October 31, 2014

Expect Elsa and Captain America on your doorstep tonight

TrickorTreatCostumed kids will soon be prowling the streets of Nebraska’s neighborhoods, seeking handfuls of candy as grownups dress up in more sophisticated diguises to hit adult Halloween parties.

Kathy Harkrader manages a costume shop and says many of the female trick-or-treaters will be dressed as a particular princess from the 2013 Disney animated film, “Frozen.”

“Elsa is out there in the lead of the pack, both for child and adult,” Harkrader says. “There’s going to be lots of little Elsas and Annas on the streets this Halloween.”

For the boys, characters from “Guardians of the Galaxy” are popular, as is the shield-carrying crusader Captain America.

“Superheroes for adults and children are very popular,” she says. “If it is a couple, we find that a lot of times the roaring ’20s seems to be a popular era people tend to go to.”

The Ebola virus is the topic of many conversations in Nebraska lately and some people are seeking out bio-hazard moon suits as their party attire. Harkrader was asked if she’s gotten many calls for Ebola-related costumes.

“We have but it hasn’t been as many as what you would think,” Harkrader says. “People are wanting to have fun and that’s the name of the game when it comes to Halloween.”

Given the popularity of zombies, on TV and at the movies, shambling brain-eaters are also a favored get-up this season.


NRD board in Beatrice area to vote on bike trail today

BikeTrailA vote is expected today by the Lower Big Blue Natural Resources District Board to take ownership of a bicycle trail in southeast Nebraska.

Colleen Schoneweis, with the Nebraska Trails Foundation, says the 20-mile stretch runs from the Kansas border north, toward Beatrice.

“We’ll help them in maintaining with volunteer people and volunteer money and fundraising,” Schoneweis says. “We really need their support and their board members to vote for this.”

The Trails Foundation has already raised $150,000 to be placed in an account for future maintenance of the trail.

“We’re going to do multiple events to keep raising money for the trail so it doesn’t cost the NRD money or the taxpayers money or surrounding landowers money,” Schoneweis says. “We don’t want that. We want it to be a very fun, nice trail. It benefits the whole community.”

Annual maintenance on the trial could run between $500 and $1,500 per mile.

Schoneweis says a federal effort is supported by Nebraska Congressional members to name it the Chief Standing Bear National Trail.

Connecting with other trails, it could mean a more than 200-mile continuous trail connection from Marysville, Kansas to Omaha to near Blanchard, Iowa.

She says the developed trail could have an economic impact along the Big Blue River for running events, kayaking and other recreation.

By Doug Kennedy, KWBE, Beatrice


Drought-stricken livestock producers get a break from the IRS

CowsA policy change by the Internal Revenue Service gives Nebraska farmers and ranchers who were hit by drought more time for recovery.

IRS spokesman Christopher Miller says the agency has changed the rules when it comes to livestock losses.

Miller says farmers often sell off more livestock than usual during a drought and in order to take advantage of tax benefits under the law, they have to replace those livestock within a specified time.

That time limit had been four years, but the IRS has extended the deadline another year for those who were facing a December 31st deadline this year.

“That also means that impacted farmers can defer taxes on capital gains from that sale of the livestock,” Miller says.

The IRS regulations say the one-year extension applies to capital gains realized by eligible farmers and ranchers on sales of livestock held for draft, dairy or breeding purposes due to drought. Sales of other livestock, like those raised for slaughter or held for sporting purposes, and poultry are not eligible.

Miller says the overall goal is to provide a break to farmers who were impacted by the drought.

“You will have an extension of time to replace the livestock that you had to get rid of because of those conditions,” Miller says, “and you also have an extension of time to defer any taxes that you get because of the gain in selling that livestock.”

Miller urges Nebraskans to check to see if they qualify under the extension. They need to read IRS publication #225, available on the website www.IRS.gov.


New span opens this afternoon joining Nebraska & Iowa

Photo courtesy Nebraska Department of Roads

Photo courtesy Nebraska Department of Roads

A new bridge is opening today connecting southeast Nebraska and southwest Iowa.

Officials say completion of the project not only eases travel for motorists but will encourage economic development between the states for years to come.

Scott Nixon, a construction engineer with the Iowa Department of Transportation, says it’s been a lengthy, expensive venture.

“The total project with Nebraska costs and Iowa costs combined is about $115-million,” Nixon says. “The bridge itself was 61-million.”

Construction began in January of 2012 so it’s been just two months shy of three years to complete.

The new route includes about seven miles of newly-constructed four-lane divided highway extending west of the U.S. Highway 34 interchange with Interstate 29 near Glenwood, Iowa, to U.S. Highway 75 between Plattsmouth and Bellevue, Nebraska.

The Nebraska Department of Roads completed the work on its side last year.

The new bridge over the Missouri River includes a 500-foot steel section that spans the waterway.

“Nebraska is paying for a portion of the bridge and Iowa is paying for a portion,” Nixon says. “It’s not a 50-50 split because there’s more bridge on the Iowa side than the Nebraska side.”

The bridge sits on 17 concrete and steel piers.

“It was a challenge working in the river,” Nixon says. “The contractor started working on the river in early ’12 and they were still working in late 2013. It was over a year to get the river piers up.”

Estimates show the bridge will initially carry around 2,000 vehicles a day, ramping up to 11,000 vehicles a day in the years to come. The bridge is expected to open around 3 PM.


Have your furnace inspected now, before winter winds howl

Many Nebraskans are already turning up the heat on their thermostats but autumn is a good time to have an expert look over your furnace before winter arrives.

Merl Scott, a mechanical inspector, says it’s crucial to have your system checked out every year.

Scott says, “Most of us have gas furnaces so we’d want to make sure that the gas supply system to your furnace and the delivery of the gas into the burners is all happening correctly and has the proper safety mechanisms hooked to it.”

Neglecting your furnace and air conditioning system can lead to both health and safety issues, including fire.

Scott says homeowners should always be observant of their air-handling systems.

“Most people are used to what their furnace system sounds like when it comes on and goes off and if you start hearing something different, that would be something you’d want to have checked out,” Scott says, “or if you start smelling gas or any kind of fumes.”

Scott recommends changing the air filters monthly and keeping items in storage at least three feet away from your furnace and water heater.