Overall business index up in Midwest bankers survey
(AP) - The overall index for an economic survey of bankers in 10 Midwestern and Plains states has risen for a second consecutive month, suggesting more growth in the months ahead.
The Rural Mainstreet Index hit 53.2 in April, compared with 50.1 in March.
The survey indexes range from 0 to 100, with 50 representing growth neutral. A score above 50 suggests growth in the months ahead.
Creighton University economist Ernie Goss oversees the survey, and he says the results indicate that areas highly dependent on agriculture and energy are experiencing slower growth than they were a year ago. But he says recent increases in commodity prices should boost the economy in the months ahead.
Bankers from Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming were surveyed.
Driver dies in crash near O'Neill
(AP) - A driver has died, burned beyond recognition, after his vehicle rammed into a semitrailer in northern Nebraska.
The Lincoln Journal Star says (http://bit.ly/1lcBUPW ) the collision occurred about 10 a.m. Wednesday around six miles west of O'Neill. Holt County Attorney Thomas Herzog says the man's westbound vehicle crossed the center line of U.S. Highway 20 and struck the eastbound big rig.
The subsequent fire also melted the vehicle's identification numbers.
Herzog says the semitrailer driver was hospitalized.
The accident is being investigated.
Minitare and Gering approve dispatch center
(AP) - The Minatare Village Board and the Gering City Council have accepted an agreement regarding the Scotts Bluff County Communications Center.
Their decisions earlier this week means they'll join the six other county communities in funding upgrades at the dispatch center.
Gering and Minatare had gone to court in December to ensure the county wouldn't stop providing them with emergency dispatch services as they squabbled with the county over some points in the agreement. The two communities soon dropped their lawsuit and resumed talks.
Legislature adjourns for 2014 session
(AP) - Nebraska lawmakers have finished their session having passed major legislation to lower taxes, reduce prison crowding and pay for water conservation projects.
But the session that ended Thursday was also marked by drawn-out squabbles over seemingly trivial issues, and a failure to expand Medicaid under the federal health care law.
Many bills were killed through legislative filibusters, despite apparent support from a majority of senators in some cases. Opponents used the tactic to derail Medicaid expansion, a repeal of Nebraska's helmet law, an anti-discrimination law for gay employees, a change in Nebraska's redistricting process and legislation that would allow civilian watch groups to patrol neighborhoods with flashing amber lights.
Former Cedar Creek city clerk accused of theft
(AP) - A former village clerk in eastern Nebraska has been accused of embezzling nearly $80,000.
The Lincoln Journal Star reports (http://bit.ly/1j9rXgo ) 69-year-old Mary C. Terry, of Cedar Creek, faces a felony charge of theft by deception. Court records do not list an attorney.
An arrest affidavit says Terry wrote checks to herself without approval from the village board. The money was allegedly taken from the village's general fund. Terry denies the allegations.
Authorities believe Terry stole the money between January 2009 and January 2014. They suspect she took more money but statute of limitations restricts criminal charges.
Cass County Attorney Nathan Cox says Terry turned herself in to authorities on April 3. She was released on a $5,000 personal recognizance bond.
Terry is scheduled in court on April 29.
Applicants sought for Nebraska Water Resources Commission
(AP) - Gov. Dave Heineman is seeking applicants for the new, expanded Nebraska Natural Resources Commission.
A new law approved on Wednesday will increase the number of commission members from 16 to 27.
The new members are required to represent different water interests. Applicants are being sought to represent agriculture, agribusiness, irrigation districts, manufacturing, outdoor recreation, public power districts, irrigation districts, range livestock owners, wildlife conservation interests and a Lincoln resident who is interested in water issues.
Applicants should send names and applications Kathleen Dolezal in the governor's office, at P.O. Box 94848, Lincoln, NE 68509. They also can email them to Kathleen.Dolezal(at)nebraska.gov.
Applications are available on the governor's website, or by calling the governor's office. They're due by close of business on May 6.
Grand Island man now ruled competent for trial
(AP) - A 48-year-old Grand Island man has now been found competent to stand trial on charges that he tried to kill his estranged wife.
The Grand Island Independent says (http://bit.ly/1mgXhg0 ) Jesus Parra returned to court on Wednesday and was declared competent, as long as he continues to take his medication.
