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

* Roy Jensby, 87, of Chambers formerly of Ellenwood, Kan. 10:30 a.m. July 20

* Eileen Beman, 96, of Valentine 2 p.m. July 19

* Meeting reports located below for:

July 17 Brown County Commissioners

July 16 Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education

July 11 Ainsworth City Council

July 9 Sandhills Care Center Board of Directors

July 3 Brown County Commissioners

* Lions Club installs new officers Monday during annual family picnic

(Posted 6:45 a.m. July 18)

The Ainsworth Lions Club installed new officers during its annual family picnic Monday at East City Park. Officers installed included President Vergil Heyer, Past President Connie Lentz, Vice President Vance Heyer, Secretary Connie Lentz, Assistant Secretary Jerry Ehlers, Treasurer Phil Fuchs, Lion Tamer Steve Salzman, Tail Twister Dwain Grunke, Membership Director Bill Lentz, and Board members Bob Beatty, Pat Jones, Rita Paddock and Larry Rice.
Outgoing President Connie Lentz thanked the outgoing officers and directors for their service, and thanked the spouses of members who volunteered for several events throughout the year.
Several members received awards for years of service to the Lions Club. They included Richard Albrecht, Jerry Ehlers and Gary Kinzie for 45 years of service to the club; David Spann for 40 years; Vergil Heyer, Jim Hoch and Roger Lechtenberg for 30 years; Harlin Welch for 20 years; Doug Weiss for 15 years; and Sarah Williams, Brenda Syfie-Mundhenke and Graig Kinzie for 10 years with the Lions Club.
New members Steve and Amy Dike were also initiated Monday.
The next meeting of the Ainsworth Lions Club is scheduled for noon Aug. 19 in Canyon Creek.

* Rock County Commissioners approve ag society, fire district levies

(Posted 12:45 p.m. July 17)

The Rock County Commissioners on Tuesday approved levies for 2019-20 for the Rock County Agricultural Society and the rural fire districts.

The commissioners approved the Rock County Agricultural Society’s request of $29,070 for the 2019-20 fiscal year. The agricultural society receives property tax to operate and maintain the Rock County Fairgrounds.

The commissioners set the levy for the Gracy, Rock and Newport rural fire districts at 1.8 cents in levy per $100 in property value.

In other business Tuesday, the commissioners approved leasing a drone from the Middle Niobrara Natural Resources District for Rock County Weed Superintendent Mitch Dean at a cost of $50.

The commissioners received the 2019-20 budget for the Rock County Hospital from Administrator Stacey Knox.

The board voted to hire Daniele Becker to a part-time custodial position at a wage of $15 per hour.

The commissioners also set a Board of Equalization meeting for 9 a.m. July 23 to hear one property valuation protest and 25 destroyed real property applications.

Region 24 Emergency Manager Doug Fox discussed a second disaster declaration for the county from flooding in May. A special recovery scoping meeting is scheduled for 11 a.m. Aug. 1 in the Rock County Courthouse.

* Commissioners discuss whether to allow volunteer work on county roads

(Posted 7 a.m. July 17)

The Brown County Commissioners Tuesday discussed whether to allow non-county employees to perform any kind of maintenance on county roads.

With some in the county currently using a county-owned drag on roads near their property, and the fact that some currently remove snow from county roadways near their property, the commissioners discussed formalizing an agreement prior to allowing any non-county employee to perform any kind of work on a county roadway.

County Attorney Andy Taylor said he prepared an agreement for the board to consider. He said the draft agreement was very specific as to what would and would not be allowed, and any volunteer would have to meet several guidelines and notify Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin to get permission to perform any kind of maintenance or snow removal work.

Commissioner Denny Bauer said he would like to have the agreement be as generic as possible.

“A lot of other counties are doing this,” Bauer said. “NIRMA covers volunteers. If there is a claim against the county, it would be covered but our rates would go up.”

Commissioner Reagan Wiebelhaus said the agreement scared him.

“I know the intent, but without the training and supervision that our employees receive, this scares me. If a mistake is made, even a million dollars in liability coverage might not be enough if there is a death.”

Wiebelhaus said the biggest detriment to the county was not the possibility of a liability claim, it was the chance that someone would be hurt or lose their life due to the county allowing a volunteer to work on a road.

Taylor said the county could include in the agreement that anyone who wants to drag a road or remove snow has to have experience running the equipment.

Wiebelhaus said, if the agreement was limited to volunteers running a drag or removing snow, he would have fewer hesitations.

“I don’t want them out there doing any other maintenance,” Wiebelhaus said.

Bauer said he believed most of the people who would be interested in signing an agreement with the county are those who are already out there dragging a road or removing snow.

“I think it is worth the risk,” Bauer said.

Taylor said he would limit the agreement to allow volunteers to use a county-owned drag or remove snow.

No official action was taken.

In other roads matters Tuesday, the commissioners discussed the potential placement of a culvert on 432nd Avenue south of Richardson Road.

Turpin said the roads department’s work building up the road has kept some water from flowing. He said the road was built up about 18 inches from its previous elevation.

“I can’t find an existing culvert,” Turpin said. “We are probably going to make someone happy and someone mad if we do anything.”

Bauer suggested the county wait until the fall and the completion of any agricultural work in the area before placing a culvert at the site. Wiebelhaus agreed, urging Turpin to wait until all agricultural operations are complete in the area before placing a culvert.

Turpin said, if the roads department places a culvert at the site, he would place it at the existing grade and not dig the ditch down in an effort to keep the flow in a natural state.

“It won’t drain it all, but it will take it down some,” Turpin said of the current water level at the site.

Bauer agreed the culvert should be kept at natural elevation.

“They will both have to share the water,” Bauer said.

Bauer said cleaning and inspecting the culverts in the county should be a priority for the roads department this fall.

“If we repaired or replaced the culverts that have had the most problems, that would solve some of our problems if we have high water again,” Bauer said.

Turpin said the roads department would try and look at culverts this fall. He said, if culverts need to be replaced, he would need to call in and have lines located as in several cases there are lines running just inches below the culverts.

Providing the board with an update on other roads department activities, Turpin said the county continues to have to repair washouts on Moon Lake Avenue along the Enders Overflow. The highway superintendent said, any time the wind blows, the water levels are so high at that location that it causes waves to wash out the road.

“We keep fixing it, but it is going to be a problem until the water level goes down,” Turpin said.

Turpin said the roads department has been hauling sand onto South Pine Avenue and the Raven Road, and has been fixing washouts on Norden Avenue and Moon Lake Avenue.

“We are also cleaning silt out of a ditch on Road 876,” Turpin said. “Part of that road will be closed.”

Turpin reported he has been working on the damage inventory from the March flooding, and would have everything uploaded to the FEMA site by Friday.

“We had a total of 123 sites identified that were damaged,” Turpin said. “That included six bridges and nine culverts. The total estimated cost of the damage is $578,300 on non-federal routes.”

If approved by FEMA, the county would receive reimbursement for 75 percent of the cost of the damage.

In a final roads matter, Turpin presented the commissioners with three applications for the full-time roads department employee the county advertised. The commissioners directed Turpin to conduct two interviews and make a recommendation to the board.

Sandhills Care Center Board Chairman Phil Fuchs presented the commissioners with the 2019-20 budget for the facility.

He reported there are currently 25 residents in the facility. He told the commissioners the expenses for the facility were pretty fixed if it maintains between 15 and 25 residents. The income is the variable, as each resident gained or lost makes a $6,000 monthly change in revenue.

Fuchs asked the commissioners to budget for the full $80,000 in support the county had previously agreed to provide, but the care center only planned to ask the county for $40,000 in funding.

“We are making progress,” Fuchs said. “If we can keep the resident numbers where they are now, we would likely ask for even less next year.”

He reported the facility has been replacing outdated computers, and just approved a bid to replace the concrete on half of the circle drive at the nursing home.

Wiebelhaus thanked Fuchs for the board’s efforts, saying the budget was good news.

“It would be nice to see the city and county work together on a contract to help pay the cost of schooling for a nurse who then agrees to come back and work there for five years,” Wiebelhaus said.

Bauer encouraged Fuchs and the board not to hesitate to ask the county for assistance if upgrades to the nursing home are needed.

The only action taken by the commissioners Tuesday with Commissioner Buddy Small absent was to approve a $50 monthly payment to Weed Superintendent Scott Erthum to cover half the cost of his cellular phone bill, as Erthum uses his personal phone for county weed business.

Following the regular meeting Tuesday, the commissioners reconvened as the Board of Equalization to hear property valuation protests.

The next meeting of the Brown County Commissioners is scheduled for 5:15 p.m. Aug. 6.

* School Board approves software to provide easy access to meeting info, policies

(Posted 7 a.m. July 16)

Ainsworth Community Schools Superintendent Dale Hafer talked to the Board of Education Monday about a program through the Nebraska Association of School Boards that will make the district’s meeting agendas and policies more accessible and user-friendly for the public.

Hafer said about half of the school districts in Nebraska use the Sparq Meeting software on their web sites, as well numerous organizations in Nebraska and several other states.

Nicole Covess with the NASB presented a tutorial to the board on how the system operates. Sparq allows for paperless meetings, with all content for meetings provided through the software, and also allows the board to upload all of its policies for immediate access.

Board member Brad Wilkins said he uses the Sparq program as part of being on the NASB Board, and said it was very user-friendly.

“If I can use it, anyone can,” Wilkins said. “We would be able to go back and search to see who had bids on previous projects. The alternatives cost around $10,000. This is a great system that is being used in other states.”

Hafer said the district could try itself to add content to its web site, but would not be able to duplicate this level of convenience for public use.

“We can make something work either way,” Hafer said.

Board President Jim Arens said having the school’s policies on the system and searchable would be an excellent feature.

With Wilkins abstaining and Scott Erthum absent, the board approved purchasing the software at a cost of $2,500 with an additional $500 setup fee.

The board also discussed working with the NASB or the district’s law firm to review and revise all of the district’s policies.

Arens said a review of all the district’s policies was recommended by Darrell Peterson prior to his retirement as superintendent.

Wilkins said a lot of the district’s policies have not been looked at since around 2000.

Hafer presented the board with options, which included using the district’s law firm to review and revise the policies with the board at a cost of $9,500. The NASB provided the district with an option to simply have access to its policies for school boards at a cost of around $700 with an annual fee of $495 for updates following any legislation passed.

Hafer said it would be around an additional $2,000 to have NASB representatives meet with the board to review current policies.

Wilkins said the district has not faced much in the way of litigation related to its policies, and he believed using the NASB service was adequate.

Hafer said it was certainly more cost effective if the board was happy with the policies the NASB has created. It would be more expensive to customize them to the district.

The board ultimately voted to table action until its August meeting.

In other action items Monday, the board approved option enrollment requests to allow Caylee Kenyon to option into Rock County Public Schools, and to allow Hardin and Thomas Voss to attend Rock County Public Schools after receiving requests from parents.

The board approved the final invoice of approximately $23,000 for the agriculture and industrial technology building addition project, and approved several items to replace Peterson with Hafer on documentation related to the Ainsworth Educational Facilities Leasing Corporation as well as corporate banking documents.

The board approved the first reading of a purchasing policy for the district, and second readings of policies relating to tobacco use prohibition, substance abuse and activity suspensions, offenses and penalties, school food authority procurement plan, admission requirements, wage information, military recruiters, curriculum assessment, and standing and temporary committees.

During his initial report to the board, Hafer said he believed he was getting off to a good start on the superintendent transition.

He said he has been busy identifying potential facilities issues that may need to be addressed, including the gym roof and the district’s phone system.

Hafer said the district’s building and grounds committee met with a representative from Weathercraft regarding the roof, which he said has been leaking.

“We need to get that done before we can get to some other projects,” Hafer said. “We advertised for bids, and will open bids on the Wednesday before the August board meeting.”

Hafer said he reviewed options for the district’s phone system, as the system needed to be expanded into the new addition.

“The system we have is obsolete,” Hafer said. “We did have Applied Connective and Three River take a look, and we think we can get wiring into the addition and get it done without replacing the entire system.”

Hafer said the buildings and grounds committee would look at options and provide a recommendation to the board about what makes the most sense moving forward with the phone system.

Hafer reported he was working with the NASB to hold a strategic planning session for the community, which he said is fairly common when a district hires a new superintendent.

“The NASB provides this service when they assist a district with a superintendent search,” Hafer said. “Be thinking about a strategic planning committee, which will include board members, staff, students and community members.”

Hafer said it would be a good opportunity to engage with the public, staff and students and see the direction people want to go.

Hafer also reported the district has hired one full time and one part time custodian to fill vacancies, and has started the search to replace administrative assistant Danielle Palmer, who resigned from her position.

“We have received several applications already,” Hafer said.

He said he hoped to get interviews complete and a new assistant hired as Palmer was willing to help provide training to the new employee.

The next regular meeting of the Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education is scheduled for 8 p.m. Aug. 12.

* Agenda for Tuesday Brown County Commissioners meeting

(Posted 6:15 a.m. July 16)

Brown County Commissioners
Meeting 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 16
Brown County Courthouse
Agenda

5:15 - 5:20                   Roll Call;

Acknowledge posting of Open Meetings Law;

Pledge of Allegiance;

Approve minutes of the June 18, 2019 Commissioner meeting;

 

                                    Kenneth Turpin – Road Department Issues

                                   

                                    Replacing or cleaning culvert on 432nd Avenue South of Richardson road T29N R22W Sect 36

 

                                    Reviewing job applications for road department

                                   

                                    Allow Non-County employees to maintain or repair County roads

 

5:45                            Phil Fuchs – Present the Sandhills Care Center 2019-2020 Budget

 

6:00                            David Boschult – Nebraska Department of Ag, meet with the Board

                                   

                                    Reimbursement on phone/internet for weed superintendent as previously discussed at June 4, 2019 meeting

                                   

                                    Approve Claims

 

                                    Public Comments                

* Poker Tube nets more than $3,000 for Long Pine Fire Department

(Posted 2 p.m. July 11)

More than 140 tubers turned out for the Hidden Paradise Poker Tube Saturday to support the Long Pine Fire Department. More than doubling the inaugural year’s total, the Poker Tube netted more than $3000 for the fire department.
Only a few months after the spring floods damaged many Hidden Paradise cabins and created chaos in the creek, tubers from California, Colorado, Mexico, Texas, and across Nebraska enjoyed sunshine and a clear creek for the event.
The Poker Tube featured six host cabins, including the Hochs, Sladeks, Thiemans, Grahams and Touchtones, Hedlunds and Kremlaceks, and ended at Bronson’s Hidden Paradise Motel. Designed to connect the Hidden Paradise community, tubers enjoyed gourmet sliders, pulled pork and a variety of craft cocktails along the Poker Tube, all generously donated by the host cabins. Winners received tubes and cash prizes.

* Council votes to maintain ownership of property acquired for potential street

(Posted 7 a.m. July 11)

The Ainsworth City Council Wednesday opted to maintain ownership of a parcel of property on the west side of the city after hearing a request from a neighboring property owner to relinquish the parcel.

Don and Janet Schuyler approached the council about purchasing a parcel on the west side of the South Wilson Street and West Dawes Street intersection.

Janet Schuyler said the couple wanted to purchase the parcel for sentimental reasons, as it had belonged to their family prior to the city obtaining it.

“We own the property next to it, and we would like that property to give us better access,” Janet Schuyler said. “The city was going to put a road in at one time, but nothing has been done since the 1970s.”

Don Schuyler told the council he believed the agreement was initially set up that the property would revert back to the previous owner if a street was not built. He told the council he and his wife should have the right of first refusal to obtain the property if the city is not going to use it.

City Councilmen Brad Fiala and Greg Soles both expressed concerns about relinquishing ownership of the parcel.

“I do have hesitation,” Fiala said. “If we give up ownership, we have a portion of land that is dead. This would put up a roadblock we can’t get back.”

Soles said the city owns property to the northwest of the site, and vacating that parcel would land lock the rest of the ground the city owns in that area.

City Administrator Lisa Schroedl said, under the city’s comprehensive plan, that area is targeted for potential residential development.

“If we were to add another residential area, there aren’t any other through streets in that area,” Schroedl said. “If you were ever to expand there, you would potentially want to connect that area to Dawes Street.”

Schroedl told the council, if it did decide to move forward with relinquishing the property, a resolution would have to be created to vacate the parcel and it would be advertised for sale.

By a 3-0 vote with Councilman Schyler Schenk absent, the council voted to maintain ownership of the parcel.

In another street item, the council discussed vacating an approximately 150-foot portion of North Elm Street south of East Seventh Street.

Mayor Jeremiah Sullivan said the parcel in question sat between the Wilkins and Arens residences on the north side of the city.

Schroedl said a house was built in that area that would prevent that portion of North Elm Street from connecting to the rest.

“The neighboring property owners have informed us that the city doesn’t take care of it very well,” Schroedl said. “The city really has no use for it.”

The city administrator said, if the council agreed, she would send a certified letter to the neighboring property owners and have a resolution drafted to vacate that portion of North Elm Street. She said her recommendation was to vacate the street so the city did not have to maintain it.

City Attorney Rod Palmer said, if the council chooses to vacate the parcel as a street, the ground can either go back to the adjoining property owners or the city can maintain ownership.

The council authorized Schroedl to move forward with the process of vacating the street.

In other business Wednesday, Sandhills Care Center Board Chairman Phil Fuchs presented the council with the 2019-20 care center budget.

Fuchs reported there are 25 current residents in the Sandhills Care Center, and if the facility can continue to maintain a census of 23 to 25 residents, the facility should be able to ask the city and county for less support moving forward.

Fuchs said the care center board put together a conservative budget, and he requested the city to budget for the full $80,000 in support it had previously agreed to provide. However, with $177,000 in current cash reserves, Fuchs said the facility would only initially request $40,000 in support from both the city and the county.

“Our expenses are pretty well fixed if we have between 15 and 25 residents,” Fuchs said. “We feel like we have a handle on our expenses. The income is the variable, and we can have a big swing there depending on the number of residents.”

Fiala said he was glad to see the care center census up to 25 residents.

No action was taken, as the council will address the funding request as part of its 2019-20 budget preparation.

The council voted to reappoint Jason Nelson to a three-year term on the city’s Committee on Housing as recommended by the mayor.

The council also approved a recommendation from the Ainsworth Betterment Committee to provide funding to the Ainsworth Golf Course to assist in the cost of the annual Fourth of July fireworks display.

Schroedl said the ABC Committee recommended the council award funding to cover the gap between the donations the fire department and golf course took in and the total cost of the fireworks up to a maximum contribution of $3,000.

Schroedl reported the fire department and golf course raised $2,022 in donations for the display, which cost a total of $3,517. That left a gap of $1,495, which the council approved providing from the ABC fund.

The council briefly discussed an agreement with the Brown County Sheriff’s Department to provide law enforcement for the city. Schroedl said a new three-year agreement has not yet been completed, and the current contract expired July 1.

She recommended the council agree to extend the current agreement until the new draft is completed.

“This gives us something formalized for the interim,” Schroedl said.

Fiala said this was probably an issue that should have been addressed sooner so the council had more time to research it.

The council approved extending the previous agreement until a new one is created. The council held an executive session prior to adjourning Wednesday to discuss the contract.

Prior to entering executive session, Schroedl reported the city is continuing to work on FEMA documentation for aid from the damage to the streets during the March flooding. She said she was working with the FEMA project coordinator to group projects and bid work on repairs the city crews can’t handle themselves.

