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* Funeral Service notes: (see more on the obituaries page)

* Jay Keegan, 47, of Rapid City, S.D. 10:30 a.m. Jan. 21

Meeting reports located below for:

Jan. 15 Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education

Jan. 14 Sandhills Care Center Board of Directors

Jan. 10 Ainsworth City Council

Jan. 4 Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education special meeting

Jan. 3 Brown County Commissioners

* Area students named to fall semester President's, Dean's Lists at Northeast

(Posted 10:30 a.m. Jan. 18)

Northeast Community College at Norfolk announced the President's Honor List and Deans' Honor List for both full-time and part-time students for the fall semester.

To be named to the President’s Honor List, students must earn a perfect grade point average of 4.0 and be enrolled for at least 12 credit hours.  Students named to the Deans’ Honor List must have earned a grade point average of 3.75 or above and be enrolled for at least 12 credit hours.

Students on the President’s Part-Time list attained a 4.0 grade point average while taking at least six credit hours, and students named to the Deans’ Part-Time list earned a grade point average of 3.75 or above while taking at least six credit hours.

 

PRESIDENT’S HONOR LIST - Full-Time

Ainsworth - Breanna Schwindt.

Stuart – Cassie Miksch.

Atkinson - Jeffrey Mathis.

 

DEANS’ HONOR LIST-Full-time

Ainsworth - Jacce Beck.

Long Pine - Sabrina Hempel.

Bassett - Alicia DeBolt.

Newport - Whitten Giles.

Stuart - Rachel Kaup and Kennison Kunz.

Atkinson - Preston Dickau, Jennifer Fischer, Grant Pacha and Jason Seger.

Naper - Jesse Cline.

 

PRESIDENT’S HONOR LIST—Part-time

Ainsworth - Sonya Shurter.

Long Pine - Byron Pfister.

Stuart - Taylor Kubik.

Atkinson - Anna Albrecht, Ashley Larby, Leighton Mlady and Peyton Randolph.

Butte - Sydney Atkinson, Jacey Hilkemann and Melissa Sextro.

 

DEAN’S HONOR LIST Part-Time

Ainsworth - Amy Cook.

Butte - Conner Hermsen.

* Traffic Accidents

(Posted 6:45 a.m. Jan. 16)

The Brown County Sheriff’s Department investigated a pair of recent motor vehicle accidents in Ainsworth.

At 3:55 p.m. Jan. 6 on South Street in Ainsworth, a 2004 Dodge Ram, driven by Shane Cole, 19, of Ainsworth, was turning east onto South Street from Osborne Street when the vehicle left the roadway and struck a cable box.

No injuries were reported. Damage to the Ford was estimated at $150. The cable box, owned by Three River Telco, sustained approximately $400 damage.

At 3:53 p.m. Monday, Jan. 14, at the intersection of Highway 20 and Ash streets in Ainsworth, a collision occurred at the intersection between a southbound 2004 Ford Taurus, driven by Shona Voss, 44, of Ainsworth, and an eastbound 1999 Chevy S-10 pickup, driven by Becky O’Hare, 61, of Ainsworth.

No injuries were reported. Damage to the Ford was estimated at $150. The Chevy sustained approximately $1,000 damage.

* School Board approves contract with Hafer for superintendent position

(Posted 9:30 a.m. Jan. 15)

The Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education approved a contract with Dale Hafer to become the district’s superintendent effective July 1, and accepted the resignation of three retiring teachers during Monday’s meeting.

Hafer, the current superintendent at Sandhills Public Schools, was one of four candidates to interview for the superintendent position created by the retirement of current superintendent Darrell Peterson effective at the end of his 2018-19 contract year.

Board President Jim Arens said the district had four very good candidates during the interview process.

“Dale rose to the top,” Arens said. “We made him an offer, and he has accepted. I am pleased we were able to get this done in a timely manner.”

Board member Scott Erthum thanked Peterson for announcing his retirement early to allow the school board to interview candidates early and have a smooth transition.

Board member Brad Wilkins agreed, saying, “The number of superintendent searches NASB is now doing has grown. The timing was good for us.”

In addition to approving a contract with Hafer, the board accepted the resignation of three long-time educators who announced their intentions to retire at the end of the 2018-19 school year.

Agricultural education teacher Roger Lechtenberg plans to retire at the end of the school year. He has been with Ainsworth Community Schools since 2006, and has taught agricultural education in north central Nebraska for numerous years.

Title 1 teacher Linda Hapner announced her retirement. Hapner started with the district in the Long Pine building in 1980 and came to the Ainsworth district in 1993.

Elementary special education teacher Kay Hookstra also plans to retire at the end of the current school year. Hookstra has been with the Ainsworth district since 1989.

Peterson wished all three well in their retirement, and said he would begin advertising for replacements for the three positions. He said there were two additional educators he knew of who also planned to retire at the end of the school year.

In other business Monday, the board established regular meeting dates for 2019 on the second Monday of each month, at 7 p.m. from November through March, and at 8 p.m. from April through October.

The board authorized the Ainsworth Educational Facilities Leasing Corporation to pay an invoice related to the agricultural and industrial technology building addition project. Wilkins said the $518,000 payment brings the district to having paid for approximately 82 percent of the total project cost.

Peterson reported some things have been moved in to the new classrooms in the addition. He said the district planned to move equipment into the shop area by next week.

“We met with the contractors and will try to get everything out of the old shop building, as it will be gutted,” the superintendent said.

He said students would help build some of the items for the addition, such as welding booths, tables and storage areas.

The board approved authorizations to the superintendent and treasurer, the publication of legal notices and recognized the 2017-18 school audit report as part of annual board approval items.

The board also approved member appointments to various boards and committees.

Arens, Erthum and Mark Johnson will serve on the Curriculum committee. Arens, Johnson and Jessica Pozehl will serve on the transportation, building and grounds committee. Wilkins, Pozehl and Frank Beel will serve on the activities and athletics committee. The budget and finance committee will be comprised of Wilkins, Johnson and Beel, with Wilkins, Arens and Erthum serving on the negotiations and personnel committee. Erthum, Pozehl and Arens will serve on the district’s policy committee.

Johnson will represent the district on the North Central Development Center Board of Directors, and Wilkins will continue to serve as the district’s government relations representative.

Peterson provided the board with a report on the district’s performance from the 2017-18 Accountability for a Quality Education System Today and Tomorrow testing.

Comparing the AQUESTT results to the last time the system was used three years ago, the district improved in both its elementary and high school ratings, as well as the district’s overall evaluation.

Peterson said the elementary and high school moved from the “good” classification up two levels to the top level of “excellent.” The middle school remained at the “good” level, the same level as the last test period.

“I am extremely pleased both the elementary and high school moved up to the highest level,” Peterson said. “It says a lot about the work the staff has put in. Overall, we have made great strides. It is quite an accomplishment.”

Peterson said language arts scores at the middle school level were lower than the district’s peer group and the state level, and would give the district something to work on. He said the district would also need to work hard to maintain the elementary and high school excellent ratings.

Overall, the district was rated in the second highest category of “great,” a rise up from the district’s rating of “good” three years ago but below the highest level of “excellent.”

KBRB previously reported the full results for the district from the AQUESTT testing.

Peterson reported school breakfast and lunch participation remains steady, with the district realizing a total profit of $6,622 through the first five months of the school year. The district’s goal is to break even with its breakfast and lunch program, but the federal government does have meal price guidelines it requires the district to adhere to.

The next meeting of the Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education is scheduled for 7 p.m. Feb. 11.

* Care Center Board amends bylaws to allow Osborn to continue to serve

(Posted 5 p.m. Jan. 14)

The Sandhills Care Center Board Monday approved an amendment to the facility’s bylaws to allow board member Chuck Osborn to remain on the board.

Osborn, who had been the city of Ainsworth’s elected representative to the Care Center Board, had his council term expire in December. The previous bylaws required the city to have a sitting council member as one of its representatives, and also required the Brown County Commissioners to have one commissioner on the Care Center Board.

The amendment changed the language to read that board members could be either a council member or an appointed representative, with the same language included for the commissioners’ representative.

Both the City Council and the Board of Commissioners approved amending the bylaws during recent meetings.

With Osborn abstaining, the board approved the amendment to the bylaws, and then recognized Osborn as the city’s representative to the board.

Administrator Stephanie Rucker told the board she has been able to cut down on the number of agency nurses being employed by the facility after hiring additional Certified Nurses Assistants, though she reported the December pool nursing services remained high before those new CNAs began employment.

“We hired two new CNAs from the recent class who were our former employees,” Rucker told the board. “We also had two high school students who took the class and are picking up shifts, and one college student who is picking up weekend hours.”

Rucker told the board the international nurse’s visa application has been held up due to the federal government shutdown, but the company hoped the international nurse from South Korea would be in the U.S. and available to begin employment with the facility by March 1. Rucker said the agency LPN the care center is currently utilizing has a contract that runs through March 1. That agency nursing position would be replaced by the international nurse.

Rucker said the facility has 19 residents, with 11 paying privately and eight receiving Medicaid assistance. She reported there was one admission in December, while two residents were discharged back home, one returned to an assisted living facility, and one moved to a facility to be closer to family.

The Sandhills Care Center generated $137,311 in revenue during December, with expenses of $152,658 for a net loss of $15,347 during the month. Rucker reported agency nursing expenses accounted for $51,157 of the monthly expense total. She said that figure would start declining in January with the newly hired CNAs.

Board Chairman Phil Fuchs reported the Brown County Commissioners approved an additional $80,000 in funding to assist the center in completing its fiscal year.

“The city tabled action on an additional $80,000,” Fuchs said. “They weren’t against it, they just needed to figure out where they would take the funding from their budget.”

Fuchs reported the December expenses for the facility included $4,900 to purchase window heating and air-conditioning units. He said all those units have now been replaced.

Rucker reported the facility had signed an agreement with the Brown County Hospital to share a maintenance position. The hospital started advertising for the new position, and Rucker said she would be included in the interview process.

The care center would receive the services of the maintenance person for 20 hours per week through the contract with the hospital.

Rucker reported a nursing facility at Sidney is closing, and she had reached out to let them know the Sandhills Care Center has open beds for any residents who needed to find a home. She said there were 31 residents in the Sidney facility, though some of those were in an assisted living wing.

Osborn reported the Wausa nursing home was also closing, and had 15 residents who would have to be relocated.

The board discussed a recent meeting at Lincoln Rucker attended hosted by Rural Health Development that focused attention on the financial plight being experienced by nursing homes in Nebraska due to declining Medicaid reimbursement.

Rucker reported the care center was hosting Bingo night for the community this Wednesday, along with a tea party at 3 p.m. Jan. 25 to celebrate National Tea Month and a soup and pie fund-raiser and silent auction Jan. 31, with proceeds from that event being used to purchase a new scale for the nursing department.

The board held an executive session to discuss personnel prior to adjourning. The next meeting of the Sandhills Care Center Board of Directors is scheduled for 4 p.m. Feb. 11.

* Ainsworth finishes fourth in Valentine Icebreaker Speech Invite Saturday

(Posted 7:45 a.m. Jan. 14)

Valentine Icebreaker Speech Invitational

Ainsworth Results
==Varsity==

1st:  Sam Wilkins—Extemporaneous Speaking

            Jenna Williams, Henry Beel, Coy Carson, Adriana Hood, Cody Kronhofman--OID

2nd:  Brandt Murphy & Cody Scott—Duet Acting

3rd:  Jenna Williams—Informative Speaking

4th:  Brandt Murphy—Serious Prose

            Henry Beel—informative Speaking

5th:  Cody Kronhofman—Poetry

            Adriana Hood—Informative Speaking

Superior:  Coy Carson—Entertainment Speaking

==Novice==

1st:  Alyssa Erthum—Poetry

            Maren Arens—Entertainment Speaking

            Maren Arens & Ben Flynn—Duet Acting

3rd:  Allison Arens—Informative Speaking

            Libby Wilkins—Humorous Prose

            Alyssa Erthum—Persuasive Speaking

4th:  Shaley Starkey—Serious Prose

            Ben Flynn—Informative Speaking

            Molly Salzman—Persuasive Speaking

 

Team:  4th of 6

 

“We had a great start in Valentine," Ainsworth coach Mary Rau said. "All varsity speakers brought home medals, and they were excellent examples for the many novices on the team. Our novices are a talented, motivated bunch. They outnumber the varsity team members, so there’s a steep learning curve happening every night at practice. They’re also obviously working hard, as they brought home many awards also. It’s early in the season, but I’m very optimistic this year.”

Next week’s competition takes the Bulldog speakers to Broken Bow, with rounds beginning at 8 a.m. 

* Hafer hired as Ainsworth Community Schools superintendent

(Posted 11 a.m. Jan. 11)

Four candidates were interviewed this week by the Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education, staff, students and members of the public for the superintendent opening created by the pending retirement of Darrell Peterson.

Following the interviews, the board offered a contract to current Sandhils Public Schools Superintendent Dale Hafer. Hafer has accepted the district’s offer and will become the next superintendent of the Ainsworth Community Schools system effective for the 2019-20 year.

Peterson has served in the superintendent post for 18 years, and announced his retirement in the fall effective at the end of the school year to give the Board of Education ample time to find his replacement.

Board President Jim Arens said, after interviewing four candidates and looking at their experience, the board felt Hafer would be a great fit for the school and for the community.

“Having been in a rural setting, he understands the culture here,” Arens said. “The board felt Dale was very professional and communicative. He will build partnerships in the community. He is easy to be around, but yet very well educated. We are very pleased to have him on board.”

Hafer has served as the superintendent and principal at Sandhills Public Schools since 2010. He served as the K-12 principal from 2007-10, and prior to that was a science teacher with stops at Topeka, Kan., Burke, S.D., Monroe, Centennial and Broken Bow in Nebraska prior to joining the Sandhils Public Schools system in 2004.
Hafer's first day as superintendent of Ainsworth Community Schools is July 1.

* Recent cases from Brown County Court

(Posted 2:45 p.m. Jan. 10)

In addition to fines, each case carries $50 in court costs

Roger L. Bickel, age 70, of Gordon, charged with speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, fined $75.

Angel M. Cook, 18, of Ainsworth, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Santiago Zamudio, 31, of Hampton, Iowa, driving left of center, $25; no operator’s license, $75.

Jay T. Davis, 28, of Ainsworth, possession of an open alcohol container in a vehicle, $50; defective vehicle light, $25; failure to use seat belt, $25.

Josie E. Voss, 45, of Long Pine, driving left of center, $25.

Christopher M. Mauna, 38, of Arvada, Colo., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Nina J. Wilson, 35, of Hallam, speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.

Timothy J. Greiner Jr., 31, of Elm Creek, speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.

Justin J. Dillon, 54, of Johnstown, disobey a traffic device, $25.

Linda D. Ridder, 46, of Malcolm, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Gregory A. Faber, 46, of Brodhead, Wis., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Michael J. Burke, 51, of Corsica, S.D., speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.

Michael R. Spotted Bear, 18, of Ainsworth, no operator’s license, $75; driving on the shoulder, $25.

Sheila D. Pyle, 47, of Bassett, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Austin M. Krueger, 24, of Dickinson, N.D., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25; failure to use a seat belt, $25.

Jeffrey C. Hemphill, 54, of Littleton, Colo., possession of an open alcohol container in a vehicle, $50.

Paul J. Embick, 46, of Long Pine, possession of an open alcohol container in a vehicle, $50; defective vehicle light, $25; no operator’s license, $75.

Abimael L. Plaza, 26, of Huron, S.D., two counts of attempting a Class 4 felony, fined a total of $1,100 on the two counts; possession of drug paraphernalia, $100.

Grant S. Nesemeier, 19, of Chadron, minor in possession of alcohol, $300.

Dustin S. Privett, 21, of Ainsworth, driving left of center, $25.

Anthony Ganser, 51, of Ainsworth, possession of an open alcohol container in a vehicle, $50.

Andrea I. Colunga, 34, of Ainsworth, violate a stop or yield sign, $75; possession of an open alcohol container in a vehicle, $50.
Christopher G. Whidby, 26, of Nenzel, possession of an open alcohol container in a vehicle, $50.

Noah F. Fisher, 22, of Pierce, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

David G. Hall, 53, of West Plains, Mo., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Nila Upreti, 31, of Columbus, Ohio, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

* Planning Commission agenda includes potential changes to comprehensive plan

(Posted 2:15 p.m. Jan. 10)

Brown County Planning Commission agenda
Meeting 7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 10
Brown County Courthouse meeting room
1. Roll call
2. Approve minutes of previous meeting
3. Planning Commission Reorganization
4. Consideration and possible action on Brown County Commissioners' request to amend the Brown County Comprehensive Plan concerning the siting of livestock facilities and wind towers
5. Direction to zoning administrator for goals to work toward (comprehensive plan and zoning regulations)
6. Future meeting schedules
7. Adjourn

* Council planning to amend ordinance to require earlier snow removal on Main Street

(Posted 7:15 a.m. Jan. 10)

Businesses on Main Street will likely be required to have snow removed from their sidewalk by 6 a.m. on the day after a storm following the Ainsworth City Council’s decision Wednesday to direct City Attorney Rod Palmer to amend the city ordinance and present it for council approval in February.

