A brief description of the various Saline County Offices housed in and around the Courthouse

 

County Assessor

The County Assessor is an elected official who has the responsibility of valuing all real property and personal property in Saline County for taxation purposes.  The County Assessor and Deputy County Assessor must be certified by the Nebraska Department of Revenue - Property Assessment Division (PAD) in order to hold office and position.  They are also required to successfully attain 60 hours of continued education every 4 years, in order to continue their certification. 

The office is responsible for establishing equalized and accurate market values for all real property.  According to Nebraska State Statute, all property shall be valued as of January 1st at 12:01 a.m.  Residential, commercial and industrial property shall be valued at 100% of market value.  Agricultural or horticultural property shall be valued at 75% market value.  The office has a full time staff that is responsible for attaining this goal. The office is also responsible for maintaining personal property accounts for all business and farmers who own depreciable tangible personal property. 

The Assessor is required to maintain a file of sales file on all types of property.  These sales then are reviewed to determine the usability within the sales file.  They have approximately 600 real estate transfers per year.  According to State Statutes, the office is also required to prepare an abstract of assessment (Abstract) and certified taxes levied (CTL) report to the Department of Revenue – PAD on a yearly basis.  After the year tax roll process is completed, the office is required to forward the annual tax roll to the County Treasurer.

The Assessor is also responsible for reviewing various exemption programs such as the Homestead Exemption program as well as the Permissive Exemption program.  The Homestead Exemption program is used for individuals who qualify based on their age and income level.  The Homestead Exemption also applies to certain qualified veterans or disabled individuals.  The Permissive Exemption program is used for property that is owned by and is used exclusively for agricultural and horticultural societies, or owned and used exclusively by religious, educational and charitable organizations.

The Assessor or his/her designee is also required to attend all meetings of the Saline County Board of Equalization throughout the year, which also includes the formal protest hearings between June 1 and July 25.

County Attorney

The Saline County Attorney, which is technically a part-time elected official, in reality is a 24/ 7 on—call position. As the County Attorney he is responsible for the prosecution of felony misdemeanor, infractions, mental health board and juvenile cases in County and District Court. In addition, he is responsible for enforcement of child support cases, which involves establishment of paternity location of absent parents, income withholding and the prosecution of criminal nonsupport and child abandonment cases. The County Attorney is also responsible for tax foreclosures, bad check collection and prosecution, and serves as County Coroner (regarding unattended deaths). The other elected officials and law enforcement agencies consult with him for legal advice regarding their respective offices.

The case load in Saline County has increased dramatically over the past 20 years, corresponding with the growth of population. The juvenile case load just 20 years ago was about 40 cases per year. Now, the County Attorney prosecutes between 120 and 150 cases per year. In the years 2004 and 2005, Saline County filed more felony cases than Gage County a much larger county. In 2006, the office handled over 1,000 misdemeanor/ordinance cases and over 700 non-traffic misdemeanors.

The Saline County Attorney's office has been relocated a few times. For many years, the office was located in Crete. In 1990, it was moved to two offices on the third floor of the Courthouse, where it remained until December 1999. The office then was relocated one more time to the Extension building, where it remains today.

County Clerk/Register of Deeds/Election Commissioner

December 1985 - June 1999, all Financing Statements related to agriculture were entered on a state computer. In July 1999, all Financing Statements were filed at the State Level. We started processing motor vehicle titles on a statewide computer system in December 1992. In January 1997, we began to issue boat titles. July 1992, we began to process payroll on computer. Beginning in 1976, all County Clerk and Register of Deeds records were microfilmed for archival purposes. This process still continues today.

This office began doing marriage licenses in January 1987. Previously they were obtained in the County Court office. Starting in January 2007, we were required to put the marriage licenses on the statewide computer system.

In 1984, Saline County purchased their first ballot counting scanner machine. We began a computerized voter registration system in 1995. In 2005, all election offices in the state went onto a statewide voter registration computer system. In 2006, the State issued each county an Auto Mark machine and a new ballot counting scanner machine.

New work stations were purchased in 1999, 2000 and 2001 to accommodate computers and printers in the office. A new countertop was installed in January 2007.

County Commissioners

It was back in the 1990's that the Courthouse underwent stone repair and tuck pointing. Due to the changes in the law, the County School Superintendent’s position was dissolved in 1999. In the first seven years of the new millennium, many changes have also taken place in the Courthouse and Saline County. Along with improved lighting, a new heating and cooling system was installed in the Courthouse in 2001.

