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* Funeral Service notes: (see more on the obituaries page)
* Dean Daniels, 73, formerly of Ainsworth 4 p.m. Oct. 10
* Gary Sedlacek, 79, of Butte 1 p.m. Oct. 10
* Jacob C. Koch, 77, of Long Pine 10:30 a.m. Oct. 8
* Meeting reports located below for:
Oct. 6 Brown County Commissioners
Oct. 6 Ainsworth/Brown County Care Center Board of Directors
Sept. 30 Ainsworth City Council special meeting
Sept. 16 Ainsworth/Brown County Care Center Board of Directors
Sept. 15 Brown County Commissioners
* Norden Bridge replacement project moving forward, work could begin in spring
(Posted 3 p.m. Oct. 6)
The replacement of the Norden Bridge is moving forward, with the Brown County Commissioners on Tuesday approving an agreement with Miller and Associates allowing the company to seek bids on the $1.35 million project.
The major bridge replacement project is possible thanks to Nebraska Department of Roads’ Major Bridge Program covering an estimated $1.2 million of the $1.35 million price tag.
Gary Steele with Miller and Associates said the Department of Roads pays for the cost of the bridge installation, with Brown County and Keya Paha County jointly responsible for approximately $95,700 in engineering and permitting work, and $40,500 in approach work.
Steele said the new bridge would span 180 feet, and would measure 28 feet wide inside the guard rails, a substantial widening from the current bridge, which is 18-feet wide. The deck would be poured with 9-inch thick concrete, and there would be no load restrictions across the new bridge.
Steele said the plan has been reviewed and approved by the Department of Roads. While the county will advertise for bids on the project, it will first only recommend its choice to the Department of Roads when bids are received. The DOR would then review the bids and provide its consent to the county, with the commissioners then accepting the bid.
“We want to get the project bid this month,” Steele said. “The project would be awarded in November or December, and work would start in the spring of 2016 with a firm completion date of June 1.”
Steve Thiede with the National Parks Service said any delays beyond June 1 to complete the project and open the bridge would likely lead to upset visitors to the Niobrara National Scenic River. He asked what enforcement the counties would have to ensure the project is complete by that date.
Steele said there is a penalty for the contractor in the amount of $750 for each day after June 1 the project is not complete and open for public use.
Unlike the Meadville Bridge replacement, where the old bridge was kept open while the new bridge and approaches were constructed adjacently, there is no room to build the Norden Bridge adjacently.
Steele said the current bridge would first be removed prior to the new bridge being built at the same location, which effectively closes the Norden Road to through traffic from the time the old bridge is removed until the new bridge is opened for public use.
Steele said signage would be placed at both the Highway 20 and Highway 12 intersections with the Norden Road during construction informing the public the bridge was closed.
Keya Paha County Commissioner Mike Tuerk said, as with the Meadville Road, the counties could expect to see traffic, especially truck traffic, increase on the Norden Road following the completion of the new bridge.
Brown County Commissioner Reagan Wiebelhaus thanked Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin for taking the initiative to apply to the Department of Roads for the Major Bridge Program funds.
“Without Kenny’s work, this project would never have been able to start this quickly,” Wiebelhaus said.
Each county had been placing $20,000 annually into a bridge fund, pooling resources with the goal of eventually replacing the bridge. However, with roughly 90 percent of the funding coming from the state’s program, the timeline to replace the outdated bridge was sped up substantially.
The public will be notified when the project is scheduled to begin.
In other business during Tuesday’s meeting, the commissioners met with Darlene Miller and Ann Fiala from the Brown County Ambulance Association, who told the board the new on-call schedule for ambulance transfers was up and running, and had already allowed the service to cover two patient transfers it may otherwise had missed.
Wiebelhaus said he remembered the group saying it would take only nine transfers in a year to pay for the cost of keeping members on call.
Miller said two of those transfers had already been made, and the schedule has been smooth thus far.
“We have EMTs from Springview, Bassett and Newport who are also taking shifts,” Miller said.
Fiala said the schedule would be tough to complete without the participation of the emergency responders in the surrounding communities.
The board discussed submitting an application to the Nebraska Intergovernmental Risk Management Agency for Assist Grant funds to purchase three defibrillator units for the county. Fiala said she was also submitting an application to the Brown County Hospital Auxiliary to place defibrillator units in two additional Ainsworth Fire and Rescue units.
She lauded the advancements in defibrillator technology, saying having those units available within the first five minutes during a heart attack event greatly increases the patient’s chance for survival.
Ainsworth/Brown County Care Center Board Chairman Kent Taylor gave the board an update on the interlocal group’s activities. He said, while there was another setback to acquiring the former Ainsworth Care Center real estate, he said the group was continuing to pursue reopening a nursing facility in the community.
He said he is working on applications to the Community Development Block Grant re-use program and the Ainsworth Betterment Committee to secure the $340,000 in funding allocated by the city of Ainsworth.
Commissioner Buddy Small said the board had approved a $340,000 contribution from its inheritance tax fund, though the money had not yet been distributed to the interlocal board.
He encouraged the commissioners to approve $10,000 in funding to the interlocal board to match the amount the city had already contributed. Taylor said the interlocal board would have a $10,000 claim during its Oct. 19 meeting from its newly hired management firm.
The commissioners approved a $7,700 bid from Office Products of Winner, S.D., to replace the copier/scanner in the courthouse.
The commissioners approved a subdivision for Brad Christ, removing 6.5 acres from a 35-acre parcel in Section 23, Township 30, Range 23 West.
In a roads item, the board approved allowing willing employees to work four, 10-hour days from Oct. 16 through Jan. 14, 2016. Turpin said three roads employees would like to work the four-day schedule, and three others preferred to stay with five, eight-hour workdays.
He said the 10-hour days would be beneficial for workers who made longer trips to blade roads in outward areas of the county, while having a few employees still available on the fifth day would give the department the flexibility to handle any daily issues that might arise.
The board also gave Turpin the go-ahead to place several obsolete pieces of equipment on a county surplus sale. Turpin will provide the items to County Attorney David Streich to present as a resolution to declare the equipment surplus during the board’s Oct. 20 meeting.
In a final roads item, the board directed Turpin to conduct a study on whether to Close Road 135 in northern Brown County.
Streich said a previous dispute between two parties regarding the road had apparently been settled, and one party was no longer against the road being closed.
Small asked Streich to send a letter to both parties confirming a settlement had been reached and there would be no dispute to the road closure.
Small said he was not in favor of closing the Teel Road, but agreed to have Turpin perform the study on the final stretch of the road, Road 135, and report back to the commissioners during the board’s Oct. 20 meeting, which begins at 8:15 a.m. in the lower level of the courthouse.
* Care Center Board learns of new issue with purchase of former nursing facility
(Posted 7 a.m. Oct 6)
The effort to purchase the former Ainsworth Care Center building has hit another snag, as the Ainsworth/Brown County Care Center Board of Directors were informed during Monday’s meeting the closing on the property could not occur because a judgment had been entered against the company that owns the building.
Ron Ross with Rural Health Development, the company hired by the board to begin the licensing process and eventually manage the facility when it is ready to accept residents, said a judgment was entered against RP Midwest for a couple hundred thousand dollars by a vendor that had been providing services to the facilities owned by the company.
“RP Midwest owns the buildings at Ainsworth, Exeter, Edgar and Lyons,” Ross told the board. “RP Midwest leased all of the facilities to different entities. They leased the Ainsworth facility to Ainsworth Care Center LLC, and that entity had Deseret as the facility manager.”
Ross said the vendor included RP Midwest in a lawsuit, even though RP Midwest only owned the facility.
“The vendor apparently sued everyone, hoping someone would pay,” Ross said. “RP Midwest did not apparently respond properly and a judgment was awarded.”
North Central Development Center Executive Director Kristin Olson said the judgment against the company was entered just as the NCDC was preparing to close on the building.
“It was the final day of our due diligence period, and it put us under pressure to make a decision when we learned there was a judgment that had been awarded,” Olson said. “We did not feel comfortable potentially subjecting the community to liability by accepting the building.”
Olson said the NCDC Board of Directors had absolutely planned to close on the building last week.
“However, we would much rather have found out about this judgement before we closed rather than acquiring the building, putting money into repairing it and having residents ready to move in and then learning there was a judgment,” Olson said.
She said, with the judgment still against RP Midwest, the NCDC Board opted to let the offer on the building expire, however, an amendment was signed to extend the closing date to before Oct. 15 in case the issue can be resolved prior to that date.
“We told their attorney to get back to us as soon as the judgment is resolved,” Olson said.
Brown County Attorney David Streich said it will take a motion being filed to set aside the judgment, and RP Midwest would have to provide a meritorious defense.
“It could take several months,” Streich said. “There is probably a contract signed by someone, somewhere that will come to light during this.”
Ross said he visited with the law firm that is handling the judgment for the vendor.
“I expressed my disappointment that this judgment is holding up our process locally,” Ross said.
Board member Buddy Small said he was not surprised by the latest developments.
“There has been one glitch after another,” Small said. “This leaves us nowhere again.”
Board member Kent Taylor said being unable to close on the building was not the fault of anyone locally.
“The community is doing its level best to move forward,” Taylor said. “I am just glad we learned about this before the agreement was signed.”
Ross said, until the judgment was resolved, the building purchase should not move forward.
“The court would be concerned about any potential fraudulent transfer of assets with a judgment against the company,” Ross said. “Having the building gifted could be viewed as hiding assets.”
Small said, until the community owns a building, he didn’t know how the board could move forward.
Board member Jim Walz said he disagreed with that opinion.
“In the meantime, we can be working on a license,” Walz said. “That will take 45 to 60 days. If it all falls through, yes we spent some money to get organized without a building. But, if we work on it now, we are that much farther ahead when we do get a facility.”
Ross proposed a modified contract to the original agreement he proposed.
“There are certain things we don’t need to do until you own the building,” Ross said. “But, there are other things we can be doing in the meantime.”
He said he already has a project manager working for the community.
“We have about five months of work to get this all done,” Ross said. “We need to work through the licensing process, work on getting a Medicaid provider number, and it takes about five to six months to get a Medicare provider number.”
Ross said he would hold a couple town hall meetings to inform the public about the progress being made.
“We need to do an inventory, prepare a list of what needs to be purchased, and start setting up relationships with vendors,” Ross said. “We will figure out what it will cost to fix the building so it can be occupied. We will get all those numbers put together and present them to you. We would bring an administrator in about 60 days in advance of opening, and we would let the community know when we planned to open so people can make decisions on placing their loved ones.”
Ross said he had walked through the facility to see the condition of the building.
“It is lucky we went through it, because there was a water issue with the fire sprinklers,” Ross said. “We notified the receiver, who is still in control of the building at this point. There was quite a bit of water in the mechanical room. We had to get permission to shut off the water. It was a good thing we found it when we did.”
Ross proposed amending the original proposal, and charging the board $10,000 per month for Rural Health Development’s services, with the $10,000 monthly cost credited toward the original $45,000 that was bid to handle all of Phase I’s duties to get the licenses approved and the facility open.
“We will do everything we can to get you in there as soon as we can,” Ross said. “It takes a lot of work to do all this. There is a process that works, and we are happy to assist you with that process.”
Ross said the community could be ready to open the doors to residents about 90 to 120 days after the building purchase is completed. He said the administrator would be hired about 60 days out from the opening, the director nursing would be hired about 30 days in advance, and additional staff would be brought on a couple weeks before residents were ready to be accepted.
The board agreed to the amended contract, and will vote on the amended agreement and the first $10,000 payment during a special meeting at 5 p.m. Oct. 19 in the Ainsworth Conference Center.
The board also plans to establish three committees to assist it in the process. The board is seeking volunteers to serve on a renovation committee, that would assist in determining the repairs needed to the former Ainsworth Care Center building. A capital fund-raising committee will be established, and the board plans to establish a committee to look at the construction of a new facility.
Anyone interested in serving on one of the three committees may contact the North Central Development Center at 402-387-2740.
Taylor said, “We will also notify the task force members who are familiar with the project and have worked on it already.”
John Gross asked, “How much money and effort are we putting toward getting into
this current building when those efforts could have been put toward just getting
a new facility built?”
“We have workforce and families who are waiting now to see if we can get this facility back open,” Olson said.
Ross said the end goal should certainly be a new facility.
“If you have a nice, new facility, people will come,” Ross said.
Gross encouraged the group to continue to work toward a new facility.
“Right now, we are not getting there with this building for reasons we cannot control,” Gross said. “If we can step over these people and work toward what is already our ultimate goal, I think we should consider that.”
Taylor said it has been the board’s goal from the beginning of the process to eventually construct a new facility.
Walz said it comes down to being able to finance a new building. It would be more difficult for the board to have financing approved for a new building if it could not show a current cash flow or revenue projections to service the debt.
Ross said, when the community is ready to build a new facility, the USDA has a 40-year guaranteed loan program at a low interest rate.
Following the special meeting at 5 p.m. Oct. 19, the next regular meeting of the Ainsworth/Brown County Care Center Board of Directors is scheduled for 5 p.m. Nov. 2.
* Traffic Accident
(Posted 1 p.m. Oct. 5)
The Brown County Sheriff’s Department investigated a two-vehicle, multiple-cattle accident that occurred Monday, Oct. 5, on Highway 20.
According to the sheriff’s department report, at 4:58 a.m. Monday on Highway 20 approximately 4 miles west of Ainsworth, a 1992 Chevy pickup, driven by Christopher Osterman, 44, of Ainsworth, was traveling west when the vehicle struck three cattle on the highway.
One of the head of cattle slid into the eastbound lane, where it was struck by an eastbound 2011 Dodge pickup, driven by James McCall, 31, of Johnstown.
No persons were injured during the accident. Damage to the McCall Dodge was estimated at $1,000. Osterman’s Chevy was considered a total loss.
The three head of cattle, owned by Mark Miles of Johnstown, carried an estimated value of $4,500.
* Traffic Accident
(Posted 8:45 a.m. Oct. 5)
The Brown County Sheriff’s Department investigated a
two-vehicle accident that occurred on Saturday, Oct. 3, in Ainsworth.
* Davis discusses interim work on property tax relief
(Posted 7 a.m. Oct. 5)
Nebraska 43rd District State Sen. Al Davis discussed the work being done in the interim by the Legislature's Appropriations and Education committees to address the rising property tax burden faced by the state's agricultural producers and rural school districts. To hear the report, click on the audio link below.
* Weekly summary from the Brown County Sheriff's Department
(Posted 7 p.m. Oct. 5)
* Taylor, Nelson selected for Smith's Youth Advisory Committee
(Posted noon Oct. 2)
Nebraska 3rd District Rep. Adrian Smith
announced Friday the names of Third District high school students who will serve
on his Youth Advisory Council for the 2015-16 school year.
* Modern Woodman, First National Bank plant trees at East City Park
(Posted 7:15 a.m. Oct. 2)
Local Modern Woodman of America representative Stan Libolt and employees of the First National Bank of Ainsworth on Monday planted five new trees around the ball fields at East City Park.
The tree planting was part of the Plant a Tree Program, a nationwide initiative introduced by Modern Woodman in 2004.
“This program allows Modern Woodman members to give the community a lasting gift,” Libolt said. “The name Modern Woodman honors the pioneer woodmen who cleared the forests to build homes and secure the futures of their families. Planting trees is an important way to create a secure future for families, communities and the environment.”
Modern Woodman has planted thousands of trees across the country since implementing the program.
First National Bank employees have volunteered to assist in the continued mulching and general care of the trees.
* Late rains help warm September finish with above-average moisture
(Posted 7 a.m. Oct. 2)
A nearly 2-inch rain on Sept. 23 helped Ainsworth finish
the month above the 2.50-inch monthly average.
* Recent cases from Brown County Court
(Posted 7:45 p.m. Oct. 1)
In addition to fines, each case carries $48 in court costs
Benjamin R. Bowen, age 37, of Portland, Ore., charged with speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, fined $25.
Whitney S. Willcuts, 21, of Wood Lake, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.
Judy L. Bowman, 49, of Stanton, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.
Julie Rau Ruhter, 40, of Ainsworth, speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.
Austin L. Maness, 36, of Overland Park, Kan., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.
Jessica R. Klooz, 23, of Purdum, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.
Ashley J. Broin, 33, of Omaha, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.
Molly R. Huerter, 27, of La Vista, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.
Elizabeth J. Salistean, 41, of Omaha, speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.
Dustin R. Cornish, 42, of Salix, Iowa, speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.
Earl M. Boxa, 54, of Gregory, S.D., speeding 16-20 mph over the limit, $125.
Adam W. Samolewski, 40, of Catchoque, N.Y., speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.
Teresa Ryan, 27, of Ainsworth, third-degree assault, sentenced to six months of probation.
Tristin L. Fobroy, 29, of Ainsworth, commit child abuse negligently, costs-only judgment.
Hser N. Wah, 29, of Evans, Colo., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.
Jordan A. Segar, 21, of Norfolk, no park entry permit, $25.
Virgill C. Uhrmacher of Thedford, no park entry permit, $25.
Manuel Rene Galindo, 52, of Alliance, commercial vehicle marking violation, $50; violation of load contents requirement, $100; overweight on an axle or group of axles, $75.
Alejandro A. Morales, 47, of Harvard, two counts of being overweight on an axle or group of axles, fined a total of $525 on the two counts.
Olvera Z. Vazquez, 45, of Hemingford, operating a commercial vehicle without proper classification, $50; commercial vehicle marking violation, $50.
Indsay J. Wonnenberg, 28, of Valentine, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.
M. F. Heather, 55, of York, Pa., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.
Patrick J. Jarrett, 49, of Omaha, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.
Brandon L. Shaul, 17, of Ainsworth, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.
Bobbi J. Garhart, 32, of Omaha, no operator’s license, $75.
Kaleb C. Lauer, 18, of Ainsworth, tobacco use by a minor, $50.
Shelby L. Grupe, 17, of Ainsworth, no valid registration, $25.
* City Council approves lease of Bobcat skid steer for wastewater plant
(Posted 6:45 a.m. Oct. 1)
During a special meeting Wednesday to close out the 2014-15 fiscal year, the Ainsworth City Council approved the lease of a Bobcat skid steer from a North Platte dealer for use by the city’s wastewater treatment plant and the streets department.
The $3,750 lease allows the city to use the new Bobcat skid steer up to 250 hours, with any additional hours costing $15 per hour.
City Clerk Lisa Schroedl said the council had discussed the lease during two previous meetings. She said the city streets department had been using a demo model for the past week or two.
In addition to the $3,750 lease, the council approved the purchase of a snow bucket attachment at a cost of $1,200, an 80-inch mower deck at a price of $4,995, and a broom attachment at a cost of $2,500 after trading in the city’s used broom attachment.
Schroedl said the attachments will also fit the street department’s current leased skid steer.
Councilman Brian Williams said, by leasing the skid steer, the wastewater treatment plant would not have to replace its old tractor.
“The wastewater treatment plant can use this and share it with the streets department,” Williams said.
Councilman Kent Taylor said the skid steer lease was probably a better option than buying a tractor.
“This will be more versatile,” Taylor said.
In other business during Wednesday’s special meeting, the council approved final claims for the 2014-15 fiscal year, as the 2015-16 fiscal year begins Oct. 1.
The council also approved the union employee contract for the 2015-16 year. Changes to the contract include the Ainsworth Public Library now being closed for Veterans Day, an increase in an employee’s clothing allowance from $50 annually to $100 annually, and a 4 percent wage increase for union employees.
The next regular meeting of the Ainsworth City Council is scheduled for 7 p.m. Oct. 14.
* Atkinson receives $53,000 RBEG grant to development business incubator
(Posted 6:45 a.m. Sept. 30)
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack awarded 385 grants to help support the start-up or expansion of rural small businesses.
“These grants will strengthen the economic fabric of our rural small towns and communities by providing capital to small and emerging businesses,” Vilsack said.
USDA is awarding the grants through the Rural Business Development Grant program. Recipients may use the funds to provide technical assistance, training and job-creation activities.
The City of Atkinson is receiving $53,874 to renovate a 3,500 square foot building space and create a business incubator to grow and develop entrepreneurs in the area.
The Atkinson grant was one of eight awarded in Nebraska.
Funding is contingent upon the recipient meeting the terms of the grant agreement. In total, USDA is providing nearly $20 million in grants.
USDA’s Rural Business Development Grant Program is one of several that support rural economic development. Since the start of the Obama administration, USDA’s Rural Business Cooperative Service has helped 85,000 rural businesses.
* Bauer reports area producers should see outstanding corn, soybean yields
(Posted 10:45 a.m. Sept. 29)
University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension Educator Dennis
Bauer said some irrigated soybean yields could approach 70 bushels per acre,
with 200-plus bushel corn the standard now for irrigated acres.
* Hearing set for Thursday at O'Neill on Niobrara River water rights agreement
(Posted 11 a.m. Sept. 28)
A public hearing is scheduled for 1 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 1,
in the Holt County Extension office at O’Neill to inform the public and to hear
any comments regarding a proposed joint application for a permit to appropriate
water for instream flows on the Niobrara River from just below the Spencer Hydro
Facility to the confluence of the Missouri River for the conservation of fish,
wildlife, and associated recreation.
* Murphy discusses Niobrara water rights agreement between NRDs, NGPC, NPPD
(Posted 3:45 p.m. Sept. 24)
Middle Niobrara Natural Resources District Manager Mike
Murphy discussed a historic in-stream water rights agreement in the Niobrara
River Basin with KBRB's Graig Kinzie on Thursday.
* River Road closed in Keya Paha County after rain washes out bridge approaches
(Posted 3:15 p.m. Sept. 24)
The heavy rains that fell in some portions of the listening
area Wednesday have caused their first road closure, as Keya Paha County
Commissioner Mike Tuerk reported Thursday the River Road north of the Niobrara
River is closed between Mule Shoe Bend and Sharp’s Landing.
* Traffic Accident
(Posted 9:15 a.m. Sept. 24)
The Brown County Sheriff’s Department investigated a
two-vehicle accident that occurred Wednesday, Sept. 23, west of Johnstown.
* Unwanted, expired medications may be returned to sheriff's department Saturday
(Posted 7 a.m. Sept. 24)
The Brown County Sheriff’s Department will participate in a national prescription drug take-back event from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 26.
Anyone with an unused prescription medication is invited to return it to the Brown County Sheriff’s Department Saturday for proper disposal. The disposal is free of charge.
Expired medications or unused drugs often remain in medicine cabinets for months, or even years. The expired drugs pose a significant health risk to children, especially teens.
With some medications, accidental ingestion could be fatal. Throwing medications in the trash or flushing them can create safety hazards as well.
The misusage of prescription drugs is second only to marijuana usage as the nation’s most commonly used illegal drug. A national study showed that more than 70 percent of people who misused a prescription drug for the first time obtained the drug from a friend or family member.
The Nebraska State
Patrol is encouraging citizens to participate. Coordinated by the U.S. Drug
Enforcement Administration in partnership with the Attorney General’s Office,
local law enforcement and participating pharmacies, the event is designed to
provide a safe, convenient, and responsible way for residents to dispose of
unneeded prescription drugs.
Those with expired or unwanted drugs are invited to take those medications to the Brown County Sheriff’s Department from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. Saturday. There is no charge, and no questions are asked of those submitting an unwanted medication for disposal.
