Nebraska

Gov. Ricketts Visits Boys and Girls State Delegates

LINCOLN – On Thursday, Governor Pete Ricketts met with delegates from the Boys and Girls State programs.  These summer programs, run by the American Legion and American Legion Auxiliary, aim to educate Nebraska’s rising high school seniors about the workings of local, state, and federal government.

“Civically-engaged people are the foundation of a healthy republic,” said Governor Ricketts.  “Thank you to the American Legion and American Legion Auxiliary for their decades-long commitment to hosting these outstanding opportunities for hundreds of Nebraska high schoolers each year.  The Boys and Girls State programs develop the next generation of Nebraska’s young leaders and provide them with great civic education, setting them on a path to serve and grow our communities.”

Boys and Girls State programs were held June 3rd-9th this year on the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s campus.  This is the 78th year of the Boys and Girls State programs.  The programs separate the delegates into “cities,” which put forward and elect officials to run events throughout the week.  This gives students a hands-on opportunity to learn the duties of elected officials at various levels of government.  Two delegates are also sent forward to Boys and Girls Nation programs held in Washington, D.C.

Free summer meals are available to Nebraska children, but few take advantage

A summer lunch program coordinated by the Nebraska Education Department is underway, but the department hopes to attract more students to enjoy the free meals.

Kayte Partch with the Nebraska Education Department says schools with at least half their students on free or reduced lunches qualify for the USDA-funded program. Partch says the program serves more than just breakfast and lunch for children on summer vacation.

“It can be a sense of community for the kids,” Partch tells Nebraska Radio Network. “It can also help prevent or reduce, at least, summer learning loss. So, I think those are two pretty good highlights that we like to sell to schools.”

School eligible have at least half their children on free or reduced lunches during the school year. The Food Research and Action Committee estimates only 15% of the children eligible participate in the program. The Education Department hopes to attract more children to sites located throughout the state and hopes to get more school districts involved.

Partch says the highest participation is in Omaha and Lincoln.

Partch says the children who participate get more than a free meal out of it.

“I hear very consistently that the kids really value the time they get to spend with the adults at the sites and also just the fact that they know they’ve got someone trusted who really is invested in helping make sure they’re taken care of,” Partch says.

Both schools and non-profit organizations, including faith-based groups, can participate in the program. Nutritious meals and snacks are served to children in schools, churches, and parks.

Eastern Nebraska police officer wounded, suspect undergoes surgery

An eastern Nebraska police officer has been hospitalized after a shooting left him and another man wounded.

The Columbus Telegram reports an armed suspect confronted police last night after they attempted to serve an arrest warrant at a residence in Columbus.

Columbus Police Capt. Todd Thalken told the newspaper a Columbus police officer and the suspect were shot.

The officer has not been identified. He has been transferred to the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha. No report on the severity of his injuries has been released.

The suspect underwent surgery last night at Columbus Community Hospital, according to police.

A witness told the Telegram he heard numerous shots. He stated a person fled the house, jumped over a fence, and shot at an officer. The officer returned fire.

PSC TO HOLD A WORKSHOP ON A FUNDING MECHANISM FOR NEXT GENERATION 911

LINCOLN, JUNE 6, 2018- On Wednesday, June 13, the Nebraska Public Service Commission  (PSC) will hold a workshop to implement provisions of LB993 and to establish a funding  mechanism for Next Generation 911 (NG911) service in accordance with the 911 Service System Act.

“Now that LB993 has become law there are several steps the Commission must take as it moves  towards implementation of NG911,” said David Sankey, State 9-1-1 Director. “Determining how  to allocate monies from the 911 Service System Fund is among the many items to be discussed during the June workshop.”

The workshop will also look at creating a mechanism for determining the level of funding available, as well as establishing standards and criteria for the disbursement of monies from the 911 Service System Fund for the planning, implementation, coordination, operation, management and maintenance of the 911 service system.

The workshop will be held beginning at 10:00 a.m., Wednesday, June 13, in the Commission  Hearing Room, 300 The Atrium, 1200 N Street, in Lincoln.

Dir. Sankey said, “We would encourage anyone currently involved in public safety or with an interest in the future of public safety in Nebraska to attend.”

‘Wear Orange’ event aims to honor gun violence victims, unite communities

Wearing the color red is a tradition for many Nebraskans, but a different hue will be dominant this weekend.

Saturday is National Gun Violence Awareness Day and Wear Orange events are being held nationwide, including in Omaha.

Megan Gentrup, the state’s Wear Orange chapter leader, says gun attacks in schools and elsewhere have become too common across the country.