It was in 2002 that the public voted to approve a change in the number of Commissioners representing different districts of Saline County. The public elected to add two additional Commissioners to the three member board. Different members of the County played a part in appointing two individuals to the three member board. They then ran for office that following election and became elected officials.

In 2003, the Courthouse started to become more updated with the times of technology a Courthouse-wide computer networking system was put into place, allowing the different offices to access the outside world in a new way. Along with the computer ability updates, the offices were beginning to be renovated, such as the Treasurer's office in 2003. In 2005, the hallways of the Courthouse were repainted and office labels were painted above the office doors.

County Court

One of the first records in this office dating back to the 1870‘s mentions a case that was continued because the main witness was on a buffalo hunt. Some of the records involving weapons speak of powder and ball in the rifles.

There was less crime in Saline County years ago, such as back in 1958 we only had 32 criminal cases filed for the whole year. Everything was more low key and slower back in those days. Traffic cases were taken care of by the Justice of the Peace officers in the various towns, but those were closed down when the State of Nebraska took over our office in 1973. Now we can have thousands of criminal and traffic cases filed a year. We would have one juvenile case now and then back in the 50's and 60's. Now we have two drawers of pending juvenile cases and the numbers of juvenile cases keep increasing. We would have an occasional garnishment case back in the 50's and 60's. Now we have hundreds of garnishment cases running all of the time. Times have changed and our work load has increased by volumes.

Since 1994, we are now on computers and the state-wide justice system, which is connected to the State Capitol office and the Court's Administrator`s office.

Clerk of District Court

Most counties in the State of Nebraska have a Clerk of the District Court performing administrative duties with the Court and it is the County's Jury Commissioner. There are many responsibilities for the Clerk of District Court. They include the following: keeper of the records for the District Court; managing money or other property which is received and any public funds received shall be deposited in a financial institution; balance the finances daily; retain records according to statute; produce daily, monthly and end of year reports for the County Board, Auditors, State Agencies and Federal Government; prepare budgets; prepare inventory; records retention; receive and process passport applications; and provide for efficient, effective customer service.

There have been many updates in the Clerk of District Court office:

  1. Microfilming of case files in 1988.
  2. Piloted the State's computer system "JUSTICE" in 1994.
  3. Computerized all aspects of the office which included: case management, financial management and court administration in January 1996.
  4. Access to the Law Library through internet in 2003.
  5. Scanning of case filings in November 2006.
  6. Viewing of case filings by the Court Staff in December 2006.
  7. Viewing of scanned images of case filings by the Public July 18, 2008.
District Court

District Court at Saline CountyDistrict courts are trial courts of general jurisdiction and are organized into 12 judicial districts to serve all 93 counties in the state. Saline County is in the First Judicial District, which comprises 11 counties. It is served by three district judges, each whom has a home court. Wilber is the home court of Judge Vicky L. Johnson, who was appointed by Governor Mike Johanns in 2004. Judge Johnson was the first female judge appointed to the First Judicial District. Judge Johnson's portion of the District is the western most five counties which are: Clay Nuckolls, Fillmore, Thayer and Saline.

Although the District Courts have concurrent jurisdiction with County Courts, they primarily hear all felony criminal cases, family law cases and major civil cases. District Courts also function as Appellate Courts in deciding appeals from certain county-court case types and various administrative agencies.

County Drug Court

Four Southeast Nebraska counties — Saline, Gage, Jefferson and Fillmore — worked to form a cooperative drug court.

Modeled after similar courts for drug users in Lancaster, Douglas and other Nebraska counties, the court aims to rehabilitate drug users facing felony charges. 

The 18-month program would combine frequent drug testing — up to four times a week — with counseling, outpatient drug treatment, rewards for good behavior and punishments for bad behavior. After 18 months, participants would be expected to have jobs or be taking classes. They’d be expected to pay their court fees on time, show up for meetings and court appearances and, ultimately, to be sober.

Upon successful completion, the felony charges that landed them in drug court in the first place would be dropped.  Judge Johnson presides over the court and convenes once a week. County attorneys from the partnered counties help to decide who was eligible for the program.

