Giant Christmas tree, Jersey Shore boardwalk, salmon farm: News from around our 50 states – USA TODAY

From USA TODAY Network and wire reports  |  USA TODAY


Tuscaloosa: The city’s outdoor ice skating venue is open at a new location and with a new name. The event, formerly known as Holidays on the River, has moved to Government Plaza for this holiday season, The Tuscaloosa News reported. It’s now known as Holidays on the Plaza. Ice skating is scheduled to continue through Jan. 17. Along with outdoor ice skating, Holidays on the Plaza features the Tinsel Trail benefiting Tuscaloosa’s One Place, private parties, and other holiday festivities, organizers said. The decision to move the holiday ice skating from the Tuscaloosa Amphitheater was because of ongoing construction on Jack Warner Parkway, city officials said. “With increased visibility and proximity to local businesses and restaurants, we hope to make this event more convenient to the community,” said Stacy Vaughn, director of public services. Holidays on the River began nine years ago on the Mildred Westervelt Warner Transportation Museum property, the Tuscaloosa News reported. It grew in popularity, and moved in 2015 to the Tuscaloosa Amphitheater. Admission to Holidays on the Plaza is free. However, guests must purchase skate passes to access the ice rink.


Bethel: A federal grant will allow an extensive trail system to connect all four communities on Nelson Island, just off Alaska’s western coast. The $12million grant will pay to take the trail the last link, from Toksook Bay, which received the federal money, to the community of Mertarvik, the new site for the village of Newtok. The village is moving because of erosion. However, Newtok has not yet agreed to accept the trail. Newtok Tribal Administrator Phillip Carl told KYUK the village council has not met in months because of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the council is scheduled to meet in December, and will vote on the trail project. Even if they decide not to accept the project, Toksook Bay still intends to build most of the trail to Mertarvik. However, they would stop just short of the village, at the border between the two village corporations. Work on the trail to Mertarvik still needs to be designed and go through environmental reviews. If approved, construction is expected to start in 2023 and take about two years to complete. The island’s trail system will span 50 miles, connecting the four communities: Toksook Bay, Tununak, Nightmute and Mertarvik. The trail connecting Toksook Bay to Nightmute is expected to be completed next summer.


Phoenix: Two hikers were rescued Saturday in separate operations at Echo Canyon and South Mountain. According to the Phoenix Fire Department, the rescues involved a 59-year-old man who experienced chest pains while hiking Echo Canyon and a 14-year-old boy who tripped and suffered a lower-extremity injury while hiking Holbert Trailhead at South Mountain. Firefighters arrived at Holbert Trailhead just before 11 a.m. Saturday and hiked approximately 1mile to the location where a 14-year-old boy tripped and fell while hiking. After locating him, emergency personnel conducted basic life-support measures and splinted the patient’s leg. He was extricated by helicopter from the scene. The Phoenix Fire Department said the patient was then taken to a local pediatric emergency room for further evaluation. The other hiker was assisted by Technical Rescue Teams in Echo Canyon. After a quick assessment, rescue teams decided to use the “Big Wheel” to help the hiker off of the mountain after he stated he didn’t feel comfortable walking down on his own, according to the Phoenix Fire Department. Once at the trailhead, a second assessment of the hiker was performed and rescue crews determined the patient needed transport to a local hospital. Phoenix Fire Department said no emergency personnel was injured in either incident. 


Helena-West Helena: The U.S. Department of Transportation has awarded a $20million grant to finish the final section of a bike and pedestrian trail in southeastern Arkansas. The Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism was awarded the money to construct the final 13.4-mile section of the Delta Heritage Trail. Once complete, the 87-mile trail stretching from Lexa to Arkansas City will be one of the longest dedicated pedestrian and bicycle trails in Arkansas. The federal grant is being matched by $20million from the Walton Family Foundation. State parks officials said the project is expected to be finished by 2025.


Sacramento: A federal appeals court temporarily blocked an order that all California prison workers must be vaccinated against the coronavirus or have a religious or medical exemption. A panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals granted a request for a stay of September’s lower court order pending an appeal. It also sped up the hearing process by setting a Dec. 13 deadline for opening briefs. The vaccination mandate was supposed to have taken effect by Jan. 12 but the appellate court stay blocks enforcement until sometime in March, when the appeal hearing will be scheduled. The judge who issued the vaccination mandate followed the recommendation of a court-appointed receiver who was chosen to manage the state prison health care system after a federal judge in 2005 found that California failed to provide adequate medical care to prisoners. In addition to requiring COVID-19 shots for prison workers, U.S. District Judge Jon Tigar required vaccinations or exemptions for inmates who want in-person visits or who work outside prisons, including inmate firefighters.


Fort Collins: The remains of the final victim of the Black Hollow Flood have been discovered four months after she and her three family members were swept away in the flood. About 4 p.m. Nov. 20, a local resident reported finding what she thought to be human remains while hiking east of Rustic Road – a little more than 4 miles east of Black Hollow Road – according to a news release from the Larimer County Sheriff’s Office. Deputies with the sheriff’s office and investigators with Larimer County Coroner’s Office recovered those remains, and the coroner’s office identified them as belonging to 57-year-old Diana Brown of San Antonio. Brown was swept away by the flood waters July 20 along with her family members Richard Brown of Bellevue, Nebraska; Patricia Brown of Madison, Wisconsin; and David Brown of San Antonio. Their bodies were recovered in a section of the river between Arrowhead Lodge and the Indian Meadows area of the Poudre Canyon several days after the flood. Richard Brown owned a mobile home on Black Hollow Road, according to Larimer County property records, but his home residence was in Bellevue. All four victims were in the same house in the small Black Hollow area 45miles west of Fort Collins when the Black Hollow Creek initiated a flash flood down the mountainside filled with large boulders and trees burned in the Cameron Peak Fire. 