“We found a lot of community members didn’t know what to do but knew we wanted to do something,” Gentrup says. “We decided to hold an event where the only purpose is to gather, get to know your neighbors, learn about more organizations in the community that are making us safer and also honoring those we have lost to gun violence.”

More than 350 Wear Orange events will take place across the country on Saturday, from concerts to picnics to orange walks. Gentrup says survivors of gun violence will be attending the Omaha event.

“We’ll have families who have lost loved ones to gun violence to talk about that,” Gentrup says. “We do want to acknowledge that this is happening and we need to talk about it. We’ll also have activities for kids, family-friendly events. We’ll have board games, cornhole, we’ll have Giant Jenga.”

Folks in their red Husker attire will be fine at the event, even though it’s called Wear Orange.

“It is not a requirement,” Gentrup says, laughing. “Color options of any kind are welcome. Wear Orange is just the color we use because it signifies safety with hunters and we want to signify safety at our event and with everyone in our communities.”

The event at Columbus Park in Omaha runs from 7 to 9 PM. Key landmarks in Nebraska will be turning orange that night, including the Woodmen Tower in Omaha.

Construction industry puts out “Help Wanted” sign

Construction industry officials say they face a shortage of workers and obstacles need to be removed for the industry to attract them.

Associated General Contractors of America spokesman Brian Turmail says the construction industry is booming.

“That’s good news, but all this growth is occurring at a time when many older construction workers are retiring out of the profession and too few young adults are choosing to pursue careers in construction, even though they’re high-paying careers,” Turmail tells reporters during a news conference in Lincoln.

Turmail claims a focus on going to college and four decades of dismantling robust vocational education in high school has undermined the construction workforce. AGC says those in the construction industry make 12% more than most others in the private sector; often able to earn $47,000 a year without having to take on college debt.

Nebraska Road Building and Heavy Highway President Ted Butler with Constructors, Inc. says perceptions need to change so more high school students consider going into construction. Butler says society needs to get past the stereotypes and give students the real understanding of a potential career in construction.

Chris Brester of Brester Construction speaks at the news conference along side Turmail.

AGC has called for reforms to the Perkins Career and Technical Education Act, which funds vocational education programs. It also wants more money spent on career and technical education.

The Lincoln metro area added more new construction jobs at a faster rate than all but 11 of the nation’s metro area over the past 12 months.

AGC estimates the industry will need 19% more workers in the next five years. That need will only grow with the demand for more infrastructure in Nebraska and throughout the country, according to Nebraska Building Chapter President Chris Brester with Brester Construction.

“As we sit in 2018, 32 years from now we have to have twice what exists today,” Brester says. “We’ve got a lot of work to do in 32 years.”

All three worry that a lack of construction workers could hamper economic growth with Brester stating that for every $1 invested in construction, $7 is returned to the economy.

One persons rushed to hospital with burns after South Sioux City grain elevator explodes

One person has been rushed to a local hospital after a grain elevator exploded in South Sioux City this afternoon.

Few details have been released by emergency officials who responded to the scene at the end of the noon hour.

Witnesses report four explosions at Anderson Farms.

Reports indicate three people were in the grain elevator at the time of the explosion. One person suffered burns and was taken to a local hospital.

South Sioux City Police Chief Ed Mahon said the company has accounted for all employees.

 

State official cautions mental health treatment cannot be seen as panacea to prevent school shootings

A Nebraska state official cautions against believing better mental health treatment can stop school violence.

School shootings have prompted a national discussion about mental illness, among other issues.

But State Behavioral Health Director Sheri Dawson says no matter how early the intervention, programs cannot be expected to prevent school shootings.

“Not everybody that is involved with school violence has a mental illness,” Dawson says. “They may have threatening or concerning behaviors, but there is a difference between that.”

Dawson says national statistics indicate only 2% of those diagnosed with mental illness turn violent. She adds equating school violence with mental illness only perpetuates a stigma

“It is a very complex issue. There isn’t one solution,” according to Dawson. “It’s multi-pronged and that work continues in Nebraska.”

Dawson advocates a continuum of care to address behavioral problems and mental illness with early identification and prevention stressed.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month.

DEA agent says drug trafficking is spreading…and expanding

A Drug Enforcement Agency special agent in Nebraska says drug trafficking is growing worse and is expanding.

DEA agent Matthew Barden says drug trafficking is a growing threat to the safety and well-being of Americans.

“There’s not a bigger illegal business in the world today than drug trafficking. It is the largest money-generating illegal business around,” Barden asserts during a news conference hosted by Gov. Pete Ricketts on recent major drug busts in Nebraska.

