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Sustaining Water While Growing Food Production

During a forum at UNL's new Innovation Campus, agriculture experts discussed how to meet the demands of feeding a growing world population, without using more water.

While Nebraska sits comfortably on the Ogalalla Aquifer, the importance of using our water efficiently in farming is important due to the fact that very little of the world's water supply can be used for food production.

"What most consumers don't understand is that less than one half of one percent of the water on the globe can be used for food production," said Terry Fleck, Executive Director of the Center for Food Integrity.

These experts also discussed how changes in technology to products like irrigation systems could help curve the use of water being spent on irrigating farmland.

Gov. Heineman Completes Ice Bucket Challenge

Gov. Dave Heineman took an ice-cold shower outside his home to raise awareness about a devastating disease.

Heineman completed the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge on Wednesday with help from his wife, first lady Sally Ganem. People who take the challenge douse themselves with a bucket of freezing water to raise money for Lou Gehrig's disease research.

Heineman was challenged by Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad and University of Nebraska-Lincoln volleyball coach John Cook.

Heineman also donated $100 to the cause through the ALS Association's Nebraska Chapter. A video of the drenching was posted on the governor's Facebook page at the link below.

Nebraska ACT Scores Top National Average

A new report says Nebraska's 2014 high schoolgraduates scored higher on the ACT college entrance exam than students nationally and better than the state's 2013 graduates.

The Nebraska Education Department says Nebraska's average ACT composite score was 21.7, seven-tenths of a point higher than the national average of 21.0 out of a possible score of 36. Nebraska's 2013 figure was 21.5.

Statewide, 17,768 graduating seniors took the test, or 86 percent. That's up from 84 percent last year.

Most Midwest colleges and many across the country accept or require the ACT for admission. Many colleges accept or require the SAT exam instead, especially on the coasts.

Financial Program Prepare Students for High Costs of College

Throughout the 2014-2014 school year, over 2,000 students within 81 Nebraska Schools used the NEST Financial Literacy Program. They learned how to save money and where to gain assistance in fundingtheir college education.

"College has become more and more expensive. We can help parents and grand parents save for their children in a tax advantage way that helps in a way so that less goes to Uncle Sam," said Nebraska Treasurer Don Stenberg.

The program was put in place to give students more clarity on how to handle all of the fees and bills that come with getting a degree.

"We're seeing lots and lots of student loan defaults across the United State and I think that's partly because of poor planning," said Stenberg.

NEST also teaches High School Students how much certain University Degrees will cost, guiding them towards making the right financial decision now.

"You need to think about what I can save, what it costs. Maybe I can't afford to go to this more expensive school, maybe I need to stay closer to home," said Stenberg.

While Stenberg and others are hopeful this program will spread into more Nebraska Schools, they know that they are creating more financially literate teenagers across Nebraska.

Willie Nelson, Neil Young Plan Nebraska Concert in Protest of Oil Pipeline

Willie Nelson and Neil Young will headline a concert next month in a Nebraska cornfield organized by opponents of a proposed pipeline that would carry oil from Canada south to the Gulf Coast.

Bold Nebraska said Monday the concert will be held Sept. 27 on a farm near Neligh in northeast Nebraska. Tickets go on sale Wednesday.

Earlier this year, protesters carved an anti-pipeline message into the cornfield, which is in the path of TransCanada's proposed Keystone XL pipeline.

Pipeline critics hope the project will be rejected because they fear it could contaminate groundwater and contribute to pollution.

TransCanada has said the pipeline will have upgraded safety measures and should be allowed. The company has already built and is operating the southern leg of the pipeline between Oklahoma and Texas.

Fort Carson Honoring 2 Killed by Afghanistan Bomb

Fort Carson is honoring two soldiers killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan last month.

Soldiers are gathering at the post near Colorado Springs on Friday for a memorial service for Staff Sgt. Benjamin G. Prange of Hickman, Nebraska and Pfc. Keith Williams of Visalia, California.

Both were members of the 4th Brigade Combat Team, the last combat brigade from Fort Carson serving in Afghanistan. They were killed in Kandahar Province on July 24.

Prange was in his third tour of duty in Afghanistan but it was the first for Williams.

Alcohol Enforcement Aimed at Recreation Areas

Troopers with the Nebraska State Patrol made 79 contacts with motorists during a three-week long special enforcement effort focusing on recreational areas in Lancaster County.

The enforcement which focused on reducing the potential for alcohol related crashes around Lancaster County recreational areas, resulted in two arrests for Driving While Intoxicated , one Open Container citation, six citations for illegal possession of alcohol on the beach and one citation for Minor in Possession of Alcohol.

Citations and warnings were also issued for Speeding (6), Driving Under Suspension (1), and Seat belt violation (3).

The special enforcement, which took place from July 25, through August 14, focused primarily on weekends, and was paid for thanks in part to a $3,000 grant from the Nebraska Office of Highway Safety

Driver of Truck Identified | 11 Students Hurt in Bus vs. Truck Crash

Authorities say one person is dead and two others are listed in critical condition after a truck and school bus collision in Saunders County.

Sheriff Kevin Stukenholtz says the accident occurred around 7:30 a.m. Thursday near the intersection of county roads H and 29. That's about six miles north-northwest of Valparaiso.

Officials say the bus was going west and three construction workers from Schuyler, Nebraska were in a pickup going south. The bus and truck collided in a unrestricted intersection.

Sheriff Stukenholtz says the truck rolled, throwing the driver Steven Jedlicka from the vehicle, the other two passengers were seriously hurt. Jedlicka was pronounced dead at Bryan Health. The names of the two passengers in the pickup truck are being withheld pending notification of relatives, but they were taken to Bryan Health. Sheriff Stukenholtz says the men were from Colfax County and were building a garage in the neighborhood.

Eleven students were on the East Butler Public Schools bus along with the driver Lyle A. Divis of Brainard. None of the students were seriously injured but were transported to the Butler County Health Care Center and the Saunders Medical Center as a precaution. The Nebraska State Patrol is assisting with the investigation.


NORFOLK - A Northeast Nebraska woman is recovering after hospital staff spent more than half a day reattaching fingers she lost in an accident.

On the morning of July 24th, a woman in her 30's was brought to Upper Extremity Surgeon Dr. Tristan Hartzell and his staff at Faith Regional Health Services in Norfolk. Dr.Hartzell says she was the victim of an industrial accident, and all five fingers on her right hand had been severed.

Dr. Hartzell and a 13-member medical team worked for a grueling 17 hours, attempting to reattach each of the woman's fingers, while also helping her recover from losing over half of the blood in her body. Hartzell says while he was the main surgeon, the surgery wouldn't have been successful at all without the help of his anesthesiologists, physician assistants and other staff.

Dr. Hartzell: "With the set-up, often assisting is more difficult then the surgery. A monkey can drive a needle from one point to the other, but having it all set up for me so that I can drive the needle from one point to the other is what I depend on them for."

The surgery resulted in the successful reattachment of each of the woman's fingers. She was discharged Wednesday, and Dr. Hartzell says she still has a long road of recovery to go. He says compared to what she's been through, 17 hours in surgery in nothing.

Dr. Hartzell: "I'd do longer if I needed to. It doesn't matter how long. This is a young woman's hand. The time actually remarkably flies by."

Dr. Hartzell said that successful reattachment surgeries often depend upon the condition of the detached finger or limb when the patient arrives at the hospital. He says the ideal way to handle the part is to put it in a moist saline gauze, in a baggie and on top of an ice slush.

Nebraska Vietnam Vets Gathering in Norfolk

Hundreds of veterans are expected to attend the Nebraska Vietnam Veterans reunion this weekend in Norfolk.

The Norfolk Daily News says the reunion begins Thursday and runs through Sunday. Most of the activities will be at the Divots Conference Center.

Bruce Bounds of Norfolk was on the committee that organized that first reunion three decades ago. He says the idea then was to get veterans together "and start a healing process." He says the Norfolk event will provide opportunities for the veterans to connect with each other.

Programs on Friday and Saturday will address number of topics, including the impact of post-traumatic stress disorder on spouses, significant others and friends of veterans.

Butler Co. Sheriff Passes Away After Heart Attack

The Butler County Sheriff's Department said Sheriff Mark Hecker died Tuesday afternoon, following a heart attack late last week.

The department said the 53-year-old had a heart attack Friday.

On Friday, emergency crews took him from the hospital in David City to Lincoln. On Saturday he was then taken to a hospital in Omaha.

In a post on the Facebook group "Prayers for Mark Hecker" it said "Sheriff Mark Hecker passed away resting comfortably and surrounded by his loving family."

Another post said, Hecker "incurred substantial damage to his heart and other organs."

The sheriff's department said funeral arrangements are pending.

Rain Raised Topsoil Moisture Levels in Nebraska

Last week's rain in most of Nebraska has reduced irrigation demand and aided dryland crops.

A weekly U.S. Department of Agriculture report says parts of the state last week got upward of 2 inches of rain. Topsoil moisture was rated at 59 percent adequate and 3 percent surplus. Subsoil moisture rated at 58 percent adequate, with no surplus.

The USDA says only scattered fields of winter wheat remain to be harvested. The report says 98 percent of the crop has been harvested, just short of the five-year average of 99 percent by this date.

The report says 71 percent of the state's corn crop was rated good or excellent, and 70 percent of the soybean crop was rated in good or excellent condition.

Nebraska Veterinarians Watch for Horse Virus Spreading in Colorado

With more cases of a vesicular stomatitis showing up in Colorado, veterinarians in Nebraska want horse owners to keep their eyes open.

According to the Colorado Department of Agriculture, the state's veterinarian's office has placed 69 locations under quarantine.

This comes after horses and one cow tested positive for vesicular stomatitis.

The virus can be painful for animals and costly to their owners.

The virus typically causes oral blisters and sores--causing difficulty in eating and drinking.

"The first sign you might see is salivation," said Dr. Richard Keeten from the North Platte Veterinary Clinic."[You may] see your animal slobbering a lot. Look in the mouth and see if you notice anything odd."

Dr. Richard Keeten says the virus can be spread by any contact-- like sharing water or feed buckets.

It can also spread by flies, mosquitoes and other insects.

He says if you're planning to take your animals to Colorado, make sure you are aware of which areas have been affected.

The Colorado Department of Agriculture says the quarantines are located in Adams, Boulder, Douglas, El Paso, Larimer, and Weld counties.

Six Injured in Two Vehicle Accident Near Fairbury

Six people were injured in a two vehicle accident east of Fairbury Monday afternoon.

According to the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office, shortly before 3 p.m. a Ford F-150 was traveling west on 713 Road, when it was hit in the intersection at 571 Avenue by a southbound Chevy Van.

The F-150 rolled until it knocked over an electrical pole. The van also rolled until it came to rest in a ditch.