* Davis discusses expressway, funding for roads
(Posted 7:45 a.m. Sept. 23)
Nebraska 43rd District State Sen. Al Davis discussed the
benefits and costs of completing the Heartland Expressway in western Nebraska,
as well as other road infrastructure improvements.
* Taxable sales in June jump 10 percent in Ainsworth
(Posted 5:45 p.m. Sept. 21)
Nebraska Department of Revenue
* Traffic Accident
(Posted 6:45 a.m. Sept. 21)
The Brown County Sheriff’s Department investigated a
one-vehicle accident that occurred Friday, Sept. 18, northwest of Ainsworth.
According to the sheriff’s department report, at 7:57 a.m. Friday on 881 Road four miles west and three miles north of Ainsworth, a 2001 Chrysler sedan, driven by Brandon Shaul, 17, of Ainsworth, was traveling east when the vehicle left the roadway and entered the south ditch, where it struck a fence before coming to rest.
No injuries were reported. Damage to the Chrysler was estimated at $1,000. The fence, owned by Greg Jochem of rural Ainsworth, sustained approximately $50 damage.
* Ludemann, Henry crowned homecoming royalty for Ainsworth High School
(Posted 10 p.m. Sept. 18)
Lisa Ludemann and Dominic Henry were crowned the 2015
Ainsworth High School homecoming queen and king Friday following the Bulldogs’
loss to Arcadia-Loup City.
Logan Clark was crowned the homecoming princess, and Jayden Philben was selected as the homecoming prince.
The other queen finalists were Tara Taylor, Heather Martin and Sara Salzman, and the other candidates for king were Brady Delimont, Hayes Chohon and Austin Harthoorn.
* Hunt, Munger named Keya Paha County homecoming royalty
(Posted 10 p.m. Sept. 18)
Hope Hunt was selected as the 2015 homecoming queen for
Keya Paha County High School following the North Central Knights’ loss Friday
afternoon to Twin Loup. Ethan Munger was chosen as the homecoming king for Keya
The other candidates for queen were Delaney Davis and Mattie Sawle. King candidates were Buck Cronk and Kevin Udd.
* Traffic Accident
(Posted 10 a.m. Sept. 17)
The Brown County Sheriff’s Department investigated a
two-vehicle accident that occurred Thursday, Sept. 17, in Ainsworth.
According to the sheriff’s department report, at 2:55 p.m. Thursday on East Third Street east of the Main Street intersection, a collision occurred between a 2009 Chevy pickup, driven by Angela Hood, 40, of Ainsworth, and a 2014 Dodge pickup, driven by Eric Freudenburg, 25, of Ainsworth.
No injuries were reported. Damage to the Chevy was estimated at $1,000. The Dodge, owned by the Raven Cattle Company, sustained approximately $250 damage.
* Fire department to hold training, controlled burn Sunday on Osborne Street house
(Posted 2 p.m. Sept. 17)
The Ainsworth Volunteer Fire Department will conduct fire
training and a controlled burn Sunday on an Osborne Street House between Third Street
and Highway 20.
Ainsworth Fire Chief Brad Fiala said the training begins at 8 a.m. Sunday and is to take most of the day. Osborne Street between Third Street and Highway 20 will be closed from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. Sunday.
Any residents who have vehicles parked on that block who will need their vehicles Sunday are asked to move them to another location prior to 8 a.m. Sunday.
* Traffic Accident
(Posted 8:45 a.m. Sept. 17)
The Brown County Sheriff’s Department investigated a
two-vehicle accident that occurred Wednesday, Sept. 16, in Ainsworth.
According to the sheriff’s department report, at 7:10 p.m. at the Intersection of Woodward and Second streets, a westbound 2008 Chevy sedan, driven by James Wilson-Parker, 20, of Long Pine, and an eastbound 1979 Chevy station wagon, driven by Thomas Troxel, 15, of Ainsworth collided. Parker’s vehicle was attempting to turn south when the collision occurred at the intersection.
No injuries were reported. Damage to each vehicle was estimated at $1,000.
* Davis discusses interim legislative studies that could impact the 43rd District
(Posted 4:15 p.m. Sept. 16)
Nebraska 43rd District State Sen. Al Davis detailed three
interim studies being conducted by the Nebraska Legislature that could impact
To hear the report, click on the audio link below.
* Care Center Board selects Ron Ross, Rural Health Development to manage facility
(Posted 9 a.m. Sept. 16)
After taking a week to review the three proposals and research facilities the companies are currently operating, the Ainsworth/Brown County Care Center Board of Directors on Tuesday approved entering into a facility management agreement with Rural Health Development of Cambridge to operate a nursing home in Ainsworth.
The agreement takes effect if and when the Ainsworth/Brown County Care Center Board can complete the acquisition of the former Ainsworth Care Center building.
Board member Buddy Small asked that the language be included in the agreement that it does not take effect until the group has secured a facility.
“I don’t believe we should proceed until we know for sure that we have a building,” Small said.
Board Chairman Kent Taylor said there were many things the manager could be assisting the board with ahead of the closing on the property.
“We could be prepared to accept residents faster if we get some of these things done ahead of time,” Taylor said.
Board member Leanne Maxwell said the agreement itself referenced that it would begin when a building is acquired.
“We just need to make sure we let them know that they can’t proceed with Phase I of the proposal until we know we have a building,” Maxwell said.
As for the selection of Rural Health Development, managed by Ron Ross, board member Jim Walz said the company did a thorough job describing every step of the process to get a facility opened and how the company would assist the board with each step.
“Rural Health Development spelled out everything better for the first phase of completing the licensing process,” Walz said. “The other proposals just said they would assist us with the process.”
Walz said Rural Health Development’s proposal charged the board a flat fee for its services, and Rural Health Development would employ the administrator for the facility.
He said the other proposals, from Klaasmeyer and Associates of Omaha and from LTC Midwest of Wilber, quoted an hourly fee for the first phase plus additional charges for mileage, lodging and windshield time when having to travel to Ainsworth.
In the second phase and with continued management of the facility, Walz said Klaasmeyer and Associates and LTC Midwest charged based on a percentage of the facility’s revenue.
RHD’s proposal included a $45,000 flat fee to handle all of the requirements of getting the facility licensed, staffed and opened, with a flat fee of $12,000 monthly to operate the facility from there. That fee included RHD hiring and paying the facility’s administrator.
While potentially less expensive in the short term, the board discussed, in the long term, the proposals from Klaasmeyer and Associates and LTC Midwest could end up costing the board more by charging a percentage of the revenue generated by the facility.
“Klaasmeyer and Associates’ distance from Ainsworth is a concern for me,” Maxwell said, especially considering the board will be charged each trip for the mileage and for the time it takes to drive to Ainsworth.
Walz said he was comfortable with the proposal submitted by Rural Health Development.
“In their proposal, they will have someone meeting with the board monthly,” Walz said.
Maxwell said she was impressed by the detail of the RHD proposal.
“They have provided a detailed proposal, and their plan is to have people in place 60 days out,” Maxwell said.
Taylor said he liked that the company would handle the hiring of an administrator.
“They manage several facilities, and they know what they are looking for in an administrator,” Taylor said.
Ross had previously assisted the task force working on keeping a nursing home facility open, and he spoke to the audience during the initial town hall meeting on the potential for having a community-owned facility.
After the selection was made, Small asked Taylor to contact Ross, and if Ross felt there were items that could be worked on ahead of the board taking ownership of the building, he would be OK with allowing that work to commence prior to the facility purchase being completed.
In other items during Tuesday’s special meeting, the board approved having Taylor submit an application to the city’s Community Development Block Grant re-use loan committee to obtain the approximately $277,000 in funds in that account to be used toward the city’s $340,000 commitment to the board to support the purchase and opening of a care center facility.
“For the city’s portion of the funding, there is $277,000 in funding available in the CDBG account, but we have to go through the application process,” Taylor said. “For the remainder, we will apply for ABC funds.”
Small said the commissioners have previously voted to provide $340,000 from the county’s inheritance tax fund to the interlocal board.
The next meeting of the Ainsworth/Brown County Care Center Board of Directors is scheduled for 5 p.m. Oct. 5 in the Ainsworth Conference Center.
* Commissioners approve budget, ask property owners for $2.76 million in taxes
(Posted 2:45 p.m. Sept. 15)
Brown County property owners will pay close to $2.76 million in taxes to support the 2015-16 fiscal year budget following the Tuesday hearing and approval of the budget and tax request by the Brown County Commissioners.
The $2,757,630 property tax request is $173,620 more than was requested for the 2014-15 fiscal year. The county’s valuation increased by more than $100 million between 2014 and 2015 from $559 million to $668 million. That surge in valuation was fueled largely by strong sales of agricultural ground. With that added overall property value, the county’s levy rate will drop from 46 cents per $100 in property value down to just over 41 cents in tax for every $100 in property value to satisfy the county's property tax requirements.
Had the county not increased its property tax request by $173,620 and kept the asking the same as the 2014-15 year, the levy would have dropped to 38.7 cents.
The county’s property tax request includes $2.3 million to support the general fund, and $453,000 to service the debt on the voter-approved Brown County Hospital addition bond. With principal and interest, there is just over $5 million in debt service remaining on the hospital addition, with a scheduled retirement of the bond in 2027.
The county spent a total of $14.2 million during the 2014-15 fiscal year, which was up from $13.6 million in 2013-14. However, more than half of the overall disbursements are related to the operation of the Brown County Hospital.
While the hospital has its own Board of Trustees, as a county hospital, its annual budget is placed inside the overall operating budget of the county. The only property tax money the hospital receives is the $453,090 to service the debt on the hospital addition.
The hospital brings in enough revenue to support itself, and does not require any property tax funding to balance its operating budget.
Of the $14.2 million in disbursements for the 2014-15 fiscal year, $9.8 million was related to the operation of the Brown County Hospital.
The disbursement of $2.53 million from the county’s general fund in 2014-15 was actually below the $2.62 million spent from the general fund during the 2013-14 fiscal year, which runs from July 1 to June 30 each year.
Money spent on roads increased from $1.66 million in 2013-14 to $1.73 million in 2014-15.
The county has budgeted to spend $3.7 million from its general fund for 2015-16 and $2.08 million from the roads fund, though actual expenditures tend to track substantially lower than the budgeted figure, allowing the county to maintain a cash reserve.
allows the county to increase its property tax request by up to 3.5 percent
annually, with a maximum levy of 50 cents per $100 in property value for the
general fund budget.
The board created $472,034 in unused property tax authority, which is money the commissioners could have requested in property taxes but chose instead to keep in the pockets of county property owners.
The county’s general fund levy for 2015-16 is 33.9 cents, which is down from 37.4 cents from 2014-15. The voter-approved hospital addition bond adds 6.7 cents to the levy, which is down from 7.9 cents in 2014-15. The $108 million increase in total property value in the county led to the drop in the levy rate despite the increase of $173,620 in tax asking.
The Brown County Rural Fire Protection District also receives a property tax levy of 4 cents. The Brown County Agricultural Society received a property tax allocation of $32,500, which amounts to less than one-half cent of levy, to operate and maintain the Brown County Fairgrounds.
The commissioners approved the budget following the hour-long public hearing.
In other business during Tuesday’s meeting, the board approved a $4,800 quote from Crafts Complete Construction Company of Norfolk to repair the roof of the Brown County Courthouse.
The board, following the acceptance of the bid during its Sept. 1 meeting, approved a contract between the Brown County Sheriff’s Department and Big John’s Restaurant to deliver lunch and dinner meals to Brown County Jail inmates. The bid was $9 for each lunch and $9 for each dinner delivered to the jail.
The commissioners reviewed and approved the annual Brown County Roads Department report that is submitted to the Nebraska Department of Roads.
Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin told the commissioners the roads crew had finished shoulder work on the Elsmere Road and planned to patch a few spots with cold-mix asphalt prior to the road being armor coated in a few weeks.
Turpin reported the plan to replace the Norden Bridge had been submitted to the Nebraska Department of Roads for approval.
“We are getting close to being able to go out for bids on that project,” Turpin said.
He said the county will have to take bids only from state-approved contractors.
While the county, with input from the Keya Paha County Commissioners, will accept the bid for the work, the Nebraska Department of Roads will also review the bids and the selection, since a majority of the funds for the bridge replacement will be furnished by the state.
The board took no action on an agenda item to discuss making an additional $10,000 contribution to the Ainsworth/Brown County Care Center Board to bring the county’s total contribution to this stage to $20,000 and match the $20,000 the city of Ainsworth has contributed toward the work being done to purchase the former Ainsworth Care Center Building.
That item was placed on the board’s Oct. 6 agenda.
* Fire destroys hay bales, damages trailer Monday on Moon Lake Road
(Posted noon Sept. 15)
A spark from a trailer ignited numerous hay bales being pulled down Moon Lake Road Monday, prompting a three-hour response from the Ainsworth and Johnstown Volunteer Fire departments.
According to Ainsworth Assistant Fire Chief Randy Johnson, at 4 p.m. Monday, firefighters were called to a location on the Moon Lake Road approximately 3-1/2 miles south of the Highway 20 intersection.
Johnson said a tractor, owned by the O’Hare Ranch, was pulling a trailer loaded with hay bales when a spark from the rear of the trailer ignited the bales.
Johnson said the tractor was disengaged from the trailer and did not sustain any damage, but approximately 15 bales were lost and the trailer was damaged.
Johnson said firefighters were on scene until 7 p.m. keeping the fire from spreading past the bales on a day when temperatures climbed close to 100 degrees.
Johnson said the asphalt on the Moon Lake Road also may have been damaged from the heat of the fire. Brown County Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin on Tuesday said it appeared any damage to the road surface was minimal.
* School Board approves $9.3 million budget; discusses moving to 8-man football
(Posted 7 a.m. Sept. 15)
Property owners in Brown County are being asked to pay $5.84 million to support Ainsworth Community Schools for the 2015-16 school year following Monday’s Board of Education public hearing and property tax request.
State aid from the TEOSSA formula has shriveled from $1.7 million five years ago to $47,819 for the 2015-16 year.
A 19 percent spike in the property valuation in the Ainsworth Community School District’s reach resulted in overall property valuation jumping from $549.7 million to $655.5 million, an increase of $107.8 million.
Thanks to the jump in valuation, once again fueled by rising sales prices for agricultural land, the levy rate for 2015-16 for Ainsworth Community Schools dropped from $1.02 per $100 in a property’s value to 95 cents. That levy rate includes the K-8 and 9-12 bond funds, which require $167,623 and $116,483 respectively to satisfy.
Property owners in Brown County are being asked to pay $5.56 million to support the school’s 2015-16 general fund.
While the property tax needed to support the two bond funds actually decreased by about $7,500, the district is asking for an additional $593,000 in property taxes to support the 2015-16 general fund. The general fund tax request of $5.56 million compares to the 2014-15 request of $4.97 million.
During the 2010-11 school year, when the district received $1.7 million in state aid, the district asked for $3.89 million to support a general fund of $8.34 million. At that time, property in the district had an overall value of $407 million. With just $47,819 in state aid for 2015-16, the general fund budget is almost $9.3 million and the value of property has skyrocketed to $655.5 million.
The levy rate is determined by the property tax requested divided by the overall valuation of the county. For 2015-16, including the bond funds, property owners in the district will pay a rate of 95 cents for every $100 of a property’s value. Agricultural property is taxed at 75 percent of its assessed value, while residential and commercial property are taxed at 100 percent of assessed value.
While the levy rate dropped from $1.02 per $100 in value during the 2014-15 year to 95 cents per $100 for 2015-16, the district is still collecting an additional $586,000 in taxes to support the general fund and the two bonds.
Those who saw increased property values during the 2015 assessment year, mainly thanks to the overall nearly 20 percent rise in agricultural property value, will pay more in actual property tax, while property owners who saw no change in their valuation from the previous year will pay 7 cents less for every $100 of their property’s value.
Salaries and related benefits are budgeted to account for approximately 62 percent, or $5.765 million, of the district’s $9.3 million budget. Building operations and maintenance costs comprise 15.5 percent of the 2015-16 budget, $1.44 million.
Following public hearings Monday on the 2015-16 budget and the property tax request, the Board of Education approved the budget and tax request for the fiscal year.
In other business during Monday’s meeting, the school board recognized the Ainsworth Education Association as the negotiating entity for district staff for the 2017-18 school year. Board members Dan Dailey, Jim Arens and Brad Wilkins serve on the board’s negotiating committee.
Approximately 20 people filled the meeting room to discuss Ainsworth potentially moving down to eight-man football for the next two-year cycle due to a lower number of players participating in the sport.
Several of those audience members were current underclassmen players, who told the board the team was unanimous that it wanted to continue to play 11-man football and be eligible for the playoffs. As a Class C school, if Ainsworth dropped down to eight-man football, it would be ineligible to participate in the postseason.
“We have discussed this as a team, and we don’t feel that eight-man football is a good fit,” student and player Jacce Beck said. “If we can’t have a chance to participate in the playoffs, what would be the point?”
Beck said the team met Monday to discuss the issue, and the opinion was unanimous to continue playing in the 11-man ranks.
Ainsworth dropped its junior varsity schedule this year due to not having enough players to fill both a JV and varsity squad without having varsity contributors playing in the JV contest.
Wilkins said it became a logistical issue to have both a JV and varsity season due to new contact restriction rules implemented by the Nebraska School Activities Association.
“If some of the kids playing varsity also were playing a JV schedule, it would be difficult for the coaches because the NSAA limits the days each week where there can be contact,” Wilkins said.
Audience member Tonny Beck said he would like to see the team be able to have a JV team for the younger players who are working hard but who are not yet ready for varsity play.
“I completely understand why the coaches cancelled the JV season,” Tonny Beck said. “The numbers aren’t where we would like them to be. If the kids want to stay 11-man, I think we should honor their wishes, but I would like to see us be able to have a JV season, even if that meant we needed to play eight-man for JV and 11-man for varsity. I know that would be a real challenge for the coaches.”
Student and player Jacob Fernau said he hoped a successful season would help get more high school students excited about being a part of the football team.
Jacce Beck said there were some good athletes in the school who weren’t playing football, and he said team members were trying to encourage more of their classmates to participate.
Audience member Wendy Allen said she saw both sides of the issue.
“I would also like to see the kids continue to play 11-man football, but if the numbers in the next two years would result in us not being able to finish a season if we have injuries, I would rather see us play eight-man games than no games,” Allen said.
The group discussed the potential for consolidating the program with North Central.
Audience member Jake Adkisson said football was not the only sport struggling with low numbers.
“We have one girl playing at a golf tournament,” Adkisson said. “Half of the wrestling weight classes are open. If it is inevitable in 10 to 20 years that we are going to have to consolidate, then maybe now is the time to start that conversation.”
Jacce Beck said the team would be in favor of consolidating with North Central.
“Even if it means changing our mascot, we would be in favor of that if it meant we could get enough numbers to keep playing 11-man football,” the junior lineman said.
Activities Director Scott Steinhauser said a decision would need to be made by Nov. 30, as the school has to inform the Nebraska School Activities Association of its plan prior to the NSAA setting up football schedules for the next two years.
Steinhauser said just fewer than 50 percent of the high school students at Ainsworth High School are participating in a fall sport.
Tonny Beck said low participation in athletics was more than just an issue for Ainsworth.
“I thought it might be a problem unique to Ainsworth, but it is an epidemic across the state. A lot of kids just aren’t participating anymore.”
Superintendent Darrell Peterson said the board did not plan to take any action until its November meeting.
“The intention tonight was just to get it out there as a topic for discussion,” Peterson said.
He thanked the players and the other audience members for their input.
During his report, Steinhauser said the NSAA released the classifications for winter sports, with Ainsworth scheduled to play in Class C-2 in boys and girls basketball and participate in Class C in wrestling.
“We have the top Class C-2 enrollment in boys basketball, and are No. 2 in girls basketball enrollment,” Steinhauser said.
During the 2014-15 year, Ainsworth participated in Class C-1 in basketball after playing in Class C-2 during the 2013-14 year.
The next regular meeting of the Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education is scheduled for 8 p.m. Oct. 12.
* Keya Paha County homecoming week begins Monday
(Posted 2:15 p.m. Sept. 11)
Homecoming week at Keya Paha County High School kicks off
Monday, with book titles as this year’s theme.
A spirit breakfast is scheduled for 7:30 a.m. Friday, Sept. 18, with the homecoming parade at 11 a.m.
This year’s king and queen will be crowned following the North Central Knights’ 2 p.m. football game against Twin Loup.
Homecoming queen candidates are Delaney Davis, Hope Hunt and Mattie Sawle. King candidates are Buck Cronk, Ethan Munger and Kevin Udd.
* Homecoming week activities begin Monday at Ainsworth High School
(Posted 1:45 p.m. Sept. 11)
Ainsworth High School celebrates homecoming week Sept.
14-18, with the theme, “The Bulldog Breakfast Club.”
This year’s candidates for homecoming queen are Logan Clark, Sara Salzman, Lisa Ludemann, Tara Taylor and Heather Martin.
King candidates are Jayden Philben, Austin Harthoorn, Dominic Henry, Hayes Chohon and Brady Delimont.
Royalty Night will be held at 7 p.m. Monday in the Learning Center followed by the jersey auction.
The homecoming parade is scheduled for 2:20 p.m. Thursday, with classes dismissing at 2 p.m. A pep rally follows the parade on the west side of the school.
Coronation of the homecoming king and queen follows Friday’s Bulldog football game vs. Arcadia/Loup City, with the homecoming dance from 9:30 p.m. until 12:30 a.m. in the school cafeteria. Doors close at 10:30 p.m.
* Stuart homecoming royalty candidates chosen
(Posted 1 p.m. Sept. 11)
Homecoming king and queen candidates have been selected
from the senior class at Stuart High School. The homecoming royalty will be
crowned Saturday, Sept. 19, following the Bronco football game against Sandhills/Thedford.
This year’s homecoming queen candidates are Hailey Paxton, Monique Schafer and Jaden Schafer.
King candidates are Micah Dexter, Conner Paxton and Tate Schmaderer.
* NPPD agrees to Spencer Dam shutdown, transfer of Niobrara water rights
(Posted 10:45 a.m. Sept. 10)
A historic agreement has been negotiated to preserve the future of the Niobrara River Basin between the Niobrara basin’s Natural Resource Districts, the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission and the Nebraska Public Power District. Formal action on a memorandum of understanding will be taken by each of the parties during their respective meetings this week.
memorandum of understanding, the Game and Parks Commission and NRDs will work
with NPPD to take steps toward transfer of assets, including NPPD’s water
appropriations on the Niobrara River, Spencer Hydro dam, and the lands and
easements associated with the dam.
The agreement will lead to the shutdown of the Spencer Dam hydro plant in two years' time. The hydro plant generates the same amount of electricity as roughly one wind turbine.
The parties will seek legislative authority to convert NPPD’s water rights to a multi-use water right, part of which will be conserved for recreation and fish and wildlife needs, and part of which will be conserved for integrated water management in the Niobrara River basin.
The NRDs, the Game and Parks Commission and NPPD reaffirmed why water management in Nebraska stands apart from other states.
“This is a Nebraska plan for conserving a Nebraska jewel,” Jim Douglas, director of the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, said. “The commission, the NRDs and NPPD want to ensure that the future of the Niobrara River will be decided by Nebraskans, with the best interests of Nebraskans in mind. All parties involved are pleased with this outcome and proud to work together to achieve a diverse set of goals for a valuable Nebraska resource.”
