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New Nebraska Corrections Director to Get Pay Bump

Nebraska's new corrections director will get a pay bump over his predecessors for a job likely to require major prison reforms.

The governor's office released salaries Friday for its new hires. Scott Frakes will earn $180,000 a year as corrections director, up from the $119,000 annual salary earned by predecessor Mike Kenney. Kenney's predecessor, Bob Houston, was paid $130,000 a year.

Nebraska has faced criticism for its handling of prison sentences and its use of segregation and various inmate-release programs. Frakes worked for 32 years in Washington state's correction department.

The governor's office says Department of Economic Development director Brenda Hicks-Sorensen will make $145,000. Chief operating officer Felix Davidson will earn $135,000. Sharon Rues Pettid will make $120,000 as the governor's human resources coordinator.

Grand Island Intersection to Close

A Grand Island intersection is scheduled to be closed for four months. The intersection at Capital and Broadwell Avenue will close in the early spring for two major projects.

New sewer lines will be installed along Capital Avenue and the road is also being widened from two lanes to five between Broadwell and Webb Road.

Grand Island Public Works Director John Collins says the city has been working with the Nebraska Department of Roads on the shutdown and detours. They plan to close the Capital and Broadwell intersection in May but the exact time frame won't be known until April.

Collins said a detour will direct traffic west from North Broadwell Avenue to Highway 281 and south to Highway 30 to get to the east side of Grand Island.

Alleged Puppy Killer Re-Arrested After Release

A Florida woman accused of drowning a puppy at an airport restroom last week was rearrested Thursday, after being released.

Cynthia Anderson was released from jail Thursday after posting $500 to make bond. She was arrested a short time later at a Grand Island hotel on an outstanding warrant from the state of Florida.

Anderson allegedly tried to board a plane at the Central Nebraska Regional Airport last Friday with three young puppies. When she was turned away, officials say she proceeded to the restroom where she attempted to flush a two-week old puppy down a toilet.

Since the warrant is out of state, Anderson cannot be released on the charge and will remain in Hall County Jail until her Feb. 10 court date. Anderson faces a felony charge of cruel neglect of animals in Nebraska. She faces up to five years in jail.

AARP to Host Free Tax Help in Kearney

Beginning February 2nd, 2015 AARP will be offering free tax-filing assistance at two Kearney locations.
They include the Peterson Senior Activity Center and the Kearney Public Library.

Rita Horst with the Kearney Public Library shared some guidelines to help make the process go smoothly.

"There are no income, age or forms restrictions in order to receive this free assistance. They do ask that people bring in last year's tax return, social security card and a photo ID and any tax documents," Horst said.

Horst says the service will be at both locations on different days of the week.

"They will be at Peterson Senior Activity Center every Monday from Noon to 4 p.m. except for Feb. 16. They will also be at the Kearney Library every Thursday from Noon to 4 p.m. beginning Feb. 5," Horst said.

The free tax assistance by the AARP starts Monday. Service will continue up until just before the April 15 filing deadline.

Grand Island Buzzing to Amend City Code

A few months ago, Hastings residents were clucking for chickens to be allowed within city limits. Now Grand Island is buzzing as beekeepers hope to change city code and allow bee hives to be kept within city limits.

The Animal Advisory Board heard from seven different people on Wednesday who favor the change. Brian Nilson, vice president of the Nebraska Beekeepers Association is one of them. He says the current city code is confusing.

"The way the code reads now, it lists honey bee colonies as 'vermin.' There's no direction on whether it actually allows beekeeping or not in the city of Grand Island," Nilson said.

Nilson runs the Bee Culture Exhibit at the Nebraska State Fair. He says beekeepers welcome rules to govern their hives because it would prevents abuse and people not tending to hives which can cause problems. Nilson says his exhibit at the fair is not affected by the city code.

"From what I found out yesterday, it wouldn't affect the state fair exhibit at all because the animals out at the state fair are exempted from the city animal control ordinances," Nilson said.

The Animal Advisory Board has asked the city's legal team to construct a proposed ordinance. The board would then have to approve that proposal and send it to the city council for a vote to before beekeeping can be deemed legal within city limits.

