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Platte’s New Hope to be ready for use by spring

PLATTE -- There's "new hope" on the horizon for Platte residents still reeling from a 2015 bombshell that rattled the town. Months ahead of schedule, the Platte Area Ministerial Association and the board of directors overseeing operations at the ...

People look at the items available for auction on Friday on the Westerhuis property in Platte. The land itself was sold to the to the Platte Area Ministerial Association for 370,000 dollars. (Matt Gade/Republic)
The Westerhuis property in Platte was auctioned off to the Platte Area Ministerial Association for 370,000 dollars back in September. (Matt Gade/Republic)

PLATTE - There’s “new hope” on the horizon for Platte residents still reeling from a 2015 bombshell that rattled the town.

Months ahead of schedule, the Platte Area Ministerial Association and the board of directors overseeing operations at the New Hope and Retreat Center aim to see the first of its facilities ready for use by early spring.

New Hope sits on the 40.4 acre plot of land formerly owned by Scott and Nicole Westerhuis, a pair of Platte natives allegedly involved in a string of scandals resulting in the termination of an annual $4.3 million management contract held by Mid-Central Educational Cooperative, at which both were employed. In Sept. 2015, Scott is accused of shooting and killing Nicole and the couple’s four kids, setting the family’s home ablaze and killing himself.

In Sept. 2016, nearly a year to the day after the tragedy, the ministerial purchased the land for $370,000, along with the gym’s wood floor for $8,600 and two basketball hoops inside of the gym for $500 each.

And, as early as March or April, the property the Platte community once said was too stricken by tragedy to overcome could see “redemption.”

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“New Hope was chosen for the name because it shows that, even in the midst of our greatest tragedy, God produces hope,” said Daniel Daum, of the ministerial association. “It’s a part of a story.”

Officials associated with the project are first focused on renovating what will be called the “retreat center,” which features four bedrooms, a bathroom, dining room and other living space, Daum said. That area will be the first of the facilities ready for use and will be able to be rented by individuals and groups.

The ministerial association’s initial vision for the property included hosting summer youth ministry programs, but Daum said the facilities will not be ready to host the camps until summer 2018. The garage unit to the west of the main structures will likely be converted into cabins prior to the beginning of summer programs, Daum said.

“We’ve already had groups contact us about renting out the retreat center, which is really encouraging for us,” Daum said. “Things are really ahead of where we thought they’d be at this point.”

But, Daum said, some of the most extensive work has nothing to do with the physical land.

Instead, Daum said officials are still trying to calm concerns and ease tensions among some community members who are skeptical about New Hope.

To do so, the ministerial has been hosting one-on-one discussions with those community members who express their concerns to answer any questions they may have. But Daum said that might not be enough.

“The problem is the people with reservations don’t talk to us, so we don’t know who they are,” Daum said. “We want to hear their voices and address their questions or concerns. There are other voices we want to hear.”

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