Kearney Hires Gruber as City Planner
The City of Kearney has announced the hiring of Coelette Gruber as its new City Planner.
As a two year intern with the City of Kearney's Developmental Services Department, she produced a community wide walkability study and other reports considered to be beneficial in her new position.
Gruber is a graduate of the University of Nebraska and holds a Masters Degree in Community and Regional Planning.
The City Planner coordinates short and long term planning involving zoning, land use, site plan review and planning-related activities essential toward future development of the city.
St. Francis to Host Diabetes Information Fair
A diabetes information fair and open house will take place Wednesday at CHI Health St. Francis hospital in Grand Island.
Certified diabetes educators will be on hand providing information. There will also be food samples and recipes from chef AJ Macaitis and other registered dieticians. Blood-pressure screenings will be conducted from Cardiac Rehab nurses and medication assistance is also being provided by Uninet.
The event will take place Wednesday evening from 6 until 8 p.m. in the hospital's conference room 2 and 3. Door prizes and giveaways will also be provided. The information fair is made possible through a generous donation to the St. Francis Foundation from the Olga Rathman estate.
Kearney Superintendent Field Narrowed Down
The Kearney Public School District hopes to have a new school superintendent hired for the next school year by early December.
At Monday night's meeting, the Kearney School Board was brought up to date on the search process by Dr. Roy Baker from Baker and Rastovski School Services. Baker said they already have 10 to 15 viable candidates and he expects the board to narrow the field to four finalists by mid-November.
The final interviews would be conducted in early December with a selection expected to be announced after the final interviews.
GIPS Superintendent Announces His Retirement
During Monday's monthly Board of Education meeting, Grand Island Superintendent Dr. Robert Winter announced his intention to retire at the end of the school year.
Winter has spent 38 years in education, including the past five at GIPS. Under his leadership the district passed a $69.9 million bond issue in the fall of 2014. Career Pathways Institute opened in the fall of 2013, making the city a statewide leader in career-focused education.
Winter said he made the decision now to give the Board ample time to find its next superintendent. His contract is up on June 30, 2016.
Loup City Ag Instructor Bonds Out of Jail
A Loup City ag instructor accused of secretly videotaping in a girls locker room has bonded out of jail.
25-year-old Anthony Rahe was released from the Valley County Jail Monday after posting $5,000 in bond. Rahe was arrested after a hidden video camera was found in the high school girls locker room last Thursday.
It's not believed at this time that videos were shared with anyone, however the investigation is ongoing.
Rahe is scheduled to appear in Sherman County Court on December 3.
Kostner Introduced as Hastings Street Superintendent
A new street superintendent was introduced to the Hastings City Council Monday night.
Steve Kostner comes to Hastings from Lincoln where he had 11 years of experience with the public works department and the street division. City Engineer Dave Wacker says Kostner has worked extensively on several projects in Lincoln.
"He's very familiar with potholes. He tells me he's managed basically the western city limits on O Street to 27th Street north," Wacker said.
Kostner began his duties Oct. 1 and replaces former street superintendent Richard Douglas.
Hastings City Council Tables Decision to Merge Utility Budget Schedule
The Hastings City Council tabled an ordinance last night that would merge the budget of Hastings Utilities to match the rest of the city.
The ordinance would establish a nine month budget for HU in 2016 to bring the two budgets in line. The city's fiscal year begins on Oct. 1 while HU's begins on Jan. 1. Councilman Everett Goebel, a liaison between the two departments disagreed with the timing of the matter, noting that the utility's budget workshop is just three weeks away.
"I'm no accountant, no bookkeeper. I don't know how much work it would be to revamp this budget to be a three-quarter year budget. If it was something that had been planned for some time, I would think it should have been on an agenda several months ago so more planning could've taken place on the Board of Public Works part," he said.
Other council members echoed that sentiment, but still want to see something happen rather quickly.
"Let them pass their budget as they've been working on for the last four months and then I would like us to go back to the Utilities department and make a recommendation to make that adjustment if we find out that we are able to do so," said Councilman Michael Krings.
The motion was tabled to the Oct. 26 meeting by a 6-2 vote with Goebel and Ginny Skutnik dissenting.
Grand Island Industrial Park Sought for Hatchery
A company that hatches chicks to stock egg producers is considering building a hatchery in Central Nebraska that would produce 24 million day-old chicks a year.
Pennsylvania-based Hendrix-ISA is developing plans to build the hatchery at Grand Island's Platte Valley Industrial Park-East. Sales manager Ken Alvarez says it would create 50 new jobs. Hendrix has applied for $2.5 million in tax-increment financing to build on 20 acres.
