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Hastings college project aims to keep students local

HASTINGS — Demands from both industry and future students are pushing Central Community College-Hastings to invest in a major expansion of two educational programs.

This summer, ground will be broken for a 17,000-square-foot addition to the Hamilton Building, which will then be renovated.

The renovated space will house the welding program. The space will be about 15,000 square feet,  compared with the 7,000 square feet the program occupies now.

The addition will be home to the advanced manufacturing program, which currently occupies about 7,000 square feet.

The $10.3 million project is a major expansion for the college and something both campus president Bill Hitesman and dean of instruction Nathan Allen are excited to see come to fruition.

"There's so much excitement for it," Hitesman said. "It's just been tremendous."

Allen said the current facilities for both programs have worked for a number of years and are still OK, but the tight spaces don't allow for the needed space and certainly won't allow for population and program growth.

"With what we have now, we're in such a tight area, it would be better if things were spaced out," Allen said. "Instructionally, we would function better even from what we have now."

The original plan was to move the welding program to a different building on campus that would allow for expansion, then give advanced manufacturing the full 15,000 square feet.

Hitesman said the plan for the addition came after speaking with a group of local manufacturers about the plan. That group suggested the addition that would keep the two programs together.

Both Hitesman and Allen said the meeting with manufacturers solidified their beliefs that improvements to the two programs were the right next step for the campus.

"They said at that March meeting this is a project you really need to pursue. So not only internally were we saying we needed to do it, but industry was saying 'We think you need to do it, as well,'" Allen said.

Taking into account the opinions of the manufacturers was important to both Allen and Hitesman,  considering the number of students who stay in the area.

Among the last graduating class college-wide, 100 percent stayed in Nebraska and about 86 percent stayed in the college's 25-county coverage area.

"Those are pretty impressive numbers, but that's what we're here for," Hitesman said. "Hopefully, we can keep them here."

Looking to the future, Hitesman and Allen are looking at the increased excitement for career pathway programs at local high schools and especially Hastings Public Schools, where 244 students are participating in the manufacturing pathway. That number includes students both at the middle and high school levels.

With the major increased interest on the middle school level, Hitesman said CCC will likely be working with Hastings High to get students over to the college as space allows.

The other idea they're considering is adding full programs in the evenings for those people who may want to earn a welding certificate but are unable to attend classes during the day.

"It's certainly something we're going to pull together and look at and address the things industry has asked us to look at, which is those night classes," Hitesman said. "We will certainly look at that and try to accommodate that."

The hope is to break ground this summer and have the new addition open to students in fall 2019, with the remodeling in Hamilton completed by fall 2020. Fundraising for the project is in the early stages. A public campaign will likely be announced in the next few months.

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Man accused of attempted murder in Beatrice shooting

A rural Beatrice man is accused of attempted murder following a weekend shooting that left another man in critical condition with injuries to his neck and spinal cord.

Gage County Sheriff Millard Gustafson said more charges are possible, depending on the victim's status.

“It depends on what happens to the individual at the hospital,” he said. “That could change everything, but right now it’s where we’re at. It’s unfortunate, but (the victim) is lucky he’s still alive. That’s the main thing.”

Gage County deputies sent to a home on the southwest outskirts of Beatrice at about 4 a.m. Sunday found people standing on the porch, a woman holding the victim's head as he bled from his neck. Rescue workers transported him to Bryan West Campus in Lincoln.

Investigators believe Nathan King, 32, who lives at the house, had been arguing with the victim during a party, threatened to shoot him, went inside, then fired a shot through the front door. The victim identified King as the shooter while being treated, according to court documents.

King was arrested and lodged in Gage County jail on suspicion of attempted murder, second-degree assault, use of a deadly weapon to commit a felony and terroristic threats.

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Nebraska Legislature Day 41: Senators consider direct primary care plan

Nebraska lawmakers advanced a bill that would give state employees a new health care option that minimizes the role of insurance.

Lawmakers gave the measure first-round approval Monday with a 30-0 vote.

State workers could enroll in a so-called direct primary care plan if it survives two more votes from lawmakers and is signed by Gov. Pete Ricketts.

Supporters say direct primary care allows doctors to spend more time with patients and reduces bureaucracy by cutting out the insurance middleman, although many consumers still buy high-deductible "wraparound" insurance to cover hospitalizations and access to specialists.

Sen. Merv Riepe, the bill's sponsor, says state employees could keep their traditional coverage if they want. Nebraska's largest state workers' union isn't fully opposed to it, but has voiced concerns. 

Late nights and budget bills 

A series of a dozen scheduled late nights begin Tuesday, and first up will be debates on three budget bills, which could take the whole day. 

After this week, about three late nights a week are scheduled through the end of the session, which has 19 days remaining. 

— From staff and wire reports