The driver of that van, 65-year-old Chester Veatch of Fairbury, was ejected from the vehicle and found a considerable distance from his car. He was airlifted to a Lincoln hospital with serious injuries. Two juvenile males inside the vehicle were also injured.

The driver of the F-150, 41-year-old Brenda Bush of Fairbury, was also injured. Two female passengers in Bush's car were also injured. One of those occupants remained trapped in the car until surrounding power lines were turned off.

Officials do not believe alcohol played a part in the accident.

Governor Announces Criminal Investigation For Sentencing Miscalculations

LINCOLN, Neb.-- Gov. Dave Heineman and Attorney General Jon Bruning announced Thursday that they have directed the Nebraska State Patrol to begin a criminal investigation of the sentencing miscalculations of inmates by the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services.

"Those responsible for these errors will be held accountable," said Gov. Heineman. "As I said earlier, a decision on a criminal investigation would be made once the personnel investigation was complete. Now is the time to move forward with a criminal investigation."

Heineman said the results of the criminal investigation will be provided to Attorney General Bruning and Lancaster County Attorney Joe Kelly to determine whether criminal charges are warranted.

"Accountability and transparency are critical to restoring the public trust. Access to the details uncovered through this process and investigation will be available to the public at the earliest possible date," said Attorney General Bruning.

In addition to directing the Nebraska State Patrol to begin a criminal investigation, Gov. Heineman sent an email today to all Corrections Department employees emphasizing that no one is above the law and when the Nebraska Supreme Court issues a ruling, the expectation is that every state employee and every state agency comply with the law.

"Public safety is priority number one. The citizens have lost their trust and confidence in the Department and there's a lot of work to be done to rebuild that," said Gov. Heineman.

Governor Heineman's email to Department of Correctional Services employees follows:

I want every Corrections Department employee to understand that no one is above the law. When the Nebraska Supreme Court issues a ruling, I expect every state employee and every state agency to comply with the law.

If you are asked or told by someone in your chain of command to ignore or to not follow a court order, I want you to contact your Director, Mike Kenney, and me immediately. I want to emphasize that you are to contact both of us and that contact should be made immediately.

I also want you to be aware that the independent personnel investigation by the Jackson Lewis law firm is complete and Director Kenney is in the process of taking disciplinary action.

Today Attorney General Bruning and I directed the Nebraska State Patrol to begin a criminal investigation regarding the sentencing miscalculations.

To the extent legally allowed, I am determined to hold those responsible for these mistakes fully accountable. No one is above the law.

The Corrections Department employees who made these mistakes have embarrassed the Corrections Department and the State of Nebraska. All of us need to acknowledge that the citizens of Nebraska have lost their trust and confidence in the Department and I want to challenge every Corrections Department employee to work very hard every day to regain the public's trust and confidence.

Public safety is priority number one and I want to work with you to make sure that we accomplish that goal.

Courtesy 10/11 News

Flags to be Flown at Half Staff in Honor of the Staff Sgt. Prange

Governor Dave Heineman has granted the request of Mayor Chris Beutler for flags to be flown at half staff in Lincoln Friday, Aug. 8 until sunset in honor of Army Staff Sergeant Benjamin G. Prange of Hickman.

The 30-year-old Norris High graduate was killed July 24 while on duty in Afghanistan. Services are scheduled for 10 a.m. Friday at Southwood Lutheran Church in Lincoln.

A memorial fund has been set up in his honor at First State Bank, with all proceeds going to his wife and two sons.

State Climatologist Says Drought Conditions Continue

LINCOLN – Drought conditions have plagued the central and southern plains over recent growing seasons, hindering crop yields for many producers in the region. Nebraska State Climatologist Al Dutcher says that if more rainfall doesn't come soon for south central and southeast Nebraska, the impact to the corn crop could be significant.

Dutcher: "If these conditions continue for a couple more weeks in south central and southeast Nebraska, I think many locations could be looking at 10-15% yield productions."

As it stands now, the official U.S. Drought Monitor is showing areas in Nebraska that fall south of the Platte River to be in abnormally dry to moderate drought conditions, while areas north of the Platte River have received normal to above normal rainfall and are not in a drought.

Dutcher said the upcoming 10 day period is forecasted to be the wettest, and forecasted rainfall will be of great importance to the corn crop condition in especially southeast Nebraska.

Jury to Examine Inmate Death at Tecumseh Prison

A grand jury will look into the prison death of a Nebraska inmate who attacked a state caseworker in 2011.

A Nebraska Department of Correctional Services news release says a prison worker found 42-year-old Patrick Howley unresponsive in his cell at Tecumseh state prison just before 7 a.m. on July 27. Howley was pronounced dead less than an hour later at Johnson County Hospital in Tecumseh. Officials suspect that Howley killed himself.

Johnson County Attorney Julie Smith on Tuesday told The Associated Press that autopsy results have not yet returned. Under Nebraska law, a grand jury investigates whenever someone dies in custody or while being taken into custody.

Howley was serving a sentence of 116 to 162 years for trying to kill a Lincoln Correctional Center caseworker.

Nebraska Sued Over Processing of SNAP Benefits

Two advocacy groups are suing Nebraska on behalf of a single mother who says she faced repeated delays when renewing her federal food benefits.

The lawsuit alleges that the Department of Health and Human Servicesfailed to process the request in a timely manner, as required by federal law.

It was filed on behalf of Tami Leiting-Hall, a fast food worker in Lincoln, and other Nebraskans who have applied for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program since Jan. 1, 2012.

Nebraska processes SNAP benefits through the ACCESS Nebraska system, which has been criticized in recent years for causing delays and errors. Leiting-Hall is represented by Nebraska Appleseed and the National Center for Law and Economic Justice.

Nebraska DHHS spokesman Russ Reno says the department doesn't comment on pending lawsuits.

Neb. Congressman Jeff Fortenberry Hosts Town Hall, Covers Major Topics

LINCOLN, Neb.-- Congress has district work days right now. That means representatives head back home to talk to constituents. Neb. Representative Jeff Fortenberry was at Lincoln Southwest high school Monday talking on some of the big issues - the border, the budget and international affairs.

When it comes to immigration, Fortenberry emphasized the need to secure the American border. He talked specifically about kids being brought across the border. He said they're being trafficked and put in dangerous situations. He added that it's crucial to not only look at the situation here in the States, but also in the countries of origin.

"Do three things. You have to protect the children, protect the border, and prevent the problem. The House of Representatives has passed a bill and I've proposed this as well. National Guard troops at the border to give the border patrol some relief. You also additionally aid and protect the children," said Fortenberry.

Fortenberry said there's no agreement on Capitol Hill about how to best handle the situation.

While the border situation may be dragging out, that's not the case on a Fortenberry-led, bipartisan resolution condemning the persecution of religious groups in Iraq.

"This is a human genocide. The international community has to try to heighten the awareness of this, at least try to get humanitarian assistance there," he said.

Fortenberry said U.S. troops will not return to Iraq in this situation. He said the U.S. can't help the country if the country can't help itself. But, he said bringing international attention to, what he calls, a genocide is important.

Fortenberry also commented on the lawsuit the House passed against the President. He said he supports the lawsuit. He added it takes the evaluation of President Obama's actions out of Congress' hands and gives it over to the justice system.

Public Asked to Comment on Revised English Language Arts Standards

Every five years, the state is required to change their standards for English Language Arts.

The current standards were adopted in 2009 so the Nebraska Department of Education revised them.

The State Board of Education and Nebraska Department of Education encouraged educators and the public to provide their feedback.

One of the public input sessions was held at the Department of Education Tuesday morning.

The department will incorporate the feedback into the standards and present it to the State Board for adoption in September.

According to the Department of Education, the biggest differences between the 2009 and 2014 English Language Arts standards are challenge and innovation.

The new standards will focus on deeper thinking, encourage innovation, and require students to support their thinking with evidence.

They will also have a greater emphasis on technology and allow students to use it as part of their learning.

TransCanada Representative Gives Update on Pipeline to Antelope CO Board

NELIGH - A member of TransCanada was present at a meeting of the Antelope County Board of Equalization Tuesday morning. Jeff Rauh gave an update on the status of the pipeline project and it's stall in the judicial process. Rauh said TransCanada has received 80% of the easements they are seeking to build the pipeline through landowners' property.

Rauh: "A number of landowners have said they are awaiting a decision on the pipeline at the federal level, so that is certainly a decision that we are looking forward to."

Rauh said local landowners who fall in the 20% of landowners who have yet to give their easement to TransCanada. Rauh continued by saying that if a decision was made soon at the state and federal levels, construction on the pipeline could begin as early as next year for TransCanada.

Heineman: Let us Know if You're Placing Illegal Children in Nebraska

LINCOLN - Nebraska is continuing to feel the impact of Central Americans sending their children to the U.S. under a false impression that they are granted automatic amnesty. Governor Dave Heineman is working with members of Nebraska's Congressional delegation to obtain specific information about the reported 200 illegal unaccompanied immigrant children that have been placed in the State of Nebraska.

Gov. Heineman: "I think the key to the future, and most governors agree with me, let us know if you're bringing people who've crossed the boarded illegally into our state. We should be entitled to that information."

Heineman then said that there should be speedy and appropriate deportation hearings.

Company to Fight Penalties in Omaha Plant Collapse

A livestock feed company says it will contest citations and proposed penalties issued for the collapse of an Omaha plant that killed two employees.

International Nutrition has notified the Occupational Health and Safety Administration of the company's intentions.

The case now will go to an administrative law judge for a hearing and to the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. Their decisions may be appealed to a federal appeals court.

Federal safety investigators say overloaded storage bins on the roof of the Omaha plant caused the building collapse on Jan. 20. OSHA cited International Nutrition for 13 violations of safety and health rules and proposed nearly $121,000 in penalties.

Memorial Fund Set Up For Benjamin Prange

A memorial fund has been set up at First State Bank for SSG Benjamin Prange. All proceeds go to Elizabeth Prange and two boys.

If you'd like to donate you can do so at a First State Bank location.

The Department of Defense says 30-year-old Staff Sgt. Benjamin G. Prange of Hickman, Nebraska died in Afghanistan Thursday.

Prange and another soldier were killed when their vehicle was hit by an improvised explosive device (IED) in the Kandahar Province.

Update: EPA Reverses Military Surplus Truck Ruling

A reverse EPA ruling means fire departments in rural Nebraska can continue to use military surplus trucks. On June 19, the EPA said the trucks were unfit to be reused because they didn't meet emissions standards, but that ruling was overturned.

A vital part of rural fire fighting, the military trucks offer features standard trucks don't. Osceola Fire Chief Toby Watts said, "They're just set up for heavy duty use. Like our 6x6 that we got allows us to get out into the fields. Thank goodness for the heavy duty military vehicles, we can save money, but it also helps us get to tough places, muddy roads, things like that."