Elm Creek Woman Charged With Altering Checks

The Village Clerk in Elm Creek has been charged with embezzling more than $10,000 in village revenue. 49-year-old Wendy Stephens was charged this week in Buffalo County Court with one count of theft totaling more than $1,500, a class III felony.

Stephens was arraigned Tuesday. According to court records, six altered checks had been discovered during an audit of the Elm Creek village funds. On Monday, a Buffalo County Deputy Sheriff visited Stephens to investigate. Stephens told the deputy she wrote the checks for bills the village didn't need to pay. She and a village board member would then each sign the checks. Before sending the checks Stephens would white out the "Pay to" portion of the check, write "Visa" in its place and then change the amount to pay her credit card bill. Six checks were written for more than $1,000 each and totaled $10,518.

Stephens will undergo a preliminary hearing in Buffalo County Court on February 10th. She remains free on $2,000 bond. If convicted, she could face up to 20 years in prison.

Kearney Police Searching For Robbery Suspect

Kearney Police are still searching for one suspect in connection with a robbery Sunday.

Police are looking for 24 year-old Colbey Dunn. Dunn is wanted on a Buffalo County warrant for using a firearm to commit a felony, possession of a weapon by a felon, robbery, felony terroristic threats and misdemeanor third-degree assault. Police say that Elijah Carpenter's warrant has been rescinded and police are no longer searching for him.

Buffalo County Court records say the victim, a Colorado man, contacted a Kearney woman Sunday to meet up for sex. Instead, he was beaten, held at gunpoint and his personal possessions were taken. Kearney Police arrested 23-year old Trey Carpenter and 22-year-old Anne Schuster on Tuesday on multiple charges. The victim reported that the two men, Carpenter and Dunn, kicked in the upstairs bedroom door where Schuster and the victim were at. The victim says he was reportedly assaulted for 10 to 15 minutes.

The two men stole the victim's cell phone, jacket and approximately $150 cash and escorted the victim out of the house at gunpoint. Anyone with information on Colbey Dunn's whereabouts is asked to call Kearney Police at (308) 237-2104 or Buffalo County Crime Stoppers at (308) 237-3424.

State Board of Education May Seek McPherson's Resignation

The Nebraska State Board of Education members might ask one of their colleagues to resign over racist content that appeared on the member's blog.

Member Pat McPherson's blog included repeated references to President Barack Obama as a "half breed." McPherson has said he didn't write the posts and disavowed them before removing them.

The draft of the resolution to be considered at a Wednesday board meeting says the board "deplores racism in all form and expects respect and civility be shown to all people including the President of the United States." It also says state officials have been swamped with calls and emails expressing outrage over the comments.

The governor, the state's U.S. senators and several organizations have called for McPherson to quit. He has said he won't step down.

Arrests Made in Connection With Kearney Weekend Robbery

Two Kearney residents have been arrested Tuesday for allegedly robbing a man at gunpoint over the weekend and two remain at large.

23-year-old Trey Carpenter and 22-year-old Anne Schuster were both arrested at around 3 p.m. Tuesday. The victim was treated and released from CHI Good Samaritan Hospital following the attack on Sunday. The man reported that a cell phone, jacket and $150 dollars in cash were taken from him during the robbery.

Kearney Police have also issued arrest warrants for 24-year-old Elijah Carpenter and 24-year-old Colbey Dunn, both of Kearney. Anyone with information on their whereabouts or information about Sunday's alleged robbery is asked to call Kearney Police at (308) 237-2104 or Crimestoppers (308) 237-3424.

Ninth Street Petition Goes to Election Commissioner

Last week, community members turned in petitions in an effort to stop Hastings College from closing 9th Street through the campus.

On Monday, the Hastings City Council voted to send the signatures to the county election office for verification. It's the final step before the signatures are validated. If they become validated, residents in Hastings will vote on the measure in a special election. Council member Chuck Niemeyer is hopeful that voters will turn out for that election.

"This item will probably come up for a special election. Those things usually have minimal turnout. I hope that the apathy of the community doesn't jeopardize what could be something very good for the community," Niemeyer said.

It will take approximately 10 days to two weeks to verify the nearly 4,000 signatures which will then go back to the city. Hastings College has plans to develop a plaza connecting both sides of campus and building new residence halls in the future.