The five Natural Resources Districts located in the Niobrara basin created the Niobrara River Basin Alliance to help protect the river with agreements like the one announced Thursday. The alliance includes the Upper Niobrara White NRD, Middle Niobrara NRD, Lower Niobrara NRD, Upper Elkhorn NRD and Upper Loup NRD, who are working together to ensure the long-term sustainability of sufficient water in the Niobrara River basin to safeguard future economic activity, agriculture, other water users, fish and wildlife, and recreation activities along the Niobrara for generations to come.
In addition to accepting the transfer of NPPD’s assets, the Game and Parks Commission and the NRDs plan to seek an in-stream flow for the 39-mile stretch of the river below the dam to the confluence of the Niobrara and Missouri rivers. This stretch of river is used by several endangered species, including pallid sturgeon, interior least tern, piping plover and whooping crane.
Brian Barels, NPPD’s Water Resources Manager, said, “Nebraska Public Power District is pleased that the water which has been benefitting Nebraskans with renewable electricity since 1927 while maintaining flows in the river for a variety of uses will be preserved through this agreement. NPPD is extremely proud to be a party to this agreement, which will provide for water sustainability in this great Niobrara River Valley and to enable Nebraskans to continue to enjoy the river for fish, wildlife, recreation and other uses into the future.”
NPPD established the value of the Spencer facility and water rights at $12 million. The Game and Parks Commission and the NRDs will secure $9 million to purchase the assets, and NPPD will provide an in-kind contribution of $3 million. The commission and NRDs plan to seek funding from the Water Sustainability Fund, the Nebraska Environmental Trust and other sources.
The next steps for the group include securing funding and seeking legislative authority to convert NPPD’s water rights to multi-use water rights. NPPD will continue to own and operate the facility to generate power until it is able to transfer assets to the Natural Resources Districts and Commission. The transfer is expected to take two years to complete.
Marty Graff of Ainsworth, Middle Niobrara Natural Resources District Board member and secretary of the Niobrara River Basin Alliance, said, “While the NRDs support local solutions, it was important to work with all interested parties. Because instream flow rights can only be held by NRDs and the commission, an invitation was made and together we reached out to NPPD. In the end, all parties were responsible for creating a sustainable water management plan that will protect the Niobrara River and basin for years to come.”
* City asks Ainsworth property owners for $266,081 to support 2015-16 budget
(Posted 6:15 a.m. Sept. 10)
The city of Ainsworth will ask property owners inside the city limits for $266,081 in taxes to support the 2015-16 city budget.
During its annual budget hearing Wednesday, the City Council approved a 2015-16 fiscal year budget of $4.76 million to support the city’s operating expenses, capital improvements and debt service.
The property tax asking of $266,081 is about $12,000 more than was collected during the 2014-15 fiscal year. The city collected $253,957 in property tax to support the 2014-15 budget.
The city’s levy is 47 cents per $100 in valuation, which is unchanged from a year ago. The additional property tax collection is possible due to the city’s overall valuation increasing to $56.6 million. The valuation increase from new construction and increases to existing real property value is 3.4 percent, or $1.83 million, more than the $54.8 million valuation from 2014-15.
Had the city kept its property tax asking the same as 2014-15, the city’s levy would have fallen to 44.8 cents per $100 in valuation.
Actual disbursements during the 2014-15 year fell below 2013-14 disbursements by more than $330,000. Total disbursements of city funds for 2014-15 were $2.42 million, down from the $2.76 million spent in 2013-14.
While the city’s overall budget for 2015-16 is $4.76 million, actual disbursements tend to come in far lower than the budgeted figure. The city will carry a net cash balance into the 2015-16 fiscal year of $3.8 million.
The city has $776,000 in bonded debt on its books. After paying $259,393 to service city debt from streets, water and wastewater in 2014-15, the city plans to spend $209,077 to pay its bonded debt obligations for the 2015-16 year.
The debt service is lower for the 2015-16 year since the Ainsworth Conference Center bonds are now completely paid. Bonds remaining are in the streets, water and sewer departments.
For comparison purposes, the city paid $638,513 to service its bonded debt in 2013-14.
With the budget approved Wednesday, the city created $162,109 in unused budget authority, which is additional money the city could have collected in property taxes for the 2015-16 fiscal year but chose instead to leave in the pockets of city property owners.
Breaking down the $4.76 million budget for 2015-16, the city has planned for $3.14 million in general operating expenses, $764,800 in capital improvements, $480,624 in other capital outlay projects, $209,077 to service city debt, and $167,507 for miscellaneous expenses.
The city’s 47-cent levy per $100 in property value is 3 cents below the lid of 50 cents per $100 in value that could be levied.
Following hearings on the budget and the levy, in which no one from the public spoke to the budget, the City Council, with Councilman Chuck Osborn absent, approved the budget and the 2015-16 property tax request.
* City Council discusses options for funding $340,000 nursing home allocation
(Posted 6:15 a.m. Sept. 10)
During Wednesday’s regular meeting of the Ainsworth City Council, Councilman Kent Taylor discussed the best source to use for the $340,000 allocated by the city to support the purchase and operation of a nursing home facility in the city.
Following the closure of the Ainsworth Care Center, the City Council and the Brown County Commissioners each allocated $340,000 to purchase a facility and operate a nursing home in Ainsworth.
The Ainsworth/Brown County Care Center Board of Directors was formed, with Taylor serving as the chair. Two representatives from the city and two from the county comprise the board.
Taylor said the North Central Development Center was in the process of acquiring the building, and hoped to close on the sale on Oct. 1.
“We need to discuss where our funding is going to come from,” Taylor said.
He said the city has approximately $276,000 in Community Development Block Grant re-use funds, more than $300,000 in ABC sales tax funds, and about $260,000 in LB 840 sales tax funds.
“I don’t need to know tonight, but we need to come up with a plan for where our funding is going to come from,” Taylor said.
Taylor said the Care Center Board received three proposals from companies to provide management services for operating a facility. Taylor said the board was reviewing the bids and planned to select a management firm during a special meeting on Tuesday.
Mayor Larry Rice said he wanted to ensure that the city and the county contributed an equal amount toward the project. He said the council needed some direction on which funds could be used by the city for the project.
City Clerk Lisa Schroedl said a bill was passed in the Nebraska Legislature that prohibits LB 840 funds from being used by a quasi-governmental agency, which the Care Center Board would likely be considered.
Councilwoman Deb Hurless said she believed the CDBG re-use fund would likely be the best option for funding, but the Care Center Board would need to apply for the funds and have an application reviewed by the re-use loan committee.
No action was taken.
In other business Wednesday, the council again discussed, but took no action, on adjusting the city’s garbage rates.
Schroedl provided the council with numerous examples of garbage collection fees charged by other cities in the state.
Rice said, after reviewing the rates for cities in the area and cities of comparable size, Ainsworth’s rates were sizably lower. He said the city recently saw a sharp increase in the rates it pays as part of the KBR Solid Waste interlocal pact.
“The city took a hit recently on our solid waste fees,” the mayor said.
The city has not increased its garbage fees since the 1990s. The residential rate is $11 monthly, with small commercial at $16 and the commercial rate with a dumpster is $21 monthly.
The council discussed a percentage raise or a flat raise, with 30 percent suggested as an increase or a flat increase of $4 monthly for all classifications.
Rice suggested Councilmen Brian Williams and Chuck Osborn meet with Schroedl and Streets Foreman Monte Goshorn to come up with a recommendation for a rate increase.
The council approved two recommendations made by the Ainsworth Cemetery Board. The board recommended no further sales of plots in designated walkways at either cemetery. The Cemetery Board also recommended stones in the 1959 addition of the South Cemetery placed on east lots face eastward and stones placed on west lots face westward.
The council approved both requests, and subsequently denied a request made to sell plots in a walkway in the South Cemetery.
Schroedl said four plots in a walkway had been sold several years ago to a family. Rice said relatives of the family now wanted to have additional family members buried in the same area and wanted to purchase additional plots in a walkway.
Schroedl said four plots were available nearby that would not be in the walkway.
Rice said, “It is an unfortunate situation.”
Taylor said the city has run into problems before in the older parts of the cemetery.
Hurless said she didn’t think plots should have ever been sold in a walkway, and she said she was not in favor of selling any more plots in designated walkways.
The council denied the request to sell the walkway plots in Block 9, Lot 22 of the South Cemetery old addition.
The council approved the annexation of Township 30 North, Range 22 West in Section 24, which is the former Ainsworth Bowl property now owned by Ainsworth Motors.
The council waived the three separate readings of the ordinance and approved it on final passage. The city, by annexing the property, must provide water and sewer service access to the property.
The council approved recommendations from the Ainsworth Betterment Committee to provide $2,000 in ABC funds to the Ainsworth Area Chamber of Commerce to support the July 4 fireworks display, and approved an additional $30,000 contribution in ABC funds to the Ainsworth Swimming Pool Fund.
The contribution to the Swimming Pool Fund was the fourth approved by the council. After an initial contribution of $200,000, the city has approved smaller annual contributions from ABC funds to a fund established to construct a new swimming pool in the city.
The council again discussed either replacing, repairing or demolishing a dilapidated restroom at the Courthouse Park. The council directed Water Superintendent Brad Miller to obtain bids for repairing the current restroom facility or replacing the men’s and women’s restroom at the Courthouse Park with a single restroom.
During her report, Schroedl said the city’s franchise agreement with Source Gas was up for renewal soon. She said Source Gas proposed extending the current payment to the city of .0078 of 1 cent per therm for an additional 25-year period.
After researching what other cities receive from Source Gas, she said Ainsworth received a lower rate than other communities. The council directed City Attorney Rod Palmer to negotiate with Source Gas on behalf of the city.
Schroedl said American Tower Corporation, to whom the city currently leases its Main Street Tower, requested extending its current lease to 2060 at the current lease rate of $450 per month.
Schroedl said the current lease does not expire for another 10 years, and she felt the $450 monthly lease rate was probably less than the city should be receiving. Palmer was instructed to negotiate with the American Tower Corporation.
Schroedl reviewed the city’s building permit applications for June, July and August. The city issued eight permits in June worth an estimated $1.2 million in construction; 14 permits in July for $16.3 million, which included the Farmers-Ranchers Cooperative’s feed mill expansion project; and five permits for $730,000 in August.
The consent agenda approved Wednesday included the appointment of Ainsworth High School student Jack Arens to the Ainsworth Betterment Committee for a two-year term.
Schroedl said the council would likely need to meet in special session prior to the end of the month to approve final claims for the 2014-15 fiscal year. The city’s 2015-16 fiscal year begins Oct. 1.
The next regular meeting of the Ainsworth City Council is scheduled for 7 p.m. Oct. 14.
* Sheriff's department, State Patrol participate in drunk driving crackdown
(Posted 9:30 a.m. Sept. 9)
The Brown County Sheriff’s Department and Nebraska State Patrol, through funding provided by the Nebraska Office of Highway Safety, participated in the annual “You Drink and Drive, You Lose” campaign.
The enforcement period covered Aug. 21 through Sept. 7 and was designed to increase public awareness and make the nation’s roadways safer.
The Brown County Sheriff’s Department had three deputies work a total of 82 hours of overtime during the enforcement period.
During the enforcement, the sheriff’s department made four arrests on charges of driving under the influence, issued nine speeding citations, two citations on charges of driving under suspension, three citations for driving without insurance, one citation on a charge of possessing an open alcohol container in a vehicle, and one seat belt citation. In addition, two drivers were arrested on outstanding warrants.
The sheriff’s department issued a total of 17 citations and 43 warnings during the enforcement period.
The Nebraska State
Patrol took 82 drivers off Nebraska roads on charges of driving under the
influence during the enforcement period.
Troopers and communications specialists received a $23,500 grant for overtime during the event.
In addition to the 82 arrests on driving under the influence charges, the State Patrol issued 6,726 speeding citations and warnings, 126 citations on charges of driving under suspension, 53 citations on charges of minor in possession of alcohol, 81 citations on possession of an open alcohol container in a vehicle, 179 citations on misdemeanor drug possession charges, 88 citations for no proof of insurance, and 351 seat belt and child restraint citations and warnings.
The State Patrol also assisted 769 motorists during the enforcement period.
* Care Center Board receives 3 bids to manage a potential local nursing facility
(Posted 7 a.m. Sept. 9)
Three companies submitted bids to provide management services should Ainsworth be able to secure a facility and reopen a nursing home in the community.
During Tuesday’s meeting of the Ainsworth/Brown County Care Center Board of Directors, the board opened proposals from LTC Midwest of Wilber, represented by Randy Kozeal; Rural Health Development Inc. of Cambridge, controlled by Ron Ross; and Klaasmeyer and Associates of Omaha, operated by Ken Klaasmeyer.
Klaasmeyer and Associates is serving as the receiver for the state of Nebraska for Ainsworth’s former nursing facility, as well as the facility at Lyons operated by the same defunct management company.
The board scheduled a special meeting for 4 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 15, in the Ainsworth Conference Center to take action on the proposals, giving them a week to read through each proposal.
North Central Development Center Executive Director Kristin Olson told the board there is an agreement in place to acquire the former Ainsworth Care Center building.
“We are doing our due diligence,” Olson said. “If everything checks out, we are looking at a closing date of Oct. 1.”
Olson said the receiver still has possession of the building, and, while the owners of the building have provided the NCDC with permission to enter the building, she was still seeking permission from Klaasmeyer and Associates to enter the building since that company still has the receivership.
“Our board is committed to acquiring the building,” Olson said.
She said the personal property in the facility is not part of the purchase agreement.
“What happens to the personal property will be a court decision,” Olson said. “We do not want to be responsible for the personal property. There is more liability attached to the personal property than we are willing to accept.”
Board member Jim Walz asked what would become of the assets remaining in the building.
Olson said the personal property was owned by the Ainsworth Care Center LLC and a couple other limited liability companies, not by the company that owns the building, RP Midwest.
“The personal property will be removed prior to us closing on the property,” Olson said.
Board member Leanne Maxwell asked what the next steps were that needed to happen to keep the project moving forward.
Brown County Hospital Administrator Shannon Sorensen said it will take some work to get an idea of the equipment that will need to be purchased or leased to operate the facility, since the sale of the building will not include the personal property.
“Equipment is something you can start to pursue,” Sorensen said. “That will take some work, and it is an important piece.”
“What needs to happen to get back the licensed beds?” Maxwell said.
Olson said the NCDC’s legal counsel has met with the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services and knows the process the community will need to undertake to get back the licensed beds.
The licenses from four facilities, including Ainsworth’s, were sold by RP Midwest.
“We are potentially the first community to try and use the Sullivan Amendment for getting the licensed beds back,” Olson said.
Maxwell asked at what point would the project transition from the North Central Development Center to the interlocal board to continue the process of reopening a facility.
Olson said the NCDC has paid all of the fees associated with the property acquisition to this point. When the purchase is completed and the interlocal board has a management firm in place, the transition would likely occur.
“Our goal has always been to have a nursing home in the community,” Olson said.
She said if the board opts to use the same legal counsel that has been working on the acquisition for the NCDC, there would be continuity.
Kozeal, representing LTC Midwest of Wilber, one of the companies that submitted a proposal to manage an Ainsworth facility, said Dick Nelson, the NCDC’s attorney, was extremely knowledgeable in this field and would be an asset as the board began the process of obtaining the licenses to operate a facility.
“The management firm you choose can provide you with policies and procedures, and can provide operating standards and protocol guidelines to DHHS, which will be required,” Kozeal said.
He said some equipment would be needed on the first day of operations, while some can be purchased in stages as the number of residents in the facility increases.
“Orchestrating the purchase of furniture, fixtures and equipment is an important step, and it takes some time,” Kozeal said.
Kozeal said, if the board’s ultimate goal was to build a new facility, it was important to first open and operate a nursing facility in the current building to build a revenue stream.
“We are working now on a new 60-bed facility at Ord while at the same time we are operating the current facility,” Kozeal said. “It is very hard to build a new nursing home without having a financial history.”
Board member Jim Walz said he was holding off putting the final proposed budget for the facility together until the purchase price for the building is set.
Board Chairman Kent Taylor said it would be good for the interlocal board to get a budget completed and available for public inspection, even though the board was not required to do so.
The board meets at 4 p.m. Tuesday in a special session to select a management firm from among the three proposals received. The next regular meeting of the Ainsworth/Brown County Care Center Board of Directors is scheduled for 5 p.m. Oct. 5.
* Traffic Accident
(Posted 7 a.m. Sept. 9)
The Brown County Sheriff’s Department investigated a
vehicle-deer accident that occurred Friday, Sept. 4, northeast of Long Pine.
According to the sheriff’s department report, at 8:41 p.m. on Highway 20 near milepost 251 just northeast of Long Pine, a 2013 Nissan minivan, driven by Andrew Simpson, 39, of Omaha, was traveling west when the vehicle struck a deer in the roadway.
No persons were injured in the accident. Damage to the Nissan was estimated at $1,000.
* August moisture total slightly above normal in Ainsworth
(Posted 10:30 a.m. Sept. 8)
Ainsworth Weather Observer Gerry Osborn recorded 2.80
inches of precipitation in August, slightly above the average for the city.
The year-to-date precipitation total is almost 2 inches below normal, with 15.58 inches recorded in the first eight months of the year, compared to the normal of 17.56 inches.
To hear Osborn's complete August report, click on the audio link below.
* Bruns, Calvo crowned during Rock County homecoming Friday
(Posted 7 a.m. Sept. 8)
Paige Bruns was crowned the 2015 Rock County High School
homecoming queen following the North Central Knight football game Friday at
Joe Calvo was selected as this year’s homecoming king.
The other finalists for queen were Victoria Davis, Jentrie Maurer and Kenady Stanton. King candidates included Sage Osborn, Quinton Shaw and Cash Cosgrove.
* Traffic Accident
(Posted 6:45 a.m. Sept. 8)
The Brown County Sheriff’s Department investigated a
two-vehicle accident that occurred Thursday, Sept. 3, in Ainsworth.
According to the sheriff’s department report, at 6 p.m. Thursday on East Third Street east of the Main Street intersection, a 1994 Chevy SUV, driven by Cecilia Shaw, 83, of Ainsworth, was backing from a parking space and struck a parked 2007 GMC SUV, owned by Traci Alberts of Ainsworth.
No injuries were reported. Damage to the Chevy was estimated at $500. The GMC sustained approximately $1,000 damage.
* Rock County homecoming queen, king to be crowned Friday
(Posted 11:15 a.m. Sept. 3)
Rock County High School is in the middle of homecoming
week, with this year’s king queen crowned following the opening week football
game against Burwell.
Queen candidates are Victoria Davis, Paige Bruns, Jentrie Maurer and Kenady Stanton.
King candidates are Sage Osborn, Quinton Shaw, Cash Cosgrove and Joe Calvo.
* Parties reach agreement on sale of Ainsworth Care Center building
(Posted 7 a.m. Sept. 3)
The North Central Development Center has received a signed
agreement for the purchase of the building formerly known as the Ainsworth Care
The agreement was executed by both the owners of the property and the NCDC.
A due diligence period to inspect the building is in place and if no unforeseen circumstances arise, closing for the sale of the property is scheduled for October.
KBRB will have more information as it becomes available. The next scheduled meeting of the Ainsworth/Brown County Care Center Board of Directors is 5 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 8, in the Ainsworth Conference Center.
* Commissioners work on 2015-16 budget Tuesday
(Posted 3:30 p.m. Sept. 1)
The Brown County Commissioners on Tuesday worked toward finalizing the 2015-16 budget, taking the preliminary budgets from each department and making adjustments.
Budget preparer Pete Peterson of Ogallala told the county the preliminary budget, as submitted by each department, would lead to a property tax increase of $366,000 from the 2014-15 fiscal year.
Assessor Charleen Fox’s data showed valuations increasing countywide by 19 percent, from $559.7 million to $668.3 million. The increase in valuation was due, in large part, to increased sales prices on agricultural land, but also takes into account all new construction in the county and other increases to commercial and residential property.
Peterson said, if the county left the preliminary budget alone, the county’s levy would drop by 1.8 cents per $100 in valuation.
The levy is determined by the total amount of property tax requested by the county combined with the valuation of the property. Commercial and residential properties are taxed at 100 percent of their actual value, while agricultural property is taxed at 75 percent of its actual value.
Commissioner Reagan Wiebelhaus said increasing taxes by $366,000 seemed like too large an amount to him.
“I want to look for ways where we can cut that down,” Wiebelhaus said.
Commissioner Buddy Small asked Wiebelhaus how much he wanted to drop the tax increase, and Wiebelhaus indicated he didn’t have an exact dollar figure in mind but wanted to chip away at the budget where the board could.
Peterson said one major change to the budget was the road department’s cash on hand. While the roads department entered the 2014-15 fiscal year with just over $300,000 cash on hand, it entered the 2015-16 fiscal year with less than $50,000 cash.
Peterson said the county budgeted a transfer of $300,000 from the inheritance tax fund to the roads department to help reduce the amount of property tax requested for 2014-15. The transfer from the inheritance tax fund was not needed, and the roads department spent down its cash on hand. Peterson said that cushion was not there for the 2015-16 year.
Treasurer Deb Vonheeder said the county also did not make a scheduled $200,000 transfer from the miscellaneous general fund to the roads department fund. Peterson said, even if the transfer had been made, it would just mean the general fund would have $200,000 fewer dollars available.
The board discussed again allocating money from the inheritance tax fund, $200,000, toward the road department to reduce the amount of property tax requested. Peterson said it was fine to budget that way, but the board would need to be prepared to make the transfer this budget year.
With a few early adjustments and a $200,000 allocation from the inheritance tax fund, Peterson said the increase in property taxes requested would drop to $153,000, which would result in a 5 cent drop in the county’s levy thanks to the 19 percent overall valuation increase.
He reminded the board that it had allocated 4 cents in levy for the rural fire district, and an additional 6.77 cents in levy would be collected to satisfy the voter-approved Brown County Hospital addition bond.
The budget approved by the commissioners each year is not the amount that is spent each year. Total expenditures tend to run lower than the budgeted amount.
The county spent $2.52 million from its general fund during the 2014-15 fiscal year, which was actually down from the $2.61 million spent from the general fund in 2013-14. The county collected $1.94 million in property taxes in 2013-14, and collected just over $2 million for 2014-15. The proposed budget for 2015-16 called for $2.47 million in property tax collections.
Nothing in the budget will be finalized until the county’s annual budget hearing, which is scheduled for the board’s Sept. 15 meeting.
In other business during Tuesday’s meeting, the board approved a lease for a Bobcat skid steer from Titan Machinery of North Platte.
The county will lease a 2015 Bobcat skid steer for $3,750. The lease allows the county roads department to use the machine for 250 hours. Any hours above 250 would cost the county an additional $15 per hour.
Morris Equipment of Valentine, Central Nebraska Bobcat of Grand Island, Plains Equipment Group of Ainsworth, Sandhill Equipment of Bassett and Nebraska Machinery of Norfolk also submitted lease or lease/purchase quotes to the county.
The county considered the bid from Sandhill Equipment, which was a straight lease at $18 per hour for a 2015 New Holland skid steer.