She also reported the request for proposals has been completed by the Nebraska Public Power District for a community solar project. The site for the proposed solar panels is located south of the south baseball diamond.

She reported the part-time employee who operated the city’s street sweeper resigned from the position.

Soles asked about an area under the alley behind Ranchland Western Store and the Grand Theater after contractors spotted a void under the alley.

“We need to determine who is responsible for fixing that problem,” Soles said. “They have been patient, but they can’t continue to wait.”

Palmer said it appeared the void was in the alley, and therefore the city’s responsibility to fix. The council directed Schroedl to have the city’s streets superintendent survey the site.

Schroedl also reported the city received the initial $200,000 bond from Ameritas to replenish the sewer fund for money spent in preparation for the sewer improvement projects approved by the council. The city will pay 1.8 percent interest on the initial bond funds received for the project.

The next meeting of the Ainsworth City Council is scheduled for 5 p.m. Aug. 14.

* Area students named to UNMC spring semester dean's list

(Posted 1:15 p.m. July 9)

The University of Nebraska Medical Center announced its spring dean’s list for students enrolled in nursing, dentistry, pharmacy and the allied health professions of magnetic resonance imaging, medical laboratory science and radiography.
To qualify for the dean’s list, nursing and the allied health students must be enrolled for 12 or more hours during the semester and have a grade point average of 3.75 or above.
Area students named to the spring semester dean’s list at UNMC include:

College of Nursing Lincoln Division

Ainsworth -- Shea Sinsel

Dunning -- Cassidy Hafer

College of Nursing Northern Division (Norfolk)

Atkinson -- Kenady Stanton

* Care Center Board approves 2019-20 budget

(Posted 7 a.m. July 9)

The Sandhills Care Center Board of Directors on Monday approved the 2019-20 budget for the facility.

Though realizing a profit the last several months as the census has built, Board Chairman Phil Fuchs said the board was conservative in its budget preparation, and budgeted on the chance the resident population dips back down below its current level.

“We have $177,000 in our cash reserves to start the fiscal year,” Fuchs said. “If we stay in the 22 to 25 range in our resident numbers, it makes things much easier.”

Board member Leanne Maxwell said, other than with the food budget, the facility’s expenses don’t change much if there are 20 residents or if there are 25.

“Being on the conservative side is good,” Maxwell said of the budget forecast.

Fuchs said the board would ask the Ainsworth City Council and the Brown County Commissioners to budget for the full $80,000 in support each entity pledged to the care center for the upcoming year, but he said he would likely only request half that much initially from each.

“We would have them budget for the full $80,000 in case we would need it later,” Fuchs said.

The board unanimously approved the 2019-20 budget as presented.

Administrator Stephanie Rucker reported there were currently 25 residents in the Sandhills Care Center. The facility admitted three new residents during June, and one resident passed away. She said 12 of the residents pay privately, 12 receive Medicaid assistance, and one was on hospice care.

Rucker reported the facility received $56,736 in Medicaid intergovernmental transfer funds in June, which helped boost June revenue to $209,839.

The Medicaid reimbursement is money provided for the cost of care a facility experiences over the initial Medicaid payment. A year ago, the facility’s Medicaid resident day rate was just shy of the 40 percent threshold required to qualify for the intergovernmental transfer funds. This year, the facility was above the 40 percent Medicaid day threshold and received the funding.

With revenue in June of $209,839 thanks in part to the reimbursement, and expenses for the month of $115,535, the care center realized a June profit of $94,304.

Fuchs said the $56,736 would be placed in the interlocal account instead of in the operating account for the time being.

Rucker reported the care center is still using agency nursing services to staff two CNA positions and one LPN.

“Our nursing pool costs are not as high as they were, but they are still high enough,” Rucker said.

The agency nursing positions resulted in $11,258 in expenses for June.

In action items Monday, the board approved the low bid of $6,648 from Ben Burdick to replace the concrete on the north half of the care center’s circle drive and the concrete near the facility’s entry.

Rucker reported three local contractors were contacted about providing a bid. Two responded, with Walton Concrete bidding $7,400 for the work.

Matt Moody, who handles maintenance for the facility, agreed to tear out the old concrete using his equipment, and will be paid separately for that work. The quotes from the contractors, therefore, did not include removing the current concrete.

Board member Chuck Osborn said the bids were well below what he had anticipated.

Fuchs said he believed the board could handle the cost of the work with its operations money.

The board approved the low bid for the work from Ben Burdick.

Board member Buddy Small asked Rucker to inform him or County Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin when Moody was planning to tear out the old concrete, as the county roads department would haul it away from the site.

The board also approved a recommendation from Rucker to replace three desktop computers in the facility as part of the computer replacement schedule the board previously discussed.

After approving the purchase of three desktops and one laptop computer during June, the board Monday approved replacing the desktop computers for the dietary department, the activities department, and the social services department at a total cost of $2,348 from Simple Solutions of Long Pine.

In a final action item Monday, Rucker told the board she went with a little different model lift than the board originally approved in June. She said the lift she purchased was around $500 more expensive than the lift initially proposed, but would better accommodate the facility’s residents.

The board approved the change, and Rucker reported she would fill out an application to the Ainsworth Betterment Committee for the potential purchase of a third lift to give each wing of the facility a lift.

The next meeting of the Sandhills Care Center Board of Directors is scheduled for 4 p.m. August 12.

* Troy graduates from Air Force basic training

(Posted 12:30 p.m. July 8)

U.S. Air Force Airman Naomi M. Troy graduated from basic military training at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, San Antonio, Texas.
The airman completed an intensive, eight-week program that included training in military discipline and studies, Air Force core values, physical fitness, and basic warfare principles and skills.
Airmen who complete basic training also earn four credits toward an associate in applied science degree through the Community College of the Air Force.
Troy is a 2019 graduate of West Holt High School, and is the daughter of Brenda Kobobel-Troy of Atkinson.

* Atkinson receives scrap tire cleanup grant

(Posted 8 a.m. July 8)

Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy Director Jim Macy announced the state is awarding nearly $968,000 to support 63 tire recycling and cleanup projects across the state. The department received over $1.4 million in eligible requests.
“The agency received many outstanding applications from across the state,” Macy said. “These funds will provide needed support to local efforts that effectively deal with scrap tires in Nebraska.”
Among the recipients is the city of Atkinson, which will receive $23,662 to host a 200-ton scrap tire cleanup. O’Neill St. Mary’s School will receive $17,183 as reimbursement for half of the cost of purchasing 122,835 pounds of rubber mulch for the school’s playground.
The funded grant projects include 21 awards to political subdivisions across Nebraska to hold scrap tire cleanup events; many in counties affected by the flooding events in 2019. The funding provided is sufficient to clean up over 400,000 passenger tire equivalents.
The scrap tire grants are part of the department’s Waste Reduction and Recycling Incentive Grants program, and are funded by a $1 fee on new tires purchased in Nebraska.

* Paddock residence selected for Yard of the Week

(Posted 6:30 a.m. July 8)

Roland and Rita Paddock were the latest winners in the Ainsworth Area Chamber of Commerce Yard of the Week promotion. The Paddock residence at 218 N. Merten St. was selected as the Week 5 winner by the chamber judges.
To nominate someone for Yard of the Week, contact the Ainsworth Area Chamber of Commerce.

* Three River phone service down due to floodwater damaging fiber line

(Posted 10:45 a.m. July 5)

Due to floodwater that washed out a fiber optic line, Three River telephone customers are currently unable to place calls. Three River crews are working to restore the fiber line and will notify KBRB when the repairs are complete and service is restored.

* June slightly warmer, slightly drier than normal in Ainsworth

(Posted 7:45 a.m. July 3)

Ainsworth Weather Observer Gerry Osborn reported June was slightly below normal in precipitation, though Ainsworth was still more than 5 inches above normal for the year thanks to the extremely wet months of March and May.
To hear the complete June summary, click on the audio link below.

audio clips/Gerry Osborn June 2019 Weather.mp3

* Road issues again dominate discussion during Brown County Commissioner meeting

(Posted 7 a.m. July 3)

Roads were again the main topic of discussion during Tuesday’s meeting of the Brown County Commissioners.

Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin told the board the roads department put millings on the Elsmere Road, building it up to the point that motorists are not having to travel through water anymore.

Turpin said the roads department also fixed Road 876 between 432nd and 434th avenues.

“Next we are planning to repair 423rd Avenue south of Highway 20 that has washed out,” Turpin said.

He said the department also plans to fix some washouts south of Long Pine west of the South Pine Avenue Y.

Jeep Cozad addressed the board regarding the condition of the road west of the South Pine Avenue Y, telling the commissioners the work done to clean out the ditches and culverts on state-owned ground allowed water to flow onto his and neighboring properties.

“That work has flooded me out,” Cozad said. “I know it is the natural flow of the water, but cleaning out the ditches caused a lot of ground to be flooded. We have lost a considerable amount of workable ground.”

Cozad said he understood it has been a catastrophic year, but he said the culverts in that area had been ignored for 20 years, and cleaning them out now created a wall of water that has damaged a lot of property.

“I don’t understand the lack of regular maintenance on culverts,” Cozad said.

Turpin said cleaning culverts is on the county’s list of maintenance projects.

“But, when the weather is right for us to blade and grade roads, we need to do that or we have other people in complaining,” the highway superintendent said. “It isn’t easy. There are a lot of things we need to be doing.”

Turpin said there was very little traffic on the road in question, and the roads department has been working to get more traveled routes repaired first.

“I agree we need to have a culvert program and try to stick to it, but it is hard to do,” Turpin said. “There are all kinds of things that happen that you don’t expect and can’t plan for.”

Glenna Abbott, who also owns property in that area south of Long Pine, said the two worst spots on her property used to have culverts years ago, but at some point they were torn out and never replaced.

“I have had 3 feet of water in my basement,” Abbott said, telling the commissioners the water has been backing up into her yard.

Commissioner Buddy Small said Turpin gives a lot of thought to coming up with solutions to fix problems that arise in the county.

Commissioner Reagan Wiebelhaus said, if it is foreseeable that road work might affect neighboring property owners, he would like to see it brought to the board before the work starts so the board can be informed and make a decision.

In other business Tuesday, the commissioners, with Denny Bauer absent, approved an interlocal agreement to have the Brown County veterans services officer provide service to veterans in both Keya Paha and Rock counties.

County Attorney Andy Taylor said the county had separate agreements with both counties. Those counties were interested in creating one interlocal agreement.

Under the agreement, Brown County will cover 58 percent of the overall veterans service budget, with Rock County providing 28 percent and Keya Paha County 14 percent of the budget. Taylor said the percentages reflect the number of veterans in each county.

The commissioners also approved the 2019-20 BKR Extension budget as presented during the board’s previous meeting. Small said both the Rock County and Keya Paha County commissioners had approved their portions of the Extension budget.

The board approved a three-year agreement with Ritterbush and Piotrowski LLP of Omaha to conduct the county audit. Clerk Travee Hobbs said the only other bid the county received came from the state auditor’s office, which quoted a maximum cost of $15,000.

The quote from Ritterbush and Piotrowski included a first-year cost of $8,900, with the cost of the audit increasing by $300 in each of the two subsequent years of the three-year agreement. The company also provided a one-year audit quote of $9,250.

The commissioners approved the three-year option.

The board acknowledged the budget request submitted by the Ainsworth Public Library for the 2019-20 fiscal year. Small said the library was asking the county for $11,000 in funding to support the library, which is the same amount it has requested in previous years.

The commissioners also acknowledged the receipt of the annual jail standards report. Wiebelhaus said there were no deficiencies found in the annual inspection of the Brown County Jail.

Following the regular meeting Tuesday, the commissioners convened as the Board of Equalization to hear property valuation protests.

The next meeting of the Brown County Commissioners is scheduled for 5:15 p.m. July 16.

* Dillon residence selected for Yard of the Week by Ainsworth Chamber

(Posted 8:30 a.m. July 1)

The residence of Brad and Connie Dillon at 546 N. Wilson St. in Ainsworth received the Week 4 Yard of the Week award from the Ainsworth Area Chamber of Commerce.
To nominate someone for Yard of the Week, contact the Ainsworth Area Chamber of Commerce.

* North Platte man dies Saturday in one-vehicle accident south of Valentine

(Posted 7 a.m. July 1)

A 33-year-old North Platte man died in a one-vehicle accident south of Valentine Saturday.
According to the Nebraska State Patrol, which investigated the accident, at approximately 10 p.m. Saturday, a vehicle driven by Tyler Golden of North Platte was traveling north on Highway 97 approximately 18 miles south of Valentine when the vehicle left the roadway and rolled in the ditch.
Golden, who the State Patrol indicated was not wearing a seat belt, was pronounced dead at the scene.

* Fire department awards bicycles to 4 alumni parade riders

(Posted 7 a.m. July 1)

Four children who rode their bicycles during the alumni parade Saturday won new bikes courtesy of the Ainsworth Volunteer Fire Department.
Bicycle winners drawn Saturday were Logan Johnson, Ty Ruhter, Karis Meister and Matthew Morris. The fire department annually provides bicycles to children who enter their bikes and ride in the alumni parade.

* Highway 11 bridge repair project south of Butte underway

(Posted 5:45 p.m. June 29)

In conjunction with recent flood recovery update meetings at Norfolk, O’Neill and Niobrara, the Nebraska Department of Transportation announced updates to projects on Highway 11 south of Butte, Highway 57 south of Stanton, and Highway 94 east of Pender.
Kiewit Infrastructure Co. of Omaha has been awarded the contract to repair the bridge across the Niobrara River on Highway 11 south of Butte and began work June 24 with completion expected by Dec. 31.  The project was originally designed and advertised for letting on May 28, but no bids were received. Bridge engineers have continued to evaluate the situation and damage to the bridge. In order to provide a safe, reliable and sustainable solution, the NDOT has altered the design to replace the bridge deck and repair all the damaged steel girders now to avoid future traffic disruptions for additional work in the coming years. Additional considerations to the decision include the timeline of an August opening of the temporary bridge on Highway 281 across the Niobrara River south of Spencer.

* Alumni invited to visit the community calendar page for a list of class activities

(Posted 6:45 a.m. June 28)

KBRB welcomes all alumni back to Ainsworth. Individual class plans can be found on the community events page at www.kbrbradio.com.

All class members are invited to the Ainsworth Elks for their car show and cruise night tonight.

Saturday, all classes are asked to meet at East City Park by 9 a.m. for class photos ahead of the 10 a.m. parade. Temperatures are expected to be extremely hot and humid for the weekend, so plan accordingly for all outdoor activities.
Tours of Ainsworth Community Schools will be held beginning at 5 p.m. Saturday, followed by the alumni banquet at 6:30 p.m. in McAndrew Gymnasium with the meal prepared and served by the Ainsworth Lions Club.

The annual alumni four-person scramble golf tournament begins at 9 a.m. Sunday at the Ainsworth Golf Course.

* Traffic Accident

(Posted 3 p.m. June 27)

The Brown County Sheriff’s Department investigated a vehicle-deer accident that occurred Wednesday, June 26, on Highway 20.
According to the sheriff’s department report, at 8:26 a.m. Wednesday on Highway 20 approximately 5 miles west of Johnstown, a 2013 Dodge, driven by Kacie Kursave, 18, of Cody, was traveling east when the vehicle struck a deer in the roadway.
No persons were injured during the accident. Damage to the Dodge was estimated at $2,500.

* Recent cases from Brown County Court

(Posted 2:15 p.m. June 27)

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

Janeen L. Hintze, age 43, of Eagle Mountain, Utah, charged with speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, fined $25.

Christina L. Fetter, 46, of Springview, speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.

Luis A. Rodriguez, 36, of Ainsworth, no operator’s license, $75.

Amanda L. Johnson, 29, of Mitchell, S.D., violation of a stop or yield sign, $75.

Debra A. Glaser, 61, of Ulen, Minn., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Robert L. Schilling, 27, of Hastings, commercial vehicle marking violation, $50; commercial vehicle invalid operator authorization, $100.

Nicole L. Fankhauser, 34, of Canton, Ohio, speeding 16-20 mph over the limit, $125.

Spencer R. Jeu, 32, of Jonesboro, Ark., speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.

Mara L. Adams, 57, of Kansas City, Mo., speeding 16-20 mph over the limit, $125.

Hannah E. Holloway, 28, of Ainsworth, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Landon J. Welke, 23, of Johnstown, speeding 16-20 mph over the limit, $125.

Grace M. Otis, 19, of Omaha, speeding 21-35 mph over the limit, $200.

James T. Lindahl, 65, of Golden Valley, Minn., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Casey L. McMahon, 28, of Colome, S.D., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Josef Z. Abbo, 51, of Las Vegas, Nev., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Manuel A. Lozano Rivas, 42, of Millbank, S.D., driving left of center, $25.

Kelly A. Winburn, 19, of Ord, possession of marijuana less than 1 ounce, $300; possession of drug paraphernalia, $100.

Steven R. Chance, 60, of Chippewa Falls, Wis., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Aaron D. Jones, 36, of Houston, Texas, three counts of attempting a Class IV felony, fined $1,000 on each count and also ordered to pay a total of $2,501 restitution.

Dallas L. Choat, 41, of Albion, speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.

Ashley C. Martins, 35, of Gordon, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Brent A. Goeken, 38, of Long Pine, second offense driving under the influence of alcohol, $500, also sentenced to 30 days in jail with credit for 17 days served, driver’s license revoked for 18 months, and ordered to install an ignition interlock device.

Jeff Keezer, 48, of Neligh, disturbing the peace, $100 and one day in jail with credit for one day served.

Bobbi J. Matkin, 40, of Boise, Idaho, attempt of a Class IV felony, $1,000; possession or discharge of illegal fireworks, $300.

Bret V. Kynaston, 37, of Boise, Idaho, attempt of a Class IV felony, $1,000; possession or discharge of illegal fireworks, $300.

Sabrina N. Aguilar, 25, of Fargo, N.D., speeding 16-20 mph over the limit, $125.

Jacob R. Ost, 25, of Reynolds, N.D., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Trenton D. Kinney, 38, of Ainsworth, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Ryan L. Farris, 27, of Johnstown, speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75; no operator’s license, $50.

Mickal A. Crisman, 54, of Long Pine, leaving the scene of an accident or failing to furnish information, $50.

Katherine H. Wood, 54, of Lancaster, Calif., speeding 21-35 mph over the limit, $200.

* Fans available in Ainsworth and Valentine for those who qualify

(Posted 6:45 a.m. June 26)

With summer upon us and with temperatures on the rise, the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services is again distributing free fans, and offering other cooling assistance programs, through the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program.

DHHS has partnered with 28 organizations in 42 Nebraska counties to distribute fans purchased with federal funds to Nebraskans in need.

In this area, fans are available from Bright Horizons at 938 E. Zero St. in Ainsworth, from the Northwest Community Action Partnership at 312 E. Third St. in Valentine, and two locations in O’Neill at Bright Horizons and the Central Nebraska Community Action Partnership.

Eligibility is determined by the organizations that hand out the fans. 

Last year, partner organizations distributed 3,321 fans across the state.

DHHS also has other programs to help those who struggle to keep cool during the summer months.

The Cooling Assistance Program provides bill payment aid, the Crisis Program assists with emergency energy payments, Deposit Assistance helps with energy deposits and reconnections, the Window Air Conditioning Unit Assistance program pays for window air conditioners and the Repair/Replacement Program benefits homeowners who need central air system repairs.