Torrington: The Torrington Public Schools district is turning to a limousine service company to help transport students to school because of a bus driver shortage that has been exacerbated by the pandemic. The district plans to use some of its $5.9million in federal coronavirus relief funds to pay Carriage & Limousine Services of Oxford to help cover its 53 bus routes. The private company has said it can provide 30 passenger buses and 10 passenger vans to cover morning bus runs on an emergency basis and afternoon runs more regularly, the Waterbury Republican-American reported. The company charges $125 an hour for passenger buses and $87.50 an hour for passenger vans. All-Star Transportation, the city’s main bus provider, has had difficulty finding enough drivers, which has caused morning delays and prevented most after-school programs, the superintendent of schools, Susan Lubomski, recently told the Board of Education.


Dover: Delaware’s K-12 public schools are continuing to report fewer than 300 COVID-19 cases that are deemed as being in-person and contagious. The Delaware State News reported last week the numbers remained below 300 for the fifth consecutive week. The data was released Wednesday by the Delaware Division of Public Health. The agency said there were 298 cases for students, just 0.21% of the estimated 141,040 public school students. The week’s numbers were slightly up from 0.17% – or 243 cases – from the previous week. Delaware has recorded a total of 3,397 in-person contagious cases among students this school year. That figure amounts to 2.4% of all public school students. Another 665 cases have been reported among staff. The data is for all of Delaware’s public schools. That includes 19 districts and 23 charter schools that are part of the public school system.

District of Columbia 

Washington: The Knights of Columbus handed out new winter coats for those in need at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish in southeast D.C. on Friday, WUSA-TV reported. Many low-income families have scarce resources to cover even the most basic essentials, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The Knights of Columbus launched the Coats for Kids program to ensure that every child in North America would have access to a warm winter coat. Since the program started in D.C. in 2009, councils have purchased and distributed more than 500,000 new winter coats to children throughout North America. Cardinal Wilton Gregory, who is the first Black U.S. prelate to earn the coveted red cap, said this is the season for giving if you can. “It’s a great gesture of concern for kids and young people who need a little help at this time of year,” Gregory said. Metro Police officers were also picking up coats. Each district gets three boxes. Officer Karen Voglezon said giving them out is a way to connect with the community they serve. “We never know what anybody’s situation is, so to get a warm coat for the winter is very good,” Officer Voglezon said. 


Miami: Federal authorities have taken into custody a 26-year-old man who apparently stowed away in the landing gear compartment of an American Airlines fight that arrived at Miami International Airport from Guatemala on Saturday morning. The man was in the wheel well area when the flight arrived from Guatemala City at 10:06 a.m., officials said. News outlets reported that Flight 1182 was met by law enforcement because of a security issue. U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers took the man into custody, the agency said in a news release. Medics took the man to a hospital for a medical assessment. “Persons are taking extreme risks when they try to conceal themselves in confined spaces such as an aircraft,” the agency said. The news release didn’t say whether the man will face any charges, or what will happen to him when he’s released from the hospital. 


Lawrenceville: All active school district employees in Gwinnett County eligible for benefits are in line to get $1,000 in bonuses next month, as well as a paid Juneteenth holiday next year. Superintendent Calvin Watts recommended the bonuses to the county’s Board of Education, which approved them unanimously, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. The bonus will be paid in a lump sum in the December monthly paycheck for about 21,500 employees, including teachers, administrators and support personnel, according to a news release from Gwinnett County Public Schools. The one-time bonuses’ $21.5million cost will not tie up future budgets or decrease the year-end fund balance, the news release said. Atlanta Public Schools is also considering $1,000 stipends next month for all its 6,000 workers, including part-time employees.


Honolulu: A food distributor in Hawaii has filed a federal lawsuit against a dairy company because milk from the mainland is allegedly being sold under a name that advertises local ties. The lawsuit filed by Hawaii Foodservice Alliance claims Meadow Gold Dairies is selling milk from California alongside advertising that reads, “Hawaii’s Dairy” and “Made with Aloha,” the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported. The lawsuit said the company has no cows in Hawaii and their “Lani Moo” mascot is misleading. Meadow Gold has long sold milk produced in Hawaii. The company was sold in April 2020 to Bahman Sadeghi, a Big Island dairy farmer, who allegedly began using milk from outside the state. “We have never claimed that all our milk is local, but we do consider ourselves Hawaii’s Dairy because we are committed to Hawaii and its community and will continue to be while we work toward building a more sustainable operation,” Meadow Gold said in a statement. In a similar but unrelated case, a federal judge recently tossed out a lawsuit against California-based King’s Hawaiian, which produces sweet rolls. Hawaii Public Radio reported King’s Hawaiian was sued because their label features the words “Established 1950” and “Hilo, Hawaii” in reference to the company’s founding. U.S. District Judge Phyllis Hamilton said the packaging clearly states the rolls are made in California and a geographic reference such as Hilo would not deceive a consumer into believing the product was made there. 