Council President Greg Soles said he met recently with Streets Foreman Monte Goshorn and the people who handle commercial snow removal to discuss the best way to get snow removed from Main Street.

Soles said the current ordinance states that snow in the business district must be moved to curbside by 10 a.m. of the first business day following a snowstorm. He said he would like to see that time frame moved to 6 a.m.

City Administrator Lisa Schroedl said amending the ordinance would make it more consistent with what the city is trying to practice.

“The goal is to get the snow to the curb so the city can move it once,” Schroedl said.

She said the city crew tried to clean Main Street by around 6 a.m. so they did not have to work around vehicles.

Soles also said some residences are not getting snow removed from sidewalks within 24 hours following a snowstorm as required by city ordinance. He said he viewed four properties within one block of Ainsworth Community Schools that had not removed snow following the latest storm. He said many of those are absentee property owners.

Soles said the city would likely work with the sheriff’s department to enforce the ordinance, with residents receiving a verbal warning to get snow removed. If snow was not removed, the sheriff’s department has the ability to issue citations.

Councilwoman Deb Hurless asked if the city could possibly check to see if the homeowners are elderly and don’t have the ability to scoop. She said maybe there could be volunteers in those instances who would be willing to help scoop snow.

Councilman Brad Fiala said most residents get out quickly and get their snow moved, but others were certainly capable and still don’t scoop.

The council directed Palmer to draft an amendment to the ordinance to require business district property owners to have snow moved to curbside by 6 a.m. following a storm instead of the current 10 a.m.

In other business Wednesday, the council approved an amendment to the Ainsworth/Brown County Care Center interlocal agreement to remove the requirement that one care center board member be a sitting member of the City Council and one be a sitting member of the Brown County Commissioners.

Sandhills Care Center Board Chair Phil Fuchs said the amendment basically changes one sentence in the agreement, and adds that the council and commissioners can appoint either a member or a registered agent to represent them on the care center board.

“It removes the requirement that there has to be one council member and one commissioner,” Fuchs said.

The amendment comes as the board hoped to keep Chuck Osborn, an initial member of the care center board, on the board after his term on the City Council expired.

The amendment was unanimously approved Wednesday, and was previously approved by the Brown County Commissioners Jan. 2.

Fuchs also requested an additional $80,000 in funding from the city to help the facility complete its 2018-19 fiscal year.

Fuchs said, when the initial care center budget was drafted, the care center was appealing the denial of a $70,000 Medicaid payment from the state. He said that appeal was unsuccessful, so the facility started the fiscal year in a hole.

Fuchs said the commissioners had already approved an additional $80,000 contribution to the facility. Coupled with an additional $80,000 from the city, who is an equal partner with the county, the care center would have the funding needed to complete the 2018-19 fiscal year.

He said the facility needs to average 24 residents to reach the break-even mark. He said occupancy reached 24 residents for one month, but was then back down to the current 19 residents a month later.

Soles asked if the care center could get by for a month or two on the county’s additional contribution to allow the city time to find a place in its budget where it can pull funds to provide to the care center.

Fuchs indicated that would be fine. He said the facility continues to be improved, with all the window heating and air conditioning units now being replaced in addition to the shingle replacement on the building.

“We have had a lot of positive feedback from family members who have residents there,” Fuchs said. “We think the investment is worth it for the community.”

Schroedl said the group talked previously about potentially doing a bond issue so the funding for the facility does not have to come from the city and county general funds.

Fuchs said a bond issue is a long process.

“If we continue to build our census, we shouldn’t need a bond,” Fuchs said. “We hope to be self-sustaining, but we are not there yet.”

The council tabled action on the funding request.

In a continuing agenda item regarding the LB 840 program, Schroedl said the city had not yet received the return of LB 840 funds from the North Central Development Center.

NCDC Board member Graig Kinzie said the board voted during its meeting Wednesday to return all LB 840 funding it held in various accounts to the city after receiving a letter from the city with the request.

He said the checks will be written to the city from each individual account where the council had approved an LB 840 grant or loan request by the NCDC.

Kinzie said the board also unanimously voted to provide the city with any additional documentation requested by the auditor that had not already been provided, with the exception of any documents that included information regarding individual applicants’ data where the NCDC had signed a confidentiality agreement with the applicant.

In those instances, Kinzie said the board voted to have the NCDC executive committee review the documents with Ainsworth Mayor Jeremiah Sullivan and the NCDC director to determine how the documents could be provided without violating the confidentiality agreements the NCDC had signed with individual applicants.

Kinzie said the intention of the NCDC Board is to be completely transparent and get any and all issues with the city and the LB 840 program resolved so the community could move forward together with the program.

Palmer questioned why the funds had not been returned by the time of Wednesday’s meeting. Kinzie said the NCDC Board had planned to take action during its December meeting, but had not received a letter with the city’s request at that time. He said the board Wednesday directed staff to have the accounts closed and the funds returned to the city by Friday.

The council tabled any action regarding the LB 840 program pending the receipt of the funding and accompanying documentation from the NCDC.

Citizens Advisory Review Committee member Chris Raymond said the committee had met twice regarding the council’s directive to put together a contract between the city and the NCDC for the management of the LB 840 program.

Fiala asked how quickly the committee could put that contract together for the council to review.

Raymond said, “We plan to have a rough draft of the contract by the middle of next week to let the council and the NCDC Board look at it, and have Rod or Mr. Ediger check to make sure it is legal. Then we will go from there.”
Fiala said he was glad to see the work moving forward so the city can go back to using the LB 840 program as it was designed.

Soles said, with a rough draft, the council members could then review the contract and recommend any changes that might be needed prior to its February meeting.

Raymond asked if the review committee could continue to consult with Ediger if it needed additional guidance on how to set up the contract.

Soles said,” Yes. I understand there is a cost to that, but time is important. We need to get everything completed.”

In other business Wednesday, the council received one bid for a tract of property located at Lot 8, Block 6 of Morrison’s Addition the city published for sale.

Kristi Frew submitted a bid of $2,500 for the parcel. Frew said she owned the adjacent property, and Palmer said Frew had previously leased the property from the city for haying rights.

The council accepted Frew’s bid, and Palmer said an ordinance would be drafted for council approval during its February meeting. If the council approves the ordinance, then Frew will receive the deed to the property.

The council approved a contract with the Central Nebraska Economic Development District for the administration of a Community Development Block Grant the city received for its upcoming wastewater improvement projects.

The council appointed four members to the city’s Board of Health. Those members include Sullivan as the mayor, Soles as the council president, city physician Dr. Mel Campbell, and Chief of Police Bruce Papstein.

The council tabled action on proposed amendments to the city fee schedule to allow the council time to review the changes.

During her report, Schroedl said the wellness room in the Conference Center would reopen for public access Friday following the completion of a closet to house the youth recreation equipment.

She said the Brown County Hospital had donated several nice pieces of equipment for the public’s use in the wellness room.

She said city staff member Lendi Goochey has been working with the Nebraska Public Power District for several months to complete the construction of a city web site.

Schroedl said NPPD assists with city web site construction as a free service. The only fee for the city is the registration of the web site domain name. The city web site is now available at www.cityofainsworth.com

Residents have access to information and forms, and have access to pay bills online.

Prior to adjourning, the council held an executive session to discuss personnel.

The next meeting of the Ainsworth City Council is scheduled for 5 p.m. Feb. 13.

* Brewer previews 2019 legislative session

(Posted 7:30 a.m. Jan. 8)

Nebraska 43rd District State Sen. Tom Brewer visited with KBRB's Graig Kinzie ahead of the opening day for the 2019 legislative session.
Brewer discussed the pending expansion of Medicaid and how the state will find the money in the budget to fund the expansion, as well as the continued effort to change the school aid formula and reduce property taxes.
To hear the full conversation, click on the audio links below.

audio clips/43rd District State Sen Tom Brewer 1-7-19 Part 1.mp3

audio clips/43rd District State Sen Tom Brewer 1-7-19 Part 2.mp3

* Elks Hoop Shoot Sunday sends 6 winners to district finals at Ogallala Jan. 20

(Posted 3:30 p.m. Jan. 7)

Hitting 20 of 25 and 16 of 25 free throws respectively, Traegan McNally and Jocelyn Good won the 12- and 13-year-old age divisions Sunday during the annual Elks Hoop Shoot in McAndrew Gymnasium.
Good edged Cameryn Goochey by one for the girls title, as Goochey connected on 15 of 25 from the line. McNally finished three ahead of runner-up Carter Nelson, who made 17 of his 25 attempts.
Witten Painter won the boys 10-11 year-old boys hoop shoot, knocking down 10 of his 25 attempts to win by three over runner-up Kelby Rice. Preslyn Goochey edged Gracyn Painter, 12 to 11 in makes, to win the girls 10-11 year-old girls division.
Jaxon Rucker made 17 of his 25 attempts to win the 8-9 year-old boys hoop shoot with Zaine Evans the runner up, and Jaylee Good made seven free throws to win the girls 8-9 year-old division with Ava Graff the runner-up.
The division winners advance to the district hoop shoot at 3 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 20, at Ogallala. District winners will then compete for the state title at York.

* Traffic Accidents

(Posted 3 p.m. Jan. 4)

The Brown County Sheriff’s Department investigated a pair of recent motor vehicle accidents.

At 2:20 p.m. Dec. 21 on Highway 183 at the Highway 20 junction, a 2001 Ford F-250 pickup, driven by Clint Whitley, 32, of Silt, Colo., was turning from Highway 20 onto Highway 183 when the vehicle struck a stop sign in the median.

No injuries were reported. Damage to the Ford was estimated at $500. The sign, owned by the Nebraska Department of Transportation, sustained approximately $200 damage.

On Christmas Day, the sheriff’s department investigated a vehicle-animal accident that occurred on Highway 20 near the Long Pine spur.

According to the report, at 5:43 p.m. a 2015 Honda sedan, driven by Michael Fulton, 54, of Crete, was traveling east on Highway 20 when the vehicle struck two dogs in the roadway.

No persons were injured during the accident. Damage to the Honda was estimated at more than $1,000.

* Sheriff's departments makes 4 DUI arrests during holiday enforcement

(Posted 3 p.m. Jan. 4)

Through funding provided by the Nebraska Office of Highway Safety, the Brown County Sheriff’s Department participated in the recent “You Drink and Drive, You Lose” campaign that ran Dec. 14 through Jan. 1.

The campaign is a national program designed to increase awareness and make roadways safer by removing impaired drivers.

Law enforcement nationwide joined in the effort to reduce driving-related fatalities and injuries during the Christmas and New Year holidays.

The Brown County Sheriff’s Department had three deputies work a total of 70.5 hours of overtime. One motorist was arrested on a charge of driving under the influence, possession of an open alcohol container in a vehicle and resisting arrest.

Three other motorists were arrested on driving under  the influence charges during the enforcement period. Two were arrested on charges of possession of a controlled substance.

One motorist was arrested on a charge of driving under suspension, and two were cited on charges of possession of marijuana.

Also during the enforcement, one individual was arrested on charges of domestic assault, resisting arrest and assault on an officer.

The sheriff’s department made eight arrests and issued 17 citations during the enforcement period, making contact with 57 motorists. The department used regular enforcement, saturation patrols and an enforcement zone during the campaign.

Sheriff Bruce Papstein thanks everyone for doing their part to make roadways safer by always designation a sober driver.

* 2018 is sixth wettest in Ainsworth's 113-year recorded history

(Posted 2:45 p.m. Jan. 4)

With 32.51 inches of precipitation, 2018 will go down as the sixth-wettest in the 113-year history of recorded weather in Ainsworth. Weather Observer Gerry Osborn said 10 of the 12 months saw above-average moisture, with only March and November below the monthly average.
There were no triple-digit temperature readings in 2018, and the first day of the year had the coldest reading at 15 below zero.
To hear the full 2018 weather summary, click on the audio link below.

audio clips/Gerry Osborn 2018 Weather Summary.mp3

* Pozehl, Beel and Arens seated on Ainsworth Board of Education Thursday

(Posted 6:45 a.m. Jan. 4)

Jessica Pozehl, Frank Beel and Jim Arens were seated Thursday as members of the Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education after winning the four-year seats during the November Election.

The 2018 Board of Education was adjourned, and Arens, who was re-elected to another term in November, was elected the board president for 2019. Mark Johnson was elected as the board vice president, and Scott Erthum was elected as the board secretary/treasurer.

Lori Witte, Dedra Stoner and Superintendent Darrell Peterson were appointed as recording secretaries for the board.

Prior to moving into executive session to review applications for the superintendent position, the board Thursday approved the second readings of three policies relating to the superintendent position, including a job description for the position, an employment policy, and a contract.

The board also approved its annual corporate banking resolutions.

During the executive session, the board reviewed 10 applications for the superintendent position, and opted to conduct four interviews. The board will hold special meetings at 12:50 p.m. Jan. 9 and 9:50 a.m. Jan. 10 to interview the four candidates for the superintendent position. Two interviews will be conducted each day.

Peterson previously announced his pending retirement effective at the end of the 2018-19 contract year.

The next regular meeting of the Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education is scheduled for 7 p.m. Monday, Jan. 14.

* Area students named to UNK dean's list for fall semester

(Posted 3:15 p.m. Jan. 3)

The University of Nebraska at Kearney announced students who earned a place on the dean’s list for the fall 2018 semester.

Students who are on the dean’s list must have completed 12 credit hours or more of classes with a 3.5 grade point average or better on a 4.0 scale.

Area students named to the dean’s list at UNK include:

Ainsworth – Hailey McBride, Marley Murphy, Miranda Raymond, Elizabeth Salzman, Seth Taylor, Sara Salzman and Ashley Titus.

Bassett – Aubrey Kroll and William Frederick

Springview – Alexis Heyden

Newport – Braydon Caldwell

Wood Lake – Britley Schlueter

Brewster – Leah Pickering

Stuart – Brittany Hanzlik, Hailey Paxton, Christopher Schaaf and Monique Schafer

Atkinson – Chase Harrison and Christopher Hasskarl

Valentine – Brooks Coleman, Hannah Higgins, Madison Kelber and Kooper Reece

Butte – Mitchell Atkinson

* December is fourth wettest in Ainsworth's 113-year history

(Posted 11 a.m. Jan. 3)

A winter rain and snow storm to start the month fueled Ainsworth the fourth wettest December in the 113-year recorded history of the city's weather. Weather Observer Gerry Osborn measured a total of 15-1/2 inches of snow during the month, more than double the average of 6 inches.
The 2.09 inches of moisture made it the fourth most precipitation recorded in the month in the city's history, and boosted the final 2018 moisture total to 32.51 inches, more than 9 inches above average.
To hear the complete December weather summary, click on the audio link below.

audio clips/Gerry Osborn December 2018 Weather.MP3

* Commissioners discuss changing solid waste compact fee disbursement

(Posted 7:30 a.m. Jan. 3)

The Brown County Commissioners held a lengthy discussion Wednesday with representatives from the KBR Solid Waste Committee to address concerns regarding the way solid waste fees are disbursed among the four entities in the compact.

Commissioner Reagan Wiebelhaus said the county’s share of the total solid waste fees should be adjusted downward since some county residents opt to have their trash picked up by either cities or a private sanitation service.

Wiebelhaus said the residents outside the Long Pine city limits who have Long Pine bill them for trash service should be counted toward Long Pine’s census in the compact, not against the county.

“Since the bill they are paying is not designated as a pickup fee, they bring in a bill to us and, per statute, the county cannot charge them,” Wiebelhaus said.

Brown County Treasurer Deb Vonheeder said the county loses more than $5,000 annually it is not able to bill due to residents claiming exemptions. Some of those exemptions come from residents having a private sanitation service pick up their trash and haul it to a separate landfill. State law prohibits counties from then charging those residents an additional fee.

Wiebelhaus argued those residents should also be removed from the county’s census.

Acting County Attorney Tom Herzog said, if residents outside Long Pine want to pay for the convenience of either having their trash picked up or being able to haul it to the Long Pine garbage truck instead of the KBR Solid Waste Transfer Station, then they should still be required to pay the county for the actual solid waste generated.

“They still have the option to take their trash to the landfill, and the trash is still going to the same landfill,” Herzog said. “To be exempt, they have to prove it is going to a different landfill.”

KBR Solid Waste Committee member Bruce Papstein said people who choose to take their trash to Long Pine and pay a fee for that should not be exempt from paying the county solid waste fee.

“If they have Long Pine water and the trash fee is mandatory, I have no problem with those people not paying the county,” Papstein said.

He said those few residents, however, should be counted toward Long Pine’s census and not against the county.

The total fees KBR Solid Waste pays to the Lexington Area Solid Waste Agency are divided by percentage between the cities of Ainsworth and Long Pine, the village of Johnstown, and Brown County based on the population of each entity.

Discussion turned to returning solid waste fees to the county’s general levy and doing away with the compact. If the KBR Solid Waste compact is dissolved, the cost to operate the KBR Solid Waste Transfer Station and the fees paid to take solid waste to the Lexington landfill would fall back into the county’s budget. The county would then levy a property tax to cover the cost, and the cities of Ainsworth and Long Pine, and the village of Johnstown would then charge residents a separate fee for trash pickup.