The programs are available to Nebraskans who qualify for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, but each also has other eligibility requirements. Qualification guidelines and more information about each of the programs can be found online at ACCESSNebraska.gov, call Access Nebraska at 800-383-4278, or visit a local DHHS office.

* March taxable sales show decline for most counties amid flooding

(Posted 9 a.m. June 25)

Nebraska Department of Revenue
Comparison of March 2019 and March 2018 Net Taxable Sales
for Nebraska Counties and Selected Cities

County
or City

2019
Net Taxable
Sales

2018
Net Taxable
Sales

Percent
Change

2019
Sales Tax
5.5%

2018
Sales Tax
5.5%

Blaine

40,511

40,773

(0.6)

2,228.11

2,242.54

Boyd

988,731

914,279

8.1

54,380.34

50,285.47

Brown

2,495,056

2,649,074

(5.8)

137,228.27

145,699.28

Ainsworth

2,393,612

2,462,609

(2.8)

131,648.84

135,443.68

Cherry

4,505,945

4,763,720

(5.4)

247,827.33

263,528.98

Valentine

4,262,382

4,584,663

(7.0)

234,431.32

253,680.81

Holt

8,138,828

9,367,436

(13.1)

447,636.31

515,209.82

Atkinson

1,190,507

1,312,751

(9.3)

65,478.06

72,201.50

O'Neill

5,886,771

6,774,621

(13.1)

323,772.77

372,604.52

Keya Paha

171,019

165,877

3.1

9,406.07

9,123.28

Rock

472,215

619,000

(23.7)

25,971.87

34,045.06

State Total

$2,631,841,184

$2,574,500,116

2.2

$144,737,240.46

$141,745,127.15

Nebraska Department of Revenue
Comparison of March 2019 and March 2018
Motor Vehicle Sales Tax Collections by County

County
or City

2019
Net Taxable
Sales

2018
Net Taxable
Sales

Percent
Change

2019
Sales Tax
5.5%

2018
Sales Tax
5.5%

Blaine

77,278

144,483

(46.5)

4,199.80

7,937.15

Boyd

205,995

293,608

(29.8)

11,332.42

16,158.67

Brown

702,849

741,446

(5.2)

38,934.60

41,014.50

Cherry

692,571

1,263,857

(45.2)

38,311.21

69,870.54

Holt

2,333,535

2,551,404

(8.5)

129,462.43

141,298.14

Keya Paha

156,189

205,557

(24.0)

8,573.45

11,274.51

Rock

294,253

324,861

(9.4)

16,182.89

17,860.48

Unallocated

5,085,552

3,544,418

43.5

282,229.57

196,649.36

State Total

$339,718,661

$371,610,583

(8.6)

$18,858,966.00

$20,617,901.44

* North Central RC&D continues electronics waste recycling events

(Posted 9 a.m. June 24)

The North Central RC&D is exploring expanding its electronics collection to include Spencer. Because of the bridge challenges, the topic will be brought up again in the fall once routes are determined. O’Neill reported its electronic waste collection gathered 853 pounds. That is a significant drop in volume but the collection was during the flooding. The collection will not be dropped from the schedule. Springview, Bassett and Valentine collected 5,586 pounds in June.
The community of Bassett is exploring ways to begin offering recycling of some of the basic items. This is just in the discovery stage so no announcements have been made.
Kim Burge will explore putting together a tire amnesty grant through the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality. She will confer with Bassett and Atkinson to discuss possible collaboration.
The RC&D reminds area residents they can dispose of tires when new tires are purchased. The RC&D encourages people to take advantage of that opportunity, as stockpiling with no disposal plan creates an unsightly mess and a mosquito hatchery every year. If a grant is awarded to offer a tire amnesty day, it will be with the goal of getting rid of old stockpiles. Due to the extremely high cost of offering such events, there will be fees passed to the owners of the tires.

* Fuchs' residence selected as chamber Yard of the Week

(Posted 6:45 a.m. June 24)

The residence of Phil and Marsha Fuchs on the south side of Ainsworth was selected as the Week 3 winner of the Ainsworth Area Chamber of Commerce Yard of the Week promotion.
The Fuchs’ home at 87697 Highway 7 becomes the third location selected for the Yard of the Week designation.
Nominations are still being accepted for Yard of the Week. Contact the Ainsworth Area Chamber of Commerce to nominate someone to receive the Yard of the Week award.

* Ainsworth Lions Club welcomes 2 new members

(Posted 7:30 a.m. June 21)

The Ainsworth Lions Club welcomed new members Steve and Amy Dike by approving their applications Monday.

Club President Connie Lentz provided a report on the Bike Ride Across Nebraska event, with the riders staying overnight in Ainsworth June 4. The Lions Club served 116 meals, with a number of positive comments received regarding the menu. Nineteen Lions Club members assisted with the project, along with five volunteers.

Roland Paddock reminded the membership the Ainsworth High School Alumni Banquet will be held June 29. He has been working with the various committee chairs in preparation for the event. A worksheet was reviewed, which will be updated and e-mailed to the membership.

Lentz scheduled the Highway 20 cleanup east of Ainsworth for 4 p.m. Sunday, June 23.

Evan Evans told the board he had not heard back from the firm he has been working with regarding the borders around the playground equipment in the city parks. 

A thank you note was received from TeamMates for the Lions Club contribution last month. 

The District 38-I Cabinet meeting was held at Norfolk June 1, with information from the meeting shared with the club. The club reviewed the financial status of the Ainsworth Lions Club 2019-20 Community Service Project Plan. District Governor Delan Reed has advised that additional grant funds may be available to expand the club’s Disaster Relief Project. The club discussed the possible use of additional relief funds, with a decision pending based on the availability of additional information.

The Ainsworth Lions Club is giving consideration to awarding a Melvin Jones Fellowship in the name of a club member who has made significant contributions of time and energy to the Lions Club. Melvin Jones was the founder of the Lions Club in 1917 in Chicago. Previous Melvin Jones Fellowship recipients include Jerry Allen, Don Anderson, Wayne Bauer, Everette Copes, Warren Wulf, and Scott Ritter. After a discussion, it was decided the Board of Directors should meet to consider the identification of a club recipient, with action to be taken during the August Lions Club meeting.

* Burkinshaw pleads no contest to second degree assault charge Tuesday

(Posted 6:30 a.m. June 20)

During District Court proceedings Tuesday, Scott Burkinshaw, 33, of Ainsworth, entered a plea of no contest to a second degree assault charge stemming from an incident that occurred last year.
Burkinshaw was charged with the Class IIA felony after John Clark, 28, of Ainsworth was assaulted June 10, 2018. Clark suffered severe injuries and was hospitalized for an extended period.
Burkinshaw entered the no contest plea Tuesday in District Court at Ord. He will be sentenced at 11:30 a.m. Sept. 4 in Brown County District Court.

* Area students named to spring semester Deans' List at UN-L

(Posted 6:30 a.m. June 20)

More than 5,100 University of Nebraska–Lincoln students have been named to the Deans' List of Distinguished Students for the spring semester of the 2018-19 academic year.

Qualification for the Deans' List students varies among the eight undergraduate colleges.

Area students named to the spring Deans’ List at UN-L include:

 

Ainsworth

Jack Arens, junior, College of Engineering, computer engineering.

Colin Dike, junior, College of Education and Human Sciences, special education (7-12) and speech (7-12).

Austin Harthoorn, senior, College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, agricultural economics.

Jacob Wilkins, senior, College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, agricultural education.

 

Springview

Buck Cronk, senior, College of Arts and Sciences, computer science.

 

Stuart

Peyton Alder, freshman, College of Arts and Sciences, biological sciences and psychology.

Alison Stracke, junior, College of Arts and Sciences, biochemistry.

 

Atkinson

Alex Fritz, senior, College of Engineering, electrical engineering.

Jake Judge, junior, College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, mechanized systems management.

 

Valentine

Macey Mathis, senior, College of Education and Human Sciences, communication sciences and disorders.

* Second degree murder charge filed Tuesday against rural Long Pine man

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

A second-degree murder charge was filed Tuesday in Brown County Court against a 26-year-old rural Long Pine man accused in the killing of an 18-year-old man.

Brown County Attorney Andy Taylor reported Nathan Yankowski was charged with committing murder in the second degree, with a second charge of making terroristic threats in the death of Logan Maring, 18, of Merna.

The charges stem from an incident that occurred May 22 at 88503 U.S. Highway 183 northwest of Long Pine. Brown County Sheriff Bruce Papstein reported the sheriff’s department received a call at 4:56 p.m. May 22 of a subject suffering a gunshot wound at that location.

Upon arrival, the sheriff’s department and Brown County Ambulance Association found Maring had suffered a gunshot wound to the head. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

Yankowski was arrested at the scene and initially faced charges of involuntary manslaughter and second-degree assault. Those charges were replaced in Brown County Court Tuesday with the second degree murder and terroristic threats charges. Second degree murder is a Class 1B felony with a minimum penalty of 20 years in prison and a maximum life sentence. The terrorist threats charge is a Class 3A felony with a maximum penalty three years in prison.

Yankowski was arraigned Wednesday in Brown County Court. A preliminary hearing has been set for 1 p.m. July 17. Yankowski is free after posting bond.

* Traffic Accident

(Posted 2:15 p.m. June 19)

The Brown County Sheriff’s Department investigated a vehicle-deer accident that occurred Sunday, June 9, west of Johnstown.
According to the sheriff’s department report, at 10 p.m. Sunday on Highway 20 approximately 5 miles west of Johnstown, a 2001 Ford pickup, driven by Monte Goshorn, 61, of Ainsworth, was traveling east when the vehicle struck a deer in the roadway.
No persons were injured during the accident. The Ford was considered a total loss.

* Brewer talks successes and failures of legislative session

(Posted 7:30 a.m. June 19)

Nebraska 43rd District State Sen. Tom Brewer visited with KBRB's Graig Kinze, providing his thoughts on the recently completed session of the Nebraska Legislature. Brewer discussed his vote against the mainline budget bill, as well as the failure to change the state aid to education formula and the inability of the Legislature to agree on a structure to reduce property tax burdens.
He also talked about some of the 14 bills he authored that were approved during the session.
To hear the report, click on the audio links below.

audio clips/State Sen Tom Brewer school aid-property tax 6-18.mp3

audio clips/State Sen Tom Brewer 2019 session bills 6-18.mp3

* Commissioners rescind previous vote to provide 3-cent rural fire levy for 3 years

(Posted 7 a.m. June 19)

The Brown County Commissioners Tuesday rescinded a previous vote to set the Brown County Rural Fire District levy at 3 cents per $100 in valuation for the next three years, opting instead to set the 3-cent levy for the 2019-20 year only and cap the maximum levy over the next three years at 3 cents.

Commissioner Reagan Wiebelhaus said it was the fire chiefs’ understanding that the levy had to be set for a three-year period to receive MFO funds from the state.

“I don’t believe that is the case,” Wiebelhaus said.

Brown County Attorney Andy Taylor said the new law passed by the Legislature requires counties to set a maximum levy over a three-year period, but that maximum amount only has to be levied once during that three-year time frame.

Wiebelhaus said he planned to keep the levy at 3 cents for the upcoming year, but wanted the option to revisit the levy the next two years.

By a 2-0 vote with Commissioner Buddy Small absent during that portion of Tuesday’s meeting, the board approved rescinding its previous action to set the rural fire district levy at 3 cents for the next three years.

The board then voted to set the levy at 3 cents for the 2019-20 fiscal year, and set a maximum levy of 3 cents for the two subsequent years, giving the county the option to decrease the levy if the board chooses. The board also approved an interlocal agreement with the city of Ainsworth for the next three years for MFO funding.

In other business Tuesday, Zoning Administrator Tom Jones provided the commissioners with a recommendation from the Planning Commission to place an 18-month moratorium on the development of wind towers producing more than 100 kilowatts of electricity in the county.

Jones said there were no public comments during a June 13 Planning Commission hearing. By a 6-0 vote, Jones said the commission voted to recommend the 18-month moratorium due to a lack of zoning regulations relating to wind towers.

The commissioners will now schedule a public hearing before voting on the recommended moratorium.

Jones said the company that originally crafted the county’s comprehensive plan, Hanna Keelan of Lincoln, would be willing to assist the county in updating the plan at a reduced cost of $16,000.

“I told him there were some larger issues we wanted to address in the plan, and he said it wouldn’t be a problem,” Jones said. “They have done plans for 38 of the 93 counties, and they are giving us a price break since they did our initial plan.”

Jones said a Hanna Keelan representative would meet with the Planning Commission in July.

County Clerk Travee Hobbs reported she is still trying to get quotes from companies to conduct the annual county audit.

Hobbs said Dana F. Cole was not interested in conducting the county audit, but firms out of Omaha and Grand Island were looking at the county’s request and would decide whether to submit a proposal.

The board approved an appraisal contract with Stanard Appraisal of Lincoln to conduct appraisals on feed lots in the county and cabins at Clear Lake. Assessor Terri Van Houten said her staff would reappraise Long Pine and Johnstown residences as well as rural residences in the county this year. She said cabins at Hidden Paradise will be reappraised next year instead of this year due to the recent flooding in that area.

In roads items Tuesday, the commissioners discussed whether to allow non-county employees to repair and maintain county roads. The issue relates to people in the county using county-owned drags on roads near their properties as well as some non-county employees who clear snow on portions of county roads near their property.

Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin said Tim Baxter with NIRMA recommended an agreement for general maintenance and snow removal that would need to be signed by anyone who drags a road or removes snow.

Commissioner Denny Bauer said it was his understanding that those volunteers would be covered by the county’s liability insurance if they are working on county roads.

“If we have a claim against us for negligence, our insurance will cover us but then our rates will go up,” Bauer said.

Taylor said NIRMA frowns on counties allowing volunteers to work on roads, and the insurance rates would definitely go up if there was an accident.

Small, who had been out working with a contractor on a potential bridge project in the county, arrived for the second half of Tuesday’s meeting and said any volunteer working on a county road would need to be recognized by the highway superintendent and the commissioners first.

Bauer said those volunteers would be required to sign the agreement recommended by Baxter and would work under Turpin’s supervision. He said they would lose the ability to work on the roads if they violate any of the eight items laid out in the agreement.

Bauer said it might take another meeting or two to get the agreement finalized.

“I want to get it ironed out and get it right,” Bauer said. “I don’t want to cost the county a million dollars in a lawsuit. If the volunteers sign the agreement and are covered by insurance, then I am agreeable to it.”

The board agreed to finalize the agreement through a resolution during its July 16 meeting.

In other roads items, Turpin reported Moon Lake Avenue is now able to be traveled again.

“It is all out of the water,” Turpin said.

He said Raven Road was also out of the water. Turpin reported county crews have worked on the Meadville Avenue detour road, fixing a water line and hauling in rock.

“That will continue to be a work in progress,” Turpin said.

The highway superintendent said crews fixed a culvert on a road from Richardson Road to Seidels, and are now working on 427th Avenue, which he said remains under water.

Audience member Tyler Johnson asked Turpin about a stretch of Rauscher Avenue that has washed due to flooding. Turpin said it was on the county’s one- and six-year road improvement plan to add a culvert in that location.

“That was a project we had planned to get to this spring before the flooding hit,” Turpin said. “There is a fiber optic line there that will be a chore to work around.”

The commissioners discussed the water running across the Elsmere Road, and the possibility of raising the road in the two low spots where water is currently over the road.

Turpin said the water continues to rise at that location, and was now 18 inches deep over the Elsmere Road.

“If the dyke there washes out, there will probably be 6 feet of water over the road,” he said. “Buddy visited with Paul Keiper with NDOT since that is a federal route. They are going to come look at it.”

Turpin said Small had also visited with neighboring property owners, who appeared willing to work with the roads department to get the road raised.

Wiebelhaus asked if that would be a project for after the water recedes. Turpin said the roads crew could work on it while the water is high.

“I think we would also add a culvert there to equalize the water,” the highway superintendent said. “It is going to be quite a project. It might take three or four weeks to get it done, but then we won’t have this issue again.”

Bauer said, if the county can receive federal aid money, it should move forward and get the road raised. The Elsmere Road is currently closed in that location.

North Central Development Center executive committee members Kim Buckley and Graig Kinzie provided the commissioners with an update on the NCDC.

Buckley, chairman of the NCDC Board, told the commissioners the board updated its job description and is now advertising for an executive director. Buckley said the NCDC building on Main Street was under contract to be sold, and the NCDC would rent office space going forward.

Kinzie told the commissioners, part of the job description the NCDC Board created included having the executive director provide quarterly updates on NCDC activities to all contributing partners.

All three commissioners indicated they would be willing to continue support for the NCDC at some level during the 2019-20 budget.

In final action items Tuesday, the commissioners reappointed Brent Johnson to another five-year term on the Brown County Veterans Service Committee.

The board also discussed entering into an interlocal agreement with Rock County to have the Brown County veterans service officer provide services to Rock County. Taylor said the current contract with Rock County was only for three months and would expire soon.

“They are interested in joining the year-to-year contract like we have with Keya Paha County,” Taylor said.

Taylor will provide the commissioners with an agreement to consider during the board’s next meeting.

Treasurer Deb Vonheeder presented the board with her annual public tax sale report. Vonheeder reported the delinquent property taxes on 31 parcels were purchased, with the county collecting $59,662. Those purchasing the delinquent taxes either receive 14 percent interest when the property owner pays the tax, or may eventually file a lien against the property if the taxes are not paid.

The commissioners approved a budgeted transfer of $250,000 from the miscellaneous general fund to the county highway fund, and approved a $400 transfer from the miscellaneous general fund to the county commissioner budget.

During a Board of Equalization meeting prior to Tuesday’s regular meeting, the commissioners set property valuation protest hearings for 7 p.m. July 2 and July 16, and 9 a.m. July 15 and July 22.

The next meeting of the Brown County Commissioners is scheduled for 5:15 p.m. July 2.

* Rock County Commissioners approve study to potentially vacate street

(Posted 2:45 p.m. June 18)

The Rock County Commissioners on Tuesday approved a resolution to conduct a study on the possible vacation of a street between block three and block four, and between block four and block five of the Swanson Subdivision, which is part of the west half of the northeast quarter of Section 15, Township 30 North, Range 19 West.

Following the study and recommendation from the highway superintendent, the commissioners will hold a public hearing and make a decision on vacating the street.

In other business Tuesday, the commissioners approved Rock County’s portion of the 2019-20 BKR Extension budget as presented by Extension Educator Chandra Giles. Rock County’s portion of the budget amounts to $25,740.

The board approved a disaster declaration for the county for both May and June as presented by Region 24 Emergency Manager Doug Fox. The commissioners discussed water issues in southeastern Rock County with Highway Superintendent Lloyd Smith and Roads Foreman Darrell Olson. Prior to Tuesday’s regular meeting, the commissioners also convened at the county roads shop to discuss roads issues with Olson and roads department employees.

In a final action item Tuesday, the board approved a special designated liquor license application for the Rock County Agricultural Society to serve alcohol during the Rock County Fair Aug. 2-3.

The next meeting of the Rock County Commissioners is scheduled for 9 a.m. June 28.

* Schilousky residence chosen as Yard of the Week winner

(Posted 6:45 a.m. June 17)

The yard of Don and Dianna Schilousky at 449 N. Maple St. was selected as the Week 2 winner of the Ainsworth Area Chamber of Commerce Yard of the Week contest.
Weekly during the summer months, the Ainsworth Area Chamber of Commerce recognizes residents and businesses who put work into their yards to help beautify the area.
To nominate someone for consideration for Yard of the Week, contact the Ainsworth Area Chamber of Commerce.