Barden says the DEA expects a record number of overdose deaths this year: 70,000.

Barden says the hardest part of trafficking in illicit drugs is getting the drugs across the border. Once that is done, smugglers need only elude law enforcement, according to Barden. Barden adds, even though Nebraska law enforcement is on a record pace for drug busts this year, officers can never seize all the drugs being transported across the country.

Nebraska State Patrol troopers and other law enforcement agencies throughout Nebraska have made several major busts in the last year, including one bust which confiscated nearly a ton of marijuana and another which took more than 100 pounds of fentanyl off the streets, with an estimated value of $20 million. Nebraska law enforcement officers have seized between 275 and 300 pounds of fentanyl since October.

Barden says drug traffickers have expanded their business operations.

“And these drug trafficking organizations, they don’t just, they’re not just drug trafficking organizations anymore,” Barden says. “They’re money launderers, gun smugglers, human smugglers. Anything that you could smuggle, that is illegal, they will move.”

NSP troopers have already seized a total of 4,500 pounds of marijuana this year, more than the record seized in all of 2012. Seizures of methamphetamine this year have already exceeded the total seized last year.

Study finds immigrants are leaving rural Nebraska, Midwest

Immigrant populations are starting to fall in rural labor markets, according to a study commissioned by the National Pork Producers Council.

Economist Chris Boessen, one of the study’s authors, says the pork industry is making gradual yet major shifts.

“In the last couple of decades, the hog industry has changed dramatically from operations using a lot of family labor, sometimes paid, sometimes unpaid family labor,” Boessen says. “That’s more or less gone away as we’ve intensified and gone to more of a high-tech, capitol-intensive, more-concentrated production.”

Boessen says the study shows the labor market has changed in Nebraska and across the region.

“You have a lot of growth, a lot of hiring in the hog industry, it needs a lot of workers,” Boessen says, “but at the same time in the last few years, the labor market’s really tightened up from 10% unemployment in 2009 to 4% and really below 4% in a lot of the main hog states here, especially in the Midwest.”

The change in U.S. immigration policy has contributed to a shortage of foreign ag workers, but Boessen — an economist at Iowa State University — says it’s more than just that.

“We’re moving into a period now where we’re going to worry less about a wave of immigrants and worry more about how we’re going to manage a workforce where we have fewer immigrants,” Boessen says. “The immigrants who are here are aging and retiring and there’s lots of things happening in other countries, immigrant-sending countries. People are getting better educations, better economies, more opportunities.”

As conditions improve elsewhere, he says immigrants have less motivation to come to the U.S. Officials with the NPPC say in addition to this study, data compiled by USDA’s Economic Research Service shows a reduction in the foreign-born workforce prompted by a change in immigration policy would not be offset by native born workers and permanent residents.

The council is backing Congressional legislation calling for an H2C visa to allow non-seasonal foreign ag workers to stay in the U.S. for up to three years.

NDA ADVISES CONSUMERS TO WATCH FOR SKIMMER DEVICES AT FUEL PUMPS

LINCOLN — The Nebraska Department of Agriculture (NDA) is reminding consumers to pay attention at the pump this Memorial Day weekend and always. Credit card skimmer devices have been discovered in the past by NDA inspectors during routine pump inspections at gas stations in Nebraska. Skimming and shimming devices can be attached to ATMs, gas pumps and other places where people swipe their credit and debit cards. Criminals use the devices to steal financial information.

“Weights and Measures inspectors work to verify the accuracy of gas pumps in every community in the state through routine inspections,” said Ken Tichota, administrator, Food Safety and Consumer Protection. “Those inspections are designed to ensure that consumers are getting what they pay for. Inspectors check gas pumps for skimming and shimming devices, as well, as an extra precaution.”

When using a debit or credit card, always check first to see if anything has been tampered with on the card scanning device. Some skimmer devices found at gas stations are embedded on the inside of the pump and would be difficult for consumers to see; however, card shimming devices are a bit easier for consumers to notice as they are placed over the external card reader on the gas pump.

Tichota says there are a few things that consumers can do to protect themselves from card skimming and shimming devices, including:

1.      Choose a gas pump nearest to the attendant. Installers of these devices tend to prefer pumps out of the view of the station attendants.

2.      Look for a tamper proof, serial numbered piece of tape over the pump access panels. If the tape is damaged in any way, do not use the pump and alert the station attendant.

3.      Look for a shimmer on the pump you intend to use by comparing it to other pumps at the station. If you notice that a pump looks different, do not use it and alert the station attendant.