Grand Island officials say at least one other location outside the city is being considered by Hendrix.
Loup City Teacher Arrested on Suspicion of Intrusion
A Loup City teacher is behind bars for allegedly using a hidden camera in a girls' locker room.
25-year-old Anthony Rahe was arrested Friday on two counts of unlawful intrusion. The hidden device was discovered by a student last Thursday, who notified a school staff member, who then contacted law enforcement. Officials don't believe the videos were shared with anyone, however the investigation is ongoing.
Rahe is behind bars in the Valley County Jail awaiting a bond hearing. He has been suspended from his job and is barred from school property.
More Text to 911 Coming to Rural Nebraska
New technology that lets cell phone users send texts to their local 911 call center is spreading through Nebraska.
The service began earlier this year in places like Buffalo County and in the Omaha area, but now smaller counties are also asking the state for money to add the service at their facilities. The Nebraska Public Service Commission says at least six counties have filed funding requests to install the service in their jurisdiction.
The service is intended to help people who can't call authorities directly, such as domestic violence victims who want to do so quietly. It also could assist the hard of hearing, or those in areas with poor coverage.
Motorcycle Crash Claims Life of St. Paul Man
A deadly weekend motorcycle crash in Grand Island has claimed the life of a St. Paul man.
Grand Island Police say 32-year old Russell Kelly crashed into a light pole and then hit a parked truck around 9:30 p.m. Saturday night. He was traveling eastbound on Coventry Lane. He was transported to CHI Health St. Francis where he was pronounced dead.
Officials continue to investigate and say alcohol is believed to be a factor.
Heatwave Sets Records in Tri-Cities
Sunday's heat wave shattered some long standing records in the tri-cities.
The high temperature in Hastings and Grand Island both reached 97 degrees and according to the National Weather Service, that breaks the previous record high for Oct. 11 which was 89 for Hastings set back in 1940 and 1975.
It was also was the latest that a temperature that hot had ever been recorded in Hastings by a week. The previous record was 97 degrees on Oct. 5, 1947. Sunday's high matched the all-time high for the month of October in Hastings as well.
The previous record for Grand Island was 93 set in 1928. The latest Grand Island had reached that mark prior to Sunday was on Sept. 28, 1953.
NPPD Seeking Rate Hikes to Cover Retirement Benefits
The Nebraska Public Power District is seeking to collect an additional $25 million a year to cover employee retirement costs.
On Thursday, the NPPD's Board of Directors took comments from its customers in support and against it. The General Firm Power Service rate proposal calls for an average 3.8 percent overall wholesale rate increase in 2016, which is the amount paid by utilities and others who buy power from NPPD.
Ten utilities object to NPPD's proposal including the Southern Power District and the City of Superior. Some utilities say it could cost them more than $2 million additionally each year.
No decision was made at Thursday's meeting in Columbus, but a vote could be made before the end of October.
GIPD Searching for Copper Thief
Grand Island Police are searching for a suspect who stole hundreds of dollars worth of copper last weekend from Hansen Well Drilling, located on Johnson Road.
Police say it happened Sunday and surveillance photos show the suspect moving the camera with a pole. Images are available on the GIPD Facebook page. Anyone with information is asked to contact GIPD or CrimeStoppers.
Nebraska Chamber Officials May Have Helped Oust Economic Development Director
There is evidence that Nebraska Chamber of Commerce leaders helped push the state's new Economic Development Director out the door, including Hastings Mayor Vern Powers.
In an email to Governor Ricketts, obtained by Nebraska Watchdog, Powers applauded the governor's "swift decision" on Brenda Hicks-Sorensen and called her "a nice person, that didn't fit Nebraska emotionally."
Amid the announcement last week that ConAgra was relocating its headquarters from Omaha to Chicago, Powers suggested that the governor hire a quote "hit squad" of 10 to 15 aggressive business leaders to target to relocate to Nebraska. Powers wrote, "After this ConAgra deal, I think we need to take the gloves off and start punching back hard," he wrote.
Even though she was let go the same day as the ConAgra announcement, the Ricketts administration has said the two events were unrelated.
Hastings Woman Accused in Toddler's Death Arraigned
The Hastings woman accused in the death of her great niece entered a not guilty plea at her arraignment hearing Thursday afternoon and waived her right to a speedy trial.
A request to have 33-year-old Azudany Serrano-Contreras' trial moved out of Adams County was overruled. Attorney Mark Porto suggested his client would be unable to get a fair trial because many in the jury pool have already prejudged his client. He cited inflammatory comments posted by onto a local news outlet's Facebook page. He suggested the court move the trial to either Lancaster or Douglas County.