Wiebelhaus said, while the cost for solid waste would then fall to property owners, he said 70 percent of the agricultural land in Brown County is owned by people who do not live in the county, and having them shoulder a portion of the cost for solid waste would be no different than those out-of-county landowners having to help pay for the school.

Vonheeder said she needed a decision from the commissioners on how to proceed, as she planned to bill for 2019 county solid waste fees this month.

Wiebelhaus said it would be a short-term fix, but he proposed the county increase its solid waste fee from $10 monthly to $13 per month to cover the county’s costs. That motion was unanimously approved, and county residents will see a $3 monthly increase in their solid waste fees.

In other business Wednesday, the commissioners approved an additional funding request from the Sandhills Care Center to cover operational costs for the remainder of the 2018-19 fiscal year.

Commissioner Buddy Small said there are currently 19 residents in the facility, which needs to average 22 to 23 residents to break even.

“There might be a possibility to add two more residents soon, but there is always attrition,” Small said.

Wiebelhaus said the county either needed to approve the funding request or risk the facility going broke.

“Someone is going to have to take a hard look to see if anything more can be cut,” Wiebelhaus said.

Small said he didn’t know where else the facility could make cuts to its budget.

The board approved the $80,000 from the county’s miscellaneous general fund. The Sandhills Care Center also plans to request an equal amount of funding from the city of Ainsworth, which is an equal partner in the facility with the county.

In another care center item, the board approved amending the interlocal agreement between the county and the city of Ainsworth for the Sandhills Care Center to remove the requirement that one Care Center Board member be a commissioner and one be a city council member.
The amendment was made after Care Center Board member Chuck Osborn's term on the Ainsworth City Council ended but the Care Center Board asked that he be allowed to continue  to serve on the board due to his knowledge of the facility.

The commissioners appointed Tate Schipporeit and Brian Delimont to six-year terms on the Brown County Hospital Board of Trustees, replacing current trustees Ryan Welke and Ann Fiala.

Small said Welke indicated he preferred not to serve another six-year term.

The board discussed having to search for a new person to help prepare the county’s annual budget following the recent death of former budget consultant Pete Peterson of Ogallala.

The board also opted not to enter into the second year of a three-year agreement with auditor Mike Pommer of Wakefield after Pommer was recently arrested on 15 charges of theft by unlawful taking related to transfers Pommer allegedly made to benefit himself from the Salem Lutheran Church, where Pommer served as the church accountant. Those transfers reportedly totaled more than $109,000 over a two-year period.

The board indicated it had paid Pommer to conduct the county’s 2017-18 fiscal year audit, but would not retain his services for the 2018-19 fiscal year and 2019-20 fiscal year audits.

The commissioners acknowledged the federal mileage rate of 58 cents per mile for 2019.

Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin said he received approval from the Corps of Engineers for the proposed Wilson Street bridge replacement project just north of Ainsworth.

Turpin said the current bridge would be replaced with three 84-inch culverts that are 53-feet in length. Turpin said he hoped to replace the bridge with the culverts this spring.

The next meeting of the Brown County Commissioners is scheduled for 5:15 p.m. Jan. 15.

* Iowa man injured during accident Saturday on Highway 20

(Posted 11 a.m. Jan. 2)

A Saturday afternoon crash on Highway 20 sent one motorist to the Brown County Hospital with injuries.
According to Brown County Sheriff Bruce Papstein, at 4:36 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 29, on Highway 20 east of the Long Pine spur, a 2008 Mercury sedan, driven by Silas J. Metcalf, 43, of Mount Vernon, Iowa, was traveling west when the vehicle left the roadway and struck the guard rail twice in the hills before coming to rest.
Metcalf was transported by the Brown County Ambulance Association to the Brown County Hospital for treatment of injuries suffered during the accident.
The Mercury was considered a total loss.
In addition to the Brown County Sheriff’s Department, the Ainsworth and Long Pine Volunteer Fire departments responded to the accident scene.

* Whiteout conditions play role in 3-vehicle accident Monday west of Bassett

(Posted 9:15 a.m. Jan. 2)

Whiteout conditions on Highway 20 Monday afternoon led to a three-vehicle accident west of Bassett. Though all three vehicles were considered total losses following the wreck, the six people involved walked away uninjured.

According to Rock County Sheriff James Anderson, at 1:43 p.m. Monday on Highway 20 approximately 3 miles west of Bassett, a 2019 Chevy sedan, driven by Patricia Schopen, 65, of Nemo, S.D., was traveling west when the vehicle crossed the center line during whiteout conditions and collided with an eastbound 2011 Dodge Durango, driven by Jennifer McHale, 30, of Stuart.

A wheel and stub axle from the collision then went through the windshield of an eastbound 2006 Chevy Silverado pickup, driven by Timothy Braithwait, 56, of Norfolk.

All three vehicles were considered total losses, but Schopen, McHale and a child in the Dodge, and Braithwait and two passengers in the Silverado, were uninjured in the accident.

Anderson said the Bassett Volunteer Fire Department, Rock County Ambulance Association and Nebraska Department of Transportation assisted the Rock County Sheriff’s Department at the scene, with the ambulances used to help keep the motorists involved inside and warm while the sheriff’s department and fire department vehicles provided a perimeter to keep additional vehicles from becoming involved in the accident until the driving lanes could be cleared.

Anderson said, despite the conditions, additional traffic on Highway 20 was able to get stopped, limiting the accident to the initial three vehicles.

Soon after the accident, the Nebraska Department of Transportation declared Highway 20 between Wood Lake and Newport impassable due to the whiteout conditions. Winds gusting at higher than 40 mph along with snow and blowing snow Monday reduced visibility to virtually zero across some open stretches of Highway 20.

* Highway 20 declared impassable due to whiteout conditions

(Posted 2:15 p.m. Dec. 31)

The Nebraska Department of Transportation has now declared Highway 20 between Wood Lake and Newport through eastern Cherry, Brown and Rock counties impassable due to whiteout conditions.
Travel is not advised until conditions improve, as there is zero visibility and complete white-out conditions across some stretches of Highway 20.

* Visibility on area highways near zero in stretches

(Posted 2 p.m. Dec. 31)

Motorists are being urged to use caution as some stretches of Highway 20 have been reduced to near zero visibility. A multiple-vehicle accident was reported at 1:45 p.m. on Highway 20 between Bassett and Long Pine near Sandhill Equipment.
Drivers are urged to travel with headlights on, and do not attempt to pass any vehicles, including snow plows. The accident between Long Pine and Bassett involved three vehicles and a snow plow.

* Chamber of Commerce draws final Holiday Bucks winners

(Posted 1:30 p.m. Dec. 28)

The final week’s winners of the Ainsworth Area Chamber of Commerce Holiday Bucks giveaway have been drawn.
Those shopping in Ainsworth Area Chamber of Commerce member businesses during the holiday season could enter for a chance to win $50 in Holiday Bucks, good to any chamber business.
The final week’s $50 Holiday Bucks winners were Hope Hunt, who made her winning purchase in the Red & White Market; Betty Lucht, whose winning purchase also came from Red & White; Kolton Lurz, who had his name drawn after making a purchase at the Farmers-Ranchers Cooperative Mr. Tire; and Carol Caudel, who make her winning purchase in the H&R Food Center.
Winners may pick up their Holiday Bucks from the chamber office on Main Street. The chamber thanks everyone who shopped locally during the holiday season.

* Thursday fire destroys pickup, detached garage northwest of Ainsworth

(Posted 7:45 a.m. Dec. 28)

A fire in the engine compartment of a pickup sparked a fire Thursday that consumed a detached garage northwest of Ainsworth.

According to Ainsworth Fire Chief Brad Fiala, firefighters received the call at 12:34 p.m. Thursday of a garage on fire five miles northwest of Ainsworth on property owned by Marve and Pam Schmitz.

Fiala said a member of the family had driven a pickup and parked it in the detached garage. The engine compartment of the pickup caught fire after it was parked, and heavy winds Thursday quickly pushed the flames through the garage.

Fiala said the couple’s son arrived to find smoke coming from the garage. A second vehicle parked in the garage was able to be moved, but also sustained damage during the fire.

Fiala said, by the time firefighters from the Ainsworth and Johnstown volunteer departments could arrive on scene, the roof of the garage had already collapsed.

The fire chief said the pickup, the garage and all the other contents in the garage were total losses, and the second vehicle that was moved was damaged.

He said an inspector with the Nebraska State Fire Marshal’s Office determined the fire likely started in the engine compartment of the pickup.
Firefighters returned to their respective fire halls by 4 p.m. Thursday.

* Traffic Accident

(Posted 6:30 a.m. Dec. 28)

The Brown County Sheriff’s Department investigated a two-vehicle accident that occurred Dec. 18 in Ainsworth.
According to the sheriff’s department report, at 6:15 p.m. Dec. 18 on Highway 20 at the J’s Keggers entrance, a 1997 Chevy sedan, driven by Berniece Fiala, 90, of Ainsworth, was exiting the J’s Keggers parking lot when the Chevy collided with a 2003 Ford FX5, driven eastbound on Highway 20 by Halli Haskell, 17, of Ainsworth.
No injuries were reported. Damage to the Chevy was estimated at $300. The Ford sustained approximately $2,000 damage.

* National Weather Service updates storm track, snow to be highest in this area

(Posted 1:30 p.m. Dec. 26)

The National Weather Service provided an updated forecast for the winter storm just beginning to impact the area. Snowfall totals are expected to be the highest in Keya Paha, Brown and Rock counties. Winds are expected to gust on Thursday to 40 mph, creating blowing and drifting snow.
To hear the full report, click on the audio link below.

NWS Wednesday Dec. 26 Storm Update.mp3

* Models still vary, but NWS forecast shows substantial snowfall beginning Wednesday

(Posted 2:30 p.m. Dec. 24)

The National Weather Service predicts a substantial winter storm for north central Nebraska beginning early Wednesday and continuing through Friday morning, with a 1 or 2 degree fluctuation in temperature playing a large factor in how much snow falls with the storm. Gusting winds on Thursday will also reduce visibility and limit travel.
To hear the current situation report from the National Weather Service regarding the approaching storm, click on the audio link below.

NWS Storm Forecast for Dec 26.mp3

* Ainsworth Area Chamber of Commerce draws Week 4 Holiday Bucks winners

(Posted 9:45 a.m. Dec. 21)

The Ainsworth Area Chamber of Commerce drew four winners for $50 in Holiday Bucks for the fourth week of the annual local shopping promotion.
Shoppers who make purchases in Ainsworth Area Chamber of Commerce member businesses during the month of December may fill out a green slip for a chance to win $50 in Holiday Bucks redeemable at any chamber member business.
 Week 4 winners were Monte Goshorn of Ainsworth, who made his winning purchase in the H&R Food Center; Amy Schaffer of Newport, whose winning purchase also came from the H&R Food Center; Brenda Goeken of Johnstown, whose name was drawn after shopping in Bomgaars; and Diane High of Ainsworth, who had her name drawn after a purchase in the Bella Rosa Spa.
Winners may pick up their Holiday Bucks from the chamber office on Main Street.

* Traffic Accident

(Posted 6:45 a.m. Dec. 20)

The Brown County Sheriff’s Department investigated a two-vehicle accident that occurred Monday, Dec. 17, in Ainsworth.
According to the sheriff’s department report, at 11:30 a.m. Monday at the intersection of Third and Maple streets in Ainsworth, a southbound 2014 Jeep, driven by Vicki Schipporeit, 59, of Ainsworth, and an eastbound 2013 Chevy Suburban, driven by Brenna Duester, 28, of Ainsworth, collided in the intersection.
No injuries were reported. Damage to the Jeep was estimated at $2,000. The Chevy sustained approximately $3,000 damage.

* September taxable sales decline in most area counties

(Posted 11 a.m. Dec. 19)

Nebraska Department of Revenue
Comparison of September 2018 and September 2017 Net Taxable Sales
for Nebraska Counties and Selected Cities

County
or City

2018
Net Taxable
Sales

2017
Net Taxable
Sales

Percent
Change

2018
Sales Tax
5.5%

2017
Sales Tax
5.5%

Blaine

52,027

57,246

(9.1)

2,861.50

3,148.55

Boyd

1,195,048

1,031,062

15.9

65,727.80

56,708.61

Brown

2,740,380

2,898,201

(5.4)

150,721.16

159,401.24

Ainsworth

2,529,245

2,596,649

(2.6)

139,108.70

142,815.86

Cherry

6,819,155

6,645,096

2.6

375,053.99

365,480.68

Valentine

6,487,452

6,362,251

2

356,810.23

349,924.14

Holt

9,340,497

9,680,400

(3.5)

513,728.15

532,422.80

Atkinson

1,601,410

1,912,808

(16.3)

88,077.72

105,204.63

O'Neill

6,081,630

6,314,866

(3.7)

334,489.94

347,317.98

Keya Paha

220,166

230,174

(4.3)

12,109.16

12,659.62

Rock

542,828

592,811

(8.4)

29,855.60

32,604.70

State Total

$2,581,701,239

$2,519,218,919

2.5

$142,066,491.47

$137,731,784.16

Nebraska Department of Revenue
Comparison of September 2018 and September 2017
Motor Vehicle Sales Tax Collections by County

County
or City

2018
Net Taxable
Sales

2017
Net Taxable
Sales

Percent
Change

2018
Sales Tax
5.5%

2017
Sales Tax
5.5%

Blaine

70,075

143,976

(51.3)

3,799.73

7,884.67

Boyd

287,174

306,087

(6.2)

15,771.66

16,854.57

Brown

772,660

790,728

(2.3)

42,713.85

43,775.03

Cherry

908,532

1,130,210

(19.6)

50,215.09

62,600.14

Holt

2,461,875

2,712,467

(9.2)

136,082.85

150,084.21

Keya Paha

248,830

115,265

115.9

13,698.62

6,290.44

Rock

212,547

311,221

(31.7)

11,670.43

17,152.92

State Total

$337,858,917

$357,149,665

(5.4)

$18,729,466.71

$19,806,880.54

* Chronic Wasting Disease found in whitetail deer tested in Keya Paha County

(Posted 2:30 p.m. Dec. 17)

The presence of chronic wasting disease in deer has been detected for the first time in Keya Paha County, according to the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

Game and Parks conducted CWD sampling operations at deer check stations in its northwest and north-central deer management units during the 2018 November firearm deer season.

Hunters are encouraged to access the positive results posted at www.OutdoorNebraska.gov/cwd/ Hunters whose deer tested positive will be contacted by the Game and Parks Commission.

There were 131 positives from 1,208 deer sampled in the Pine Ridge, Plains, Sandhills, Keya Paha, Calamus West and Loup West management units. Only mule deer were sampled in the Pine Ridge, Plains and Sandhills units, while only whitetails were sampled in the Keya Paha, Calamus West and Loup West units.

“The goal of this effort is to assess the spread and prevalence of the disease through periodic testing in each region of the state, which in turn helps biologists predict when and if future effects on deer numbers may occur,” said Todd Nordeen, Game and Parks’ big game research and disease program manager.

Testing will take place in regional locations of the state in the next several years.

Although present in Colorado and Wyoming for several decades, CWD was first discovered in Nebraska in 2000 in Kimball County. Since 1997, Game and Parks staff have tested nearly 53,000 deer and found 630 that tested positive. CWD has now been found in 42 Nebraska counties, but no population declines attributable to the disease have been identified.

CWD is prion disease that attacks the brain of an infected deer or elk, eventually causing emaciation, listlessness, excessive salivation and death. It is generally thought that CWD is transmitted from animal to animal through exchange of body fluids, but other modes of transmission may exist.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, no person is known to have contracted CWD; however, hunters should cautiously handle and process deer and avoid consuming animals that test positive or look sick. Livestock and other animals not in the deer family also do not appear susceptible to CWD.

Hunters can help prevent the spread of CWD by using proper carcass disposal methods. CWD prions, the infectious proteins that transmit the disease, can remain viable for months or even years in the soil. Hunters should field dress animals at the place of kill, avoid spreading spinal cord or brain tissue to meat, and to dispose of the head, spinal column and other bones at a licensed landfill.

* Friday accident at Highway 20, Main Street intersection injures 2 drivers

(Posted 12:15 p.m. Dec. 17)

A Friday afternoon two-vehicle accident at the intersection of Highway 20 and Main Street in Ainsworth injured two motorists.
According to the Brown County Sheriff’s Department, at 2:31 p.m. Friday, a 2017 Suburu Impreza, driven by Benjamin Cable, 28, of Sioux Falls, S.D., was traveling west on Highway 20 and attempted to turn south onto Main Street when a collision occurred with a 1988 Chevy sedan, driven eastbound on Highway 20 by Michael Bejot, 70, of Ainsworth.
Both Cable and Bejot were transported by the Brown County Ambulance Association to the Brown County Hospital for treatment of injuries suffered during the accident.
Both vehicles were considered a total loss.

* Area student-athletes receive Academic All-State recognition from NSAA

(Posted 8 a.m. Dec. 17)

Each year the Nebraska School Activities Association and the Nebraska Chiropractic Physicians Association recognize students who have been nominated by their schools, based on their individual academic excellence, leadership and significant contributions made to their NSAA activity.

The NSAA and the NCPA recognized 2,575 award winners of 2018 Fall NCPA Academic All-State Awards.