The Osceola Fire Department is just one of many departments who rely on these vehicles.

Fire Equipment Manager Lew Sieber said, "I am here to help these fire departments. We have over 500 trucks in the field right now in over 250 different fire districts. I can list a half dozen fire districts that are exclusively equipped with only our equipment because that's all they can afford."

For the Polk Fire Department, the overturned ruling lifted a weight off their shoulders. Polk Assistant Fire Chief Pat McNaught said, "To be quite honest, we're very relieved. Ultimately for our rural fire department it comes down to dollars. Any means that are available to us to upgrade and continually upgrade our fleet at a reduced cost ultimately benefits taxpayers."

Lawsuit Targets Nebraska Horse Racing Measure

A Nebraska anti-gambling group has filed a lawsuit to keep off the November ballot a measure that would allow betting on previously recorded horse races shown on machines that resemble casino slots.

Gambling with the Good Life said Tuesday that it filed the lawsuit on Monday. Executive director Pat Loontjer says the measure violates the Nebraska Constitution's provision against asking voters to answer two questions in just one vote.

The group's attorney, Steve Grasz, says the filing asked the Nebraska Supreme Court to bar the secretary of state from putting what would be Amendment 1 on the statewide ballot.

If approved by voters, the constitutional amendment would clear the way for the video terminals at licensed tracks in Omaha, Lincoln, Hastings, Grand Island and Columbus.

Tornado-Stricken Nebraska Town Gets Some Iowa Help

The Sioux City school district is donating excess desks, tables and shelving units to help out some northeast Nebraska students whose middle school in Pilger was heavily damaged by a tornado.

The items will be delivered on Monday to a makeshift middle school of three modular buildings on the grounds of an elementary school in Wisner, Nebraska. Wisner sits about 12 miles east-southeast of Pilger.

About two-thirds of Pilger was destroyed or heavily damaged by an EF4 tornado on June 16. The school was too damaged to save and was razed earlier this month.

Sioux City schools superintendent Paul Gausman says he began his teaching career in Pilger as a band director and had spent time in the Pilger school building.

TD Ameritrade Invests $1.25M in Financial Planners

TD Ameritrade plans to invest $1.25 million over the next decade in helping students prepare for careers as financial planners.

The Omaha, Nebraska-based online brokerage says it hopes more students will consider studying financial planning because the demand for financial advice is growing.

Ten students recently received $5,000 scholarships to help them pursue bachelor's degrees in financial planning, and the group got to visit Wall Street and ring the closing bell for the New York Stock Exchange.

In addition to scholarships, TD Ameritrade awarded a $50,000 grant to the University of Georgia and a $25,000 grant to Texas A&M University to help the schools develop and strengthen programs focused on financial planning.

Number of Kids Attending Preschool Increases in Nebraska

The latest Kids Count Report shows Nebraska improved for all indicators in the education area.

The number of kids not attending preschool decreased from 59 percent to 52.

"We know that early childhood education is one of the best ways to get kids ready and prepared for school and make sure they get success later on," Voices for Children Research Coordinator Chrissy Tonkinson said.

The numbers from the report only include children receiving a formal preschool education. Tonkinson says there are other ways kids may be preparing for kindergarten.

"They may be going to a daycare with a curriculum, but it may not be a definite preschool curriculum. They may be learning several things in their child care even at home. We can't say parents are not doing a good job preparing their kids for education," Tonkinson said.

Parents like Jamie Scott say they enroll their children in preschool to give them a head start on their education.

"It's just for preparedness for school and just to be ready and be in a social situation," Scott said.

Tonkinson adds that Voices for Children sees poor figures when it comes to reading proficiency in third grade. She says over 60 percent of kids are not reading at grade level and starting education early on can help the state see better numbers.

Nebraska ranked 9th overall in the U.S. for education.

Thousands of Nebraskans to Get Refund

The federal government says insurers owe Nebraskans more than $1.5 million in refunds because of a provision in the Affordable Care Act.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said Thursday that nearly 16,600 Nebraska residents will be getting refunds, averaging $108 per family.

The law requires insurance companies to spend at least 80 percent of the premiums they collect on medical care and quality improvement or return the difference to consumers and employers.

Employers can apply refunds in ways that benefit workers or take a discount on future premiums. Individual policyholders owed refunds will get checks, reimbursements to their credit card accounts or see reductions in future premiums.

Nebraska Allocates $187,000 to Fire Departments

The Nebraska Forest Service has allocated $187,000 in federal grants for volunteer fire departments.

The service announced this week that the U.S. Forest Service is providing the funding. The money will be used for 91 Nebraska community projects through the state's Volunteer Fire Assistance program.

A state forest service employee says 97 percent of Nebraska's 490 fire departments are volunteer.

The program allows the service to share up to 50-percent of equipment costs with the fire departments. Common expenses are protective clothing, safety equipment and training.

The service says that rural firefighting needs are much greater than the money made available by the program. Rural fire departments submitted 142 project applications requesting more than $983,000.

Mountain Lion Near Children in Chadron Shot

A mountain lion has been shot south of Chadron after a man observed it crouching in the grass about 20 yards from his home where two young children were on a patio.

The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission says in a statement the 5-month-old female mountain lion was shot Saturday.

The man retrieved a rifle from the house and approached the animal, then shot it when it stood but did not flee. The mountain lion weighed about 30 pounds.

As required by law, the man immediately notified authorities after shooting the animal.

The Dawes County Sheriff's Department investigated the incident and took possession of the animal. It was transferred to Nebraska Game and Parks officials Sunday.

Authorities determined the man acted within the law.

Nebraska Fares Well in Annual Children's Report

Nebraska has fared well in a new national study of children's education and economic well-being.

The Kids Count report released Tuesday by the Annie E. Casey Foundation ranks Nebraska 10th overall.

The annual study ranked Nebraska fifth this year for children's economic well-being, down from fourth place the previous year. The state placed ninth overall when it came to education, up from 17th place in 2013.

Nebraska ranked 24th in health and 20th in the family and community category.

"Pre recession we were at 15 percent of kids in Nebraska living in poverty. We've gone up to 18 percent of our Nebraska kids living in poverty. That's 81,000 kids living in Nebraska whose families are not making enough to take care of them and make ends meet every month," Voices for Children Research Coordinator Chrissy Tonkinson said.

Tonkinson says it's not a lack of people working. She says the jobs people have are not paying enough.

Results did show Nebraska is getting better in education and health related areas. For example, the number of low-birthweight babies and children without health insurance improved.

"We want kids who are getting into the doctor when they need to get to the doctor. Kids that are getting preventative care," Tonkinson said.

Tonkinson says economic well being is the biggest focus right now since all indicators worsened for Nebraska in that category.

One way Voices for Children will be taking action against the problem is working with the legislature and advocating for policies that will be good for kids.

Firefighting Air Stations, Planes Now Operational

New airport stations designed to serve a firefighting plane in rural Nebraska are now up and running.

The Nebraska Forest Service said Tuesday that the state-contracted plane and crew arrived last week for a two-month stint during the summer wildfire season.

The state forest service recently hired a manager for the single-engine air tanker base in Chadron. Bases are also located in Valentine and Alliance, in addition to a mobile unit. The bases serve as storage facilities for water and flame retardant, allowing the plane to reload and circle back to a fire quickly.

The planes and bases were approved after massive wildfires in 2006 and 2012 that threatened lives and property. Nebraska has not seen any major fires so far this year.

Despite Tornado, Pilger Holds Annual Celebration

Some people from Pilger weren't sure if they were still going to hold their annual weekend celebration after a tornado destroyed much of the village.

But Pilger's strong hearts and minds weren't going to let the storm get in the way of a treasured time.

"This is what Pilger is, this is what we've been waiting for," said volleyball competitor and Pilger native Jacqueline Oswald. "You know it's horrible to say but after the tornado hit we were like are we going to have Pilger days? Are we going to have volleyball?"

The 127th Pilger Days are this weekend. Saturday was full of fun events like mud volleyball, dancing, barbeque's, and even a chance to TASE Sheriff Mike Unger.

The volleyball tournament was $72 per team. In the past the top three teams took home cash prizes, but this year all of the proceeds went to the Village of Pilger.

Village officials including Fire Chief Kory Koehlmoos weren't sure if Pilger Days would still happen after the tornado came through, but because most the the weekend was already planned, they decided to move forward.

"We had a lot of people coming up to us asking if we were still
gong to have Pilger Days," said Koehlmoos. "And the majority of the people wanted to have it so we decided to keep it going on."

This decision was great news for many, who say Pilger needed a weekend like this more than anything.

"It's nice to be able to smile and laugh and have a good time," said Oswald as tears filled her eyes. "Friends getting together that haven't seen each other for years and years and years. So it is nice to be able to enjoy life again."

Courtesy of our Partners at 10/11 News

Scam Alert: Woman Scammed Out of Hundreds in IRS Scam

Answering a scam phone call leaves one Lancaster County woman out hundreds of dollars.

Wednesday, the Lancaster County Sheriff's Department responded to a call from a Hickman woman who claimed she had gotten a call from the IRS saying she owed $500 in back-taxes.

The woman says the man she talked to on the phone had a foreign accident and told her to go to the nearest CVS and put money into a pack card. She then gave the card's number to the man, who took all the cash off of the card.

"These kinds of scams people need to be very leery of them and not rely on the phone number provided to you, but call a known number for the IRS that's published," said Sheriff Terry Wagner.

Sheriff Wagner says that if the IRS does need to contact you for money owed, it will be through the mail, with a specific number to call.

Air Show Returns to Offutt Air Force Base

Offutt Air Force Base will host an air show this weekend after federal budget problems forced the cancellation of last year's event.

The free event on Saturday and Sunday will feature both the U.S. Navy's Blue Angels and the F-22 Raptor aerial demonstration teams along with several other flying teams.

The public will have a chance to visit Offutt Air Force Base and learn about the base on the southeast side of the Omaha area. Gates open at 9 a.m. and flying begins around noon.

A free shuttle bus will be offered from various locations around Bellevue, including the former Southroads mall and Bellevue East and West high schools.

More details of the air show and all the aircraft that will be on display are available online at .

First West Nile Virus Case for Southeast Nebraska

The first human case of West Nile Virus in the Public Health Solutions 5 county health district which includes Fillmore, Gage, Jefferson, Saline and Thayer Counties was reported on Sunday.

This along with an above average report of mosquitoes in the PHS district should be a reminder that residents should take precautions to avoid mosquitoes by eliminating standing water and outside exposure at dusk and dawn.

Kim Plouzek, Environmental Health Programs Manager, says mosquitoes breed in water and they can lay several thousand eggs in as much water that will fill a thimble, so it doesn't take a lot of water.

Public Health Solutions says when you are out, wear long sleeves and pants and wear mosquito repellant that contains DEET.