* Area students selected to participate in Nebraska Agricultural Youth Institute

(Posted 6:45 a.m. June 14)

More than 200 high school juniors and seniors, sharing an interest in agriculture, will gather at Lincoln in July to develop leadership skills, explore career opportunities and learn more about the state’s number one industry.

The Nebraska Agricultural Youth Institute is the longest running program of its kind in the nation. Sponsored in part by the Nebraska Department of Agriculture, the institute will be held July 8-12 at Lincoln on the University of Nebraska’s East Campus.

Among the students selected to participate are Sam Wilkins of Ainsworth, Trey Schlueter of Wood Lake, Brody Benson of Valentine and Kenna Rogers of Dunning.

“The Nebraska Agricultural Youth Institute is one of the best ways for students to learn more about Nebraska’s diverse agriculture and the hard-working people who help make our ag industry great,” NDA Director Steve Wellman said.

During the institute’s five-day program, delegates participate in agriculture policy and group discussions, farm management activities, and a variety of networking opportunities with peers and industry leaders. Learning about various career options is another important part of NAYI as a quarter of the jobs in Nebraska are related to agriculture.

“Career development at the institute helps students realize that there are many ag-related jobs available including those in science, finance, marketing and sales, technology and equipment repair,” Wellman said. “Agriculture is expanding, and Nebraska needs new and talented people to step up and be a part of the ag industry’s next generation of workers.”

Since its start, the institute has shared the importance of agriculture with nearly 6,400 youth from across the state. Delegates apply for and are selected to attend free of charge due to numerous donations from agricultural businesses, commodity groups and industry organizations.

“Generous contributions from sponsors help make NAYI a strong foundation for the youth of Nebraska and the future of our farming, ranching and ag-related industries,” Wellman said.

Events and additional youth learning opportunities throughout the year are organized by the Nebraska Agricultural Youth Council. The 21 college students who serve on the council are chosen by the Department of Agriculture to share their passion and knowledge about agriculture with young people across Nebraska.

During the institute, youth council members provide valuable insight and advice about agriculture, college coursework and career building.

* Sheriff's department issues 18 citations during 'Click It or Ticket' campaign

(Posted 1 p.m. June 13)

Through funding provided by the Nebraska Office of Highway Safety, the Brown County Sheriff’s Department participated in the “Click It or Ticket” nationwide enforcement May 20 through June 2. The campaign is designed to increase public awareness and make roadways safer by encouraging the use of seat belts.

The sheriff’s department joined law enforcement officers nationwide in strongly enforcing all seat belt laws. The sheriff’s department used regular enforcement, saturation patrols and an enforcement zone during the campaign.

Two deputies worked a total of 18.5 hours of overtime. During the enforcement, the sheriff’s department issued 12 citations on speeding charges and arrested two motorists on charges of driving under the influence. One motorist was arrested on a possession of a controlled substance charge, and one was arrested on a charge of driving under suspension. A total of 18 citations and 22 warnings were issued during the enforcement period.

Brown County Sheriff Bruce Papstein thanks everyone for doing their part to make roadways safer by always wearing a seat belt and making sure everyone under the age of 18 is buckled up at all times.

* Ricketts discusses continued disaster relief efforts, legislative session

(Posted 2:30 p.m. June 12)

Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts Wednesday visited with KBRB's Graig Kinzie on the state's ongoing efforts to recover from the March and subsequent flooding, including the Nebraska Department of Transportation's efforts to quicken the bid-letting process to get projects completed on a faster timeline. He also discussed $25 million in funding the state is making available to counties to assist in immediate road and bridge repair efforts.
Ricketts also discussed the recently completed legislative session, including additional funds being added to the property tax credit relief fund. He also touched on the inability of the Legislature to make structural changes to the school aid formula or the way agricultural land is valued.
To hear the complete report with the governor, click on the audio links below.

audio clips/Gov Pete Ricketts 6-12 disaster relief.MP3

audio clips/Gov Pete Ricketts 6-12 legislative session.MP3

* Care Center Board approves purchase of second lift and 3 new computers

(Posted 9 a.m. June 11)

The Sandhills Care Center Board of Directors Monday approved the purchase of a second lift for the nursing department, and the replacement of three computers for the nursing department and business office.

Administrator Stephanie Rucker presented the board with quotes from Three River and from Simple Solutions of Long Pine to replace the facility’s aging computers. She said Phil Brown with Simple Solutions offered to sell the facility the computers at cost.

Rucker said there were nine desktop computers and four laptops in the facility that would eventually need to be upgraded. She said the board didn’t need to replace the computers all at once, and recommended replacing two desktops for the nursing station and one laptop for the business office to start, as those were the facility’s most critical.

The board approved replacing two nursing station desktop computers at a cost of $801 each, and purchasing a laptop for the business office at a cost of $739, with the computers coming from Simple Solutions.

The board also approved the purchase of a second lift for the nursing department.

Rucker thanked the board for previously purchasing one new lift, which she said was working well. She said the second lift would replace one that could fail at any time. She said she would fill out an application to the Ainsworth Betterment Committee to fund a third lift, giving each wing of the nursing home a lift to use to help residents who need assistance.

The board approved the $2,217 purchase.

The care center’s May financials showed revenue of $151,764, with expenses of $121,578 for a monthly profit of $30,185.

Rucker reported agency nursing costs for May were down, but unfortunately, those costs would likely rise in June.

“We admitted two residents today, so we are going to need additional CNAs,” Rucker told the board. “We hired one a month ago, but that person was a no-show all weekend when they were scheduled to work so we had to let them go.”

Board member Leanne Maxwell asked if the board needed to look at the wages for CNAs to attract new applicants. Rucker said the facility increased CNA wages six months ago to $14 per hour to start. She said she believed some of the issues were due simply to a lack of work ethic, and she wished those people realized how crucial their roles were to the residents when they are hired.

She said one current care center employee was taking a class to become a CNA, and there were four other students taking the class being held at Bassett. She said she wasn’t sure the care center would be able to entice those students to become CNAs in the Sandhills Care Center, as the Rock County Long Term Care is actively recruiting those students as well.

Rucker said Sun Wong, the new international nurse, was doing a fantastic job and was taking extra shifts. She said the international nurse was doing so well that she would like to work with the company to see if there was the potential to place a second international nurse in the facility.

Rucker reported the Sandhills Care Center discharged one resident home in May and had no admissions during the month, but the two new residents on Monday brought the facility to 25 residents. Twelve of those residents pay privately, 12 receive Medicaid assistance, and one is receiving hospice care.

Rucker told the board the facility’s Medicaid reimbursement rate for 2019-20 was increasing by 5 percent, which was welcome news.

The board again discussed replacing the concrete on the east side of the facility.

Board member Chuck Osborn said he measured the driveway following the May board meeting, and it would likely cost around $20,000 to replace the entire driveway.

“Matt Moody would potentially be willing to use his backhoe to remove the current driveway,” Osborn said.

Board member Buddy Small said the county roads department would remove the concrete from the site after it is dug out.

“It is a pretty big expense,” Small said of replacing the entire driveway.

Rucker said the driveway potentially posed a big liability issue for the facility if someone were to fall.

Small agreed, saying, “That is a good point. If someone takes a dive, it will be a big liability.”

Board member Henry Beel said his biggest concern was the uneven concrete in front of the facility’s main entryway.

Osborn recommended replacing the north half of the driveway and the entry way first, then replacing the eastern portion of the semi-circle drive at a later date as that portion wasn’t in as bad a shape as the north part of the driveway.

Osborn agreed to put together specs to have the north half of the driveway and the entryway replaced, with Rucker then using that information to solicit bids from local contractors.

Rucker reported the fence on the northwest side of the facility had been removed, and she had already received compliments about how removing the fence opened up the area.

Maxwell said the facilities and grounds look very nice.

The next meeting of the Sandhills Care Center Board of Directors is scheduled for 4 p.m. July 8.

* Peterson attends final School Board meeting as ACS superintendent

(Posted 7 a.m. June 11)

Longtime Ainsworth Community Schools Superintendent Darrell Peterson participated in his final meeting with the Board of Education Monday, thanking the board members he worked with over the years for their dedication to the school and to the community.

“Thanks to all of you,” the retiring superintendent said. “I appreciate all you have done for me. Often, school boards drive superintendents away. You have always let me do my job, but you have had the oversight to take a look at things when they needed to be.”

Incoming Superintendent Dale Hafer said Peterson has been very accommodating in this transition period.

“Darrell has been very helpful as we make the transition,” Hafer said. “It has been very positive, and I am appreciative.”

The board thanked Peterson for his years of service leading Ainsworth Community Schools.

In business items Monday, the board approved a contract with Educational Service Unit 17 for special education and school nursing services. Peterson said the $644,479 contract is about $12,000 lower than the 2018-19 school year, and the contract for health services is $23,215, which is $8,635 lower than the previous year.

Board member Brad Wilkins asked if the school was receiving the same services in the past since the rate was lower. Peterson said the services were the same, the decrease was due to staffing costs for the ESU being a little lower for the 2019-20 year.

The board also approved a contract with Educational Service Unit 10 for deaf education services. Peterson said the school’s previous deaf education service provider came from the Neligh area, so approving a contract with ESU 10 will have the provider coming from the Sandhills-Thedford area, which should save the district some money. The contract is paid on an hourly basis when services are needed.

The board held public hearings Monday on the district’s student fee policy and its parent involvement policy. There were no public comments during either hearing.

Peterson said 154 students were provided waivers from paying any student fees during the 2018-19 school year.

Those fees cover participating in extra-curricular activities, admission for extra-curricular activities, the breakfast and lunch programs, and other items.

The 2018-19 student fee report showed 220 Ainsworth Community Schools students paying full price for lunch, with 37 students receiving a reduced-price rate and 145 students receiving free meals based off family income.

The board performed its annual review of the school’s bomb threat policy, and its anti-bullying policy. No changes were recommended for either policy.

The board approved the first reading of numerous school policies Monday. One updates the school’s tobacco prohibition policy to include language approved by the Legislature to add the use of electronic nicotine delivery systems to the prohibited forms of tobacco products.

That language was also included in policies approved relating to the district’s substance abuse and activity suspension policy, and its offenses and penalties policy.

The board approved the first reading of a policy relating to a procurement plan for school food authorities. Peterson said the policy was updated to meet federal government requirements. He said Lunchtime Solutions, the company contracted by the district to prepare and serve the school’s meals, is responsible for ensuring the guidelines are followed.

The board approved the first readings of policies relating to admission requirements, wage information, military recruiters, and standing and temporary committees.

The board also approved the first reading of a policy regarding the district’s curriculum assessment. Peterson said the state testing materials will change from the previous NeSA tests to the Nebraska Student Centered Assessment System for the 2019-20 year.

The board tabled action on a policy regarding the district’s purchasing policies to allow language to be updated.

During his report, Peterson told the board the district was in need of custodians, so if board members knew anyone who might be interested to please let them know there were positions available.

The next meeting of the Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education was pushed to the third Monday of July, the 15th, at 8 p.m.

* Hospital receives first Yard of the Week recognition from the Chamber of Commerce

(Posted 3 p.m. June 10)

The Brown County Hospital was the recipient of the first Ainsworth Area Chamber of Commerce Yard of the Week promotion of the summer. The Ainsworth Area Chamber of Commerce is accepting nominations for Yard of the Week. Anyone may nominate someone in Brown County for Yard of the Week consideration.

* Northeast Community College names honor students for spring semester

(Posted 1:45 p.m. June 7)

Northeast Community College announced the President's Honor List and Deans' Honor List for both full-time and part-time students for the spring 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 named to 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.

From this area, students recognized include:

 

President’s Full-time Student Honor List

Ainsworth - Lisa Ludemann

Newport - Brook Doke

Atkinson - Miranda Bendig, Preston Dickau, Jeffrey Mathis, Jason Seger

Spencer - Joseph Hiatt

 

Deans’ Full-time Student Honor List

Ainsworth - Breanna Schwindt

Long Pine - Sabrina Hempel

Bassett - Alicia DeBolt

Newport - Whitten Giles

Stuart - Taylor Kubik, Cassie Miksch

Naper - Blake Ahlers

Valentine - Caven Belville

 

President’s Part-time Student Honor List

Ainsworth - Megan Appelt, Amy Dike, Rhion Irwin, Rebecca Taylor, Jenna Williams

Johnstown - Henry Beel

Long Pine - Byron Pfister

Bassett - Trace Ebert

Newport - Jayden Stewart

Naper - Austin Koenig

Butte - Sydney Atkinson, Jacey Hilkemann, Cory Lechtenberg, Evan Reiman, Melissa Sextro

Spencer - Carmalita Bentz, Jared Koenig, Elsie Magwire, Shay Nelson, Kody Roth, Emma Stahlecker

 

Deans’ Part-time Student Honor List

Ainsworth - Sonya Shurter

Wood Lake - Trevyin Schlueter

Bassett - Brodee Fleming

Atkinson - Casey Coburn, Linda Shaw

Spencer - Amanda Horn

* County assessor discusses Ainsworth residential valuations, flood-damaged property

(Posted 3:15 p.m. June 6)

Brown County Assessor Terri Van Houten discussed the property valuation change notices that were recently mailed to property owners in the county. She explained the substantial increase some Ainsworth homeowners experienced in their 2019 valuation, and also discussed a procedure for reporting flood-damaged property following the passage of a property tax relief bill by the Nebraska Legislature for property owners impacted by flooding.
To hear the report, click on the audio link below.

audio clips/County Assessor - Property valuations.MP3

* Traffic Accident

(Posted 3:15 p.m. June 6)

The Brown County Sheriff’s Department investigated a two-vehicle accident that occurred May 31 in Ainsworth.
According to the sheriff’s department report, at 5:45 p.m. May 31 at the Bomgaar’s parking lot, a 1997 Ford F-250 pickup, driven by Russell Eggleston, 57, of Ainsworth, was pulling a trailer when the trailer struck a parked 2007 Chevy pickup, owned by Dale Painter of Ainsworth.
No injuries were reported. Damage to the trailer was estimated at $1,000. The Chevy sustained approximately $1,000 damage.

* City working to patch holes on streets, document damage for FEMA reimbursement

(Posted 7 a.m. June 6)

City Administrator Lisa Schroedl told the Ainsworth City Council Wednesday streets crews have been patching small holes with cold mix, and hoped to begin tackling larger repair projects beginning next week.

Schroedl said FEMA will not send a site inspector to Ainsworth, so it was critical for the city to have all its documentation in order before beginning projects.

“We have been working on dimensions and GPS coordinates,” Schroedl said. “We are hoping to get all that completed this week.”

City Councilman Brad Fiala asked Schroedl if she had any idea how much total street damage the city sustained. Schroedl said Streets Superintendent Lloyd Smith was working to compile a total damage estimate.

“We are trying to make progress,” Schroedl said. “We just want to make sure we get the 75 percent reimbursement from FEMA.”

Councilman Greg Soles said there are six locations the streets department has to maintain on a weekly basis.

Schroedl said some smaller holes have been patched, but the Herrington Street project and a stretch on Third Street near the Oak Street intersection will likely have to be contracted projects.

She said she recently attended training on FEMA procurement requirements to make sure the city has all the proper documentation needed to secure the reimbursement dollars.

In other business Wednesday, the council revisited a nuisance abatement issue on a property in Ainsworth issued in August that was granted an extension by the council in October.

Schroedl said extensive cleanup had been completed on the property at 355 S. Woodward St., but there were still a lot of items at the site.

Soles said, driving by the property, it looked like the city was right back in the same position.

“I think we need to issue another notice,” Soles said.

Schroedl said the issue regarding the vehicle discussed in October had been cleaned up.

“He has made an effort,” Schroedl said. “He hauled out six loads to the dump.”

Fiala said there were now additional vehicles and a trailer on the property that don’t appear to be licensed.

Schroedl said the nuisance abatement process would have to start over if additional items not addressed in October were found.

“This is how nuisance abatement goes,” the city administrator said. “It is a constant process.”

Soles said the sheriff’s department needed to continue to monitor the city and issue notices to clear observed nuisances.

Schroedl said the sheriff’s department keeps an eye on things, and also investigates any complaints that come in from the public.

By a 3-0 vote with Councilman Schuyler Schenk absent, the council approved clearing the 355 S. Woodward St. property from the nuisances discussed during October. The council also indicated it would encourage the city’s Board of Health to meet and inspect properties for potential nuisance violations.

Schroedl also reported the city had posted 26 notices to mow. If the properties are not mowed within five days of the notice being posted, it is referred to the sheriff’s department for a citation to be issued.

The council discussed proposals regarding an expansion to the city streets shop on First Street. Schroedl said she had received a third proposal, but the price quotes varied substantially.

Soles questioned whether the proposed expansion was sufficient to handle the streets department’s space needs.

“I don’t want to short us,” Soles said. “If we are going to spend the money, let’s get this done the way we want it done.”

Fiala said the city needed to move forward and get something done.

“We have some expensive equipment,” Fiala said. “If we decide we want to add even another 25 feet to this, it would be cheaper to do it now. We need to get this done before winter.”

Soles and Fiala agreed to meet with Streets Foreman Monte Goshorn to discuss the design aspects of the streets shop addition, and work to get a new set of project specifications designed so all bidders would be submitting quotes on the same project.

The council approved $200,000 in interim financing related to the approved sewer improvement project.

Schroedl said the city had paid about $150,000 in expenses so far.

“We have been floating all the engineering bills,” the city administrator said. “The sewer fund is pretty cash poor. This is all part of the total project, and allows us to pay ourselves back for what has been spent.”

Schroedl said she hoped to go out for bids this fall and begin construction next spring. The project includes cure-in-place pipe for several sewer lines in the city, as well as the replacement of all water meters in the city.

During a public hearing Wednesday, the council received the six-month report from the LB 840 Citizens Advisory Review Committee.

Review committee member Chris Raymond said it had been a volatile year for the LB 840 program, but things were getting back on the right track.

“There is only one active loan right now,” Raymond said. “There is a new contract with the NCDC in place.”

He said the review committee amended the LB 840 plan based on recommendations from attorney Rick Ediger, and was still working on a few items.

“We will work to make sure we don’t have any future audit issues,” Raymond said.

Following a second public hearing, the council approved an application for a Community Development Block Grant in the amount of $19,717 to complete an update to the city’s comprehensive plan and housing study.

Schroedl said Miller and Associates of Kearney is assisting the city to update the comprehensive plan. She said the city was awarded CDBG funding for part of the cost, and received NIFA funds for the remaining portion so the cost to the city to update the plan was virtually nothing.

“The updated plan will go to the Planning Commission for review, and then to the council,” Schroedl said.

The council also discussed an amendment to an interlocal agreement between the city and the Brown County Rural Fire Protection District regarding a Mutual Finance Organization agreement.

Schroedl said the city and rural fire district have an interlocal agreement for Mutual Finance Organization funds, which are awarded to fire departments by the state. She said funds are awarded based on the rural fire district’s levy.

She said the interlocal agreement has been based on the rural fire district receiving a 3-1/2 cent county property tax levy.

“The county set the levy for the rural fire district at 2-1/2 cents last year, and that put the agreement submitted to the state out of compliance,” Schroedl said.

She said the amended agreement reflects a 3-cent levy instead of 3-1/2 cents. That would result in about $1,500 less in MFO money coming from the state.

Fiala said the MFO money used to be much more substantial, but the payments to fire departments from the fund have dropped over the years. Fiala said the law changed, so the levy has to be locked in for three years instead of approving the levy every year.