4.      Monitor your financial accounts frequently and report any fraudulent charges immediately.

Big Turnout for Household Hazardous Waste Collections

The Northeast Nebraska Resource Conservation & Development (RC&D) Council in partnership with North Central RC&D, Wayne Green Team and the Cities of Atkinson, O’Neill, and Wayne held household hazardous waste events in April with great results.  Six ton of material was properly disposed of or recycled.  One hundred and seventy-five households were served and they came from twenty-five communities around the region.

People had saved up “stuff” for years just waiting, evidently, for an event like this one.  Amounts collected include: 2820 pounds of pesticide, 7780 pounds of paint, 165 gallons of used oil, 75 gallons of antifreeze, 280 car batteries, and 510 florescent light bulbs.  Besides all of that there were 1060 pounds of items that were recycled.

This project is funded in part by a grant from the Nebraska Environmental Trust.

Troopers Honored by MADD for Drunk Driving Enforcement

MAY 22, 2018 (LINCOLN, NEB.)  — Several troopers with the Nebraska State Patrol (NSP) were honored during the 19th annual Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) Hero Awards. The ceremony was held today in Lincoln at Wilderness Ridge.

Each year, MADD honors law enforcement officers for their daily work to keep drinking and drugged drivers off Nebraska’s roads. In 2017, NSP arrested more than 1,600 drivers for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

The troopers recognized by MADD today accounted for more than 400 DUI and DUID arrests in 2017. MADD has honored them for their individual dedication, teamwork, and commitment to public safety and the well-being of the citizens of Nebraska.

Flooding not a concern this spring on the Missouri River

Missouri River at Omaha

The experts say Nebraskans should have relatively smooth sailing on the Missouri River this spring with no flooding.

Climatologist Doug Kluck, with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in Kansas City, says even with the heavy melting of mountain snowpack, most upstream rivers have already crested.

“The tributaries have reached their peaks and now the major reservoirs are okay in terms of holding or handling that runoff,” Kluck says. “There will be substantial above-normal flows in the river for some time as that floodwater gets evened out over the season.”

Kluck says there could be some spots along the Missouri River in Iowa and Nebraska that -do- get high water.

“There’s no indication of major issues on the Missouri River,” Kluck says. “Now, on the lower part of the basin where you get those big convective storms sometimes, you can always have tributary flooding. That happens.”

Kevin Low, a hydrologist with the National Weather Service, says he doesn’t see any likely flooding issues on the Missouri.

“For the most part, we have a statistically below-average chance for flooding at most locations simply because of the dry conditions,” Low says.

Releases from Gavins Point Dam have been increased to help move the snowpack runoff.

Troopers Launch Memorial Day ‘Click It or Ticket’ Campaign

Troopers with the Nebraska State Patrol (NSP) will be on the lookout for seatbelt violations and other signs of dangerous driving for the two weeks surrounding Memorial Day.

The “Click It or Ticket” enforcement campaign coincides with efforts from other law enforcement agencies around Nebraska, and many more participants around the country. The campaign will run from Monday, May 21, through Sunday, June 3.

“Seatbelt use is a proven way to increase your odds of survival in the event of a crash,” said Colonel John Bolduc, Superintendent of the Nebraska State Patrol. “We’re proud to join our colleagues around the country in spreading that message through active enforcement of seatbelt laws.”

This effort will include troopers in all NSP Troop Areas, spanning border to border in Nebraska.

The enforcement effort is made possible thanks in part to a grant for $28,830 from the Nebraska Department of Transportation – Highway Safety Office.

Flags to Fly at Half-Staff to Honor Victims of Texas Tragedy

LINCOLN – Today, Governor Pete Ricketts, in accordance with a proclamation from President Donald J. Trump, announced that all U.S. and Nebraska flags are to be flown at half-staff in honor of the victims of the tragedy in Santa Fe, Texas.

“Our hearts go out to the families, educators, students, and community of Santa Fe, Texas,” said Governor Ricketts.  “Nebraska stands with you.”

Flags will be flown at half-staff until sunset on Tuesday, May 22, 2018.

Gov. Ricketts Proclaims May as General Aviation Appreciation Month in Nebraska

LINCOLN – This week, Governor Pete Ricketts was joined at the State Capitol by representatives from Nebraska’s aviation industry to celebrate General Aviation Appreciation Month.  General aviation and community airports are vital to the Nebraska economy and play a key role in the continued flow of commerce, tourists, and visitors to the state.  Governor Ricketts has been a constant advocate for infrastructure in the state, including supporting advancements at general aviation airports throughout Nebraska.