Symptoms of West Nile virus vary from person to person but can include fever, headache, and body aches, nausea, vomiting, and sometimes swollen lymph glands or a skin rash on the chest, stomach and back.

Less than 1 in 100 people will develop severe illness characterized by a high fever, neck stiffness, disorientation, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, vision loss, numbness, coma and paralysis.

Gambling Foes to Fight Horse-Racing Ballot Measure

Gambling opponents have launched a campaign against a Nebraska ballot measure that would allow betting on old horse races shown on machines that resemble casino slots.

The group Gambling with the Good Life is traveling the state in hopes of defeating the November ballot proposal. If approved by voters, the constitutional amendment would clear the way for the video terminals at licensed race tracks in Omaha, Lincoln, Hastings, Grand Island and Columbus.

Supporters say the machines will help the state's struggling horse-racing industry. Pat Loontjer of Gambling with the Good Life says the machines run as fast as regular casino slots and can be just as addictive.
Nebraska voters rejected two proposals to allow casino gambling in 2004, and a measure to authorize video keno was defeated in 2006.

Nebraska Seeks Info on Immigrant Children Set Here

Governor Dave Heineman and most of the congressional delegation have asked federal officials for information about more than 200 unaccompanied immigrant children who have been placed with relatives or sponsors in Nebraska.

The children are among tens of thousands who have crossed the southern U.S. border illegally and unaccompanied by parents during the recent children's migration from Central America.

A letter addressed Monday to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell says the agency's handling of matter lacks transparency and coordination with states and local governments.

The letter was signed by Gov. Heineman, Sens. Deb Fischer and Mike Johanns, and Reps. Adrian Smith and Lee Terry. Rep. Jeff Fortenberry didn't sign the missive.

Last week Heineman expressed outrage that federal officials had refused to share the information.

Keystone XL Opponents to March in Nebraska

Nebraska opponents of the Keystone XL pipeline will participate in a walk across the nation to draw attention to climate change.

Dozens of Nebraskans are expected to join the Great March for Climate Action on Saturday for a portion of the 3,000-mile walk from Los Angeles to Washington. The group's destination for the day is the renewable energy barn built by Bold Nebraska on the pipeline's proposed route.

Speakers will include Democratic U.S. Senate hopeful Dave Domina, Bold Nebraska director Jane Kleeb and Julia Trigg Crawford, a Texas landowner who fought an eminent domain claim for the pipeline on her land.

The 10-mile walk will start at 9 a.m. at St. John's Church in Marquette. A separate mile-long walk will start at 1 p.m. near the barn northwest of York.

Nebraska Roads Plan Open for Public Comment

The Nebraska Department of Roads is accepting public input on its statewide transportation improvement plan.

The plan lists all highway and transit projects that will make use of federal money, as well as projects that are regionally significant. Nebraska's plan is updated every year on Oct. 1. The plan is sometimes changed to add or remove projects, to update with different funding sources, or to change a project's scope.

Federal law requires a public input period so that citizens can comment. The comment period opened on Wednesday and runs through 5 p.m. on Tuesday.

Public comments can be made on the department website.

Health Alert Issued for Rockford Lake in Gage County

A health alert for toxic blue-green algae has been issued for Rockford Lake in Gage County. This is the only lake in Nebraska currently under a health alert; last week, the state ended the alert for Kirkman's Cove in Richardson County.

Samples taken earlier this week indicated Rockford Lake was above the state's health alert threshold of 20 parts per billion (ppb) of total microcystin (a toxin released by certain strains of blue-green algae.)

The alert will continue at the lake for at least two more weeks, because lakes that are on health alert must have two consecutive weeks of readings below the threshold before the alert is discontinued.

When a health alert is issued, signs are posted to advise the public to use caution, and designated swimming beaches are closed during the alert.

Recreational boating and fishing are permitted, but the public is advised to avoid activities that could involve accidental ingestion of water and to avoid full immersion in water.

People can still use the public areas for camping, picnics and other outdoor activities.

The lakes will continue to be monitored weekly throughout the 2014 recreational season. Sampling results for toxic algae and bacteria will be updated every Friday and posted on NDEQ's web site,

Courtesy of 10/11 News.

Council: US Economic Growth to Outpace Nebraska's

A state business council predicts that Nebraska's economy will slow enough this year for the rest of the nation to catch up.

The Nebraska Business Forecast Council says the U.S. economy as a whole will outpace Nebraska's for the remaining months of 2014. Nebraska has enjoyed strong growth in recent years in farming and home construction.

The council says Nebraska will see stable farm income and relatively small increases in non-farm employment and income. The U.S. economy is expected to grow by more than 3 percent before the end of the year, before moderating in 2015 and 2016.

University of Nebraska-Lincoln economist Eric Thompson says the shift is partly due to slower population growth in Nebraska and the state's already-strong labor market, which is less in need of recovery.

Southeastern Nebraska Could Get New Poultry Plant

The Gage County Board is mulling a special-use permit that would allow a chicken operation east of Blue Springs in southeast Nebraska.

The board held a public hearing on the proposed poultry operation Wednesday after the county planning commission recently recommended approval of the plan. The board will take formation action on the permit in two weeks.

The project would include six buildings, each 45-by-510 feet, housing 26,000 chickens per building at full capacity.

Forty-six nearby property owners have been notified of the plan. The nearest home is more than half a mile from the proposed operation.

An animal waste management plan for the operation has already been submitted to the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality.

Heineman Traveling to National Governors' Meeting

Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman is traveling to Nashville for an annual meeting of the nation's governors.

Heineman is scheduled to leave Thursday for this year's National Governor's Association conference. The gathering for Democratic and Republican governors runs through Sunday.

Organizers say the event will focus on education, workforce development, health care, veterans and jobs.

The National Governors Association represents the governors of all 50 U.S. states and five U.S. territories. Heineman served as the group's chairman from July 2011 through July 2012.

He was the first Nebraska governor to hold the title in 50 years.

6 Nebraska Communities to Share $1.2M in Grants

The Nebraska Department of Economic Development says $1.2 million in grants will go to Lexington, Plattsmouth, Schuyler, Wayne, Nebraska City and Holdrege.

Lexington will use its $250,000 to help pay for new water lines, sidewalks and drainage systems.

Plattsmouth will use its $250,000 to help repair paved streets and water mains while improving storm drainage.

Schuyler is also using its $250,000 grant for street, sidewalk, and storm sewer projects.

Wayne's $215,000 grant will help pay to demolish six structures and build a public tornado shelter.

Nebraska City's $123,470 grant will help pay for improvements in Nuckolls Square Park and some neighborhoods.

Holdrege plans to use its $100,000 grant to implement a new code enforcement program and clear some blighted properties.

Wisner-Pilger Middle School to be Demolished Friday

The badly damaged Wisner-Pilger Middle School will be demolished after the school board voted to tear down the historic building.

Demolition is set to begin Friday at 8 a.m.

The historic building was destroyed when 200 mile an hour winds tore through the town.

"It's a pretty tremendous amount of damage. Pretty catastrophic. Roof blown off most areas," Superintendent Chad Boyer said.

The building is nearly a century old and for a long time held grades K-12. Boyer says a lot of generations have come through its doors and many people have memories of walking through the school's halls.

Three portable classrooms for the students and staff will be located near the elementary school in Wisner.

Classes are scheduled to begin on August 14.

Hassebrook Speaks of Plans to Alleviate Prison Overcrowding



Nebraska is facing a prison overcrowding crisis that has been more than a decade in the making. At the same time, scores of violent offenders were released early through administrative failures. Four people were murdered by a prisoner released on good time, when he should and could have lost all good time under current statutes for attacking prison guards and other prisoners. These failures relieved prison overcrowding, but at the expense of human lives and public safety. Other steps need to be taken to both relieve overcrowding and provide long term solutions. Chuck Hassebrook has released his plan on how to deal with these ongoing issues and how to move our state forward:

"When I take office in January, the buck will stop at my desk to ensure that sentencing statutes are fully and faithfully implemented. The failures of recent years would not have happened under my watch and will not happen again under my watch.

"Upon taking office, I will propose and finalize regulations to take every day of automatically granted good time away from prisoners who repeatedly break prison rules, attack guards, or assault other prisoners. Although the Governor currently has that statutory authority, it has not been used. I will use it.

"The option of building or leasing new prison space must be on the table, but I will take every responsible step to avoid that expensive option while protecting Nebraskans from dangerous criminals. I will also take all necessary actions to avoid spending money on additional prison space. I will ask the Legislature to expand drug courts, veteran courts, young adult courts and mental health courts for nonviolent offenders. Such courts cost a small fraction of prison and have proven far more effective at correcting criminal behavior. While almost half of drug offenders who serve time re-offend after leaving prison, only one in seven graduates of drug court re-offend.

"I will search the nation for best practices that have proven successful in reducing both crime and the prison population. I will move parole eligible, nonviolent offenders out of prisons and into drug, veteran, young adult and mental health courts, if they would have been eligible when sentenced.

"I will expand job training and mental health treatment for inmates and provide supervision and job assistance to every inmate upon his or her release to reduce the rate of recidivism and future demands on the prison system.

"I will also invest in long term solutions, like early childhood education, and will work with schools and community colleges to make job training available beginning the junior year of high school. Successful students are far less likely to fall prey to gangs and crime. These actions will reduce future prison and public assistance costs."

Nebraska Won't Disclose Records

Nebraska officials have refused to disclose the details of crude oil shipments railroads haul through the state.

The Nebraska Emergency Management Agency says it plans to keep the information railroads provided confidential.

Officials say the information is proprietary and releasing it could endanger public safety.

Nebraska recently responded to a records request from The Associated Press.

Federal officials say they don't believe the information railroads provide to states must be withheld to protect the public.
This spring railroads were ordered to notify states about trains carrying at least 1 million gallons of crude oil.

Railroads are under pressure to improve safety after several fiery derailments involving crude oil, including one in a small Canadian city in eastern Quebec where 47 people died last July when 60 cars derailed and exploded.

Rural Fire Departments Take Hit From New EPA Ruling

An agreement between the Department Of Defense and the Environmental Protection Agency has some fire departments worried about the safety of people living in rural Nebraska.

The EPA is no longer allowing military trucks to be refitted for rural fire departments, which fire chiefs say could hinder their ability to put out fires and cost them thousands of dollars.

The EPA says these military trucks don't meet their emission standards, but fire chiefs across the state say being able to get these trucks for a fraction of the cost is crucial for small fire departments.

"Overall, it saves us so much money in the end. Because it's not just the military trucks, it's all the government surplus through the forestry service that saves our budget tremendously," said Toby Watts, the Osceola Volunteer Fire Department Chief.

