman Dan Moore abstained from Monday's vote because his law firm represents the casino.
Bill Warner, CEO of Las Vegas-based Warner Hospitality, which owns the Hard Rock, presented the project to the Sioux City Council Monday.
"I think everyone understands that there's limited parking in the downtown area when there's events at the Tyson or we have events," he said.
Warner said the ramp will be designed to allow traffic to use one direct ramp rather than a spiral to ascend the floors.
"It's proposed to have what's called a 'speed ramp,' which allows you to get from the first floor all the way up just from one direct ramp," he said. "It's nice and convenient for guests."
Those parking for Hard Rock events will have direct access to the venue by riding an elevator to the first floor level that will open in a lobby area.
Warner said the ramp will also help make up for parking spaces that could be lost by any future expansion at the Hard Rock, although he said there's no new project in the works at the moment.
City manager Bob Padmore said the project could go out for bid as early as June. It's expected to take about a year to construct.
Padmore said the additional retail space will be a finishing piece to the southern end of the Pearl Street development.
"It's something that would not only complement Hard Rock but provide additional opportunities for people going to the Tyson," he said.
Under the agreement with the city, the city would own the ramp and retail space, which would then be leased by the Hard Rock as the prime tenant. Hard Rock will be responsible for subleasing the retail space, and the subleases for those spaces would be subject to city approval.
Warner said parking would be free.
The city will continue working on plans and agreements for the project over the next month. On Tuesday, the Planning and Zoning Commission will vote on a rezoning of the property and a site plan for the project.
The City Council will then hold a public hearing June 11 and will consider development and lease agreements for the project.
In other action Monday, the council voted 5-0 to direct staff to prepare an ordinance to renew Downtown Partners' taxing district for another five years. It will take a formal vote to adopt the ordinance June 11.
The taxing district's boundaries will expand to include a handful of properties, including more of Mercy Medical Center -- Sioux City's campus, Doxx Warehouse Bar, and Ho-Chunk Inc.'s Virginia Square development.
The council directed staff to also include property south of Gordon Drive that will include the future site of the riverfront development within those boundaries.
Downtown Partners wanted the land to be included so it could financially support the future riverfront development at Chris Larsen Park, which is expected to begin following I-29 construction.
The council's direction ran contrary to the recommendation of city staff and the city's Planning and Zoning Commission, which had advised the city to wait until the conclusion of the Interstate 29 reconstruction project to decide whether the uses of the land would work within the district.
SIOUX CITY -- Two critics of the Sioux City school district have filed a series of complaints with a state watchdog panel, claiming the school board violated Iowa's open meetings law and open records law.
One complaint to the Iowa Public Information Board, filed by Dennis Fischer, alleges board member Jackie Warnstadt publicly commented on a teacher pay issue at the March 26 meeting, at a time when the district was negotiating with the teachers union on a new contract.
Fischer also claims the seven-member board meets in private with enough members present for a legal quorum. The district denied the allegation, saying there were no details provided to support it.
Dan Greenwell also filed multiple complaints with the IPIB, which includes the board adding a speaker to the March 26 meeting who was not on the agenda.
Greenwell, a Sioux City businessman who has spoken out on the budget, standards-based grading, the talented and gifted program, and other issues in recent years, also claims the district violated the open records law by failing to comply with his Freedom of Information Act request for district financial documents.
The Iowa Public Information Board is an independent agency governed by a nine-member board appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Senate. The panel has jurisdiction over local governmental bodies that violate open meetings or public records laws. Complaints must be filed within 60 days of the alleged violation.
IPIB Executive Director Margaret Johnson told the Journal last week the agency is still in the process of collecting information. After that work is completed, Johnson said she will make a recommendation to accept or dismiss the cases. The IPIB board would vote on the matter at the May 17 or June 21 meeting. She can draft an order to either accept or dismiss the complaints.
“I am highly confident the IPIB will rule in favor of my complaints," Greenwell said in a statement. "They are fact based and fully supported by the board meeting video and written requests for financial data."
Mandie Mayo, a spokeswoman for the school district, said district officials have provided information to the IPIB and "feel strongly that there have been no violations of either the open meetings or open records laws."
In a letter to the IPIB, the Sioux City law firm representing the district, Moore Heffernan Moeller Johnson & Meis, asks the agency to dismiss the complaints "for failure to establish any violation of the Iowa Open Meetings or Open Records statutes."
Dennis Fischer is the husband of Julie Fischer, a Sioux City schoolteacher who has recently criticized a proposal that would eliminate $4,792 in annual pay that the majority of middle and high school teachers receive each year for performing duties during a seventh period.
At the March 26 meeting, Warnstadt, a retired teacher, pointed out that elementary teachers already are paid for 6½ periods for no additional pay.
The comments came shortly after the school district proposed the pay cut as part of its opening offer to the local union representing teachers. The two sides remain at odds over salary issues despite a recent mediation session.
"(Warnstadt) damaged the teachers by making this statement, she was basically bargaining salaries in public, and the topic wasn't even being discussed," Dennis Fischer said in the complaint.
A response prepared by the Moore firm states that Warnstadt made her remarks during a segment of the meeting reserved for individual board members' comments. Moore said Warnstadt asked Dan Moore, the board's legal counsel, if she could speak about the teacher pay issue during that time and Moore said she could.
The March 26 meeting was lengthy, running 137 minutes to air a host of topics, including details related to discussion of the proposed 2018-19 fiscal year budget. At one point, Greenwell loudly told Superintendent Paul Gausman that he had "lied" in a September meeting , when saying the district would provide answers to some financial questions Greenwell posed.
In a second round of information to IPIB, Greenwell said Board President Mike Krysl made a motion to adjourn the meeting, then board member Perla Alarcon-Flory began a discussion of a topic not on the agenda, regarding the talented and gifted program.
Greenwell asserted that Gausman then allowed a person versed on the topic to speak, calling him from the audience, and later getting an assent to do so from Krysl, who presides at meetings.
In its response, the district noted that since the board did not take formal action on the issue, there was no violation of the open meetings law.