In February he'd been declared mentally incompetent and was sent to the state psychiatric hospital in Lincoln for treatment. He was to remain there until "the disability is removed."
Parra already has pleaded not guilty to weapons charges and charges of assault, child abuse and attempted murder. Police say he attacked and injured Rosa Olivas de Parra at her home in April 2013. Police say the couple's adult daughter was cut while trying to intervene.
Lincoln principal apologizes for bullying flier
(AP) - A Lincoln principal has apologized for a flier sent home with students that advised them not to tattle on their tormentors.
The Lincoln Journal Star says (http://bit.ly/1j6Abov ) some parents of the fifth-graders at Zeman Elementary complained and posted angry comments on Facebook.
On Wednesday Zeman principal Donna Williams sent an electronic message of apology to the families, and the district posted the message on the district Facebook page.
Among other things, the flier says telling on the bully makes the bully want to retaliate. And the flier asks, "Would we keep our friends if we tattled on them?"
District student services director Russ Uhing says the LPS philosophy is: Ask the bully to stop. Walk away. If the bullying continues, tell a parent or teacher.
Milford man pleads not guilty to peeping in a women's restroom
(AP) - A 29-year-old man has pleaded not guilty to secretly recording images of women changing clothes in a Lincoln restaurant employee locker room.
On Wednesday Dustin Lindgren, of Milford, filed the pleas to three felony counts of unlawful intrusion.
Police say Lindgren was manager of the Tilted Kilt Pub & Eatery in Lincoln. Police say he hid a cellphone in a pocket of his jacket, which he left hanging in the women's dressing room between Jan. 1 and Feb. 10.
One of the women noticed the phone. She told police she saw images on the phone of hands putting the phone into the coat pocket and aiming it toward where women change clothes.
Southeast Nebraska mother accused of lying about her son's location
(AP) - Authorities say a 50-year-old southeast Nebraska woman has been arrested, accused of lying to officers who were trying to find her son.
Officers went to the woman's home in Adams on Tuesday in their search for 23-year-old Jaryn Sanne, who is wanted on a felony warrant alleging forgery in Gage County. The officers say Lisa Sanne repeatedly told them her son was not at home, although he'd been living there off and on. She acknowledged that his vehicle was parked in the driveway.
The officers say they suspected she was lying, so they waited outside the property while a search warrant was obtained.
Once armed with the warrant, the officers entered home and found Jaryn Sanne in his bedroom.
NSP begins consolidation of dispatch centers
(AP) - Nebraska State Patrol says it has begun a three-stage consolidation of its dispatch centers.
The patrol said in a news release that taking the centers down to three from six is expected to save $750,000.
The patrol says the Norfolk center will be the first to close. Its dispatch duties will be taken over completely by the Lincoln center in mid-May.
The second phase will be implemented by summer 2015. A committee will be meeting to determine which center will close next.
Governor signs water sustainability bill into law
(AP) - Gov. Dave Heineman has signed a bill designed to help Nebraska prepare for floods, water shortages and water quality problems.
The measure approved Wednesday will provide about $11 million annually to help pay for projects related to water management and quality, flood control, and compliance with interstate compacts. It will generate an estimated $32 million by mid-2015.
The bill by Sen. Tom Carlson of Holdrege would also expand the Natural Resources Commission, from 16 members to 27, to ensure that more major water users are represented. The new commission would include irrigators, cities, public power districts and wildlife conservation groups.
Sen. Mark Christensen of Imperial says the law will help bring together surface and groundwater users, who are often at odds.
UNK unveils plans for University Village
(NRG)- The University of Nebraska at Kearney has completed the planning stage for development of the 104-acre site now known as University Village, a new campus that will combine public and private resources in a mix of business, retail, office, services, housing, parks and recreation. The development is planned for an area south of The Buckle headquarters and southwest of UNK's campus on the south side of Highway 30. A series of public and informational meetings will be planned to obtain input on the proposed plans, culminating with a formal information session for developers in June. Site construction could begin as soon as 2015, with the first university building planned for 2017. The first university project will be the completion of a new residence hall to replace University Heights. The second university building planned at University Village is a new early childhood education center. The current childcare facility on campus is in the Otto Olsen building. A new, larger, modern child-development facility will help better serve the needs of UNK faculty, staff and students. Kearney's Miller & Associates have been engaged as consulting engineers for infrastructure.
