Trains and railroad crossings are not uncommon in our area.
Yet accidents happen every year between vehicles or equipment and trains.
In this busy farm season, Union Pacific wants folks to be prepared.
You can hear it coming, see the lights flash and arms come down, yet every year, dozens of train accidents kill or injure drivers and pedestrians.
“People are in a hurry. They're preoccupied,” says Pat Leahy, Rep. Presenter, Operation Lifesaver.
Pat Leahy with Operation Lifesaver says in 2012, there were nearly 2,000 collisions on the Union Pacific tracks.
He says 270 people died nationwide in those collisions.
13 of those collisions happened in Nebraska, with 4 fatalities and 4 additional deaths due to trespassing pedestrians.
“We have about 1 in 4 crossings has the arms yet about half of the collisions happen at those crossings. People in a hurry taking a chance, taking a shortcut, going around the arms, trying to beat the train. Deadly mistakes,” says Leahy.
Crossings experience more traffic in the summer months.
Add that to a busy farm season with lots of equipment crossing the tracks, and chances for accidents increase.
“It's time to start paying attention and realize they have a big load, a long load and they're going to have to be cautious approaching this crossing and make sure they allow enough time and one of the main things we really stress is when they do wait for a train and that last car gets by, let that last car get down far enough where they can see around it and they are sure there's not a train coming on the next track. That's something that happens far too often,” says Leahy.
Leahy says by taking a few extra seconds to scope out the hazards around you, it could prevent a costly mistake.
If you have an emergency on or near the tracks, Leahy advises to call 911 first, then look for blue signage around the crossing for a Union Pacific phone number to dial as well.
An organization in North Platte paid tribute to a man who worked tirelessly for over two decades to provide health services in the region.
James Deaver served on the Region II Human Services Governing Board for 26 years, with the last 20 as chairman.
He was also a Perkins County Commissioner.
He passed away in January.
Thursday, the region services- representing 17 counties -honored Deaver by dedicating the building to him.
Family, friends, board members and employees gathered to honor the man they say was instrumental in keeping funding to the rural areas of Nebraska.
They also put a plaque in their entryway so all clients could see and recognize his impact.
“His dedication to keeping behavioral health services to the rural area was astounding. He traveled many miles to Lincoln often to advocate for us and served this region and population very well,” says Kathy Seacrest, Regional Admin., Region II Human Services.
Christopher Russell Pleads Not Guilty For 1st Degree Sexual Assault
A 19-year-old North Platte man pled not guilty in District Court Monday to having sex with a 15-year-old girl.
Christopher Russell was arrested March 1st for statutory rape.
He now faces two counts of 1st degree sexual assault on a child.
His next court appearance is June 17th.
A man tied to a shooting in North Platte pled not guilty to his charges in District Court Monday.
21-year-old Britton Renfrow pled not guilty in front of District Judge Donald Rowlands Monday.
Renfrow is accused of shooting 30-year-old Benjamin Newman in the left leg.
Newman did not have life threatening injuries.
Renfrow is facing charges of attempted robbery as well as weapon and assault charges.
He is also charged with possession of oxycontin.
His next court appearance is June 17th.
Shugart Sentenced Up To Nine Years
A North Platte man connected to a stabbing incident in November of 2012 was sentenced in District Court.
District Judge Richard Birch sentenced 34-year-old Quincy Shugart for several drug and assault charges.
He'll receive 3 and two thirds to 9 years in the Nebraska Department of Corrections for four different charges.
Shugart stabbed a 23-year old man on November 22nd.
The man Shugart stabbed was transported to the hospital where he received medical attention for lacerations to his neck and torso.
He was also in possession of methamphetamines.
Donald Warfield Sentenced to Five Years for Sexual Assault
A man who pled no contest to sexually assaulting a child will go to prison.
Judge Birch sentenced 69-year-old Donald Warfield to five years in the Nebraska Department of Corrections.
The victim says Warfield gave her presents when she was seven or eight and inappropriately touched her.
She said the routine worsened over the years.
Warfield's attorney said Warfield is elderly and cannot remember the events.
Judge Birch says Warfield's history of sexual assault was a factor in the sentencing.
245 Days For Justin valentine
A North Platte man who created a standoff with police in January was sentenced to time in the county jail.
