April 3: Baby giraffe, text scam and electric buses
Florida trucker receives probation for double fatality of Nebraska family
Miami trucker Yorkwind Crawford, 50, has been sentenced to two years of probation and 90 days of house arrest for the eight-vehicle crash on Interstate 80 that killed a father and son in Nebraska. The crash occurred as droves of Nebraska fans were on their way to Memorial Stadium for the first Husker home game of the season on the morning of Sept. 4. Crawford received his sentence April 1 for the deaths of Creighton University assistant professor Mark Kaipust, 41, and his 7-year-old son, Taylor.
Baby giraffe born at Lincoln Children’s Zoo
Just one month ago, the Lincoln Children’s Zoo announced the birth Mosi, the first giraffe to ever be born at the zoo. Now, the zoo has announced the birth of its second giraffe, Kay. Kay was born to dad Joey and first-time mom Allie Feb 27. Allie was unable to perform the usual maternal duties, so the giraffe team hand-raised Kay. The Omaha Henry Doorly Zoo gifted giraffe plasma and ShadowBrook Farm gifted goat milk to make sure Kay had the nutrients she needed. Kay is now healthy, and visitors can meet her in the Giraffe Barn.
Special election to replace Fortenberry will cost about $300,000
Former Congressman Jeff Fortenberry, who recently resigned after being found guilty of three felony charges regarding lying to federal agents, had his last day in office April 1. Gov. Pete Ricketts must set the date for a special election to replace Fortenberry within 90 days from when the vacancy went into effect. Lancaster County Commissioner Dave Shively told 10/11 that the special election will cost an estimated $300,000, and the Secretary of State’s Office said the county will have to foot the entire bill. According to Shively, the ballot will have just two candidates. The Nebraska Republican Party and the Nebraska Democratic Party will each name one candidate, likely by the end of April.
Henry Doorly Zoo increases defenses against bird flu
Over the last month, cases of avian influenza or bird flu have proliferated across the country and Nebraska. Wild geese in Lancaster, Cedar and Douglas counties have been found with the flu as well as larger flocks in Butler, Merrick and Holt counties, according to the Nebraska Department of Agriculture. An Iowa bird’s infection at the beginning of March led the Omaha Henry Doorly Zoo to close its aviary and bring all of their birds inside. Now, WOWT reports that the zoo’s aviary spaces are increasing their prevention measures from a level three to level four, out of five levels. This comes after the most recent finding of bird flu in Pottawattamie County’s Carter Lake last week, only about five miles from the zoo. Birdkeepers will take more protective measures with their gear and sanitation of the bird habitat.
Nebraska athletic department halts JMI Sports multimedia deal
The Nebraska athletic department stopped negotiations of a 12 year, $215 million deal with JMI sports, resulting in the removal of the contract approval from the next Board of Regents meeting. According to NU Athletic Director Trev Alberts, Nebraska has other companies to explore or can continue to keep its multimedia operation in house. While this allows NU to control production, the school has to account for salaries and overhead. Additionally, as long as multimedia rights remain in-house, Nebraska cannot leverage name, image and likeness rules to have student-athletes on its shows for paid interviews as a third party could.
Nebraska sends protective equipment to help Ukraine
As the Russian-Ukraine conflict continues, Nebraska and Iowa have teamed up to donate used, but functional protective equipment to Ukraine. “We’ve been able to collect 550 pieces of protective equipment including 321 body armor vests and 69 helmets,” Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts said March 30. The equipment was delivered to Des Moines where it was scheduled to be flown to Ukraine along with equipment gathered in Iowa. According to Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds, Iowa will donate an additional 146 protective helmets and 714 ballistic vests. According to Reynolds, the Ukrainian city specifically requested the armor that in normal circumstances, would be destroyed. “The armor can no longer be used in the United States, but they’re very serviceable and still functional to make a huge difference in what’s going on in Ukraine,” said Captain Jason Scott of the Nebraska State Patrol.
Text message scam reaches Nebraska
A new text message scam affecting Verizon customers has reached Nebraska. Customers have been receiving texts telling them their bill has been paid for the month with a link to a “free gift.” Experts say it’s a scam and to delete the text without responding or clicking on the link. “With text messages, you can make that number be anything. So, it’s not a guarantee that if you see a 402 area code that someone from Nebraska, a legitimate person who is not to be feared, is communicating with you,” Josh Planos with the Better Business Bureau said to KOLN. Verizon is aware of the issue and is working with law enforcement to identify who is sending these messages. Visit Verizon’s website to report a scam or find out more information.
Omaha and Lincoln could benefit from Ricketts’ rental assistance veto
On March 29, Gov. Ricketts vetoed a bill that would require him to apply for a second round of rental assistance, adding $120 million to the state’s funds. Ricketts said in his veto notice that the state still has $30 million remaining from the first round of rental assistance and that Nebraskans would become reliant on government subsidies. The Omaha World-Herald reported that many non-profit officials say the leftover money is a result of difficult application processes, not from a lack of financial need. The lack of rental assistance may be more detrimental to rural areas, as Douglas and Lancaster counties and the cities of Omaha and Lincoln applied for funds separately from the state. The Legislature will hold an override vote for Ricketts’ veto April 5, but the deadline to access the funds in full has passed. If legislators override the veto, Nebraska would only have access to about 40% of the $120 million, leaving approximately $70 million for the urban areas of Douglas and Lancaster counties.
Omaha launches first electric buses
Omaha Metro Transit launched three electric buses March 29. The vehicles are 100% battery-powered and, like electric cars, have no combustion engine. As a result, the electric buses are much quieter than their diesel counterparts and do not emit exhaust or other pollutants. The electric buses are also equipped with a new purification system that Metro Transit said will sanitize the air and surfaces within the vehicles. Omaha’s move toward more sustainable public transit comes two years after Lincoln replaced four diesel buses with electric versions in early 2020. Each vehicle is said to reduce up to 135 metric tons of greenhouse gasses per year.
Contributors: Hanna Christensen, Lauren Penington and Anne Gallagher