Boardings continue slump at Kearney Airport
(NRG)- Problems with flight cancellations with Great Lakes Airlines continued to affect the number of enplanements at the Kearney Regional Airport in February. This past month saw 844 boardings, a decrease of 14 percent over the same month last year. Total enplanements for 2014 are 1,599, down 17.5 percent for the same period in 2013.
City sales tax receipts for December were a little over $1.2 million, an increase of about $86,000 for December of 2012. 2013 total sales tax receipts for Kearney were just under $11.9 million, an increase of $600,000 for the same period in 2012. Six single-family building permits were issued in February for a total value of $1,150,000.
Jane Goodall to speak at UNK March 20th
(UNK)- Internationally acclaimed primatologist Dr. Jane Goodall will give a free, public lecture at 7 p.m. March 20 at University of Nebraska at Kearney. In her speech, "Sowing the Seeds of Hope," Goodall will bring her audience into the world of the Gombe chimpanzees - from herearly observations and experiences to the latest news and stories from the field. Goodall will also talk about the work of the Jane Goodall Institute, which continues her pioneering research and celebrated its 35th anniversary in 2012. Today, the Institute is a global leader in the effort to protect chimpanzees and their habitats. It also is widely recognized for establishing innovative community-centered conservation and development programs in Africa, and Jane Goodall's Roots & Shoots, the Institute's global environmental and humanitarian youth program.
Free tickets may be picked up (limit 2) from the UNK Nebraskan Student Union customer service desk beginning Monday (March 10) for students, faculty and staff with a UNK ID. Remaining tickets may begin to be picked by the general public beginning at 9 a.m. March 17 through 2 p.m. on March 20. Seats may be available the evening of the lecture if any tickets are undistributed or if patrons do not show. Anyone without a ticket will be able to stand in line, and will be granted entry at 6:55 p.m. if open seats remain.
Goodall, at age 79, continues to work, traveling some 300 days each year to speak on the plight of the chimpanzees, other environmental crises, and her hopes for humankind. She is a lover of the annual Sandhill crane migration. She is the author of numerous books and articles, including two autobiographies, and has been featured in television documentaries and large-screen format films. More information about her can be found at janegoodall.org. Goodall will be signing copies of her books, available for sale after the lecture.
Abducted teen featured at UNK Criminal Justice Conferece
(UNK)- Alicia Kozakiewicz was bound with chains, tortured and raped repeatedly in a weapon-filled dungeon. She was 13. The victim of an Internet predator in 2002, she was abducted outside her Pittsburgh home and held captive 250 miles away in Virginia before FBI agents rescued her four days later. "I cry inside. I mourn for that child that was me. The child that was stolen from me," Kozakiewicz said while testifying in Congress in 2007. "Make no mistake, that child was murdered. I know now that some parts of me are forever there. The child that I was is still chained in that room, still suffering."
Kozakiewicz is the keynote speaker at this year's Criminal Justice Conference at the University of Nebraska at Kearney. She will speak at 9:15 a.m. on March 13 in the Ponderosa Room at the Nebraskan Student Union. The conference is free and open to the public. In its 25th year, the event also includes a career fair for criminal justice majors. It is presented by the UNK Criminal Justice Honor Society Alpha Phi Sigma, Criminal Justice Club and UNK Criminal Justice Department.
In her keynote, Kozakiewicz will discuss her efforts to keep other children from traumatic experiences such as hers.Kozakiewicz formed "Alicia Project," which provides Internet safety and awareness education for children, families, teachers, law enforcement, governmental and social agencies. Her story has been featured by numerous national media outlets, and she participated in Internet safety films for the FBI, Pennsylvania Attorney General and others. Kozakiewicz also was the subject of "Alicia's Message: I'm Here To Save Your Life" - an award-winning documentary for PBS - and the Emmy Award-winning "Alicia's Story."