Boise The city is looking to expand its geothermal heating system by 40% as part of a goal to become carbon-neutral by 2050. The city pumps 250 gallons of geothermal water to 96 buildings through 21 miles of pipes. The water has a temperature of 177 degrees Fahrenheit. City officials said that the geothermal heat supplies about 2% of the city’s energy resources. “Geothermal really provides that clean energy alternative,” said Climate Action Manager Steve Hubble, the Idaho Statesman reported. The heated water comes from a river of geothermally heated water flowing under the nearby foothills. Experts said the water is heated by the Idaho Batholith, a massive igneous intrusion of granite producing heat through decay of isotopes like uranium, thorium, and potassium. Boise Geothermal Program Manager Jon Gunnerson said a large fault line runs through the Boise foothills and helps bring the water near the surface. The hot water is pumped from city-owned wells in the foothills to buildings, and then returned to the aquifer. City officials said they want to expand the use of the geothermal water by 5 million gallons (18.9 million liters) a year until reaching 355million gallons. Gunnerson said anyone interested in switching to geothermal should contact his office. The city says the rate is competitive with natural gas prices.


Springfield: The Capitol dome in Springfield will be without holiday lights for the third straight year. The same structural issue that kept workers from hanging about 1,300 lights from the state Capitol dome in 2019 and again last year has not been resolved, Secretary of State spokesman Henry Haupt told The Springfield State-Journal Register. Haupt said an engineering firm conducted an inspection of the dome in 2019 and recommended an observation deck above the dome be fortified before the lights are put up. “It’s the engineering firm just feels the Christmas lights shouldn’t be tethered to it until it’s fortified,” he said, adding that there is nothing wrong with the observation deck necessarily. He said the next step is for the secretary of state’s office – which is the custodian of the building – to work with the Capitol Development Boar to come up with the funding for the project. That means the lights, which were first hung on the dome in 1924 and became an annual tradition in the 1960s, will remain dark for at least one more holiday season. 


Winamac: Staff at a primate sanctuary in northern Indiana will be feeding the center’s menagerie with freshly picked fruit in the coming years because of a newly planted orchard. A team of volunteers helped plant 60 fruit trees last month on the property of the Peaceable Primate Sanctuary, which is home to baboons and macaque monkeys retired from research facilities and pharmaceutical companies. The new orchard at the primate center is outfitted with an irrigation system and within a few years it will supply the sanctuary with fresh apples, persimmons and other fruits, WSBT-TV reported. The orchard was planted after donations and a partnership with an organization called The Fruit Tree Planting Foundation. The next project at the sanctuary, located in Winamac, about 40 miles southwest of South Bend, is to build space for 10 additional primates that will be retiring there, said Scott Kubisch, the center’s director and founder.


Des Moines Iowa motorists will soon have the option of keeping their driver’s license on their phones. State officials have begun a pilot project to make digital driver’s licenses, or “mobile IDs,” available for download via smartphone apps sometime in 2022, the Cedar Rapids Gazette reported Friday. Iowa is one of several states that have considered, tested or begun issuing digital versions of driver’s licenses. Iowa plans to test devices equipped with digital versions through December, with about 100 state Department of Transportation employees expected to enlist by spring as a test group to make sure the app works. Melissa Gillett, director of the department’s motor vehicle division, said the mobile ID will be optional, but motorists will still be expected to carry hard-copy licenses. Iowa DOT officials are working with technology vendors to address security and privacy concerns inherit with any electronic-based app. They also are working with law enforcement agencies, and want to make sure the digital ID can be accepted by retailers and other places that require people to show identification or proof of age or address.


Wichita: Kansas utility regulators have issued an order requiring Evergy to explain and justify a plan to spend $10.4 billion on its electrical system and report quality of service measures on a quarterly basis amid concerns that the plan is designed largely to benefit a hedge fund investor. The Wichita Eagle reported members of the Kansas Corporation Commission sent a strong signal Tuesday that they won’t tolerate efforts to increase shareholder profits at the expense of unreasonably high rates for Evergy’s 1million Kansas customers. In a written statement, Evergy said it was reviewing the commission’s order before identifying “if there are appropriate next steps.” At issue is a plan undertaken by Evergy after Elliott Management Corp. bought into Evergy last year with a stated goal of raising the company’s profitability and stock prices.


Frankfort: Kentucky officials spent nearly $1 million to replace office furniture for hundreds of legislative staffers who work out of the state Capitol and Capitol Annex in Frankfort. The Lexington Herald-Leader reported that Mike Wynn, spokesperson for the General Assembly’s Legislative Research Commission, said the purchase was necessary. “In short, we’ve reached a tipping point,” Wynn said. “Our furniture is more than a decade old, and many items have suffered significant wear over the years. It’s now cheaper to replace those items than repair them.” Fifty executive desks were bought for nearly $1,350 each. Meanwhile, more than 290 bookcases were bought for $815 each and 276 guest chairs were $339 each. No new furniture was purchased for lawmakers and their staffers. 


New Orleans: A New Orleans museum plans to launch an elaborate nighttime sound-and-light show next year to showcase individual stories of bravery and sacrifice during World War II. The National WII Museum plans to premier its Expressions of America show on Veterans Day in 2022. It will use music, art installations and projections of what the museum calls “living murals” on the various facades of the expansive museum in downtown New Orleans. The plan is to draw from the museum’s archives to tell personal stories of soldiers, nurses and chaplains who served, their loved ones and others who played a role on the home front, including factory workers, artists and entertainers. The show also will feature actor and veterans advocate Gary Sinise. Expressions of America is being produced at an estimated cost of about $5million, according to museum spokesman Keith Darcey. It will be sponsored by the Bob & Dolores Hope Foundation, a charitable organization founded in the name of the late comedian who famously entertained troops overseas, and his wife.


