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GERING, Neb. (AP) — The first human case of West Nile virus in Nebraska this season has been reported in a western county, according to health officials.

The Scotts Bluff County man who contracted the infectious disease is between age 50 and 70 and spends time outdoors, said Paulette Schnell, director of the county's Health Department. He wasn't hospitalized.

West Nile virus is spread through infected mosquitoes' bites. The county, which has irrigation canals and the North Platte River, has seen an increase in mosquitoes, Schnell said. Moisture in the area has produced conditions where the disease can flourish, including standing water, she said.

State Epidemiologist Dr. Tom Safranek said there will likely be more virus cases this year. Mosquitoes in Lancaster and Phelps counties have tested positive for the virus so far.

Nebraska recorded 68 human cases of the virus and two deaths last year.

Most people who test positive for the disease will either have no symptoms or mild flu-like signs. Some may experience headache, body aches, vomiting, fatigue or weakness. The disease can be fatal. There aren't vaccines to prevent the virus or medicine to treat it, according to local health officials.

Health officials recommend residents apply mosquito repellant, drain standing water, avoid spending time outdoors during dawn and dusk and wear long-sleeved shirts, pants and socks when outside.


CHADRON, Neb. (AP) — State game officials say a mountain lion that killed a domestic goat in northwest Nebraska has been found and killed.

The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission says the goat's owner contacted the commission Monday after finding the goat carcass near Chadron in Dawes County.

The owner and Game and Parks officials cooperated in identifying the mountain lion believed responsible, and the big cat was killed Tuesday, in accordance with the commission's mountain lion policy.

The commission says it's the state's fourth confirmed case of livestock depredation in Nebraska by a mountain lion since the cats' presence in the state was confirmed in 1991.


 GERING, Neb. (AP) — The public is invited to help uncover the biodiversity of the Wildcat Hills in the Nebraska Panhandle during the Wildcat Hills Bioblitz.

The event is scheduled to run Friday and Saturday, based at the Wildcat Hills State Recreation Area south of Gering.

The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission says bioblitzes bring together natural resource experts, community volunteers and others to inventory all living species in a specific area during a certain period. The event begins at the Wildcat Hills Nature Center with a free pizza dinner, children's activities and door prizes Friday at 6 p.m. On Saturday the surveys will get underway at 7 a.m.

A Nebraska park entry permit is required for vehicles. More information is available by calling 402-310-6137.


JULY 12, 2018 (LINCOLN, NEB.)  — The Nebraska State Patrol Carrier Enforcement Division has assessed $331,920.00 in civil penalties against Von Busch and Sons Inc. of Lincoln, NE.


The investigation into the company came after the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) produced a list in which Von Busch and Sons Inc. was listed as a carrier with severe problems involving maintenance and operation of commercial vehicles. Additionally, on February 15, 2018, the company was involved in a one-vehicle fatality accident, which killed a worker, and furthered concerns of the company’s safety practices.


The investigation showed that Von Busch and Sons Inc. had been fined before and minimal corrective action was taken. Prior to the most recent action, Von Busch and Sons Inc. had been the subject of seven (7) separate compliance reviews from 2002 to 2016 that yielded a number of safety violations, mainly stemming from the lack of maintenance being conducted on the vehicles.


After the most recent compliance review, NSP investigators requested that Von Busch and Sons Inc. submit documentation that they were making changes to improve the safety of operations in their company. Von Busch and Sons Inc. did submit an action plan; however, within a month of receiving the plan investigators followed up with the company and found that insufficient actions had been taken to correct the violations found in the compliance review.


NSP Carrier Enforcement Investigators discovered 453 violations involving controlled substance and alcohol testing, vehicle maintenance, and driver qualification requirements.


Investigators will continue to monitor the progress that Von Busch and Sons Inc. is making to improve safety operations in their company.


GREELEY, Colo. (AP) — The Colorado Department of Transportation is working to make a stretch of interstate from Denver to Nebraska friendlier for bees and butterflies.

The Greeley Tribune reports the state Legislature in May designated the stretch of Interstate 76 as the Colorado Pollinator Highway.

According to the department, this section was chosen because it runs through environmentally sensitive areas and is a key path for migratory butterflies.

Under the designation, a roadside manager will promote genetically appropriate plants for the area that are resistant to invasive species, and crews will not mow past 15 feet (4.5 meters) from the highway from April to September.

The department will also partner with groups to map roadside habitat and restore or improve those areas.

GERING - For the seventh year, local volunteers will take calls on the SAFE Ride OTD hotline to offer sober rides home during Friday and Saturday night of Oregon Trail Days.  The pool of volunteer drivers and dispatchers will be headquartered this year at Monument Inn & Suites.  Anyone needing a ride can walk to the hotel or call the hotline (308) 633-6397 and a driver will take them home.  Volunteers provide their own cars, gas and insurance to offer this service. It's an incredible gift to the community to get people home safely during this busy weekend with so many activities that offer alcohol.  The service is offered both Friday and Saturday nights from 10:30 p.m. - 1:30 a.m.  Drivers will take riders anywhere in the valley, but longer trips may need to be negotiated with the driver.