Nebraska Tourism Passport sites selected
(NRG)- The Nebraska Tourism Commission has announced the 80 featured stops in the 2014 Nebraska Passport Program. New to the program this year are special-interest tours featuring top Nebraska quilting destinations, patriotic and military sites and a tour that will help visitors learn about the history of transportation. The Passport program encourages travelers to explore Nebraska, collect stamps from participating attractions and earn great prizes.
The 2014 Passport will feature 80 attractions on 10 themed tours: Sips and Suds, Patchwork Passion, Rare Finds, Home Grown Nebraska, Fork in the Road, Hit the Snooze, Without Walls, Stars and Stripes, How We Move and Can't Get Enough. Travelers have from May 1 through September 30 to visit attractions and redeem their stamps for prizes. For each completed tour, participants win a Nebraska Passport T-shirt. Travelers also can receive 20 $1 Nebraska Lottery Scratch coupons (for 20 stamps) and a digital picture frame (for 40 stamps) and a Pebble Smartwatch (for all 80 stamps).
A grand-prize drawing for a 60" Plasma TV will be held in October. This year, an additional drawing for 300 $1 Nebraska Lottery Scratch tickets will be held for all participants, 19 and older, who turn in passports with at least one stamp. Passports will be available at participating stops in May or can be pre-ordered by emailing info(at)NebraskaPassport(dot)com.
West Point woman's body found in crashed car
(AP) - The body of a 56-year-old woman has been found car believed to have crashed about two weeks ago in northeast Nebraska.
The victim has been identified as Donna Baumert, of West Point.
Cuming County Sheriff Brad Boyum says the wrecked car and Baumert's body were found by utility workers on Wednesday afternoon about a mile south of Beemer. Boyum says it appears her car ran through a dead end and went about a half-mile through a field before coming to rest in a creek bed.
The sheriff says the accident appears to have occurred about two weeks ago but was just discovered Wednesday.
Lincoln schools consider ID system test
(AP) - Lincoln officials are thinking about requiring some middle school students to wear photo IDs on lanyards around their necks.
The Lincoln Journal Star says (http://bit.ly/1f5XLnx ) the ID system has been required at district high schools since 2007. The IDs help administrators ensure the teenagers in the school buildings are supposed to be there. The IDs also serve as lunch tickets and passes at football games and other school events.
District security director Joe Wright says he wants to test the system at Irving Middle School and another middle school he hasn't yet selected.
He says the company that makes the IDs will provide free badges for two middle schools for a year. Wright says that would give the district an opportunity to determine whether expansion is worth the expense.
Missing Bellevue teen found in Indiana
(AP) - A missing eastern Nebraska teenager has been found safe in Indianapolis.
Police in the Omaha suburb of Bellevue say 16-year-old Michaela Wells was taken into custody at a residence around 8:20 p.m. Thursday and was in good health.
A Bellevue police spokeswoman declined to say how the teenager got to Indianapolis and whether anyone else was involved. Bellevue officials have said they didn't think Michaela was in danger. The FBI and Indiana authorities helped find her.
Her parents say they last saw her Sunday night before she went outside to take out the trash.
Training available for Nebraska specialty crop growers
(AP) - Specialty crop growers in Nebraska can learn business and marketing skills at a series of workshops throughout the state.
The training sessions are geared toward producers of specialty fruits and vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, flowers and Christmas trees. Growers of all experiences levels are invited.
Workshops are scheduled for Saturday at the Kearney Public Library, from 2:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.; March 22 at the UNL Northeast Research & Extension Center in Norfolk, from 12:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.; and April 5 at the Panhandle Research & Extension Center in Scottsbluff, from 12:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Participants must pay a $10 registration fee. The sessions are sponsored by the group Buy Fresh Buy Local Nebraska and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
Wymore police chief leaves for county job
(AP) - The Wymore police chief is resigning to take a new job with Gage County.
Beatrice radio station KWBE says (http://bit.ly/1cED8tX ) Bryan Davidson will be a sergeant for the Gage County Sheriff's Office and oversee security at the county courthouse.
