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New License Plate Will Celebrate Nebraska's Sesquicentennial

Nebraskans can celebrate the state's 150th anniversary with a new license plate, starting Oct. 1.

Governor Ricketts and first lady Susanne Shore unveiled the sesquicentennial specialty plate yesterday afternoon at the State Fair. Ricketts says the plate will allow motorists to share news of the state's anniversary as they travel.

"This is also a way that with the sales from this plate, we'll help fund some of the celebrations we have going on in the state," Ricketts said.

The design uses the logo and branding unveiled in July for the anniversary celebration, set for 2017. The plate was inspired by images of the Capitol and the state flower, flag and nature. The plates will be available for $70 from the DMV.

UNK Settles Lawsuit Over Fair Housing Concerns

UNK plans to develop new student housing guidelines and pay $140,000 to settle a lawsuit that accused the university of failing to comply with the Fair Housing Act.

A former student filed the 2011 lawsuit after she was denied having a dog in her university apartment as a way to help her overcome severe depression and anxiety disorder. The university says it's followed all federal laws that pertain to student housing.

"Our ultimate goal is to provide accommodations for students with any sort of disability as well as provide comfortable accommodations for every student on this campus. Through this process, it gives us a policy and procedures that are agreeable to the Department of Justice that will put us in a position where there is less of a misunderstanding on what we can ask and what students are able to do," said Kelly Bartling, Assistant Vice Chancellor of Communication and Public Relations at UNK.

UNK Chancellor Doug Kristensen says the settlement should be satisfactory to both parties and help avoid a costly trial. No timetable has been set for when the new guidelines will take effect, but university officials say it will be soon.

Houser Resigns From Hall County Jail Position After One Week

The interim corrections director for the Hall County Jail has resigned after just one week on the job.

Randy Houser's resignation was submitted Wednesday afternoon, shortly after an anonymous letter was received by the Hall County Board of Supervisors. The letter addressed issues relating to Houser's tenure as Richardson County Sheriff from 2012 to 2015 and his philosophy on jail management in light of his son's first-degree murder conviction and imprisonment in Arizona.

Hall County Attorney Jack Zitterkopf will now serve as acting jail director until further notice. The Supervisors will meet Tuesday to come up with a new plan going forward.

The Hall County Jail has been under scrutiny after questions surfaced several weeks ago about jail management concerns and a possible lawsuit. Those concerns led to the firing of Corrections Director Fred Ruiz (Reez) and Assistant Director Jimmy Vann on August 20.

Man Burned After Propane Explosion at CNH Plant

An explosion injured a man at a Grand Island manufacturing plant Thursday.

The fire department says the man was burned while filling a propane tank at the Case New Holland plant when something caused an apparent propane flash. The man is an employee of Bosselman Energy and was flown to a Lincoln hospital. His name hasn't been released.

The incident remains under investigation.

Labor Day Gas Prices Are Lowest in a Decade

Gas prices are expected to be the lowest in a decade for Nebraskans during the Labor Day holiday weekend ahead.

Rose White, at Triple-A-Nebraska, says those falling gas prices along with rising wages are helping to boost Nebraskans' disposable income -- which should lead to a boost in travel for the last vacation of summer.

"35.5 million Americans will journey 50 miles or more during the Labor Day holiday period. This is the highest volume for Labor Day since 2008 and will mark the fourth consecutive year for overall travel growth for the Labor Day period," White said.

The statewide average for gas prices is $2.57 a gallon, down 82 cents from prices a year ago. Just in the past week, gas prices have dropped across Nebraska by an average of 12 cents a gallon.

Hastings Intersection to Close Next Tuesday

Hastings Utilities has announced that the intersection of 12th Street and North Webster will be closed Tuesday for the installation of a new water main.

The project is expected to take three weeks to complete. Westbound traffic on 12th Street will remain open, however eastbound traffic will be diverted at the 12th and Baltimore intersection south three blocks and east to Burlington Ave.

The new eight inch water main will replace an older and smaller main.

Hall County Receives Final Autopsy Results From Island Oasis Incident

The Hall County attorney's office has received the final autopsy report on a drowning of a child at the Island Oasis Water Park.

The cause of death was asphyxiation by drowning and has been ruled accidental, according to chief deputy Hall County attorney Sarah Carstensen.

5-year-old Nubari Koffree of Lincoln died July 18 while swimming in the wave pool, but city officials said the waves were not active at the time. No criminal charges are expected to be filed in the case.

Fire Damages South Hastings Home

An afternoon fire damaged a Hastings home Wednesday afternoon.

It started just after 4 p.m. in the 100 block of South Street. Fire crews arrived a short time later and were able to quickly contain the blaze.

The fire reportedly began near a window air conditioning unit on the second floor of the home. It's believed the heat from the last few days put a strain on the electrical equipment causing the fire. Residents reported hearing a loud pop before the fire starterd.

The family was home at the time, but thankfully no one was injured. The upstairs area was a deemed a total loss.

Kearney Man Sought For Two Burglaries

A Kearney man is being sought by police in connection with two burglaries that occurred in August.

27-year-old Allen Jones is accused of breaking into Central Hydraulics as well as a southeast Kearney home where more than $17,000 in cash and jewelry were stolen.