This brings the total number of NCPA Academic All-State Award winners to over 69,000 spanning the 13 years of the awards program.

Area students named Academic All-State for the fall season include:

 

Ainsworth

Ben Arens and Trey Schlueter in boys cross country, Michaela Arens and Rylee Rice in girls cross country, Sloan Raymond and Sam Wilkins in football, Rebecca Taylor in girls golf, Mackenzie Kovar and Jenna Williams in play production, and Megan Appelt and Mackenzie Kovar in volleyball.

 

Keya Paha County

Daisy Frick in girls cross country, and Sydney Linse in volleyball.

 

Rock County

Mylan Andrews and Brendan Bussinger in boys cross country, Jillian Buell in girls cross country, Charlie Gale and Marcus Reynolds in football, Brodee Fleming and Adam Turpin in play production, and Brodee Fleming in volleyball.

 

Stuart

Wade Paxton and Ethan Sattler in football, Alyssa King and Lainey Paxton in play production, and Reaghan Engel and Madison Stracke in volleyball.

 

West Holt

Aaron Kraus and Benjamin Thiele in boys cross country, Leighton Mlady and Lindee Wentworth in girls cross country, Casey Coburn and Joseph Seger in football, Hannah Brotsky and Lydia Stenka in girls golf, Leighton Mlady and Benjamin Thiele in play production, and Anna Albrecht and Peyton Randolph in volleyball.

 

Boyd County

Brayden Almgren and Austin Koenig in boys cross country, Kaci Mashino in girls cross country, Cory Koenig and Jared Koenig in football, Chase Harmon and Joseph Hiatt in play production, and Sydney Atkinson and Jacey Hilkemann in volleyball.

 

Sandhills

Bryan Zutavern in football and Jacy Hafer in volleyball.

 

Valentine

Jarrett Battershaw and Caleb Long in boys cross country, Lane McGinley and Devon Osnes in football, Abbie Clark and Lauren Ferguson in girls golf, Bradi Larabee and Rita Woodraska in play production, and Allison Hitchcock and Skyler Reagle in volleyball.

* Area students receive degrees from UN-L

(Posted 7 a.m. Dec. 17)

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln conferred 1,551 degrees during commencement exercises Friday and Saturday.

The graduates are from 48 countries; 35 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico; and more than 175 Nebraska communities.

Bob Kerrey, former U.S. senator and former Nebraska governor, delivered the undergraduate commencement address Saturday in Pinnacle Bank Arena. Gina Matkin, associate professor in agricultural leadership, education and communication at Nebraska, gave the address at the graduate and professional degree ceremony Friday in PBA. Nebraska Supreme Court Justice Stephanie Stacy spoke during the College of Law ceremony Friday in Hamann Auditorium.

Area graduates included:

 

Ainsworth

Ethan Douglas Johnson, College of Engineering, Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering.

Kody Reid Rathe, College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, Bachelor of Science in Animal Science.

 

Newport

Thomas Julian Ammon, Graduate Studies, Master of Science.

 

Valentine

Eric Hammond Arnold, College of Journalism and Mass Communications, Bachelor of Journalism.

 

Butte

Kristen LeeAnn Mohr, College of Business, Bachelor of Science in Business Administration.

* Traffic Accident

(Posted 6:30 a.m. Dec. 17)

The Brown County Sheriff’s Department investigated a one-vehicle accident that occurred Dec. 5 north of Ainsworth.
According to the sheriff’s department report, at 1:45 p.m. Dec. 5 on Meadville Avenue approximately 2 miles north of Ainsworth, a 2005 Jeep Liberty, driven by Silvino Gonzalez, 33, of Ainsworth, was traveling north when the vehicle hit a patch of ice and snow, slid off the roadway, and struck a barbed wire fence in the west ditch.
No injuries were reported. Damage to the Jeep was estimated at $1,000. The fence, owned by Rolling Stone Feed Yard, sustained minimal damage.

* Brown County Hospital receives $1,000 contest award from Athena Health

(Posted 3:45 p.m. Dec. 14)

The Brown County Hospital was recognized as a winner in the “My Hospital, My Community” contest sponsored by Athena Health.

The contest was focused on creating awareness of and support for the unique challenges community hospitals face across the country.

In recognition of its ongoing dedication to its community, Brown County Hospital was granted $1,000 based on the heartfelt videos and submissions, which featured the pride, dedication and support the Brown County Hospital employees and patients feel and demonstrate for their hospital and community.

Brown County Hospital Administrator John Werner said, “We are very grateful for Athena Health recognizing this event, and humbled with the support we receive from the community.”

Chad Turner, vice president of hospital solutions at Athena Health, said, “At Athena Health, we understand what community hospitals mean to the patients they serve, not just as providers of essential and affordable medical care, but as drivers of the local economy. We’re thrilled to continue our support of community hospitals through our ‘My Hospital, My Community’ contest—and commitment, as always, to uphold the missions of community hospitals across the country.”

The Brown County Hospital finished fifth overall in the “My Hospital, My Community” contest, thanks to an article submitted by Donna Kegley promoting the live-saving care both she and her son received from Brown County Hospital staff.

* Shaul sentenced to terms in prison following attempted burglary convictions

(Posted 2 p.m. Dec. 14)

During District Court proceedings Tuesday in Brown County, Brandon Shaul, age 20, of Ainsworth, appeared for sentencing after having previously pleaded guilty to two counts of attempted burglary, Class 3A felony charges. Shaul was sentenced to between 20 and 48 months in the Nebraska Department of Corrections on one attempted burglary conviction, and between 10 and 24 months on the second conviction, with the sentences to run consecutively. Shaul received credit for 73 days served.

* Chamber of Commerce draws Week 3 Holiday Bucks winners

(Posted 10:15 a.m. Dec. 14)

The Ainsworth Area Chamber of Commerce drew four winners for $50 in Holiday Bucks for the third week of the annual local shopping promotion.
Shoppers who make purchases in Ainsworth Area Chamber of Commerce member businesses during the month of December may fill out a green slip for a chance to win $50 in Holiday Bucks redeemable at any chamber member business.
Week 3 winners were Ardis Giles of Elsmere, who made her winning purchase from Red & White Market; Karen Zwiebel of Ainsworth, whose winning purchase was made in J’s Keggers; Judy Esterly of Ainsworth, whose purchase in the H&R Food Center was drawn; and Jim Taylor of Stuart, who made his winning purchase in Bomgaars.
Winners may pick up their Holiday Bucks from the chamber office on Main Street.

* Council votes to have review committee work on updates to LB 840 program

(Posted 7 a.m. Dec. 13)

By a 2-1 vote with one abstention, the Ainsworth City Council Wednesday voted to have the LB 840 Citizens Advisory Review Committee put together a contract between the city and the North Central Development Center for the future management of the LB 840 program.

Councilman Chuck Osborn voted against and Councilwoman Deb Hurless abstained.

Osborn said he didn’t believe the city should enter into any contract until everything else is sewn up.

Councilman Greg Soles disagreed, saying the city needed to move forward with the NCDC for the good of the community.

“Part of what the review committee can do is make the recommendations so we can move forward,” Soles said.

Jerry Ehlers presented the council with a potential action plan, utilizing the Citizens Advisory Review Committee with input from the city administrator and North Central Development Center executive director to implement the changes to the program recommended by Scottsbluff Attorney Rick Ediger during the council’s November meeting.

“There is no reason to rehash everything from the last meeting,” Ehlers said. “I am suggesting that we start the process. It would be helpful for the Citizens Advisory Review Committee to know that the council is open to an arrangement with the NCDC to be the LB 840 program manager. We have a ship now that is slightly tilted. We need to make some adjustments to get the program right.”

Ehlers said the review committee has the statutory responsibility to put together recommendations for changes for the council to consider.

Osborn said it was his opinion that the Citizens Advisory Review Committee be disbanded and reappointed.

“The culture of hostility toward the city shows you are the watchdog for only one side,” Osborn told the review committee members in attendance.

Review committee member John Halbersleben said, “I disagree with you, Chuck. We come in here every six months and try to educate the council on the LB 840 program. We have indicated we are all willing to go to work on these recommendations. I don’t know what more we can do.”

Soles said, “We can’t point fingers. These are things that can be fixed. Time is important. Rick has it outlined in his letter, as does Jerry, on what we need to do to move forward.”

Hurless said she believed the review committee has looked out for the best interests of the LB 840 fund.

City Administrator Lisa Schroedl said the city has to clean up what the auditor found.

“That is priority number 1, then work from there,” Schroedl said. “The city needs to get control of the program and then look toward how it will be administered.”

Mayor Larry Rice said a long delay in taking action would not be helpful.

“We need to get people at the table and work through things,” Rice said. “There are opportunities that may come up in the community that we don’t want to miss out on.”

NCDC Executive Director Kristin Olson said the LB 840 program was currently at a standstill.

“We have direction from the attorney,” Olson said. “We all need to roll up our sleeves, get this done and keep moving forward. It is critical for our community.”

Soles asked if the Citizens Advisory Review Committee could work with Schroedl and Olson and have recommendations to the council in 60 days.

Review committee member Chris Raymond said the committee would get the work done.

“As a member of the committee, I agree with what Jerry said, as does the rest of the committee,” Raymond said. “We want to work with the city administrator and the NCDC director and get everything working properly.”

Soles motioned and Councilman Brian Williams seconded to have the Citizens Advisory Review Committee put together a contract between the city and NCDC for the council to review and act upon. Soles and Williams voted in favor, with Osborn against and Hurless abstaining.

By a 4-0 vote, the council then approved assigning the Citizens Advisory Review Committee to work with Schroedl and Olson to make amendments to the plan as recommended by Ediger.

In other old business Wednesday prior to Osborn and Williams’ terms expiring, the council approved an engagement letter with Dana F. Cole to conduct the city’s annual audit for the 2017-18 fiscal year that ended Sept. 30.

The council awarded a two-year contract to mow the two Ainsworth cemeteries with Chris Walnofer of Ainsworth.

Walnofer, who holds the current mowing contract, submitted a bid of $40,875 annually to mow and maintain the cemeteries. The city also received a bid of $36,500 annually from James Disney of Long Pine.

Osborn said, even though his bid was a little higher, Walnofer had done an impeccable job at the cemeteries.

The council approved Rice’s recommended reappointments of Lance Schipporeit to the City Planning Commission and Shari Luther to the Cemetery Board for three-year terms, and the appointment of Osborn to the Ainsworth Betterment Committee for a three-year term.

Schroedl presented Williams and Osborn, along with Rice, plaques for their service on the council and as mayor. Schroedl and Rice also made an emotional presentation recognizing Jerry Clark for 36 years of employment with the city at the wastewater treatment plant. Rice said the city would hold a reception for Clark at a time when he was able to attend.

Following those items, Osborn and Williams exited the council, and newly elected Councilmen Brad Fiala and Schyler Schenk took the oath of office, as did new Mayor Jeremiah Sullivan.

With the new members seated, the council appointed Soles as the new council president.

By a 3-1 vote, with Hurless against, the council approved the appointments of Dr. Mel Campbell as the city physician, Rod Palmer as city attorney, Andy Taylor as prosecuting attorney, Bruce Papstein as chief of police, Schroedl as city administrator, Brad Miller as water and sewer superintendent, Monte Goshorn as streets foreman, Lloyd Smith as streets superintendent, the Ainsworth Star-Journal and KBRB Radio as city publications, and the West Plains Bank, First National Bank, Union Bank & Trust and the Nebraska Public Agency Investment Trust as city depositories.

Hurless said she would like to see the city go out for bids for the city attorney position.

The council appointed city employee Cody Nilson as its representative on the North Central Development Center Board, with city employee Lendi Goochey named the alternate.

Bruce Papstein was appointed as the city’s representative to the KBR Solid Waste Committee with Fiala named the alternate.

The council authorized an amendment to the city’s bank account signatories, removing Rice and adding Sullivan and Goochey.

Sandhills Care Center Board Chair Phil Fuchs discussed the city’s appointment of a representative to the care center board.

“Chuck has been on our board as a member of the council, which is what the bylaws require,” Fuchs said. “Chuck has a vast amount of experience. He knows more about the building than anyone in the community. We would like to have him continue in that respect, and amend the bylaws to allow it.”

The council agreed to have Osborn continue to represent the city on the Sandhills Care Center Board subject to the interlocal board’s bylaws being amended by both the council and the Brown County Commissioners. Hurless was appointed as the alternate and would serve in the position until the bylaws can be amended.

Fuchs also presented the council with an update on the Sandhills Care Center.

He said the facility had recently been up to 24 residents, but then went back down to 19 residents within a short period of time.

“The numbers can change rapidly,” Fuchs said.
He told the council the care center needed to average about 24 residents monthly to have a positive cash flow.

He said the facility had to use the county’s annual $80,000 contribution to pay for the previous year’s expenses after the state denied the facility more than $70,000 in Medicaid reimbursement funds due to the facility just missing the 40 percent Medicaid resident day threshold the state requires. The facility’s ratio of Medicaid resident days was 39.6 percent.

“The facility itself seems to be running well,” Fuchs said. “The roof has been repaired, and the window heating and air conditioning units have been replaced. We are just not quite over the hump yet on being profitable.”

He said the facility has to utilize agencies for several nursing positions, but that could soon change with several students scheduled to complete a Certified Nursing Assistant training course. Fuchs said the care center hoped to hire four or five of the new CNAs to replace agency staffing, which is much more expensive.

Fuchs said he would present the council with an updated budget for the facility during its January meeting.

During her report, Schroedl indicated the Nebraska Department of Transportation project to renovate Highway 20 in the city has been delayed a year due to the state needing additional time to acquire right of way on 54 tracts. The bid letting on the project was now scheduled for August of 2020.

She reported city crews have started to inspect the current water meters ahead of those meters being replaced. Miller said inspecting the meters is a lot of work, and would take some time, as many were located in crawl spaces in homes.

Schroedl provided an update on the city’s nuisance abatement program. She said the Brown County Sheriff’s Department continues to issue notices to property owners with violations.

She said there have been two citations for failing to abate nuisance violations taken to court. In one case, Schroedl said the property owner pleaded guilty to two complaints. In another case, the property owner failed to appear.

The next meeting of the Ainsworth City Council is scheduled for 5 p.m. Jan. 9.

* School Board approves job description, contract outline for superintendent position

(Posted 1:45 p.m. Dec. 11)

The Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education Monday approved a trio of items relating to its search for a superintendent to replace retiring Superintendent Darrell Peterson.

The board approved an updated job description for the incoming superintendent, as well as a district policy relating to the superintendent’s employment and a contract for whoever the board selects for the position.

The district’s attorneys reviewed all the documents and recommended the updates approved Monday.

The board has scheduled a special meeting at 4 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 3, to review applications and schedule interviews with potential candidates for the position.

Those interviews will then take place Jan. 9 and Jan. 10 prior to the board’s Jan. 14 regular meeting.

In the only other action items Monday, the board authorized the Ainsworth Educational Facilities Leasing Corporation to pay an invoice relating to the agricultural and industrial technology building addition project, and approved a request from Tammy Grupe to allow her son Colby to option into the Rock County Public School District. Grupe is a high school junior.

Peterson said the building addition was on schedule and should be ready for students to use starting in the second semester.

“We should be able to move into the classroom area right after the Christmas break,” Peterson said. “It might be the following week before the shop area is ready.”

The superintendent reported the new chairs were installed in the Learning Center in time for the elementary concert Monday.

Peterson thanked the city of Ainsworth and Ainsworth Betterment Committee for approving a $35,000 contribution toward the Learning Center renovations.

“It looks nice,” he said. “The new seats are much more comfortable.”

Elementary Principal Curtis Childers reported the second round of DIBELS testing is underway for kindergarten through sixth-grade students. He reported the data is then used to help target interventions for students as needed as well as to celebrate success of the students who show growth in their scores.

Childers reported kindergarten through sixth-grade enrollment is 198 total students, equal to November’s census. The largest class is 31 students, shared by the kindergarten, third grade and fourth grade. The smallest class is the second grade, with 23 students.

Secondary Principal Steve Dike reported on the open lunch for junior high students once per month who meet behavioral and academic goals for the month. He reported 25 of the 35 seventh-grade students and 19 of the 30 eighth-grade students met the criteria to participate in open campus lunch Dec. 7.

The next regular meeting of the Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education is scheduled for 7 p.m. Jan. 14. Newly elected board members Jessica Pozehl and Frank Beel will take the oath of office and begin four-year terms on the School Board, as will Jim Arens, who was re-elected to another term.

* Sandhills Care Center hoping to fill agency nursing positions with local staff soon

(Posted 6 p.m. Dec. 10)

While still having to utilize six staffing positions through agencies, Sandhills Care Center Administrator Stephanie Rucker told the Board of Directors Monday she hoped to have five new Certified Nurses Assistants hired by January after a group completes a CNA course.

Rucker told the board the course would be finished by the end of December, and she was banking on having five new CNAs by sometime in January.

“Two of them are already our employees in other departments,” Rucker said.

She said the costs for using agency nursing should come down soon, though the agency expenses would likely remain elevated in December.

The Sandhills Care Center generated $152,238 in revenue during November, with expenses of $154,642 for a net loss of $2,403 during the month.