Nebraska Safety Center offering driver's education classes
(UNK)- The Nebraska Safety Center at the University of Nebraska at Kearney is offering Driver Education courses in numerous communities across the state this spring and summer. Brandon Benitz, transportation safety manager says, "our course is one of the few in the nation that consists of four phases of learning: classroom study, range activities, simulation exercises, and on-street driving." Each student must have a school permit, learner's permit for a school permit, learner's permit or operator's license to take the course.
The course conforms to Nebraska Department of Motor Vehicles rules and regulations, and exceeds criteria established for insurance discounts. Passing the course also results in waiver of the written and drive test at the Nebraska DMV office, if the student isunder 18 years old. Driver Education courses include classroom instruction at individual schools followed by driving range and simulation in Kearney at the Nebraska Safety Center. On-street driving time is scheduled individually with the instructor in the local school area.
For specific dates, times, locations and other information, or to enroll in a Driver Education course, call 1-800-854-7867 or visit www.UNK.edu/DRED. The cost to take the course is $295.
KPS gets federal funds for learning centers at some schools
(NRG)- Federal grant funds are awarded to support community learning centers serving students attending schools with high needs. During non-school hours, these programs offer hands-on learning and activities to meet student needs. The State Board of Education approved grants for the Kearney Public Schools. Programs at Bryant Elementary School, Central Elementary School, Emerson Elementary School and Kenwood Elementary School received a $129,694 federal grant.
The primary goals of 21st Century Community Learning Centers are improved student learning, increased social benefits and positive behavioral changes as well as increased family and community engagement in Nebraska schools. Over the past 11 years, the Nebraska Department of Education has awarded federal grants for students at more than 100 different sites in over 25 Nebraska communities. The 21st Century Community Learning Centers program is funded under Title IV, Part B, of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act as amended by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001.
Early voting trending higher in Nebraska
(NRG)- In the first five days of early voting for the 2014 primary, 23,447 requests have been made for early voting ballots, says Secretary of State John Gale. That's the highest number of early voting ballots requested during a five day period in the last four Nebraska primaries. Of the requests made, 2,525 ballots have been returned to county election offices so far. In the first five days of early voting in the 2012 primary, 23,182 requests for ballots were submitted. In the 2010 primary, 18,548 requests were made and in 2008, there were 480 requests during that same time frame.
Up until the law was changed in 1999, early voting was referred to as absentee voting in Nebraska. Voters were required to indicate their reason for requesting an early voting ballot, before that request was processed. That's not so anymore. Through the Voter Information Center on the Secretary of State's website, registered voters can see when their ballot request was received, when it was mailed out and the date the ballot was returned to the county election office. The Voter Information Center is found under the "Elections" tab at www.sos.ne.gov.
Registered voters in Nebraska can request an early voting ballot 120 days prior to the election. The first wave of ballots went out April 7. They are due back into the county election offices by the time polls close on Election Day. Gale said it's important that people take their early voting ballots to the election office. They will not be accepted at polling sites on Election Day. Now through May 12, Nebraska voters can also vote in person at their county election office.
Local band to honor UNK professor with April 26th concert
(UNK and NRG)- Popular Kearney-based cover band The Innocence will join the UNK Jazz Rock Ensemble on stage for a concert highlighting the work of longtime music professor Jim Payne. The show, free and open to the public, is at 7:30 p.m. on April 26 at the UNK Fine Arts Building Recital Hall. Payne is retiring in May after 40 years at UNK, and the concert is his last as conductor of the Jazz Rock Ensemble. Payne taught all four members of The Innocence, and each are former members of the Jazz Rock Ensemble at UNK. They include: Greg Sales, guitar; Dave Lerbakken, bass; Spencer Hansen, keyboard; and Luke Oswald, drums.
The concert features big band sounds with works from the swing era to newer charts of present big bands. The performance includes jazz styled in several types of 1940s swing, ballad, Latin, rock, funk rock, fast swing, rock fusion, and New Orleans street beat, blues and contemporary jazz. Music comes from the libraries of Dave Weckl, Les Hooper, Rob McConnell's Boss Brass, Pat Metheny, Glenn Miller and Maynard Ferguson Orchestra.