"We've had a lot of positive feedback from riders, who are often out of town and used to paying for such a service," said Lisa Betz-Marquez, who started the program and continues to organize it with the assistance of co-chair Kevin Fordyce.  "We've had a few laughs over the years about some of the requests, but mostly, people just appreciate the service, especially out of town visitors who may not be familiar with our community and want an easy way to get home," said Betz-Marquez.

Volunteers will have the SAFE Ride OTD sign on the inside window of their car, so people can identify them as part of the project.  Volunteers also wear black shirts with lime colored lettering that have the SAFE Ride OTD name and official Oregon Trail Days logo on them.  Betz-Marquez encourages anyone needing a ride to call the hotline, and to be careful throughout the weekend.  "Drunk drivers kill people when they get into the driver's seat.  There is no need for tragedy this weekend.  The SAFE Ride OTD project hopes everyone will have a lot of fun and be responsible.  To call the hotline, dial (308) 633-6397.  

We encourage everyone to take a moment and put the number in their phone for later use," she said.

SAFE Ride OTD is sponsored by Dietrich Distributing, Pizza Hut, Monument Inn and Suites, Scottsbluff Screen Printing, and Prairie Arts Yoga Studio.


JULY 11, 2018 (SCOTTSBLUFF, NEB.)  — Troopers with the Nebraska State Patrol (NSP) Troop E have completed a three-month special enforcement operation focused on alcohol-related crashes.

The enforcement, which ran from April 1 through June 30, included sobriety checkpoints throughout Scotts Bluff County. Scotts Bluff County has been identified as a priority county by the Nebraska Department of Transportation – Highway Safety Office (NDOT-HSO) for the high rate of alcohol involvement in crashes.

During the effort, NSP worked with the Scotts Bluff County Sheriff’s Office to target drunk driving. The operation resulted in four arrests by NSP for driving under the influence, four arrests for driving under the influence of drugs, as well as two arrests by the Sheriff’s Office for driving under the influence of drugs and one arrest for driving under the influence.

The combined effort also resulted in 17 arrests for drug possession and citations issued for: driving under suspension (7), no proof of insurance (2), minor in possession (6), open container (10), improper child restraint (6). The team also performed three motorist assists.

“Our goal is to keep Nebraska roads safe and free from drunk driving,” said Captain Kurt Von Minden, Commander of Troop E. “This operation was successful thanks to the teamwork of our troopers and the deputies of the Scotts Bluff County Sheriff’s Office.”

The special enforcement was made possible thanks in part to the grant for $12,000 from NDOT-HSO.


OSHKOSH, Neb. (AP) — A western Nebraska judge has acquitted a school superintendent accused of assaulting an 8-year-old student.

Judge Randin Roland filed a verdict of not guilty last week for Garden County Schools Superintendent Paula Sissel, who'd been charged with misdemeanor assault in Garden County. He'd considered testimony and evidence from a nonjury trial last month in Oshkosh.

A video of the Nov. 13 incident shows Sissel pulling the girl down a hallway before the girl's placed in what was referred to as a "chill out room." It's alleged the girl suffered a rug burn.

Sissel acknowledged pulling the girl, in part to protect a physical therapist who was trying to deal with the girl's outburst. The girl's mother says the girl is possibly autistic and functions at the level of a 3- or 4-year-old.


JUNE 27, 2018 (SCOTTSBLUFF, NEB.)  — One person has been arrested following an operation of the Panhandle Region Team of the Nebraska Human Trafficking Task Force.

The operation occurred on Tuesday, June 26, in Sidney. The Task Force was assisted by the WING (Western Nebraska Intelligence and Narcotics Group) Task Force, the Sidney Police Department, Cheyenne County Sheriff’s Office, Gering Police Department, Scottsbluff Police Department, the Nebraska Attorney General’s Office, the Nebraska State Patrol, and several other entities.

During the operation, James Raymond Hill, 52, of Mitchell, Nebraska was arrested for solicitation of prostitution.

In addition to enforcement against those who solicit sex acts, the operation also focused on recovering victims of human trafficking.

The Task Force would like to thank CAPstone, the Salvation Army, and DOVES for their assistance.


ALLIANCE, Neb. (AP) — An August sentencing hearing has been scheduled for a 29-year-old man accused of fatally shooting his girlfriend's dog in northwest Nebraska.

Box Butte County District Court records say Adam Swanson pleaded no contest to animal neglect that resulted in death. Prosecutors dropped a weapons charge in return for Swanson's plea. His sentencing is set for Aug. 27.

Sheriff's deputies say Swanson was intoxicated on Jan. 20 when he intentionally shot and killed the dog in its kennel. Swanson and his girlfriend had been arguing at their home about 5 miles (8 kilometers) northeast of Hemingford.

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