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Imperial Mall May Soon Be Adding New Businesses

Tenants of the Phoenix Center (formerly the old Hastings Middle School) were given a notice to vacate this week following a long battle between the city of Hastings and the building's owner. Now the Imperial Mall could end up being a landing spot for some of those business owners.

Corey Stutte, a candidate for mayor in Hastings says finding an attractive lease rate like the $2 per square foot rate they had at the Phoenix Center will be difficult, but that the mall owners seemed interested in working with those businesses.

"I look at this as a win-win situation where we're going to be able to work with some of these folks who are displaced, hopefully get them out to the mall and hopefully we won't have to see any small businesses go away," said Stutte.

Opening the dialogue with the mall owners, Stutte says will give city officials a means of inviting start up businesses to come to Hastings while at the same time bringing life back to a once prominent building. Still, there will need to be upgrades made at the mall, just as there were with the Phoenix Center.

"I know there have been problems with the roof out there and the mall owners said they'd take care of any leaks and I think as you start to see people move in they'll take care of some of these problems as they start to see some better cash flow out there. They don't want to see it sitting empty any more than we do," Stutte said.

He believes now that a relationship has been established with the mall's owners that finally some positive changes could be on the horizon for the Imperial Mall.

Local Utilities Still Look To Reduce Emissions

Despite the hold that has been put on the federal Clean Power Plan, some local utilities are going to proceeded with emissions reductions. Despite that fact that they are in kind of a holding pattern, according to Grand Island Utilities Director Tim Luchsinger, he said this week that Grand Island is moving forward with its stake in wind power coming online this year, as well as a proposal for more next year. Keeping Grand Island on a path of cutting reducing their emissions, with or without the Clean Power Plan. Nebraska Public Power officials say they as well will move forward with exploring new, and less harmful sources of energy.

Tai Chi Classes To Help Prevent Falls for Seniors

Health officials in the tri-cities are encouraging programs like Tai Chi as a way to prevent falls in seniors.

Tai Chi is a graceful form of exercise that involves a series of movements, known as "forms," that are performed in a slow, focused manner combined with controlled breathing. The low impact exercise puts minimal stress on muscles and joints, making it suitable for many older adults. Tai Chi helps improve balance, increase leg strength, reduce the fear of falling, improve mobility, increase flexibility and improve psychological health.

Falls are the third leading cause of injury death in the South Heartland region.

Classes are being held twice a week over a 12 week period at locations in Adams, Clay, Nuckolls and Webster counties.

Stutte Testifies in Front of Education Committee

A Hastings mayoral candidate says citizens need property tax relief in Nebraska, but that education is not the cause of skyrocketing property tax increases.

Corey Stutte, who also serves on the Hastings School Board spoke before the Legislature's Education Committee Tuesday against LB 959 and LB 883, which have been two key property tax bills supported by Governor Pete Ricketts.

In testimony Tuesday, Stutte told lawmakers districts like Hastings would experience large revenue losses under the first year of implementation of LB 883 which would revise the formula by which state aid is calculated for school districts.

He says LB 959 also misses the mark because he says Hastings has consistently maintained the $1.05 levy per $100 of assessed property value for more than a decade. He testified that over the past five years, HPS has reduced staff, leveraged ARRA funding, shifted costs and done several other things to keep taxes as low as possible for HPS residents.

Stutte says Hastings Public Schools is currently the 7th poorest district in Nebraska when measured by the amount of property value supporting each student and says both bills would hurt their ability to help students due to the projected decrease in state aid.

CNRA Posts Strong January Numbers

The Central Nebraska Regional Airport continues its record breaking trends just weeks ahead of the opening of its new passenger terminal building.

More than 5,600 passengers flew out of the airport in January, a 5 percent increase over last January. Executive Director Mike Olson said the numbers were fantastic and a great start to the year. In 2015, a record 64,643 people boarded planes from the Grand Island airport, shattering the old high of 60,947 set in 2014.

The new $14 million terminal and jet bridge are slated to open in March.

ROYALS FANS FLOCK TO CONESTOGA MALL

Hundreds of Kansas City Royals fans from across the region were in Grand Island this morning to be a part of a championship celebration.

The World Series trophy tour stopped at the Conestoga Mall this morning from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. It was the only stop for the trophy west of Lincoln. Some parents even took their kids out of school to witness a moment 30 years in the making including. We spoke with Derek from Grand Island who brought his young son Gavin to share the moment. "It was pretty awesome. Hes only two years old so he probably dosent get it, but he knows the wors baseball and Royals. Watching in 2014 was excruciating, being just 90 feet away. But this is exciting for everybody. It was fun watching last year."
The trophy tonight was on its way to Des Moines, Iowa. It will also make several stops throughout Missouri and Kansas through the end of February.