Bucksport: A proposed salmon farm located at the site of the former Verso paper mill in Bucksport has not started construction despite receiving the necessary permits two years ago. A spokesperson for the company, Whole Oceans – which proposed the land-based aquaculture facility located on 100 acres along the Penobscot River – could not provide an update on when construction would start, the Bangor Daily News reported. The project received permits from the Bucksport Planning Board and approval from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection in 2019. In 2020, the company bought a second plot of land at the old mill site that it said meant it needed to review its plans. Bucksport Code Enforcement Officer Luke Chiavelli told the newspaper he had not received any applications related to construction on the second plot. The current approvals are valid for five years. The company is in compliance with permits and has paid its taxes, Susan Lessard, the Bucksport town manager, told the newspaper. She said the company told her they were in the process of hiring a CEO and there have been multiple previous changes in the company’s leadership in the past three years, the newspaper reported. 


Easton: Officials on Maryland’s Eastern Shore have voted to award a contract to remove a Confederate monument from a courthouse lawn and relocate it. The Talbot County Council voted unanimously to award a contract for the removal of the “Talbot Boys” statue and its relocation to a Virginia battlefield, news outlets reported. The council also passed an amendment that would allow submissions of alternative local sites for the monument until Dec. 6. The statue dedicated in 1916 commemorates more than 80 soldiers who fought for the Confederacy. It’s thought to be the last Confederate monument still standing on public property in Maryland besides cemeteries and battlefields. The contract was awarded to Washington, D.C.-based contractor Stratified for $67,000, an amount contingent on the project being funded by the Mid-Shore Community Foundation. No county funds are required for the bid.


Boston: A man has pleaded guilty to his role in a conspiracy to transport drugs and cash using secret compartments inside tractor trailers. Jamil Roman, 44, of Chicopee was indicted in 2016. He pleaded guilty on Tuesday in federal court in Springfield to conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute cocaine. He is scheduled to be sentenced in March. In 2014, Roman, who owned an auto body shop, and a co-defendant, Javier Gonzalez, conspired to distribute cocaine in western Massachusetts, prosecutors said. Roman admitted to meeting with Gonzalez and conspiring to collect a debt owed for the cocaine, which was part of a larger load obtained from a Mexican supply source. Law enforcement officers seized about $1.17million in cash from a hidden compartment inside a tractor trailer being driven by Gonzalez to Texas as payment for the drugs, prosecutors said. Gonzalez was sentenced in October to 21/2 years in prison and fined $20,000.


East Lansing: In the wake of the death of a Michigan State University student two weekends ago, the school and the Pi Alpha Phi national organization have suspended the school’s chapter of the fraternity. The student, identified as Phat Nguyen, died early Nov. 20 at a residence off campus. An autopsy was conducted but the Office of the Medical Examiner at Sparrow Hospital said the cause of death would not be determined until toxicology results are completed in six to eight weeks. Authorities have said alcohol consumption might have been a factor and shortly after the incident, the East Lansing Police Department said its officers had responded to the scene where four people were “passed out,” including one who was not breathing. According to the Lansing State Journal, Nguyen’s death came a day after the fraternity posted on its Facebook page that he was one of four students who had just joined the chapter.


Minneapolis: President Joe Biden is scheduled to visit the Twin Cities suburb of Rosemount on Tuesday to tout his $1 trillion infrastructure plan. The president has been making multiple stops across the country to highlight the infrastructure package. The White House has projected the package will deliver $4.5billion to Minnesota for highways, $800million for public transportation and about $300million for bridge work over a five-year span, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported. The state also is in line for $680million for water projects, at least $100million for broadband expansion and about $297million for airport infrastructure. Biden won Minnesota by about 7 percentage points in the 2020 presidential election. 


Ocean Springs: Mississippi is unveiling a new app that’s designed to store someone’s driver license on their phone. The app is being billed as a safe and effective way to make sure your ID is always on you, WLOX-TV reported. However, state officials said people will still need a physical driver license to show if requested when they are stopped by law enforcement. Another exception listed on the program’s website is boarding an airplane. Still, there’s a “growing list” of businesses and state agencies that accept the Mississippi Mobile ID, state officials said. “Vendors can accept the Mobile ID with confidence, as information on the digital ID can be verified against what is on file with the Department of Public Safety and will always be accurate and up-to-date,” the program’s website stated. Residents’ information is secure and can only be accessed with their fingerprint or face ID, officials with the Department of Public Safety said. Mississippi Mobile ID is voluntary, and residents may continue relying on their physical ID. More information about the program is available at


Kansas City: The city’s embattled police chief’s last day on the job will be in April, a draft agreement obtained by The Kansas City Star showed. The letter was written after Chief Rick Smith met last week with Mayor Quinton Lucas and Board of Police Commissioners president, Mark Tolbert. The meeting came just four days after a Jackson County found Det. Eric DeValkenaere guilty of involuntary manslaughter in the 2019 shooting death of Cameron Lamb. Capt. Leslie Foreman, a spokeswoman for the department said in a statement Smith would retire sometime in 2022. She said Smith made a commitment to stay in the position no more than five years when he was hired in August 2017. But the new letter, which is addressed to Smith from Tolbert, provided more details. It said Smith will announce his retirement to the public on March 1, that his last day will be April 22 and that he will be compensated at his current salary through Aug. 31. Smith earns about $191,000 per year as chief. There have been repeated calls for Smith to resign, including during last year’s racial justice protests. Smith’s departure is expected to come up when the police board meets Monday in a closed session. 


