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Last Day for Mail Sorting in Grand Island

Friday marks the last day for inbound sorting at the Grand Island Postal Sorting Center.

Starting Saturday, April 18, the service moves to Omaha where outbound Grand Island mail has been sorted since June 2013. The consolidation will affect 40 employees. However, a postal spokesman said the transition has resulted in no bargaining unit layoffs and that most of the staff reductions were handled through attrition and reassignments.

There will be just 25 employees that remain at the Grand Island facility which will become a transportation hub and bulk mail entry unit. USPS says delivery service will not be affected by the consolidation. Mail service will continue to be two days for stamped, first-class mail, when sent locally.

Tom Osborne to Speak at Two Grand Island Events

Tom Osborne is scheduled to speak at two events next week in Grand Island.

Both will be happening on Tuesday as TeamMates of Grand Island is hosting Osborne for a speaking engagement on the importance of mentorship. That event is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. at Grand Island's Community Fieldhouse. Current TeamMates mentors who bring a prospective mentor with them will be eligible for a Tom Osborne-autographed Husker football. Also, anyone who applies to become a mentor within one week will be eligible for a second autographed football. That event will be free and open to the public.

Prior to that, Osborne will speak from Noon to 1 p.m. at Riverside Golf Club on behalf of the Nebraska Child Advocacy Center. The center is conducting a number of activities this month to raise awareness during Child Abuse Prevention Month. Lunch will be served at the benefit lunch for $35 and $400 for a corporate table of 10.

For more information on both organizations, you can visit teammates.org and cn-cac.org for the Nebraska Child Advocacy Center.

Fire Officials Respond to Semi Truck Fires

Fire officials are trying to piece together what caused two semi trucks to catch fire overnight in rural Adams County.

The incident happened at around 1:30 a.m. this morning near CPI Coop just east of Hastings. Hastings Rural, Hastings Fire and the Adams County Sheriff's Department responded to the scene and fire crews quickly contained the fire to the cabs. Hastings Rural Fire Chief Bob Hansen.

"The trailers didn't sustain any damage. We were able to do a quick enough knock down to get those tractors out," Hansen said.
Hansen says they don't know what caused the fire yet, but says they are investigating it as suspicious in nature.

Fire officials don't know yet what caused the two trucks to catch on fire, but Hansen says it appears unlikely that it was an accident.

"It's just highly suspicious that two tractor trailers would catch on fire at the same time," Hansen said.

No injuries were reported. The Fire Marshal is helping with the investigation.

Hastings Library Unveils Renovation Plans

The Hastings Public Library has unveiled plans for its upcoming $5.1 million renovation project.

The public got their first chance to see those renderings at last night's Business After Hours. Among the changes will be a brand new entrance way on the southwest side of the building. There will be a new children's area on the second floor and reading lounges spaced apart throughout the facility. Library officials say the project will take about 18 months to complete and should be done in 2017.

They're still looking to raise about $850,000 for the project.

Bold Nebraska's Kleeb to Speak at UNK

Environmental advocate and Hastings resident Jane Kleeb (Kleb) will speak at the University of Nebraska-Kearney next week .

The founder of Bold Nebraska will speak about the Keystone XL pipeline and rallying citizens to take action. Kleeb will present "The Unlikely Alliance Fighting Keystone XL" on Earth Day, next Wednesday at 7 p.m. The presentation will take place in Copeland Hall, room 142.

Kleeb has been a reporter for MTV, a frequent guest on FOX News and MSNBC and is a former member of the Hastings School Board. She's been a prominent opponent against the Keystone XL pipeline since founding Bold Nebraska in 2010.

Kearney Police: Hastings Man Fell to His Death

A Hastings man found dead in a Kearney alley last week is believed to have fallen 30 to 50 feet to his death from a fire escape, according to police.

51-year-old Craig Demoor had been released from jail the day before. Police say foul play is not suspected. They believe his death was accidental.

Preliminary autopsy results revealed Demoor died from blunt force trauma consistent with a fall from a high place. Toxicology reports are not complete.