Davidson will begin working for the county on March 17.
Besides a chief, the Wymore Police Department has three full-time and five part-time officers.
Douglas County issues air quality alert
(AP) - Omaha and other areas under Douglas County have been issued an air quality alert due to trapped particles close to the ground.
The Douglas County Health Department issued the alert Thursday after fog, lack of winds and a temperature inversion led to high levels of particulates trapped close to the ground. An inversion occurs when cool air near the ground is trapped by a layer of warmer air. Particulates can include dust and soot.
Officials say the air quality index is unhealthy for "sensitive groups" such as people with heart and lung disease, older adults and children. They advise that people with breathing problems avoid outside exercise.
Officials expect the alert will be over as winds pick up and the fog lifts.
29 state senators show support for pipeline
(AP) - A majority of Nebraska's state lawmakers have signed a letter in support of the Keystone XL oil pipeline.
The letter to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was signed this week by 29 of Nebraska's 49 state senators. It urges federal approval of the pipeline, which would carry 830,000 barrels of oil a day from Canada to Texas Gulf Coast refineries.
Nebraska has been a stronghold for pipeline opponents, including environmentalists and some landowners. A district court judge last month invalidated a state law that was used to approve the project, but the state is appealing.
Sen. Jim Smith of Papillion, who supports the project, gathered signatures for the letter. It was signed by 22 Republicans and seven Democrats in the officially nonpartisan, one-house Legislature.
Bill to reduce ag land values stalls in committee
(AP) - A proposal to lower the taxable value of Nebraska farm and ranchland has stalled in a legislative committee.
The Legislature's Revenue Committee voted 4-4 on Thursday on a bill that would phase in a reduction of taxable ag-land values, from the current 75 percent to 65 percent.
Opponents say they're concerned the bill would place additional financial pressure on rural, K-12 public schools that use the land as a major part of their tax base.
The bill's sponsor, Sen. Beau McCoy of Omaha, says he will attempt to secure additional support. McCoy, a Republican candidate for governor, says he doesn't believe lawmakers have done enough this year to reduce taxes.
Nebraska construction company fined for worker death
(AP) - A Hastings-based construction company is facing $14,000 in fines for safety violations regulators found after a worker's death.
The Labor Department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration says it found three safety violations when it investigated the death of a Werner Construction worker.
The 35-year-old worker died after being struck by a front-end loader at an asphalt facility in Albion, Neb. Werner specializes in asphalt and concrete paving projects.
Werner officials weren't immediately available to comment, so it's not clear if they plan to appeal.
OSHA says Werner failed to maintain safety features of the front end loader and failed to train someone to administer first aid. Those are both serious violations.
The company was also cited for failing to assess hazards related to personal protective gear.
Texas-based lender eliminating 105 Nebraska jobs
(AP) - A Texas-based mortgage company has announced it will be eliminating 105 jobs at its Scottsbluff office in western Nebraska.
Nationstar Mortgage spokesman John Hoffmann says the cuts will begin on March 28 and will leave 215 Nationstar workers at the loan servicing office, plus 50 contractor positions not held by Nationstar employees.
Hoffmann says the demand for mortgages has slowed so there's simple less work to be done by workers in loan origination and servicing.
In November the company announced it was eliminating 900 jobs companywide, including 300 employees who were working for a division that was sold to another mortgage company.
Hoffmann says the company announced last month it would eliminate loan origination jobs of 230 people based in St. Louis, Denver and the home office in Lewisville, Texas.
Nebraska lawmakers vote to expand homestead exemption
(AP) - A proposed expansion of Nebraska's homestead exemption program has won first-round approval from lawmakers.
Senators voted 34-0 on Thursday to advance the measure, which would allow more property owners to qualify for the tax-relief program. The exemption is given to seniors, disabled veterans and their spouses, and people with certain disabilities, depending on their home values.
Current state law allows married couples to receive at least a partial exemption until their household income reaches $28,501. The bill would increase that threshold to $46,901.