Rural fire departments only have to pay for the cost of transporting the trucks to their department and getting them retrofitted, which costs less than $5,000. A fraction of the half-a-million-dollar price tag to buy commercial trucks new. But the money to buy a new truck isn't the only thing fire departments would lose.

"It's not only the price that's messing up things, but the off-road capabilities," said Watts.

"The great thing about this truck is we can take it anywhere. And we have some pretty rough country in our fire district. Most of the commercial trucks, wouldn't go places that this truck goes. And in fact, we were thinking about adding another truck, but as of right now, that's probably not going to happen," said Pat McNaught, the assistant fire chief in Polk.

And being able to go anywhere is just one of the positives.

"The ability of this truck to haul 25-hundred gallons of water in a rural structure fire is a pretty important capability. In rural Nebraska, we're not blessed with hydrants on every block," said McNaught.

The fire chiefs told me with the EPA's new ruling, they won't even be able to buy these trucks, if they could afford it.

Courtesy of 10/11 News.

Fireworks Explode During Garage Fire in Eagle

Crews were cautious as they battled flames of a garage fire in Eagle, Nebraska that had fireworks inside.

Just after midnight Wednesday, firefighters worked to control a fire in a large garage behind a house near 'O' and 214th streets.

Crews were cautious as the building was described as having fireworks inside.

The popping of fireworks could be heard coming from the garage.

No one was hurt in the incident.

The cause of the fire is still being investigated.

Midwest, Plains Economy Still Appears Strong

A new monthly business survey suggests the economy in nine Midwestern and Plains states should continue growing steadily in the months ahead.

The region's overall economic index crept up to 60.6 in June from May's 60.5 to hit another three-year high.

Creighton University economist Ernie Goss, who oversees the survey, says the report offers plenty of reasons to be optimistic because the job market is strong and businesses report solid new orders.

The survey results from supply managers are compiled into a collection of indexes ranging from zero to 100. Survey organizers say any score above 50 suggests growth, while a score below that suggests decline.

The survey covers Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma and South Dakota.

SW Iowa Camper Finds Body in Missouri River

Authorities say a camper has found a man's body in the Missouri River in southwest Iowa.

Chief Deputy Bruce Paulsen, of the Mills County Sheriff's Office, told the Council Bluffs Daily Nonpareil a camper found the body about 4:45 p.m. Tuesday in the river at Lincoln's Landing campground. That's near the U.S. Highway 34 bridge that connects Mills County to Plattsmouth, Nebraska.

Paulsen says the body had some clothing and indentifying markings, such as tattoos, but he wouldn't be specific.

He says the sheriff's office hasn't received recent reports of a missing man upriver.

The body was taken to the Douglas County Coroner's Office in Omaha for an autopsy.

Farmers Push Back Against Proposed EPA Water Rule

Different agriculture organizations came together to take a stand Tuesday against the EPA's proposed new water ruling, which could make farmerslose control of their land.

The EPA has proposed a "Waters of the U.S." rule, which seeks to bring areas where water flows or pools during or after rainfall, under the federal Clean Water Act jurisdiction, even if these areas aren't wet most of the time. This means farmers would be subject to the act's programs, regulations and permitting requirements, which farmers say is going too far.

"I want farmers and ranchers to understand and people well beyond the farm and ranch to to understand that this is a very very serious issue about the federal government taking over control of the land," said Steve Nelson, the President of Nebraska Farm Bureau Federation.

So agriculture organizations including the Nebraska Farm Bureau Federation, Nebraska Cattlemen, Nebraska Corn Growers Association, Nebraska Pork Producers Association, Nebraska Poultry Industries, Nebraska Soybean Association and the Nebraska State Diary Association came together to create the Common Sense Nebraska coalition in an effort to push back. Farmers say the proposal of this water rule would make their jobs nearly impossible to do.

"I mean it could be complete devastation to any farmer or cattle producer throughout the state," said Travis Rainforth, a farmer who let the coalition hold a press event on his land.

"Flexibility would be lost. That would be...maybe the word that would come to mind first, flexibility and how it would make us now less flexible to react with Mother Nature and in agriculture, you are dependent on Mother Nature and the weather," said Barbara Cooksley, a fourth-generation rancher.

The coalition says based on past experience, pushing back is their only option.

"The only way we've really managed to stop those things is by pushing back and pushing back harder. So if I can help be part of the push back then I'm happy to help," said Rainforth.

The farmers say they want other people to read up on the new proposed ruling, talk to farmers, and then hopefully get behind them on this new initiative.

New Nebraska State Laws Taking Effect on Tuesday

Four new Nebraska laws will go into effect on Tuesday.

One law will require Nebraska school districts to publish superintendent employment contracts. Another will increase the state fees for certified copies of marriage certificates and for searches of death certificates.

A third law will officially create a state commission to prepare for Nebraska's 150th anniversary as a state in 2017. The Nebraska Sesquicentennial Commission will consist of 17 members appointed by the governor. Jeff Searcy, chairman of the Nebraska 150 Sesquicentennial Committee, says the new state commission will work to ensure statewide participation in the celebration.

The fourth establishes a program in the Department of Health and Human Services to help pay for treatment of certain allergies, a blood cell disorder and other ailments.

Hassebrook Selects County Official As Running Mate

Democrat Chuck Hassebrook has chosen Lancaster County Commissioner Jane Raybould as his running mate in the Nebraska governor's race.

Hassebrook announced his pick on Monday at the Capitol. Raybould, who was born and raised in Lincoln, was first elected to the county board of commissioners in 2010.

Raybould serves as vice president for operations at B & R Stores, Inc., an employee-owned grocery store company that includes Russ's Market, Super Savers, Save Best Foods and Apple Market. Raybould and her husband, Jose Herrero, have two children.

Hassebrook is running against Republican Pete Ricketts in the race to replace Gov. Dave Heineman, who is leaving office due to term limits. Ricketts has selected current Lt. Gov. Lavon Heidemann, a farmer and former state senator, as his running mate.

Pilger Recovery Expected to Cost Tens of Millions

Nebraska officials are still tallying the cost of the tornadoes that destroyed most of the town of Pilger, but it's expected to climb into the tens of millions.

The Nebraska Emergency Management Agency will send teams to the northeast Nebraska community this week to assess damage to roads, bridges and public buildings, such as the school and local fire department. Last week, teams started to tally the cost of private property damage not covered by insurance.

The June 16 tornado damaged 75 percent to 80 percent of Pilger, a town with a population of about 350.

The Nebraska National Guard has left town, but a spokeswoman for Gov. Dave Heineman says the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency and five other state agencies are still providing assistance to the area.

USDA Gives Nebraska Town $129,541 Grant

The Nebraska town of Oakland is getting a $129,541 grant to help businesses grow and expand in rural areas.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Development office announced the grant earlier this month.

Oakland plans to use the money to provide technical assistance and training to businesses in rural areas of the state.

More details about the USDA's rural development programs are available online at .

Help Available for Producers Hit by Tornadoes

Federal assistance is available to northeast Nebraska producers who lost livestock in the June tornadoes.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is offering $100,000 to producers to help them properly dispose of animal carcasses. Producers have until July 18 to apply.

The USDA can also provide technical assistance in safely disposing the carcasses.

The assistance is available through the USDA's Natural ResourcesConservation Service. Producers in Stanton, Wayne, Dixon, Thurston, Cuming and Cedar counties may be eligible. Other counties may be added if other storms hit before the July 18 deadline.

Volunteers Begin To Arrive In Pilger

Volunteers arrived this morning at 7:00 A.M. to sign in at Wisner-Pilger High School and receive their credentials before they were bussed over to the town of Pilger, to begin sifting through debris as homeowners searched for personal belongings.

Many of the homeowners just kept saying "thank you" repeatedly, as they were still in shock that so many volunteers had come up to help. The town of Pilger is only about 400 people and four times that amount came just Thursday.

Chad Boyer, spokesperson for the Pilger Volunteer Effort says, despite the heat, he can already see how volunteers are working some magic. He says he saw so much of the small debris already picked up from people's lawns. When asked if he was shocked with the amount of volunteers, he said he didn't expect anything different.

"I wish I could say that I was suprised but I'm not. It's Nebraska, that's just what people do and God bless them" Boyer says.

The town of Pilger had so much support Thursday with many volunteers saying they will continue to make frequent appearances.

Carly Woerman named 2014 Miss Teen Rodeo Nebraska

18-Year-Old Carly Woerman from North Bend Nebraska was crowned the Miss Teen Rodeo Nebraska 2014.

The coronation was held at the Community Play House in North Platte. Woerman was up against three other teens, Eva Oliver from Merriman was 1st runner up.

Woerman says she is excited to be the new Miss Teen Rodeo Nebraska, and she cant wait to travel around the state.

Woerman says she has been riding horses since she was two years old.

The ceremony was a part of the 50th Annual NEBRASKAland days that kicked off Wednesday in North Platte.

Nebraska Officials Begin Prison Overhaul Effort

Top officials from all three branches of Nebraska government will look at ways to reduce prison crowding and costs, while maintaining public safety.

Nebraska officials and the Council of State Governments began a formal review Wednesday of the prison system. The study will examine alternatives to incarceration, such as probation and drug courts.

Lawmakers this year established a 19-member working group to look for solutions, led by Gov. Dave Heineman, Speaker of the Legislature Greg Adams and Nebraska Supreme Court Chief Justice Michael Heavican.

"We are looking for innovative and sensible solutions to our prison challenges," said Gov. Heineman. "I'm pleased that we are beginning the work of this important project. I am hopeful that we can develop cost effective policies that will create a responsible long-term prison strategy and increase public safety."

Group members will look at what other states have done recently to reduce their prison populations. Nebraska's prisons housed 5,175 people as of May 31, placing the system at 158 percent of its operating capacity.

Courtesy 10/11 News

DHHS Helps Nebraskans Cool Down with Fans, Bill Payment Assistance

Nebraskans with little cooling this summer can be helped with their bills or the availability of fans if they meet the qualifications for two Department of Health and Human Services programs, according to Thomas Pristow, director of Children and Family Services.

DHHS has partnered with 58 organizations in 39 Nebraska communities to distribute fans to citizens. The recipients of the fans are determined by the organizations that distribute them, Pristow said.

Anyone seeking a fan should call the telephone number of the organization nearest them for more information.

The fans were purchased with funds from the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Administration for Children and Families, and the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services administers the funds, he said.

Pristow says this is just one of many programs at DHHS that help people live better lives.

Funds also are available through the DHHS cooling program to assist low-income individuals and families with bill payments.

Courtesy 10/11 News

Officials Calling Pilger "Total Devastation"

PILGER - Calling it "total devastation", emergency management and law enforcement officials, as well as residents of Pilger are taking stock of the damage after two tornadoes touched down, decimating the town of about 350. Stanton County Emergency Management Director Sandy Goshorn says the tornadoes came almost without warning.