Court records indicate Demoor was sentenced on March 20th to 60 days in jail for driving under the influence. The same day he was sentenced to six months in jail for misdemeanor domestic third-degree assault. He was released April 6 after having credit for time served.

Grand Island Mayor Forms Committee For Redevelopment Project

Grand Island mayor Jeremy Jensen has organized an Executive Committee for future redevelopment at the site of the current Veterans Home.

The committee will use an Omaha project, the Aksarben Future Trust model as their guide going forward. Mayor Jensen explains why.

"The Aksarben project was something that brought public and private folks together in terms of a unified effort with one common goal. When you're dealing with such a large piece of property there needs to be a lot of collaboration with this effort," Jensen said.

The 11-member Executive Committee met for the first time on Tuesday. It includes several city leaders including City Attorney Matt Maser, who played a key role in the Aksarben project.

"Matt's a terrific asset for us. He has a lot of insight about how this should work. The next step for us, we're going to bring some of the folks from the Aksarben project out to Grand Island so we can see what worked for them and what didn't," Jensen said.

Jensen added he knows the land that the Veterans Home occupies has been sacred to the community for over 125 years and the committee looks forward to maintaining that rich history.

The next private meeting of this Executive Committee will be sometime in mid-May.

Fairgrounds Sets Timeline For Expansion Project

The Adams County Ag Society now knows when their new fairgrounds building will be completed.

At their April fair board meeting on Tuesday, a timeline was rolled out with an anticipated May 1st completion date for the project. Judy Mignery, board vice chairwoman says it's exciting to finally be able to move forward.

"Now the hard work begins with trying to find some donors. I hope that the community is just as excited. It will be exciting to have some other opportunities to come to the fairgrounds and come to Hastings," Mignery said.

Advertising of bids will begin May 7th, with bid opening to begin May 28th. The bid will be awarded at the board's June meeting. Mignery says the new building will be a great multipurpose facility for the community year round for events such as equipment shows or camper shows.

"We also have talked about utilizing it for different sporting events such as practice fields for soccer, some of those needs our community has in the winter time," Mignery said.

Demolition of the existing buildings will take place immediately following this year's fair. It is expected the project will take nine months to complete.

Kearney Chamber of Commerce Chairman Dies

Kearney Area Chamber of Commerce chairman Mark Benjamin has died according to Chamber Executive Director Marion McDermott.

McDermott released a statement Tuesday saying "Mark was an exceptional man. He was a huge supporter of the Kearney community and of the chamber, donating generously to so many causes. His death is an enormous loss to the city of Kearney."

Benjamin has long been with BD Construction in Kearney. He is survived by his wife Brenda and son Wil.

Grand Island Hires New HR Director

The City of Grand Island moved forward Tuesday with the hiring of Aaron Schmid as the city's new Human Resources Director.

City administrator Marlan Ferguson said of the hiring that Schmid's experience, especially working with unions will benefit Grand Island. The hiring was approved unanimously by the city council. Schmid currently resides in Lincoln, but is a St. Paul native.

His first day on the job will be April 27 and his salary will be $90,000 a year. The city plans to hire two more department heads this year.

Hastings College Groundbreaking Set For April 24

Hastings College has announced it will break ground next week on its first new building since 2009.

The Jackson Dinsdale Art Center will be located near the corner of 12th Street and Elm Ave. Funding for the new facility is being made possible by a $5 million legacy leadership gift from the late Jackson Dinsdale, who was an art student at the college.

Groundbreaking will take place Friday, April 24 at 3 p.m. The building is expected to be completed by August 2016.

GIPD Warns Prison Escapee May Be in Grand Island Area

The Grand Island Police Department warned residents on social media Tuesday that a man who escaped from a South Dakota prison may be in the Grand Island area.

On the department's Facebook page, they show a picture of 28-year-old Joseph Archambeau (pictured at right) who did not return to the Yankton, S.D. Minimum Unit from his work release job site in Yankton Sunday night.