Billings: The value of livestock killed by predators such as grizzly bears and wolves is expected to exceed the budget for compensating ranchers for such losses this year, the Montana Livestock Loss Board said. George Edwards, the board’s executive director, said 331 head of livestock have been killed this year by wolves, grizzlies and mountain lions. With more than $262,000 in payouts having been made through Nov. 23, Edwards told The Billings Gazette he doesn’t think the state’s $300,000 annual budget will be enough to cover all the losses. Claims for animals killed by grizzly bears have been increasing in recent years. Six years ago, reported grizzly bear kills of cattle was 50 head, with another 16 probable kills. So far this year, there have been 80 confirmed kills and another 35 that are probable. Wolves also kill sheep, and mountain lions kill sheep and goats. The Montana Legislature started the Livestock Loss Program in 2007 to compensate ranchers for animals lost to grizzly bears and wolves. Mountain lions were added to the predators list and the legislature increased the compensation program’s annual budget from $200,000 to $300,000 in 2019. 


Lincoln: Students at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln could be required to log into an online class or watch a recorded lecture from home when bad weather strikes. The Lincoln Journal Star reported a new policy gives UNL the option to require students to follow “instructional continuity plans.” The new policy goes into effect Jan. 3, the start of winter interim classes at UNL. The change comes after heavy snow earlier this year forced UNL to call off classes during an already compressed spring semester schedule. Faculty leaders and others asked for the option, and a plan was developed by the Faculty Senate, Association of Students of the University of Nebraska, and campus administrators. Instructors can choose how they want classes to continue in the event of inclement weather, while adhering to the same schedule and ensuring to make the option available for all students.


Carson City: Residents of a rural, Republican-leaning town that the Nevada Legislature split into two Assembly districts filed a lawsuit last week challenging the state’s district maps. John Koenig and Gregory Hafen II, a Republican who represents Pahrump in the Statehouse, argued that the maps passed by the Democratic-controlled Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Steve Sisolak are drawn in a way that denies voters their right to elect representatives of their choice. The maps split rural Nye County into three state Assembly districts and Pahrump – its largest city – into two. The lawsuit filed in Carson City court said that combining Nye County voters into a district with more urban communities in the Las Vegas area dilutes their voting power and makes it unlikely that they’ll be able to choose a representative committed to their interests. A representative from a distant county, they said in the lawsuit, “will have little understanding of Pahrump’s and Nye County’s unique and local problems and issues and as such will be unable to adequately represent the needs and interests of Pahrump’s and Nye County’s rural voters.”

New Hampshire 

Kittery: The final submarine in the Navy’s Los Angeles class arrived at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard last week for scheduled system upgrades and maintenance work. With more than 140 crew members aboard, the USS Cheyenne docked at the shipyard. Its home base is in Groton, Connecticut, from where it traveled. Portsmouth Naval Shipyard announced the Cheyenne is the third naval ship to be named after the Wyoming city, as well as the first of its class to partake in the Navy’s service-life extension program. Portsmouth Naval Shipyard spokesperson Gary Hildreth said the maintenance of the submarine is expected to last 30 months at a cost of approximately $315million. At 360 feet long and with a dead weight of 927 tons, the USS Cheyenne is capable of supporting military missions that include “anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface ship warfare, strike warfare, and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance,” according to the shipyard’s statement. The Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company was awarded the contract to build the submarine in the fall of 1989, leading to its construction beginning July 6, 1992. The USS Cheyenne was commissioned Sept. 13, 1996.

New Jersey

Wildwood: One of the Jersey Shore’s most popular boardwalks is undergoing repairs designed to better prepare it for next year’s summer crowds. Wildwood has begun repairing several blocks of its wooden walkway, as famous for the motorized tram cars that carry people up and down it as for the gigantic expanses of sand that stretch to the ocean. The first $4million of what could be a $30million to $40million project is being done solely with state funds included in this year’s budget. The walkway is particularly popular with tourists from Philadelphia and its suburbs. Engineers examined the concrete substructure of the walkway and determined that not all of it was in bad shape. An examination of the boardwalk’s underbelly by local and state officials in 2019 found some spots where concrete crumbled to the touch. But the overall assessment of the substructure cleared the way for less expensive plans to repair the sections most in need of work, Mayor Pete Byron said. Work started last week on a three-block section. Eventually, 20 of the boardwalk’s 26 blocks will be refurbished, a process that could take five years, with work done in the offseason to avoid interfering with tourist season.

New Mexico

Albuquerque: Several members of New Mexico’s congressional delegation are urging the U.S. Forest Service to again allow a decades-old foot race that goes through a wilderness area and up into mountains overlooking Albuquerque. A letter by Sens. Martin Heinrich and Ben Ray Lujan and Rep. Melanie Stansbury asked the agency to reverse its 2020 decision that the La Luz Trail Race wouldn’t be permitted under the Cibola National Forest’s draft land and resource management plan. The lawmakers wrote that the 9-mile event held annually for more than 55 years “is a point of pride for New Mexicans and an important source of recreation and tourism.” The race, which attracted hundreds of runners, started in the foothills of the Sandia Mountains on the outskirts of Albuquerque and finished at Sandia Crest after an elevation gain of more than 4,000 feet. In a 2020 announcement, Sandia District Ranger Crystal Powell said officials had determined that the race should not have been permitted in the wilderness area because it was a commercial event.