County Emergency Management

Formally known as Civil Defense, Saline County Emergency Management (SCEMA) is a public safety entity authorized by county resolution and affirmed by county-city interlocal agreements and state statutes under the Nebraska Emergency Management Act.

The primary functions of SCEMA include assisting emergency services personnel in planning for efficient operations during disasters and emergencies; acting as liaison between emergency responders, county and city governing boards; development and maintenance of an all-hazards warning system throughout Saline County; training severe weather spotters and coordinating storm spotting operations; coordinating county-wide hazardous materials planning, reporting and response; assisting the public in disaster procedures, and assisting educational facilities, hospitals, nursing homes, business and industry in developing and implementing disaster plans.

To help reduce the loss of life and property SCEMA focuses on the four phases of emergency management-mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery. In recent years, SCEMA has also become the lead local agency responsible for Homeland Security grant writing and administration, purchases, plans and procedures.

SCEMA has one full-time, paid coordinator and several volunteers who help with day-to-day and emergency operations.

County Extension

The Saline County Extension office has been involved in a significant facility change beginning in 1991. When Extension Educator Randy Pryor was employed in August of 1982, the Extension office was located on the second floor of the Courthouse on the southwest side. The small office space included a vault room used for storing 4-H member manuals as well as serving as a break room. Today the office space serves as the Saline County Commissioner Board Room.

With encouragement of the Saline County Extension Board and local clientele support, the Saline County Commissioners made the decision to lease office space and move the Extension office to a new building which would be shared with the USDA Natural Resource and Conservation Agency (NRCS). In April 1991, the Extension office with assistance of local volunteers, moved to 306 West 3rd Street in Wilber. All contractors involved in building the 50 ft by 82 ft office building were from Saline County. The Extension office met current handicap accessibility rules, modern phone, electrical and computer connections and included a public meeting room with a kitchenette. The meeting room handles smaller meetings seating up to 45 people in tables and chairs and is used for employee meetings and functions as well as Extension meetings and non-profit activities.

The NRCS vacated the office building to merge with the Farm Service Agency (FSA), leaving Saline County temporarily with 1,218 sq ft of vacated office space. The Saline County Attorney in need of more space was moved to the facility and the County Commissioners moved to change the building lease to a purchase option lease on November 8, 1999. The building is now owned by Saline County Extension staff includes two extension educators, a 4-H associate and two support staff. Staff members assist area citizens and youth to put knowledge to work through support and resources of the University of Nebraska, USDA and Saline County.

County Probation Office

Under the structure of the Nebraska Supreme Court and the Administrative Office of the Courts & Probation, Probation has faithfully worked to not only improve the safety of all Nebraskans, but moreover, to assist all juveniles and adults under our supervision to become productive citizens.

Probation officers make lasting changes in local communities by assisting both juveniles and adults to become productive members of society. Nebraska Probation utilizes individualized approaches focused on evidence-based principles and practices, and employs a dedicated and skilled professional staff to meet this goal. Providing this purposeful intervention, Nebraska Probation strives to continue to impact community safety for the better.

Goals include: 1) Providing our Courts quality investigations and effective sentencing alternatives; 2) Reducing recidivism in both juvenile and criminal justice populations; 3) Providing for more efficient and effective use of Probation's limited staff resources.

Highway Superintendent/Dept. of Roads

The Highway Superintendent/ Department of Roads office was located on the second floor of the Courthouse until March 2003. At that time it was moved to the first floor into the office space that had been previously occupied by Social Services.

In 1993, the office staff was increased with the addition of a part-time person. In 1994, the first computer was purchased. Today most record keeping and equipment information is now recorded on three computers rather than hand written on the ledgers.

Workers maintain a total of 1,018 miles of county roads. There are 641 bridges in the county to maintain and a total of 2,967 culverts. Finally there are over 1,500 signs that we are responsible for.

Noxious Weed Department

Technology has caused a few changes in the Weed Department. In 2003, we began utilizing tools such as: Global Positioning Systems (GPS) and Geographical Information System (GIS) for mapping and tracking spraying records and conditions at the time of when the property was sprayed.

Pesticides have changed dramatically in the past few years. We are more knowledgeable about the dangers and effectiveness of new pesticides than we were in the past. Pesticides have become more specialized. Spraying certain weeds at specific times of the year with certain pesticides has made spraying cleaner and more efficient than ever before. Non-chemical ways of controlling weeds have been developed in recent years. The releasing of specific insects, such as "flea beetles," into patches of certain noxious weeds is a way of controlling weeds. Another non-chemical use is using goats to graze areas of infestation. In 2003, Saline County released a patch of flea beetles to control approximately 60 acres of leafy spurge in the county.