Archambeau is described as a white male with brown hair and blue eyes. He is 5'-11" tall and weighs about 185 pounds. He is currently serving a 4-year sentence for grand theft.

Anyone who sees Archambeau should contact law enforcement immediately.

City of Kearney Votes to Hand Over Land For Veterans Home

The Kearney City Council last night voted to turn over to the state the land where the Central Nebraska Veterans home will be constructed.

Mayor Stan Clouse called last night's action the "first point of no return." The 75-acre site sits on the northeast side of Kearney, not far from the airport.

Kearney beat out Grand Island, Hastings and North Platte for the home, which will replace the old home in Grand Island. Kearney has committed $8.5 million in direct funding and utility cost reductions for the $121 million project. Buffalo County officials have pledged an additional $1 million.

Nebraska AG Slams Prison Sentencing Legislation

Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson held a press conference Tuesday, slamming proposed legislation to address criminal penalties and sentencing.

Peterson says LB173 and LB605 as amended contain some provisions that were not recommendations given by the Council of State Governments. He says they are both bills that reduce criminal sentences and negatively impact Nebraska communities.

Under the provisions of LB173, Peterson says mandatory minimum sentences will be removed and will severely restrict the applicability of the habitual criminal statutes. He says it also ignores the seriousness of several existing sex and violent crimes.

Peterson says LB605 would prohibit a judge from giving a minimum sentence that is greater than 1/3 of the maximum sentence. As it stands now, Nebraska's judges have discretion to sentence offenders to any minimum and maximum term of imprisonment they deem necessary for most felony offenses. Peterson says that should be left up to Nebraska's judges.

Peterson says he hopes legislators will carefully consider these bills and ensure that solving overcrowding does not come at the expense of jeopardizing public safety.

City Hears Update on Hastings Hotel/Convention Center Property

It's been nearly two months since the former Howard Johnson/Hastings Hotel and Convention Center in North Hastings was purchased.

The old hotel has been sitting vacant for months. On Monday, attorney Bob Parker, of Hastings speaking on behalf of new owners NVN Hotels, gave the city council an update on progress out at the hotel.

"They're currently engaging in what they call a PIP for a franchise which I understand to be a property improvement plan. There is an individual on site who is engaging in cleaning, budgeting, obtaining proposals on what's needed to get it back open. They told me they have every intention of opening it as a restaurant, convention center, hotel, bar and a family oriented place," Parker said.

The Chicago-based company acknowledges it will be a long process to get the hotel up and running again.

"They said they have a lot of life safety issues to address. They have a lot of cleanup to do. They're addressing those individual issues, they are coming up with feasibility studies and it's going to take some time and it's going to take money," Parker said.

The company has also started having conversations with Mr. Parker about possible local ownership and forging some local partnerships.

To learn more about the new owners of the hotel, visit nvnhotels.com.

Duval Aims to Clear Up Confusion Surrounding Ballot Measure

Hastings City Council member Kathy Duval issued a prepared statement ahead of Monday's city council meeting in an effort to clear up inaccuracies she's heard from the public regarding the proposed closure of 9th Street through the Hastings College campus.

In her statement, Duval says that emergency services will not be affected by the impending closure based on a 2010 study conducted by the city. She says improvements to 12th Street since that study was conducted make it better equipped to handle the expected spillover traffic. Duval also stated that Hastings College would foot the bill for the closure, costing the school approximately $539,000.

Duval said she hopes voters will continue to gather information before they go to vote. Ballots will be sent out April 22.

City Council Approves Bid for Hastings Organizational Study

Hastings city employees will take part in an organizational study planned for later this year. Last night the city council approved a bid from the Novak Consulting Group in the amount of $89,975 to conduct the assessment.

Council member Phil Odom says the study is much needed.

"This is something that we've needed for a number of years. It will be good to have a fresh set of eyes, an outside group of people to look at all of our departments. While this is a general overview, it will give us the directions that we need to possibly proceed in the future," Odom said.

The organizational study is expected to begin in May.