YOUNES CONVICTED OF HIRING ILLEGAL WORKERS

A Kearney businessman has been convicted of unlawfully hiring an undocumented worker.

Paul Younes, 63 was arraigned Tuesday, according to press release from the office of U.S. Attorney Deborah Gilg. He faces a maximum sentence of six months in prison and a $3,000 fine. Younes' business, Kearney Hospitality, Inc. was charged with harboring an alien and is subject to a term of five years probation and a maximum fine of $500,000. An investigation revealed that Younes had hired a Mexican woman who was not in the country legally and arranged for her to work under a different name.

Younes operates several hotels in Kearney, Grand Island and Hastings. A conference center in Kearney also bears his name.

LB 1032 GAINING SUPPORT

Medicaid expansion has failed numerous times before in the Nebraska legislature, but LB 1032, the Transitional Health Insurance Program Act is gaining a lot of support from Nebraska organizations.

State Sen. John McCollister will introduce the bill at a hearing by the Legislature's Health and Human Services Committee this afternoon.

Nebraska Appleseed Executive Director Rebecca Gould released a statement saying

"This bill is a unique solution that meets the specific needs of Nebraska and would allow our state to recoup more than $2 billion of our tax dollars that would strengthen our health care system and our workforce."

Opponents say the bill follows a failed model similar to what's been done in Arkansas. Governor Pete Ricketts has said Nebraska shouldn't rely on the federal government to pay for these claims.

The bill would cover roughly 77,000 Nebraskans who aren't currently covered by Medicaid. Gould said 27 Nebraska organizations came out publicly to support LB 1032.

Hastings Company to Ship Beef to Israel

A Hastings company will send the first significant shipment of beef from the United States to Israel in more than a decade since Israel banned U.S. beef imports.

On Tuesday, Nebraska Agriculture Department Director Greg Ibach praised WR Reserve for complying with a rigorous inspection process that included Israeli government regulator visits. Ibach called it a "major step" toward increasing Nebraska beef exports to an important market.

Israel has had a ban on U.S. beef imports since December 2003 after a case of mad cow disease was discovered. The USDA announced today it was lifting the ban on U.S. beef imports.

The announcement received praise from Sen. Deb Fischer who said in a release today "the historic agreement with Israel is a testament to our producers' tireless commitment to delivering safe, high quality beef products to dinner tables around the globe."

Third district congressman Adrian Smith said today, "This success story exemplifies how important it is for us to work with our trading partners around the world to combat non-scientific trade barriers and open more markets to Nebraska products."

WR Reserve officials here in Hastings declined to comment on the shipment.

Adams Central to Try Again For New Elementary Site

The Adams Central Board of Education will ask voters to decide the future of a single-site elementary bond election this May.

By a 4-2 vote last night, board members approved the site across from Adams Central High School as the proposed location. It was overwhelmingly supported by patrons who took part in a recent phone survey. Board member Ryan Weeks voted for the Juniata location, citing that it would save taxpayers a lot of money.

"We're at $1.5 million difference and Juniata is going to throw in $700,000 so we're at $2.2 million difference in taxpayer money. It's not our money, it's theirs," he said.

Board member Chad Trausch also supported the Juniata site. Trausch called the recent phone survey a waste of taxpayer dollars. Board President Randy Kort said he believes even though that option has failed in the past, eventually the district can convince voters that a single site is the best option.

"Both times we've averaged 45 percent of people who agree that it should be one site. We just need to convince 5-7 percent of people that this is the best solution going forward and I do believe that is attainable," he said.

The proposed site would cost an estimated $19.7 million. The bond election will be on May 10.

Bob Marley's Granddaughter to Speak at Hastings College

The granddaughter of the late reggae legend Bob Marley will speak on the Hastings College campus as part of the school's Black History Month celebration Feb. 24.

Donisha Rita Claire Prendergast will explore the topic "Could You Be Love?" in her address. Using the title from one of her grandfather's most famous songs, she'll explore how individuals can be love in a world at war and when they themselves struggle to find balance between spiritual and material wealth.

Pendergast has traveled throughout the world which has exposed her to many lifestyles, perspectives and stories that she used to inspire her audiences.

She'll speak at the French Memorial Chapel at 7 p.m. on Feb. 24.

Adams Central Board to Make Key Decision on Bond Issue

The Adams Central Board of Education will meet tonight and consider moving forward on a potential new bond election for 2016.

District officials are hoping to pass a school bond that would allow them to build a new elementary school in western Adams County. The proposal is for either an $18.2 million site near Juniata or a $19.7 million site near Adams Central High School.

Phone surveys were sent out to patrons in late December and early January and have since been reviewed by district officials. The board will also review and accept the traffic studies for the elementary sites.