New York

Poughkeepsie: A second gun buyback event through the state Attorney General’s Office in less than six months is scheduled in the city for Dec. 4. Letitia James’ office is holding the event, in association with the city police department, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Beulah Baptist Church at 92 Catharine St. The amount residents can receive depends on the gun they bring, with the range beginning at $25 for a nonworking or antique gun, followed by $75 for a rifle or shotgun, $150 for a handgun and $250 for an assault rifle. Participants will receive a prepaid gift card at the church. Participants can trade in as many guns as they wish. Weapons must be unloaded and transported inside a plastic bag, paper bag or box. Licensed gun dealers and active or retired law enforcement officers are not allowed to participate in the program. Identification is not required to take part, and no questions will be asked. The Poughkeepsie City School District was forced to close its high school for several days after a shooting on Forbus Street roughly a half-hour after dismissal Nov. 15. City police said 40 to 50 people were in the area of the shooting. No injuries were reported. A 13-year-old found by police that day is in a juvenile facility, charged with criminal possession of a weapon.

North Carolina

Concord: A fire has destroyed 60 guitars and up to 100 paintings at the North Carolina home of Jim Avett. He is the father of Scott and Seth Avett of the Avett Brothers band. The Charlotte Observer reported the fire occurred Friday in the city of Concord. “The fire started from a golf cart,” Jim Avett posted on Facebook. “Half the house is totally beyond repair.” Officials said that arriving firefighters saw “heavy fire from the garage” and entered the house to keep the flames from spreading. No one was injured, although Jim Avett said a cat was missing. The Avett Brothers, a three-time Grammy Award nominee, are based in North Carolina and have a national following. Jim Avett said on Facebook the blaze is “not a knockout punch.” “We have the strength, attitude, faith and abilities to move forward,” he wrote. “And we will!”

North Dakota

Bismarck: An agency key to implementing new in-state investment components of North Dakota’s $8.3 billion oil tax savings has a new leader. The State Investment Board recently named Retirement and Investment Office interim Executive Director Jan Murtha to take over the role on a permanent basis, the Bismarck Tribune reported. The office oversees about $20billion of assets. Murtha, who is an attorney, has led the agency in the interim role since June, when Dave Hunter resigned for a job in Alabama. Murtha was hired in 2020 and previously was the office’s deputy executive director and chief retirement officer. The agency is key to effecting new in-state investment mandates of the Legacy Fund approved by the Legislature, which include making investments in companies in the state. During the Legislature’s special session earlier this month, state lawmakers approved an additional six full-time employees and $1.8million for salaries and expenses. Murtha has said those resources will help the office meet the new investment requirements.


Lima: The city is about to swear in Democrat Sharetta Smith as its first female and first Black mayor. Smith will take her oath of office Monday at the city’s Veterans Memorial Civic and Convention Center. She defeated Republican Elizabeth Hardesty on Nov. 2 after the two topped a four-way primary in May.Smith succeeds retiring eight-term Mayor David Berger, who has led the city since 1989. She most recently served as his chief of staff. An attorney, Smith previously served as an assistant public defender and criminal court magistrate.


Enid: The dedication for the world’s tallest fresh-cut Christmas tree, a 140-foot Douglas fir, took place Friday night during the opening ceremony for “The One,” a 42-day Christmas event at 150 W Park Ave. In recent days, a special crew from California used boom lift aerial equipment to decorate the tree with more than 20,000 LED lights. Crew members also braved the Oklahoma winds to add about 10,000 ornaments for a show-stopping effect. And an Enid florist shop owner and local volunteers decorated numerous smaller trees that formed a brightly colored ring around the tree. Kyle Williams, chief executive officer of Hammer Williams Co,. said he and his wife Carol came up with the idea for “The One” extravaganza with their four grown children. They envisioned a series of concerts, plays and other activities to take place around a huge tree in downtown Enid. About two years ago, the Williams family did some research to determine where the tallest fresh-cut Christmas trees were featured in previous years. Williams said he found that the giant trees were often the highlight of elaborate holiday scenes created at outlet malls and casinos across the country. And then there was the large fresh-cut Christmas tree famously featured each year at New York City’s Rockefeller Plaza.


Portland: Oregonians will soon have more options for camping – especially those looking for a quick trip – as the state parks department works to complete details on a capital improvement plan. Oregon Public Broadcasting reported staff in the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department recently outlined some of the plans at a Parks and Recreation Commission meeting. Park Services Manager Matt Rippee said expanded campgrounds are in the works for several state parks in the Willamette Valley, including Silver Falls and Champoeg. “It also gives folks an opportunity, if a big storm comes through in the middle of the night, or a baby is crying, they can hop in the car and head home, and it’s not a four hour drive,” he said. The expansion is part of an approved    $50 million, by state lawmakers, to fund a series of projects over the next five years. In addition, as part of the package the iconic Smith Rock State Park is set to receive        $4 million to $6 million for upgrades throughout the park – including added parking, extended hiking trails and a visitor center.


Harrisburg The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention dropped its percentage of vaccinated adults in Pennsylvania by nearly 5 percentage points in what apparently was a data correction to weed out duplicates. The agency adjusted the percentage to 68.9%, after a day earlier putting the percentage at 73.7% of Pennsylvanians 18 and older. The downward revision amounted to a reduction of about 1.2million doses. Pennsylvania’s Department of Health said it sends its data to the CDC, and began in July to refine its data to remove duplicate information and correct data on first, second and booster doses. The data correction came as infections, hospitalizations and intensive-care unit cases are rising in Pennsylvania and many other states. The department said there are 3,349 people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Pennsylvania, up about 21% in November. That includes 763 in the ICU, up about 17% in November. More than 33,000 people in Pennsylvania have died from COVID-19, according to Department of Health data.