Planning and Zoning

As Saline County Zoning Administrator, it is my responsibility to administer and enforce the Zoning Regulations. By doing so, I have the following authorities: provide interpretation of the text of the zoning regulations and the Official Zoning Map; conduct inspections of buildings, structures, premises and the uses of land to determine compliance with the terms of the regulations; make available to the public, application forms for amendments to the regulations and/ or Zoning Map, for appeals to the Board of Adjustment, and conditional use requests to the Board of Commissioners, and to issue zoning permits and certificates of zoning compliance; maintain and provide information to the public regarding the requirements of the regulations and provide for timely publishing of legal notices and other notifications; maintain permanent and current records with regard to the zoning regulations.

County Sheriff

In May of 2001, Saline County voted to build a new $5,000,000 Law Enforcement Center. This center would house the Sheriff's Office, 911 Dispatching Center and Jail.

Saline County agreed to reserve 20 beds for 15 years for U.S. Marshal inmates. In turn, the Marshal Service paid Saline County $500,000 to assist in construction costs. The new Saline County Law Enforcement Center opened in August 2002 (48 inmates and 39 employees). In October 2002, the jail was reclassified as a 54 bed facility.

In 2006, Saline County Commissioners voted to add an addition to the current jail increasing the possible inmate population to 89. The addition was completed in May 2007 and continues to house local, state and Federal inmates.

County Surveyor

Since 1979, the changes that have been most significant are the improvements in recordkeeping as to organization and accessibility. Technology wise, from the 100 foot steel chain to modern day GPS (using satellites for ground measurement) with more accuracy and less time involved to achieve the end result.

There are approximately 1,830 land corners in Saline County. This is due to the value of land prices and the people wanting to live on small acreages. The County Surveyor has perpetuated or re-established approximately 800 of these since 1991.

County Treasurer

It is the duty of the County Treasurer to receive all money belonging to the county and to manage the cash resources in such a way as to maximize the return on temporarily idle funds.  Paramount however, is the protection of the people’s money.  The Treasurer is the official collector of all real estate and personal property taxes levied within the county and is responsible for the distribution of those collections to the appropriate subdivisions (schools, fire districts, cities, etc.) based upon the levies established by the County Board of Equalization.  Other duties the Treasurer is responsible for include providing all facets of the motor vehicle and boat services, processing driver’s licenses and permits, collecting special assessments, sales tax and many other specific duties that are scattered throughout state statutes.

A very significant change which has increased the workload in the Treasurer’s office substantially, happened in 2009 when the State mandated that all motor vehicle and boat titling transactions shift from a duty of the County Clerk to one of the County Treasurer.  It was in 1998 when the responsibility of assessing all motor vehicles and mailing of the motor vehicle renewal notices changed from a County Assessor function to also one of the County Treasurer.  In the state’s effort to streamline the entire motor vehicle titling and registration process, the Treasurer’s office has now become a one-stop shop for the motor vehicle/boat owners of Saline County.

Based upon the records of the County Treasurer’s office, Saline County is definitely a county which is growing.  For instance, this office has processed over 500 more title transactions within the past year than processed only five years ago when the County Treasurer initially took over the title processing.  Also, back in 1994, Saline County had a total of 15,654 registered vehicles.  Our 2013 records reflect a total of 19,865 registered vehicles which equates to over a 25% increase during that time period. 

As to the actual design and layout of the Treasurer’s office workspace, there has not been any major changes made to the area since the installation of the new countertop in 2007.

County Veterans Service Office

Saline County Veterans MemorialAt one time, the County Veterans Service office was located on the third floor of the Courthouse. The office has been located in the southeast corner office on the first floor for some years now. It was last updated with new paint and carpet in 2007.

The mission of the County Veterans Service office is to provide assistance to area veterans and their dependents in acquiring county, state, and federal benefits to which they are entitled by virtue of their service to this country.

The County Veteran's officer is also responsible for organizing the annual County Government Day with the local area high schools. In addition, the office assists the public by providing transportation to and from their medical appointments in Lincoln and Omaha, Nebraska when assistance is needed.