The board voted to transfer $23,064 from the interlocal account to the care center’s operating account. Board Chair Phil Fuchs said the facility had adequate funding to cover the current expenses, but the board may have to approach both the Brown County Commissioners and the Ainsworth City Council to discuss potential additional funding that might be needed to complete the fiscal year.

“I will get an updated budget prior to meeting with the commissioners on Tuesday,” Fuchs said.

Rucker reported there were currently 19 residents in the facility, with two admissions in November and one resident death.

“We went from 24 down to 19 pretty quickly,” Rucker said. “A couple residents either went home or went to a place where they could care for themselves. That is a good thing. It means we did our job and were able to get them rehabilitated.”

Rucker said she was working on a contract with the Brown County Hospital to share a maintenance employee. She said the care center would be responsible for 20 hours of weekly employment, with the flexibility to use the person more or less depending on where the employee is needed more.

She said the care center would pay the hospital for half of the wages for the maintenance position, with the employee getting benefits through the hospital’s plan.

Fuchs said it was a good idea to share the employee between the two entities.

Rucker told the board Fullerton Street on the east side of the care center did not have snow removed at the same time the city’s emergency routes were cleared, and the county did not get snow in the driveway cleared.

“If we would have needed to get a resident to the hospital, it would not have been easy,” Rucker said.

She thanked Rolland Paddock for helping to clear the care center’s driveway during the recent storm.

Board member Buddy Small said the county crew simply forgot to get the snow cleared from the driveway during the last storm, and it would not happen again.

Board member Chuck Osborn said he talked to the city crew, and the city will take the snow to the east side of Fullerton Street. Paddock requested the city streets crew coordinates with Rucker to make sure care center employees move their vehicles prior to the city crew clearing the street instead of the city having to work around employee vehicles.

Rucker told the board the facility would need to finish replacing window heating and air units. She said six more units would complete the replacements, with a total cost of approximately $4,500 for the six units.

Outgoing Ainsworth Mayor Larry Rice said Osborn, the city’s representative on the Sandhills Care Center Board, was going off the council in two days. Rice said he would like to recommend Osborn stay in his position on the care center board, and Osborn had agreed to continue to represent the city on the board if the council approves the mayor’s recommendation.

However, Rice said to do so would likely mean the current care center board bylaws requiring one board member be an Ainsworth City Council member and one member be a Brown County Commissioner would need to be amended to allow Osborn to continue to serve.

Fuchs said he planned to talk to the Ainsworth City Council about amending the bylaws if the council would like to keep Osborn as its representative.

Small said the Brown County Commissioners would likely be comfortable with amending the bylaws to allow Osborn to stay on the care center board.

Fuchs said he would hate to see the board lose someone with Osborn’s experience.

The board held an executive session prior to adjourning. No action was taken following that session. The next meeting of the Sandhills Care Center Board is scheduled for 4 p.m. Jan. 14.

* Two injured during Friday accident in Ainsworth

(Posted 1 p.m. Dec. 10)

A one-vehicle accident Friday, Dec. 7, in Ainsworth injured two motorists.
According to the Brown County Sheriff’s Department report, at 10:08 p.m. Friday on North Ulrich Street south of the Highway 20 intersection, a 2004 GMC Envoy, driven by Dustin Privett, 21, of Ainsworth, was traveling south when the vehicle hit a patch of ice, slid sideways and eventually rolled onto its top.
Privett and a passenger in the GMC, Hailey Ekross, 18, of Ainsworth, were transported by the Brown County Ambulance Association to the Brown County Hospital for treatment of injuries suffered during the accident.
The GMC was considered a total loss.

* Verdigre callers capture title during annual North Central Coyote Classic

(Posted 12:45 p.m. Dec. 10)

Brian Knust and Monte Hurlbert of Verdigre was the top team during the second annual North Central Coyote Classic calling contest held over the weekend.

A total of 60 teams competed in the contest, with 63 coyotes harvested throughout the area. Teams traveled from as far as Vermillion, S.D., and St. Libory.

Knust and Hurlbert called in six coyotes, weighing a total of 199 pounds.

Second place went to the team of George Murdock and Nick Murdock of Bassett with five coyotes and a total weight of 132 pounds.

Third place was the team of Brian Schneid and Wade Burgess of Cody with five coyotes and a total weight of 116 pounds.

Heaviest coyote went to the team of Beau Herrington and Shane Kaczor of Bassett with a 40-pound coyote. The lightest coyote was harvested by the team of Brian Schneid and Wade Burgess of Cody with a 16 pound coyote.

The team of Beau Herrington and Shane Kaczor of Bassett harvested the coyote with the least amount of hair, as one of their harvested coyotes was missing 35 percent of its hair.

Next year’s North Central Coyote Classic is scheduled for Dec. 14, 2019.

* Week 2 winners drawn for Ainsworth Chamber Holiday Bucks promotion

(Posted 9:30 a.m. Dec. 7)

The Ainsworth Area Chamber of Commerce has drawn the Week 2 winners in its annual Holiday Bucks promotion.

Those shopping in chamber member businesses during the holiday season can fill out a green slip for a chance to win $50 in Holiday Bucks, good to any chamber business.

Week 2 winners are Carl Hart, who made his winning purchase in the H&R Food Center; Sandra Welke, whose winning purchase was also made at H&R; Jayme Kinney, whose name was drawn after a purchase from Red & White Market; and Bruce Reyman, whose winning purchase came from Shopko.

Winners may pick up their $50 in Holiday Bucks from the chamber office on Main Street.

Keep shopping locally this holiday season for a chance to win Holiday Bucks from the Ainsworth Area Chamber of Commerce.

* Flu-related death reported in North Central District Health Department region

(Posted 5 p.m. Dec. 6)

The first flu-related death in Nebraska this season has occurred in the North Central District Health Department region, which covers Antelope, Boyd, Brown, Cherry, Holt, Keya Paha, Knox, Pierce and Rock counties. A second death has also occurred in the Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department region. Both people were over 65.

Flu is slowly increasing across the state.

“Flu can be life-threatening disease for some people and it can make any of us sick,” said Dr. Tom Safranek, State Epidemiologist with DHHS. “That’s why we recommend flu vaccine for everyone—from babies 6 months and older to adults 100 and over. It’s our best protection against the flu,”

Vaccination can reduce flu-related illnesses, visits to the doctor, missed work & school and flu-related hospitalizations.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends flu vaccine for everyone 6 months and older. Certain people are at greater risk for serious complications, and it’s extremely important they receive vaccine:     

  • Young children

  • Adults 65 years of age or older

  • Pregnant women

  • People with chronic lung disease (like asthma and COPD), diabetes (type 1 and 2), heart disease, neurologic conditions and certain other long-term health conditions

  • Residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities

 

Flu vaccine is safe, effective and rigorously tested. The most common reaction people may experience from a flu shot is soreness and redness at the injection site. After vaccination, it takes about two weeks for the body to build immunity.

Flu shots are still being offered across the region. Check with your local clinic or call the health department at 402-336-2406.

In addition to vaccination, protect yourself from the flu and other winter illnesses by:

  • Washing your hands often

  • Avoiding contact with people who are sick

  • Staying home from school, work, family gatherings and social functions if you are sick

  • Covering your mouth and nose when you cough with a tissue or sleeve, not your hands

  • Eating healthy and getting plenty of rest

  • Not smoking

* Recent cases from Brown County Court

(Posted 2 p.m. Dec. 6)

In addition to fines, each case carries $50 in court costs
Mark J. Arens, age 55, of Ainsworth, charged with possession of an open alcohol container in a vehicle, fined $50; also charged with failure to yield the right of way, $25.

Adam C. Shirley, 31, of Wolfforth, Texas, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

David R. Condon, 32, of Olympia, Wash., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Casey J. Duden, 53, of Ainsworth, possession of an open alcohol container in a vehicle, $50.

John D. Ward, 40, of Valentine, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Lydia G. Allen, 22, of Lincoln, defective vehicle light, $25.

Grant S. Nesemeier, 19, of Chadron, minor in possession of alcohol, $300; possession of an open alcohol container in a vehicle, $50.

Kevin L. Berggren, 36, of Linden, Mich., possession of an open alcohol container in a vehicle, $50; driving on the shoulder of the highway, $25.

Dustin Howell, 31, of Ainsworth, no operator’s license, $75.

Gerald P. Denny, 70, of Long Pine, disturbing the peace, $50.

Neal A. Ely, 34, of Grafton, possession of an open alcohol container in a vehicle, $50.

Harvey L. York, 24, of Omaha, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Juan M. Martinez, 25, no address listed, first offense driving under the influence, $500, also sentenced to seven days in jail with credit for four days served, driver’s license revoked for six months, ordered to install an ignition interlock device.

* City invites residents to public input session on housing market

(Posted 2 p.m. Dec. 4)

The city of Ainsworth is hosting a public input session Thursday as it plans to update its comprehensive plan.
The public session is scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 6, in the Ainsworth Conference Center.
This session will focus on the quantity, quality and marketing of Ainsworth’s current housing stock.
The meeting is hosted by the city and moderated by Miller & Associates, the company working to provide an update to the city’s comprehensive plan.
Community members wanting to provide input on the current housing market in Ainsworth are encouraged to attend.

* Nominations for Sandhills Cowboy Hall of Fame now being accepted

(Posted 10:45 a.m. Dec. 4)

Nominations for the 2018 Nebraska Sandhills Cowboy Hall of Fame are being accepted.  Forms can be found online at www.sandhillscowboys.com and are due by Dec. 31.
Started in 2006, the Sandhills Cowboy Hall of Fame recognizes the men and women who have made a lasting contribution to the Sandhills and cowboy way of life.
Nomination forms are also available by contacting any hall of fame board member or Executive Secretary Rod Palmer at PO Box 127, Ainsworth, Nebraska or calling 402-387-2212.  Nominees must be 50 years or older or deceased.  The nominee must fit the following criteria:
“The Nebraska Sandhills Cowboy Hall of Fame honors those individuals who have made extraordinary contributions to the Western lifestyle or horse culture in the area of competition, business, or support of rodeo in the Sandhills of Nebraska.  This includes rodeo, ranching, rodeo stock contractors, western arts, western entertainment and special achievement awards.”

* November just second month in 2018 with below-normal average temps

(Posted 2:45 p.m. Dec. 3)

Ainsworth Weather Observer Gerry Osborn reported November was just the second month in 2018 to experience temperatures that fell below the monthly norms.
Though precipitation in November was slightly below normal at just .64 of an inch, the winter storm on the opening weekend of December already brought in more than three times the expected moisture for that month.
Through November, Ainsworth has received 30.42 inches of precipitation, which is 7.83 inches above the expected average.
To hear the complete report from Osborn, click on the audio link below.

Gerry Osborn November 2018 weather.mp3

* Council approves ABC funds for theater, begins implementing LB 840 changes

(Posted 9:30 a.m. Dec. 3)

After tabling action during its regular November meeting, the Ainsworth City Council during a special meeting Thursday approved a grant request for the Grand Theater in Ainsworth.

The Ainsworth Betterment Committee had previously sent a 2-2 vote to the council on its recommendation on whether to approve or deny the $50,000 request.

After the council tabled the request, Grand Theater representatives met a second time with the Ainsworth Betterment Committee to answer additional questions and provide more detail on how the funds would be spent.

Following the second meeting with the theater representatives, the ABC Committee recommended the council approve the project, which it did Thursday by a 3-0 vote with Councilman Chuck Osborn absent.

The council also addressed several items relating to the city’s LB 840 program as recommended by Scottsbluff Attorney Rick Ediger, who was hired to look at the city’s program.

By a 2-1 vote, with Councilwoman Deb Hurless voting against, the council named City Administrator Lisa Schroedl as the LB 840 program administrator. The North Central Development Center had previously served as the program administrator, but Ediger said during the council’s regular meeting the official program administrator needed to be a city official, with the city then allowed to work with a third party such as the NCDC on the implementation of the LB 840 program.

By a 2-0 vote with Hurless abstaining, the council also approved providing a letter to the NCDC for the return of any remaining documents needed by the city auditor relating to the LB 840 program, and the return of LB 840 funds previously awarded to the NCDC by the council.

Ediger told the council during its regular meeting the North Central Development Center, as a non-profit organization, was not eligible to be an applicant for LB 840 funds the way the city’s program was originally written.

The NCDC had previously been awarded LB 840 funds for its housing program, for Main Street business fašade improvements, and for professional recruitment.

Jerry Ehlers, a former member of the NCDC Board and Citizens Advisory Review Committee who helped spearhead the initial push to get the LB 840 program approved back in 2008, said he felt good about what he had heard during Ediger’s presentation to the council.

“I was convinced everything was fixable,” Ehlers said. “There was nothing in those recommendations that couldn’t be ironed out to get the program back on track.”

Ehlers said the implementation of the LB 840 program can still be done by a third party, and he encouraged the council to continue its past relationship with the NCDC.

“The entire program was put together as a partnership,” Ehlers said. “It should have been set up initially to have a city employee be the official administrator, and then a third party, the NCDC, be the program manager for the day to day work.”

Ehlers said, other than titles, the jobs people are doing with the LB 840 program wouldn’t change. He also encouraged the council to work with the LB 840 Citizens Advisory Review Committee to implement Ediger’s recommended changes.

Ehlers said the funds awarded to the NCDC for the housing, professional recruitment, and Main Street projects are all sitting in accounts, and it would not be an issue to return that money to the city’s LB 840 account.

“There will be some additional work for the city to expend the funds, as the NCDC used to write the checks,” Ehlers said. “Now, the city will have to handle that. We have time to get this right before we have to begin the process of renewing the program.”

The one-half cent city sales tax approved by voters in 2008 for the LB 840 program expires in 2023, and would require another vote of city residents to renew the program for an additional 15 years and continue to collect the one-half cent sales tax.

Councilman Greg Soles said he agreed with Ehlers’ outlook that the recommendations from Ediger could be implemented.

“I think we have been successful with what we have done so far,” Soles said of the projects completed using LB 840 program funds.

Mayor Larry Rice asked, after these changes are implemented, where would someone initially go if they were interested in applying for an LB 840 loan?

Ehlers said applicants would still work with the NCDC, who would review all the program criteria with the applicant. The LB 840 Loan Review Committee would then meet to review the application and make a recommendation to the council, which would still have the final say on whether an application is approved.

“The program administrator, in this case Lisa, and the Citizens Advisory Review Committee would then have oversight and make sure everything is done right,” Ehlers said. “For the continuity of the program, I think it is best for everyone to establish the NCDC as the program manager.”

Schroedl said the processes with the LB 840 program would not change, but the recommendations from Ediger would shift control of the program over to the city.

Rice asked if the NCDC Board meets to discuss LB 840 applications.

NCDC Executive Director Kristin Olson said LB 840 applications do not go to the NCDC Board for discussion unless the NCDC was planning to be the applicant for program funds, such as for the housing progam.

“The applications always go to the loan committee, that is by statute,” Olson said. “The NCDC has been the applicant for some projects, and was making disbursements to businesses for fašade improvements and for professional recruitment after being awarded funds by the council. All business loan applications go to the loan committee.”

Rice said Ediger commented that the program had done good things for the community, the program just needed to be cleaned up.

“Should we have a discussion with all parties involved before taking action?” Rice asked.

City Attorney Rod Palmer said the items on Thursday’s agenda needed to be done right away.

“The city audit was incomplete and has been turned in to the state,” Palmer said. “The city needs to show we are making progress.”

Hurless said she was under the impression during the regular council meeting that the special meeting would be to meet with the Citizens Advisory Review Committee to work on the recommendations.

Schroedl said she believed the special meeting was needed to have the council take action on naming a program administrator and requesting the funds awarded to NCDC be returned.

Soles said it is going to take all groups getting together to get everything done.

Palmer said Ediger’s recommendation was that time was of the essence and the city needed to act on the Thursday special meeting agenda items immediately.

Following the discussion, the council approved three items relating to the LB 840 program, naming Schroedl the program administrator, requesting documents still needed by auditor Dana F. Cole be provided by the NCDC, and requesting by letter to the NCDC Board the return of all LB 840 program funds previously awarded by the council to the NCDC.

In a final action item Thursday, the council approved the appointment of Dane Sears to the LB 840 Loan Review Committee to replace Soles, who Ediger recommended should resign from the LB 840 Loan Review Committee due to his position as a councilman.

Rice withdrew his nomination of Tate Schipporeit to fill a vacancy on the Ainsworth Betterment Committee to fill the remaining term of Sue Wragge due to Schipporeit not being an Ainsworth resident, as required by statute.

The next regular meeting of the Ainsworth City Council is scheduled for 5 p.m. Dec. 12.

* Sheriff's department issues 7 citations during 'Click It or Ticket' enforcement

(Posted 6:45 a.m. Dec. 3)

The Brown County Sheriff’s Department, through funding provided by the Nebraska Office of Highway Safety, participated in the national “Click It or Ticket” campaign Nov. 21-25 to help increase public awareness of the importance of seat belt usage and keep roadways safer.
Law enforcement agencies across the state and nationwide joined in an effort to help save lives by strongly enforcing seat belt laws during the enforcement period.
The sheriff’s department used regular enforcement, saturation patrols and an enforcement zone during the campaign. Four deputies worked a total of 32 hours of overtime.
The sheriff’s department issued three citations on speeding charges, two citations on charges of seatbelt violations, and two citations on charges of possessing an open alcohol container in a vehicle.
A total of seven citations, 24 warnings and seven vehicle defect cards were issued during the enforcement.
The sheriff’s department thanks everyone for doing their part to make roads safer by always wearing a seat belt and making sure everyone under the age of 18 is buckled up at all times.