Goshorn: "It came down so fast. It was two tornadoes that merged into one, then came into town."

Sheriff Mike Unger says the damage is widespread.

Unger: "Total devastation. Seventy-five percent of the town in my opinion is damaged beyond repair. City hall's gone. The fire department is destroyed. The public library is severely damaged. At Midwest Bank, we're trying to see if the building is structurally able to have us go in and secure the contents in there. Obviously we have monies that we need to account for. The Wisner-Pilger Middle School is in my opinion totally damaged beyond repair. St. John's church is gone, and numerous houses are just gone."

Unger says five-year old Callista Dixon of Pilger was killed in the storm. She was pronounced dead upon arrival at Faith Regional Health Services in Norfolk. Unger says a motorist also died Monday after a single-vehicle accident that occurred on a county road four to five miles east of Pilger. Unger says the accident is considered storm-related because it occurred about the same time the storm pounded Pilger. The driver was identified as 74-year old David Herout of Clarkson.

Unger: "We had 18 victims transported to Faith Regional Health Services. One of those was our fatality. A second one was taken by medical helicopter to Creighton University Medical Center. They're in critical condition. I believe five others were admitted to the hospital. I know one went through surgery due to injuries suffered here. We have three other area hospitals with 25 miles that received victims from Pilger."

Pilger Village Clerk Kim Neiman says the town's water service has been disrupted.

Neiman: "Last night we did lose water for a little while. We did have a generator. Rich Koenig with the State Department of Health and Human Services helped us get a generator so we could get our well pumping again. We have restored water, but just to the park and pool restroom areas, so there are restroom facilities in town. We can't do it to the rest of the town until we check water mains and things like that."

Residents in Pilger have been allowed to re-enter their town to survey damage and collect valuables. Trey Wisniewski says the tornado was scary to live through.

Wisniewski: "All of a sudden all you could see was that the sky was black. We gathered up what we could and ran into the basement. We huddled into a corner and within 60 seconds the whole house lifted completely up off of us."

Sheriff Unger says the village will be closed off to everyone once again at 5 p.m. Tuesday.

If anyone can sympathize with the plight of Pilger's residents, it's Wayne Mayor Ken Chamberlain, who says while it may be hard to do, finding positives in this tragedy is key.

Mayor Chamberlain: "I know it's not just houses, it's people's homes and they don't want to hear that it could have been worse, but rebuilding homes is a lot easier than having funerals."

Gov. Dave Heineman and U.S. Rep. Jeff Fortenberry are among those that got a chance to tour the damage in Pilger Tuesday morning.

1 Injured, Multiple Injured In Pilger, NE Storms

Faith Regional Health Services in Norfolk said one person was killed and they have 16 other patients who are in critical condition from the storm that hit Northeast Nebraska Monday afternoon.

Providence Medical Center in Wayne said they have two patients taken in from Pilger who suffered lacerations from the storm. Another patient was being brought into the hospital around 6:45 p.m.

Pender Community Hospital said they are treating three people who have minor injuries.

Nebraska Emergency Management said Pilger residents being bused to the Red Cross Shelter at the Wisner-Pilger High School in Wisner.

The National Weather Service says at least two tornadoes touched down about a mile apart, near the towns of Stanton and Pilger.

The tornadoes do not appear to have hit Stanton, but have caused damage in Pilger and some rural areas around that town of about 350.

At least one of the tornadoes lifted off the ground several times before touching down again.

The tornadoes also swept through a region of sparsely populated farmland.

According to the Wayne police department, the search and rescue operation is still in progress. Entrances to Pilger are open to emergency personnel only. Anyone who wants to help are asked to wait. No volunteers are needed at this time.

Pilger residents are being urged to go to the ballpark in town so they can do a headcount.

Nebraska Emergency Management said Highway 24 from Norfolk to Stanton, and Highway 275 and 15 in Stanton County, is closed. Motorists are urged to stay off the roadways to allow emergency services to respond.

A team of six Nebraska Emergency Management Agency staff members will arrive Tuesday morning to provide support to the local response. NEMA staff did preliminary damage assessments and worked with local emergency managers on providing assets in the recovery.

NEMA added National Guard members will deploy with the NEMA team to assist local responders and begin assist as needed in cleanup activities.

Norfolk Hospital: 1 Fatality, Multiple Injured in Storm

Faith Regional Health Services in Norfolk said one person was killed and they have 16 other patients who are in critical condition from the storm that hit Northeast Nebraska Monday afternoon.

Providence Medical Center in Wayne said they have two patients taken in from Pilger who suffered lacerations from the storm. Another patient was being brought into the hospital around 6:45 p.m.

Pender Community Hospital said they are treating three people who have minor injuries.

Nebraska Emergency Management said Pilger residents being bused to the Red Cross Shelter at the Wisner-Pilger High School in Wisner.

The National Weather Service says at least two tornadoes touched down about a mile apart, near the towns of Stanton and Pilger.

The tornadoes do not appear to have hit Stanton, but have caused damage in Pilger and some rural areas around that town of about 350.

At least one of the tornadoes lifted off the ground several times before touching down again.

The tornadoes also swept through a region of sparsely populated farmland.

According to the Wayne police department, the search and rescue operation is still in progress. Entrances to Pilger are open to emergency personnel only. Anyone who wants to help are asked to wait. No volunteers are needed at this time.

Pilger residents are being urged to go to the ballpark in town so they can do a headcount.

Nebraska Emergency Management said Highway 24 from Norfolk to Stanton, and Highway 275 and 15 in Stanton County, is closed. Motorists are urged to stay off the roadways to allow emergency services to respond.

A team of six Nebraska Emergency Management Agency staff members will arrive Tuesday morning to provide support to the local response. NEMA staff did preliminary damage assessments and worked with local emergency managers on providing assets in the recovery.

NEMA added National Guard members will deploy with the NEMA team to assist local responders and begin assist as needed in cleanup activities.

Study of Nebraska Nuclear Flood Risks Narrowed

Regulators have told the utilities that own Nebraska's two nuclear power plants not to worry about some unlikely ways upstream dams might fail even though they are studying those flood risks.

The utilities are re-examining flood threats at their nuclear plants that sit on the Missouri River as part of an industry-wide review of unlikely safety threats after the 2011 Japanese meltdowns.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission told the utilities this month they didn't need to consider two of the five dam failure scenarios experts developed.

NRC officials didn't immediately respond to questions about the decision.

Independent expert David Lochbaum with the nonprofit Union of Concerned Scientists says it appears regulators decided the flooding scenarios were similar enough that the utilities don't need to prepare for all of them.

Southeastern Nebraska Troopers Plan DUI Checks

State troopers in southeastern Nebraska have gotten a grant to conduct drunken driving checks and high-visibility patrols.

Troopers in Saline County will hold the special enforcement this weekend, beginning Friday and running through Sunday in an effort to reduce the potential for serious injury and fatal crashes.

The special enforcement effort is paid for, in part, with a $3,100 grant from the Nebraska Office of Highway Safety.

Capt. Lance Rogers, based in Lincoln, says the patrol hopes that by increasing its presence, it hopes motorists are reminded to wear their seat belt and avoid driving impaired or distracted.

Apartment Fire Sends One Person to Hospital

COURTESY: 10/11 News

LINCOLN, Neb.-- Police officials said LFR found a woman unresponsive and sent her to the hospital after an apartment fire Wednesday evening.

It happened on 2612 "J" street at around 6:20 p.m.

Acting Battalion Chief, Brian Giles said crews arrived within minutes to find heavy smoke on the second floor of the apartment complex.

"Very dark, dirty, brown smoke," said Giles. "It was a fire looking for oxygen."

10/11 spoke with a neighbor who said he "heard a small explosion, like a boom."

The fire was contained in the unit, and fire inspectors are currently investigating at what caused the fire.

Fire officials said the apartment unit won't be occupied for the rest of the evening, because of smoke and damage.

The investigation is on-going.

Update: Body Found at Omaha-area Landfill Identified

WASHINGTON, Neb. (AP) -- A garbage truck driver has found a body at the landfill for the Omaha area.

The man was identified Wednesday as 57-year-old Lewis D. Doss, of Omaha. The Douglas County sheriff's office says Doss was identified through his fingerprints and tattoos.

Authorities say the truck driver spotted what appeared to be human legs in his rear-view mirror as he dumped his load around 6:30 a.m. Wednesday at the landfill southwest of Washington.

Douglas County Sheriff's Capt. Steve Glandt says investigators know where the truck had been earlier that morning but declined to share the information. Glandt says the man hadn't been dead long and was fully clothed when he was found. Doss did not have any obvious injuries or trauma.

An autopsy has been scheduled for Thursday.

Initial Nebraska Roads Projects Ahead of Schedule

COURTESY: 10/11 News

LINCOLN, Neb. -- Nebraska officials say the first roads projects covered under a 3-year-old state law are ahead of schedule.

The work began after lawmakers passed the Build Nebraska Act, which commits one-quarter of a cent out of the state's 5.5-cent sales tax to roads projects. Gov. Dave Heineman and Department of Roads Director Randy Peters said Wednesday that the projects scheduled for fiscal 2014 and 2015 are moving forward.

"The Department of Roads is pleased to have under construction the much anticipated Wahoo Bypass, which is a new expressway on Highway 77 from Lincoln toward Fremont," said Randy Peters, Director of the Nebraska Department of Roads.

Projects include highway construction between Blair and Omaha, bypass projects in Kearney and Wahoo, and three projects around Interstate 80 in Omaha. Future projects will include roadwork around Lincoln, Plattsmouth, Bellevue, Hastings, Schuyler, Fremont, Nebraska City and the Heartland Expressway to Alliance.

The law was approved in 2011 in an effort to accelerate work on construction that was delayed for years.

Senate Backs Bill to Improve Health Care for Vets

The Senate has approved a bill making it easier for veterans who've endured long wait times for VA medical care to receive treatment from local doctors instead. The measure closely resembles a bill approved Tuesday in the House. Lawmakers say they are optimistic a compromise version can soon be sent to President Barack Obama for his signature.

The Senate bill, approved 93-3, would authorize about $35 billion over three years to pay for the outside care, hire hundreds of doctors and nurses and lease 26 new health facilities in 17 states and Puerto Rico.

The Veterans Affairs Department released an audit this week showing that more than 57,000 veterans have had to wait at least three months for initial appointments. Some vets who asked for appointments never got them.

State Seeing Return on New Plane Investment

The state's new plane, a Beechcraft Kingair, has been cleared for take-off for a couple of weeks now.

Though some voiced concerns about the cost - about $3.5 million - or even the need for a new state plane, its chief pilot said he's already seeing a return on the state's investment.

"It's more fuel efficient," Rob Markise, the chief pilot, said.

