July 30, 2015

Nebraska ranks among the top 10 states for health & wellbeing of kids

Kids CountThe latest “Kids Count” survey, which ranks all 50 states for the wellbeing of children, shows Nebraska hasn’t budged in the past year.

Laura Speer, a spokeswoman for the Annie E. Casey Foundation, says they look at 16 key criteria, including: education, health, economic wellbeing, and family and community conditions.

“In this year’s Kids Count Data Book, Nebraska was ranked 10th overall in terms of the wellbeing of its children,” Speer says. “Kids and families in Nebraska are doing best in the area of economic wellbeing and in fact, the state ranked 3rd overall for the economic wellbeing of its children.”

Nebraska’s tenth-place overall ranking is the same as the 2014 survey. Minnesota ranked first overall on this year’s report, followed by New Hampshire and Massachusetts. Nebraska remained in the top ten, despite some failures.

“On the family and community domain, and in health, Nebraska is lagging behind the most,” Speer says. “In fact, in the health domain, the state is ranked 26th overall in terms of the wellbeing of its children.”

The report offers one area in which the state saw a dramatic improvement:

“In Nebraska, the teen birthrate went from 36 births per 1,000 teens down to 25 births per 1,000 teens in just five years,” Speer says. “That’s a pretty substantial decline and something that really can have great implications for the future since there will be fewer teen parents in the state.”

The lowest-ranked states on the list are: Louisiana, New Mexico and Mississippi. See the full report at the Annie E. Casey Foundation website: www.aecf.org.


Nearly $2M investment coming for infrastructure in Omaha area

River's Edge

River’s Edge

The Omaha metro area will get a boost as Council Bluffs, Iowa, has won a grant of $1.9-million dollars improve the roadway access to the River’s Edge development area.

Craig Markley, with the Iowa Department of Transportation, says the area around that park on the Missouri riverfront is seeing new growth.

“That’s the former Playland Park Speedway and Amusement Park. It closed down a number of years back and it has been going through a re-development phase,” Markley explains. “This is where the serpentine bridge connects with the city of Omaha, and Council Bluffs has been very successful in developing part of that area right up against the water.”

Markley says the city holds a lot of concerts and other events in the area and the grant will provide access to allow more development nearby.

“This area a little further off the water is proposed to be developed with a couple hundred-thousand square feet of office park and they have been successful in courting one business. Warren Distribution is proposing to re-locate their corporate office there — 85 jobs, very good wages and capital investment,” Markley says.

The project is anticipated to be complete by November 2016.


Up to 40,000 expected for Bellevue’s 14th annual Riverfest

RiverFest 2014The Omaha suburb of Bellevue opens its largest event of the year today, Riverfest: Red, White and Que.

Jim Ristow, CEO of the Bellevue Chamber of Commerce, says highlights of the 14th annual fest include barbeque, live music, craft vendors, helicopter rides and tonight, there’s a hot air balloon glow.

“We’ll have five balloon teams light up,” Ristow says. “They stay grounded but they do a show on the ground where they light up and there’s fun stuff that goes with it. When they’re done, they let the crowds come up and talk to the pilots about how the balloon works. It’s a good interactive.”

The two-day festival at Bellevue’s Haworth Park will include a huge car show.

“They’ve got over 400 cars and each day, more are coming in,” Ristow says. “There are teams coming to this competition from as far away as Florida and Texas. There are multiple classes, high-end cars, motorcycles, trucks and they’ll have a big monster truck down there.”

Another big draw for the festival is the fireworks show, planned for Saturday night.

“You could see traffic up to 30- or 40,000 people which is just unbelieveable over the two-day period,” Ristow says. “It’s probably the biggest event in Sarpy County, outside of when the air show is here.”

The festival is also hosting the Nebraska State Barbeque Competition, more than 40 craft vendors and a large kids’ zone with inflatables. For details, visit www.bellevuenebraska.com.

Wild turkey population bounds, Omaha-area hunts likely

Turkey Bow-hunting of wild turkeys could soon be legal in the Omaha metro area. City leaders in Council Bluffs, Iowa, say the big birds are becoming a big hassle.

City public health director Donn Dierks is leading the effort to reduce the turkey population within the city limits.

“In the last several years, our wild turkey population has pretty much exploded,” Dierks says. “We’ve got a large number of turkeys that are becoming a nuisance within the city limits of Council Bluffs.” The turkeys leave behind a mess in resident’s yards, driveways and sidewalks.

“They also are low-flying, so when your car comes across one, we’ve had several broken windshields where the turkeys have hit those,” Dierks says.

The turkey hunting season would be similar to the city’s urban deer management program which has been in place eight years. It would apply only to female turkeys. Bowhunters who would like to participate would need to take a proficiency test.

“They have to pass that proficiency test as well as an online bowhunting class that the (Iowa) DNR offers,” Dierks said.

A formal plan for the urban turkey management program will likely be presented to the Council Bluffs City Council later this month, according to Dierks. He believes Council Bluffs would be the first Iowa city to enact such a season.

“They’re becoming more domesticated so they’re not afraid of you,” he says, “I’ve got a turkey in my yard almost every day.”


Two people die in Cass County crash

AmbulanceAuthorities have identified the two people killed in a car crash Tuesday in eastern Nebraska.

Investigators believe speed was a factor in the crash which likely happened sometime before 6 a.m.

The car — which landed upside down in a bean field — wasn’t discovered until shortly before 5 p.m.

The Cass County Sheriff’s Department reports the vehicle went through a stop sign, struck an embankment and flew over a fence into the field.

The vehicle wasn’t visible from the highway, but workers with a lawn care service noticed track marks off the road and then spotted the car in the field.

Both people inside the car were killed; 22-year-old Jeremiah Ferguson of Omaha and 21-year-old Kelsey Leclaire of Council Bluffs, Iowa.