Rhode Island

Providence: Gov. Dan McKee said the annual holiday celebration and tree lighting at the State House will take place at 5 p.m. on Thursday on the south lawn. The tree will be lit at 6:15 p.m. Two Christmas trees will be on display at the State House. A 12-foot Douglas fir from Henry’s Christmas Tree Farm in Scituate will be outside the State House and an 18-foot artificial tree will be inside the State House. The Douglas fir was purchased with donations from several local businesses and the artificial tree was purchased with funds from the 2017 National Governors Association conference, McKee said. Keeping a real tree alive inside the State House has proved challenging. In 2005, the tree turned brown and shed all its needles. In 2017 the tree died 10 days before Christmas. The governor’s office purchased an artificial tree in 2019. After the tree is lit, McKee and first lady Susan McKee will read “The Night Before Christmas.” The celebration features performances by Billy Gilman, the Cumberland Clef Singers, the Paul Cuffee Lower School Chorus and the Rhode Island Army National Guard’s “Governor’s Own” 88th Army Band. Unwrapped toys will be collected to benefit local children in need. Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus are also scheduled to appear to take socially-distanced photos with children.

South Carolina

Charleston: More loggerhead turtle nests were counted on South Carolina beaches this year than in 2020, according to state Department of Natural Resources data. The Post and Courier of Charleston reported officials counted more than 5,600 sea turtle nests this year, with data still being compiled. The final 2020 count was 5,560. That remains below the state’s two biggest years, with 6,446 in 2016 and 8,774 in 2019. The state’s first nest was reported on May 5 on Seabrook Island. The town of Kiawah Island said its last nest was counted Oct. 10. In July, volunteers found a rare two-headed sea turtle hatchling while conducting an inventory at Edisto Beach. As far as the park specialists know, this was a first for the beach. The turtle was released into the Atlantic Ocean. Loggerheads are the Palmetto State’s primary nesting sea turtles. But the department this year reported a Kemp’s ridley nest and five green sea turtle nests. Last year, 16% of nests were washed away, including some by Hurricane Isaias, said state DNR state sea turtle coordinator Michelle Pate. This year, 3.4% of eggs were lost. Pate said a larger share of lost eggs were eaten by predators this year, including coyotes, foxes and raccoons.

South Dakota

Deadwood: The addition of sports betting helped drive a 20% revenue increase for Deadwood casinos in October, according to new state data. The Rapid City Journal reported that a report from the South Dakota Commission on Gaming showed the casinos generated 20.54% more revenue last month than in October 2020. Gamblers shelled out more than $116million for slots, $8.3million for table game bets and $815,036 in sports bets. Sports betting became legal in South Dakota in July. Betting began in early September after the gaming commission approved a list of sporting events that gamblers can wager on, including the Olympics, professional and college sports. Five Deadwood casinos offered sports betting in October, paying out just over $98,000. Most bets were placed on professional and college football. Overall, gamblers spent almost $1.3billion in Deadwood casinos through the first 10 months of the year. That’s up nearly 40% from 2021, when the COVID-19 pandemic forced casinos to close temporarily. Slot machines paid out more than $10.8million in winnings and table games yielded almost $1.5million in winnings, mostly from blackjack and house-banked poker, according to the report.


Nashville: A woman attacked two flight attendants on a Spirit Airlines flight to Nashville on Saturday night, was restrained by a fellow passenger, and then yelled at police officers to “shoot me” when they arrested her. Airport police arrested a 42-year old female for public intoxication after the flight crew contacted officers on the ground at Nashville International Airport about 7 p.m., an arrest affidavit said. The flight took off from Fort Lauderdale at about 6 p.m., according to Spirit Airlines spokesperson Nicole Aguiar and FlightAware, a flight tracking website. When the plane arrived, members of the crew told officers that she attacked two flight attendants, punching one and pulling the other’s hair. Aguiar did not comment on details in the affidavit but said law enforcement officers removed “a passenger for unruly behavior.” When the passenger deplaned, another passenger was restraining her feet with zip ties, the affidavit said. She smelled of alcohol, spoke in a slurred manner, and her eyes were bloodshot. She told officers she drank “a lot,” the affidavit said. After police arrested her, she yelled at the officers on several occasions, using expletives and saying “I didn’t do anything wrong” and “shoot me,” according to the affidavit. The passenger also resisted getting into the police cruiser, including by stiffening her legs to prevent officers from closing the door. Davidson County Sheriff’s Office jail logs showed she was admitted into jail on at 8:40 p.m. Saturday, but she was released 6 a.m., Sunday.


Killeen: An invasive underwater weed is spreading in a central Texas lake popular with anglers, tangling boat propellers and threatening fish. The weed is hydrilla, an aquatic plant initially imported and sold as an aquarium plant in the 1950s that has become one of the world’s most invasive plants. Fishing guide Bob Maindelle said its presence is at a record level in Stillhouse Hollow Lake, about 13 miles southeast of Killeen. “So much hydrilla has now grown in Stillhouse that entire coves are now completely inaccessible to boating anglers because the matted vegetation entangles the propellers of both outboard engines and electric trolling motors, thus prohibiting access,” Maindelle wrote recently in the Killeen Daily Herald. The plants are spread by uncleaned boats and form thick mats on water surfaces, changing their pH levels, stripping them of oxygen, restricting native plant growth, blocking nutrients for aquatic animals, and hindering irrigation, recreation and water flow, according to the Texas Invasive Species Institute. It also can damage water quality and foster the growth of toxic blue-green algae. Such algae were linked to the recent sudden deaths of multiple dogs at nearby Belton Lake.


Panguitch: A minor earthquake struck parts of southern Utah on Friday morning. The quake had a preliminary magnitude of 3.0 and was centered about 7 miles west of Panguitch, the U.S. Geological Survey said. It happened at about 6:40 a.m. Quakes of that magnitude are among the smallest generally felt by people.