Sutton Man Dies in Rollover Crash

A Sutton man was killed in a rollover crash in Clay County early Saturday morning.

22-year old Eddy Garcia was reportedly driving a pickup southbound on Nebraska Highway 14 near Road 318 when he went into the east ditch. According to Clay County Sheriff Jeff Franklin, the truck went airborne and rolled several times. Garcia wasn't wearing a seatbelt and was thrown from the vehicle. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

Franklin says investigators are still trying to determine what caused the crash.

"He either fell asleep or there's other reasons and we're waiting for test results to come back as required by state law. Anybody involved in a fatality accident is tested and we're waiting to see if there's anything that way that might lead us. There's no indicators of that at this point," Franklin said.

The Clay County Sheriff's Office is investigating the crash along with assistance from the Nebraska State Patrol.

House Built by CCC Students to be Auctioned Off

A house built by Central Community College students in Hastings is set to be auctioned off next month.

Thirty-one students had a hand in building the 1,800-square-foot, ranch style house in the CCC Hastings construction technology programs. Construction Technology instructor Dale Janitscheck says this is the 19th new house built by first year students at the college.

"I think it's awesome that these students can actually see and participate and build a house. It's a great learning experience for them," Janitscheck said.

The auction will be conducted by Ruhter Auction and Realty Inc. on May 6. Janitscheck explains where the money from the auction goes.

"The money goes back into a fund that we have so we can purchase materials for next year's house. Also, we try to give our students some scholarship money out of those proceeds as long as we're making money on the house," Janitscheck said.

An open house was held yesterday and another one is scheduled for April 26. A brochure on the home can be obtained by visiting the Central Community College web page.

New Apartment Complex to be Constructed at UNK Campus

The University of Nebraska Board of Regents has approved plans to build a new apartment style residence hall at University Village on the campus of UNK.

Representatives from the board of regents and UNK met Friday in Lincoln to discuss the proposal. The new $16-million dollar, three-story living quarters will replace the aging University Heights living facility. Construction on the new residence hall will begin in the spring of 2016, but earthwork may begin as soon as this summer.

The new facility will house 130 students.

Kearney Woman to be Treated Ahead of Sentencing

A Kearney woman is undergoing treatment before being sentenced for possessing items used to sell methamphetamine.

38-year-old Angel Poore recently pleaded no contest in Buffalo County District Court to two counts of attempted distribution of meth and one count of attempted possession of the drug in two incidents that also involved her child.

The charges stem from separate incidents that occurred on August 26th and November 7th. Sentencing will be in June.

If convicted and she isn't placed on probation, Poore faces five to 10 years in prison.

Driver Arrested for DUI in Hastings Crash

Two people were hospitalized and one later arrested following a crash Saturday night in Hastings.

According to the Adams County Sheriff's office, Ronald Kliker was arrested after being treated and released from Mary Lanning Hospital. Kliker was charged with driving under the influence. Authorities say Kliker failed to yield and struck a southbound vehicle at the intersection of Highway 281 and Barrows Road.

The driver of the southbound vehicle suffered minor injuries and was treated and released at Mary Lanning Hospital.

Hastings Hires Part-Time City Planner

With a city-wide organizational study planned, the city of Hastings has hired a part-time city planner.

53-year-old Lance Lang comes to Hastings after 22 years on the job as the Kearney city planner. He resigned from that post in late January saying it was a personal and professional decision to move on. He says the Hastings job just kind of fell into place.

"I didn't necessarily leave Kearney to come to Hastings. It just happened to work that way. I don't know if it's going to turn into a full-time job, but in the meantime I can help over here in Hastings and continue to offer my services in terms community planning and long-range vision," Lang said.

Lang began his duties in Hastings on March 30. He takes over for former city planner, Rich Cartier, who left in mid-February after his wife took a new job in Minnesota. The city chose to hold off on hiring a full-time city planner until they get the results of the study.