The Brown County Commissioners Tuesday approved a 3-cent levy for the rural fire district for the next three years, and the council approved an amended interlocal agreement that reflected the 3-cent county levy.

In a final action item Wednesday, the council approved Mayor Jeremiah Sullivan’s recommendation to reappoint Phil Fuchs, Chuck Osborn and Leanne Maxwell to additional one-year terms on the Sandhills Care Center Board of Directors.

Sullivan also praised the community for its support of the BRAN riders who stayed in Ainsworth Tuesday.

“The riders said it was a great stop,” Sullivan said. “I thank everyone for their assistance.”

Fiala said JC Clopton, who takes care of East City Park, did an excellent job getting the park ready for the riders and helping people when they arrived.

The consent agenda approved on Wednesday included allowing the Ainsworth American Legion Auxiliary to close Main Street from Second Street to the Courthouse Park from 1 until 3 p.m. Sept. 21 for a parade to dedicate the Brown County Veterans Memorial, and allowing the Ainsworth Volunteer Fire Department to close Third Street between Main and Walnut streets from noon July 20 to 1 a.m. July 21 for an event.

The consent agenda also included recommended approval of special designated liquor licenses for the Elks Lodge for an event July 20, and for the Silver Circle for an event Aug. 24.

The next meeting of the Ainsworth City Council is scheduled for 5 p.m. July 10.

* Sheriff's department seeking information regarding recent theft

(Posted 6 a.m. June 6)

The Brown County Sheriff’s Department is seeking information regarding a recent theft in Ainsworth.
Sometime between March 25 and March 30, someone stole two ground-level window awnings from a residence in the 200 block of East Fifth Street. On Jan. 4, the upstairs level window awning had also gone missing from the residence.
Anyone with information on who may be 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. All callers remain anonymous, and information leading to an arrest and conviction related to this, or any, crime, could result in a cash reward.

* Traffic Accident

(Posted 3:30 p.m. June 5)

The Brown County Sheriff’s Department investigated a one-vehicle accident that occurred Monday, June 3, in Ainsworth.
According to the sheriff’s department report, at 11:03 a.m. Monday at the Ainsworth Conference Center north parking lot, a 2001 Mercury sedan, driven by Shirley M. Lentz, 83, of Ainsworth, was pulling up to park near the conference center when the vehicle surged forward and struck a railing near the building.
No injuries were reported. Damage to the Mercury was estimated at $1,000. The hand railing, owned by the city of Ainsworth, sustained approximately $500 damage.

* Commissioners opt to close the Elsmere Road due to water running across

(Posted 7 a.m. June 5)

The Brown County Commissioners Tuesday opted to close the Elsmere Road due to liability concerns with a stretch of the road covered by water.

Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin reported there was approximately 4 inches of water over the Elsmere Road in one stretch, and if a water control structure fails there could be 4 to 6 feet of water that inundates the Elsmere Road.

“We are monitoring that stretch daily,” Turpin told the commissioners. “We have barricades there now so people are warned.”

County Attorney Andy Taylor said the county opens itself up to liability issues by keeping a road open with water running across it.

“The statute says you may close the road, but it doesn’t say you have to,” Taylor said. “You accept liability if you keep it open. If you close it and people drive it anyway, then you are not liable.”

Turpin said, if the road is closed, some people don’t have a feasible way out, as there are also stretches of Moon Lake Avenue with 18 inches of water over the road, and Moon Lake Avenue is closed through that area.

Commissioner Denny Bauer said the state of Nebraska has signs up for areas where there is water over the highway but the state allows people to drive through.

Commissioner Buddy Small asked Turpin how long it would take to get something done on Moon Lake Avenue, with Turpin responding it would likely take at least a couple weeks.

Commissioner Reagan Wiebelhaus said he would like to see the board close the road and put up light barricades.

“If someone would get injured, we will get hit,” Wiebelhaus said.

The board agreed to have Turpin close the Elsmere Road to traffic until the water subsides.

In other roads items Tuesday, Turpin reported he believed it was safe enough to reopen Meadville Avenue on the hill south of the Niobrara River.

“The hill is still moving, but not much,” the highway superintendent said. “It is narrow through there, but we have flags up.”

Turpin said the roads department was able to get Southwest Road passable so people in that area are now able to get in and out of their properties again.

He said the department did some digging on South Pine Avenue east of the Y and cleaned out some culverts, which is allowing water in that area to drain.

Turpin said 427th Avenue is now open as well.

Turpin said the roads department plans to begin patching holes on Meadville Avenue one mile at a time, and will work on a water line on 430th Avenue, which is on the Meadville Avenue detour route around the closed Sand Draw Creek box culvert.

Regarding the Sand Draw Creek box culvert, the board on Tuesday approved having Small sign a program agreement between the county and the Nebraska Department of Transportation to replace the box culvert.

In reviewing the agreement, Taylor said federal funds will pay for 80 percent of the cost of replacing the box culvert.

“The state will serve as the intermediary for the federal funds,” Taylor said.

The box culvert site has been closed to traffic since the March flooding.

The commissioners approved advertising for an additional full-time roads department worker. Small said the board has talked about getting the department some extra help, and Turpin indicated he would like someone primarily to drive a truck and haul material.

“Kenny has been out running equipment, and that takes him away from his other duties,” Small said.

Wiebelhaus said he believed it was a good idea to hire another full-time employee.

“Two or three years down the road, if we have someone leave, we might not have to replace them,” Wiebelhaus said.

Hidden Paradise property owners Bill and Diane McNutt approached the commissioners regarding a drainage issue. There was a tube built in the past to help move water, but Bill McNutt told the board a neighboring property owner is now threatening to sue, claiming they were causing water to run into his shed.

“We dug a trench so the water could get to a tube that was already there,” Bill McNutt said. “Kenny told us to just have the water run across the road, but we just want it documented that the commissioners are OK with that.”

Turpin said he had previously spoken with the neighboring property owner about installing a tube to carry the water to the creek.

“I don’t have the supplies to fix it right now,” Turpin said. “I would have to order the pipe. If the neighbor will let us, I can order and install the pipe.”

Turpin said the tube would run between the two cabins, but the trench would have to be dug by hand as there is not enough room to get equipment to the site.

Taylor told the McNutts, if the water is flowing out of the hills and onto their property, they are not liable for the water running onto the neighbor’s property if they were to fill in the trench that redirected the water.

“If you have a trench to redirect it, then that could be an issue,” the county attorney said.

McNutt said the trench just directed the water to the tube that was already there.

Wiebelhaus asked if the county should get involved since it has so many other road and water issues to deal with at this time.

With the flow also affecting the road at the site, Taylor said the county does have a legitimate reason to get involved.

Small and Bauer advised Turpin to contact the neighboring property owner to see if he would allow the county to install a tube to carry the water to Pine Creek.

In other business Tuesday, the commissioners met with Ainsworth Fire Chief Brad Fiala and Brown County Rural Fire Chief Doug Rau to discuss the rural fire district’s levy.

Fiala told the board, with the new MFO regulations, levies are to be set for three years, and he didn’t believe the departments could go three consecutive years at a proposed 2-1/2-cent levy.

“That would put us in a bad spot,” Fiala said. “The rural board has put us in better equipment since the 2012 fires, but if we have a major fire season, 2-1/2 cents won’t work.”

He said, while the MFO funds more drastically impact the city’s budget for fire suppression, those funds are paid based on the rural fire district’s levy.

Rau told the board, with the previous 2-cent levy, the fire district went backward.

“Volunteers won’t run junk equipment,” Rau said. “You will end up having to have a paid fire department.”

Fiala said the condition of the fire department’s equipment also affects the insurance rates people in Brown County pay.

“Our ISO rating is good right now,” Fiala said. “If the ISO rating rises, it would cost property owners more for their insurance.”

Wiebelhaus asked, if the county were to agree to a 3-cent levy for the next three years, would that allow the fire departments the ability to put their vehicles on a rotation schedule so older, more unreliable equipment could be replaced.

Rau said that would allow the departments to maintain what they needed to maintain.

The board agreed to provide a 3-cent property tax levy to the rural fire district for the next three years.

The commissioners also heard a budget request from Chandra Giles with the BKR Extension office. She requested a total budget of $82,000, which was an increase from $79,000 the previous year. Giles said the reason for the increase was adding Extension employee Mary Jo McCall’s benefits package to the Extension budget instead of it running through a different portion of the county budget.

She said she was not asking for anything additional in this year’s budget. Brown County’s share of the $82,000 budget is $34,440, but Giles said the county approves the entire budget and is then reimbursed by Rock County and Keya Paha County for their portions.

The commissioners won’t officially set the Extension budget until the overall 2019-20 county budget is finalized.

Weed Superintendent Scott Erthum asked the commissioners for permission to use a drone to scout for possible noxious weed infestations in the county.

“The Middle Niobrara Weed Awareness Group is willing to buy each of its four counties a drone,” Erthum said. “It is hard to get to a lot of places this year. Instead of driving and leaving a footprint, I could fly over it and see it.”

Erthum said the cost of the drone with the accompanying equipment is $2,000, and he believed it would be a valuable tool for the weed department.

“It would really be a help with this much water and road damage,” Erthum said.

The board agreed to allow Erthum to use a drone, but asked that he notify property owners when he planned to fly it over their property.

Erthum said he would never go near a home with the drone, and he would also get a drone license. The superintendent said he also applied for a $4,000 grant for purple loose strife control. If awarded, Erthum said the grant would allow him to bring in a helicopter to spray for purple loose strife on five or six properties in the county where it is present.

Erthum also reported Douglas County granted Brown County a sprayer. He said it was about a $1,000 piece of equipment, and he thanked the Douglas County Weed Department for the donation.

In a final action item Tuesday, the commissioners reappointed Small and Henry Beel to serve as the county’s representatives on the Sandhills Care Center Board of Directors.

During the Board of Equalization meeting prior to Tuesday’s commissioner meeting, Assessor Terri Van Houten said notices for valuation changes have been mailed to property owners who will see a change in their valuation.

She said her office was playing catchup with valuations of homes in Ainsworth after they were recently reappraised.

“I wish the values would have gone up incrementally over the past few years, but that hasn’t been the case,” Van Houten said. “House sales in Ainsworth have gone up.”

Bauer said he has already heard from several people about how much their valuations increased. Van Houten said she would work with the radio and newspaper to provide information regarding why some valuations increased drastically.

The next meeting of the Brown County Commissioners is scheduled for 5:15 p.m. June 18.

* City using Oak Street for carnival route detour instead of Pine Street this year

(Posted 2:30 p.m. June 4)

The detour route for Highway 7 during the annual Middle of Nowhere Carnival days June 7-9 is changing this year, and the city of Ainsworth reminds residents they are not to park vehicles on the detour route during those three days.

With Main Street closing for the carnival, Highway 7 traffic will be routed onto South Street and then Oak Street before reaching Highway 20. In the past, Pine Street has been used as the detour route.

The city has placed stop signs on First, Second and Third streets for all eastbound and westbound traffic to allow traffic on the detour route to proceed on Oak Street without stopping. The stop signs are located in the middle of First, Second and Third streets.

During the detour, no parking will be allowed on South Street or Oak Street.

Anyone with questions on the detour route may contact the city office.

* Rock County Commissioners approve $1.5 million in bonds for road repairs

(Posted 2:30 p.m. June 4)

In an effort to recover from the March flooding and damage to roads and bridges, the Rock County Commissioners on Tuesday approved a resolution to issue up to $1.5 million in bonds.

The bond funds will be repaid over time, and will allow the commissioners to make needed repairs to roads and bridges damaged during the March flooding.

Region 24 Emergency Manager Doug Fox told the board FEMA does not yet have a program manager assigned for Rock County. While the repairs are funded by the county initially, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the state of Nebraska will likely reimburse the county for up to 87.5 percent of the cost of the repairs since Rock County was included in the FEMA disaster declaration.

The Limited Tax Bonds, Series 2019 will be issued by DA Davidson on behalf of the county.

In other business Tuesday, the commissioners approved the purchase of a John Deere lawn mower after discussion with TJ Ellermeier.

Following a public hearing Tuesday, the commissioners approved abandoning a portion of county roadway between Block 2 and Block 3 of the Swanson Subdivision.

The board also approved a request from Marty Moravec for a road crossing, approach, culvert and parallel occupancy permit on county road right of way located in the southeast quarter of Section 18-30N-19.

Leo Grim with Loup Valley Lighting discussed replacing the lighting in the county’s weed shed with LED lighting. The board approved the proposal.

The commissioners voted to hire Mitch Dean as the Rock County Weed Superintendent to replace the retiring Rod Stolcpart. Dean will work 40 hours per work, with his time split between weed superintendent duties and the roads department.

The next meeting of the Rock County Commissioners is scheduled for 9 a.m. June 18.

* May 2019 the second-wettest in Ainsworth history

(Posted 7:45 a.m. June 4)

Ainsworth Weather Observer Gerry Osborn recorded 8.34 inches of moisture in May, making it the second-wettest in Ainsworth's history. The 8.34 inches of moisture was second only to the 9.24 inches recorded in May 1920.
The May moisture brings Ainsworth's 2019 total to 13.39 inches, which is 5.30 inches above average through the first five months of the year.
Twenty-one of the 31 days in May had measurable moisture. May was also substantially cooler than the normal, by almost 5 degrees on average.
To hear the full summary, click on the audio link below.

audio clips/Gerry Osborn May 2019 weather summary.MP3

* Cowboy Trail connection work in Valentine begins today

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

Weather permitting, construction work is scheduled to begin today (Monday) on the Valentine Cowboy Trail Connection in the City of Valentine, according to the Nebraska Department of Transportation.
Wickett Construction of Valentine has the $699,446 contract, which includes grading, concrete pavement and signing. The city of Valentine is the owner of the project and will maintain the trail. Anticipated completion is August.
Motorists are urged to drive cautiously through construction zones.

* Ainsworth Community Schools receives $1,500 from Ford test drive event

(Posted 7 a.m. June 3)

The Ainsworth Community Schools athletics program received close to $1,500 Friday during the Ford Drive 4 Your School event at Ainsworth Motors.
For every person who took a test drive of a Ford vehicle and completed a survey, Ford donated $20 to the Ainsworth Community Schools athletics program.
The Ford Drive 4 Your School program has raised more than $40 million for schools nationwide.

* Roads Department closes Moon Lake Avenue and several other county roads

(Posted 10:30 a.m. May 30)

The Brown County Roads Department has closed a portion of Moon Lake Avenue from the end of the oil south to the Elsmere Road. There is water standing over the road in several locations.
In addition, 423rd Avenue between Ainsworth and Johnstown from Highway 20 south is closed due to water over the road. 427th Avenue is closed between Road 876 and Road 877. The roads department has closed 432nd Avenue between Road 875 and Road 876.
Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin reported there is water across the Elsmere Road in several locations, but those spots are marked and the road remains open. Turpin urges motorists not to drive on county roads unless absolutely necessary until things dry out and conditions improve.

* NCDHD will begin monitoring dead birds for West Nile

(Posted 12:45 p.m. May 29)

West Nile Virus season has arrived. The North Central District Health Department is once again providing surveillance throughout the nine-county district that includes: Antelope, Boyd, Brown, Cherry, Holt, Keya Paha, Knox, Pierce and Rock counties.
The health department will begin accepting phone reports of dead birds and collecting corvid birds for West Nile Virus testing beginning June 1. Corvid birds include Black Birds, Blue Jays, Magpies and Crows.  The health department asks people who find birds to contact the health department at 877-336-2406 or contact their local veterinary clinic.

KBRB ATHLETE OF THE YEAR - Recent Ainsworth High School
graduate Ben Arens was named the 2018-19 KBRB Athlete of the Year
following a vote of the school's coaches, faculty and A Club. He was
presented the award and a $500 scholarship by KBRB owner Graig Kinzie.

* Arens selected as 2018-19 KBRB Athlete of the Year

(Posted 10:30 a.m. May 29)

Ben Arens has been selected by the Ainsworth Community Schools coaches, faculty and A-Club as the 2018-19 KBRB Athlete of the Year.

During his career, Arens captured four gold medals at the Nebraska State Track and Field Championships, winning the 1,600 and 3,200 meters during both his junior and senior seasons. Arens won silver in the 1,600 meters and bronze in the 3,200 meters as a sophomore.

Arens set the school record in the 1,600 meters during his senior season in a time of 4:23. He was named the team MVP in his sophomore, junior and senior seasons.

In cross country, Arens is one of just four boys in school history to win three state medals. He was fourth as a sophomore and finished second as a junior before winning not only the Class D State Championship as a senior but earning the All-Class Gold Medal, the first time a Class D boys cross country runner captured the All-Class Gold Medal.

Arens finished his senior season undefeated, winning gold at every race he ran. He is a three-time district champion.

Arens is also the first Ainsworth athlete to capture the Gatorade Athlete of the Year Award for the state of Nebraska.

Arens also participated in basketball during his freshman, sophomore and junior seasons.

For being named the KBRB Athlete of the Year by the coaches, staff and A Club at Ainsworth Community Schools, Arens receives a $500 scholarship from KBRB Radio.

He plans to run cross country and track and field for the University of Nebraska-Kearney.

 

Arens visited with KBRB's Graig Kinzie about his high school career. To hear the conversation, click on the audio link below.

 

audio clips/Ben Arens - KBRB Athlete of the Year.mp3

* Omaha company awarded $25 million contract to build Highway 281 bridge

(Posted 7 a.m. May 29)

The Nebraska Department of Transportation announced Hawkins Construction of Omaha has been awarded a contract to begin immediate work on the Highway 281 bridge over the Niobrara River south of Spencer.

The March flooding caused significant damage to the current bridge and washed out a segment of the highway south of the bridge. The Department of Transportation authorized the contractor to begin work immediately to install a single-lane shoofly with a traffic signal to allow traffic to move through the construction zone temporarily while the bridge is constructed.

The temporary roadway is anticipated to be serviceable by Aug. 1.

The $25.4 million contract covers the single lane temporary roadway and bridge as well as a permanent, 1,050-foot bridge over the Niobrara River channel. Hawkins Construction will begin work at the site this week, weather pending, and has already started to mobilize equipment and materials.

The Department of Transportation estimates the permanent bridge to be open by November 2020, with the project completed in full by the spring of 2021.

NDOT Director Kyle Schneweis said, “The Highway 281 project is one of the department’s most complex reconstruction efforts. We’ve followed a very aggressive schedule through design and procurement in order to expedite construction, and now we are looking at turning dirt less than a week after the contract is awarded. The Nebraska contracting and engineering industries have been great partners as we look to rebuild our transportation system following the March flooding.”