District Judge Richard Birch sentenced 23-year-old Justin Valentine 245 days in the Lincoln County Jail and 24 months of probation.
He also would need to complete residential treatment.
Valentine pled no contest to two counts of terroristic threats in April.
In January, he got into a fight with his girlfriend and fired a rifle twice.
He refused to answer the door for police and a standoff ensued for an hour and a half before police could arrest him.
Justin Belsky Required To Pay Restitution
A North Platte man involved in a string of car and business vandalism on August 6th will be required to pay restitution to the victims.
20-year-old Justin Belsky pled no contest to ten counts of criminal mischief.
District Judge Donald Rowlands ordered Belsky to pay $2,000 in restitution upfront, along with 30 percent of his income while on 24 months of probation.
He also must write a letter of apology to every victim of the vandalism.
The night of August 6th, Belsky and 17- year- old Casey Mitchell reportedly used a BB gun and other objects to break windows in over 100 cars and businesses in North Platte.
The damages total over $60,000.
Micah Koch Pleads Not Guilty to Motor Vehicle Homicide and DUI
A man accused of vehicular homicide in the death of 24-year-old Korey Huebner made a plea in District Court.
24-year -old Micah Koch pled not guilty to motor vehicle homicide and DUI resulting in injury.
The county attorney ordered him to wear an ankle bracelet to monitor his activities.
Authorities say Koch was driving under the influence of alcohol when he lost control of the vehicle and drove into an embankment.
Huebner was a passenger in the car and died of her injuries.
His next court appearance is July 15th.
We now know the names of the people involved in an accident Saturday evening in Logan County.
Logan County Sheriff Jon Heflin says 67-year-old Roger Beckett of Stapleton died in the accident on north Highway 83 at mile marker 119.
A pickup truck crossed the center line and collided with the minivan Beckett was riding in.
Beckett's wife Barbara was life-flighted with serious injuries.
The driver of the pickup, 71-year-old Jesus Gonzalez Torres of North Platte, was taken by ambulance to the hospital with injuries.
He was still in the hospital as of Sunday morning.
The Nebraska State Patrol said Saturday they believed alcohol was a factor.
The sheriff's office said the investigation is ongoing.
Schools are getting out for the summer and many teens are looking for summer jobs.
Over a dozen girls were training to babysit with a course from the Red Cross Friday.
In the 5-hour course, girls and boys learn how to deal with strangers, how to change and feed a baby, basic CPR and First Aid and other safety tips.
The course helps teens learn the basics about babysitting and also helps them be more comfortable with their responsibilities.
The class is available to both new and experienced babysitters.
"A lot of parents feel more comfortable having their kids get more of a grasp on babysitting and maybe stuff they wouldn't think about especially when it comes to First Aid and CPR stuff that some of the girls don't know about even if they have babysat 100 different times," said Courtney Ewald with Health and Safety at the Mid-Plains Red Cross.
To find a babysitting class near you, go to RedCross.org or call 1-800-Red-Cross.
The organization also offers online courses.
Most last days are filled with students packing up and getting ready for summer.
At St. Pat's Junior and High School, students dedicate their last day to service.
No matter what they were doing.
“I'm picking up the endowment garage, cleaning it out and getting it organized,” says William Vanderheiden, 7th grade.
“We have to mop the floors and clean everything down,” says Delaney Green, 10th Grade.
Everyone had a job to do.
“We have groups going to all three of our churches and setting up for the auction tomorrow at the St. Pat's church. There's projects over at our school and McDaid and cleaning up the trash around the school grounds,” says Nelson Jett, 8th Grade.
7th through 12th grade students at St. Pat's had only a half day Friday for their last day of school.
But it was still one of the busiest.
Every year students clean the Catholic schools and churches in the area.
“Some of us look forward to it and some of us don't because they don't like to work but I think the people that do like to work enjoy it a lot and have fun with it,” says Jett.
But it's about more than mopping or sweeping or wiping down windows and mirrors.
It's about working together and learning important lessons.
“Just so we learn how to help others and it's not just all about us. We need to just help everyone,” says Katie Slattery, 10th Grade.
“It makes us appreciate it more because it make us realize how nice our community is to help us and we give back to our school,” says Green.