Wiebelhaus said the decision came down to how much the roads department planned to use the skid steer.
“If we think we are going to put 200 to 250 hours on it, it makes sense to go with the Bobcat bid,” Wiebelhaus said. “If we are only going to use it 100 to 150 hours, it makes sense to go with the New Holland quote.”
Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin recommended the board approve the quote from Titan Machinery.
The commissioners also opened sealed bids for prisoner meals for inmates housed in the Brown County Jail. Similar to previous years, Big John’s Restaurant submitted the only bid to the county.
Big John’s bid $9 per lunch and $9 per dinner, with the meals delivered to the Brown County Jail. The board unanimously approved the bid.
John Meyer with Office Products of Winner, S.D., presented the board with a proposal for a new copier/printer/scanner for the courthouse. Meyer said the current courthouse copier was going on its sixth year, and the machines typically last from five to seven years.
He said the county had been replacing its copier every five to six years. He recommended adding the scanner component as a way to cut down on copy and printing costs, as county employees could scan documents and transfer them to computers or personal devices without having to physically print each time.
He said, after trade value for the county’s current copier, the cost of the new unit was $7,700.
County Attorney David Streich told the commissioners they would need to get informal quotes for any piece of equipment over $5,000. No action was taken.
Prior to adjourning, the board approved a scheduled transfer of $500,000 from the county’s miscellaneous general fund to the county highway fund.
The next meeting of the Brown County Commissioners is scheduled for 8:15 a.m. Sept. 15, with the 2015-16 budget hearing and property tax request scheduled as part of that meeting.
* Superintendent discusses test scores during special board meeting Monday
(Posted 6:45 a.m. Sept. 1)
Ainsworth Community Schools Superintendent Darrell Peterson discussed the release of the annual NeSA and ACT test scores for Ainsworth students as part of a special meeting Monday.
Peterson said some classes were above the state average, others showed improvement from the prior year, and some scores were lower than the district would like to see.
“We always continue to try and improve,” Peterson said. “Some classes made good progress. Others took a step back.”
Peterson said some of the numbers were difficult to judge, as some class scale scores may have gone up while the percentage of students meeting or exceeding the state standard went down, while other classes saw percentages of students meeting or exceeding the state standard go up from the previous year while the overall scale score average declined.
“The percentage of students meeting the standard is what the state looks at,” Peterson said. “All of the schools in the state would be on the list because this is the year of No Child Left Behind where 100 percent of students were supposed to be meeting or exceeding the standard.”
Board member Brad Wilkins asked if teachers had access to the individual scores of students. Peterson said the teachers see the scores of each student who takes the test, and the scores are also mailed to the parents.
The complete listing of Ainsworth and Rock County’s NeSA scoring in math, science, reading and writing compared to the state average can be found on the KBRB web site, click on the news page.
Peterson said Ainsworth’s average ACT score for those taking the test in the past year improved, with Ainsworth ACT test takers scoring a composite average of 22.1, which outpaces the state average score of 21.5 and the national average of 21.
Ainsworth’s average ACT score of 22.1 was its highest since the 2010-11 school year.
“We started an ACT prep class last year that has likely helped the scores,” the superintendent said.
In other business during Monday’s special meeting, the board approved the final expenditures for the 2014-15 school year, and approved the second reading of a policy relating to provisions for rental fees for school facilities.
The board, with Dan Dailey absent, approved an option enrollment request allowing Hadley Caulfield to continue attending Ainsworth Community Schools after the family moved to Rock County.
During his report, Peterson said work was underway on replacing the bleachers at the football field. He said there had been some delays on the project, but the hope was to still have the bleachers completed by the first Bulldog home football game Sept. 11.
He said the resurfacing of the track is also underway, with that crew hoping to be done by Saturday.
“They said the track, overall, was in pretty good shape,” the superintendent said. “The spray they are applying is about a half inch thick.”
Peterson discussed the annual census report for children in the district ages birth through 18 years of age. The census data showed 490 children ages 5 through 18 in the district, which is down 20 children from the 2014 census report. There are an additional 105 children in the district ages birth through 4.
Following the special meeting, the board toured the newly remodeled weight room.
The next regular meeting of the Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education is scheduled for 8 p.m. Sept. 14. The board will hold its annual budget hearing and 2015-16 property tax request during that meeting.
* NeSA spring test results released for area school districts
(Posted 2:45 p.m. Aug. 31)
While the preliminary test scores released by the Nebraska Department of Education show nearly three of four Nebraska public school students met state standards in four subject areas in 2015, Education Commissioner Matt Blomstedt encouraged parents and the public to look at test results over time to evaluate the performance of individual students and schools, not a single test score from one year.
“Overall this year, more Nebraska students met our state standards in reading, writing, math and science,” Blomstedt said. He noted a 3 percent increase in student reading scores this year compared to 2014, and an 11 percent increase since 2010.
“Moving the needle from year to year is not easy. It takes hard work on the part of our students and Nebraska teachers,” Blomstedt said.
Nebraska educators administered about 451,000 tests statewide in 2015.
Trend data showed state test scores have improved incrementally since testing began six years ago on reading standards, with testing in other subjects phased in yearly.
Over 5 years, the percentage of students proficient on mathematics standards improved by 9 percent, science by 5 percent in four years and writing proficiency increased 4 percent over three years.
“Generally, we are seeing not only an increase in the percentage of students proficient on standards but also an increase in the percentage of students exceeding the standards,” Blomstedt said. “That means, Nebraska teachers are successfully increasing their students learning and knowledge of the standards, in general, at all grade levels.”
The following is how Ainsworth and Rock County students tested in the NeSA reading, writing, math and science exams. The scoring shows the average score on each test compared to the state average, as well as the percentage of students tested who exceeded standards, met standards, and fell below the state standards. Some information was withheld due to a low number of students taking the test. All Keya Paha County test results were withheld due to the number of students taking the tests.
Third grade Average score Below standards Met standards Exceeds standards
State avg 118 18% 49% 33%
Ainsworth 107 25% 56% 19
Rock County 112 withheld 47% withheld
State avg 121 19% 43% 38%
Ainsworth 106 33% 40% 27%
Rock County 125 withheld withheld 53%
State avg 129 17% 36% 46%
Ainsworth 136 15% 30% 55%
Rock County 136 9% 43% 48%
State avg 121 19% 44% 36%
Ainsworth 112 25% 48% 28%
Rock County 141 6% 41% 53%
State avg 128 18% 38% 44%
Ainsworth 106 30% 46% 24%
Rock County 129 14% 33% 53%
State avg 117 21% 43% 36%
Ainsworth 103 33% 43% 23%
Rock County 103 withheld 75% withheld
State avg 109 31% 41% 28%
Ainsworth 91 44% 49% 7%
Rock County 104 withheld 79% withheld
State avg 113 22% 51% 27%
Ainsworth 93 38% 53% 9%
Rock County 95 40% 47% 13%
State avg 112 23% 53% 24%
Ainsworth 99 30% 60% 10%
Rock County 103 withheld 71% withheld
State avg 113 24% 49% 27%
Ainsworth 127 23% 40% 38%
Rock County 125 5% 57% 38%
State avg 110 28% 45% 27%
Ainsworth 95 45% 45% 10%
Rock County 119 12% 59% 29%
State avg 110 27% 45% 27%
Ainsworth 116 16% 57% 27%
Rock County 114 withheld 73% withheld
State avg 105 32% 46% 22%
Ainsworth 118 20% 50% 30%
Rock County 104 withheld 58% withheld
State avg 102 39% 36% 26%
Ainsworth 113 28% 44% 28%
Rock County 117 21% 43% 36%
State avg 107 27% 55% 18%
Ainsworth 118 13% 63% 25%
Rock County 114 withheld 71% withheld
State avg 106 30% 47% 23%
Ainsworth 106 33% 50% 17%
Rock County 104 withheld 67% withheld
State avg 104 27% 57% 17%
Ainsworth 101 33% 51% 15%
Rock County 113 14% 50% 36%
State avg 43 29% 58% 12%
Ainsworth 40 50% 40% 10%
Rock County 47 withheld 56% withheld
State avg 46 29% 42% 30%
Ainsworth 38 58% 32% 10%
Rock County 48 withheld 73% withheld
State avg 47 24% 45% 31%
Ainsworth 46 26% 51% 23%
Rock County 52 14% 36% 50%
* Traffic Accident
(Posted 6:45 a.m. Aug. 31)
The Brown County Sheriff’s Department investigated a
two-vehicle accident that occurred Friday, Aug. 28, in Ainsworth.
According to the sheriff’s department report, at 7:16 a.m. Friday in the 100 block of Walnut Street, a 2007 Chevy pickup, driven by Ashley Fogle, 21, of Ainsworth, was backing from a private drive and struck a parked 1993 Chevy pickup, owned by Brad Fiala of Ainsworth.
No injuries were reported. Damage to the 2007 Chevy, owned by Brandon Wilson of Ainsworth, was estimated at $1,000. The 1993 Chevy sustained approximately $1,500 damage.
* Davis discusses continued need for property tax formula changes
(Posted 4 p.m. Aug. 28)
Nebraska 43rd District State Sen. Al Davis discussed his
efforts to try and change the way property valuations are set at the state
level, and the continued need to find a way to change the formula.
To hear the report, click on the audio link below.
* Recent cases from Brown County Court
(Posted 10 p.m. Aug. 27)
In addition to fines each case carries $48 in court costs
Michael A. Skeen, age 27, of O’Neill, charged with driving during revocation, sentenced to 13 days in jail with credit for 13 days served, driver’s license revoked for one year, and ordered to install an ignition interlock device; also charged with speeding 16-20 mph over the limit, fined $125.
Daniel J. Adler, 36, of Bellevue, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.
Christopher J. Schneider, 25, of Omaha, speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.
Ann M. Marshall, 39, of Ainsworth, no valid registration, $125.
Daniel L. Markley, 40, of Valentine, speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.
Katelynn M. Landry, 22, of Ainsworth, driving under suspension, $100.
Levi J. White, 25, of Ainsworth, driving during revocation, $100 fine, driver’s license revoked for one year, and ordered to install an ignition interlock device.
David Benavidez, 57, of Scottsbluff, speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.
Jason W. Fleming, 39, of Springview, speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.
Meredith S. Beul, 18, of Leawood, Kan., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.
Bailey R. Baxter, 18, of Gothenburg, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.
Kevin D. Rohlk, 24, of Springview, first degree criminal trespassing, sentenced to two days in jail with credit for two days served, and one year of probation; also charged with theft by unlawful taking, sentenced to one year of probation; also charged with leaving the scene of an accident/failing to furnish information, sentenced to one year of probation.
Max W. Mueller, 22, of Littleton, Colo., speeding 16-20 mph over the limit, $125.
David A. Leiding, 29, of Atkinson, driving under suspension, $100.
Bobbie J. Garhart, 32, of O’Neill, driving under suspension, $100.
Amy L. Thompson Cross, 35, of Ainsworth, accessory to a Class IV felony, sentenced to six months of probation; also charged with possession of marijuana less than 1 ounce, $300 and sentenced to six months of probation; also charged with possession or use of drug paraphernalia, $100 and sentenced to six months of probation.
Garson D. Sears, 19, of Omaha, speeding 16-20 mph over the limit, $125.
Keith R. Gerweck, 60, of Monroe, Mich., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.
Steven M. Statz, 57, of Lincoln, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.
Alyssa M. Cunningham, 27, of Omaha, speeding 16-20 mph over the limit, $125.
Alfred Jallah, 32, of Williston, N.D., first offense reckless driving, sentenced to seven days in jail with credit for seven days served.
Joshua Zeigler, 20, of Ainsworth, first offense driving under the influence, $500, also sentenced to seven days in jail with credit for one day served, driver’s license revoked for six months, and ordered to install an ignition interlock device; also charged with first offense refusing to submit to testing, sentenced to seven days in jail.
Ciera J. Shaw, 17, of Atkinson, speeding 16-20 mph over the limit, $125.
Kristi L. Holz, 47, of Monogghela, Pa., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.
Denet V. Christopher, 25, of Sioux Falls, S.D., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.
Lindsey P. Johnson, 20, of Grand Island, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.
Thomas J. Goering, 61, of Grand Island, speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.
Amy L. Haskell, 21, of Ainsworth, first offense driving under the influence, fined $500 and sentenced to six months of probation, ordered not to drive for 60 days, and ordered to install an ignition interlock device.
Charles L. Messbarger, 76, of Kearney, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.
Jerry L. Skinner, 40, of Gibson City, Ill., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.
Mary E. Cullin, 53, of Bellevue, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.
Ely W. Sharkey, 20, of Ainsworth, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.
Brent D. Scales, 46, of Forest Park, Okla., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.
David M. Booth, 73, of Batesland, S.D., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.
Kyle B. Hobbs, 17, of Ainsworth, minor in possession of alcohol, sentenced to six months of probation and driver’s license impounded for 30 days; zero tolerance violation, sentenced to six months of probation.
Scott L. Finley, 41, of Wichita, Kan., speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $25.
* Area projects awarded USDA grant funds for energy efficiency improvements
(Posted 7 a.m. Aug. 27)
Twenty-three Nebraska applicants have been selected to receive $486,026 in grants from USDA Rural Development through the Rural Energy for America Program. Funds will be used to install renewable energy systems and make energy efficiency improvements that will promote energy conservation.
Three projects in the area received funding. In Cherry County, Danielski Harvesting and Farming received a $50,000 grant to replace an existing grain dryer with a more efficient model.
In Holt County, Braun’s IGA was awarded an $18,651 grant to replace coolers in its grocery store, and The Alley/Millie’s Coffee received $10,240 to replace existing windows and install an insulated roofing system to its existing building.
“Through these projects, energy consumption will be reduced, thereby making more dollars available to be kept within rural Nebraska and assisting the state’s rural economy,” Nebraska State Director Maxine Moul, USDA Rural Development said. “Enough energy will be generated or saved to power 217 homes.”
Eligible agricultural producers and rural small businesses may use REAP funds to make energy efficiency improvements or install renewable energy systems, including solar, wind, renewable biomass (including anaerobic digesters), small hydroelectric, ocean energy, hydrogen and geothermal.
* May taxable sales for area counties decline substantially
(Posted 2:15 p.m. Aug. 25)
Nebraska Department of Revenue
Comparison of May 2015 and May 2014 Net Taxable Sales
for Nebraska Counties and Selected Cities
* Davis submits a report during legislative interim period
(Posted 1 p.m. Aug. 21)
To hear the weekly report submitted by Nebraska 43rd District State Sen. Al Davis, click on the audio link below.
* Traffic Accident
(Posted 1 p.m. Aug. 21)
The Brown County Sheriff’s Department investigated a
one-vehicle accident that occurred Thursday, Aug. 20, in Ainsworth.
According to the sheriff’s department report, at 8 p.m. Thursday at the Viaero Wireless parking lot, a 2002 Freightliner semi, driven by Nelson Pajaron, 51, of Atlanta, Ga., was backing up in the parking lot and struck the wooden security fence surrounding the Viaero tower.
No injuries were reported. Damage to the fence, owned by Viaero, was estimated at $200. The semi trailer did not sustain any damage.
* Area residents warned to be on the lookout for scam phone calls
(Posted 3:14 p.m. Aug. 20)
A new scam phone call appears to be making the rounds in
the KBRB listening area.
An Ainsworth resident reported receiving a call on a cellular phone with the caller identification indicating the number generated from the 402 area code with a 760 prefix.
The caller identified themselves as a representative from Verizon needing to verify credit card information.
The resident hung up the phone, dialed the number and found that it was not a functioning telephone number. After visiting with representatives from Verizon, it was learned the phishing scam is fairly new, with the scammers able to manipulate the caller identification to show a number originating from the area.
Anyone receiving an unsolicited call from a suspect source is reminded never to provide credit card information over the phone, and never agree to settle any kind of purported bill by purchasing a prepaid or green dot card.
* Farmers-Ranchers Cooperative undergoing $17 million feed mill expansion
(Posted 9 a.m. Aug. 20)
Work has begun on a new $17.3 million feed mill addition for the Farmers-Ranchers Cooperative location along First Street in Ainsworth.
The Cooperative’s Board of Directors approved the feed mill addition next to the existing feed mill. A portion of the prior storage facility was torn down this week ahead of the construction of the new facility.
“The Board of Directors is confident that the demand is there for Farmers-Ranchers feed products with a history of volume growth at our existing mill and with the closings of other mill facilities in the region,” Board Chairman Ron Heerten said. “There is a feed team in place that has the vision, ability, commitment and proven record to make this project a success. Our co-op has a record of solid local earnings that make this expansion possible.”
Heerten said the board believes the expansion project is in the best long-term interests of current and future cooperative customers, owners and the entire community.
“After much consideration, we unanimously approved moving forward with this expansion project,” Heerten said.
The feed mill addition will consist of a mill tower, a five-ton mixer, two 400-horsepower pellet mills and two state of the art dryers. The cooperative will be able to increase production by an additional 40 tons per hour with the new facilities.
Co-op Feed Division Manager Rocky Sheehan said, “The existing mill, while in good condition, is 37 years old. With our service and quality of feed, there has been more demand for our products in an expanding trade territory.”
Sheehan credited the feed mill’s employees for the success the co-op has experienced in recent years.
“Due to increased demand, we have been running 24 hours per day during the peak of the season,” Sheehan said. “This expansion will make us more efficient.”
EBM Construction of Norfolk is the general contractor for the feed mill expansion project. Completion is expected in the fall of 2016.
Cooperative Chief Executive Officer Kent Taylor said, “The co-op has a respected history of being an important part of our customers’ success. We are excited to enter this new era for the Farmers-Ranchers Co-op. This feed mill project will allow us to continue to live up to our vision: ‘Earn the position of being the first choice for ag producers in our expanding territory.’”
* Miles brings glimpse of the Sandhills to Chicago agricultural students
(Posted 4:15 p.m. Aug. 19)
Ainsworth cattle feeder Mark Miles, a participant in the
Nebraska Lead 34 Class through the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, recently
hosted several high school students and a teacher from an agricultural magnet
school in Chicago, Ill., showing the students first-hand how animals are raised
in north central Nebraska.
Miles and a Lead Nebraska classmate had previously taken six head of cattle to the class in Chicago, and set up the chance for some of those students to receive an expenses-paid trip to the Sandhills to view how cattle are raised and finished.
Students toured area ranches and feedlots, and had the chance to participate in several recreational activities, including a tubing trip on the Niobrara River.
Area residents opened their doors to the students, providing housing and meals as well as tours of their ranches and feedlots.
KBRB's Graig Kinzie talked with Miles about the Lead Nebraska program and how he became involved with the Chicago students. To hear the report, click on the audio links below.
* Rock County Sheriff's Department investigating theft from business near Bassett
(Posted 4:15 p.m. Aug. 19)
The Rock County Sheriff’s Department is seeking the
public’s assistance in solving a theft that occurred west of Bassett sometime
prior to Tuesday morning.
According to the sheriff’s department, someone removed numerous hand tools and power tools from a service truck at Sandhill Equipment west of Bassett.
The estimated value of the tools taken is between $4,000 and $5,000.
Anyone with information on who may be responsible for the theft is asked to contact the Rock County Sheriff’s Department at 402-684-3811.
* Armor coat work to begin Monday on Highway 20 between Johnstown, Ainsworth
(Posted noon Aug. 19)
According to Chuck Osborn with the Nebraska Department of
Roads, armor coating work on Highway 20 between Johnstown and Ainsworth is
scheduled to begin next week.
Osborn said the work will begin near Johnstown at 7:30 a.m. Monday and will continue east to Ainsworth. The roads will be marked, and traffic will be maintained with the use of flaggers and a pilot car.
Osborn urged motorists to reduce their speed when traveling on the armor coat, as slowing speeds will reduce the likelihood of the armor coat material damaging the windshields of oncoming motorists.
* Commissioners revisit law enforcement agreement with Ainsworth Tuesday
(Posted 2 p.m. Aug. 18)
The Brown County Commissioners discussed the interlocal agreement with the city of Ainsworth for law enforcement services with Ainsworth Mayor Larry Rice during Tuesday’s board meeting.
County Attorney David Streich said the most recent three-year agreement was initiated for the 2013-14 fiscal year. The agreement, initially drawn up by Mark Kozisek when the city of Ainsworth dropped its police force in favor of an agreement with the county, provides for the city to receive a credit if the sheriff’s department actual expenditures do not increase by 2 percent annually.
Streich reported the city is in line for a $1,372 credit from the 2013-14 year, and an additional $4,252 credit for the 2014-15 year as the sheriff’s department expenditures did not increase by the 2 percent threshold.
Streich said the city did not receive the $1,372 credit from the 2013-14 year ahead of the 2014-15 fiscal year, so the city would receive a credit on its first statement for the 2015-16 year for both credits due.
Rice said the agreement also calls for an annual meeting between the mayor, City Council president, county board chairman and the sheriff to discuss the interlocal agreement.
He said, though those meetings had not taken place in the past few years, he would like to meet once each year just to go through the agreement and make sure all parties were satisfied. Rice said the city of Ainsworth was satisfied with the current interlocal agreement, and had no desire to bring back a city police force.
In other items during Tuesday’s meeting, the commissioners allocated 4 cents of property tax levy authority for the Brown County Rural Fire Protection District. Commissioner Les Waits questioned whether the rural fire district needed the full 4 cents in levy, but was told the 4 cents in levy was required for the department to receive a full allocation of MFO funding from the state.
The board also approved a $27,500 property tax levy allocation to the Brown County Agricultural Society to maintain the Brown County Fairgrounds and host the annual fair.
The commissioners will meet with budget preparer Pete Peterson during the board’s Sept. 1 meeting to go through and finalize the 2015-16 county budget. The annual budget hearing and property tax request will be held during the board’s Sept. 15 meeting.
In roads items, Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin discussed the possibility of leasing or purchasing a skid steer for the roads department.
Turpin said the county could lease a Caterpillar skid steer for $4,500 annually and use the machine up to 250 hours each year, then upgrade to a new model. He said the county could also make an initial purchase of a skid steer for around $45,000, then upgrade it annually to a new machine and pay a lease based on the number of hours the machine is used.
Streich said, even with a lease, the county would need to secure three informal bids. No action was taken, as Turpin will find leasing opportunities with at least an additional two equipment dealers.
Turpin reported he may have some of the roads department employees work some overtime hours with the county still short one full-time worker and not receiving applications for the open position. He said road crews are out working on the shoulders of the Elsmere Road and are patching some rough spots on the road ahead of armor coating work, which is scheduled for September on 11 miles of the Elsmere Road.
He reported 430th Avenue near Rolling Stone Feed Yard would be closed for approximately three days while improvements are made to the road.
The next meeting of the Brown County Commissioners is scheduled for 8:15 a.m. Sept. 1.
* Lions Club prepares for Brown County Fair concession stand operations
(Posted 1:30 p.m. Aug. 18)
During its meeting Monday, the Ainsworth Lions Club made plans to again operate the concession stand during the Brown County Fair.
Jim Arens presented a worksheet assigning members times for assisting in the fair concession stand Sept. 5-7. Brian Williams, Jerry Ehlers and David Spann volunteered to assist with the final cleanup of the concession stand on Labor Day, Sept. 7, which is the final day of the Brown County Fair. The worksheet will be emailed to members, with final revisions expected in the weeks prior to the fair.