Police say evidence collected shows a direct link between Jones and the two burglaries. They say a female accomplice is also being sought. Anyone with information is asked to contact law enforcement.

Adams County Supervisors Approve 2015-16 Budget

The Adams County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday approved a new $9.9 million budget for the upcoming fiscal year.

According to the Hastings Tribune, the budget includes $9.25 million for the general and library funds. The budget sets aside more than $640,000 for the highway bond which will help pay for highway projects including the northeast truck route.

The supervisors also unanimously approved the property tax levy, which will drop just under 27 cents. The total county levy also will drop nearly 60 cents to 28.6 cents.

YRTC Escapees Believed Linked to Lincoln High Speed Chase

Police continue to search for two teenagers who escaped from the Youth Rehabilitation and Treatment Center in Kearney Monday.

It's believed the two teenagers led Lincoln police on a high speed chase this morning. Just before 5 a.m. a stolen blue pickup from Kearney pulled into a convenience store. One of the suspects got out and stole a Toyota Camry. Officer Katie Flood with the Lincoln Police Department says that vehicle was recovered.

"It was disabled with stop sticks and then the driver fled on foot. But then the blue Dodge Ram stolen from Kearney got away. It reached excessive speeds and we terminated the pursuit," she said.

Police aren't confirming whether the two suspects are the escapees from Kearney. The pickup has not been found. The escapees are described as two African-American teenagers, possibly wearing orange shirts or sweatshirts and blue jeans.

Production Brewery Coming to Hastings

For the first time in nearly 100 years, a production brewery will be coming to downtown Hastings.

First Street Brewing Company has announced that they are finalizing the purchase of a downtown building and that renovations will begin this month. Owner Nathan Hoeft (HAY-ft) moved to Hastings three years ago from Florida with his wife who is from Nelson. He says he fell in love with the community and wants to see the downtown thrive.

"My hope is to increase the number of people spending time in the downtown area. The brewery's main goal will be getting beer out the door, but we will have a taproom for tastings and events. My hope is that the taproom can be a springboard for people to try a couple different things and explore the downtown area," he said.

While the grand opening likely won't happen until about this time next year, Hoeft says he hopes to host some "pop up" tastings at different businesses in Hastings. A website has been set up at for for residents to learn more about the company.

The last time the city had a production brewery was in 1917 with the Hastings Brewery. That operation shut down due to prohibition.

Lexington Woman Killed, Baby Injured in Car/Pedestrian Accident

A woman pushing a baby stroller along a residential street in Lexington was killed when she was struck by a car shortly after 8:30 p.m. Monday night.

The victim has been identified as 32-year-old Alejandra Zamora of Lexington.

Investigators say Zamora was pushing a stroller with an infant near the intersection of 13th and Taft Streets when she was struck by a car driven by 25-year-old Krystal Saunders of Lexington.

The infant was airlifted to an Omaha hospital in critical condition.

The accident is being investigated by the Nebraska State Patrol.

Oregon Trail Rodeo Finishes Up Successful Weekend

The 24th annual Oregon Trail Rodeo was a big success over the weekend.

Most of Saturday's rodeo goers wore pink to benefit the Morrison Cancer Center. Publicist Ruth Nicolaus says they were able to raise a lot of cash.

"We raised about $2,250 for that. That was through people wearing pink, voluntary donations we picked up and from a contribution from Thrivent Financial," she said.

Although it competed against opening weekend at the Nebraska State Fair and a largely attended Keith Urban concert, the Oregon Trail Rodeo still drew good crowds.

"There's enough people to go around and we packed our stands Saturday night. We haven't seen it that full in a long time. And the competition was outstanding. We had the number one man in the bull riding in the pro rodeo at our rodeo Saturday," Nicolaus said.

Two Nebraska cowboys took the team roping title. Tucker White, a Hastings College student and Jeff Johnston of Thedford earned a time of 5.8 seconds, the fastest time of the weekend. Cheryl Wallace of Broken Bow earned the barrel racing title. Lindsey Hinrichs of Glenvil was crowned Miss Oregon Trail Rodeo during Sunday's event.

Hall County Corrections Officials Fired

Following a closed door session that lasted nearly four hours yesterday, two top Hall County Corrections officials were ousted.

The Hall County Board unanimously voted to fire Jail Director Fred Ruiz and Assistant Director Jimmy Vann. One of four former corrections officers who attended the public meeting presented supervisors with a letter that said they and other officers had quit their jobs because of management issues under Ruiz and Vann.

The county is also preparing for a possible lawsuit from a 30-year employee who retired from the jail in June. Former Sgt. Debb Rea submitted a letter to the county board detailing management and operational concerns at the jail. The specifics of the complaint have not been made public.

The firings are effective immediately. Hall County Attorney Jack Zitterkopf will be in charge of the jail until the county board can appoint an interim jail director.

Minden Crews Respond to Collision

Emergency crews from Minden were called out Tuesday night after a farm tractor collided with another vehicle at the intersection of Hwy 34 and Hwy 6.

It happened shortly before 9 p.m. Initial reports indicate one person was injured and was taken to Good Samaritan Hospital in Kearney by ambulance.

A small fire also broke out following the collision which was extinguished by the Minden Fire Department.

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