Tonight's meeting will be at 6:30 p.m. at Adams Central East Elementary.

Feed Yard Operator Facing Animal Cruelty Charges

A Beaver City man faces several charges after 93 cow and calf carcasses were found at his feed yard in Furnas County.

Online court records say 59-year-old Steve Clason is charged with six counts of abandoning or cruelly neglecting livestock and six counts of improper disposal of a carcass. Clason reportedly owed an Omaha-based livestock company more than $2 million. The company attempted to repossess the cattle on Jan. 19. That's when authorities discovered the dead cattle which were left to rot. The dead animals and hundreds of others were collateral for a loan.

Court documents say that the other cattle found alive were said to be in poor condition. An arraignment is scheduled for March 18.

Nelson Residents to Decide Fate of City Councilwoman

Residents in Nelson will head to the polls tomorrow to decide if a city councilwoman should keep her seat.

The Hastings Tribune reports that Vicky Garner's status came under fire in October after a petition was circulated accusing Garner of obtaining information "without board approval for her own personal gain." The petition was started by resident Emily Sole who accuses Garner of not having the best interest for the community when it comes to her position unless it benefits her wants and needs.

The petition came about after Garner applied for a liquor license and contacted the Nebraska Liquor Control Commission directly seeking information.

The polls will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. tomorrow at the Nelson City Auditorium.

CNHS Caring For More than 30 Breeder Puppies

More than 30 puppies are being nursed back to health after being rescued from a breeder in central Nebraska last month.

A $10,000 grant will pay for the care of those puppies at the Central Nebraska Humane Society. Since taking the 31 dogs on January 11, one of the dogs had a litter of puppies and another litter is expected soon. Executive Director Laurie Dethloff estimates it will cost $12,000 to $14,000 to rehabilitate the dogs. She says many of them will lose all of their teeth because they are in bad condition.

Four of the dogs have been adopted and two are in foster care.

Experts to Field Questions About Affordability of the Affordable Care Act

Six years in, the Affordable Care Act still presents a lot of questions and challenges both for individuals and for healthcare providers.

On Friday, Kylie Nichols, an Affordable Care Act Certified Navigator from North Platte will attempt to answer questions about how those insured on the exchange have been impacted. Judy Reimer, with the League of Women Voters in Hastings is helping sponsor the event through the YWCA of Adams County.

"We really want the questions to be answered about how beneficial to the insured is the Affordable Care Act at this point? We should have some numbers on how many Nebraskans are enrolled, how many have enrolled this year and what the quality of their insurance policies is," Reimer said.

In addition a Mary Lanning Healthcare representative will also look at the perspective of how the law has affected how care is provided to patients. According to data from the hospital, emergency room visits have gone up from nearly 12,000 patients in 2013 to 14,000 in 2015.

"We really were after an update. Then we decided we want more than figures. We want to know the impact it has on our fellow citizens and the impact it has on our providers," Reimer said.

Friday's event starts at noon at the YWCA of Adams County and is free and open to the public.

Blizzard Shuts Down the Mail in Hastings

The blizzard is crippling many businesses throughout the Tri-Cities and South Central Nebraska.

Even the US Postal Service, which rarely closes, is not operational today.

Mike Jones, postmaster at the Hastings post office says there will be no mail delivery today. There also will be no retail postal service as none of the employees were able to make it into work today.

The Hastings facility was unable to get its delivery from the Omaha distribution center.

Hastings Police Trying to Identify Possible Car Thief

Hastings Police are seeking the public's help identifying a man believed to have been involved in a vehicle theft last week.

The stolen vehicle has since been found in Doniphan was stolen from a Hastings business. A surveillance photo of the man (at right) is posted to the Hastings Police Department Facebook page.

Anyone with information is asked to contact Detective Sergeant Paul Weber at 402-461-2380.

Chicago Man Gets 11 Years For Kearney Federal Credit Union Robbery

A Chicago man who last fall was convicted of helping carry out the robbery of the Kearney Eaton Employees Federal Credit Union in October 2014 has been sentenced to 11 years in federal prison.

Twenty-eight-year-old Thomas Dunlap was sentenced Monday in U.S. District Court in Lincoln. Dunlap is one of three suspects involved in the robbery.

Twenty-nine-year-old Patrick Wigley of Chicago has also been convicted of robbery and is scheduled to be sentenced in February. Another man, 28-year-old Clifton Hudson of Kearney is also accused of taking part in the robbery. His case is pending.

Records indicate the three men entered the credit union on the morning of October 17, 2014 wearing dark work clothes and hard hats before carrying out the robbery.

In addition to his prison sentence, Dunlap was also placed on five years supervised probation after his release and he was ordered to pay approximately $123,000 in restitution jointly with Wigley.

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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