Todd Mundhenke reviewed the Alumni Banquet held on June 27 and served by the Lions Club. Mundhenke said he has already had discussions with representatives of the Ainsworth High School Class of 1991, the host class for the 2016 Alumni Banquet, to insure that the concerns encountered this past summer are not repeated.
Mundhenke said several new Lions Club serving pitchers will need to be purchased, since they were not returned after being sent to be cleaned after the theater fire and can no longer be located.
Club President Evan Evans reported grant funds will be sought for crumb rubber to be placed under playground equipment at the city parks next spring. The amount needed will be substantially less than the 22 bags approved by the Lions Club last February.
Nine Lions Club members and one guest volunteer assisted with the demolition of Lions Club member Richard Albrecht’s garage. Vergil Heyer and Brian Williams provided the heavy equipment to take down the building, with trailers provided by Bennie Burdick, Duane Saner and Ainsworth Motors. The club was assisted by Mike Smiley at the KBR Solid Waste Transfer Station.
The club received thank-you notes for the donation to the 2015 Post Prom Party, the contribution of the All-Sports Tailgate Party profit of $470 to the local chapter of Teammates, and from Richard Albrecht in appreciation of a memorial card sent by the Lions Club.
The Lions Club will again take tickets for home varsity football games. Jerry Ehlers will coordinate with the high school activity directors for dates and times.
The Ainsworth Lions Club held a winning ticket in the Lions District 38-I Individual Assistance Fund raffle held last spring in the cash amount of $50. The club approved donating the funds to the Ainsworth Food Pantry in lieu of conducting a local membership drawing as previously planned.
An inquiry was received regarding the possibility of the Lions Club providing a breakfast for a large Bike Tour Group considering the use of Ainsworth City Park for camping the night of June 24. Since this is on the AHS Alumni Banquet weekend, no action was taken.
Gordon Smith, a 1962 graduate of Ainsworth High School, gifted three Lions Club highway signs to the Ainsworth Lions Club to replace each of the signs currently located along each state highway entering the community.
Ehlers reported the new signs have been installed. Since Smith’s business provides an opportunity for him to periodically drive through Ainsworth, he will be asked to stop for a picture presentation.
The next meeting of the Ainsworth Lions Club Board of Directors is scheduled for noon Sept. 21 in the Golden Steer.
* 430th Avenue near Rolling Stone closed for next 3 days
(Posted 1 p.m. Aug. 18)
Brown County Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin reported
430th Avenue near the Rolling Stone Feed Yard will be closed for the
next three days while improvements are made to the road.
Turpin will notify KBRB when the road is reopened to the public.
Keya Paha County Commissioner Mike Tuerk notified KBRB Tuesday that the Burton Road from Highway 7 north to Highway 12 will be closed after early morning rains washed out two culverts.
* Traffic Accident
(Posted 6:45 a.m. Aug. 17)
The Brown County Sheriff’s Department investigated a
one-vehicle accident that occurred Saturday, Aug. 15, near Long Pine.
According to the sheriff’s department report, at 5:02 p.m. Saturday on Pine View Road northeast of Long Pine, a 1997 Mercury sedan, driven by Joy Bechtold, 50, of Norfolk, was traveling south when the vehicle left the roadway, rolled onto its passenger side in the west ditch, and struck a tree.
No injuries were reported. Seat belts were in use. The Mercury was considered a total loss. A culvert, owned by Brown County, sustained $2,000 damage.
* Fischer touts Senate passage of highway funding bill during Ainsworth stop Friday
(Posted 6:15 p.m. Aug. 14)
Meeting with close to 30 residents during a listening session Friday in the Ainsworth Conference Center, U.S. Sen. Deb Fischer said things are beginning to work in the Senate after two years of partisan gridlock.
Fischer touted the Senate’s recent passage of a six-year highway funding bill following years of patchwork, short-term funding.
“It has been forever since we had a long-term highway bill,” Fischer said. “States, cities and counties need the certainty of a long-term bill.”
Nebraska’s senior senator said she hoped the House of Representatives would take up a similar bill in September, and the long-term highway funding bill could be signed in October.
Fischer, who serves on the Senate committee charged with the oversight of the Environmental Protection Agency, said she was adamantly opposed to the recent Clean Power Plan that was announced by the president and the EPA that will seek to limit by an additional 40 percent the emissions from coal-fired power plants.
“Nebraska will be one of the biggest losers in the Clean Power Plan,” Fischer said. “We are a public power state, and we will be the ones paying to retrofit the power plants. It is very costly for little, if any benefit.”
Fischer said she believed in a balanced energy portfolio that included wind and solar power, but this plan would do little on a global scale to address carbon emissions.
“China is building a coal-fired power plant every 10 days,” Fischer said. “And, the plants they are building are dirty.”
Addressing the recent nuclear agreement between the U.S. and Iran, Fischer said the agreement was not good for the United States. She said she disagreed with the lengthy notification that will be given to Iran prior to any inspections, and said Iran will not allow inspections of its military facilities as part of the agreement.
She said the loosening of sanctions will allow Iran to change the balance of power in the Middle East.
Following the listening session, Fischer spoke with KBRB’s Graig Kinzie. To hear that conversation, click on the audio link below.
* Work to begin on Highway 7 south of Ainsworth, Highway 83 south of Valentine
(Posted 1 p.m. Aug. 14)
According to the Nebraska Department of Roads, weather permitting, construction work is scheduled to begin the week of Aug. 17 on Highway 7 south of Ainsworth, from milepost 36 to milepost 43.
Werner Construction, Inc. of Hastings has the $1.09 million contract for milling
2 inches of the existing asphalt surface and placing a 2-inch asphaltic concrete overlay.
The work is anticipated to be completed in mid- September.
Construction work is also scheduled to begin next week on Highway 83 south of Valentine from milepost 146 to milepost 160, and north of Thedford from milepost 197 to milepost 207.
Sta-Bilt Construction Company of Harlan, Iowa, has the $901,780 contract for microsurfacing the roadway.
Traffic will be maintained during construction with the use of flaggers and a pilot vehicle. The work is anticipated to be completed in early September.
The Department of Roads' project manager for both projects is Michael Rudnick of Ainsworth. Motorists are urged to use caution while driving through highway work zones and to remember that speeding fines are doubled when workers are present.
* Davis provides weekly update on 43rd District activities
(Posted 11:30 a.m. Aug. 14)
Nebraska 43rd District State Sen. Al Davis provided his
weekly summary of activity to KBRB.
To hear the report, click on the audio link below.
* City Council declares 27 parcels violate nuisance code in city's northeast quadrant
(Posted 10 p.m. Aug. 12)
The owners of 27 parcels in the northeast portion of Ainsworth will receive certified letters that their property has been declared a nuisance by the city.
During Wednesday’s meeting of the Ainsworth City Council, Kathy Drake with Central Nebraska Economic Development District updated the council on the second stage of nuisance inspections performed on parcels east of Main Street, north of Highway 20.
Drake said, of the 207 parcels inspected, the owners of 81 parcels were sent courtesy letters showing them photos of potential nuisance code violations and giving them 30 days to remedy the issue.
“Forty-one of the 81 properties were cleared on July 7,” Drake said. “Five additional properties were cleared Aug. 11.”
After going through photos of the properties where the issues identified by CNEDD, the city’s contracted nuisance abatement officer, the council approved declaring 27 parcels as nuisances and directed CNEDD to send certified letters notifying the owners that the nuisance has been declared.
The letters will contain a copy of the city’s nuisance code, as well as the steps needed to abate the nuisance. Property owners have five days from receipt of the certified letter to request a hearing and state their case as to why their property should be removed from the nuisance list.
If property owners fail to abate the nuisance after receiving the certified letter, the council would then take action to have the identified nuisance code violation abated and charge the cost of the abatement to the property’s tax statement.
In other business during Wednesday’s meeting, the council, minus absent Councilman Kent Taylor, approved having Olsson Associates design a water and sewer line extension project on the east side of the city to coincide with new construction planned by Ainsworth Motors.
Jess Hurlbert with the engineering firm recommended the city extend an 8-inch water line from the Hunt Street intersection with Highway 20 east along the north ditch of the highway right of way to the Ainsworth Motors property.
He said an existing sewer line could be extended west on the northwest side of the property. He estimated the cost of the water line extension at $24,000.
Councilwoman Deb Hurless said it would be a good idea for the city to begin the process of annexing the site into the city limits if the water and sewer lines were to be extended.
Mayor Larry Rice said Ainsworth Motors owner Bret Younkin was agreeable to having the site annexed if the city would provide the water and sewer service, as the city is obligated to do with any property it annexes.
The city would then continue to capture a 1.5 percent sales tax on vehicles sold by the company.
City Attorney Rod Palmer said he could have the documents drawn up to annex the property well ahead of the construction of the project.
Hurlbert said Olsson Associates could have a survey crew on site within a week or two, and could have the necessary paperwork submitted to the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services and the Nebraska Department of Roads in short order.
“You could probably be able to begin the project in six weeks or so,” Hurlbert said. “It shouldn’t take long for DHHS or the Department of Roads to review.”
The council considered demolishing a restroom facility at the Courthouse Park, but audience member Carol Larson encouraged the council to save the restrooms and repair the plumbing so they could be utilized by the public.
“We need to have a restroom available at that park,” Larson said. “The library and the museum aren’t always open.”
She said the Courthouse Park itself was well-maintained and was utilized frequently by both residents and travelers.
Mayor Larry Rice said the current state of the restroom was an embarrassment for the city.
“It makes a terrible impression for any traveler who would stop and try and use it,” Rice said.
Water Superintendent Brad Miller said the men’s restroom was currently padlocked, as the facility was completely unusable. Larson said the women’s restroom was currently in working order.
Councilman Chuck Osborn asked if the restroom structure was still sound.
Streets Foreman Monte Goshorn said the structure was fine, but the plumbing would need to be completely replaced.
Councilman Brian Williams asked if Miller could look into the cost of replacing the plumbing in the two restrooms, which would require the cement floor to be torn out.
Osborn said, “I am not opposed to getting bids and at least see what it would cost to repair them.”
The council directed Miller to obtain cost estimates for replacing the plumbing in the men’s and women’s restrooms.
The council again discussed increasing the rate it charges for garbage removal. Rice said the city’s costs to KBR Solid Waste just went up 16 percent in the past two months, from $7,398 monthly to $8,615 monthly due to increases in costs to Lexington Area Solid Waste, where garbage from the county eventually winds up.
Osborn proposed a 30 percent increase from the current $11 rate that is charged to city residents. That would bring residential garbage service to $14.30 monthly.
“The last time rates were increased was in the 1990s,” Osborn said.
Rice asked the council to wait one month so city officials could gather data on the revenue being generated through the city’s garbage collections and compare it to the costs. He said the city was currently supplementing the garbage account with funding it receives through franchise fees from the Nebraska Public Power District.
“I think that department should be at least breaking even,” the mayor said.
The council opted to table the item until its September meeting.
The council approved a maintenance agreement with Agland Electric of Atkinson to service the city’s lift stations. Miller said it had been a few years since any of the city’s lift stations had been serviced. The contract approved Wednesday includes one year of maintenance service on the lift stations for a total price of $3,295.
In a related item, the council approved having Miller and Associates apply for grant funding through the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality to upgrade five of the city’s lift stations.
The NDEQ grant could cover up to $20,000 in upgrades for the lift stations, with the council obligated only to provide a 10 percent funding match.
The council renewed its liability, worker’s compensation and property insurance coverage through LARM. By opting for a three-year renewal, the city received a 5 percent discount and will be billed $65,083 annually instead of the cost of a one-year agreement at $68,509.
The consent agenda approved Wednesday included the mayor’s appointments of Jason Adkisson and Brian Delimont to the City Park Board for three-year terms, and authorized the Ainsworth Area Chamber of Commerce to close Main Street from 4:30 until 6:30 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 30, for the annual Ainsworth Women’s Club Trick or Treat Safe Street.
The next meeting of the Ainsworth City Council is scheduled for 7 p.m. Sept. 9.
* Rock County voters overwhelmingly approve lid increase for hospital, ambulance
(Posted 3:30 p.m. Aug. 12)
Rock County Clerk Joyce Stahl announced the results of the
mail-in voting for increasing the county's 50-cent levy lid by 3 cents to
support the Rock County Hospital, Long Term Care, and the Rock County Ambulance.
Stahl reported 550 votes were care, with 456 in favor and just 94 against, a margin of 83 percent to 17 percent.
The additional 3 cents in levy had also been passed five years and 10 years ago.
* Several appear in Brown County District Court Tuesday
(Posted 3:30 p.m. Aug. 12)
During District Court proceedings Tuesday in the Brown County Courthouse, Robert Allen, age 55, of Ainsworth, appeared for sentencing on two Class IV felony drug convictions.
Allen was sentenced to 30 days in jail after being convicted of possession of a controlled substance. He was sentenced to an additional 90 days in jail for his conviction on a felony count of possession of ephedrine with the intent to manufacture methamphetamine.
The sentences are to be served consecutively, meaning Allen will complete the first jail term before beginning the second. He was given credit for 10 days served.
Casey Gallegos, 44, of Ainsworth, appeared for sentencing after being convicted on two felony drug charges.
Gallegos was sentenced to three years of probation and ordered to pay a $1,000 fine after being convicted of one count of possession of a controlled substance and one count of possession of ephedrine with the intent to manufacture methamphetamine, both Class IV felonies.
Stacy Reed, 36, of Ainsworth, also appeared for sentencing after similar convictions. Reed was sentenced to three years of probation, including enrollment in an in-house substance abuse treatment facility, after being convicted of one count of possession of a controlled substance and one count of possession of ephedrine with the intent to manufacture methamphetamine.
Nathan Yankowski, 22, of Ainsworth, appeared for sentencing Tuesday following convictions on two counts of third-degree sexual assault, Class I misdemeanors.
Yankowski received a sentence of three years of probation. He was also ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $1,707, and was ordered to attend outpatient counseling. He is also required to avoid contact with children under the age of 14, and will be required to register under the Sex Offender Registration Act.
Joseph Ward, 34, of Ainsworth, appeared in District Court Tuesday and entered a plea of no contest to a Class IIIA felony charge of child abuse. Ward will be sentenced Oct. 13.
* School Board approves 2015-16 staff members, coaches and sponsors
(Posted 9 p.m. Aug. 10)
The Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education approved the 2015-16 roster of teachers, coaches and sponsors during Monday’s meeting.
A total of 49 staff members will be employed for the 2015-16 year, with five of those staff members approved as part of a contract with Educational Service Unit 17 for special education services. The 49 staff members does not include the two district's principals and superintendent.
A new addition to the secondary staff is Shane Harland, who will teach seventh- through 12th-grade social studies. Harland will also serve as an assistant football and girls basketball coach.
Jared Hansmeyer will serve as a co-activities director with Scott Steinhauser.
The school plans to welcome a Spanish teacher to the staff for the second semester, but will remain with Rosetta Stone for the first semester while the teacher completes her student-teaching requirement for college graduation in December.
Christy Paddock has been hired as a co-teacher at Little Paws Preschool. Elementary Principal Sarah Williams said the preschool classes are not quite full, but are close to being at capacity.
And, as previously reported, Dirk Coon is now with Ainsworth Community Schools as the secondary principal. He reported he had attended several recent trainings, and has been preparing for teacher in-service days and the first day for students.
In-services are being held this week for staff members through Wednesday, with the first day of class for students scheduled for Thursday.
Superintendent Darrell Peterson said all head coaching assignments will remain the same for the 2015-16 year, with the exception of girls basketball, where Zach and Nikki Welch will take over the head coaching duties from Jeff Carr, and track and field, where Hansmeyer had previously served as the head coach and asked that a replacement be identified. Hansmeyer will remain the cross country coach.
Peterson said a few assistant and junior high coaching positions remain unfilled at this point.
During his report, Peterson said the school’s insurance carrier valued the district’s buildings at a total of $19 million, which was an increase from the district’s previous $14.5 million valuation.
“We thought the previous valuation was probably low for the square footage we have,” Peterson said.
The superintendent said the increase in valuation will result in additional coverage and an increase of $7,400 in the district’s building insurance premium. He said the increase will be prorated for this year before taking full effect next year.
Peterson thanked Beck’s Well and Irrigation for donating time and equipment to install a new slide at the school playground. Beck’s Well and Irrigation also donated time and equipment for the improvements to the school’s weight room.
He said the district was still short-staffed in its custodial department, and he would continue to try and find someone to help fill the vacancy. Head custodian Ron Rennick plans is retiring this month.
Peterson also reported the district is still waiting for the installation of the new bleachers at the football field. He said the company hired to install the bleachers is behind schedule, and he was not sure if the new bleachers would be installed in time for the first home football game.
During her report, Williams said 29 students attended kindergarten roundup Aug. 6. All five elementary classes have between 28 and 32 students.
She reported the elementary will host an open house for first- through fourth-grade students and their parents. Parents will have the opportunity to meet the classroom teachers during the open house.
In action items, the board approved the second readings of several policies Monday. Policies approved on second reading included:
· A policy on assessments and academic content standards.
· A policy updating the district’s special education standards.
· The district’s purchasing policy and procedures for bidding construction projects.
· The district’s anti-discrimination policy.
· Removing a section of a policy regarding makeup work.
· A policy increasing the pay rate for substitute teachers.
The board also approved the first reading of a policy changing rental fees for school facilities.
Peterson said the district’s rental rates have not been changed for many years, and the revised fees will put the school closer to the Ainsworth Conference Center.
Fees had previously been charged by the hour, and will change to flat daily fees. The fee is $100 to rent the Learning Center, $75 per classroom, $100 per day for the cafeteria, $50 per day to use the kitchen facilities, $300 per day to rent McAndrew Gymnasium, and an additional $50 per day if floor mats are needed.
In a final action item, the board approved nominating Brad Wilkins as the Region 15 Board of Director candidate to the Nebraska Association of School Boards.
A special meeting was scheduled for 8 p.m. Aug. 31 to approve final expenditures for the 2014-15 fiscal year.
The 2015-16 budget hearing and annual property tax request was set for 8 p.m. Sept. 14 ahead of the regular meeting of the Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education.
* Rock County performing shoulder work on WPA Road
(Posted 1:45 p.m. Aug. 10)
The Rock County Roads Department will perform dirt work on
the shoulders along the south half of the WPA Road during the next several days.
Rock County Roads Foreman Darrell Olson said the work is being done in preparation for an armor coating project on the WPA Road in September. Work will fall in an area from Scott Iverson’s property to the Pony Lake School.
Motorists are urged to use caution in that area.
* Work to begin week of Aug. 17 on Highway 12 east of Spencer
(Posted 8:45 a.m. Aug. 10)
Weather permitting, construction work is scheduled to begin the week of Aug. 17 on Highway 12, beginning at the Highway 12 and Highway 281 intersection east of Spencer and extending 9.4 miles to Lynch, according to the Nebraska Department of Roads.
Co. of Hastings has the $2,5 million contract for milling
the existing asphalt surfacing and placing a four-inch asphaltic concrete overlay.
guardrail will be removed at several locations and roadway fore-slopes will be
Erosion control measures will include the placement of rock riprap at several drainage structures.
Traffic will be
maintained during construction with the use of flaggers and a pilot car.
Load widths greater than 11 feet will not be permitted through the project. The anticipated completion date is early November.
The Department of
Roads' project engineer is Gene Colfack of O'Neill. Motorists are
urged to use caution while driving through highway work zones and to remember that speeding fines are doubled when workers are present.
* Davis submits report on legislative activities
(Posted 3:30 p.m. Aug. 7)
To hear the weekly report submitted by Nebraska 43rd District State Sen. Al Davis, click on the audio link below.
* Olson tells board deal potentially close on purchase of care center building
(Posted 3 p.m. Aug. 7)
North Central Development Center Executive Director Kristin Olson told the Ainsworth/Brown County Care Center Board of Directors Friday the two sides are close on a deal for the purchase of the former Ainsworth Care Center building.
She said, with numerous legal questions remaining about the status of the personal property in the facility, the agreement now would be to purchase only the facility itself, not the personal property.
“RP Midwest’s attorney and our attorney both recommended an agreement on the property only,” Olson said. “They recommended letting the personal property go.”
She said the NCDC’s legal counsel and a consultant have been working on some pricing options for equipment and supplies.
“They are looking at leasing as well as purchasing options,” Olson said. “We will have to make some decisions on what we think will work best. But they are sure we don’t want to touch the personal property as part of this purchase agreement.”
Olson said she believed a deal could be completed for the building within the next 30 to 60 days.
“Nothing, however, is finalized at this point,” she said. “I think both parties now agree that it is beneficial for both parties to complete a sale. The owners of the building have had to sort out a lot of things from the company that was operating the care center. They had to deal with the same mess we had to deal with.”
Board member Jim Walz said, to him, this was RP Midwest’s last chance to reach an agreement before the board moved in another direction toward a new facility.
“If this doesn’t come together soon, I think the $340,000 allocated by the county and the $340,000 allocated by the city should be used toward a site plan and a study for a new facility,” Walz said. “If we don’t close this time, I am done messing with them and am ready to move on.”
Board Chairman Kent Taylor said it is frustrating, but the building is private property, so the group was forced to continue to wait.
“We would like to get this facility going as soon as we can, but our plan also is to continue to work for a new facility,” Taylor said.
Olson said she believed RP Midwest was working with the NCDC’s legal counsel in good faith.
Board member Leanne Maxwell said a concern remains on how the group would pay to build a new facility.
Board member Buddy Small said there were a wide range of estimates on what a new facility would cost.
“We need to pin that down to a closer number,” Small said.
Olson said there were several things the board could be working on ahead of the building purchase being finalized.
“There are things you can do now so you are not overwhelmed and trying to get everything done at once if the purchase is completed,” Olson said.
Addressing one of those items, the board authorized Brown County Attorney David Streich to formulate a request for proposals to manage the nursing facility in Ainsworth.
“You don’t have to bid for professional services, but I think you would still get the best value and the most options by bidding,” Streich said. “You could advertise requesting proposals and see what services the management companies propose to you and at what cost.”
Olson said a management company could assist the board with numerous steps in the process of reopening a facility.
“You need to think about a policies and procedures handbook, and you will have to start working with the state on a license and applying for the 46 licensed beds,” Olson said. “Management firms have the experience and could potentially assist us in those areas.”
Brown County Hospital Administrator Shannon Sorensen said four management firms had provided assistance at some stage of this process and were all familiar with the Ainsworth facility.
“Time is still so valuable to us,” Sorensen said. “We had eight more people from our community since this facility closed who have also had to transfer out to other facilities.”
She said there were several things the board could keep working on while waiting to see what happens on the building, such as equipment, licensure and regulations.
“That way, if and when a contract is approved, we are at least working on the pieces we will need to have in place,” Sorensen said.
She said a management company would be able to assist the board in those areas.
The board voted to direct Streich to draft a request for proposals to advertise in the Aug. 12 edition of the Ainsworth Star-Journal, and also to mail the request for proposals to the four management firms in Nebraska to make them aware.
The proposals are to be returned by Sept. 4, so the board can open and discuss the proposals during its next regular meeting, which was scheduled for 5 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 8, in the Ainsworth Conference Center. The board moved the regular meeting from its normal first Monday schedule due to the Labor Day holiday.
