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UNK unveils plans for University Village

4.16.14

(NRG)- The University of Nebraska at Kearney has completed the planning stage for development of the 104-acre site now known as University Village, a new campus that will combine public and private resources in a mix of business, retail, office, services, housing, parks and recreation. The development is planned for an area south of The Buckle headquarters and southwest of UNK's campus on the south side of Highway 30. A series of public and informational meetings will be planned to obtain input on the proposed plans, culminating with a formal information session for developers in June. Site construction could begin as soon as 2015, with the first university building planned for 2017. The first university project will be the completion of a new residence hall to replace University Heights. The second university building planned at University Village is a new early childhood education center. The current childcare facility on campus is in the Otto Olsen building. A new, larger, modern child-development facility will help better serve the needs of UNK faculty, staff and students. Kearney's Miller & Associates have been engaged as consulting engineers for infrastructure.
 

Nebraska Safety Center offering driver's education classes

4.16.14

(UNK)- The Nebraska Safety Center at the University of Nebraska at Kearney is offering Driver Education courses in numerous communities across the state this spring and summer. Brandon Benitz, transportation safety manager says, "our course is one of the few in the nation that consists of four phases of learning: classroom study, range activities, simulation exercises, and on-street driving." Each student must have a school permit, learner's permit for a school permit, learner's permit or operator's license to take the course.
   The course conforms to Nebraska Department of Motor Vehicles rules and regulations, and exceeds criteria established for insurance discounts. Passing the course also results in waiver of the written and drive test at the Nebraska DMV office, if the student isunder 18 years old. Driver Education courses include classroom instruction at individual schools followed by driving range and simulation in Kearney at the Nebraska Safety Center. On-street driving time is scheduled individually with the instructor in the local school area.
For specific dates, times, locations and other information, or to enroll in a Driver Education course, call 1-800-854-7867 or visit www.UNK.edu/DRED. The cost to take the course is $295.

 

KPS gets federal funds for learning centers at some schools

4.16.14

(NRG)- Federal grant funds are awarded to support community learning centers serving students attending schools with high needs. During non-school hours, these programs offer hands-on learning and activities to meet student needs. The State Board of Education approved grants for the Kearney Public Schools. Programs at Bryant Elementary School, Central Elementary School, Emerson Elementary School and Kenwood Elementary School received a $129,694 federal grant.
   The primary goals of 21st Century Community Learning Centers are improved student learning, increased social benefits and positive behavioral changes as well as increased family and community engagement in Nebraska schools. Over the past 11 years, the Nebraska Department of Education has awarded federal grants for students at more than 100 different sites in over 25 Nebraska communities. The 21st Century Community Learning Centers program is funded under Title IV, Part B, of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act as amended by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001.

 

Early voting trending higher in Nebraska

4.16.14

(NRG)- In the first five days of early voting for the 2014 primary, 23,447 requests have been made for early voting ballots, says Secretary of State John Gale. That's the highest number of early voting ballots requested during a five day period in the last four Nebraska primaries. Of the requests made, 2,525 ballots have been returned to county election offices so far. In the first five days of early voting in the 2012 primary, 23,182 requests for ballots were submitted. In the 2010 primary, 18,548 requests were made and in 2008, there were 480 requests during that same time frame.
     Up until the law was changed in 1999, early voting was referred to as absentee voting in Nebraska. Voters were required to indicate their reason for requesting an early voting ballot, before that request was processed. That's not so anymore. Through the Voter Information Center on the Secretary of State's website, registered voters can see when their ballot request was received, when it was mailed out and the date the ballot was returned to the county election office. The Voter Information Center is found under the "Elections" tab at www.sos.ne.gov.
    Registered voters in Nebraska can request an early voting ballot 120 days prior to the election. The first wave of ballots went out April 7. They are due back into the county election offices by the time polls close on Election Day. Gale said it's important that people take their early voting ballots to the election office. They will not be accepted at polling sites on Election Day. Now through May 12, Nebraska voters can also vote in person at their county election office.
 