* Peterson receives Distinguished Service Award for 30 years as an administrator

(Posted 2:15 p.m. Nov. 30)

Ainsworth Community Schools Superintendent Darrell Peterson was recently given a Distinguished Service Award for 30 years of school administrative service by the Nebraska Association of School Administrators during the group’s annual meeting at LaVista.
Peterson was the principal at Lyons-Decatur Northeast Schools for 16 years, and has served as superintendent at Ainsworth Community Schools for the past 14 years.
The 30-year recognition was the highest number of years awarded this year. Peterson has announced his retirement at the end of the current school year.

* Wilkins elected vice president of NASB

(Posted 2:15 p.m. Nov. 30)

Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education member Brad Wilkins has been elected vice president of the Nebraska School Board Association during the group’s annual meeting at LaVista.
As part of the executive team, Wilkins will fill the role of vice president, president elect and president in successive years.  He will represent Nebraska school districts and students during regional and national school board events.
Wilkins began his service on the Ainsworth Board of Education in 2013.  His involvement in the Nebraska School Board Association has included two terms on the legislative committee and one term as Region 15 Director.

* Chamber of Commerce draws first week's Holiday Bucks winners

(Posted 11 a.m. Nov. 30)

The Ainsworth Area Chamber of Commerce has drawn the Week 1 winners in its annual Holiday Bucks promotion.
Those shopping in Chamber of Commerce member businesses can fill out a green slip after making a purchase and be entered into a drawing for $50 in Chamber Bucks, good to any member business.
Week 1 winners were Leanne Maxwell of Ainsworth, who made her winning purchase in the Red & White Market; Al Vobr of Springview, whose winning purchase came from The Book Peddler; Kyleigh Allen of Ainsworth, who made her purchase in Shopko; and Holly Pospichal of Bassett, who also had her name drawn after a purchase in Shopko.
Winners may stop by the Ainsworth Area Chamber of Commerce office on Main Street to pick up their certificates.
Keep shopping locally during the holiday season for a chance to win in the annual Ainsworth Area Chamber of Commerce Holiday Bucks drawing.

* Toy Drive scheduled for Dec. 14 in Ainsworth

(Posted 6:45 a.m. Nov. 30)

Troopers with the Nebraska State Patrol are asking for the public’s help with multiple efforts to support local families in need during the Christmas season, including an event in Ainsworth.

The State Patrol, in partnership with the State Troopers Association of Nebraska, will host multiple events in the coming weeks to accept donations of toys and other items for local children.

Troopers in Ainsworth will again team up with the Brown County Sheriff’s Department, the Ainsworth Volunteer Fire Department and Central Valley Ag for the third annual Toy Drive to raise donations of toys and winter clothes for local children in need.

From 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. Friday, Dec. 14, the patrol will have a cruiser on hand to stuff with donations at Viaero Wireless. Donations can include new toys for ages newborn to 18 as well as new or gently used cold weather clothes such as coats, hats, gloves, and boots.

“These efforts come directly from our troopers because they care so much about their communities,” said Colonel John Bolduc, Superintendent of the Nebraska State Patrol. “From the Toy Patrol and Toy Drive, to Shop with a Cop in many communities around the state, troopers love interacting with children and making the season brighter.”

* Traffic Accidents

(Posted 3:45 p.m. Nov. 29)

The Brown County Sheriff’s Department investigated a trio of motor vehicle accidents during the past week.

The first occurred at 3:24 a.m. Sunday, Nov. 25, on Highway 7 approximately 1 mile south of Ainsworth. A 2008 Ford Edge, driven by Willie Vo, 39, of Colorado Springs, Colo., was traveling south when the vehicle slid on snow and struck a sign on the west edge of the highway before entering the ditch.

No injuries were reported. Damage to the Ford was estimated at more than $1,000.

At 7:30 a.m. Tuesday, Nov. 27, the sheriff’s department investigated a vehicle-deer accident that occurred on Highway 183 approximately 4 miles north of the Highway 20 intersection.

A 2007 Ford Expedition, driven by Karmyn Mizner, 29, of Springview, was traveling south when the vehicle struck a deer in the roadway.

No persons were injured during the accident. Damage to the Ford was estimated at $2,000.

Also on Tuesday, the sheriff’s department investigated a one-vehicle accident that occurred on the Elsmere Road.

At 9:45 a.m. Tuesday, a 2002 Ford pickup pulling a trailer and driven by Clete Scheer, 37, of Elsmere, was traveling east when the vehicle hit a patch of ice, causing the trailer to slide with both the vehicle and trailer eventually entering the north ditch and striking trees.

No injuries were reported. The Ford was considered a total loss. Damage to the trailer, owned by Kevin Scheer of Elsmere, was estimated at $3,000.

* NASB rep goes through timeline for interviewing superintendent candidates

(Posted 1:45 p.m. Nov. 29)

Hired to assist the Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education with the search for a new superintendent, a representative from the Nebraska Association of School Boards met with teachers, administrators, students, community members and the board Wednesday to go over the process for hiring a superintendent.

Superintendent Darrell Peterson announced his retirement effective at the end of the 2018-19 contract year.

Shari Becker told the Board of Education the district was already receiving some quality applicants, and the board would interview selected applicants Jan. 3.

“The goal tonight is to review the timeline, narrow down the interview questions, go over documents to assess the interviews, discuss interview protocol, and discuss compensation and salary surveys,” Becker told the board.

Prior to meeting with the board, Becker said she met with school administrators and staff members. She said the district’s administrators would like to see the district implement long-term plans for the next five, 10 and 20 years.

She said the administrators encouraged the board to find a superintendent who was educationally oriented but also from a rural background.

Meeting with students, Becker said they expressed several positive aspects with the district, such as the student to teacher ratio and the one to one computer initiative. She said students would like to see the gym floor replaced and issues with the west parking lot addressed.

Becker said staff members stressed the importance of good communication between the superintendent and board with the administrators and staff.

“The staff was positive about the technology in the school, and the people coming back to the community,” Becker said. “The issues where they were critical had a lot to do with communication.”

She said staff members also mentioned the district lacks enough substitute teachers.

Prior to digging in with the board to address each individual interview question and the interview protocol, Becker said the community still has a few weeks to complete surveys relating to the superintendent search. Those surveys are available on the Ainsworth Community Schools web site.

* North central Nebraska expected to receive heaviest snowfall from winter storm

(Posted 1:30 p.m. Nov. 29)

Meteorologists with the National Weather Service are forecasting north central Nebraska to receive upwards of 1 foot of snow, with the potential for freezing rain and sleet Friday evening prior to the moisture changing over to snow.
A winter storm watch for the area will likely be updated to a winter storm warning by Friday morning.
To hear the briefing from the National Weather Service, click on the audio link below.

NWS Winter Storm Briefing.mp3

* City water department will need resident, business access to inspect meters

(Posted 2:45 p.m. Nov. 28)

The city of Ainsworth will conduct water meter inspections ahead of replacing all water meters in the city.
The city water department will need access to each water meter, which many times are located inside homes and businesses.
The city will begin water meter inspections the week of Dec. 3, and will need access for both the inspection and eventually for the meter replacement.
Pet owners are asked to notify the city office if their pet might pose a danger to the city workers, and to make arrangements with the city to insure the safety of both the pet and the workers when access is needed.
Anyone with questions may contact the city office at 402-387-2494.

* Area American Legion posts taking part in District Tour Thursday

(Posted 9:30 a.m. Nov. 28)

Area American Legion posts are taking part in the annual District 1 membership tour Thursday. The tour begins with breakfast at 7 a.m. in the Ainsworth American Legion Post Home on Woodward Street. The breakfast will be followed by a meeting at 8 a.m.
The tour then moves to the Newport Community Building at 9:45 a.m., followed by lunch at 11:15 a.m. in the Bassett Legion Hall. The group will move to the Long Pine Legion Hall at 1 p.m., with the area tour wrapping up at 3:30 p.m. with snacks in Springview.
The Ainsworth American Legion Auxiliary will also again fill ditty bags to deliver to the Hot Springs, S.D., VA Medical Center on Saturday.
The ditty bags are given to hospitalized veterans during the “Yanks Who Gave Christmas” party.
The Legion Auxiliary is asking the public to contribute by donating shampoo, deodorant, disposable razors, word puzzle books, hot chocolate packages, combs, phone cards, stamps and envelopes, pens and paper, microwave popcorn, tooth brushes and toothpaste, and cans of coffee.
The Hot Springs VA Medical Center is currently home to 110 veterans. Anyone with questions on how to contribute to the bags may contact Shari Luther at 402-387-2289.

* Ainsworth Mock Trial team loses to Valentine for Region 4 title

(Posted 9 a.m. Nov. 28)

For the first time in 12 years, Ainsworth will not represent Region 4 during the Nebraska Mock Trial State Championships.

Ainsworth and Valentine, the only mock trial teams in the region, battled through a series of five trials, with Valentine prevailing in the series, 3-2. 

On Oct. 31, Ainsworth traveled to the Cherry County Courthouse to play the prosecution and lost to Valentine in a unanimous decision.

The following week, both teams traveled to the Holt County Courthouse to argue both sides of the case in two trials. Valentine prevailed in both trials in split decisions by the judges. 

The final competition took place on Nov. 20 in the Brown County Courthouse, with Ainsworth prevailing in both trials by split decisions.

“Our progress as a team was very evident by the improvement in scores and performance as we gained experience,” Ainsworth coach Mary Rau said. “We only had two returning team members, so we were definitely a novice team this year. We also suffer from only having one team. In the past, students gained experience on the JV team and were ready to perform on varsity. Now, the JV team is on the varsity court. It’s tough, and the learning curve is very steep. But next year, with the experience gained from this year, we’ll be contenders for state again.”

Members of the mock trial team were juniors Coy Carson and Brieann Schipporeit; sophomores Adriana Hood, Brandt Murphy, Molly Salzman and Elizabeth Smith; and freshmen Skyler Cook and Alyssa Erthum.

The team was also coached by Attorney David Streich.

 

* Kids invited to Scenic River Visitor Center Saturday to make holiday crafts

 

(Posted 9 a.m. Nov. 28)

Children and their families are invited to make free gifts for friends or relatives from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 1, in the Niobrara National Scenic River Visitor Center.
Children of all ages are welcome to create one of the many crafts provided or use their creativity to make their own craft from materials on hand.
Children may choose to make canoe ornaments, popsicle stick deer, pony bead turtles, and much more. The crafts range from easy to make to more advanced, so that a wide variety of ages can join in on the fun.
There are no fees for this activity; all supplies are provided by the National Park Service. The Niobrara National Scenic River Visitor Center is located at 214 W. Highway 20, at Valentine. For more information, call 402-376-1901.

* Sheriff's department participating in 'Click It or Ticket' mobilization

(Posted 7:45 a.m. Nov. 23)

The Brown County Sheriff’s Department, through funding provided by the Nebraska Office of Highway Safety, is participating in the national “Click It or Ticket” campaign from Nov. 21 through Nov. 25. The campaign is a national program designed to increase public awareness and make roadways safer by encouraging everyone to buckle up.
The sheriff’s department is joining law enforcement officers across the nation to help save lives by encouraging seat belt use around the clock, but especially at night.
While the mobilization runs from Nov. 21 through Nov. 25, deputies enforce seat belt laws all year long.
The national “Click It or Ticket” mobilization has increased seat belt usage and saved lives during the years, but there is still more that can be done. High-visibility enforcement and encouraging loved ones to buckle up can turn thousands of lives lost into lives saved.
The Brown County Sheriff’s Department thanks everyone for doing their part to make roadways safer by always wearing a seat belt and making sure everyone in the vehicle is buckled up at all times.

* August taxable sales climb substantially in Rock County, slightly in Brown County

(Posted 6:30 a.m. Nov. 23)

Nebraska Department of Revenue
Comparison of August 2018 and August 2017 Net Taxable Sales
for Nebraska Counties and Selected Cities

County
or City

2018
Net Taxable
Sales

2017
Net Taxable
Sales

Percent
Change

2018
Sales Tax
5.5%

2017
Sales Tax
5.5%

Boyd

1,417,373

878,168

61.4

77,955.63

48,299.39

Brown

2,971,395

2,932,570

1.3

163,426.87

161,291.58

Ainsworth

2,787,284

2,749,910

1.4

153,300.76

151,245.27

Cherry

7,496,554

7,501,397

(0.1)

412,310.87

412,577.22

Valentine

6,939,776

7,272,341

(4.6)

381,688.02

399,979.08

Holt

9,112,253

8,726,333

4.4

501,174.46

479,948.97

Atkinson

1,676,914

1,469,587

14.1

92,230.41

80,827.45

O'Neill

6,223,082

6,188,711

0.6

342,269.78

340,379.46

Keya Paha

241,516

299,929

(19.5)

13,283.42

16,496.13

Rock

757,423

592,751

27.8

41,658.34

32,601.37

Valley

3,677,309

3,576,502

2.8

202,252.22

196,707.84

Ord

3,285,344

3,323,698

(1.2)

180,694.11

182,803.56

State Total

$2,655,168,357

$2,603,853,052

2

$146,298,911.37

$143,491,850.37

Nebraska Department of Revenue
Comparison of August 2018 and August 2017
Motor Vehicle Sales Tax Collections by County

County
or City

2018
Net Taxable
Sales

2017
Net Taxable
Sales

Percent
Change

2018
Sales Tax
5.5%

2017
Sales Tax
5.5%

Blaine

63,010

187,099

(66.3)

3,437.24

10,242.09

Boyd

528,143

347,922

51.8

29,073.34

19,131.99

Brown

797,305

612,845

30.1

44,134.08

34,044.70

Cherry

1,524,788

1,232,264

23.7

84,349.82

68,146.32

Holt

2,661,052

2,647,983

0.5

147,475.49

146,881.11

Keya Paha

140,409

146,743

(4.3)

7,688.85

8,024.55

Rock

261,663

474,025

(44.8)

14,384.29

26,179.14

Valley

1,091,887

967,053

12.9

60,503.51

53,525.76

State Total

$417,870,948

$399,240,150

4.7

$23,173,206.27

$22,140,345.90

 * Three motorists injured during Monday morning crash north of Ainsworth

(Posted 2:45 p.m. Nov. 19)

Three motorists were injured Monday morning in a two-vehicle crash north of Ainsworth.
According to Brown County Sheriff Bruce Papstein, at 7:51 a.m. Monday, Nov. 19, the collision occurred at the intersection of Meadville Avenue and Road 880 approximately 2 miles north of Ainsworth.
A 2008 Chevy Silverado, driven by Geoffrey Meyer, 28, of Winner, S.D., was traveling east on Road 880 and collided at the Meadville Avenue intersection with a southbound 1999 Jeep Cherokee, driven by Jerry Johnson, 50, of rural Ainsworth.
Both drivers as well as a 13-year-old passenger in the Jeep were transported by the Brown County Ambulance Association to the Brown County Hospital for treatment of injuries suffered during the accident.
Both the Chevy and the Jeep were considered total losses. The accident prompted the civil defense siren to sound in Ainsworth. The Ainsworth Volunteer Fire Department responded to the scene in addition to the Brown County Sheriff’s Department and Brown County Ambulance Association.

* Kennedy selected to participate in Young Cattlemen's Conference

(Posted 1 p.m. Nov. 19)

Nebraska Cattlemen announced the 2019 class of the Young Cattlemen's Conference.

The conference nominees were accepted from throughout the state and selected by committee to participate in the two-year leadership program. Among the 2019 class is Kat Kennedy of Purdum.

"There was an outstanding set of applicants for the YCC program; making the discussion process difficult." Ken Herz, Nebraska Cattlemen Vice President, said. "I am looking forward to working with this group of young leaders as they participate in the program. The beef industry will remain strong with the next generation of Nebraska Cattlemen gaining industry knowledge and building their leadership skills."

The goal of the Young Cattlemen's Conference is to expose young and emerging leaders to a variety of areas of the beef industry and provide them with necessary leadership tools.

During the two-year program, conference members are provided training on professional communication, given the opportunity to tour multiple Nebraska-based agriculture production facilities, and learn to navigate state agencies and legislative processes.

* Council approves sewer and water rate hikes Wednesday

(Posted 10:45 p.m. Nov. 14)

Ainsworth residents will see increases to their utility bills now and in the future after the Ainsworth City Council on Wednesday approved increases to both sewer and water rates.

Randy Helbush with the Nebraska Rural Water Association said the city has been running deficits in both its sewer and water departments over a three-year period.

He said the three-year average shortfall in the sewer department has been between $80,000 and $85,000, and the three-year average deficit in the water department has been about $30,000.

Helbush said both the water and sewer departments are required to be self-sustaining departments, meaning they must take in enough revenue to cover the cost of operation.

City Administrator Lisa Schroedl said, with several major wastewater improvement projects scheduled to the tune of more than $2 million, sewer rates would have to increase so the city can provide evidence to its lender, in this case the USDA, that the city can make payments on the loan funds for the projects.