In other action items Friday, the board voted to establish a checking account at West Plains Bank, with Taylor, Small and Maxwell, and Clerk Travis Hobbs listed as signatories on the account.
Olson asked the board to consider assisting with the cost of the legal services that have accrued as part of the building negotiations.
“NCDC received $20,000 from the city in an LB 840 grant and has paid for some of the legal services, consulting work and the feasibility study,” Olson said. “We have spent more than that at this point, and we need to figure out how the remainder of the bills is going to be paid.”
Taylor encouraged Olson to submit a claim to the board on behalf of the NCDC.
Allowing questions from those in attendance, audience member Lonnie Price asked what the best-case scenario would be at this point for getting the facility reopened if the purchase were to be finalized.
Olson said a best-case scenario would likely be 60 to 120 days from the closure date on the property until the first private-pay residents could be admitted.
The next regular meeting of the board is 5 p.m. Sept. 8 in the Ainsworth Conference Center, but a special meeting may be called if RP Midwest responds to the contract for the purchase of the property.
* Traffic Accidents
(Posted 10:30 a.m. Aug. 7)
The Brown County Sheriff’s Department investigated a pair
of one-vehicle accidents during the week.
At 7:55 p.m. Monday, Aug. 3, on Highway 20 approximately 1 mile northwest of Long Pine, a 2005 Chevy Impala, driven by Crystal Chase, 20, of Ainsworth was traveling east when the vehicle struck a deer near the intersection of Willow Ridge Avenue.
No persons were injured during the accident. Damage to the Chevy was estimated at $1,500.
At 7:10 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 6, in the alley east of Ainsworth Community Schools, a 2009 Ford SUV, driven by Amy Carr, 49, of Ainsworth, was backing up and struck a guard rail protecting a phone box near the alley.
No injuries were reported. Damage to the Ford was estimated at $2,000.
* Shaw wins national gold medal in State Games of America shot put competition
(Posted noon Aug. 5)
Addie Shaw, a Rock County High School student, won a gold
medal during the recently completed State Games of America competition at
More than 15,000 athletes from 48 states competed in 60 sporting events during the event.
Shaw finished as the national champion in the shot put for the 17-18-year-old girls division. Shaw also placed fourth nationally in the discus.
Walker Shaw, competing in the 15-16-year-old boys division, won the national silver medal in the discus, and took the bronze medal in the javelin. Walker Shaw also finished seventh in the 100- and 200-meter races.
* Agenda for Friday meeting of Ainsworth/Brown County Care Center Board
(Posted 7 a.m. Aug. 5)
County Care Center Interlocal Board
Noon Friday, Aug. 7
2. 1. Roll Call
3. 2. Approval of Minutes from 6-29-15 Meeting
4. 3. Approval of Claims
5. 4. Approval of Name Change to dba “Sandhills Care Center”
6. 5. Resolution to set up a checking account
7. 6. Purchase of the Ainsworth Care Center and related matters
8. 7. Process for the selection of a management firm
9. 8. Budget Preparations
10. 9. Future plans for a new facility
11. 10. Reports from Board Members
12. 11. Public Comments
13. 12. Agenda Topics/Meeting Date(s) for the next meeting(s)
14. 13. Adjourn
* Commissioners approve making repairs to courthouse foundation
(Posted 2 p.m. Aug. 4)
The Brown County Courthouse basement will be repaired to keep water from leaking into the building following the County Commissioners’ decision Tuesday to accept a bid from Thrasher Basement Systems.
After inspecting the lower level of the courthouse, Thrasher technicians made several recommendations to the county for repair work to improve the integrity of the courthouse’s foundation and keep water from working its way into the basement.
Thrasher Basement Systems supplied the only bid Tuesday for the repair work, at $25,390.
The board accepted the bid. Without the repairs, the board had concerns the lower level of the courthouse could continue to leak, which might lead to future mold issues.
The commissioners took no action on making potential repairs to the courthouse roof, as Chairman Buddy Small said one company sent a technician to inspect the courthouse roof, and another company asked for blueprints for the courthouse.
In other items during Tuesday’s meeting, KBR Rural Public Power District representative Terry McGill approached the commissioners about the possibility of spraying county ditches to kill small trees in a preventative measure to keep trees out of power lines and county right of way.
“We try to do what we can,” McGill said. “There are some spots to the north and to the south where we have sprayed trees. For maybe $5,000 per year, you could have someone come in and spray stretches to get caught up.”
McGill said the issue of trees encroaching into power lines from county right of way was not only an issue in Brown County.
“Next week, I am going to talk to the Keya Paha County Commissioners about the same thing,” McGill said.
Small said the most economical way for the county to address spraying trees would likely be to pay Weed Superintendent Doug Mulligan to work additional hours spraying trees.
“Doug already takes care of any noxious weeds in the county ditches,” Small said. “This is certainly an ongoing problem. The trees in the right of way are a problem for your operation and for our operation.”
During his report, Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin said the plans for the Norden Bridge replacement project have been submitted to the Nebraska Department of Roads.
“Once the plans are approved, we can start taking bids for the project,” Turpin said.
Commissioner Reagan Wiebelhaus said, even if the bridge is replaced in 2016 instead of this fall, as originally planned, the replacement was still much quicker than the board had previously planned.
“Finding the state funding for that bridge is also going to make this project a lot cheaper than we were planning,” Wiebelhaus said.
Turpin said the roads department planned to remove a box culvert on 435th Avenue this week and replace it with a steel culvert. He said crews continued to haul white rock back to Brown County from South Dakota, and the department was in the process of hauling armor coat gravel to the Elsmere Road in anticipation of 11 miles of the road being armor coated this fall.
In a final roads item, Turpin said he would look into purchasing a pup trailer for the county’s 2008 Mack dump truck in addition to seeing if a tag axle would work for the truck. That item was placed on the Aug. 18 agenda to allow Turpin time to provide the board with additional options.
The commissioners again discussed the possibility of purchasing a dumpster to be placed in the Hidden Paradise area near Long Pine.
“We had twice before agreed to supply a dumpster, but nothing ever came of it,” Small said. “Is the county willing to spring for the cost of a dumpster if the city of Long Pine agrees to empty it?”
Small said Long Pine continued to face problems with people in the Hidden Paradise area dumping their trash in the city, either near the area where the garbage truck is parked, in the city park trash can, or even in the city’s recycling bin in some instances.
Weibelhaus said, after several years of dealing with garbage issues in that area, he was ready to purchase a dumpster.
“But, I want the details worked out on where it is going to be placed and who is going to be responsible for it before we buy it,” Wiebelhaus said.
The board plans to invite Long Pine city officials to the Aug. 18 commissioner meeting to work through the details of placing a dumpster in that area.
County Attorney David Streich presented information on a claim submitted by Dennis Jones for damage to a mower that occurred on Meadville Avenue after the mower struck a tree branch on the south approach to the Niobrara River.
Streich said he had visited a couple times regarding the claim with the Nebraska Intergovernmental Risk Management Agency representative who handles claims for the county.
“The issue is whether the county has any responsibility,” Streich said. “The tree was growing on private land, and the NIRMA advisor did not believe the county had any liability.”
All three commissioners agreed the county was not obligated to pay the claim.
Prior to adjourning, the board voted to reappoint Brad Wilkins, Steve Bejot, Pam Schmitz, Aaron Jackman, Brian Williams and Brian Arens to the Brown County Zoning Board for terms that began June 1 and continue through May 31, 2018.
The next meeting of the Brown County Commissioners is scheduled for 8:15 a.m. Aug. 18.
* Evans named new Lions Club president for 2015-16
(Posted 1:30 p.m. Aug. 4)
The Ainsworth Lions Club held its Annual Family Picnic July
20 at East City Park, with 11 members and nine guests present.
President Pat Jones served as host for the potluck dinner and officer/director installation. The meat and drinks were provided by the Lions Club, with members providing a potluck dish and table service.
Jones conducted the Installation of Officers and Directors for the 2015-16 year. The club thanked its 2014-15 officers and directors for serving the past year. Evan Evans was installed as the new club president.
* Highway 20 micro-surfacing work begins next week between Atkinson and O'Neill
(Posted 2:45 p.m. Aug. 3)
Weather permitting, construction work is scheduled to begin
the week of Aug. 10 on
Highway 20, beginning at the east edge of Atkinson and extending 16.6 miles to O'Neill, according to the Nebraska Department of Roads.
Monarch Oil of Omaha has the $736,475 contract for micro-surfacing the roadway and applying a fog seal to the asphalt shoulders.
Traffic will be maintained during construction with the use of flaggers and a pilot vehicle. The work is scheduled for completion by the end of August.
The Department of Roads project engineer is Gene Colfack of O'Neill. Motorists are urged to use caution while driving through highway work zones and to remember that speeding fines are doubled when workers are present.
* Traffic Accident
(Posted 1:45 p.m. Aug. 3)
The Brown County Sheriff’s Department investigated a
one-vehicle accident that occurred Sunday, Aug. 2, on Highway 20.
According to the sheriff’s department report, at 12:50 p.m. Sunday on Highway 20 approximately 6 miles west of Johnstown, a 2012 Harley-Davidson motorcycle, driven by Joseph Kepford, 31, of Neligh, was traveling west when the driver apparently blacked out. The motorcycle crossed the center line and entered the south ditch, striking a fence.
Kepford, who was thrown from the motorcycle, was transported by the Brown County Ambulance Service to the Brown County Hospital with what were termed to be minor injuries.
Damage to the Harley-Davidson was estimated at $3,000.
* July finishes below average in moisture, near normal in temperature
(Posted 7:45 a.m. Aug. 3)
Ainsworth Weather Observer Gerry Osborn reported the city
received 2.89 inches of precipitation in July, which is .68 below the average
and leaves the year-to-date moisture total at 12.88 inches, 2.07 inches shy of
the average. Six of the eight months in 2015 have been below normal.
To hear the complete report from Ainsworth's weather observer, click on the audio link below.
Zach Welch (right) has been named the
KBRB Athlete of the Year by the coaches and
staff at Ainsworth Community Schools.
* Welch named 2014-15 KBRB Athlete of the Year by coaches, staff
(Posted 2 p.m. July 30)
Zach Welch has been voted by the coaches and staff at Ainsworth Community Schools as the 2014-15 KBRB Athlete of the Year.
The annual award for performance both on the field, in the classroom and in the community includes a scholarship, in this case to the University of South Dakota, where Welch will compete in cross country and track.
Welch is a three-time state cross country medal winner, finishing as the state runner-up as a junior and winning the Class D State Championship as a senior. He finished the 2014 cross country season unbeaten, winning every race in which he participated.
Welch led the Ainsworth team to three top five finishes in the Class D team standings. He holds five school cross country records, including the fastest 5-kilometer time of 16:17.
Welch was named to the Nebraska Coaches Association Super State Cross Country Team for the 2014 season.
In addition, Welch was a two-time state track and field qualifier in the 3200 meters, winning a fifth-place medal in his junior year.
Welch also received a letter for two years on the Ainsworth boys basketball team, and was a member of the Class C-2 state runner-up Bulldog team during the 2013-14 year. Welch was named to the NSAA Academic All-State Team in basketball.
“Zach is not only a great athlete, but he is also a great kid who embodies the ideals of hard work and perseverance,” cross country and track coach Jared Hansmeyer said. “For his career, Zach will go down as one of the most outstanding distance runners in Ainsworth’s history. His work ethic and determination to be great separated him from his opponents. His contribution to the team went beyond running, as Zach went above and beyond to be a great teammate and support those around him.”
KBRB's Graig Kinzie
visited with Welch to discuss his high school career and his upcoming season
with the University of South Dakota cross country and indoor and outdoor track
and field teams.
To hear the report, click on the audio link below.
* Bassett receives grant to crush 2,000 tons of concrete
(Posted 7 a.m. July 30)
Nebraska Department of
Environmental Quality Director Jim Macy announced the awarding of $2.25 million
in grants through the Waste Reduction and Recycling Incentive Grant Fund.
The city of Bassett received an $18,150 grant to crush 2,000 tons of concrete. The city will reuse the crushed concrete material on local roads.
The Waste Reduction and Recycling Incentive Grant Fund is generated by a fee on solid waste disposed of in landfills, an annual retail business sales fee, and a fee assessed on the sale of new tires for motor vehicles. The grants are provided to local integrated waste management projects including: recycling systems, household hazardous waste collection programs, transfer stations, and yard waste composting. Tire fee grants totaling $2.01 million for projects related to tire recycling were previously announced in June.
* Game and Parks Commission closing Valentine office
(Posted 7 a.m. July 29)
The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission has opted not to
renew the lease for its Valentine maintenance office.
The office, located at 420 E. First St. in Valentine, will close immediately. The Game and Parks Commission plans to move the office to Merritt Reservoir State Recreation Area southwest of Valentine. Parks Division offices will be temporarily moved to the Valentine Fish Hatchery.
Personnel from the Valentine Maintenance office are responsible for operation and maintenance of Game and Parks facilities at Merritt Reservoir and the Cowboy Trail from Ainsworth to Crookston. A relocation of the office would allow the agency to streamline its operations and services at Merritt, which will include campground improvements. Parks maintenance staff can be contacted at 402-376-5908.
* Former Cherry County Courthouse employee charged with theft
(Posted 3:15 p.m. July 28)
A former Cherry County Courthouse
employee has been arrested on charges of theft and unauthorized use of a
financial transaction device.
Cherry County Attorney Eric Scott announced Tuesday that Monica Bristow, 44, of Valentine, was arrested on two charges following an investigation by the Cherry County Sheriff’s Department and the Nebraska State Patrol.
Bristow, who was employed in the Cherry County clerk’s office, is alleged to have diverted county funds for personal use through the misuse of a county credit card and the submission of fraudulent claims to the county.
Bristow is scheduled to appear in Cherry County Court Aug. 3 for an initial court appearance on the charges of theft and unauthorized use of a financial transaction device. She is currently being held in the Cherry County Jail on $200,000 bond.
* Traffic Accident
(Posted 1:15 p.m. July 28)
The Brown County Sheriff’s Department investigated a motor
vehicle accident that occurred on Monday, July 27, on the east side of
According to the sheriff’s department report, at 2:57 p.m. Monday on Highway 20 east of the Richardson Drive intersection, a 1997 Dodge pickup, driven by Derrick Grupe, 45, of Ainsworth, was eastbound when a chair fell out of the back of the pickup and struck a westbound 2014 Dodge Ram, driven by Kenneth Sopoci, 51, of Sioux City, Iowa.
No injuries were reported. Damage to the 2014 Ram was estimated at $1,500.
* Highway 183 milling and asphalt project begins this week
(Posted 9:45 a.m. July 28)
Asphalt and milling work is scheduled to begin this week on Highway 183 north of the Highway 20 junction.
The asphalt and milling work will begin at milepost 198 and end at the Brown County and Keya Paha County line at the Niobrara River near milepost 207.
Werner Construction of Hastings has the $4.6 million contract for the 8.7-mile milling and asphalt project, which will include widening the roadway from 12-foot to 14-foot driving lanes.
Work also includes culvert extensions, flume installation and new cable guardrail.
Traffic will be maintained during construction with the use of flaggers and a pilot car. Work is scheduled for completion in mid-October.
Mike Rudnick is the Nebraska Department of Roads project manager. Motorists are urged to drive cautiously through all highway construction zones. Speeding fines are doubled when workers are present.
* Hospital trustees approve heating and cooling system upgrade
(Posted 6:45 a.m. July 28)
The Brown County Hospital Board of Trustees approved the replacement of the hospital’s heating and cooling piping system during its recent meeting.
Hospital Administrator Shannon Sorensen spoke on the latest developments regarding the project, and presented documents from Trane on the proposed work that will be done to upgrade the heating and cooling system in the facility. Following questions, the board approved the more than $600,000 project.
Sorensen and Chief Financial Officer Lisa Wood presented the trustees with the 2015-16 budget. They provided an overview of the 2014-15 budget performance, and discussed the projected revenues and expenses for the 2015-16 year.
Following discussion, the board approved the budget, and Sorensen then presented the hospital’s budget proposal to the Brown County Commissioners the following day. The commissioners incorporate the hospital’s budget into the overall budget for the county.
In another planning item, the trustees approved the three-year plan for the hospital’s upgrades to its information technology systems.
Wood discussed making minor changes to the hospital’s financial assistance, prompt pay, and small balance write-off policies. The trustees approved the changes as recommended.
In another action item, the board approved consulting staff privileges for Dr. Michele Mulligan-Witt. The hospital’s medical staff reviewed Mulligan-Witt’s credentials and recommended the trustees approve the appointment.
Sorensen again briefed the board regarding the closure of the Ainsworth Care Center and the impact that was being seen at the hospital. She also provided an update on the roster of specialty clinic providers and the potential for additional providers.
Matt Lentz provided the trustees with a quality update, and indicated the hospital had not seen a single case of CAUTI infection during the past six months. He also discussed the potential for the hospital to see faster patient transfer times from changes being enacted by the Brown County Ambulance Service to have Emergency Medical Technicians on call to provide patient transfers from the Brown County Hospital to other facilities.
The trustees entered into an executive session to discuss strategic planning and recruitment, but no action was taken following the session.
The next meeting of the Brown County Hospital Board of Trustees is scheduled for 4 p.m. Aug. 17.
* Sorensen to testify Tuesday before House of Representatives Subcommittee
(Posted 4 p.m. July 27)
Nebraska Third District Rep. Adrian Smith announced Brown
County Hospital Administrator Shannon Sorensen will testify before the House
Ways and Means Health Subcommittee on Tuesday during a hearing on rural health
Among other issues, the hearing will focus on Smith’s Critical Access Hospital Relief Act to remove the 96-hour precertification requirement for patients at Critical Access Hospitals.
* Area students slated to graduate from UNK during summer commencement
(Posted 8:45 a.m. July 27)
Graduate and undergraduate degrees for 244 will be conferred during University of Nebraska at Kearney commencement exercises at 10 a.m. Friday, July 31. Graduation will be held in the Nebraskan Student Union.
Marilyn Hadley, faculty emeritus, will deliver the commencement address. Hadley is a native of Red Cloud. She earned her Bachelor of Science in education and Master of Arts in education from University of Nebraska-Lincoln and taught secondary social studies in Wisconsin and Nebraska. After earning her doctorate from the University of South Dakota, she spent 28 years in higher education.
John Gibbs will give the senior class reflection. Gibbs, a native of Lincoln (Pius X High School) is graduating honorable mention with honors with a degree in sports administration. He will pursue a master’s in counseling student affairs.
Gibbs is a member of Mortar Board, active with the Phi Delta Theta fraternity and student government.
Area students scheduled to receive degrees Friday include:
Bassett – Cameron Mueller, Bachelor of Science in recreation management.
Atkinson – Chelsey Thurlow, Bachelor of Science degree in exercise science fitness and wellness.
* Traffic Accident
(Posted 7 a.m. July 27)
The Brown County Sheriff’s Department investigated a
one-vehicle accident that occurred Wednesday northeast of Ainsworth.
According to the sheriff’s department report, at 10:57 p.m. Wednesday on Pleasant View Lane approximately 5 miles north and 2 miles east of Ainsworth, a 2009 GMC sport utility vehicle, driven by Maureen Jackman, 42, of Ainsworth, was attempting to turn around on Pleasant View Lane when the vehicle entered an irrigation ditch the driver stated she did not see. The GMC rolled onto its side, deploying the side curtain air bags.
No injuries were reported. Damage to the GMC was estimated at $5,000.
* Weekly summary from the Brown County Sheriff's Department
(Posted 7 a.m. July 27)
* Provided a civil standby at a residence in Long Pine.
* Investigated a report of a possible probation violation in Ainsworth.
* Responded to a report of a domestic disturbance on East 3rd St Ainsworth.]
* The Brown Co Ambulance transported an individual from a rural Ainsworth residence to the Brown Co Hospital.
* The Brown Co Ambulance transported an individual from the Cottonwood Villa to the Brown Co Hospital.
* The Brown Co Ambulance transported a fixed wing crew to the Brown Co Hospital from the Ainsworth Airport. Then transported the crew & patient back to the Ainsworth Airport, for transfer to another facility.
* Investigated a report of vandalism to a vehicle on East 2nd St Ainsworth.
* Performed a traffic stop where a subject was cited for expired plates in Ainsworth.
* Assisted an individual with a report of unwanted subjects at a resident in Ainsworth.
* Responded to a report of barking dogs at a residence on Court St Ainsworth.
* Investigated a report of suspicious activity on West Dawes St Ainsworth.
* Investigated a report of possible vandalism to playground equipment at East City Park, Ainsworth.
* Received a report of the possible theft of private property in Johnstown.
* Responded to a report of an out of state vehicle, traveling through Brown Co., at a high rate of speed.
* Responded to a report of suspicious activity on Hwy 20 in Ainsworth.
* Received a report of possible child neglect in Ainsworth.
* Responded to a noise complaint in Long Pine.
* Received a report of a vehicle being driven recklessly, East of Ainsworth.
* Responded to a report of cattle out on Hwy 183 South of Keller Park.
* Received a report of a possible disturbance.
* Attempted to locate a missing juvenile from the Long Pine area.
* Released a subject from the Brown Co Jail as the charges were dismissed.
* Received a report of a rural resident possibly needing assistance from adult protective services.
* The Brown Co Ambulance transported an individual from a rural Ainsworth residence to the Brown Co Hospital.
* Received a report of suspicious juvenile activity in Ainsworth.
* Received a report of possible child neglect in Ainsworth.
* Performed a traffic stop where a subject was arrested & booked into the Brown Co Jail for Driving Under Revocation. The subject was released on bond.
* Responded to a report of a vehicle parking on rural roads South of Ainsworth.
* Received a report of a cow that had been struck by a vehicle and vandalism to a fence, South of Ainsworth.
* Investigated a one-vehicle accident, without injury, North East of Ainsworth.
* The Brown Co Ambulance transported an individual from a residence on East 2nd St to the Brown Co Hospital.
* The Brown Co Ambulance transported a patient from the Brown Co Hospital to the Long Care Facility in Stuart.
* Received a report of possible child abuse or neglect in Ainsworth.
* Responded to a report of disturbing the peace on Main St Ainsworth.
* Responded to a report of ATVs tearing around roadways to Hidden Paradise.
* Responded to a report of a vehicle losing trash along county roadways leading to the solid waste station. The subjects were contacted & cleaned up the lost articles.
* Assisted a Long Pine resident with a report of a disturbance.
* Arrested a subject on an Arrest Warrant, for Violation of a Harassment / Protection Order, & booked them into the Brown Co Jail. The subject was released on bond.
* Received a report of possible child neglect in rural Brown Co.
* Responded to a report of a disturbance at a rural residence near Ainsworth.
* Investigated a report of harassment & possible trespassing in rural Brown Co.
* The Brown Co Ambulance transported an individual from a residence on South Woodward to the Brown Co Hospital.
* Assisted a subject traveling through Brown Co.
* Responded to a report of a possible accident West of Ainsworth.
* Responded to a report of a reckless driver on Hwy 20 East of Ainsworth. A subject was arrested & booked into the Brown Co Jail for Driving Under the Influence & no operator’s license.
* Received a report of a residential security alarm going off in rural Brown Co.
* Investigated a report of a possible domestic disturbance in rural Brown Co.
* The Ainsworth Firemen responded to a report of a gas leak at a residence on Woodward St. Ainsworth.