Local band to honor UNK professor with April 26th concert

4.16.14

(UNK and NRG)- Popular Kearney-based cover band The Innocence will join the UNK Jazz Rock Ensemble on stage for a concert highlighting the work of longtime music professor Jim Payne. The show, free and open to the public, is at 7:30 p.m. on April 26 at the UNK Fine Arts Building Recital Hall. Payne is retiring in May after 40 years at UNK, and the concert is his last as conductor of the Jazz Rock Ensemble. Payne taught all four members of The Innocence, and each are former members of the Jazz Rock Ensemble at UNK. They include: Greg Sales, guitar; Dave Lerbakken, bass; Spencer Hansen, keyboard; and Luke Oswald, drums.
    The concert features big band sounds with works from the swing era to newer charts of present big bands. The performance includes jazz styled in several types of 1940s swing, ballad, Latin, rock, funk rock, fast swing, rock fusion, and New Orleans street beat, blues and contemporary jazz. Music comes from the libraries of Dave Weckl, Les Hooper, Rob McConnell's Boss Brass, Pat Metheny, Glenn Miller and Maynard Ferguson Orchestra.
 

Sidney woman gets probation on theft charge

4.16.14

(AP) - A Sidney woman accused of stealing from the Sidney Federation Wrestling Club has been given 18 months of probation.
 
     Sidney radio station KSID says (http://bit.ly/1nbcOk8 ) Amanda Sykora was sentenced on Monday. She'd made a deal with prosecutors and pleaded guilty to attempted theft. Prosecutors had lowered the charge and dismissed another in exchange for Sykora's plea.
 
     Authorities say the 30-year-old Sykora wrote and cashed or deposited 13 unauthorized checks totaling more than $4,500 when she was treasurer of the wrestling club. Prosecutors say she's already paid $4,000 in restitution.
 

Boy facing murder charge to get mental evaluation

4.16.14

 (AP) - A mental health evaluation has been scheduled for a 15-year-old Wyoming boy charged with killing a Nebraska jail guard.
 
     Television station KOTA says (http://bit.ly/1p9nmCd ) Dylan Cardeilhac will be taken to the Omaha suburb of Papillion (puh-PIHL'-yuhn) for the screening later this month.
 
     Cardeilhac has pleaded not guilty to a murder charge in the slaying of 24-year-old Amanda Baker on Feb. 14. Authorities say he lured Baker into his jail cell and then pounced on her, strangling her from behind.
 
 

Nebraska judge upheld on hate crime case dismissal

4.16.14

(AP) - Scotts Bluff County prosecutors have lost an appeal of a county judge's dismissal of a hate crime case.
 
     District Court Judge Leo Dobrovolny on Monday upheld the ruling by County Court Judge James Worden.
 
     In February Worden ended a trial and dismissed the case against 18-year-old Alysha Schwartzkopf, of Gering. Schwartzkopf was accused of scrawling a racial epithet in October on the car windows of a Gering High School senior who is biracial. She was charged with unauthorized application of graffiti, with a felony enhancement of committing a hate crime.
 
     Worden agreed with the defense that state graffiti statutes don't apply to vehicles. Dobrovolny agreed with Worden's ruling.
 
     Scotts Bluff County Attorney Doug Warner says he hasn't decided yet whether to take the case to the state Court of Appeals.

    
 

Hastings boys gets his wish to skydive

4.16.14

(AP) - Eight-year-old Max Vertin has a disease that is weakening his muscles, but not his imagination.
 
     Make-A-Wish Colorado says Max, who loves to pretend to fly like a superhero, soared Tuesday at an indoor skydiving facility near Denver called SkyVenture Colorado. The Hastings, Neb., boy wore a red Iron Man-style costume, a red helmet and a broad smile for his wind tunnel adventure.
 
