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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

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 Unveils 9th Street Plaza Plans

Hastings College has unveiled their plans for closing the 9th Street route. New renderings of the finished product were released on Thursday by the college.

The college says the new 9th Street Plaza would make the campus more walkable and bike-friendly.

Future additions would include an expanded student union and a new residence hall.

The college now expects the measure to go to a vote. President Don Jackson says he's confident residents will understand the importance of closing the street to allow the campus to have future success and growth.

December Unemployment Numbers Released

Nebraska's preliminary unemployment rate was at 2.9 percent, seasonally adjusted in the month of December. That is the lowest December unemployment rate since 2006.

Department of Labor Commissioner John Albin said in a release today that Nebraska's economy continues to show strong growth.

Private industries with the most growth year over year were leisure and hospitality, education and health services and financial activities. The preliminary national unemployment rate dropped to 5.6 percent in December compared to 5.8 percent in November.

While the state unemployment rate dropped from November to December, it actually rose in the Tri-Cities. In Hastings the preliminary unemployment rate was 2.9 percent compared to 2.3 percent in November. Grand Island's rate rose to 3.2 percent while Kearney's was 2.2 percent.

Hastings Couple Turns in Petition Signatures For 9th Street Project

The Hastings couple petitioning to keep 9th Street open have now officially "closed" their petition drive.

After several months collecting those signatures, Lenie and Larry Wilson turned in over 3,900 signatures to Hastings City Clerk Kim Jacobitz on Wednesday. The petitioners needed at least 2,864 valid signatures of registered voters to get the issue on the ballot. Last year the city council voted to close the route. That's when the Wilsons spearheaded their campaign to push it to a vote.

The Wilsons argue that closing the street would cause overflow traffic onto surrounding streets and cut off some residents from a well-traveled route.

Missouri Man Convicted of Assault in Kearney

A Missouri man has been convicted of threatening and assaulting a guest staying at a Kearney hotel. 33-year-old Jeremy McDermott pleaded no contest Tuesday in Buffalo County District Court to a charge of misdemeanor third-degree assault.

The charge stems from an incident last fall in which McDermott approached a Colorado man who had just checked into a hotel in South Kearney. McDermott then ordered the man to give him money or he would steal his car. The man later went to the hotel front desk and reported the incident to local authorities. McDermott was later arrested by police.

Judge Bill Wright accepted McDermott's no contest plea and ordered a pre-sentence investigation report, including a substance abuse evaluation by the state probation department. Sentencing is set to take placed in March. If convicted, McDermott could face up to a year in jail and a fine. He currently remains free on bond.

Kearney Sewer Project Underway

The City of Kearney began work today on a new sewer project. Crews today are beginning to install a new dewatering well along the southwest corner of 3rd Avenue and 4th Street. The current project will not require any street or lane closures. The public is reminded that trucks, construction equipment and workers will be present behind the curb area and in the parking lanes of streets in the project area. The work is part of the South Sanitary Sewer Project. Additional work is set to begin in February and March. The City of Kearney will provide additional updates as the project continues.

Ricketts Addresses Nebraskans

Lower property taxes, creating jobs and educational opportunities were the messages delivered by Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts in his first State of the State address this morning in Lincoln.

The new Republican governor unveiled his tax plan Thursday along with job and education initiatives in his first State of the State address since taking office on Jan. 8.

In a speech focused heavily on the economy, Ricketts recommended a slowdown in state government spending increases to pay for the tax reductions.

The governor unveiled initiatives designed to boost career-training options for young people and an increase in college tuition assistance for members of the Nebraska National Guard. He also used the speech to highlight his support for the Keystone XL oil pipeline and urged President Barack Obama to approve it.

Security Heightened at St. Paul School After Social Media Threat

Security was heightened Wednesday at the St. Paul school due to a threat on social media.

The Howard County Sheriff's Office issued a press release saying that the St. Paul Police Department had been notified of what could've been interpreted as a threat of violence to the St. Paul Public School.

A faculty member discovered the threat on a social media platform and forwarded it to police. Another post was discovered on Wednesday morning and brought to the attention of the Sheriff and the state patrol.

The school was searched, but ultimately nothing was found. As a precaution, law enforcement advised the school to beef up security.

The social media posts continue to be investigated by the State Patrol.

Hastings City Council Hears Presentation on E-Cigarettes

The Hastings City Council met for their regular work session Tuesday evening. At that meeting, they heard a presentation from the South Heartland District Health Department regarding e-cigarettes. The department is hopeful the city will amend its city code to include e-cigarettes in the city smoking ban, part of the statewide Clean Indoor Air act. No timetable has been set for when the City Council may take up the measure. Executive Director Michele Bever says she is confident they will rule in favor of including them in the ban.

Kerkman Withdraws From Grand Island City Council Race

One of the three candidates for the Ward 1 vacancy on the Grand Island City Council has withdrawn from consideration.

Brady Kerkman sent a letter to Mayor Jeremy Jensen on Tuesday informing the mayor of his decision. Kerkman serves as the Executive Director of the Nebraska Child Advocacy Center. Kerkman cited "distractions" to the council as his reason for withdrawing.

Jensen says the "distraction" Kerkman referred to was apparently related to a discrepancy over Kerkman's references that was raised by Ward 2 councilman Roger Steele.

Jensen said he had strongly considered Kerkman for the position. His decision now comes down to Yolanda Chavez-Nuncio or Sgt. Jeremy Jones from the Hall County Sheriff's Office. A source tells KHAS Radio that Jensen will make that recommendation later today.

Hastings Police Investigating Shooting Death

Numerous reports of a shooting last night in Hastings appeared across social media. Today we are learning more details about that incident. Authorities say there is no threat to the safety of residents in Hastings.

Police are continuing to investigate a non-criminal, non-accidental shooting that occurred near 3rd Avenue and Waynoka Street. At 9:41 p.m. Hastings Police were called to the scene of a gunshot wound to the head of a male in his late 20's. A large area in front of the house was taped off in front of the home. Police remained on scene well into the night.

Adams County Attorney Donna Feigler Diess has confirmed to KHAS Radio News that a 27 year old male has died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. No further details are available at this time. The incident remains under investigation.

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.

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