0 - Fix-it tickets were issued.
3 - Handgun permits applied for
41 - Incidents Reports were taken.
5 - Paper Service was served.
219 - Phone calls were received.
9 - 911 emergency calls received.
2 - Titles were inspected.
4 - Traffic Citations were issued.
6 - Verbal & Written Warnings issued.
* Rock County voters to decide on additional levy for hospital, ambulance service
(Posted 3:30 p.m. July 23)
Registered voters in Rock County were sent a special election ballot in the mail Wednesday that will determine whether the Rock County Hospital and Rock County Ambulance Service will continue to receive property tax levy to support their operations.
Voters will cast a ballot either “For” or “Against” the ballot question, which reads, “Shall Rock County on behalf of the Rock County Hospital and Rock County Ambulance be allowed to levy a property tax not to exceed 3 cents per $100 of taxable valuation in excess of the limits prescribed by law (both statutorily and constitutional restrictions) until fiscal year 2020, with 2 cents per $100 of valuation of said additional levy to be for the purpose of general operations of the Rock County Hospital and 1 cent per $100 of valuation of said additional levy to be allocated to a sinking fund for the purchase and equipping of one or more replacement ambulances for the Rock County Ambulance?”
The 3-cent additional levy has been in place since 1994, but must be reauthorized by Rock County voters every five years. Approval of the special election ballot question would allow the additional levy to be collected each year until 2020.
Rock County voters most recently approved the same ballot question in 2010, which provided for the additional levy until this year.
The ballot mailed on Wednesday to registered voters in Rock County includes a return identification envelope. Voters are asked to place the ballot into the return identification envelope and then sign and seal the envelope. The ballot will not be counted if the voter does not sign the back of the return envelope.
Ballots may also be returned in person to the clerk’s office in the Rock County Courthouse. All ballots must be received by 5 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 11.
Anyone with questions on the special election, or any registered Rock County voter who does not receive a ballot in the mail, may contact the Rock County clerk’s office at 402-684-3933.
* Hospital's 2015-16 budget presented to Brown County Commissioners
(Posted 3 p.m. July 21)
Brown County Hospital Administrator Shannon Sorensen and Chief Financial Officer Lisa Wood discussed the 2015-16 hospital budget with the Brown County Commissioners during Tuesday’s board meeting.
Sorensen said the Hospital Board of Trustees approved the budget proposal during its meeting on Monday, and the budget was now being submitted to the commissioners for their consideration.
Wood said some rates for hospital services would increase for the 2015-16 fiscal year, as the hospital had not raised rates for the past two years.
She said there would be an increase in rates for services such as lab tests, overnight stays and other services. That increased rate for services would help the hospital continue to keep an approximately 1 percent operating margin for the fiscal year.
Sorensen said some of the hospital’s rates were being charged at a level below what insurance companies allow, so the Board of Trustees opted to bring those rates in line with insurance reimbursement standards.
Wood said the hospital would experience a 14 percent hike in employee benefit expenses, due to the hospital’s insurance carrier, Co-Opportunity, going out of business and the new carrier charging a significantly higher premium for the hospital’s employee health insurance premiums.
She said the hospital realized a net profit of $22,292 for the 2014-15 fiscal year, a figure that does not take into account the county’s bond contribution for the voter-approved hospital addition.
The Brown County Hospital employs the equivalent of 77 full-time workers. Wood said the hospital finished the 2014-15 fiscal year with $4.28 million cash on hand, which was an increase from the $2.8 million in cash on hand available following the 2013-14 fiscal year.
“We finished the year in a strong position,” Wood said.
When constructing the 2015-16 budget, Wood said they took into account a projected loss in contracted service revenue and swing bed revenue due to the closure of the Ainsworth Care Center.
On the flip side, the budget includes a projected increase in custodial care overnight stays as the hospital will likely see some additional private-pay revenue with a local nursing facility option being unavailable.
Sorensen said the hospital is not licensed to accept Medicaid patients for overnight custodial care.
Sorensen said a major expense item in the $9.8 million budget is a projected $607,000 to replace the heating and cooling piping system at the hospital. The hospital is budgeting for $9.9 million in expected operating revenue, which would give the facility an operating margin of 1 percent.
The commissioners will adopt the hospital budget as part of its overall 2015-16 county budget.
In other business during Tuesday’s meeting, the commissioners approved the membership roster for the Brown County Ambulance Service.
Ann Fiala, Mike Rudnick and Darlene Miller presented the membership roster and discussed a new on-call transfer schedule the association was implementing in an effort to handle more of the transfers of patients from the Brown County Hospital to other facilities.
Miller said the association set a goal of covering more of the transfers to facilities out of the area, and an on-call schedule comprised of willing participants was being constructed.
She said those agreeing to be on call for transfers would be paid $25 per day while on call. She said the association would only need to pick up an additional nine transfers it is currently not handling in order to pay the association members for being on call.
“We are using some EMTs from Keya Paha, Blaine, Brown and Rock counties,” Miller said. “We have a handful of people who are already on board. We would rather keep the money here than having it go to Midwest, which is out of the area.”
Fiala said the association had been covering only one third to one half of the transfers from Brown County Hospital.
“Our goal is to cover 90 percent or more of those transfers,” Fiala said. “The hospital is excited, because patients will be able to get on the road quicker.”
Commissioner Les Waits asked how many transfers the association was missing because of not having available drivers and EMTs. Fiala said, on average, the association would handle an additional transfer each week that it currently misses.
Waits said, “That won’t take very long to pay for itself if you only need nine and you could get an extra transfer per week.”
The board approved the Brown County Ambulance Association roster, which includes 31 members, 15 of which are certified Emergency Medical Technicians.
Rudnick said, with the exception of the additional $13,000 line item to pay for having members on call to perform transfers, the remainder of the association’s budget was similar to the previous year.
“We stayed under our budget for the 2014-15 year,” Rudnick told the board. “We will send this budget to Pete Peterson and let him know about the additional line item.”
In roads items, the commissioners approved the low bid submitted by Nebraska Machinery for a 2015 motor grader for the county roads department.
Nebraska Machinery bid a new 2015 Caterpillar 12M-3 model motor grader at a price of $256,500. Nebraska Machinery offered the county $31,250 trade-in value for its 1982 Caterpillar grader, and offered the county an additional $18,000 in credit for parts, which sales representative Eddie Bomar said can be used for parts and filters for any of the county’s Caterpillar machines.
Murphy Tractor and Equipment submitted a bid of $279,200 for a new 2015 John Deere 772 model motor grader, and offered the county $30,000 in trade-in value for the 1982 machine the county planned to replace with the new model.
Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin said the roads department has one of the Caterpillar models currently, and has not had any problems with it.
Following discussion, the board approved the low bid of $225,250 after trade-in for the 2015 Caterpillar motor grader.
Dennis Jones asked the commissioners about the possibility of being reimbursed after the mower he was hauling on Meadville Avenue was damaged by overhanging trees on the curve heading down to the Niobrara River.
Jones said he had to move over after meeting a vehicle on the curve, and overhanging trees damaged the support and bent the bar on his mower. He said it would cost $841 to replace the bar.
The commissioners instructed Jones to meet with Turpin and submit a claim to the Nebraska Intergovernmental Risk Management Agency, which handles the county’s liability insurance. NIRMA would make a determination on whether or not to pay the claim.
The commissioners acknowledged receipt of a budget request from the Brown County Rural Fire Protection District. The district asked for a 4-cent levy, the same levy it has received for the past several years. The rural fire protection district’s budget will be included in the county’s 2015-16 budget.
Clerk Travis Hobbs reported the daily salary for court bailiff’s when needed for jury trials would be increased to $135 per day and $50 for a half-day. She said bailiffs are only utilized during jury trials, so the county only pays for a bailiff a few times each year.
The next meeting of the Brown County Commissioners is scheduled for 8:15 a.m. Aug. 4.
* Schroedl hired as Ainsworth City Clerk/Treasurer
(Posted 7 a.m. July 21)
Lisa Schroedl has been hired as the new city clerk and
treasurer for the city of Ainsworth. Mayor Larry Rice announced Schroedl’s
hiring after a search to replace longtime city clerk Kristi Thornburg, who
announced her resignation.
Rice said the interview committee, which consisted of himself and two City Council members, felt Schroedl brings an educational and work experience background that should benefit the city office and the community.
“Of course, we will miss the nearly 26 years of experience and knowledge that Kristi provided to our city, but she has assured us that she will assist and work with our new person in this position," Rice said. "We appreciate her attitude of cooperation.”
Schroedl is an Ainsworth High School graduate. She received a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Following her college graduation, she worked for five years for CenterPointe in Lincoln, treating and diagnosing patients for residential and out-patient care settings.
She also spent 10 years with an international not-for-profit organic certification agency, where she was responsible for managing certification systems, staff and regional offices, and ensuring compliance with private and federal regulations.
She returned to Ainsworth with her husband Corey and their three children in 2013.
* Fire department celebrates 125th anniversary with awards, community activities
(Posted 10:30 p.m. July 19)
The Ainsworth Volunteer Fire Department celebrated its 125
anniversary over the weekend with games, a dance, water fights and its annual
Devin Painter was named the Ainsworth Volunteer Firefighter of the Year. Trent Kinney was named the fire department's Rookie of the Year, and Greg Wilke with GJW received the Business Person of the Year Award from the fire department.
Rick Goochey received a 40-year membership award, with Bill Carr and Randy Johnson earning 35-year awards with the department, and Brad Fiala a 30-year award.
Justin Nelson, Scott Pirnie and Lee Conroy were presented 10-year membership awards, and Austin Cook and Nate Rau earned five-year membership awards to the AVFD.
The firefighters thank everyone who helped celebrate the 125th anniversary of the Ainsworth Volunteer Fire Department.
* Weekly summary from the Brown County Sheriff's Department
(Posted 10:15 p.m. July 19)
* Responded to a traffic complaint on South Main St. Ainsworth. A subject was cited for Minor in Possession, Minor in Possession of tobacco, & violation of a Provisional Operator’s Permit.
* Investigated an ATV accident South of Long Pine. The Brown Co Ambulance also responded & an individual was transported to the Brown Co Hospital.
* Received a report of a business alarm going off. / The owners were contacted by the alarm company and advised everything was okay.
* Provided a welfare check on a rural Brown Co resident.
* Provided a welfare check on a juvenile on East 1st St Ainsworth, after receiving a request from an out of the area caller.
* The Brown Co Ambulance responded to an emergency call on West 2nd St Ainsworth. No one was transported at that time.
* The Ainsworth Firemen responded to a report of a grass fire, West of Ainsworth.
* Assisted an individual with information on an individual residing with a possible felon, and having firearms present.
* Responded to a report of a stray dog on East 7th St Ainsworth. The dog was returned to the owner, who was out looking for the animal.
* Responded to a report of a careless driver on West Dawes St Ainsworth. A subject was cited for Careless driving & for expired plates.
* The Brown Co Ambulance transported a patient from the Brown Co Hospital to the Good Samaritan in Kearney.
* Booked a subject into the Brown Co Jail for Contempt of Court. The subject was later released per judge’s order.
* Received a parking complaint on North Elm St Ainsworth.
* Responded to a report of a disturbance on North Oak St Ainsworth.
* Investigated a report of an accident with injury on Hwy 20 East of Plum Creek Bridge. The Ainsworth & Johnstown firemen & the Ambulance personnel also responded. The NE State Patrol assisted in this investigation. One individual was transported to the Brown Co Hospital.
* The Brown Co Ambulance transported an individual from the Cottonwood Villa to the Brown Co Hospital.
* Received a report of possible child neglect & abuse in Ainsworth.
* Responded to a report of a verbal dispute on West Dawes St.
* The Brown Co Ambulance transported an individual from South of Ainsworth to the Brown Co Hospital.
* Responded to a report of a disturbance on West Dawes St Ainsworth.
* Arrested a subject for Criminal Mischief and booked them into the Brown Co Jail. The subject was later released on bond.
* Received two reports of an irrigation system watering the roadway North & West of Ainsworth./ The owners were contacted to resolve the problem.
* Received a report of possible child neglect or abuse in Ainsworth.
* Provided a welfare check on an individual in Hidden Paradise.
* Responded to a report of a disturbance at a Long Pine residence.
* Assisted a subject with information on a phone scam involving a computer, in Ainsworth.
* Responded to a report of a stray dog on Walnut St Ainsworth. The dog was transported to the Ainsworth Vet Clinic.
* Investigated a report of possible vandalism to a vehicle in Long Pine.
* Assisted Long Pine residents with a report of possible wood burning.
* Responded to a Domestic Disturbance in Long Pine.
0 - Fix-it tickets were issued.
0 - Handgun permits applied for
19 - Incidents Reports were taken.
7 - Paper Service was served.
208 - Phone calls were received.
14 - 911 emergency calls received.
3 - Titles were inspected.
5 - Traffic Citations were issued.
8 - Verbal & Written Warnings issued.
* Davis provides update during Legislature's interim period
(Posted 7 a.m. July 17)
Nebraska 43rd District State Sen. Al Davis provided an
updated on his interim activities.
To hear the report, click on the audio link below.
* Elkhorn woman killed Wednesday in 2-vehicle crash west of Johnstown
(Posted 10:30 a.m. July 16)
A 52-year-old Elkhorn woman was killed Wednesday in a
two-vehicle accident west of Johnstown on Highway 20.
According to the Brown County Sheriff’s Department, at 1:57 p.m. Wednesday on Highway 20 west of Johnstown on the east side of the Plum Creek Bridge, an eastbound 2001 Chevy Malibu, driven by Sheri Walkling, 52, of Elkhorn, and a westbound 2002 Chevy pickup, driven by Lindzie Huber, 17, of Oelrichs, S.D., collided in the westbound lane.
The sheriff’s department investigation indicated the Malibu crossed the center line prior to colliding with the pickup.
Walkling was pronounced dead at the scene. Huber was transported by the Brown County Ambulance Service to the Brown County Hospital, where she was treated for what were termed minor injuries and released.
Both vehicles were considered total losses.
* School changing the way rural residents are paid mileage
(Posted 6:15 a.m. July 16)
Rural residents who receive a mileage payment from Ainsworth Community Schools for driving students to the nearest bus pickup site will experience changes for the 2015-16 school year.
During Wednesday’s meeting of the Board of Education, Superintendent Darrell Peterson said there have been questions posed during the past couple years on who should and should not be paid for transporting students.
Peterson said, after researching, the district needed to make a few changes to comply with state statute.
“This is going to mean more work for us, and more work for parents,” Peterson told the board. “There is a form that will have to be filled out logging the days the student is driven to school.”
The superintendent said the district had previously paid families once per semester. Statutes require the district to offer monthly payments.
The policy allows payments to be made to anyone who lives more than four miles from one of the district’s bus routes. People are paid to transport their student to either Johnstown or Long Pine, which are the nearest pickup points, or to Ainsworth Community Schools, whichever site is closest.
Peterson said the changes will allow the district to comply with state statutes, but parents will see additional reporting requirements and the district will have more paperwork to complete to allow parents the option of receiving a monthly check.
In other business during Wednesday’s meeting, Peterson provided the board with a report on the mileage logged on district vehicles during the 2014-15 school year.
The school’s fleet of vehicles logged a four-year high of 128,191 miles, but Peterson said that increase could be attributed to the additional bus route to Johnstown that was added for the 2014-15 year.
He said repairs were minimal this year for the district’s fleet.
“We may need to start thinking about replacing the 1997 bus,” Peterson said. “It has been used on the Long Pine route for as long as I have been here.”
That bus has almost 190,000 miles on it, and did have maintenance and repairs totaling $1,473. The only vehicle in the district’s fleet that is older is a 1994 van that is used for special education purposes. Many of the district’s vehicles are now 10 years old or newer.
In action items, the board approved an option enrollment request for Charity Fay to allow her children Emily, Bradley and Lily to attend Rock County Public Schools for the 2015-16 school year.
The board also approved a contract with Dana F. Cole & Co. to continue providing audit services to the district.
First readings of several policies were approved Wednesday, including:
* A policy relating to assessments and academic content standards.
* A policy regarding special education.
* A policy updating the district’s purchasing policies.
* A changed statutory procedure for bidding construction projects. The Nebraska Legislature passed a bill allowing schools to avoid bidding requirements for construction projects under $100,000.
* The district’s anti-discrimination policy.
* And the removal of a duplicative policy relating to makeup work.
The board also approved the first reading of a policy updating its pay scale for substitute teachers. Peterson said surrounding schools have increased pay for substitute teachers. He recommended the board increase pay for short-term substitutes from $100 to $110 per day, and pay for long-term subs from $135 to $145 per day.
Board President Mark Johnson asked if there were enough substitute teachers available in the district.
Peterson said the district had a decent supply of substitutes available.
“We have not increased pay for substitutes for three years and other schools have,” Peterson said. “This will just help us keep up.”
During his report, Peterson said the school received notice that it had been accredited by the Nebraska Department of Education for the 2015-16 school year.
He said the district would include several items as part of the citywide garage sales planned for Aug. 8.
The superintendent reported Nick Krause and Cindy Mays would split some of the duties performed by retiring head custodian Ron Rennich.
“We received minimal applications for the head custodian position,” Peterson said.
He said Krause would take over daytime maintenance duties, while Mays would handle ordering and scheduling.
He said the
district was still in need of a full-time and a part-time custodian.
The next meeting of the Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education is scheduled for 8 p.m. Aug. 10.
* Department of Roads releases plans for 2016 highway construction projects
(Posted 3:45 p.m. July 15)
Nebraska Department of Roads Director Kyle Schneweis released the fiscal year 2016 Surface Transportation Program.
This publication details how the department plans to use the taxpayer’s highway user dollars to provide the best state highway system possible for all Nebraskans and the traveling public.
The 2016 State Highway System Program is published at $505 million and is funded from state and federal highway user taxes and fees. The Local System Program for city streets and county roads totals $334 million and is funded with state, federal and local highway user revenues.
A total of 110 projects will be let to contract on the State Highway System during fiscal year 2016 (July 1, 2015 through June 30, 2016). Projects throughout the state will range in size and scope from small intersection improvements involving lighting and traffic signals to pavement and bridge preservation projects to large resurfacing and reconstruction projects.
Nine projects are scheduled in District 8, which includes the KBRB listening area. Two of those projects are on Highway 20 in Cherry County. The first is 4.6 miles of milling, resurfacing and bridge repair from Valentine east, and the second is a bridge repair project west of Wood Lake. The resurfacing project carries an estimated price tag of $3.2 million, with the bridge repair at an estimated $91,000.
A 14.4-mile stretch of Highway 11 from Atkinson north to Brush Creek will be milled for an asphalt resurfacing project. That project carries an estimated cost of $5.2 million.
Three portions of Highway 91 are scheduled for improvement work. A 12-mile stretch of Highway 91 from Burwell east will receive $785,000 in micro-surfacing. A 6.2-mile stretch of Highway 91 from Taylor west will be milled and resurfaced, as will a 7.8 mile stretch of Highway 91 east and west of Almeria.
The five-year program for District 8 includes 7.2 miles of Highway 7 resurfacing from Ainsworth’s Main Street and south.
Ainsworth’s other major route, 1.3 miles of Highway 20, is scheduled for concrete paving in the five-year planning period.
Several other stretches of Highway 20, Highway 7, Highway 12 and Highway 183 are included in the District 8 five-year plan for road improvement projects. Seven Highway 12 projects in Cherry, Keya Paha and Boyd counties totaling more than 50 miles are scheduled for resurfacing in the next five years.
Highway 20 projects mainly include micro-surfacing work in Cherry, Brown, Rock and Holt counties outside the 1.3 miles of concrete paving inside the Ainsworth city limits.
Highway 183 projects in the five-year plan include more than 11 miles of resurfacing work in Keya Paha County, and 11 miles of resurfacing in southern Rock County.
Some of the larger projects statewide include 11.6 miles of roadway widening, asphalt resurfacing and bridge repair east of Farnam on Highway 23 in Frontier County and 10.6 miles of roadway widening, asphalt resurfacing and bridge repair on Highway 11 north of Burwell in Garfield County. In Keith County, 11.5 miles of Highway 30 will be resurfaced with concrete and in Merrick County, Highway 30 and Highway 14 in Central City will be reconstructed with concrete and 4.2 miles of Highway 14 south of the city will be resurfaced with asphalt.
Funds from The Build Nebraska Act will be put to use on reconstruction of a new interchange southeast of Nebraska City, completion of the 4-lane expressway between
Plattsmouth and Bellevue, construction of a 4-lane expressway on Highway 30 between Schuyler and Rogers and four-lane reconstruction of the Heartland Expressway south of Alliance.
Major projects on Interstate 80 include replacing 9.2 miles of concrete pavement between Lodgepole and Chappell in Cheyenne and Deuel Counties and replacing another 7.8 miles west of the South Platte River in Deuel County.
* Agricultural land values rise sharply in Rock, Keya Paha counties for 2015
(Posted 4 p.m. March 23)
Just like in Brown County, owners of agricultural property in Keya Paha and Rock counties will also see substantial increases in the valuations of their ground.
Rock County Assessor Monica Turpin reported recently to the Rock County Commissioners that agricultural land values had to be boosted substantially for the county to comply with a state mandate that requires agricultural property values to be between 69 percent and 75 percent of actual value.
Turpin told the commissioners, without an increase, agricultural land in Rock County would come in at 59 percent of actual value.
Using an example of the top soil ratings in each classification, Turpin indicated irrigated cropland in Rock County would double in valuation for 2015 from $1,500 per acre to $3,000 per acre.
Using the three most recent years, Turpin told the commissioners there were 70 total agricultural sales that were analyzed to determine the valuation of agricultural land.
The other classifications of agricultural property in Rock County did not escape increases, though the jumps were not as high as the doubling in value experienced by irrigated cropland.
Dryland cropland jumped from $570 per acre to $950 per acre, a two-thirds increase in value per acre. Grassland with the top soil rating jumped from $580 per acre to $900 per acre, a rise of 55 percent.
Conservation Reserve Program grassland increased in value from $565 per acre to $705 per acre, an increase of just under 25 percent.
Keya Paha County Assessor Suzy Wentworth also reported substantial increases in agricultural property values for 2015, continuing a trend that includes eight substantial jumps in agricultural property values in nine years for irrigated cropland.
For 2015, irrigated cropland with the highest soil rating will carry a value of $2,800 per acre, up $500 (almost 23 percent) from $2,300 per acre in 2014. From a historical perspective, irrigated cropland values were $580 per acre just nine years ago in 2007.
They have steadily risen since, to $860 per acre in 2008 and $990 per acre in 2009. The only year those values remained static was 2010, when values remained at $990 per acre for irrigated cropland.
The values increased to $1,040 per acre in 2011, $1,300 per acre in 2012, $1,800 per acre in 2013, $2,300 per acre in 2014 and now $2,800 per acre for 2015.
From 2007 to 2015, irrigated cropland values have risen 382 percent for Keya Paha County property owners.
Though smaller compared to irrigated cropland, dryland cropland acres in Keya Paha County have also experienced sharp valuation increases.
For 2015, the top soil rating for dryland cropland acres will increase from $740 to $900, a rise of almost 22 percent. Since 2007, dryland cropland acres in Keya Paha County have increased 109 percent, from $430 per acre to $900 per acre.