     Max and his two brothers have Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a genetic disorder that primarily affects boys. It often manifests itself when patients are young and causes their muscles to slowly deteriorate.
 
     According to the Muscular Dystrophy Association, until recently, patients did not survive much beyond their teens, when the disease begins to affect the heart and respiratory muscles. Life expectancy has been increasing because of advances in cardiac and respiratory care.
 

Lincoln child gets caught in claw machine

4.16.14

(AP) - Authorities in Lincoln say a toddler was not hurt after getting stuck inside a claw crane machine at a bowling alley.
 
     Lincoln police say a woman called Monday afternoon to report her 3-year-old son missing from her apartment.
 
     Authorities later discovered the boy had ended up inside a claw crane machine at a bowling alley across the street. Patrons at the bowling alley spotted the boy playing with stuffed animals inside the machine.
 
     The machine's vendor was contacted to let the boy out. He was reunited with his mother a short time later.
 
     Police say the mother was not cited because she immediately contacted police about the missing child.
 

Spring planting lagging across the Corn Belt

4.16.14

(AP) - Spring planting across the nation's Corn Belt is sputtering because the soil remains too soggy or cold for effective seeding.
 
     The U.S. Department of Agriculture says 3 percent of the corn crop is sown. That's half the pace of last year when one of the wettest springs on record got farmers off to the slowest start in decades.
 
     In Illinois, just 1 percent of this year's corn has been planted. That's one-tenth of the average pace of the previous five years. The USDA says farmers in other key corn-producing states are equally idle.
 
     Farmers still are upbeat, saying they still have some time to get the job done. The USDA says corn sowing traditionally begins in mid-April. It's typically in full swing from April 21 through May 23.
 

Columbus man convicted of murder

4.16.14

(AP) - A 31-year-old Nebraska man has been convicted of murder in the knifing death of a Columbus man.
 
     The office of Attorney General Jon Bruning said in a news release that 31-year-old Eric Henry was found guilty Tuesday by a Platte County District Court jury in Columbus.
 
     Henry was one of three people prosecuted for the May 2013 slaying of 51-year-old Steven Jorgensen during a botched robbery.
 
     Last month 32-year-old Kimberly Henderson, of Columbus, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder. Twenty-seven-year-old Quentin Critser, of Lincoln, pleaded guilty in December to second-degree murder and agreed to testify against his co-defendants. Henderson and Critser are awaiting sentencing.
 

ACLU representing man who handed out religious flyers

4.16.14

(AP) - A Nebraska civil liberties group is now representing a Lincoln man arrested by police last month for handing out religious pamphlets outside Lincoln's Pinnacle Bank Arena.
 
     The American Civil Liberties Union of Nebraska says Larry Ball was exercising his First Amendment rights. The ACLU filed a motion Monday in Ball's casing requesting that the charges against him be dismissed.
 
     The 76-year-old Ball was arrested March 15 after refusing police orders to stop handing out the fliers as the Nebraska Boys State Basketball Tournament was being played inside the arena.
 
     Ball and the ACLU say Ball was on a public sidewalk and was therefore free to hand out fliers. Police and city prosecutors dispute that Ball was on public property.
 

Grand Island attorney named to judgeship

4.16.14

 (AP) - A former Hall County prosecutor has been named to fill an open district court judgeship in eastern Nebraska's 5th Judicial District.
 
     The office of Gov. Dave Heineman says he's selected 43-year-old Rachel Daugherty, of Grand Island. She's been in private practice in Grand Island since 2000. She holds a law degree from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln law school.
 
     The opening was created by the retirement of Judge Michael Owens, who was appointed to the post in 1996.
 
     The 5th Judicial District covers Boone, Butler, Colfax, Hamilton, Merrick, Nance, Platte, Polk, Saunders, Seward and York counties.