"Because it may say something different than what they were thinking organizationally and it would be unfortunate for somebody to get hired, work here for a few months and then all of a sudden there is this huge change in direction. It would be easier to implement that with changing personnel around and hiring or not hiring based on that study," Lang said.

The Hastings City Council is scheduled to award a bid to a consultant at Monday's (April 13) meeting for the organizational study.

HEDC and Chamber of Commerce Support 9th Street Closure

A couple of Hastings area business organizations are throwing their support behind a ballot initiative to close a portion of 9th Street.

In a joint news release this week, the Hastings Area Chamber of Commerce and the Hastings Economic Development Corporation say they voted unanimously to support Hastings College's plans to redevelop the one block stretch between Elm and Ash avenues.

HEDC's Executive Director Dave Rippe says from an economic standpoint, the college plays a big role in attracting new business.

"When we have businesses come in and look at our community, more often than not they ask about the health of the college, the enrollment of the college, activities of the college and whether it's growing or expanding," Rippe said.

Opponents argue the closure would cut off some residents from one of the city's major thoroughfares. Ballots will be mailed out to city residents April 22 and need to be returned by May 12. A "no vote" would close the street while a "yes vote" would keep the street open.

Man Accused of Starting Fires Appears in Court

The man accused of starting fires at a Minden pharmacy appeared in court Thursday morning.

34-year-old Aaron Stones is charged with second-degree arson in the case.

Stones is accused of setting a series of fires at Pedley Drug in Minden during the past week. Police located Stones in Kearney, at which time officers discovered powder and chemicals on his clothing and his vehicle.

Stones remains in jail on $250,000 cash bond. His next scheduled court hearing is set for April 16th.

Lawmakers to Debate Medical Marijuana Study for Seizures

Lawmakers will debate a bill allowing patients with seizures to legally access a marijuana derivative under the supervision of University of Nebraska researchers.

A legislative committee voted 6-0 Tuesday to advance a measure creating a pilot study of cannabidiol to gauge its effectiveness treating severe seizures. Cannabidiol has extremely low levels of THC, the compound responsible for the marijuana high.

Sen. Bob Krist of Omaha told the committee the $250,000 project would be funded by the Nebraska Research Initiative, a state-funded grant program administered by the university, rather than state general funds.

Sen. Sue Crawford of Bellevue has introduced the measure and designated it as her priority bill, increasing the odds that senators debate it this year.

Court Issues Stay in Nebraska Same-Sex Marriage Challenge

Nebraska's ban on same-sex marriage will stay in place, at least for now.

A federal appeals court has granted an emergency stay, putting a federal judge's ruling striking down the ban on hold. The ban will remain in effect until an appeal in the case is decided.

Had the appeals court ruled in favor of the lower court, Nebraska would have been ordered to recognize gay marriages and civil unions starting on Monday.

The ACLU of Nebraska said they are disappointed by the 8th Circuit Court's ruling and will continue to challenge the ban.

Kearney Man Accidentally Shoots Himself

A Kearney man is recovering after accidentally shooting himself in the hand Sunday evening.

According to a Kearney Police Department incident report, Dallas Murray was attempting to remove a laser-guide rod from a 9mm handgun, but forgot to remove the magazine and clear the weapon before clearing the jam.

As a result, the weapon discharged striking Murray in the left palm. Murray's injuries were said not to be serious and he's expected to make a full recovery.

Hastings College To Build New Art Center

Hastings College has announced a press conference next week. Constructed in 1908 as the College's library, the current home to Hastings College's Art Department no longer serves the growing program's needs. President Don Jackson and other Hastings College officials are expected to announce the construction of a new art center on campus. The announcement will take place next Tuesday at 4pm at the grey center on the HC campus.

Heineman Grilled at First Testimony Hearing

The chairman of a legislative committee says 162 Nebraska inmates convicted of violent crimes were freed early under a furlough program. The program was revealed at a hearing yesterday as the chairman, Senator Steve Lathrop, questioned Governor Dave Heineman. The Republican governor was subpoenaed to testify under oath as part of an investigation into miscalculated prison sentences and other problems.

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