Nebraska judge upheld on hate crime case dismissal
(AP) - Scotts Bluff County prosecutors have lost an appeal of a county judge's dismissal of a hate crime case.
District Court Judge Leo Dobrovolny on Monday upheld the ruling by County Court Judge James Worden.
In February Worden ended a trial and dismissed the case against 18-year-old Alysha Schwartzkopf, of Gering. Schwartzkopf was accused of scrawling a racial epithet in October on the car windows of a Gering High School senior who is biracial. She was charged with unauthorized application of graffiti, with a felony enhancement of committing a hate crime.
Worden agreed with the defense that state graffiti statutes don't apply to vehicles. Dobrovolny agreed with Worden's ruling.
Scotts Bluff County Attorney Doug Warner says he hasn't decided yet whether to take the case to the state Court of Appeals.
Spring planting lagging across the Corn Belt
(AP) - Spring planting across the nation's Corn Belt is sputtering because the soil remains too soggy or cold for effective seeding.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture says 3 percent of the corn crop is sown. That's half the pace of last year when one of the wettest springs on record got farmers off to the slowest start in decades.
In Illinois, just 1 percent of this year's corn has been planted. That's one-tenth of the average pace of the previous five years. The USDA says farmers in other key corn-producing states are equally idle.
Farmers still are upbeat, saying they still have some time to get the job done. The USDA says corn sowing traditionally begins in mid-April. It's typically in full swing from April 21 through May 23.
Columbus man convicted of murder
(AP) - A 31-year-old Nebraska man has been convicted of murder in the knifing death of a Columbus man.
The office of Attorney General Jon Bruning said in a news release that 31-year-old Eric Henry was found guilty Tuesday by a Platte County District Court jury in Columbus.
Henry was one of three people prosecuted for the May 2013 slaying of 51-year-old Steven Jorgensen during a botched robbery.
Last month 32-year-old Kimberly Henderson, of Columbus, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder. Twenty-seven-year-old Quentin Critser, of Lincoln, pleaded guilty in December to second-degree murder and agreed to testify against his co-defendants. Henderson and Critser are awaiting sentencing.
Grand Island attorney named to judgeship
(AP) - A former Hall County prosecutor has been named to fill an open district court judgeship in eastern Nebraska's 5th Judicial District.
The office of Gov. Dave Heineman says he's selected 43-year-old Rachel Daugherty, of Grand Island. She's been in private practice in Grand Island since 2000. She holds a law degree from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln law school.
The opening was created by the retirement of Judge Michael Owens, who was appointed to the post in 1996.
The 5th Judicial District covers Boone, Butler, Colfax, Hamilton, Merrick, Nance, Platte, Polk, Saunders, Seward and York counties.
KPS Board approves final plans for new Senior High
(NRG)- The Kearney Public Schools' Board of Education approved the final plans and designs for the new Senior High at Monday night's regular meeting. Kent Cordes of B-D Construction, the owner's representative, will presented reports on the new Kearney High plan and design development plan. Formal approval by the board allows them to move forward with the selection of a "Construction Manager" firm for the building of the 2013 bond issue projects. Once that process is completed in the next few weeks, construction at the new Senior High location will begin, as early as sometime in June. In other business, the board discussed the possibility of re-financing some of the bonds from the 2009 bond issue. Finance Director Chris Nelson says that could save the district up to $850,000. Formal action is expected to be taken at the next meeting. The board accepted resignations and retirements from around a dozen teachers while approving the hiring of 14 new instructors and three new administrators. The board is also accepted the low bid of just under $51,000 for a new small-lift bus from Masters Transportation.
Drug Take-Back Day set for April 26th
(NRG)- On April 26, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., the Buffalo County Sherriff's Office, along with volunteers from Good Samaritan Hospital, Kearney/Holdrege Elk's Lodge #984, Positive Pressure, and Two Rivers Public Health Department, will give community members their eighth opportunity in three years to prevent medication abuse and theft by ridding their homes of potentially dangerous, expired, unused, and unwanted prescription drugs. Bring your pills for disposal to Good Samaritan Hospital's north parking lot at the intersection of 35th Street and A Ave. (The DEA cannot accept liquids or needles or sharps, only pills or patches.) The service is free and anonymous, no questions asked.