* February taxable sales show mixed results for area counties and cities

(Posted 2:30 p.m. May 28)

Nebraska Department of Revenue
Comparison of February 2019 and February 2018 Net Taxable Sales
for Nebraska Counties and Selected Cities

County
or City

2019
Net Taxable
Sales

2018
Net Taxable
Sales

Percent
Change

2019
Sales Tax
5.5%

2018
Sales Tax
5.5%

Boyd

756,448

847,479

(10.7)

41,604.74

46,611.44

Brown

2,349,200

2,535,237

(7.3)

129,206.18

139,438.25

Ainsworth

2,294,124

2,431,354

(5.6)

126,176.99

133,724.66

Cherry

4,172,836

4,243,334

(1.7)

229,506.27

233,383.72

Valentine

3,931,540

4,080,881

(3.7)

216,234.95

224,448.78

Holt

7,224,354

7,143,297

1.1

397,136.00

392,881.89

Atkinson

1,282,088

1,162,172

10.3

70,515.01

63,919.63

O'Neill

5,025,676

5,108,428

(1.6)

276,208.40

280,963.80

Keya Paha

135,917

110,712

22.8

7,475.46

6,089.19

Rock

454,002

401,457

13.1

24,970.17

22,080.19

Valley

3,030,194

3,100,211

(2.3)

166,660.91

170,511.91

Ord

2,648,272

2,857,797

(7.3)

145,655.14

157,179.09

State Total

$2,168,339,461

$2,139,344,781

1.4

$118,895,892.05

$119,709,254.02

Nebraska Department of Revenue
Comparison of February 2019 and February 2018
Motor Vehicle Sales Tax Collections by County

County
or City

2019
Net Taxable
Sales

2018
Net Taxable
Sales

Percent
Change

2019
Sales Tax
5.5%

2018
Sales Tax
5.5%

Blaine

72,045

79,714

(9.6)

3,904.01

4,321.76

Boyd

255,920

393,450

(35.0)

14,128.91

21,669.85

Brown

616,772

614,433

0.4

34,060.89

33,959.82

Cherry

1,220,975

1,146,579

6.5

67,462.96

63,348.39

Holt

1,999,275

2,110,498

(5.3)

110,735.44

116,708.70

Keya Paha

198,444

225,984

(12.2)

10,859.12

12,396.66

Rock

365,413

304,614

20

20,134.00

16,745.24

Valley

737,195

530,652

38.9

40,747.59

29,329.72

State Total

$293,089,447

$296,941,398

(1.3)

$16,267,993.36

$16,480,508.39

* Numerous roads are closed in Cherry County due to water damage

(Posted 9:15 a.m. May 28)

Cherry County Highway Superintendent Lloyd Smith reminds motorists that several roads in Cherry County are closed to traffic due to water damage.

Goosecreek Road is closed from Highway 83 to the Purdum Road. Northeast Goosecreek Road and South Wood Lake Road are both closed to Highway 20. The West Wood Lake Road is closed.

A culvert has washed out on part of the Wolfenden Road. Rocky Road from Highway 20 to the Kilgore Road is closed.

North Ashby Road from Alkali Lake north 5 miles is closed. East Calf Creek Road is closed.

North Whitman Road from Coble Road north 3 miles is closed. West Dry Valley Road is closed.

Smith asks motorists to limit all travel on roads in Cherry County due to the poor road conditions.

* Meadville Avenue closed south of river bridge due to hill being compromised

(Posted 8 a.m. May 28)

The Brown County Roads Department has closed Meadville Avenue south of the Niobrara River. Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin reported the hill south of the Meadville Bridge is sloughing off, which has compromised Meadville Avenue from the top of the river bluff down to the bridge.
Turpin urges motorists not to try and drive around the barriers that have been placed at the site, as the hill could completely fall away at any point, taking the road with it.

* Area students receive nursing pins from Northeast Community College

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

Associate degree nursing and practical nursing students received their nursing pins during a ceremony recently at Northeast Community College. During the ceremony, the graduating nursing students received their pins from family members or a close friend who has helped them along their journey.

“Today, we celebrate the educational success and journey that 37 Practical Nurses and 46 Associate Degree nurses have completed,” said Dr. Karen Weidner, director of nursing programs. “There have been many quizzes, tests, lab experiences, clinicals and study sessions in your pursuit of this academic achievement thus far, and we are so very proud of you all.”

Weidner said the observance is the culmination of the students’ initial journey to professional nursing education.

“The annual ceremony is a bridge from nursing’s past to nursing’s future and is a time-honored nursing school tradition. It signifies the official initiation into the brotherhood and sisterhood of nurses.”

Students who graduate with an associate degree in nursing are eligible to continue their studies for a bachelor of science degree in nursing. The general education courses for a bachelor of science in nursing can be taken at Northeast Community College.

Students who were pinned with the Associate Degree Nursing pin include Amy Cook of Ainsworth, and Jason Seger of Atkinson. Students who were pinned with the Practical Nursing pin include Alyssa Ludwig of Spencer.

* Rural Long Pine man charged with manslaughter in Merna man's Wednesday death

(Posted noon May 23)

A 27-year-old rural Long Pine man has been charged in the Wednesday shooting death of an 18-year-old Merna man.

According to Brown County Sheriff Bruce Papstein, the sheriff’s department received a call at 4:56 p.m. Wednesday, May 22, of a subject suffering a gunshot wound at 88503 U.S. Highway 183 in rural Long Pine.

Upon arrival, the sheriff’s department and Brown County Ambulance Association found Logan Maring, 18, of Merna, had suffered a gunshot wound. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

Arrested at the scene was Nathan Yankowski, 27, of rural Long Pine. Papstein said Yankowski has been charged with second-degree assault and involuntary manslaughter relating to Maring’s death. Arraignment is pending in Brown County Court.

The Nebraska State Patrol assisted the Brown County Sheriff’s Department in the investigation.

* Recent cases from Brown County Court

(Posted 10 a.m. May 23)

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

Novo R. Huerta, age 32, of O’Neill, charged with speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, fined $75.

Robert V. Allen, 58, of Ainsworth, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25; no valid registration, $25.

Andrew R. Lowrey, 37, of Coatesville, Pa., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Martin D. Graff, 63, of Ainsworth, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25; failure to use a seat belt, $25.

Judy C. Esterly, 74, of Ainsworth, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25; no valid registration, $25; failure to use a seat belt, $25.

Heath H. Dugan, 35, of Greeley, Maine, speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.

William D. Jeffers, 46, of Ainsworth, no brake lights or turn signals, $25.

Loren J. Sherman, 38, of Ainsworth, first offense driving under the influence, $500, also sentenced to six months of probation, driver’s license revoked for 60 days, and ordered to install an ignition interlock device.

Kennita Wright Jones, 43, of Minneapolis, Minn., attempting Class 4 felony, $1,000; possession of marijuana less than 1 ounce, $300.

Deon K. Irby, 44, of Chicago, Ill., attempting a Class 4 felony, $1,000; possession of marijuana less than 1 ounce, $300.

Jim W. Stewart, 57, of Lincoln, speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.

Landon J. Voeller, 27, of Denver, Colo., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Jason A. Devaux, 47, of Woodland Park, Colo., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Silas J. Metcalf, 43, of Mount Vernon, Iowa, first offense driving under the influence, $500, six months of probation, driver’s license revoked for 60 days, and ordered to install an ignition interlock device; possession of an open alcohol container in a vehicle, $50.

Jerry D. Bell, 64, of Strasburg, Colo., speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.

David W. Craig, 63, of Moorehead, Minn., speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.

Simon J. Timmermans, 45, of Sibley, Iowa, speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.

Wesley H. Hitchcock, 49, of Sparks, no valid registration, $25.

Stetson L. Allen, 29, of Ainsworth, discharging a firearm from a highway, $100.

Schuyler K. Privett, 23, of Ainsworth, no fishing permit, $100.

Manuel Cumplido, 76, of Addison, Ill., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Allyssa R. Carbis, 24, of Ainsworth, attempting a Class 4 felony, $500, one year of probation, 14 days in jail with credit for 13 days served; possession of marijuana less than 1 ounce, $300; possession of drug paraphernalia, $100.

Casey Gallegos, 47, of Ainsworth, disturbing the peace, $100.

Gerry F. Graham, 79, of Ainsworth, first offense cruelly mistreating an animal, $25.

Carla L. Graciano, 20, of Sioux Falls, S.D., speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.

Afeth S. Abina, 30, of Sioux Falls, S.D., speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.

Mary J. Cole, 35, of Long Pine, domestic assault – intentionally causing bodily injury, sentenced to six months of probation.

Matthew Hager, 29, of Ainsworth, possession of marijuana less than 1 ounce, $100.

Caleb M. Carlson, 19, of Aurora, Colo., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Tyler W. Cress, 29, of Long Pine, no driver’s license on person, $100.

Casper Rehkopf, 19, of Long Pine, possession of marijuana less than 1 ounce, $300; possession of drug paraphernalia, $100.

Kip E. Richardson, 44, of Ainsworth, first offense driving under the influence, $500, six months of probation, driver’s license revoked for 60 days, and ordered to install an ignition interlock device; possession of an open alcohol container in a vehicle, $50.

Damon J. Williams, 35, of Osakis, Minn., attempting a Class 4 felony, $851.

Kay L. Collins, 37, of Long Pine, first offense driving under the influence, $500, sentenced to six months of probation, driver’s license revoked for 60 days, and ordered to install an ignition interlock device.

Tristan L. Fobroy, 33, of Ainsworth, no proof of insurance, $100; no valid registration, $25.

Kevin D. Cole, 40, of Long Pine, leaving the scene of an accident or failing to furnish information, $100.

James E. Klages, 47, of Chamberlain, S.D., driving left of center, $25.

Trace C. Bilby, 16, of Chadron, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25; possession of marijuana less than 1 ounce, $300; possession of drug paraphernalia, $100.

* Heavy rain results in additional road damage and closures in area

(Posted 9 a.m. May 22 and updated 2:45 p.m.)

The Brown County Roads Department has closed Road 877 southwest of Johnstown. The culvert at the Plum Creek crossing on Road 877 has washed out.
 Additionally, 434th Avenue at the intersection of Road 876 southeast of Ainsworth is also closed due to the road washing out.
 There is water across numerous roads in the county, and additional closures may be announced as the day continues and damage is observed.
Cherry County Highway Superintendent Lloyd Smith is urging extreme caution for motorists on all roads in Cherry County due to rising water levels.
Smith has closed Goose Creek Road from Highway 83 to the Purdum Road, Northeast Goose Creek Road and South Wood Lake Road both to Highway 20, and the West Wood Lake Road.
Smith also reported a culvert is washed out on a portion of the Wolfenden Road, and Fawn Lake Road is now closed to Highway 61.
 Motorists are urged to obey all road closure signs and do not travel across roads that have water running across them. Stay tuned to KBRB for additional closure information.

* Rock County Commissioners approve overtime hours for roads department

(Posted 8:45 a.m. May 22)

During Tuesday’s meeting of the Rock County Commissioners, the board voted to increase hours for roads department employees to allow repair work to be made to county roads.

Roads department employees are authorized to pick up 10 hours of overtime weekly, with five, 10-hour workdays approved each week until Oct 1.

The commissioners also approved the purchase of a 2006 Ford F-450 flatbed pickup for the roads department.

Highway Superintendent Lloyd Smith discussed bridge damage in Rock County. He reported bridge repairs cannot be made until environmental clearances are secured, and the county was at a standstill on bridge repairs and replacements until the environmental hurdles are cleared.

The commissioners met with Andrew Forney of D.A. Davidson to discuss issuing bonds to allow the county to secure funding to complete road repairs from spring flood damage. Forney agreed to prepare a resolution for the board to consider during its June 4 meeting.

The commissioners voted to require Rock County employees to work a minimum of 30 hours per week to qualify for health insurance benefits, which is an increase from the current 20 hours of work that must be performed weekly to qualify for benefits.

The commissioners approved the purchase and installation of a cage and locking gun rack for Deputy Josh Severin for his patrol vehicle.

In a final action item Tuesday, the commissioners approved the purchase of new counters for the Rock County treasurer’s office.

The next meeting of the Rock County Commissioners is scheduled for 9 a.m. June 4.

* Commissioners discuss Meadville Avenue repairs Tuesday

(Posted 7:15 a.m. May 22)

With the rain pouring outside, roads were the main topic of discussion in the Brown County Courthouse Tuesday during a meeting of the Board of Commissioners.

Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin reported the roads department is trying to maintain and repair roads the best it can, but the wet weather is not helping.

“We did get some crushed concrete on the Hidden Paradise hill before it rained,” Turpin said.

The highway superintendent said he continues to work on damage assessments from the March flooding, and he met with Donald Peterson, who is the assigned FEMA liaison for the county.

“The threshold to qualify for funding is $3,200 damage,” Turpin said of each project. He said the county can tie together smaller projects on the same road to reach that threshold.

Commissioner Denny Bauer asked Turpin how long it would be before the county was ready to submit its inventory of damaged roads to FEMA. Turpin said 30 days was a realistic timeline to get all the documentation needed ready for submission.

Turpin provided the board with an update on the Meadville Avenue Sand Draw Creek box culvert project and detour.

After speaking with Gary Steele, Turpin said the environmental study would be the portion that holds up the project the longest.

“It is looking like we could go out for bids this winter,” Turpin said. “Once the environmental study is complete, we can move on to right of way acquisition.”

Turpin said the current 12x12-foot box culvert would be replaced with a 14x14 box culvert.

Bauer asked how much funding the county would receive from the state to get the detour route upgraded around the damaged portion of Meadville Avenue.

Turpin said the county has been allotted $75,000 to improve and maintain the detour route.

“If we keep getting these two-day soakers, it is not going to be easy,” the highway superintendent said. “We did get 50 loads of rock put on 873rd Road.”

Bauer said working on the detour route should be a priority for the roads department after it stops raining.

Several audience members told the commissioners they were damaging trailers and other equipment driving over potholes on Meadville Avenue.

Former commissioner Pat Schumacher told the board, “We have fought that road for 40 years. We did some major repairs, and even those spots are bad now. I know it is a huge expense, but even the $100,000 fixes aren’t working.”

Bauer asked about the possibility of getting cold mix asphalt from Topkote to fix the potholes on the paved portion of Meadville Avenue.

“People are dodging the holes and tearing up the shoulders,” Bauer said.

Turpin said the sub-grade under the Meadville Avenue asphalt was bad, so any repairs to potholes would be just a temporary Band-Aid. He asked if the commissioners would consider hiring a contractor to repair Meadville Avenue.

Wiebelhaus said the county had to be careful in case FEMA denies providing assistance for some of the county’s projects and the board ends up blowing a hole in its budget.

Bauer said if it would be spring before the box culvert is completed, the potholes needed to be fixed or the entire road would only get worse.

“If you think it’s bad now, just wait until harvest,” Bauer said.

Turpin said the roads department could fill the potholes with millings when the weather conditions allow to provide temporary relief to drivers.

“The millings aren’t expensive,” he said. “We could use those in the short term. But, it isn’t just Meadville Avenue, there are some other roads with large potholes.”

Small said much of the work would simply have to wait until it stops raining and conditions improve.

Following additional discussion about the manpower needed to continue repairing the county’s roads, the commissioners agreed to place on its next agenda a decision to potentially hire an additional full-time employee for the roads department.

As directed by the commissioners during a previous meeting, Turpin presented the county with a report on the possible abandonment of a road and bridge near Camp Witness in northeastern Brown County.

Turpin reported the bridge washed out during the March 13 flooding. He said little to no traffic uses the 850-foot stretch of road and bridge with the exception of Camp Witness.

“By vacating the road, no property owners become landlocked, but vacating the bridge would make it difficult for Camp Witness to access part of their property,” Turpin said.

Turpin said his recommendation to the commissioners was to vacate the road and bridge, and sell the damaged bridge as surplus property.

The commissioners had previously agreed to work with Camp Witness to try and get funding from FEMA to replace the bridge that was damaged during the March flooding.

With that in mind, Commissioner Buddy Small said his thoughts were to get FEMA to visit the site and see if it will qualify for funding.

County Attorney Andy Taylor told the commissioners they could set the public hearing to potentially vacate the road and bridge as far out as the board wants, but the board did have to schedule the public hearing during Tuesday’s meeting.

Bauer and Commissioner Reagan Wiebelhaus both indicated a desire to schedule the public hearing late enough that the county would know by the time of the hearing whether the bridge replacement would qualify for FEMA assistance, which would pay for 75 percent of the replacement cost. The state would pay 12-1/2 percent of the cost, leaving the county responsible for just 12-1/2 percent.

The board voted to set the road and bridge vacation public hearing for 5:30 p.m. Nov. 19.

Turpin also discussed a damaged bridge over Fairfield Creek in northwestern Brown County that was damaged during the flooding and is currently closed. He said the sheet piling was damaged, and the bridge was closed.

“I listed it on the FEMA inventory,” Turpin said. “Maybe we can get some funding for it, maybe we can’t.”

Wiebelhaus said the board could either fix the bridge or look at abandoning it.

Audience member Duane Sedlacek, a member of the Johnstown Volunteer Fire Department, said that bridge is needed for fire suppression access along the Niobrara River valley.

Turpin said the bridge would likely need to be either moved or lengthened, as the creek continues to cut away the bank near the bridge.

Bauer said the commissioners would need to have an engineer come in and determine what it might take to fix the bridge.

In other business Tuesday, Zoning Administrator Tom Jones said he was notified by the Central Nebraska Economic Development District that Brown County no longer income-qualified for Community Development Block Grant funding to update its comprehensive plan.

Small asked if Jones had researched how much it would cost to have a company assist the county in updating its plan.

Jones said he reached out to several companies, and the cost would likely range between $35,000 and $50,000, and it would take a substantial amount of time to get the plan updated.

Wiebelhaus said the county would look at including the cost to update the comprehensive plan during its 2019-20 budgeting process.

Jones also told the board he had scheduled a Planning Commission meeting for June 13 to consider placing a moratorium on the construction of wind turbines in the county.

The next meeting of the Brown County Commissioners is scheduled for 5:15 p.m. June 4.

* Vergil Heyer elected Ainsworth Lions Club President for 2019-20

(Posted 3 p.m. May 21)

Vergil Heyer was elected president of the Ainsworth Lions Club for 2019-20 following a vote of members. Connie Lentz moves into the past president role, but was also elected as the board’s secretary.

Vance Heyer was elected as the first vice-president, with Phil Fuchs again serving as the club’s treasurer. Dwain Grunke is the Lions Club’s Tail Twister, and Steve Salzman will serve as the Lion Tamer. Bill Lentz is the club’s membership chairman.

Board members elected include Pat Jones, Bob Beatty, Larry Rice and Rita Paddock.

Lions Club District 38-I received a Lions Club International Foundation grant of $10,000 for flood disaster assistance, which amounted to $300 per club in the district.  The club received approval from District Governor Reed to provide barbed wire and posts for 10 ranchers along the Niobrara River who experienced a loss due to the flood. The Ainsworth Lions Club contributed an additional $320 in order to purchase 10 rolls of wire at cost from the Farmer/Ranchers Coop.  The club was also able to secure a partnership with the Farmers/Ranchers Coop (donated a tram of wood posts valued at approximately $800) and with Gross Seed Company (donated 110 steel posts valued at approximately $300).  The total project provided a relief effort of over $1,700.   Roland Paddock and Vergil Heyer were thanked for making the partnership arrangements and for delivering the wire and posts.

Rice reported on the annual Ainsworth Lions Club sponsored All-Sports Tailgate Party held April 23. Committee chairs were thanked for their efforts in fulfilling assignments in preparation for the event and were encouraged to present suggestions for next year. The club thanked Brian and Sarah Williams for donating the beef for the hamburgers that were served during the tailgate party. As has been the practice for the past several years after the conclusion of the Tailgate Party, the Lions Club donated $300 to the local chapter of TeamMates.

Connie Lentz provided an update on the 2019 Bike Ride Across Nebraska event, with the bike riders staying overnight in Ainsworth on June 4. A potato bar, along with a drink and dessert will be made available in one of the picnic shelters at East City Park near the biker campground from noon until 6 p.m. Rhonda Lechtenberg, Rita Paddock, and Kelly Oberlechner are assisting Lentz with making the necessary arrangements. A worksheet will be sent to the membership for signing up for one of the work sessions and/or for the preparation of a tray of brownies/bars.  