Sen. Galen Hadley, chairman of the Revenue Committee, says the bill attempts to make it easier for retirees to stay in Nebraska.
Some lawmakers voiced concerns that the bill would shift residential property tax burdens onto younger homeowners as baby boomers retire.
Fischer announces staff additions, including 2 with Kearney ties
(NRG)- Nebraska U.S. Senator Deb Fischer Wednesday announced four new hires who have joined her Washington, D.C., and Nebraska offices and will assist her with both policymaking and constituent services. The new staff includes two Legislative Assistants, a Director of Constituent Services, and a Director of Military and Veteran Affairs and two staff members with Kearney ties.
Aaron Taylor joins Senator Fischer's Washington staff as a Legislative Assistant and will cover economic policy, financial services, pension and retirement, taxes, and trade. Taylor is a native Nebraskan, who grew up in Kearney and Bennington before graduating from Brigham Young University in 2006 with a degree in Business Management. Based in Kearney, Julie Brooker will serve as Senator Fischer's constituent services representative in central Nebraska. Brooker has 15 years of experience in constituent services, most recently for Sen. Mike Johanns. She is a graduate of the University of Nebraska at Kearney and Kearney High School.
UNK upgrades their Internet core speed
(UNK)- The University of Nebraska at Kearney has upgraded its Internet core backbone to 10 gigabytes per second - more than 1,000 times faster than the average U.S. connection speed. The upgraded connection between UNK and Lincoln will help assure critical connections that are data-intensive run smoothly over the Internet, and pave the way for expanded online learning opportunities, live-streaming events and cloud-based services, said Deborah Schroeder, assistant vice chancellor for information technology. Ten Gbps is Kearney's fastest, and far faster than Google Fiber, which at 1,000 megabits per second has been featured in the national news.
Schroeder said average U.S. connection speeds are 7.2 Mbps and is the recommended minimum speed to stream super-HDmovies. The 10 Gbps connection would enable thousands of super-HD movies to be streamed at the same time. The faster, more-reliable connection isn't all about movies and games, Schroeder said. It supports research computing, enhanced and future software, and cloud-based services. The connection to Lincoln connects UNK to the other NU campuses, the state network and the Internet 2 100-Gbps research network. The switch to the new connection occurred Feb. 10 and went smoothly, Schroeder said. An additional 10 Gbps wave will be available soon to support off-site backups of critical services. Google on Feb. 14 announced plans to deliver data transfer speeds of 10 Gbps by 2022.
Lawsuit againist Scottsbluff and former police chief dismissed
(AP) - A judge has dismissed a federal lawsuit filed by a woman against the city of Scottsbluff and its now former police chief.
U.S. District Judge Richard Kopf said in a ruling issued Tuesday that Tamara Villanueva had failed to prove the elements of her various claims.
Villanueva had sued the city and then-Police Chief Alex Moreno in October 2011, alleging that her rights to equal protection and due process were violated because of her affair with Moreno. He acknowledged the affair and eventually resigned on Oct. 1, 2012.
The lawsuit says Villanueva told Moreno in August 2009 that she'd been a victim of domestic assault and later reported the same to another department officer. The lawsuit says neither Moreno nor the other officer made written reports.
State treasurer looking to return unclaimed property
(AP) - The state treasurer's office is seeking to return $135 million in unclaimed property to more than 350,000 Nebraskans and former Nebraskans.
The office will publish the names of more than 37,500 people owed money or property in state newspapers this month and in April. A list of those owed unclaimed property may be found on the office's website at www.treasurer.org.
Under state law, the state treasurer is responsible for handling unclaimed property. Examples include health claim payments, dividends, utility deposits, life insurance proceeds, wages, stocks, outstanding checks, safety deposit boxes and unused gift certificates.
The list of names of those owed money or property will appear in the Omaha World-Herald and Scottsbluff Star-Herald on Sunday. It will be published in 14 more Nebraska newspapers in to coming weeks.