 

KPS Board approves final plans for new Senior High

4.15.14

(NRG)- The Kearney Public Schools' Board of Education approved the final plans and designs for the new Senior High at Monday night's regular meeting. Kent Cordes of B-D Construction, the owner's representative, will presented reports on the new Kearney High plan and design development plan. Formal approval by the board allows them to move forward with the selection of a "Construction Manager" firm for the building of the 2013 bond issue projects. Once that process is completed in the next few weeks, construction at the new Senior High location will begin, as early as sometime in June. In other business, the board discussed the possibility of re-financing some of the bonds from the 2009 bond issue. Finance Director Chris Nelson says that could save the district up to $850,000. Formal action is expected to be taken at the next meeting. The board  accepted resignations and retirements from around a dozen teachers while approving the hiring of 14 new instructors and three new administrators. The board is also accepted the low bid of just under $51,000 for a new small-lift bus from Masters Transportation.

Kearney County officials ID Sunday accident fatality

4.15.14

(NRG)- The Kearney County Sheriff's Office has identified the fatality in a Sunday morning accident on Highway 44 near T Road as 86-year-old Laverne Graus of Holdrege. Graus was driving a southbound car when it was struck by a northbound pickup driven by 24-year-old Krystal Anderson of Phillipsburg, Kansas. Weather and icy roads are believed to have contributed to the cause of crash. Grause was pronounced dead at the scene while Anderson was taken to Good Samaritan Hospital with non-life threatening injuries. Seat belts were not in use in either vehicle.
 

Unruly man charged for conduct on jet diverted to Nebraska

4.15.14

(AP) - A man removed from a California-bound Southwest Airlines flight is facing federal charges because he tried to open a door.
 
     Prosecutors charged 23-year-old Joshua Carl Lee Suggs Monday with interfering with the crew of the Chicago-to-Sacramento flight.
 
     The plane diverted to Omaha, Neb., Sunday, so Suggs could be removed.
 
     The complaint against the Sacramento man says he refused to return to his seat, as instructed, before trying to open a door. The incident happened about an hour into the flight.
 
     The passengers who helped subdue Suggs told officers his pupils were dilated and his speech was incoherent.
 
     Suggs is expected to appear in court Wednesday. Court records did not show an attorney for him Monday.
 

Judge approves settlement in prison van crash

4.15.14

(AP) - A judge has given final approval to a $2 million state settlement with the family of a Lincoln woman who was struck and killed by a state prison van driven by an inmate.
 
     The settlement will go to the husband and son of 47-year-old Joyce Meeks, who was killed in the crash on June 25 in Lincoln. Last month legislators approved the payment as part of the state's annual claims bill.
 
     The inmate driver, Jeremy Dobbe, was seen speeding and swerving erratically before he struck Meeks' vehicle. Dobbe was driving to transport inmates as part of a state work-release program.
 
     The lawsuit by Meeks' husband, Leonard Meeks, and son, Martell Buchanan, alleges that Dobbe was under the influence of alcohol, drugs or some other intoxicating substance.
 

Lancaster County board member cited for DUI

4.15.14

(AP) - A Lancaster County Board member says he is sorry for driving under the influence.
 
     The Lincoln Journal Star reports (http://bit.ly/1n77m1K ) Brent Smoyer said in a written statement Monday that he takes full responsibility for the incident.
 
     University of Nebraska-Lincoln police say the 32-year-old Smoyer was stopped early Friday morning for making an illegal turn. Police say Smoyer told an officer he had been drinking alcohol earlier. He appeared impaired during a field sobriety test and his blood alcohol content was above the legal limit to drive.
 
     Smoyer was cited for driving while intoxicated and failure to obey a traffic control device. He called the incident embarrassing.
 
     Smoyer, a Republican, is running to represent northeast Lincoln in the Nebraska Legislature.
 

Nebraska officials encourage volunteerism next week

4.15.14

 (AP) - Gov. Dave Heineman is encouraging all Nebraskans to volunteer next week.
 
     ServeNebraska week is April 20 to 26. 
 