But Adams County Attorney Donna Daiss said the argument lies with public opinion and that those comments could've been made in any of the surrounding counties which the news outlet serves. The judge agreed and said it was premature to decide on moving the case, but that a request could be made closer to trial.
A request by the defense for a Brady motion was approved. A Brady motion is made when the prosecution suppresses evidence that could be favorable for the defense.
A progression hearing is set for December 7th at 9:30. The judge also set a pretrial date of January 7th. The jury trial will begin on January 25.
Death Penalty Advocates Ask Judge to Drop Lawsuit
The group that led a petition drive to reinstate Nebraska's death penalty is asking a judge to dismiss a lawsuit that could keep the issue off the 2016 ballot.
Attorneys for Nebraskans for the Death Penalty filed a motion to dismiss the case earlier this week, arguing that the death penalty opponents who sued failed to state a legitimate claim.
The lawsuit filed last month argues that the death penalty ballot measure is invalid because Gov. Pete Ricketts wasn't listed as a sponsor even though he was a major donor.
Nebraskans for the Death Penalty is also seeking an order to halt discovery in the case until the judge rules on the motion to dismiss.
A second lawsuit challenging the proposed ballot language is also pending.
Hall County One Step Closer to Changing Zoning Regulations for Adult Businesses
The Hall County Regional Planning Commission voted 10-0 yesterday to advance some new regulations surrounding adult-oriented businesses.
If approved by the county's Board of Supervisors later this month, the amount of land zoned for those types of businesses would be expanded to about 9,000 acres instead of the current 300 acres. The new regulations also make adult-oriented businesses a permitted use in those zoned areas, meaning that those business owners would no longer be subject to public hearings and conditional use permits.
Regional Planning Director Chad Nabity says that does not include property within city limits in Grand Island, Wood River, Alda, Doniphan or Cairo. Only land out in the county would be available for these uses.
But those businesses will have to follow some rules. Alcohol will be prohibited from those establishments and they cannot be constructed within 1,000 feet of houses, churches, schools, parks and recreation facilities. They also must be closed from Midnight until 6 a.m. and full nudity will not be allowed. Semi-nude employees will be required to be at least six feet away from all patrons.
A public hearing on the matter is set for October 20.
Consulting Group to City of Hastings: Abolish the Board of Public Works
An Ohio consulting group is recommending the City of Hastings abolish its Board of Public Works as one of 79 suggested changes to the city.
At a special meeting last night with the city council, Ron Norris, the Public Works and Facilities Specialist with the Novak Consulting Group said a recent organizational study found "clear, deep division between what is perceived as City of Hastings and Hastings Utilities."
"On one side there's resentment toward Hastings Utilities in terms of pay differential, the differential in resourcing and differential in equipment. On the other side, there's a perceived superiority on the other side that makes it extremely difficult," he said.
Under their suggestion, Hastings Utilities would be reorganized under the authority and direction of the city administrator.
But some council members weren't convinced that abolishing the city's Board of Public Works is necessary because it could jeopardize the city's low utility rates.
John Harrington questioned the recommendation saying "if it ain't broke don't fix it." But Norris countered Harrington's view saying not doing anything could be more disastrous.
"You don't have to be sick to get better. I think that's really what we're looking at. I think you can get better. I think there are improvements that can be made without jeopardizing reliability or rates, which are very important," Norris said.
Councilmen Everett Goebel (Gay-ble) and Phil Odom both suggested the transition would be a challenge for the council to oversee, citing the Board's $99 million budget. Mayor Vern Powers said the city has a great utility and reminded the public that it is owned by the city and that means the two sides must work together.
"We have one opportunity to march as one. When our city has four percent growth and our neighbors have 18 and 19 percent growth, there are things we can do to make our city a better city," he said.
The organizational study was the first undertaken by the City of Hastings since 1976.
Other recommendations weren't quite as controversial. It was recommended that the city address staffing concerns with the Hastings Police Department.
Those include staffing a minimum three officers per shift, adopting a power shift to manage peak workload periods and staffing the 911 center with two dispatchers at all times.
They also recommended a transitioning the role of the museum and library's boards from administrative to advisory. Councilman Chuck Niemeyer took that a step further
"I would like to see some serious 'what if' conversation on if we could combine those two organizations under one roof. I can't help but think that as we're spending $5.2 million renovating the old library we could bring their services and staff together.
The Hastings Library will move into the museum's east gallery by the end of this year as they prepare for a major renovation project.
The entire 155-page study, approved 8-0 by the council, can be viewed on the City of Hastings website at cityofhastings.org.
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.