Roland Paddock reminded the membership the Ainsworth Alumni Banquet will be held on June 29. He will work with the various committee chairs in preparation for the event. A worksheet will be made available during the June meeting.

Lions Club dues for 2019-20 will be $65, with spouse dues set at $40. Dues statements will be sent to the membership during the early part of June, with a due date of June 17.

Rice advised he and Evan Evans continue to investigate the possibility of having a company produce and place concrete borders around the playground equipment at the city parks to replace the railroad ties. Lentz said she will set an evening date to conduct the Highway 20 right-of-way cleanup east of Ainsworth whenever the weather cooperates.  More than likely, this now will take place after Memorial Day.

A thank-you note was received from the fourth grade students for the seedlings each received from the Lions Club in recognition of Arbor Day. Lentz reported four Lions Club members assisted with the distribution of the seedlings to the students. A thank you note was also received for the wire/posts distributed as part of the Lions Club Disaster Relief Project, due to the flood along the Niobrara River.

The next meeting of the Lions Club is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. June 17.

* Cowboy Trail reopens from Valentine to O'Neill

(Posted 6:45 a.m. May 21)

Portions of the Cowboy Trail have reopened to public use following historic flooding that washed away surfacing and damaged bridges along the trail in March.
The trail is now open from Valentine to O’Neill, with the exception of a small area near Long Pine. Additionally, several short stretches of the trail are open between O’Neill and Norfolk.
The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission reminds Cowboy Trail users to stay off closed bridges and other areas for their own safety. Trail users should also be mindful that rough surfaces may exist even along open portions of the trail. Commission staff will continue to work to repair the trail.

* Roadway striping to begin May 28 in District 8

(Posted 8:45 a.m. May 20)

Weather permitting, roadway paint striping will begin May 28 in the Merriman and Valentine area, according to the Nebraska Department of Transportation.
Vogel Traffic Services, Inc., of Orange City, Iowa, has the $648,982 contract for district-wide striping. After striping is completed in the Valentine area, work will progress to the Ainsworth and O’Neill areas. Anticipated completion is July.
Motorists are asked to drive cautiously through construction zones and to expect delays.

* Brown County Ambulance Association calling for volunteers to join

(Posted 8 a.m. May 20)

As we celebrate National EMS Week 2019 with a theme of “EMS Strong - Beyond The Call”, there are people across the state working diligently to prevent or at least slow the steady decline of available volunteer EMS services.  A committee of senators, led by Senator Bruce Bostelman, is currently working on an Interim Study, LR395, to research and discover means to stabilize and sustain emergency medical services in Nebraska.

The provision of EMS in Nebraska is not mandated; there is no law stating a community must ensure emergency medical services.  Over the last 10 years, the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services reports 35% of volunteer EMS services have been discontinued, leaving some communities with no local ambulance to respond. 

The Nebraska Legislature declared EMS an “essential service” but has yet to designate an entity to be responsible for providing the service due to an inability to fund such services. In 2015, research conducted by the Nebraska Board of Emergency Medical Services found that EMS volunteers alone save the Nebraska taxpayers a minimum of $113 million annually.

The Brown County Ambulance Association is one of 344 volunteer ambulance services in Nebraska and is comprised of 12 responders actively volunteering to be on call 24/7/365 to Brown County and surrounding counties. Nine of the 12 volunteer responders split their biweekly on-call shifts into one crew of three responders each week. The additional three members are available as their jobs permit. All 12 volunteers are also continuously on call to provide transfer services from the Brown County Hospital to other facilities and must be prepared to be gone from family and/or work for 6 to 15 hours, depending on transferring location and road/weather conditions.

The Brown County Ambulance Association has a response time of 3 to 4 minutes with the ambulance leaving the barn. The dedication enabling this excellent response is fueled by a passion to provide the best possible patient care.  The volunteers train monthly as well as attend annual state conferences to meet the regulatory requirements to maintain competency. 

The Brown County Ambulance Association has been provided with up-to-date equipment in part by donations from local entities and individuals. The generosity of these entities and the numerous individual donors have been vital in providing the association with life-sustaining medical equipment and supplies and maintaining reliable and safe ambulance units.

The Brown County Ambulance Association manages its own financial operations, which includes billing Medicare/Medicaid, insurance companies, and individuals, allowing Brown County taxpayers to remain free of being taxably responsible for its operations and upkeep since 1974. 

The officers frequently run comparisons of their charges with what is allowable by Medicare and Medicaid, private insurance companies and with other surrounding ambulance services to ensure the charges are reasonable and fair.

The association is continuously searching for new recruits in an effort to keep the service operational. To become licensed to provide patient care, an individual must take a minimum of an Emergency Medical Responder course consisting of approximately 40 to 60 hours; however, EMR’s are unable to transport patients without meeting strict regulation requirements; therefore, the Emergency Medical Technician license is required for a transporting ambulance to remain in service.

The EMT class is 120 to 150 hours in length depending on the training format. Each student is required to pass the National Registry Exam upon course completion before applying for licensure in the state of Nebraska. The cost of the class is approximately $1,150 and is self-funded at the onset. The average total length of time to completely train and license an EMT is 12 to 18 months. Upon passing the National Registry Exam and becoming licensed, the Nebraska Office of Emergency Health Systems will reimburse students for the cost of the training, potentially resulting in no cost to the student.

Once licensed, the individual is required to complete 12 to 20 continuing education hours every two years to remain licensed. The ambulance association allows some volunteers to be drivers and not licensed patient care providers in an effort to keep its service operational.  A driver is required to have an unencumbered driver’s license, current CPR certification as well as complete an Emergency Vehicle Operations Course and stretcher and backboard training. In addition, members of the Ainsworth Volunteer Fire Department and Brown County Sheriff’s Department are frequently utilized as an “extra pair of hands,” allowed by state regulation, to provide physical assistance with loading patients, CPR, bleeding control and other processes requiring an “additional set of hands” to assist the EMT. 

The ambulance association relies on these individuals just as much as the licensed individuals on nearly all scenes. Each ambulance service is required to have a Physician Medical Director to guide and provide oversight of their skills.  Dr.  Melvin Campbell has volunteered his physician oversight to the association since its inception in 1974.

The primary imminent threat to the Brown County Ambulance Association is a lack of available volunteers. With the average age of local members being over 45 years, lifting, carrying and even providing CPR can injure a responder’s body immediately, in addition to illnesses that may occur, conceivably crippling the association’s response capabilities in a matter of hours.

The ambulance association is currently operating with a skeleton crew, resulting sometimes in a volunteer responder potentially being on-call and unable to leave city limits for up to two to three weeks at a time.  Mental health of emergency responders is often overlooked, assuming if a person chooses to be an EMS responder then they must be inherently able to “handle it.”

Nebraska is one of several states that incorporates Critical Incident Management Stress debriefings and other mental health resources free for their responders. Critical Incident Management Stress assists with specific critical incidents and helps curb the insidious encroachment of responder burnout - a primary cause of volunteer EMS decline.

While the ambulance association works to maintain standards for self-care and crew-care strategies to help protect and maintain the health and safety of their responders, burnout creeps in and hinders a service in a variety of ways.  Additional able and willing volunteers are the crucial missing pieces to the puzzle of maintaining EMS services in Brown County.

The Brown County Ambulance Association has received the support of the area for 45 years. That support has come in many forms, from financial to physical to emotional, all of which has helped keep a vital service in this rural area of Nebraska. Anyone can be a volunteer. Talk to any Brown County Ambulance Association member for more information.

* Portion of Highway 12 reopens east of Spencer

(Posted 3:15 p.m. May 17)

Highway 12 from Spencer east to the Niobrara State Park has reopened ahead of the Memorial Day weekend, according to the Nebraska Department of Transportation and the Game and Parks Commission. Access to the park was reestablished last week following historic spring flooding that closed access roads and bridges.
In an effort to direct travelers to open routes, the NDOT has placed a variable message board on the highway to advise travelers that access to the park is open. The bridges on Highway 12 east of Niobrara State Park remain closed, with no direct access to the park from the town of Niobrara.
“The NDOT has been working closely with Game and Parks to ensure visitors are able to access the Niobrara State Park,” said Mark Kovar, NDOT District 8 Engineer. “We understand the impact the park has on the local community and will continue our efforts to repair roads and bridges damaged by the flooding to allow park visitors to enjoy the beauty of northeast Nebraska.”

* Area students named to UNK Dean's List for spring semester

(Posted 7 a.m. May 17)

The University of Nebraska at Kearney announced students who earned a place on the dean’s list for the spring 2019 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 spring semester dean’s list include:

 

Ainsworth

Ashley Titus, Hailey McBride, Miranda Raymond and Morgan Osborn.

 

Wood Lake

Britley Schlueter

 

Bassett

Aubrey Kroll and Jentrie Maurer

 

Newport

Braydon Caldwell

 

Stuart

Brittany Hanzlik, Christopher Schaaf, Hailey Paxton and Monique Schafer

 

Atkinson

Chase Harrison

 

Brewster

Leah Pickering

 

Butte

Mitchell Atkinson

 

Valentine

Bailey Leonard, Hannah Higgins, Kooper Reece and Madison Kelber

* Stuart school district voters reject building addition proposal

(Posted 6:45 a.m. May 17)

By a little more than a 40-vote margin, voters residing in the Stuart Public School District decided against a $4.79 million building project.
A total of 239 cast votes against the building proposal, with 191 voting in favor. All ballots were distributed and returned by mail.
The proposal included a 17,675 square-foot addition to the existing Stuart Public School building.

* Traffic Accident

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

The Brown County Sheriff’s Department investigated a vehicle-cow accident that occurred Saturday, May 11, southwest of Ainsworth.
According to the sheriff’s department report, at 11:16 p.m. Saturday on 428th Avenue approximately 3-1/2 miles south and 2 miles west of Ainsworth, a 1997 Dodge pickup, driven by Kayla Witt, 18, of Ainsworth, was traveling north when the vehicle struck a cow in the roadway.
No persons were injured during the accident. Damage to the Dodge was estimated at more than $1,000. The cow, owned by Kolby Blake of Bassett, was valued at $1,400.

* NPPD receiving reports of scam calls Tuesday across Nebraska

(Posted 1 p.m. May 14)

Nebraska Public Power District officials urge the public to be aware of a rapid uptick in scam calls taking place across the state.

Customers have reported receiving calls from scammers posing as representatives of NPPD, demanding payment.

“Unfortunately, this is the type of scam that impacts many communities every year.” said NPPD Retail General Manager Tim Arlt. “Anyone who receives such a call should not let their guard down and should contact our team and law enforcement immediately. Protecting our customers is a top priority.”

The recent scam has targeted customers in multiple communities including Aurora, McCook, York, Geneva, Pawnee City and Scottsbluff, but residents across Nebraska should be aware of the scam.

These predatory individuals state the bill must be paid immediately or the power will be shut off and will recommend several methods of payment. Sometimes the scammer’s caller-identification is falsified so it appears to originate from the utility company, a practice known as ‘spoofing’.

To help customers be wary of such scams, NPPD offers the following tips and suggestions:

         NPPD, as a business practice, does not call to ask customers for a credit card number.

         NPPD does not demand payment with a pre-paid card.

         Any customer receiving such a call should not attempt to make payment over the phone using a credit or debit card.

         Write down the call back number or consider asking where the caller is located.

         Contact law enforcement.

         Let NPPD’s Centralized Customer Care Center at 877-ASK-NPPD know about the call.

         If served electrically by a rural public power district or municipality, customers should contact that organization before providing any type of payment.

* Sheriff's department to participate in annual 'Click It or Ticket' mobilization

(Posted 12:45 p.m. May 14)

The Brown County Sheriff’s Department, through funding provided by the Nebraska Office of Highway Safety, will participate in the national “Click It or Ticket” campaign May 22 through June 2.

Click It or Ticket is a national program to increase public awareness and make roadways safer by encouraging everyone to wear a seat belt every time they enter a vehicle.

The sheriff’s department is joining law enforcement nationwide to help save lives by strongly enforcing seat belt laws.

While this year’s mobilization runs from May 22 through June 2, the sheriff’s department reminds motorists that deputies enforce seat belt laws all year.

The Click It or Ticket campaign has increased seat belt usage, but there is still more that can be done, as high visibility enforcement and encouraging people to buckle up can turn thousands of lives lost into lives saved. Wearing a seat belt can reduce the risk of a fatal injury during a vehicle accident by 45 percent.

Sheriff Bruce Papstein 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.

* Painter presents National History Day project to School Board Monday

(Posted 12:45 p.m. May 14)

Mason Painter presented his National History Day documentary on World War II to the Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education Monday after winning at the state level and qualifying for the national event.

Painter won the junior individual documentary division with his documentary titled, “Three Triumphant Tactics of D Day,” using this year’s National History Day theme of Triumph and Tragedy in History.

By winning at the state level, Painter advances to national competition this summer. The Board of Education Monday, per school policy, voted to provide $150 in funding to assist Painter’s trip to the national contest.

In other items Monday, the board voted to increase lunch prices by 5 cents for the 2019-20 school year, and voted to keep breakfast prices the same as the current year.

Superintendent Darrell Peterson said the initial proposed increases were 10 cents per lunch and 5 cents per breakfast, but he said the lunch program has made more than $10,000 profit this year. He suggested increasing lunch prices by only a nickel and keeping breakfast prices the same. Peterson said any money made over costs through the lunch program is put back in to the program.

“The dishwasher is on its last legs,” the superintendent said. “That will cost about $15,000 to replace. We will also need a new stove in the kitchen at some point.”

Peterson said the district would again provide breakfast free of charge to all students who pay a reduced lunch price based on family income.

The board approved the first reading of policies related to activity and admission tickets, and to an activity pay schedule.

The board also authorized the Ainsworth Educational Facilities Leasing Corporation to pay an invoice for the ag and industrial tech building project. Peterson said the payment Monday was the final large payment, as there was only about $20,000 remaining to be paid on the almost $3 million building addition.

In a final action item, the board approved an option enrollment request to allow third-grade student Bryleigh Zeman to continue to attend Rock County Public Schools. Peterson said the family moved to Long Pine, but wanted their daughter to continue to attend school in Rock County.

During his report, Peterson said the district hired Brad Johnson as the school’s technology coordinator to replace Lori Stolcpart. Peterson said Johnson is on site now and will have three weeks to train with Stolcpart before taking over the position.

Secondary Principal Steve Dike thanked the board for supporting the community betterment day.

“It is a neat concept,” Dike said. “The kids had a lot of input, and it was well organized.”

Students cleaned up the Cowboy Trail, Long Pine State Park Mundorf Trail, the Ainsworth Golf Course, Park Homes, Cottonwood Villa, the concession stand at the baseball field, the Grand Theater and the Brown County Fairgrounds.

Students also helped make repairs and improvements at the Rod and Gun Club, and at the fairgrounds.

Board President Jim Arens said he heard a lot of positive feedback from the community about the work performed by the students during the betterment day.

‘The kids also get to learn about community involvement and volunteering,” Arens said.

Elementary Principal Curtis Childers reported 24 students attended kindergarten roundup April 18, and he anticipated there may be another three or four students attend kindergarten in 2019-20 who did not attend kindergarten roundup.

The next meeting of the Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education is scheduled for 8 p.m. June 10.

* Sandhills Care Center posts $23,000 profit in April

(Posted 7 a.m. May 14)

The Sandhills Care Center turned a profit of $23,439 in April, according to financial data provided to the Board of Directors during its meeting Monday.

With 24 residents, the care center generated $152,925 in revenue in April with expenses of $129,485.

Administrator Stephanie Rucker told the board the facility is now down to one agency LPN, and will not have any CNA agency nursing charges in May. Agency Nursing accounted for $21,282 in expenses during April. Rucker told the board the care center will have three pay periods in May instead of the typical two, so expenses will be higher in May as a result.

Rucker said there were no admissions and no discharges during April, with the care center maintaining its 24 residents. She said 12 residents were paying privately, 11 receive Medicaid assistance, and one receives assistance from Medicare.

Board Chairman Phil Fuchs said the city of Ainsworth has now provided the additional funding previously requested by the board.

Rucker reported the facility received its annual state survey last week, and it went well. She said there were three small deficiencies noted, including a kitchen door that didn’t latch properly, there was dust present on one sprinkler head, and a couple resident rooms where oxygen is used did not have an oxygen sign.

“We did very well,” Rucker said. “We had a pizza party for the staff on Wednesday after the survey was completed.”

Rucker reported Sun Wong, the international nurse the facility hired, has been doing well.

“She is gaining confidence,” Rucker said. “And the residents love her.”

Rucker said two current CNAs are working to becoming LPNs, and they asked if the board would be willing to assist in paying the cost of their education if they signed two- or three-year contracts with the nursing home upon completion of their training.

“I think that would be a great asset if we could find the funding,” Rucker said.

Rucker also reported on National Nursing Home Week, which is underway. She said the residents and staff planted flowers and a tree on Monday. The residents would participate in a cooking class Tuesday. A Bingo party is scheduled for Thursday and open to the public, and there is a show and shine on Friday with the care center serving hot dogs, chips and drinks to the public from 5 until 7 p.m. as they visit to view the classic cars.

In action items Monday, the board accepted the high bid of $1,400 for the fencing on the northwest side of the building. The facility received 10 bids, with the winning bidder also responsible for removing the fence.

The board also approved the purchase of one lift after Rucker presented the board with several quotes and her recommendation to go with a lift from Medline at a cost of $2,100.

Rucker said it is a sit-to-stand lift, and will lift up to 500 pounds. The quote also included free shipping and one sling. She said the facility would need to purchase a few different sizes of slings at a cost of about $100 per sling.

Rucker said one lift was needed immediately, and a second lift would likely be needed soon.

Business Manager Sarah Schipporeit said the facility was told it was not eligible for grant funding since it was a governmental entity, but she said if a non-profit organization like the North Central Development Center would be willing to submit a grant application on behalf of the care center, funding could be provided.

Fuchs recommended the board purchase one lift now and try and work with the NCDC on a grant application for a second lift.

Board member Henry Beel said the board needed to have a goal of replacing the concrete in the facility’s driveway by the end of the summer. Beel said the condition of the concrete is a liability issue.

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

* City Council approves ABC funding for 2 projects Wednesday

(Posted 7 a.m. May 9)

The Ainsworth City Council approved a pair of requests for ABC funding Wednesday following recommendations from the Ainsworth Betterment Committee.

The council approved a $2,000 funding request from the E&L baseball program to transport red dirt from Minnesota to place on the little league fields at East City Park.

Clint Painter said the fields have not had new dirt in quite some time, and there were holes that had formed in the infields that have standing water.

Painter said the dirt costs about $20 per ton, with an additional $83 per ton in shipping. He said the $2,000 should cover most of the cost to make the improvement to the little league fields.

The council also approved a $1,250 request from Ainsworth Community Schools to support a Harmony Bridge project.

City Administrator Lisa Schroedl said an instructor comes to the community with a set of music geared toward elderly residents. The instructor not only teaches the students the music, but teaches them how to interact with the community’s senior residents.

Following the instruction, the students then go perform at the senior center, assisted living and nursing home. The total cost to host the Harmony Bridge is $6,000, with the school asking for $1,250 in ABC funding.

In other business Wednesday, the council, by a 3-1 vote with Schuyler Schenk against, ratified action taken during its April 18 meeting to approve a contract with the North Central Development Center to manage the LB 840 program.