This initiative addresses a vital public safety and public health issue. Medicines that languish in home cabinets are highly susceptible to diversion, misuse, and abuse. Rates of prescription drug abuse in the U.S. are alarmingly high, as are the number of accidental poisonings and overdoses due to these drugs. Studies show that a majority of abused prescription drugs are obtained from family and friends, including from the home medicine cabinet. In addition, Americans are now advised that their usual methods for disposing of unused medicines-flushing them down the toilet or throwing them in the trash-both pose potential safety and health hazards.
Last October, Americans turned in 324 tons (over 647,000 pounds) of prescription drugs at over 4,114 sites operated by the DEA and its thousands of state and local law enforcement partners. When those results are combined with what was collected in its seven previous Take Back events, DEA and its partners have taken in over 3.4 million pounds-more than 1,700 tons-of pills.
Healthy Kids Weekend set for April 26th and 27th in Kearney
(NRG)- The second annual Healthy Kids Weekend will be taking place in Kearney April 26 and 27. It will be filled with free events, activities, snacks, and prizes for the entire family. Activities start Saturday, April 26, with the University of Nebraska at Kearney and Kearney Public Schools' PATH Walk event for pre-registered families. Last year, over 2,300 community members participated in the PATH Walk. For community members who aren't pre-registered for the PATH Walk, the UNK Alumni Association will be hosting the first Bike Bowl in over a decade at the Ron and Carol Cope Safety Center. Team registration will run through April 21, but the event will be open to the public to watch.
From 11 a.m. - 1 p.m., there will be a storybook walk through Harmon Park, presented by Kearney Park & Recreation and the Kearney Public Library. On Sunday, from 12 p.m. - 2 p.m. the Hilltop Mall will be hosting a Family Mall Walk. Partner up with family and friends for a walk around the Hilltop Mall. Also on Sunday, from 2 p.m. - 5 p.m., is Kearney Park & Recreation's Bicycle Sunday. The loop runs from the UNK spillway through Betty's Trail and ends at Kearney Cinema 8. Families can start and stop wherever they please and visit activity booths along the trail. Riders who stop at enough booths can turn in a punch card for a chance to win a 2014 family pool pass.
On both days, families are encouraged to visit the Kearney Family YMCA, which will have open doors to the public on Saturday from 1 p.m. - 6 p.m. and Sunday from 1 p.m. - 7 p.m. This will include free access to the gyms, pool, and family game room. Free t-shirts will be available while supplies last. Elks Country Golf will also be open to the public both days, from 2 p.m. - 6 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. - 5 p.m. Sunday. They will have free mini rounds of golf, free healthy snacks, a bounce house obstacle course, and free golf lessons and challenges, and more.
Families will also have a chance to win other prizes by picking up an Activate Buffalo County Unplug Challenge punch card at any of the events or at activatebuffalocounty.com. Anyone who completes five of the eight challenges can turn in their card at the Kearney Family YMCA, Kearney Park & Recreation office, or Kearney Area Chamber of Commerce for a chance to win one a prize.
Healthy Kids Weekend is a collaborative effort between Activate Buffalo County, Buffalo County Community Partners, Elks Country Golf, Hilltop Mall, Kearney Family YMCA, Kearney Park & Recreation, Kearney Public Library, Kearney Public Schools, Safe Routes to School, and the University of Nebraska at Kearney, and UNK Alumni Association. For more information on Healthy Kids Weekend, visit activatebuffalocounty.com/healthykidsweekend.
Economic workshop set for Ravenna later this month
(NRG)- Is your community's population dwindling due to an insufficient job market? Do local entrepreneurs seem to struggle with business start-up? Do your community organizations need to find a way to collaborate for better success? Attend an area workshop and learn about "Economic Development Basics for Progressive Communities." Topics will include, Recruitment vs Business Retention and Expansion, Entrepreneurship Development, the Importance of Community Partnerships and Community Partnership Success Stories. The area event will be held in Ravenna at the City Auditorium at 112 West Genoa Street on Tuesday, April 29 from 5:30-9:00 PM. The cost to attend is $25 and includes dinner. For more information or to register, contact Melissa McMinn at the South Central Economic Development District at McMinn(at)scedd(dot)us or call her at (308) 995-3190. Pre-registration is required by Thursday, April 24.