The Nebraska Rural Water Association proposed a three-step increase for sewer rates, with rates increasing by $6 per month in the first year from the current $17.50 per month plus $1.50 per 1,000 gallons of use to $23.50 per month plus $2 per 1,000 gallons of use.

The second step, which would take effect in a year, would increase the rate to $26 per month plus $2.30 per 1,000 gallons used. The third and final proposed step, which would take effect two years from now, would increase the sewer rate to $31 per month and $2.30 for every 1,000 gallons used.

Councilman Brian Williams asked Helbush if the city was currently comparable to other communities in the rates it charges residents for sewer service.

Helbush said the city was currently on the lower end of the rates communities charge. With the proposed increases over the next three years, the city would end up more toward the upper end of rates communities charge residents.

“You have been too low, so you need to catch up and also then be able to pay for the improvements you are making,” Helbush said.

The first step is projected to increase sewer department revenue by $83,000, from $244,368 currently to $327,502. By the time the third step increase is implemented, the sewer department is projected to receive $416,647 in revenue.

Councilwoman Deb Hurless said she worried about the effect the rate increase would have on people with a fixed income. Schroedl agreed it was a concern, but said the city is receiving a $485,000 grant from the USDA and was just approved for a $385,000 Community Development Block Grant to help with the projects.

The planned projects include new water meters, cure-in-place sewer lines for several sections of the city, and lift station improvements.

Helbush said putting the projects off is not the way for the city to go, as the city received a low interest rate on the loan and substantial grant funding for the projects.

The council approved the three-step recommendation for the sewer rates.

The council also approved a small increase to its water rate, but made the increase effective June 1, 2019, to give people some time to adjust to the increased sewer rate.

Schroedl said the water rate increase was unrelated to the sewer projects, but she didn’t want the city to get into the same situation with its water rates as it was now in with the sewer rates, having to make more substantial yearly increases.

The water rate will increase June 1 from $11 monthly to $12.50, with the per 1,000-gallon rate moving up from $1.35 to $1.55. The water department would receive about $32,000 more in revenue following the rate increase, from $233,767 to $265,579.

In other business Wednesday, the council approved one Ainsworth Betterment Committee funding request and tabled a second.

The request approved was submitted by Ainsworth Community Schools, asking for $35,000 to assist with the renovation of the Learning Center. The funds would be used toward new carpet, chairs, a sound system and painting.

The ABC Committee recommended the council approve the funding, with committee member David Spann saying the committee did raise questions about why the school couldn’t find $35,000 for the project within its $7 million to $8 million budget and fund the project itself.

“It was brought up that the community uses the Learning Center a lot,” Spann said. “The committee felt it was a good investment for ABC funds.”

The council tabled action on a second request from the Grand Theater for an additional $50,000 to help complete the renovations for the new theater.

The ABC Committee was split on its recommendation, with two members present voting to recommend approval of the funds and two members voting to recommend the council deny the funding request. Three ABC Committee members were not present during the meeting when the request was heard.

Hurless asked what the reasons were for why the two committee members recommended the request be denied.

Spann said there were questions on some of the estimates provided on the project.

“Some of the estimates were very specific, some were not,” Spann said. “We would like them to be more exact so we know exactly how the funds will be spent.”

Councilman Chuck Osborn said not having specific estimates for the request was the reason that was relayed to him. He asked if those working on the theater project had sought estimates by different contractors for the project.

Hurless said, when the building was first remodeled, it was done using insurance money and donations, and the NCDC utilized contractors who had worked with the organization previously on projects.

“The people we used did have the best estimates on previous projects,” Hurless said. “One we have asked to bid before either didn’t submit a bid or missed the deadline.”

She said it was hard for contractors to bid the project when there is no way to know what they may run into with an old building.

“We had the roof blow off,” Hurless said. “We had no idea that would happen.”

Councilman Brian Williams asked if another $50,000 would complete the theater renovation. Hurless said it would likely take more than $50,000 to get the project completed.

Councilman Greg Soles said the theater committee originally requested $150,000 for the project.

“We approved $50,000, and said they could then come back and ask for more,” Soles said.

Audience member Tate Schipporeit said, at this stage, the people working on the project should know how much more it would take to finish the project and get the doors open.

The council deadlocked on tabling the request, with Osborn and Hurless voting to table the request to a future meeting. Williams and Soles voted against tabling the item. Breaking the deadlock, Mayor Larry Rice voted in favor of tabling the request until additional figures are provided. At that time, he said the request could go back to the ABC Committee.

Lori Olson with Dana F Cole of O’Neill presented the council with the city’s annual audit. She said the city was very healthy financially, overall.

She said the auditors had a few issues relating to the status of some development projects, but she said those issues did not affect any of the dollars.

John Halbersleben asked Olson why Dana F Cole had not been auditing the LB 840 program prior to this year’s audit, since LB 840 has been in existence since 2008.

Olson said loans or grants from the LB 840 fund for previous years were for specific projects.

“There have been some grants and loans made that we felt should have some specific documentation,” Olson said, citing approval by the council of $100,000 to the North Central Development Center for Main Street business development, and $120,000 to the NCDC for professional recruitment.

“There wasn’t a lot of documentation in the city office on how that money was being spent,” Olson said. “I wasn’t sure what the city needed to have for documentation, and the city determined it would find a professional for assistance.”

Olson said she was 100 percent behind economic development.

“You have done some wonderful things,” the auditor said.

Halbersleben said it appeared the city and NCDC could have avoided a number of these problems if the LB 840 program would have been audited from the start.

Olson said she was not questioning whether the funds were spent appropriately.

“We just need to have the documentation in the city office,” she said.

Business owner Rick Goochey approached the council regarding a continuing alley issue west of Main Street. The alley runs east and west, and is located north of the West Second Street and North Woodward Street intersection.

Goochey thanked the council for the work that had been done to reopen the alley, but he was concerned about all the water running from the north-south paved alley onto his property.

“I don’t have any place to drain that water once it gets onto my property,” Goochey said. “I have to use four-wheel drive just to get trailers in and out of there.”
He asked the council if there was a way to lower the paved alley west of Main Street to get the water to drain out into the street and storm sewers.

Osborn said the city should be able to find a solution.

“We need to get down there and do it,” Osborn said. “Having a defined alley will also make it so we know whose property is whose.”

Schroedl said she planned to have Lloyd Smith with Niobrara Valley Consultants of Valentine survey the area to determine where the actual east-west alley should be located.

In a final action item Wednesday, the council approved declaring property located in Morrison’s Addition, Block 6, Lot 8 as surplus property to be offered for sale by sealed bid.

Schroedl said the property would not be offered for sale until after the current haying contract expires on Dec. 31.

The council also appointed Ainsworth High School student Jon Ortner to a two-year term on the Ainsworth Betterment Committee as recommended by the mayor.

The council will hold a special meeting at 5 p.m. Nov. 29. The next regular meeting is scheduled for 5 p.m. Dec. 12.

* Council hears recommendations on LB 840 programs from Scottsbluff attorney

(Posted 9:15 p.m. Nov. 14)

Following a previous meeting between the Ainsworth City Council and the LB 840 Citizens Advisory Review Committee where several questions were raised, as well as preliminary findings from the city’s auditor, the council on Wednesday brought in Scottsbluff Attorney Rick Ediger to review the city’s LB 840 one-half cent sales tax program and make recommendations on how the program needed to be administered moving forward.

Ediger said his firm helped Scottsbluff implement its LB 840 program in 1995, and has consulted with several communities regarding LB 840 issues.

“It is my understanding that this is the first year the city’s audit has been comprehensive to include the LB 840 program,” Ediger said. “This is the first time I have seen where so much of the administration of the program has gone through a separate organization.”

Ediger said he was a big supporter of the LB 840 program.

“I have seen the benefits of properly run programs,” he said. “The communities I work with face the same issues you do. You need these programs to recruit talent to your community in a competitive environment.”

Ediger said the main issues he encountered were accounting issues which come with having much of the program administration coming from outside the city office.

“It just becomes tougher to audit the money going through the program,” Ediger said. “I don’t think it is a misappropriation issue. It is just accounting transparency. I understand this has been a long-standing relationship between the two entities.”

Ediger said there were three main components to LB 840 programs.

“The LB 840 act itself can only be changed by the Legislature,” Ediger said. “The plan is the city’s plan. It can be amended, generally by the voters. The Citizen Advisory Review Committee can also recommend changes, which the council can make following a public hearing. The manual is easy to change, and can be done by the council.”

Ediger said, under the way the city’s plan is currently constituted, the North Central Development Center would not be a qualifying business to receive LB 840 funding, but that could be amended under certain circumstances. The North Central Development Center has previously been approved for LB 840 funds relating to housing and professional recruitment.

“The NCDC can receive funding for administering the program,” he said.

Ediger said the city’s auditor raised questions regarding potential conflicts of interest relating to council members either also serving on the NCDC Board of Directors and/or LB 840 Loan Review Committee, or being employed by the NCDC.

Currently, Councilman Brian Williams is on the NCDC Board as the city’s appointed representative, Councilman Greg Soles is an at-large member of the NCDC Board and serves on the LB 840 Loan Review Committee, and Councilwoman Deb Hurless is employed by the development center.

“That is the most important thing that needs to be taken care of,” Ediger said. “I understand in small communities it is a lot of the time the same people who get a lot of the things done. They might not have anything to gain personally, but being on another board is a conflict.”

Ediger said, while the city can contract out the administration of the program, the official title of program administrator must come from within the city office.

“You can do a flat rate for administration to the NCDC, but you would need to change your policy,” Ediger said.

Audience member Jerry Ehlers said the NCDC used to account for all time spent on LB 840 program administration, but that became cumbersome and the city agreed to pay a flat rate for the program administration instead of having NCDC document all the time spent.

Ediger said the flat rate payment can continue, the city would just need to amend its plan’s policies.

He said it was his opinion that the NCDC should not have control of funds that are then utilized by other qualifying businesses. He said the NCDC would have to form a separate corporation to utilize funds devoted to housing.

“I am not a fan of having a housing fund, a professional fund, and a demolition fund,” Ediger said. “There is certainly a need for housing demolition, but it needs to be done through a qualifying business.”

Ediger said there was also nothing wrong with the concept of using LB 840 funds for professional recruitment.

“However, a lot are going to the hospital, which is county owned and is therefore not a qualifying business,” Ediger said.

Citizens Advisory Review Committee member John Halbersleben said the review committee has spent a fair amount of time reviewing loans and grants to ensure that everything is in compliance.

“That will go away if all the funds are disbursed by the city,” Halbersleben said. ‘There is no need for the committee to do that if the city auditors can.”

Ediger said the changes he was recommending should make the job of the Citizens Advisory Review Committee easier.

The changes Ediger recommended to the council included:

* Designating a city employee as the LB 840 program administrator.

* Authorizing the program administrator to then demand production from NCDC of all documents not provided to Dana F Cole. If records are not produced voluntarily, consideration should be given to filing suit to subpoena all documents. He said it was his understanding that the auditor has since received most of the records it requested.

* Once any missing records are produced, complete the audit of city funds paid to NCDC, and require repayment of any amounts for which the NCDC cannot properly account.

* Existing council members on the NCDC Board should file Commission Form C-2A with the city clerk, and should not vote on any matters concerning NCDC.

* No council member should serve on the NCDC Board in order to minimize conflicts of interest between the city and the NCDC Board.

* The council member who is an NCDC employee should also file Commission Form C-2A with the city clerk, and should not vote on any matters concerning the NCDC.

* Due to issues raised by the audit, it is difficult to recommend the relationship between the city and NCDC continue in its current form. It is recommended the program be operated by the city, starting with the return of remaining program funds held by the NCDC.

* Comply with the act to include that council members are not permitted to serve on the LB 840 Loan Committee; the annual budget and required monthly reports are completed; if the relationship with NCDC continues, LB 840 funds are to be administered by the city; housing program funds are distributed only to qualifying businesses; and the recruitment program is properly structured.

* Amend the LB 840 plan to allow for additional qualifying businesses if the city desires to do so, to include professional recruitment.

* Obtain proper confidentiality agreements from those having access to confidential business information.

Ediger said the last thing he would want is for the city to receive a state audit.

“No one is alleging there are any funds missing, they just need to be available for accounting purposes,” Ediger said. “You should amend your plan to allow for additional qualifying businesses. Have your Citizens Advisory Review Committee help you with that.”

Ediger said he would like to see things fixed instead of seeing any finger pointing between the two entities.

“Development corporations serve important functions,” Ediger said. “You just need to clean it up and do it right.”

Ehlers said it sounded like, through the recommendations, that the city needed to have a second opinion on its LB 840 program 10 years ago so some of these recommendations could have been included.

Ediger said things change over time.

“Your plan is now 10 years old,” he said. “It can use some tweaking. You can always improve on your plan once you see how it works after it is implemented. It doesn’t mean what you are doing is wrong, just make sure all your documents reflect what you are doing with the program.”

Following Ediger’s presentation and recommendations, the council unanimously voted to implement the recommendations.

The council then held an executive session to further discuss a potential contract. Following the executive session, the council voted to hold a special meeting at 5 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 29, to work with the LB 840 Citizens Advisory Review Committee to implement the recommendations made by Ediger.

* Monday evening accident injures motorist on east edge of Ainsworth

(Posted 3:15 p.m. Nov. 13)

A Monday evening two-vehicle accident on Highway 20 on the east edge of Ainsworth injured one motorist.

According to the Brown County Sheriff’s Department, at 6:46 p.m. Monday, a collision occurred between a 2006 Jeep Cherokee, driven by Mark Arens, 55, of Ainsworth, and a 2000 Ford Taurus, driven by Mila Pozehl, 15, of Long Pine.

The sheriff’s department report indicated the westbound Jeep attempted to turn across traffic into the Shopko parking lot when it collided with the eastbound Ford.

A passenger in the Jeep, Tony Ganser, 51, of Valentine, was transported by the Brown County Ambulance Association to the Brown County Hospital for treatment of injuries suffered during the accident.

Neither driver required medical transportation. Both the Jeep and the Ford were considered total losses.

In addition to the Brown County Sheriff’s Department and Brown County Ambulance Association, the Ainsworth Volunteer Fire Department responded to the site of the accident Monday. The accident also prompted the civil defense siren to sound in Ainsworth.

* SCC reaches new mark for residents, but agency staffing hurts facility's bottom line

(Posted 2:15 p.m. Nov. 13)

The Sandhills Care Center has reached its highest resident population since opening its doors in Ainsworth in late 2016, with 24 people now calling the facility home.

However, the facility still has to utilize agencies to handle some of its staffing, to the tune of more than $65,000 in expenses during October.

So, despite revenue of more than $133,000 during October, the facility still finished the month with an operating loss of $24,674.

Administrator Stephanie Rucker told the Sandhills Care Center Board of Directors Monday much of the agency staffing is for certified nursing assistants. She said there were seven students signed up to take a CNA certification class, and she hoped to be able to hire several of those students upon completion of the certification, which would greatly reduce the need for agency staffing.

She said the international nurse the facility has been working to bring to the community should arrive by January, pending the completion of visa paperwork. That would eliminate the need for an agency LPN.

Some larger annual payments also came due in October, including an $11,636 down payment for the facility’s workman’s compensation policy, and a $7,251 down payment for its liability and commercial property insurance.

Rucker told the board the facility admitted three new residents during October. One resident was discharged home, and another passed away, leaving the facility with 13 private pay residents, 10 residents who receive Medicaid assistance, and one who receives Medicare assistance.

Rural Health Development representative Mike Harris told the board RHD is hosting a conference titled “A Nebraska Conversation, Nursing Homes in Crisis” from 10 a.m. until noon Dec. 19 in the Lancaster Family Event Center at Lincoln to hold discussions on the state of nursing homes in Nebraska.

Harris said the state continues to reduce the reimbursement provided to nursing homes for Medicaid residents, with reimbursement rates declining 10 percent during the past few years.

Harris said the state has not been stepping up to take care of its residents, and it is putting a major strain on nursing homes across the state, particularly in rural areas.

Harris said he hoped the conference would help educate Nebraskans on the financial stress being placed on nursing homes with the falling Medicaid reimbursement from the state.

The board Monday voted to transfer $34,208 from the interlocal account to the care center’s operating account to cover the month’s expenses over revenue.

The next meeting of the Sandhills Care Center Board of Directors is scheduled for 4 p.m. Dec. 10.

* School Board approves contract with ESU 10 for services

(Posted 6:45 a.m. Nov. 13)

The Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education on Monday approved a contract with Educational Service Unit 10 to provide service for deaf students.

Superintendent Darrell Peterson told the board the deaf student service provider will now come from ESU 10 instead of through a contract with Educational Service Unit 17, so the board needed to have a contract with ESU 10 for the service.

The board approved that contract.

Also Monday, the board authorized the Ainsworth Educational Facilities Leasing Corporation to pay an invoice for the agriculture and industrial technology building addition project.

The board approved a pair of option enrollment requests, one for a student optioning into the district and one for a student opting out of the district. Carey Wells-Haskell requested the board allow her son, Jace, to attend Ainsworth Community Schools, and Colleen Anderson requested the board allow her granddaughter Alexandrea Collision to attend Rock County Public Schools.