City of Hastings Working to Bring Convention Center to Downtown

The City of Hastings could soon get a new downtown convention center. The Hastings City Council approved $175,000 for a Pre-Development Memorandum for the city auditorium's renovation project.

When asked about the project, Dave Rippe, Executive Director of the Hastings Economic Development Corporation, stated, "We know that there are concerns in the community regarding who will pay for what and where we will park. As the full scope of this project takes shape, we will continue to refine a financing plan that is responsible to the community and a parking plan that is responsible to Downtown Hastings. We believe that there is a tremendous upside to this project, and that it is a long term investment in our community. Tonight's approval marks the next step in moving this project forward."

Colleen Adam, Chair of the Citizen Review Committee, added, "What our committee found appealing about the proposal was the significant public and private partnership in assuring a long-term viability of the project. While the initial boost will be to downtown development, the long-term economic impact will reach across the community. The developers selected for this project have a proven track record of success in redevelopment. We are optimistic about their vision for Hastings."

"Versatile spaces are an invaluable resource for community members and visitors. The city of Hastings has a need for a new mulit use conference center facility. With tourism growth and expansion in our area we currently have needs that are not being met when competing for tourism dollars. "said Sheana Smith Executive Director for the Adams County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The agreement approved Monday outlines expenses associated with developing and renovating the city auditorium. The project also includes the design of a conference center to be linked between the auditorium and a new downtown hotel. The project also calls for a parking garage to be constructed downtown.

Last May, the State of Nebraska awarded Hastings a $750,000 grant for the renovation and expansion of the city auditorium. But not everyone agreed on the project.

The City and Developer, Chief Industries and WRK, LLC will share the costs proportionately, with the City's share capped at $175,000.

USDA Plans to Reduce Starlings in Grand Island

A large number of starling birds have caused a nuisance to residents in Grand Island. Now the U.S. Department of Agriculture is doing something about it.

THE USDA will treat starlings using DRC-1339, a chemical agent which will assist in reducing the starling population. The chemical used is said to be bird specific and the USDA says the chemical should not harm any other animals. The targeted birds will expire 24 to 36 hours after consuming the treated feed and will often be found at the bird's roosting locations.

If residents should find deceased starlings on their private property, it is okay to dispose of the birds in trash containers. The USDA recommends using gloves or a bag when picking the starlings up. Residents who are physically unable to dispose of the birds may also arrange for cleanup by calling Grand Island City Hall at 308-385-5444 ext. 260.

Buffalo County Community Partners Tops 2014 Campaign Goal

Buffalo County Community Partners have announced they exceeded their 2014 campaign goal of $125,000.

Last year was a big one for the non-profit. It marked the final stages in the planning process of the HelpCare Clinic, set to open in April. For the first time, Positive Pressure's "Be Safe, Be Smart" task force mobilized to tackle issues related to Cruise Nite. Activate Buffalo County launched Safe Routes to School programs in three area communities with parent surveys, special events, and educational pieces. The United Against Violence coalition officially launched and started providing violence prevention resources to local schools.

In 2015, Community Partners will continue their work towards the Buffalo County 2020 Vision. To promote active living and healthy eating, Activate Buffalo County will be working to develop community and worksite wellness policies, expanding on events like Healthy Kids Weekend and Walk Out On Your Job, and securing funds for a community-wide health assessment as part of the BeWell initiative.

For more information, visit bcchp.org.

State Fair Unveils 2015 Theme

Officials with the Nebraska State Fair have unveiled the 2015 theme. "The Fun is in the Fair" will focus on the variety of sights and sounds that make the yearly event a crowd pleaser.

The fair runs from Aug. 28 through Sept. 7. This will be the sixth year for the fair in Grand Island. Each year they've added something different to attract visitors, including the SkyTram in 2013, the Raising Nebraska Agriculture exhibit last year and two outdoor concerts coming up this summer.

Fair officials say the performers at those outdoor shows will be announced in April.

DOT Denies Aerodynamics Proposal for Air Service in Kearney

Plans to change service providers at the Kearney Regional Airport, derailed on Monday.

The U.S. Department of Transportation has tentatively denied Aerodynamics Incorporated's proposal for scheduled air service at the airport, putting the future of air service there in question once again.