"It can, using the same power settings, it flies probably 15-to-20 knots faster, which is closer to 40 miles per hour."

Markise says it has state of the art equipment, making it safer and cheaper to operate.

"Everything is brand new on this airplane," Markise said, "and we're hoping to go for a longer period of time before anything needs to be done to it."

Markise said the problem with the old plane, a Piper Cheyenne from the early 80's, is that only 50-to-60 of them were ever made.

"When [the Cheyenne] went down for maintenance," Markise said, "it went down for a little bit longer trying to get the right parts for it."

But, some lawmakers still questioned the multi-million dollar price tag back in February, when the legislature debated allowing money for a new aircraft.

"I'd be interested to see when all this shakes down as far as costs," Sen. Norm Wallman, of Cortland, said, "because depreciation and all these things are figured in there and noticed.

"It's going to cost more money than we think."

Marks said they ended up getting an extra two years added onto the plane's warranty because of how quickly they were able to purchase it. He said that's worth potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars.

"This is the latest and greatest technology out there," Marks said, "and, because of that, we're able to operate a little bit cheaper."

Courtesy: 10/11 News

May Tax Receipts Lower Than Projected in Nebraska

A new report says Nebraska's net tax receipts in May came in lower than projected.

The Department of Revenue said Tuesday that net tax receipts for the month totaled $333 million, which is nearly 5 percent below the state's certified forecast.

The forecast said the state would net an estimated $349 million.
According to the report, individual income and sales-and-use tax revenue came in lower than expected. Corporate income and miscellaneous tax revenues were higher than projected.

Net receipts for Nebraska's current fiscal year are still nearly 2 percent higher than the forecast.

Arrests Made In Gavilon Grain Embezzlement Scheme

Two of the conspirators involved in the $2.5 Million embezzlement scheme at Gavilon Grain have been arrested. Fifty-year old Kathy J.Springer-Hesman of Fremont is charged with Conspiracy to Commit Theft by Deception, which is a Class III Felony.

She's also charged with Accessory to a Felony, which is a Class IV Felony; and Aiding Consummation of a Felony. She was arrested Friday June 6th, 2014 while at work in Omaha.

Also arrested was 42 year old Joleen M. Cameron of Fremont on the same charges. She turned herself into Fremont authorities Monday June 9th, 2014.

Detectives are investigating the possibility of additional arrests.

Heineman Continuing to Discuss Qualifications for NU Presidency

LINCOLN - The resume of Governor Dave Heineman may not reflect the desires of the university regents looking for the next president of the University of Nebraska system. Heineman, however, said that he feels he's well qualified for the job…

Gov. Heineman: "Much of what the President of the University of Nebraska does is exactly what you do as Governor. You're there to provide leadership to manage all those assets. Again, I've worked very very closely with President Milliken on education and economic development. The University of Nebraska is one of greatest assets.

Monday the university released a presidential profile that outlines the qualities and experience the Board of Regents wants in the person who will replace J.B. Milliken, who has left to become chancellor of the City University of New York.

Regents chairman Howard Hawks says the ideal candidate "will have a deep understanding of and experience in higher education and proven success in leading a major organization." Hawks says the profile was in the works before the governor announced last month that he would seek the job.

The governor has a bachelor's degree from West Point.

Officer Killed in Las Vegas Shooting has Nebraska Ties

Police in Las Vegas are still trying to piece together what happened Sunday when a man and woman shot two Metro Police officers. One of those officers, 31-year-old Igor Soldo, has ties in Nebraska.

Two Las Vegas Metro Police officers were killed at point-blank range while they ate lunch Sunday, in northeast Las Vegas. The shooting suspects, Jerad Miller and his wife Amanda, also killed another person in the store before taking their own lives, Metro Police said.

That victim has been identified as 31-year-old Joseph Wilcox of Las Vegas.

Sheriff Doug Gillespie identified the two officers as Alyn Beck and Igor Soldo. Both were shot at CiCi's Pizza around 11:22 a.m.

"It is truly a tragic day here in the Las Vegas valley," said Sheriff Doug Gillespie at an afternoon news conference. "We have lost two officers with young families."

The Soldo family immigrated to Lincoln, Nebraska, from war-torn Bosnia in 1995 when Igor was 13. He learned English and graduated from Lincoln Southeast High in 2000 and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 2004.

Soldo was planning to return to Lincoln in a few weeks to celebrate his son's first birthday with family and friends.

Soldo worked as an on-call Lancaster County Corrections Officer between August of 2003 from March 2006.

In early 2006, Soldo began working for Metro Police. He leaves behind a wife and baby.

In a brief statement, members of Soldo's family said, "Igor was a great brother, husband, father and officer."

Soldo's brother and sister-in-law are Beatrice Police officers. Officials at Beatrice Police Department said they are supporting their officers during this challenging time, in any way they can.

Effort To Raise Nebraska Minimum Wage Moving Fast

Supporters of a higher minimum wage in Nebraska are wasting little time in gathering signatures to place the issue on the November ballot.

The group Nebraskans for Better Wages is aiming to have 83,000 verified signatures by July 3, the deadline to put the question before voters in the general election.

State Sen. Jeremy Nordquist of Omaha, a spokesman for the group, says organizers have met their initial targets for the petition drive, and he's confident they'll succeed.

The ballot measure would let voters decide whether to incrementally raise Nebraska's minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $9 by January 2016.

The campaign has received major contributions from union groups. Business groups that oppose the measure are also considering a campaign that would challenge the ballot measure.

Nebraska & Iowa VA Facilities under Scrutiny

Some patients at Veterans Affairs medical centers in Iowa and Nebraska are on waiting lists for treatment, but the facilities say they're unaware of any unauthorized lists like those uncovered in other states.

A regional VA spokeswoman said Thursday that Iowa and Nebraska facilities were included in a federal investigation of specific sites.

Spokeswoman Sharyl Schaepe says the hospitals don't expect to find problems, but they haven't been told what the review found.

Reports from U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley's office say the VA Central Iowa Health Care System had 52 patients on its official waiting list as of May 1.

The Nebraska-Western Iowa Health Care System listed 156 patients. The Iowa City VA Health Care System had 27 patients, while the Sioux Falls VA Health Care System listed 100.

Significant Crop Damage Devastates Nebraska Farmers

After months of preparation for the fall harvest, it only took one night to wipe out many central and eastern Nebraska crops. In the coming days, insurance companies will total up the damage but many farmers are already starting to count their losses.

Joel Weber, a farmer from Saline County, was one of those affected by the recent storms.

"Last night I looked out here and it was a complete canopy corn and with all the potential in the world and now it's completely gone and I just have to move on to make smart decisions to get me through the next 15 months to make up for this," Weber says.

It's a familiar scene with many farmers and ranchers throughout Nebraska who were victims of Tuesday's severe weather.

In the next few days, insurance companies will make their way to these flooded and battered fields to assess the damage.

If damage is bad enough many ranchers will have the option to re-plant, but crop specialists say most crops would only yield around 50 to 55 percent of its potential during harvest.

Farmers have several options for insurance depending on their level of damage and what type of coverage they have.

Johanns' Office Monitoring Potential for Federal Assistance in Storm Cleanup

WASHINGTON D.C. - Recovery following this weeks hail storms is continuing across the state.

Tuesday's storm brought baseball-sized hail and winds as strong as 91 mph to many parts of the area. The storms caused extensive damage in areas such as Uehling, Craig, Blair, and Fort Calhoun, as well as, damage to other areas of the state including northeast Nebraska.

U.S. Senator Mike Johanns said that his office is continuing to monitor the situation very closely.

Sen. Johanns(R-NE): "Staying in touch with the governor, in fact I just a day or so ago got a report from him as to what he was seeing out there, and if there is any role for federal assistance we'll do what ever we can to help."

The National Weather Service said Thursday that three tornadoes briefly touched down in eastern Nebraska near Elyria, near Greeley and near Hampton.

Gov. Heineman Surveys Storm Damage in Blair

Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman visited Blair and Fort Calhoun Wednesday afternoon to see the damage from Tuesday's storms.

Hail injured 12 people, including nine in one vehicle in the Blair Walmart parking lot. All suffered cuts and bruises. Thousands of windows were broken from golf and tennis ball-size hail.

Woodhouse Auto in Blair reported 4,500 vehicles were damaged, amounting to more than $152 million in inventory. A plate glass window was broken at a video store on Main Street, appropriately next to the horror section. Many houses had holes left by hail.

Omaha set a new record for the day with 5.3 inches of rain. Blair received 3.8 inches and Tekamah, Norfolk, York, Columbus, Fremont and Nebraska City received between 2 and 3 inches of rain.

NSP: Click It or Ticket Enforcement Ends

Troopers with the Nebraska State Patrol issued 462 seat belt citations and warnings for violation of Nebraska's seat belt law during the "Click It or Ticket" mobilization.

A total of 55 child restraint citations and warnings were also issued.
The "Click It or Ticket" nationwide campaign that ended Sunday encompassed the heavily traveled Memorial Day holiday weekend.

Nebraska's seat belt law is a secondary law. Drivers can be cited for this violation only if stopped for a separate offense. Violating Nebraska's Seat Belt law carried a $25.00 fine, for each offense.

Troopers and Communication Specialists put in overtime hours as a part of the "Click It or Ticket" campaign thanks in part to a nearly $28,000 grant from the Nebraska Office of Highway Safety.

Pete Ricketts Announces Lt. Governor As Running Mate

Nebraska Republican Gubernatorial Nominee Pete Ricketts today announced that Lavon Heidemann, current Lieutenant Governor former Regent and former state senator, will be his running mate and nominee for Lieutenant Governor.

"Lavon is a man of great character, broad experience, and collaborative skill," Ricketts said.

"I am honored to join Pete in his campaign to be Nebraska's next governor," Heidemann said. "I am excited about his vision for new growth and responsible reform. I look forward to partnering with him to develop constructive relationships within the Legislature and throughout Nebraska that will help improve state services and create conditions for the growth of new and better-paying jobs."

Born in Pawne City, Heidemann is a farmer, livestock producer, and volunteer firefighter from Elk Creek in Johnson County. His work experience includes time as general foreman for a drilling company in Alaska.

Crews Replace Dozens of Irrigation Systems Destroyed by Storms

Many farmers are still picking up debris and damaged irrigation systems the May 11 storms left behind.

It's a race against time for some repair companies like Sutton Irrigation & Repair because the crops in the area really need the water.

Owner Ty Yost says they are seeing the highest numbers of pivots needing repair than ever before. He says about 40 were destroyed from the storms.

The storms did hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage. A new pivot can cost anywhere from about $60,000 to $75,000 depending on its size.

The storm was so powerful it managed to drag pivots, twist them, and even lift them up from 30 inches of concrete that anchors them into the ground.

Yost says it takes his crews about a day to a day and a half to put up a standard pivot.