     Heineman, first lady Sally Ganem and Jamesena Moore, chairwoman of ServeNebraska, joined for a news conference Monday to publicize the effort.
 
     Moore says she hope to see volunteerism recorded in all 93 counties during ServeNebraska week. 
 
     Heineman says Nebraska ranks fifth across the country in terms in terms of volunteerism. Moore says she wants that ranking to climb to No. 1.
 
     Heineman and Ganem will participate by reading to fourth grade students at McPhee elementary school in Lincoln on April 24.
 
     To register a volunteer activity or for more information on volunteering, visit: www.serve.nebraska.gov.
 

Woman killed in crash near Lincoln

4.15.14

(AP) - A 27-year-old woman has been fatally injured in a car crash off an icy road in southeast Nebraska's Lancaster County.,
 
     The accident occurred about 3:20 a.m. Monday. Lancaster County Sheriff Terry Wagner says the car spun out of control and into a ditch after it ran onto some ice a few miles southwest of Lincoln.
 
     A woman in the back seat was thrown out. Wagner says she was flown to a Lincoln hospital, where she was pronounced dead. She was identified as Jessica Lyons. Her husband, John, and the car driver, 45-year-old John Norbert, were injured.

 

Burwell schools maintain tighter security

4.15.14

(AP) - Officials are maintaining the tighter security at Burwell schools more than a month after a menacing letter was sent to Burwell police containing what's been called a "hit list."
 
     On the list received March 6 were the names of more than a dozen Burwell administrators, teachers and students at the district's junior-senior high school. Nebraska State Patrol Lt. Dennis Leonard told The Grand Island Independent (http://bit.ly/1hNF1pl ) that there's no new information on the case and that investigators are awaiting laboratory results.
 
     After the school board met on March 10, Burwell's two schools were closed for a day before reopening with new security procedures in place. Burwell Junior-Senior High School principal Dave Owen says students have adjusted well.
 
 

Nebraska mom doesn't want state tests for her kids

4.15.14

(AP) - A southeast Nebraska woman is joining some other parents across the nation in deciding their children will not take statewide tests.
 
     Jill Osler, of Doniphan, told the Lincoln Journal Star (http://bit.ly/1kRejUJ ) that she thinks the tests are about politics, not about learning.
 
     Valorie Foy is the Nebraska Department of Education director of state assessment, and she says the assessments are a tool to help schools improve.
 
     A growing number of parents in several states are choosing not to have their children take the standardized tests. In New York City, for example, an advocacy group called Change the Stakes estimates that as many as 1,000 students in the city will not take the English test this month.
 

Elderly couple die in northeast Nebraska crash

4.15.14

 (AP) - An elderly couple have died after a collision on a snowy spring day in northeast Nebraska.
 
     The Wayne County Sheriff's Office says the accident occurred around 3:25 p.m. Sunday about two miles east of Hoskins on Nebraska Highway 35.
 
     The office says an eastbound pickup driven by 85-year-old Virlyn Lukens, of Emerson, went out of control on the slick roadway and was struck by an eastbound sport utility vehicle. Lukens and his wife, 77-year-old Marvel Lukens, were killed.
 
     The SUV driver was identified as 45-year-old Robbi Johnson, of Norfolk. Johnson was taken to a Norfolk hospital.

 

Facebook posts lead to child porn arrest

4.15.14

(AP) - Police in central Nebraska say a Facebook posting led to the arrest of a North Platte man suspected of having child pornography.
 
     The North Platte Telegraph reports (http://bit.ly/1iGMkBo ) that 57-year-old James Burnside was arrested Thursday and charged Friday with two counts of possession of child pornography. If found guilty, he could face up to five years on each count.
 
     North Platte Police investigator John Deal says his department was notified in January by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children that a local resident had uploaded an image of possible child pornography to a Facebook page.
 
     Deal says police worked with Facebook and determined the image was posted on Burnside's account.
 
     Burnside remained in jail on $50,000 bail and could not be reached Saturday for comment.