Proposal to expand Nebraska horse race betting advances
(AP) - Nebraska racetracks are one step closer to allowing bets on previously run horse races, after a vote in the Legislature.
A constitutional amendment by Sen. Scott Lautenbaugh of Omaha would allow voters to decide if Nebraska should license and regulate wagering on the races.
The measure advanced Wednesday on a vote of 25-18, but faces one final vote. The issue would appear on the ballot in November if approved. Lawmakers first debated the legislation last year.
Lautenbaugh says the state has a tradition of horse racing, and the proposal would save jobs.
Opponents say the bill represents expanded gambling.
Nebraska joins fight against California egg law
(AP) - Nebraska is joining a lawsuit that seeks to strike down a California law regulating the living conditions of chickens.
Gov. Dave Heineman and Attorney General Jon Bruning announced Wednesday that they will help Missouri with its legal challenge in federal court. The lawsuit pits California's new animal rights protections against the economic interests of Midwestern farmers.
The law set to take effect in 2015 would prohibit the sale of eggs that come from hens raised in cages that don't comply with California's new size and space requirements.
Heineman says the law will hamper interstate trade because it effectively imposes California's requirements on out-of-state farmers. He says it also could set a precedent for beef, swine and dairy producers.
Missouri's lawsuit was filed on Feb. 3 in U.S. District Court.
Nebraska bill would benefit low-income parents
(AP) - Some low-income parents would have a greater incentive to seek raises and promotions at work and to save for a child's college education, under a bill in the Nebraska Legislature.
The measure that advanced Wednesday would allow parents to disregard portions of their income when re-applying for a state child care subsidy. The amount of income disregarded would gradually increase, but the eligibility requirements would return to normal after three years.
Sen. Tanya Cook of Omaha says some parents have turned down raises because they would immediately disqualify them from the subsidy.
The bill could also make it easier for low-income families to participate in Nebraska's state-sponsored college savings plan, if they qualify for public benefits.
Committee advances budget bills
(AP) - A series of new Nebraska state budget bills has won committee approval for debate in the Legislature.
The Appropriations Committee on Wednesday advanced three measures to update the state's two-year financial plan.
Committee members this year have voted in favor of proposed changes to include additional money for Nebraska's property tax credit program, state parks maintenance, water projects and upgrades to the State Capitol.
The budget measures still require approval in the full Legislature before they are sent to Gov. Dave Heineman. Lawmakers are scheduled to consider the measures on Monday afternoon.
Report says Nebraska needs to expand prisons
(AP) - A consultant is recommending that Nebraska expand its prison facilities to accommodate overcrowding.
The report to Nebraska lawmakers suggests a 300-bed expansion to Omaha corrections facilities, a 200-bed addition to the Community Corrections Center in Lincoln and 340 additional beds for elderly and mentally ill inmates at the Diagnostic and Evaluation Center in Lincoln.
The report by Dewberry Architects also recommends additional space for food service, corrections programs and dining facilities. It was produced as part of the Department of Correctional Services' efforts to develop a long-term plan.
Nebraska's correctional facilities held 4,918 inmates as of Jan. 31. That's nearly 155 percent of their design capacity.
A department spokeswoman says the review is taking place along with a legislative prison-reform study. She says cost estimates aren't yet known.
Former tribal officials charged with theft
(AP) - Two former officials with the Omaha Tribe of Nebraska have been charged with theft of tribal funds.
The U.S. Attorney's Office for Nebraska says Amen Sheridan and Julia Whiteskunk, both of Walthill, were indicted in February on two federal counts each. Prosecutors say the pair illegally used $4,000 in tribal housing authority funds as a down payment for a house they bought together in 2009. They also are accused of moving more than $50,000 of restricted housing funds into a tribal account, then issuing a $30,000 check from the account to Sheridan.
The Sioux City Journal says (http://bit.ly/1l0Lrp8) Sheridan is a former tribal chairman, and Whiteskunk was the director of the tribal housing authority.