With City Attorney Rod Palmer raising questions during the April meeting about how the agenda item was worded and whether the council could take action, the council placed the item on Wednesday’s agenda to ratify that decision to remove any questions regarding the wording.

Kade Gracey provided an update to the council on activities at the Ainsworth Golf Course. Gracey said the kitchen in the clubhouse was recently updated and is a nice addition.

While the weather has the course behind this spring, the course is hosting a couple big events this year that should help it catch up. He reported Steve Gann has been hired as the clubhouse manager, and Phil Farley out of Sutton was hired as the course superintendent.

He asked the council if the course could again run its fertilizer bill and its bill for sharpening reels on the mowers through the city using the funding the city allocates to the course annually. Running the bills through the city using those funds saves on sales tax, from which the city is exempt.

The council approved a request from Scotty Clark with the Ainsworth Evangelical Free Church to allow use of city facilities June 2 during the fifth annual Family Fun Concert. Clark said the concert is completely free of charge, with kids games, food and music provided.

The council tabled several agenda items Wednesday, including proposals to expand on the streets building. Schroedl presented the council with two bids, but said the third company she contacted did not submit a proposal.

Councilmen Greg Soles and Brad Fiala both asked if any local businesses were interested in submitting bids for the project. Schroedl said she contacted one local contractor, but did not receive a response.

Fiala said he would like to see as much of the work as possible done locally, and Soles asked Schroedl to check with local businesses to see if the city could get a third quote before taking action.

The council also tabled action on amending the city’s employee handbook.

Soles said there were numerous areas where the city’s employee handbook didn’t match with the union contract the city approved for the majority of its employees.

Fiala said the employee handbook needed to be more in line with the union contract.

“I think we need a workshop to sit down and go through them so the handbook reflects what the union contract shows,” Fiala said.

Schroedl said she and the water superintendent were the only two city employees who did not fall under the union contract.

The council agreed to table that item and schedule a workshop to go through the handbook and the union contract.

During her report, Schroedl said a FEMA project manager had been assigned to review the damage to city streets from the March flooding. The project manager will help the city come up with plans to repair the damage.

She reported the Brown County Sheriff’s Department has made an effort to contact residents about licensing their pets.

“Pet licenses the last three years have decreased tremendously,” Schroedl said. “They have undertaken the effort to make sure pet owners are licensing their pets.”

She reported the sheriff’s department issued approximately 55 pet license notifications.

Schroedl asked residents to not blow grass into the streets and gutters when mowing.

“We understand it happens, but please be cognizant it is an ordinance violation,” Schroedl said.

She said the sheriff’s department will post a notice if it finds properties where grass is in the streets or gutters after mowing. If it continues following the notice, citations may be issued.

Schroedl also reported the swimming pool is slated to open on Memorial Day weekend, depending on the weather.

She said the new pool shades and benches have been installed.

Councilwoman Deb Hurless questioned the minutes from the previous meeting.

“We had not voted to advertise for an economic development position,” Hurless said. “Greg requested that be changed in the minutes, and it wasn’t.”

Schroedl said that discussion was not held during open session, so there was nothing about it in the minutes.

Soles said his request was that Schroedl amend her report that the council had approved advertising.

Schroedl said her report was her account of the conversation, and was not a part of the minutes.

“I stand by that,” she said. “That was my recollection.”

She said the city advertises for positions all the time without council approval.

Mayor Jeremiah Sullivan said any blame for the misunderstanding lies with him.

“I told her to advertise it, put it on me,” Sullivan said.

Palmer told the council advertising for job openings was an administrative action.

With Hurless voting against, the council approved the April meeting minutes.

Hurless also questioned a $5,000 claim paid to Saner Plumbing.

“Are we supposed to get bids for that?” Hurless asked.

Schroedl said the city is only required to bid projects that are in excess of $80,000. She said the claim was for work done to repair the sewer line at the streets department shop.

The consent agenda approved Wednesday included authorization for the Ainsworth Area Chamber of Commerce to close Main Street for both the Middle of Nowhere Days Carnival June 6 through June 10 and for the annual Ainsworth Alumni Parade June 29, and a special designated liquor license request for the Silver Circle for a beer garden June 29. That request also included the closure of the alley between Main and Woodward streets west of the Silver Circle.
The next meeting of the Ainsworth City Council was moved up to June 5 instead of the normal second Wednesday of the month.

* Area students receive NSAA Academic All-State Awards for spring activities

(Posted 1:30 p.m. May 8)

The Nebraska School Activities Association announced the recipients of the spring 2018-19 Nebraska Chiropractic Physicians Association Academic All-State Awards.

The NSAA Awards Program recognizes students who meet the criteria for nomination by their school in the season of their activity. Each year the NSAA recognizes students during the fall, winter and spring seasons who are nominated by their schools for their individual academic excellence, leadership and significant contributions in their NSAA activity.

Area students receiving spring Academic All-State Awards include:

 

Ainsworth

Brandt Murphy and Samuel Wilkins in boys golf, Mackenzie Kovar and Brandt Murphy in music, Benjamin Arens and Treyvin Schlueter in boys track and field, and Megan Appelt and Mackenzie Kovar in girls track and field.

 

Keya Paha County

Miah Wiebelhaus in girls track and field.

 

Rock County

Gunnar Bussinger in boys golf, Brodee Fleming and Suzi Smiley in music, Kolton Needham and Byron Pfister in boys track and field, and Jillian Buell in girls track and field.

 

Stuart

Lainey Paxton and Madison Stracke in music, Colton Kaup and Wade Paxton in boys track and field, and Reaghan Engel and Katilynn Kaup in girls track and field.

 

West Holt

Garrison Hansen and Austin Wenner in boys golf, Anna Albrecht and Lindee Wentworth in music, Aaron Kraus and Benjamin Thiele in boys track and field, and Leighton Mlady and Lindee Wentworth in girls track and field.

 

Sandhills

Brett Downing and Bryan Zutavern in boys golf, Miriam Ganoung and Courtney Swisher in music, Matthew Dailey in boys track and field, and Carlie Collier in girls track and field.

 

Valentine

Dillion Muirhead and Jaydon Owen in boys golf, Mercy Maunu and Rita Woodraska in music, Caleb Long and Lane McGinley in boys track and field, and Allison Hitchcock and Isabelle Salters in girls track and field.

 

Boyd County

Jacey Hilkemann and Nathan Kaczor in music, Austin Koenig and Jared Koenig in boys track and field, and Heather Atkinson and Elsie Magwire in girls track and field.

* Ainsworth sees less precipitation than average during April

(Posted 9:15 a.m. May 7)

Ainsworth Weather Observer Gerry Osborn provided details from April's weather. To hear the report, click on the audio link below.

audio clips/Gerry Osborn April 2019 weather.mp3

* Area students graduate from University of Nebraska-Lincoln

(Posted 9 a.m. May 7)

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln conferred 3,490 degrees during commencement exercises May 3 and 4.

The spring graduating class was the largest in the university's 150-year history.

"Of all the university's awards, achievements and accomplishments of the past year -- and there have been many -- this is one that gives me the most satisfaction," said Chancellor Ronnie Green. "We have an all-time record number of graduates who have successfully completed their academic endeavors and who are embarking upon new adventures, dreams and goals. Their impact upon their families, their communities, Nebraska and the world will be immeasurable. This is truly what the mission of the university is all about."

For the first time, undergraduate commencement was split into two ceremonies, one in the morning and the other in the afternoon.

Rebecca Richards-Kortum, Malcolm Gillis University Professor of Bioengineering at Rice University, MacArthur Foundation "Genius Grant" recipient and Nebraska alumna, delivered the undergraduate commencement addresses May 4 in Pinnacle Bank Arena. Sherri Jones, dean-designate of the College of Education and Human Sciences and chair of the Department of Special Education and Communication Disorders at Nebraska, gave the address at the graduate and professional degree ceremony May 3 in the arena. Adam Foss, founder and executive director of Prosecutor Impact, spoke to the law graduates May 4 in the Lied Center for Performing Arts.

UN-L graduates from the area include:

 

Ainsworth

Jacob Bryent Wilkins, Bachelor of Science in Agricultural Education.

 

Long Pine

Victoria H. Davis, Bachelor of Science in Education and Human Sciences.

 

Springview

Kara Nicole Bruns, Bachelor of Science in Agricultural Education with distinction.

Moriah Lynn Heerten, Bachelor of Science in Agricultural Economics, Bachelor of Science in Agronomy.

 

Bassett

Christopher Gordon Coulter, Bachelor of Science in Agribusiness.

 

Stuart

Evan Patrick Laible, Bachelor of Science in Grassland Ecology and Management.

 

Atkinson

Troy Anthony Childress, Bachelor of Science in Agronomy.

Samantha Marie Garcia, Bachelor of Arts in Hospitality, Restaurant and Tourism Management.

Luke John Welborn, Bachelor of Science in Agronomy.

 

Valentine

Sydney Lauren Dunn, Bachelor of Science in Business Administration.

Jonathan Axel Petersen, Bachelor of Arts.

* Kovar named Harriet Hughes Outstanding Fine Arts Student

(Posted 10:30 a.m. May 6)

Senior Mackenzie Kovar was named the Harriet Hughes Outstanding Fine Arts Student at Ainsworth High School. Kovar received awards in numerous fine arts categories, including journalism, one-act play, and thespians.

Jodi Beach, who received top awards in both band and choir, was named the Fine Arts Student Award runner-up.

Kovar was named the Thespian of the Year, and was recognized in journalism for being the school yearbook editor and September Bulldog Beat editor. She also was one of five students who received an outstanding actor/actress award for her work in the school’s one-act play.

Beach was named the National Choral Award winner, and received both the John Philip Sousa Award and Patrick S. Gilmore Award in band.

Henry Beel received the Senior Oratory Award in speech, and senior Sam Wilkins was presented the Duden Award in speech. Outstanding varsity speaker was Adriana Hood, and Alyssa Erthum was named the outstanding novice speaker.

Coy Carson was named the top junior class band member with Josie Ganser the top sophomore and Gavin Olinger the top freshman member of the band.

Carson also received the top junior class award in choir, with Brandt Murphy named the top sophomore and Madelyn Goochey the top freshman member of the choir.

In addition to Kovar, outstanding actor/actress awards in one-act play went to Erin Painter, Alyssa Erthum, Ben Flynn and Elizabeth Wilkins.

Coy Carson, Brandt Murphy and Raven Stewart were named Honor Thespians, and Thespian Initiates included Alyssa Erthum, Ben Flynn, Gavin Olinger, Shelly Saner, Haley Schroedl, Cody Scott and Elizabeth Wilkins.

In addition to Kovar, journalism awards were presented to Tessa Lauer, Bailey Kinnick, Erin Painter, Rylee Rice and Brie Schipporeit.

Kovar will receive a scholarship for being named the Harriet Hughes Outstanding Fine Arts Student.

* Ainsworth Community Schools presents Academic Awards to top students

(Posted 10 a.m. May 6)

Ainsworth Community Schools presented its annual Academic Awards recently, with seniors Trey Schlueter and Sam Wilkins receiving the Principal’s Leadership Award from Principal Steven Dike.

Wilkins and senior Ben Arens were named to the Omaha World-Herald’s All West-Central Second Team in the paper’s All-Academic Program.

Arens and senior Megan Appelt were recognized for their selection as Believers and Achievers from the Nebraska Schools Activities Association.

Southwest Conference Academic All-Conference Awards were given to Megan Appelt, Ben Arens, Mikki Arens, Henry Beel, Gage Delimont, Tate Fernau, Kiersten Higbee, Shelby Jones, Mackenzie Kovar, Trey Schlueter, Rebecca Taylor, Sam Wilkins and Jenna Williams.

Students inducted into the National Honor Society were CeeAnna Beel, Adriana Hood, Shelby Jones, Mila Pozehl, Rylee Rice, Molly Salzman and Madison Welch.

Rebecca Taylor received the Class of 1983 scholarship.

Classroom teachers also presented their awards to students.

Tory Cole, Noah Kappelmann, Sloan Raymond, Rylee Rice and Raven Stewart received the excellence in American history class awards.

Outstanding achievement in world history went to Seth Anderson, CeeAnna Beel and Matt Jeffers.

Caleb Allen, Allison Arens, Alyssa Erthum and Libby Wilkins received the outstanding geography student awards.

Outstanding students in physchology were Kaitlin Bussinger and Ethan Christensen.

Government students of the year were Megan Appelt, Ben Arens, Henry Beel, Gage Delimont and Trey Schlueter.

Sam Wilkins received a Future Politician Award.

In foreign language, Alyssa Erthum was named the outstanding Spanish I student, with Sam Wilkins receiving the outstanding Spanish II student award. Kaitlin Bussinger, Gage Delimont and Rebecca Taylor shared the outstanding Spanish III award.

In business classes, Gavin Olinger received the top info tech student award. Brandt Murphy was the top advanced info tech student. The personal finance class top awards went to Rebecca Taylor and Sam Wilkins. Shaley Starkey was named the top Accounting I student, with Halli Haskell the top Accounting II student.

In consumer science, Rhion Irwin was named the top life and career readiness student. Foods and nutrition top student awards were presented to Megan Appelt, Seth Anderson and Josie Ganser. Bailey Kinnick received the top interpersonal relationships common sense award. Kaitlyn Nelson was the top fashion design student, and Jennifer Bryant received the study hall scholar award.

In English, Alyssa Erthum received the English I top student award. The English II award went to CeeAnna Beel. Tory Cole received the top student award in English III, and Mackenzie Kovar was named the top English IV student. Raven Stewart earned the media production class award.

Industrial technology teacher Todd Pollock recognized numerous students who assisted in remodeling the Learning Center, including Gabe Allen, Ben Barrow, Tristan Bowen, Calvin Christensen, Keith Cole, Tanner Cole, Ty Conroy, Jade Dailey, Riley Hawkins, Britt Hollenbeck, Garrett Hollenbeck, Kyle Hollenbeck, Madison Inbody, Conner Jackman, Braxton Jefferis, Wrett Killion, Kade Kral, Braxton Lemunyan, Lila Lewis, Braden Ludemann, Landon Nilson, Oren Pozehl, Sloan Raymond, Michael Spotted Bear, Maverick Stutzman, Atley Titus, Colton Troxel and Isaac Walnofer.

In math, Bria Delimont, Wryllie Killion and Aubree Rice were named the top Algebra I students, with Kylie Higbee and Kyleigh Allen receiving outstanding effort awards. The top trigonometry and Algebra III students were Tory Cole, Tate Fernau and Raven Stewart, with Mikki Arens, Jon Barrow, Tate Fernau and Tessa Lauer receiving above and beyond awards.

The top Algebra II students were CeeAnna Beel and Brandt Murphy, with Allison Arens, Alyssa Erthum and Maia Flynn named the top Geometry students. Holldyn Beck received the top general math student award.

In science, Alyssa Erthum and Ben Flynn were named the top physical science students. Earth science top student awards went to Halli Haskell and Conner Jackman. Physics class top students were Ben Arens and Sam Wilkins, with Tory Cole and Raven Stewart named the top chemistry students.

Outstanding students in biology were CeeAnna Beel, Jennifer Bryant, Haley Hawkins and Molly Salzman. Rebecca Taylor was named both the outstanding marine science student and outstanding college biology student. Megan Appelt, Ben Arens, Mackenzie Kovar, Rylee Rice and Jenna Williams were the top anatomy and physiology students.

In physical education, strength and conditioning awards were presented to Ben Barrow, Jon Barrow, Coy Carson, Ty Conroy, Bria Delimont, Alyssa Erthum, Wrett Killion, Kaitlyn Nelson, Jon Ortner, Mila Pozehl and Elizabeth Wilkins.

* Area students scheduled to graduate Saturday from Northeast Community College

(Posted 8:30 a.m. May 6)

The 46th Commencement of Northeast Community College will take place at 10 a.m. Saturday, May 11, in the Cox Activities Center on the Norfolk campus.

As of May 1, a total of 923 students have earned 1,027 degrees.

Students from the area scheduled to receive degrees from Northeast Community College include:

 

Ainsworth

Holly Esterly, an Associate of Arts degree

Ana Garcia Medina, an Associate of Arts degree

Jennifer Vonheeder, an Associate of Arts degree

Amy Cook, an Associate degree in nursing

Sydney Quinn, an Associate of Applied Science degree in business

Breanna Schwindt, an Associate of Applied Science degree in business

Hadley Caufield, an Associate of Applied Science degree in electrical construction and control

Lisa Ludemann, an Associate of Applied Science degree in health information management systems.

Sonya  Shurter, A certificate in food service and dietary management

 

Long Pine

Jezrae Peacock, an Associate of Applied Science degree in early childhood education

Sabrina Hempel, an Associate of Applied Science degree in graphic design

 

Newport

Jeffery Reynolds, an Associate of Applied Science degree in graphic design

Brook Doke, an Associate of Science degree

 

Stuart

Dezma Lewis, an Associate of Arts degree

 

Atkinson

Jacob Tunender, an Associate of Arts degree, and a certificate in information technology

Jason Seger, an Associate degree in nursing

Miranda Bendig, and Associate of Science degree

Preston Dickau – An Associate of Applied Science degree in auto body repair technology

Skye Cavaness – An Associate of Applied Science degree in business

Linda Shaw – An Associate of Applied Science degree in business, and a certificate in banking

Patrick Vanmeter – An Associate of Applied Science degree in diesel technology

Jeffrey Judge – An Associate of Applied Science degree in paramedic

 

Valentine

Caven Belville, an Associate of Arts degree

Emerson Verbeek, an Associate of Arts degree

Jacy Miller, an Associate of Science degree

Mason Poulsen, an Associate of Science degree

Newt Bussinger, an Associate of Applied Science degree in electrical construction and control

Lyle Cate III, an Associate of Applied Science degree in electrical construction and control

 

Butte

Makala Reiser, an Associate of Science degree

Kolton Wheeler, a certificate in media production

* University of Nebraska Medical Center to hold Spring Commencement

(Posted 9:35 a.m. May 2)

University of Nebraska Medical Center spring commencement ceremonies will take place May 2 and 4 in Norfolk, Kearney, Lincoln, Omaha and Scottsbluff. Diplomas will be conferred on 990 students including several from this area.

Bachelor of Science in Nursing to McKenna Young of Atkinson.

Bachelor of Science in Nursing from the College of Nursing Lincoln Division to Shea Sinsel with Distinction and to Cassidy Hafer of Dunning.

Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Norfolk Division to Kenady Stanton of Bassett with High Distinction.

Bachelor of Science in Dental Hygiene from College of Dentistry Lincoln to Jamie Laetsch of Amelia.

Doctor of Pharmacy to Matthew Laetsch of Atkinson with Distinction.

Bachelor of Science in Medical Imaging and Therapeutic Science from the College of Allied Health Professions to Kayla Bogue of Stuart with High Distinction.

* Local Pheasants Forever chapter awards 6 scholarships

(Posted 6:45 a.m. May 1)

The Sandhills Chapter of Pheasants Forever has announced its annual scholarship winners. The local chapter raises funds for the scholarships during its annual banquet in November, and the support from the banquet allowed Pheasants Forever to award six scholarships to graduating seniors.
This year’s scholarship recipients are Henry Beel, Trey Schlueter, Rhion Irwin, Jon Barrow, Sam Wilkins and Rebecca Taylor, all from Ainsworth High School.
This is the 12th year the Sandhills Chapter of Pheasants Forever have awarded scholarships using funds raised from its annual banquet, and brings the total to 46 high school students who have been assisted in furthering their education.

* 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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