The board approved both requests.

During his report, Peterson said Ainsworth Community Schools will host a drug recognition program Nov. 26 that will be open to everyone in the area.

Elementary Principal Curtis Childers reported kindergarten through sixth grade enrollment increased by two students since the October board meeting, with 198 total students in the seven classes. The largest classes are 31 students each in the kindergarten, third and fourth grades. The smallest class is the second grade, with 23 students.

Secondary Principal Steve Dike reported enrollment for seventh grade through the senior class is 135 students, which is an increase of four students since the previous report. The largest class is the freshmen class with 43 students. The smallest is the senior class with 22 students.

The next meeting of the Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education is scheduled for 7 p.m. Dec. 10.

* Grief Share seminar scheduled for Thursday in The Connection

(Posted 6:45 a.m. Nov. 13)

The Connection on Main Street will be the host site for a Surviving the Holidays Grief Share session for those facing the holidays following the death of a loved one.
The seminar is scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 15, in The Connection, and will feature video interviews with grief counselors, grief experts and others who have experienced the holidays after their loved one’s death. They offer practical suggestions and reassurance, and will provide insightful information about being prepared for surprising emotions that may hit over the holidays, what to do about traditions and other coming changes, how to handle holiday parties and invitations, how to survive potentially awkward moments with other people, and where to find comfort, strength and hope.
Those who attend the free seminar will receive a survival guide filled with practical tips, encouraging words, journaling ideas and exercises for daily help during the holiday season.
A 14-week Grief Share support group will also be established on Thursday for anyone interested. For more information, contact Elaine Duden at 402-387-1405.

* Richey previews North Central semifinal game against Burwell

(Posted 6:45 a.m. Nov. 12)

North Central football coach Ryan Richey talked about Monday's Class D-1 playoff semifinal against the undefeated Burwell Longhorns with KBRB's Graig Kinzie.
The game is a rematch of the season opener back in August, won by the Longhorns. Richey said the Longhorns are a well-coached team that play a physical brand of football, but the Knights have improved dramatically from the season opener.
KBRB will air Monday's game from Burwell, with pre-game beginning at around 5:40 p.m. and the kickoff scheduled for 6 p.m.
To hear the conversation with Richey ahead of the semifinal, click on the audio link below.

audio clips/North Central football semifinal preview.mp3

* Sheriff's department seeks information regarding sign theft

(Posted 12:30 p.m. Nov. 7)

The Brown County Sheriff’s Department is seeking information from the public regarding the theft of a sign from southern Brown County.
According to the sheriff’s department, sometime during the past two weeks, someone removed a sign from 43196 Richardson Road near a resident’s mailbox. The metal sign read, “Grandma’s Bumpy Road,” and it was removed from the sign post 6 miles south and 3 miles east of Ainsworth.
The sign was green with white lettering, and was the same approximate size as the green county road signs.
Anyone with information on who is responsible for the theft is asked to call the Brown County Sheriff’s Department at 402-387-1440 or call Crime Stoppers at 402-382-3121. Information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for this, or any, crime could result in a cash reward.

* Kaup named Caring Kind Award winner for Rock County Hospital

(Posted 3:45 p.m. Nov. 7)

The Nebraska Hospital Association recognized 76 hospital employees recently with the organization’s Caring Kind Award.
The award is given to Nebraska’s most caring and compassionate hospital employees, and recognizes those in the medical community who have demonstrated compassion for patients, cooperation with coworkers and dedication to excellence in their job responsibilities.
Rock County Hospital LPN Krystal Kaup was one of the recipients of this year’s Caring Kind Awards. Kaup has been with the Rock County Hospital for 19 years, serving as a clinic nurse for the past 10 years.
Hospitals across the state each select one award recipient to be recognized during the annual NHA Convention.

* Two horses killed Tuesday night in one-vehicle accident west of Bassett

(Posted 10:30 a.m. Nov. 7)

Two horses on Highway 20 Tuesday night were struck and killed by a motorist traveling west of Bassett.
According to Rock County Sheriff Jim Anderson, at 8:29 p.m. Tuesday, a 2004 Ford supercab pickup, driven by Kasey Soles, 40, of Winner, S.D., was traveling west approximately 4 miles west of Bassett when the vehicle struck two horses in the highway.
Neither the driver nor the three passengers in the Ford were injured, though the Ford was considered a total loss in the accident.
Both horses, owned by Kent Croghan of Bassett, were killed. They were valued at approximately $2,000 each.

* Breakdown of area county votes on regional, state and federal races

(Posted 9:45 a.m. Nov. 7)

Nebraska Statewide and Federal Races

Total votes cast plus vote breakdowns for area counties

 

Initiative 427 to expand Medicaid coverage

Votes               For                   Against

Statewide        344,437           302,338

Brown             447                  846

Keya Paha       101                  250

Rock                210                  407                 

 

U.S. Senate    

Deb Fischer (R)           Jane Raybould (D)

Statewide        393,536                       259,626

Brown             1,149                           188

Keya Paha       336                              42

Rock                563                              79

 

District 3 U.S. House of Representatives

                        Adrian Smith (R)        Paul Theobald (D)

Statewide        162,757                       49,363

Brown             1,194                           159

Keya Paha       355                              32

Rock                583                              64

 

Nebraska Governor

                        Pete Ricketts (R)         Bob Krist (D)

Statewide        402,078                       275,186

Brown             1,146                           213

Keya Paha       347                              43

Rock                566                              93

 

Secretary of State

                        Bob Evnen (R)            Spencer Danner (D)

Statewide        397,035                       253,593

Brown             1,111                           159

Keya Paha       321                              34

Rock                532                              68

 

State Auditor

                        Charlie Janssen (R)     Jane Skinner (D)

Statewide        371,549                       269,787

Brown             1,074                           180

Keya Paha       305                              35

Rock                504                              77

 

State Treasurer

                        John Murante (R)

Statewide        502,190

Brown             1,175

Keya Paha       325

Rock                546

 

Nebraska Attorney General

                        Doug Peterson (R)

Statewide        502,743

Brown             1,175

Keya Paha       321

Rock                546

 

Nebraska Legislature District 40

                        Tim Gragert     Keith Kube

District-wide   7,181               6,738

Rock                314                  261

 

Nebraska Public Power District Subdivision 5

                        Charlie Kennedy         Thomas Hoff

District-wide   8,687                           5,251

Brown             657                              303

 

Lower Niobrara Natural Resources District

Sub-District 3

                        Linda Hoffman           Paul Allen

District-wide   1,287                           884

Keya Paha       109                              81

 

Sub-District 4

                        Kevin Randa               Bradley Mahon

District-wide   1,176                           897

Keya Paha       74                                88

 

At-Large

                        Jeffery Uhlir                Shaun Higgins

District-wide   1,082                           999

Keya Paha       101                              120

* Nebraskans vote to expand Medicaid coverage; Republicans sweep races

(Posted 6:45 a.m. Nov. 7)

By a 42,000-vote margin, Nebraskans voted Tuesday to expand Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

Nebraskans who now earn up to 138 percent of the median poverty level income will qualify for coverage under Medicaid. The federal government pays for 90 percent of the cost of the expanded Medicaid coverage, with the state responsible for 10 percent.

A total of 344,437 Nebraskans voted in favor of the expansion, which represented just over 53 percent of the vote. There were 302,338 votes against expansion, just under 47 percent.

Republicans dominated the state and federal races on the ballot Tuesday, as U.S. Sen. Deb Fischer was easily re-elected. Fischer received 58 percent of the votes cast, 393,536, while Democratic challenger Jane Raybould picked up 259,626 votes, 38.3 percent. Libertarian Jim Schultz received 24,456 votes, just over 3 percent.

Gov. Pete Ricketts earned re-election to another four-year term by an almost 20-point margin. Ricketts received 402,078 votes (59.37) percent, while Democratic challenger Bob Krist received 40.63 percent of the vote with 275,186 ballots cast in his favor.

Republicans swept the three Congressional seats in the state, with the closest race in the Second District. Incumbent Don Bacon edged Democratic challenger Kara Eastman by a 51.5 percent to 48.5 percent margin.

Adrian Smith cruised to re-election in the Third District, receiving almost 77 percent of the vote compared to just 23 percent for Democrat Paul Theobald.

Jeff Fortenberry was re-elected in District 1 by a 60-40 margin over Democratic challenger Jessica McClure.

Republican Bob Evnen will replace retiring Secretary of State John Gale. Evnen received 61 percent of the vote to 39 percent for Democrat Spencer Danner.

Charlie Janssen was re-elected as the State Auditor, receiving 58 percent of the vote to 42 percent for Democrat Jane Skinner.

Republican Doug Peterson ran unopposed for re-election as the Nebraska Attorney General, and Republican John Murante ran unopposed to replace Don Stenberg as State Treasurer.

Voter turnout in Nebraska was 56 percent in the General Election, with 685,320 Nebraskans casting ballots from the 1,219,644 who were registered to vote in the state.

* Gragert defeats Kube for 40th District Nebraska Legislature seat Tuesday

(Posted 6:30 a.m. Nov. 7)

Looking at some of the regional races during Tuesday’s General Election, Tim Gragert edged Keith Kube for the 40th District seat on the Nebraska Legislature. Gragert received 51.5 percent of the vote with 7,181 ballots cast his direction. Kube picked up 48.5 percent of the vote with 6,738 ballots cast.

Just over 400 votes separated the two candidates from the nearly 14,000 votes cast in the 40th District, which includes Rock, Holt and Boyd counties among others in north central and northeast Nebraska.

Gragert will replace Tyson Larson, who served two terms and could not run again due to term limits.

Charlie Kennedy ousted incumbent Thomas Hoff for the Subdivision 5 seat on the Nebraska Public Power District Board of Directors. Kennedy received more than 62 percent of the vote compared to 37.5 percent that went to Hoff. Subdivision 5 represents north central and northwest Nebraska.

Running unopposed, Cherryl Lovejoy in Subdistrict 4, Martin Graff in Subdistrict 6 and Dean Jochem in an at-large race won re-election to the Middle Niobrara Natural Resources District Board of Directors. Though not on the ballot, Justin Hammond received write-in votes to win election to the Subdistrict 2 seat on the Middle Niobrara NRD Board.

There were contested races for seats on the Lower Niobrara Natural Resources District Board of Directors.

Linda Hoffman defeated Paul Allen by a margin of 1,287 to 884 for the Subdistrict 3 seat on the Lower Niobrara NRD Board. Kevin Rand picked up 1,176 votes to win the Subdistrict 4 seat, with Bradley Mahon receiving 897 votes.

Jeffrey Uhlir edged Shaun Higgins for an at-large seat on the board, earning 52 percent of the vote, 1,082, compared to Shaun Higgins with 48 percent, 999 votes.

Thomas Higgins in Subdistrict 1, Marvin Leiwer in Subdistrict 2, Kent Pavlik in Subdistrict 5, Curt Morrow in Subdistrict 6, Dwain Marcellus in Subdistrict 7 and Larry Baumeister in Subdistrict 8 all ran unopposed and were elected to the Lower Niobrara NRD Board.

Four candidates also ran unopposed for seats on the Educational Service Unit 17 Board of Directors. Sue Weston in District 1, Lisa Chohon in District 3, Jean Pinney in District 5 and Duane Gudgel in District 7 were all elected to the ESU 17 Board Tuesday.
Outgoing Nebraska Secretary of State John Gale was nearly spot-on on his prediction for voter turnout, as 685,320 Nebraskans cast ballots during the General Election. That represents 56.19 percent of the 1,219,644 voters registered in the state.

* Van Houten elected assessor, Taylor county attorney in close Brown County races

(Posted 9:45 p.m. Nov. 6)

There were several tight local races in Brown County Tuesday during the General Election, two at the county level and one in the race for Ainsworth mayor.

Three candidates, two of them write-in candidates, vied to replace the retiring Charleen Fox as Brown County Assessor.

Terri Van Houten, the lone candidate appearing on the ballot, received 538 votes. That was enough to defeat two write-in candidates for the position. There were a total of 810 write-in votes cast Tuesday. Amber Happold received 409 write-in votes, and Bill Carr picked up 398 write-in votes.

Van Houten will be seated as the next Brown County Assessor.

There was one successful write-in campaign Tuesday, as Andy Taylor defeated David Streich in the race for Brown County Attorney.

Taylor received 719 write-in votes. Streich, the long-time county attorney, received 505 votes Tuesday as the lone candidate appearing on the ballot. Taylor will be sworn in as the next Brown County Attorney.

In the race to replace outgoing Ainsworth Mayor Larry Rice, Jeremiah Sullivan edged Cody Goochey by 79 votes. Sullivan finished with 360 votes, 54 percent of the votes cast, while Goochey picked up 281 votes, 43 percent.

Brad Fiala and Schyler Schenk will be seated on the Ainsworth City Council as the only two candidates to run for the expiring seats held by Brian Williams and Chuck Osborn.

In a four-way race for two seats on the Long Pine City Council, Linda Alberts led the field with 78 votes. She will be seated on the council and will be joined by Katherine Papstein, who secured 63 votes. David Cheatum received 45 votes, and Cheri Painter garnered 32 votes in the council race.

Long Pine Mayor Ed Brown was unopposed, and received re-election for another four-year term.

Brown County Clerk Travee Hobbs, Sheriff Bruce Papstein and Treasurer Deb Vonheeder ran unopposed and were re-elected to additional four-year terms.

After surviving an eight-way Republican Primary in May, Dennis Bauer and Reagan Wiebelhaus were elected to the Brown County Board of Commissioners Tuesday.

Doug Pankowski and Robert Maxwell were elected to seats on the Brown County Airport Authority without challenge.

Frank Beel, Jessica Pozehl and Jim Arens were each elected to four-year terms on the Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education. They were the only three candidates appearing on the ballot for the three seats on the School Board.

Pat Schumacher ran unopposed for another term as the Brown County representative on the KBR Rural Public Power Board of Directors.

JoAnn Johnson Parker, Brenda Goeken and P. Lynn Clay were each elected to three seats on the Johnstown Village Board. They were the only three candidates appearing on the ballot.

Brown County had voter turnout of 65.5 percent, with 1,401 votes cast from among the 2,136 registered voters in the county.

* Rock County voters approve levy and restricted fund increase for hospital, ambulance

(Posted 9:15 p.m. Nov. 6)

Rock County voters overwhelmingly approved allowing the Rock County Hospital and Rock County Ambulance Association to continue to levy property tax for operations and equipment purchases, and increase the county’s restricted funds budget to allow for the collection of the tax.

The measure passed by a margin of 455 in favor to 179 against.

In contested local Rock County races, TJ Ellermeier won the write-in election for county assessor over Monica Turpin. With neither name appearing on the ballot, Ellermeier received 355 write-in votes. Turpin picked up 71 write-in votes.

Lana Arrowsmith and Mike LeZotte won a four-way race for two Bassett City Council seats. Arrowsmith received 186 votes to lead the way, with LeZotte a close second with 180 votes from Bassett residents. Bonnie Emerson finished third in the race with 65 votes, followed by Kathy Maloun with 43 votes.

It was a close race for the Rock County seat on the KBR Rural Public Power District Board of Directors. Mike Kreitman received 200 votes to edge Dale Caskey, who finished with 187 votes.

The other local races in Rock County were uncontested, as Daunitta Buoy was elected as county clerk, Mona Davis as county treasurer, James Anderson was re-elected as county sheriff, and Avery Gurnsey was re-elected as county attorney.

Jim Stout and Glen May were the only two candidates for two seats on the Board of Commissioners and were elected.

Larry Ebert II, Tonya Larson and Kristy Beard were elected to the Rock County Board of Education, and James Nelson was re-elected to a six-year term on the Rock County Airport Authority.

Melissa Denny, Waylon Reynolds and Dan Judge were all elected to seats on the Newport Village Board.

Voter turnout in Rock County was 66 percent, with 671 votes cast from among the 1,012 registered to vote in the county.

* Prewitt, Cook and Hespe win seats on the Springview Village Board Tuesday

(Posted 10 p.m. Nov. 6)

The lone contested race locally in Keya Paha County was for the Springview Village Board, as six candidates ran for three spots on the Village Board.

Jesse Prewitt was the leading vote-getter with 115, followed by Troy Cook with 92 votes. The third candidate who will be seated on the Village Board is Larry Hespe. Hespe picked up 75 votes for the final seat.

Nathan Arends received 36 votes to finish fourth, followed by Robbie Painter with 30 votes and Joe Caulfield with 18 votes.

Mark Frick received 239 votes for Keya Paha County Public Schools Board of Education. He was the only candidate appearing on the ballot Tuesday. Two write-in candidates will be seated on the School Board, with Darcy Wiebelhaus picking up 88 write-in votes and Todd Painter receiving 86 write-in votes.

County Clerk/Assessor Suzy Wentworth, Treasurer Kaye Thiede and Sheriff Jeff Kirsch all ran unopposed and were elected to four-year terms.

Corey Nilson in the Center District and Bruce Ritterbush in the East District were each re-elected to the Keya Paha County Board of Commissioners after running unopposed Tuesday.

Randy Rowan ran unopposed and was elected to the KBR Rural Public Power District Board of Directors representing Keya Paha County.

Voter turnout in Keya Paha County was 64 percent.

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