The decision directly relates to a court case in which Aerodynamics CEO Scott Beale was found guilty of defrauding another aviation company of $500,000. The Department of Transportation determined ADI was unfit to provide passenger airline service.

Mayor Stan Clouse says the Kearney Regional airport will continue to be served by Great Lakes Airlines until further notice.

The decision also affects air service at North Platte and Scottsbluff.

Paper Tax Forms in Short Supply at Area Libraries

If you seek tax forms at the Hastings Public Library or most other area libraries, you may be out of luck.

Amy Hafer, director of the Hastings Public Library says the tax forms are in short supply due to budget cuts for the IRS.

"Each year they've gotten a little bit later and later getting to us depending on last minute changes to the tax system and wanting to make sure the tax forms are correct," Hafer said.

A limited number of Forms 1040, 1040A and 1040EZ will be available once the library receives them, but the IRS will not be sending instruction books, schedules or any other forms. Hafer said library patrons shouldn't have to wait much longer for the forms to come in.

"We just got notification that they shipped last Friday, so I am hopeful by early this week, we'll have them," Hafer said.

In the meantime, library officials can retrieve any form online and print it out for a small cost.

UPDATE: Woman Arrested in Puppy Drowning at Nebraska Airport

The woman suspected of drowning a two-week old puppy at the Central Nebraska Regional Airport has been charged.

56-year old Cynthia Anderson of Florida is charged with one felony count of animal neglect resulting in death. She faces up to five years in prison.

Anderson attempted to board an airplane with three puppies and two dogs Friday. She was denied access to a flight because of the Doberman puppy's young age and lack of being properly contained.

The puppies were all reportedly less than two weeks old. Dogs must be at least 8 weeks old to fly on an aircraft, under U.S. travel regulations.

Police said Anderson drowned the puppy in an airport bathroom and tried to flush the body. An autopsy was performed by the Central Nebraska Humane Society confirmed the puppy had water in its lungs when it died. The other two puppies are being cared for by the humane society. The other two dogs remain with Anderson's parents.

Police said Anderson attempted to board a plane at the Grand Island airport earlier in the week with more puppies, but was also denied.

State Fair Planning Two Big Outdoor Concerts

State Fair organizers are planning two big concerts this year, including one with internationally known entertainers.

The fair is scheduled to run from Aug. 28 through Sept. 7 this year. Executive director Joseph McDermott says the fair's board approved the budget for this year's fair, with more money set aside for entertainment. Organizers are planning the first big outdoor concerts since coming to Grand Island.

The first concert is set for opening day while the second is set for Aug. 29. The fair last held two outdoor concerts in 2009, the final year it was held in Lincoln.

Kearney Man Sentenced in Stabbing Case

A man accused of stabbing someone in a Kearney apartment complex last summer has been sentenced to prison.

Dean Hammer, 21 of Kearney, was sentenced last Thursday to 17 to 20 years in prison for felony first-degree assault and deadly use of a weapon to commit a felony. Hammer was convicted after stabbing the victim five times during a fight at the Centennial Apartment complex.

Hammer pleaded no contest to both charges.

Hastings College To Build New Art Center

Hastings College has announced a press conference next week. Constructed in 1908 as the College's library, the current home to Hastings College's Art Department no longer serves the growing program's needs. President Don Jackson and other Hastings College officials are expected to announce the construction of a new art center on campus. The announcement will take place next Tuesday at 4pm at the grey center on the HC campus.

Heineman Grilled at First Testimony Hearing

The chairman of a legislative committee says 162 Nebraska inmates convicted of violent crimes were freed early under a furlough program. The program was revealed at a hearing yesterday as the chairman, Senator Steve Lathrop, questioned Governor Dave Heineman. The Republican governor was subpoenaed to testify under oath as part of an investigation into miscalculated prison sentences and other problems.

Ravenna Man Sentenced in Child Sex Abuse Case

A 33-year old Ravenna man who was convicted of incest and sexually assaulting a child has been given 15 to 25 years in prison. The incident happened in Kearney between Aug. 31 and Sept 2, 2013. The man's name is not being released in order to protect the identity of the young girl who was a minor under the age of 12 at the time of the incident.

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