“General aviation is a key component to growing the Good Life here in Nebraska,” said Governor Ricketts.  “General aviation helps support some of our state’s key industries, including tourism and healthcare, bringing visitors from across the country and around the world to Nebraska.  Thank you to all those in Nebraska’s aviation industry for what they do on a daily basis to foster the continued vitality of general aviation in our state.”

Governor Ricketts was joined at a signing event by Nebraska Department of Transportation (NDOT) Director Kyle Schneweis and NDOT Division of Aeronautics Director Ronnie Mitchell.  The Department of Roads and Department of Aeronautics merged in 2017 to become the Nebraska Department of Transportation.

The merger gave the department the ability to have a more coordinated transportation system to drive Nebraska’s economy on the ground, through the air, and by shipping freight.  The state’s 80 public-use airports are important to the movement of personnel, equipment, and product helping the aviation industry generate more than $1.2 billion in annual economic output.

“Our airports play an important role in connecting our rural communities and supporting agricultural and public safety operations,” said Director Schneweis.  “Director Mitchell and I appreciate the Governor’s support and recognition of the impact aviation has on Nebraska’s economy.  General Aviation Appreciation Month gives NDOT the opportunity to acknowledge our partners in the aviation industry and their continued dedication to giving wings to the growth of the state.”

No surprises in Primaries for governor, U.S. Senate

The field of candidates is set for the two statewide contests that carry the most interest this fall.

In the gubernatorial race, incumbent Republican Pete Ricketts easily held off a Primary challenge from Krystal Gable. Governor Ricketts will face Democratic nominee Bob Krist. The sitting state senator beat out two other candidates for his Party’s nomination.

In the race for U.S. Senate, incumbent Republican Deb Fischer came out ahead of four challengers.

She will face Lincoln city councilwoman Jane Raybould, who won the Democratic nomination over three other candidates.

Also in the U.S. Senate race, Jim Schultz won an uncontested Primary for the Libertarian Party nomination.

Memorial Day weekend travel numbers are the best in more than a decade

Near-record travel numbers are predicted in Nebraska and nationwide for the upcoming Memorial Day weekend, kicking off the summer vacation season.

Rose White, spokeswoman for AAA-Nebraska, says the motor club is forecasting more than 41-million Americans will be taking trips during the holiday, a five-percent increase from last year and the largest number in a dozen years.

White says, “Of those traveling, about 36.6-million will travel by car, another 3.1-million will fly to their destinations and 1.8-million will travel by other modes, including cruise ship.”

Crude oil prices are up and gasoline prices are following suit, though White says higher pump prices won’t deter most motorists from hitting the holiday road.

“Here in Nebraska, we are seeing the average at $2.75 a gallon, which is up about 46-cents compared to what we saw last year,” White says. “Things you can do to save on fuel include: avoid aggressive driving, combine errands when possible and consider using a higher ethanol blend of fuel.”

For example, the E-85 blend is selling for about 50-cents a gallon below regular unleaded.

If you’re driving long-distance during the weekend, it might be helpful to look over a few things on your vehicle before leaving. AAA expects to rescue more than 340,000 motorists at the roadside this Memorial Day weekend.

“To avoid being stranded, you may want to have your battery checked,” White says. “Also, have a spare key handy and also check your tires. Those are the top three leading reasons why we see service breakdowns during the holiday period.”

The top five travel destinations over Memorial Day are: Orlando, Seattle, Honolulu, Las Vegas and Anchorage, Alaska.

Survey: More Nebraskans hoping to get a “charge” out of driving

More drivers are interested in owning electric vehicles, according to a new survey from AAA.

Nick Jarmusz, a spokesman for the auto club in Nebraska, says 20 percent of motorists polled say they’ll likely go electric for their next vehicle purchase.

As more electric cars appear on the roads, Jarmusz says fewer prospective buyers are scared off by so-called “range anxiety.”

“That they won’t be able to travel far enough or be able to do their regular commuting between the necessary charging intervals,” he says.

Worries over climate change and a desire to “go green” are key driving forces behind many motorists turning away from traditional gas-powered vehicles to purchase electric cars.

“The overwhelming majority cite environmental concerns as their number-one reason why they would consider that technology,” he says. Jarmusz says potential buyers also like the fact that electric vehicles require less maintenance than gas-powered engines.

“We are beginning to see those vehicles become much more competitive and in many cases, that’s one of the secondary reasons behind environmental concerns, the idea that this is going to be cheaper to own and maintain in the long-term.”

While some Nebraskans may be more eager to buy an electric vehicle, having the right infrastructure will be critical to its widespread adoption.

The availability of charging stations had grown to more than 16,000 nationwide, with several dozen stations in Nebraska, most of them along Interstate 80.