Strafford: A final total of the cost of cleaning up the long-abandoned Elizabeth copper mine in Strafford came in more than four times the original estimate, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said. The Valley News reported that when the Superfund project to clean up the mine began in 2002, its estimated cost, in today’s dollars, was $25million. When the the cleanup was completed earlier this year the final price tag, released last week, came in at $103million. Ed Hathaway, the EPA’s Elizabeth Mine project manager, said “cost increases are very common” in the Superfund program. “We’re not building a house. We essentially are unwrapping the site as we clean it up. … As we excavate and as we do work, we uncover more of the challenges,” Hathaway said. In 2001 the EPA designated the abandoned 250-acre copper mine a Superfund site. Acid- and metal-contaminated water from the site contaminated nearby streams. Copper ore was first discovered in the area in the 1790s. Mining operations waxed and waned over the decades with economic conditions. The mine closed in 1958, leaving behind 7,800 feet of tunnels; abandoned buildings; equipment; huge piles of rock, known as tailings; and other mining debris. After the mine closed, contaminated water leached from waste rock and tailings into nearby streams, endangering animals and homes nearby.


Roanoke: Police are seeing an increase in thefts of catalytic converters from automobiles across the nation and in parts of Virginia. Roanoke County police officer Greg Benton told The Roanoke Times that he didn’t think catalytic converter thefts have “ever been this prolific.” Catalytic converters filter pollutants from car exhaust. They’re made with valuable precious metals and sit on the underside of a vehicle. They can be removed in a matter of minutes with a machine-powered saw. In July, insurance provider State Farm said it had seen a three-fold jump in the number of catalytic converter claims filed over the past year. The National Insurance Crime Bureau also said that the average monthly thefts across the nation had soared to 1,203 in 2020. There were 282 a month in 2019. In Roanoke City, 182 converters were reported stolen by the end of October. In all of 2020, there were about 16 thefts. In Roanoke County, Benton said thieves had made off with about 30 converters at once. Car owners can take precautions by parking in well-lit, visible areas. Illegally removing a catalytic converter can be done quickly – but not quietly. The sawing tends to make a racket.


Bellingham: Residents throughout the state were preparing for possible flooding as “atmospheric rivers” again threatened parts of the Northwest, which saw heavy damage from extreme weather earlier this month. People in the small communities of Sumas and Everson in northwest Washington were asked to voluntarily evacuate Saturday night, The Bellingham Herald reported. Both towns near the Canadian border saw extreme flooding from the previous storm. Flood watches were issued for much of western and north-central Washington and the National Weather Service warned that flooding was possible through Sunday. Heavy rain and rising rivers were also expected in the Cascade mountains in the center of the state and the Olympic mountains near the coast. Meteorologists predicted the rain would taper off Sunday and that Monday should be relatively dry.

West Virginia

Charleston: FirstEnergy Corp. has applied to build five solar energy projects throughout its West Virginia service territory. The Akron, Ohio-based utility company estimated the projects, if approved by West Virginia regulators, would generate 50 megawatts of power, the Charleston Gazette-Mail reported. The plans comply with a 2020 bill passed by the state legislature that permits electric utilities to own and operate up to 200 megawatts of renewable generation facilities. They would not displace the company’s current coal-fired generation capacity, the newspaper reported. The application was submitted through FirstEnergy’s two subsidiaries, Mon Power and Potomac Edison. Construction could begin as early as 2022, with all projects expected to be completed by 2025. The sites include a 26-acre reclaimed ash disposal site in Berkeley County, a 51-acre site adjacent to a Mon Power substation in Hancock County, a 95-acre site in Monongalia County and a 44-acre reclaimed strip mine property in Tucker County. A fifth location is under review.


Madison: A community group is urging city officials to back off on plans to shut down a homeless encampment in a city park. City officials have posted notices that camping won’t be allowed in Reindahl Park on Madison’s east side after Dec. 6 and all tents, structures and belongings must be removed from the park by Dec. 9. The encampment has seen more than 70 people at times and has been declared unsanitary, unhealthy and unsafe after a number of attacks and overdoses, a stabbing and a shooting. The city wants to move people living in the park into shelters and a hotel. The Wisconsin State Journal reported that volunteer group Community Action Against Reindahl Eviction issued a statement Wednesday asking the city to halt the eviction. One of the group’s members, Pearl Foster, said the shelters and the hotel don’t have enough space for all the Reindahl campers and it shouldn’t be a problem to keep the park open because it’s not used for winter sports. Linette Rhodes, the city’s community development grants supervisor, said the city doesn’t want anyone sleeping outside during the winter and she’s confidant that all campers will have a place to go as the city shuts down the park. 


Cheyenne: When the Republican-dominated legislature met last month to fight federal COVID-19 vaccination rules, it drew a crowd. That first day, people opposed to the federal rules crammed into the House and Senate galleries, filled two overflow rooms and gathered on the steps of the Capitol. State residents who traveled to Cheyenne fear taking a relatively new vaccine and don’t want to lose their jobs for refusing the shots, said Kristy Tyrney, the head of Wyoming Health Freedom, a grassroots group that rejects vaccine requirements. The scene in Wyoming played out across more than a dozen red-state legislatures in recent weeks as Republican lawmakers and governors pledged to fight President Joe Biden’s new immunization rules. Since September, at least 14 GOP-controlled legislatures have debated bills that would undermine vaccine mandates and passed at least 13 new laws, by Stateline’s count.