He says they hope to have all pivots in the area back up and running by July 1.

57 Citations Issued in Branched Oak, Pawnee Lake Sting

Lancaster County deputies and Nebraska Game and Parks officers are cracking down on area lakes.

Officials issued 57 criminal citations Wednesday evening at Branched Oak Lake and Pawnee Lake in Lincoln.

Sheriff Terry Wagner said LSO issued 31 citations, including two tickets for minor in possession, two cases involving drug paraphernalia and a warrant arrest.

Game and Park officers issued 26 citations involving similar incidents.

Sheriff Wagner said 57 citations is a high amount, especially for a week day.

"All-in-all it was a very productive afternoon," Wagner said. "Keep in mind it was a Wednesday evening, not your most heavily used day of the week."

Sheriff Wagner said they plan on doing more of these throughout the summer.

Heineman Expects "Higher level of Scrutiny" in Seeking NU Presidency

LINCOLN - Wednesday Governor Dave Heineman announced that he's applied for the University of Nebraska presidency, little more than a week after he publicly expressed interest in the job. The term-limited governor announced Wednesday that he has asked the university's Board of Regents to consider him for the position, and feels that applying for the job while still holding the office of Governor does not give him a major advantage.

Gov. Heineman: "I actually think I'm going to be held to a higher standard, and a higher level of scrutiny as the Governor of the State of Nebraska. That goes with the territory, I welcome those expectations and I hope to meet or exceed those expectations."

Heineman says he would focus on keeping tuition affordable and increasing research activity if he's chosen. Heineman is leaving office in January.

Heineman Applies for NU Presidency

Gov. Dave Heineman says he has applied for the presidency of the University of Nebraska.

Heineman made the announcement Wednesday during a press conference at the state capitol.

The position came open in April with the departure of university President J.B. Milliken, who left to become chancellor of the City University of New York. Heineman is leaving the governor's office in January because of term limits.

The university is conducting a national search for applicants, and will announce four finalists before making their selection.

Heineman, a Republican, says he reached out to several regents and spoke Milliken to notify them that he was seeking the job.

Heineman says he would focus on keeping tuition affordable and increasing research activity if he's chosen. Heineman is leaving office in January.

Nebraska Supreme Court Hears Arguments in Same-Sex Divorce Case

The case of a woman who wants to divorce her same-sex partner after legally marrying in Iowa is now in the hands of the Nebraska Supreme Court.

The high court heard arguments Wednesday in the case of Bonnie Nichols, a Raymond woman who married her long-time partner, Margie, in 2009. Bonnie Nichols filed for divorce last year, but a Lancaster County judge ruled that the court couldn't grant a divorce without recognizing the marriage.

Same-sex marriages are allowed in Iowa. Nebraska's constitution doesn't recognize same-sex marriages, civil unions or domestic partnerships.

Bonnie Nichols' attorney, Megan Mikolajczyk, says the Constitution's "full faith and credit" clause requires Nebraska to recognize the marriage.

The Nebraska attorney general's office says allowing the divorce would disenfranchise voters who overwhelmingly approved Nebraska's constitutional amendment in 2000.

Authorities Investigate Shooting at York Prison

The Nebraska State Patrol is investigating a shooting at the York Women's Prison after a former employee tried to get into the facility with a rifle.

Officials with the Nebraska Department of Corrections say 50 year old Robin K. Staehr of York, entered the front public lobby of the Nebraska Correctional Center for Women (NCCW) and demanded staff to allow her entry into the facility at approximately 5:15 p.m. on Sunday.

Staff recognized Staehr as an employee who had resigned from the facility in 2005 and observed a rifle behind her back. Staff denied her access to the facility, called 911 and immediately began radio procedures to clear the yard and lock down the facility.

Staehr then fired a single gunshot to her chin before dropping the firearm, a .22 caliber rifle, and walking out of the lobby of the facility toward a vehicle in the parking lot. NCCW staff secured the outside entrance to the lobby area.

Emergency responders arrived and transported her by ambulance to York General hospital. She then was transferred to Bryan West in Lincoln with a non-life threatening injury.

No staff or inmates were injured during this incident and the woman did not gain entry to the secured areas of the facility. NCCW staff responded quickly to the incident and followed established emergency procedures.

The incident remains under investigation by the Nebraska State Patrol. Investigative reports once completed will be forwarded to the York County Attorney for review and determination of possible charges

Busy Memorial Day for Sheriff's Office at Branched Oak Lake

The Lancaster County Sheriff's Office responded to 14 disturbance calls at Branched Oak Lake Memorial Day. There were only two calls for service last Memorial Day.

Chief Deputy Jeff Bliemeister says it's estimated that around 700 people were in one small corner of Recreation Area 14.

There are no trash cans near the grass around Area 14 were a lot of beer and soda cans were found on the ground.

Bliemeister says there might have been underage drinking but that they didn't have the staff to check every I.D.

"We did not have the man power or staffing at that time to enforce those laws," said Bliemeister. "When they made contact there were numerous beer cans, beer cases, and lots of evidence of alcohol use."

He says there is no alcohol regulation by the Nebraska Game and Park Department, but that LSO would like to work with them in changing that.

Deadly Crashes nearly on Pace with Last Year

The number of roadway fatalities in Nebraska has barely changed this year compared to the same period in 2013, and state officials say most of those killed weren't wearing seat belts.

State officials said Thursday that 74 people have died in crashes so far 2014, compared with 73 during the same period last year. Of the 67 people who were killed while inside a passenger vehicle, 49 were not wearing seat belts.

Gov. Dave Heineman and other state officials issued a call for motorists to wear their seat belts. Nebraska kicked off its annual "Click it or Ticket" campaign this week, which runs through June 1.

The traffic fatality numbers were released in advance of the Memorial Day holiday weekend, when Nebraska's roads are busier than usual.

Safety On The Water This Memorial Day Weekend

The weather is getting nicer which means boaters are hitting the water.

This week is National Safe Boating Week. The National Weather Service wants to make sure your safety boating knowledge is as second nature as safely driving a car.

"It gives everyone a chance to stop and think about preparedness just like when you put a seat belt on in a car. When you get on to a boat, it's a life jacket, [you have] to get that life jacket on," said Teresa Keck, warning coordination meteorologist.

Wearing that life jacket could be the difference between life and death.

Game and Parks Officer Roger Thompson said if someone falls off of a boat and hits their head, a life vest is what's going to save them.
If you plan on boating this summer, in the state of Nebraska it's the law for anyone born after December 31, 1985 to have a boating education. You'll get a certificate, kind of like a fishing licenses, that you'll need to carry with you while on the water.

Other safety tips while out on the water are to avoid alcohol while on a boat. It's easier to become dehydrated because of the heat. Also, always check your surroundings, watch for other boats, swimmers even stumps or unusual hazards in the water, and have the required safety equipment in the boat at all times.

Gov. Heineman Looking at NU Presidency

Gov. Dave Heineman says he is looking seriously at applying for the presidency of the University of Nebraska.

Heineman made the comments Monday during his statewide call-in show.

The position came open in April with the departure of university President J.B. Milliken, who left to become chancellor of the City University of New York. Heineman is leaving the governor's office in January because of term limits.

A search committee and outside firm are working with the university's Board of Regents to conduct a national search to replace Milliken.

Heineman has previously has deflected questions about whether he's interested in the job, saying he wanted to focus on his work as governor. A spokeswoman for the governor declined to elaborate on his remarks.

Door to Door Salesmen Fraud

It's that time of the year when door to door salesmen make their way through the neighborhood. Police Officer Katie Flood wants citizens to be careful and alert, because these people may be scammers.

Flood said three incidents of door to door sales fraud have been reported this month.

Three women wrote checks for magazine subscriptions to salesmen between the amount of $22 and $46. Flood said the women became aware of the situation when they noticed the checks were cashed for $2800.

While talking with the women, Flood said the men claim to be from Omaha and trying to change their life around.

Police have suspects in mind and don't believe these men are targeting a specific group of people.

Disaster Relief Still Weeks Away for Beaver Crossing Residents

Well over 100 people who live in Beaver Crossing packed into the town's City Hall for a meeting only 8 days after an E-F3 Tornado blew through their town, causing hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage for some people.

Despite Governor Heineman signing a Disaster Declaration this past week, it'll still take a few weeks before President Obama can sign off on it, meaning it will take nearly a month before people here can even begin registering their claim with FEMA.

At the meeting however the City Council unveiled a plan of their own, allowing storm victims to apply for a share of the City's Citizen Donation Fund, bringing financial relief to tornado victims as early as next month.

Beaver Crossing resident Robin Butzke thinks the funding will help out residents who lost everything.

"It's going to take a little pressure off of their shoulders, they're going to get to breathe a little bit knowing that they're going to get a little extra money from this," said Butzke.

The National Weather Service said the May 11 tornado that struck Beaver Crossing packed winds peaking at 140 mph.

Two Trucks and Passenger Vehicle Collided Near Pilger

PILGER - Authorities are currently investigating a multiple vehicle accident at the junction of Highways 32 and 15 south of Pilger.

The accident involved one passenger vehicle and two semi-trucks. Stanton County Sheriff Mike Unger said that crews were called to the accident just after 9 a.m.

Sheriff Unger: "As a result of that accident, we have three known fatalities and a fourth person has been life-flighted to an Omaha hospital. We're currently working on the identification of the three victims, they were all burnt beyond recognition from two separate vehicles."

Unger says a southbound semi struck an eastbound SUV, and continued through the intersection, striking a northbound semi almost head on.

Unger says the driver of the northbound semi was partially ejected and suffered numerous injuries and burns. That driver is currently in an Omaha hospital. The driver of the southbound semi, believed to be from Iowa, and the two occupants of the SUV, believed to be from the Norfolk area, were pronounced dead at the scene.

Sheriff Unger also says that Nebraska Department of Roads crews were working on the intersection at the time of the incident.

Highway 15 is currently closed south of Highway 32.

Lack of Women in Rural Nebraska According to UNL Study

If you live in a rural community, you probably see more men than women. Now there's research to back that up. According to a new University of Nebraska-Lincoln study, Robert Shepard, a UNL doctoral candidate says young men outnumber young women in rural Nebraska.

Shepard examined census data from 2000 and 2010, and found that more than half of 1,600 villages, rural townships, precincts and other locales with 800 or fewer people experienced an increased ratio of young men to young women.

The median increase was just under 7 percent, but many of the smallest communities saw extreme increases -- in excess of 200 percent -- in the proportion of males to females.

Brian Turnwall owns a grocery store in Valparaiso and knows first hand the challenges of small towns.

"Just for financial opportunities and those types of purposes I think we see the young people anymore go in Lincoln or Omaha," said Turnwall.

The study suggest rural leaders need to come up with a plan to think of the needs of young women in economic and community development.

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