“It's good for the community and it's good to teach us good skills in the future to know how to do things and do things for not money but for service,” says Jett.
It's a service that benefits the churches and schools and the students as well.
A ribbon cutting Thursday morning meant a big step for tourism when the Original Town Association presented their new office to the community.
The Association had an office in the Do-It Center in North Platte, but members needed a permanent space.
A building lease donated by Nebraskaland National Bank is going to mean a lot for Rail Fest and the community.
For years, Rail Fest has been a large part in the growth of North Platte as a rail town.
Now, the Original Town Association, who heads the effort, has an easier way to expand their efforts.
“That's our big thing is how you build a sense of community and this is one of the ways,” says David Harrold, Chairman, Original Town Association.
Thursday, the association held a ribbon cutting at the old Nebraskaland National Bank North location across from the Do-It Center.
The bank donated the building lease to the organization.
“It's both an economic impact in our town and it's also self-awareness and self-pride for our railroad industry in our town. We're very excited to help Railfest,” says Ty Lucas, Exec. Vice President, NEland National Bank.
“It really means a lot to use because they're our premiere partner and they enable us to do a lot of what we do as well as all our partners but Nebraskaland National Bank has stepped forward and really helped us out a lot,” says Don Kurre, Chairman, Rail Fest.
The association now has an address, meaning visitors now have an easier way to access all of the rail attractions North Platte has to offer.
It also means a meeting place for members to have more organized efforts in planning and technology.
“Now we have a place where we can hook up our networks, our server, our website. A lot of those technological things that have been fragmented can now be brought together in one place,” says Harrold.
Organizers are confident that something as simple as an address can make all the difference in making North Platte a rail town destination.
Applications are now being accepted for the Conservation Reserve Program.
The general signup runs from May 20th to June 14th.
There are certain requirements producers must meet to qualify.
Those interested are encouraged to contact the USDA's Farm Service Agency as soon as possible to discuss the criteria.
The CRPs allow for easier farming practices and generates a steady income.
“The current farm bill has a cap on acres nationwide of 32 million acres. The proposals for the new farm bill that probably will be passed later this year, both the House and Senate proposals reduce that down 24-25 million acre range so if people are interested in putting it in, this might be the last opportunity they have for a while to make an offer,” says Bruce Solko, County Exec. Dir., FSA.
For more information, contact the North Platte FSA office at 308- 534- 2360 extension 2.
Officials broke ground on the future of Ogallala Public Schools.
A bond issue of 14.9 million dollars passed with 55% of the vote in the November election
Since then, the school system has moved quickly to get a long-awaited project started.
Monday a school system and community came together to celebrate at Prairie View Elementary in Ogallala.
“When you look at school districts that are doing well financially, they are in one facility. We'll be in two, k-8 in one and 9-12 in the other, but you have to look at the broad picture on what is the best thing and they decided this was the best process,” says Carl Dietz, Superintendent, Ogallala Public Schools.
Ogallala Public Schools broke ground on their newest project - a nearly $15 million renovation and addition to the school to combine three elementary and middle schools into one.
The education board analyzed options and decided combining the schools would make more financial sense than updating several outdated buildings.
After several failed attempts to get the bond issue passed on the ballot, the measure finally gained enough votes in the fall.
“The bonds were $19.995 million and with interest on the bonds over 20 years, it will be approximately $20 million which is also a really low cost with interest rates at historic lows, that's another reason to get this done now,” says Dietz.
“Our Community College has invested a lot with their new facility and the programs they offer so the partnerships are really starting to take place. And this, as a community effort, this size of school bond will make a huge impact economic wise,” says Travis Haggard, Ogallala Economic Dev. Coord.
The school system made an effort Monday to include as many of the students and community members as possible in the groundbreaking, getting the city of Ogallala excited about the changes that took four and half years to get started.
“Enrollment may increase, it may not. The bottom line is we needed to have good facilities for our kids, good education, updated- and a new gymnasium. We're short on gymnasiums in our community anyway, so it's just a lot of different things providing a nice environment for our children,” says Dietz.
The school wanted to break ground while the students were still in school.
Construction will start in the next few weeks.
They hope the project will be completed by September of 2014.