Grassland acres with the top soil rating increased by $75 per acre in Keya Paha County for 2015, but at $700 per acre are valued lower than those acres in neighboring Brown and Rock counties.
Wentworth said it was important for property owners to remember that valuations are only one piece of the puzzle in determining the amount of property tax paid.
She said the Keya Paha County Commissioners have held to a zero percent budget increase during each of the past three years, which drops the tax levy requested by the county and therefore does not increase the amount of overall tax paid to that entity. But, even with the county levy dropping, some tax does shift from the residential and commercial side to the agricultural side with the rising valuations in that sector and the static valuations in the residential and commercial classifications.
Wentworth said there are several taxing entities in the county, including the school district and others such as the community college.
She said Northeast Community College always asks for close to its maximum of 10 cents per $100 in property value, regardless of how much valuations increase. However, Wentworth said overall tax increases in Keya Paha County have been small during the past few years.
Driven by sales, agricultural land values in all three KBR counties have shown no signs of peaking, while residential and commercial property has remained nearly static in value.
Turpin reported residential valuations in Rock County would experience a small increase for 2015 based on the 47 sales analyzed over a two-year period.
Commercial values for both Rock and Keya Paha counties remained within the 92 percent to 100 percent window of actual value as mandated by the state, so valuations on that classification of property will not change.
Any property owner in Brown, Rock and Keya Paha counties who will experience a change in property valuation for 2015, whether an increase or a decrease, will receive notice from the county assessor’s office postmarked by June 1. For those whose property was unchanged, notices are not mailed.
Anyone wanting to protest the value of a parcel of property may request a valuation protest hearing from the County Board of Equalization in each county. The window to file a protest opens after the valuation notices have been sent, and are typically heard by the Board of Equalization in June. The Board of Commissioners in Brown, Rock and Keya Paha counties also serve as the Board of Equalization for each of their respective counties.
* Brown County 2015 agricultural land values increase sharply, once again
(Posted 4 p.m. March 17)
Agricultural property owners in Brown County hoping a drop in commodity prices would lead to decreased demand for cropland, and therefore a respite from the rising tide of valuations, will be sorely disappointed when 2015 valuation notices are received in the mail.
Assessor Charleen Fox told the Brown County Commissioners during Tuesday’s meeting the prices paid for all classifications of agricultural land continue to increase substantially.
To comply with state statutes that require counties to value agricultural land within 69 percent to 75 percent of its actual value based on three years of sales, Fox said she was forced to adjust all classes of agricultural land upward by 25 percent, with dryland cropland jumping by an average of 30 percent due to a 41 percent increase in the sales prices for ground with the poorest soil rating. The top three soil classifications in dryland cropland increased by 25 percent. Fox said there was not a lot of dryland cropland acreage in Brown County.
“If we did not increase valuations, agricultural land would have been sitting at 58 percent of actual value,” Fox said. “We just didn’t have a choice, we had to get agricultural land into compliance. People are not going to be very happy, but some counties had agricultural land values go up by as much as 50 percent.”
With the state requiring county assessors to use the three most recent years of sales to establish valuations, Fox said the sales from three years ago drop off and the most recent year’s sales are added.
Thus far, there has been no ceiling on the rise in prices paid for agricultural land of all classes, from irrigated to dryland cropland, from grassland to Conservation Reserve Program ground.
Fox said the sales from three years ago were lower in price than the most recent year's sales prices, so the sales that drop off the three-year window are replaced by sales prices that are much higher. Agricultural property owners could see another valuation increase next year, if land sale prices stay at the current level.
“We have a lot of out-of-area buyers,” Fox said. “That seems to be keeping the prices up.”
A total of 56 sales of agricultural property were analyzed. With the prices being paid, the 25 percent jump in valuation across all land classes brings agricultural land to 73 percent of its actual value.
Using the example of the top soil ratings for each classification of agricultural land, pivot-irrigated cropland increased in value from $2,715 per acre to $3,395 per acre. Gravity-irrigated cropland jumped from $1,945 per acre to $2,430.
The top soil rating for grassland took a 25 percent valuation increase, from $545 per acre to $680. Irrigated grassland rose in value from $940 per acre to $1,200 per acre. Conservation Reserve Program grassland values increased from $565 per acre to $705.
Commissioner Reagan Wiebelhaus said, until the Nebraska Legislature comes up with a way to fix the way land is valued, there isn’t anything the commissioners or the assessor can do.
“As much as I hate to see a 25 percent increase for ag land, your hands are tied by the state,” Wiebelhaus said.
Fox said, based on three-year sales figures, current commercial and residential property values fell within the state-mandated level of being between 92 percent and 100 percent of actual value, so those valuations would not need adjustment for 2015.
She said new construction accounted for $6 million in additional valuation for the county in 2015.
Valuations are one factor in determining the amount of tax paid by property owners. After the valuations are set, taxing entities approve budgets with an accompanying levy rate.
The levy rates, coupled with the valuation, determine the amount of tax paid by the property owner.
For example, for a
$100,000 home or business, if the county were to approve a 40-cent levy per $100
in property value and the school district were to approve a 90-cent levy per
$100 in property value, the property owners would pay $400 in property tax to
the county and $900 to the school district for a total of $1,300 in property
tax. That would be unchanged from 2014 assuming the same levies from the
However, on the agricultural side, for a 160-acre, quarter section of pivot-irrigated cropland, the valuation of that land increased from $434,400 in 2014 to $543,200 for 2015. Assuming the same 40-cent general county levy and a 90-cent school levy per $100 in value, the owner of that quarter-section of pivot-irrigated crop land will go from paying $5,647 in property tax to $7,016.
Considering agricultural owners have seen substantial valuation increases during each of the past six years, while residential and commercial property values have remained fairly static, the tax burden being assumed by owners of ag land is becoming more onerous by the year.
There are other taxing entities in addition to the county and school, including Northeast Community College, which can levy up to 10 cents in property tax per $100 in value. The rural fire protection district typically receives 4 cents per $100 in property value. Bonds approved by voters for special projects, such as school or hospital additions, also receive property tax levy commensurate with the amount of money needed to service the bond payments.
Property owners who will see the value of their property change for 2015, whether through an increase or a decrease, will receive notice from the assessor’s office. Fox said those notices will be mailed by June 1.
* Ricketts elected as Nebraska's 40th governor
(Posted 6:45 a.m. Nov. 5)
Pete Ricketts will be the 40th governor of the state of Nebraska, winning by a comfortable margin during Tuesday’s General Election.
Ricketts, a Republican, succeeds Dave Heineman, the longest-tenured governor in state history, after 10 years in office. Former State Auditor Mike Foley will be sworn in as the lieutenant governor.
Ricketts received 58.5 percent of the Nebraska vote to just 39 percent for Democrat Chuck Hassebrook. There were 301,646 votes cast for Ricketts, and 203,968 votes for Hassebrook.
Republican Ben Sasse is headed to the U.S. Senate after winning a four-man race for that office over Democrat Dave Domina and Independent candidates Jim Jenkins and Todd Watson.
Sasse received almost 65 percent of the vote in the state, compared to 31 percent for Domina, 3 percent for Jenkins and a little over 1 percent for Watson.
Republican Adrian Smith was comfortably re-elected to another term in the U.S. House of Representatives, winning the Third District race by more than a three to one margin over Democratic challenger Mark Sullivan. Smith received 75.5 percent of the vote in the Third District, with Sullivan receiving 24.5 percent.
Republican incumbent Jeff Fortenberry had no trouble winning another two-year term in the House, defeating Democratic challenger Dennis Crawford by a margin of 69 percent to 31 percent.
It appears Democrat Brad Ashford in District 2 is the only candidate keeping the Republican Party from a clean sweep Tuesday.
Though not yet certified, Ashford has a slim lead over Republican incumbent Lee Terry. Ashford received 76,354 votes, 48.6 percent of the ballots cast. Terry picked up 72,222 votes, 46 percent of the ballots. Libertarian Steven Laird received just over 5 percent of the vote in District 2.
The state’s minimum wage will increase, after voters overwhelmingly favored Ballot Initiative 425. More than 59 percent of Nebraskans favored the state’s minimum wage increasing to $8 per hour on Jan. 1, 2015, and to $9 per hour on Jan. 1, 2016.
Republican Doug Peterson will replace Jon Bruning as the state’s attorney general after Bruning held the office for the past 12 years. Peterson received 66.5 percent of the vote, compared to the 33.5 percent for Democrat Janet Stewart.
In the race to replace Foley as the state auditor, former State Sen. Charlie Janssen, a Republican, bested Democratic candidate State Sen. Amanda McGill by a margin of 59.5 percent to 40.5 percent.
Republicans John Gale and Don Stenberg were easily reelected as secretary of state and state treasurer respectively.
By a 2-1 margin, Tyson Larson won reelection to the Nebraska Legislature in District 40 over challenger Keith Kube. Larson secured 67 percent of the vote to 33 percent for Kube.
In the Subdistrict 2 race for Nebraska Public Power District Board of Directors, Barry DeKay picked up just over 54 percent of the vote to slip past Dan Scheer.
James Lee in Cherry County, Stanley Tuton in Keya Paha County, and Charles Shaw in Rock County were elected to seats on the KBR Rural Public Power Board of Directors.
Larry Poessnecker of Atkinson was reelected to the Northeast Community College Board of Directors in District 2 without a challenge.
Molly O’Holleran won reelection to the Nebraska State Board of Eduction, defeating Robin Stevens by a margin of 62 percent to 38 percent.
Sue Weston, Jean Pinney and Duane Gudgel were reelected without opposition to the Educational Service Unit 17 Board of Directors.
Voter turnout in Nebraska was 46.5 percent, with 539,123 of the 1,159,085 registered voters casting a ballot in the General Election.
* Brown County Election results
(Posted 11 p.m. Nov. 4)
The 2014 General Election is in the history books, and the few contested races at the local level in Brown County have been decided.
Two of the three incumbent candidates were elected to four-year terms on the Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education.
Incumbent Jim Arens received the most votes in the race with 701, while incumbent Dan Dailey secured 633 votes to win reelection. The third spot on the School Board was decided by 15 votes, with newcomer Erin Bejot Rathe edging incumbent Scott Erthum by a 570 to 555 margin. Jason Atkisson received 400 votes, and Cody Stutzman picked up 250 votes for School Board.
In the only other contested race at the local level, Larry Rice was elected as the Mayor of Ainsworth by a 430 to 145 margin over Myrna Jakob.
Running unopposed and winning offices at the county government level were Commissioners Les Waits (949 votes) and Reagan Wiebelhaus (922 votes), Sheriff Bruce Papstein (1,044 votes) , Treasurer Deb Vonheeder (1,059 votes), Attorney David Streich (920 votes), Assessor Charleen Fox (1,001 votes) and Clerk Travee Hobbs (1,009 votes).
At the city level, Brian Williams and Chuck Osborn were elected to four-year terms on the Ainsworth City Council with 487 and 466 votes respectively.
Spencer Schenk was elected unopposed to a six-year term on the Ainsworth Airport Authority with 475 votes.
Beverly Newport is the next Long Pine mayor, receiving 40 votes in an uncontested race.
David Cheatum and Fred Meyer were elected to the Long Pine City Council, receiving 54 and 52 votes respectively.
Brenda Goeken was the only candidate elected to the Johnstown Village Board. She received 10 votes. Two additional members will be appointed to the board by the four sitting members.
In state and federal races, Brown County voters sided with Republican Pete Ricketts in the race for governor by a 758 to 293 margin over Democrat Chuck Hassebrook.
Voters in the county favored Republican Ben Sasse for the U.S. Senate over Democrat Dave Domina, 880 to 176. Independent candidates Jim Jenkins and Todd Watson garnered 49 and 18 votes respectively.
Third District Rep. Adrian Smith, another Republican, won the Brown County vote for another term in the House of Representatives, besting Democrat Mark Sullivan in the county by a 976 to 133 margin.
Republican Doug Peterson earned 903 votes in Brown County in the Nebraska attorney general race to 154 for Democrat Janet Stewart.
State Treasurer Don Stenberg was reelected to his seat, and coasted to a 939 to 107 margin over Democrat Michael O’Hara.
In the race to replace Foley as state auditor, Charlie Janssen secured 803 votes in Brown County compared to 210 for Democrat Amanda McGill.
Molly O’Holleran bested challenger Robin Stevens in the District 7 State Board of Education race in Brown County by a 567 to 240 margin.
All four candidates ran unopposed for four seats on the Middle Niobrara Natural Resources District Board of Directors, with Dean Jochem At Large, Marty Graff in District 6, Cherryl Lovejoy in District 4 and Justin Hammond in District 2 elected.
Larry Poessnecker of Atkinson ran unopposed for the Northeast Community College Board of Directors District 2 seat.
Jean Pinney in District 5 and Sue Weston in District 1 ran unopposed for seats on the Educational Service Unit 17 Board of Directors.
Initiative 425 to increase the state’s minimum wage from $7.25 per hour to $9 per hour was favored by Brown County voters by a 609 to 495 margin.
Brown County voters chose to retain all four judges on the ballot. District 8 Judge Mark Kozisek received 874 votes for retention compared to 176 against. Nebraska Workers Compensation Court judges Laureen Van Norman, Michael High and Thomas Stine were also voted for retention in Brown County, with Van Norman’s margin 646 to 216 in favor of retention, High’s 632 to 226, and Stine’s 641 to 227 to retain.
Voter turnout Tuesday in Brown County was 53 percent, with 1,150 of the 2,150 registered voters casting a ballot in the General Election.
* Rock County Election results
(Posted 10:45 p.m. Nov. 4)
Bassett voters approved the two issue items on the General Election ballot by a comfortable margin Tuesday.
The vote finished at 203 to 58 in favor of establishing an economic development program, and 197 to 63 in favor of imposing a 0.5 percent city sales and use tax with the proceeds to be allocated to the Bassett Economic Development Program.
The new 0.5 percent sales tax will be implemented beginning April 1, 2015, for all products sold inside the Bassett city limits that carry the state sales tax. The 0.5 percent sales tax sunsets on March 31, 2030.
In other Rock County races, Larry Ebert II, Becky LeZotte and Kayti Gordon were elected to the Rock County Public Schools Board of Education. Ebert II received 452 votes, followed by 416 votes for LeZotte.
The margin for the third seat on the School Board was razor thin, with Gordon picking up 346 votes to 342 for Tonya Larson.
Charles Shaw received 247 votes to 92 for Steve Coble to win election to the Rock County seat on the KBR Rural Public Power Board of Directors.
Rick Foxworthy and Cheryl Arrowsmith were elected to the Bassett City Council, with Foxworthy garnering 205 votes and Arrowsmith 194 in the unopposed race. Foxworthy received 493 votes after running unopposed for a six-year term on the Rock County Airport Authority.
Winning election at the county government level and running unopposed were Clerk Joyce Stahl (561 votes), Treasurer Mona Davis (574 votes), Sheriff James Anderson (516 votes), Attorney Avery Gurnsey (505 votes), Assessor Monica Turpin (513 votes) and Commissioners Jim Stout (518 votes) and Stan Larson (418 votes).
Rock County voters supported Tyson Larson for another term in the Nebraska Legislature. Larson won the 40th District vote in Rock County by a 425 to 135 margin over challenger Keith Kube.
In state and federal races, Rock County voters sided with Republican Pete Ricketts in the race for governor by a 416 to 175 margin over Democrat Chuck Hassebrook.
Voters in the county favored Republican Ben Sasse for the U.S. Senate over Democrat Dave Domina to the tune of a 496 to 101 spread, with Independent candidates Jim Jenkins and Todd Watson picking up 23 and nine votes respectively.
Third District Rep. Adrian Smith, another Republican, won the Rock County vote for another term in the House of Representatives, besting Mark Sullivan in the county by a 562 to 56 vote.
Rock County voters sided with Republican Doug Peterson over Democrat Janet Stewart, 499 to 81, to be Nebraska’s next attorney general.
Republican Charlie Janssen earned 434 votes to 110 for Democrat Amanda McGill in the state auditor’s race.
Molly O’Holleran secured 233 Rock County votes for the State Board of Education compared to 164 for her challenger, Robin Stevens.
There were three contested races in the Upper Elkhorn Natural Resources District Board of Directors races, with Chip Whitaker receiving 191 votes in Subdistrict 4 in Rock County to 118 for Jerry Childers.
In Subdistrict 7, Michael Moser earned 165 Rock County votes compared to 114 for Keith Heithoff, and Paul Bartak secured 186 At Large votes to 124 for Christopher Dierks.
The other Natural Resources District Board seats from the Middle Niobrara, Lower Niobrara and Upper Elkhorn were uncontested races.
Initiative 425 to increase the state’s minimum wage from $7.25 per hour to $9 per hour passed in Rock County by a 275 to 210 margin.
Rock County voters voted to retain all four judges on the ballot for retention. District 8 Judge Mark Kozisek received 362 votes for retention compared to 142 against. Nebraska Workers Compensation Court judges Laureen Van Norman, Michael High and Thomas Stine were also voted for retention in Rock County, with Van Norman’s margin 305-150 in favor of retention, High’s 286-150 and Stine’s 288-154 to retain.
Voter turnout in Rock County was almost 63 percent, with 644 of the 1,027 registered voters casting a ballot in the General Election.
* Keya Paha County Election results
(Posted 10:30 p.m. Nov. 4)
The only contested local races Tuesday in Keya Paha County were for the Springview Village Board and the KBR Rural Public Power District Board of Directors seat.
Five candidates ran for three open positions on the Springview Village Board. Joe Caulfield was the leading vote-getter with 85 ballots cast in his favor. Larry Hespe finished with 77 votes to win a four-year term on the Village Board, and Rob Painter edged Larry Worth by two votes, 77-75, for the third seat. Michael Swan finished fifth in the race with 57 votes.
In the race for the Keya Paha County seat on the KBR Rural Public Power Board of Directors, Stanley Tuton defeated Kirk Sharp by a margin of 315 to 89.
Bruce Ferguson and Donald Connell were elected to the Keya Paha County Public Schools Board of Education, with 338 and 288 votes respectively. Mark Frick ran as a write-in candidate for the third opening on the School Board, and received 108 votes to earn a seat on the School Board.
Winning reelection at the county level were the slate of uncontested Republican candidates, including Keya Paha County Sheriff Jeff Kirsch (343 votes), Clerk/Assessor Suzy Wentworth (351 votes), Treasurer Sandra McCoy (354 votes), Center District Commissioner Corey Nilson (130 votes) and East District Commissioner Bruce Ritterbush (95) votes.
In state and federal races, Keya Paha County voters sided with Republican Pete Ricketts in the race for governor by a 275 to 92 margin over Democrat Chuck Hassebrook.
Voters in the county favored Republican Ben Sasse for the U.S. Senate over Democrat Dave Domina and Independent candidates Jim Jenkins and Todd Watson. Sasse received 313 votes to 53 for Domina, seven for Watson and five for Jenkins.
Third District Rep. Adrian Smith, another Republican, won the Keya Paha County vote for another term in the House of Representatives, besting Mark Sullivan in the county by a 333 to 45 vote.
Keya Paha County voters favored Republican Doug Peterson over Democrat Janet Stewart, 294 to 60, in the race for attorney general.
Republican Charlie Janssen received 261 votes for state auditor to just 63 for Democrat Amanda McGill.
Molly O’Holleran picked up 149 Keya Paha County votes to 83 for Robin Stevens in the State Board of Education race.
All of the Lower Niobrara Natural Resources District and Middle Niobrara NRD candidates ran unopposed in the General Election. Thomas Higgins in Subdistrict 1, Marvin Liewer in Subdistrict 2, Bradley Mahon in Subdistrict 4, Kent Pavlik in Subdistrict 5, Dwain Marcellus in Subdistrict 7, Larry Baumeister in Subdistrict 8 and Sterling Schultz At Large were elected to the Lower Niobrara NRD Board.
Justin Hammond in Subdistrict 2, Cheryl Lovejoy in Subdistrict 4, Marty Graff in Subdistrict 6 and Dean Jochem At Large were elected to the Middle Niobrara NRD Board.
Barry DeKay picked up 136 Keya Paha County votes for the Nebraska Public Power District Board of Director position, compared to 113 for Dan Scheer.
Initiative 425 to increase the state’s minimum wage from $7.25 per hour to $9 per hour failed in Keya Paha County by a 196-167 margin.
Keya Paha County voters overwhelmingly voted to retain all four judges on the ballot for retention. District 8 Judge Mark Kozisek received 239 votes for retention compared to 56 against. Nebraska Workers Compensation Court judges Laureen Van Norman, Michael High and Thomas Stine were also voted for retention in Keya Paha County, with Van Norman’s margin 164-60 in favor of retention, High’s 160-63, and Stine’s 161-69 to retain.
Sixty-five percent of Keya Paha County’s 651 registered voters cast a ballot in the General Election.
* Thank-you area firefighters for Second Street response
(Posted 10 a.m. Oct. 17)
* Fire causes major damage to Royal Theater
(Posted 9 a.m. Oct. 15)
Ainsworth firemen, assisted by firemen and units from Long
Pine, Raven and Bassett, were called out about 3 a.m. Wednesday after someone
passing by on Second Street in Ainsworth noticed smoke coming from the Royal
The fire caused extensive damage to the front lobby area and projector room. The fire also burned through the upstairs portion into the roof. Flames were also coming out of the front of the building. The entire structure suffered smoke and water damage. The recently installed new theater seats were not destroyed but may or may not be able to be used again. In addition to the theater, heavy smoke damage was sustained in adjoining businesses including the offices and studios of KBRB Radio Station, Mundhenke Agency and Ainsworth Motors. The exact cause of the fire is being investigated by the State Fire Marshall and the theater's insurance company. The theater is operated by volunteers.
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Information from the 2012 Wildfires in the Niobrara River Valley
* Additional fire funding in Keya Paha County approved by wide margin
(Posted 7 a.m. Oct. 5, 2012)
Just like in Brown County, Keya Paha County voters Thursday
overwhelmingly approved additional property tax dollars for the Keya Paha County
Rural Fire District.
With just under 70 voters needed to make the town hall meeting official, more than double that amount cast a ballot Thursday in the Springview Grade School multipurpose room.
Ninety-one percent of the 155 voters supported the 8 cents in additional property tax levy for the rural fire district in response to the costs incurred in fighting the Region 24 Complex fires in July.
A total of 141 votes were counted in favor of the additional funding. Just 14 cast ballots against the measure.
By approving the additional 8-cent levy, voters allowed the Keya Paha County Rural Fire District to collect an additional $223,984 to help pay for the extensive costs incurred fighting wildfires during the summer and begin to repair or replace damaged equipment.
Had the additional levy not been approved, the fire district would have had a budget of $41,667 from the 1.5 cents in levy given by the Keya Paha County Commissioners as part of their 2012-13 fiscal year budget. County boards can award up to 4 cents in general levy to fire districts. Anything above that amount must be approved by county voters using either the town hall or special election format.
By using the town hall format Thursday, the additional 8 cents in property tax levy will be collected for one year only.
With the levy passing, residential and commercial property owners in Keya Paha County will pay an additional $80 in property taxes for every $100,000 worth of property value. Agricultural property owners will pay an additional $60 per $100,000 in value.
The 91 percent approval rating in Keya Paha County's town hall vote was even higher than the 85 percent approval rating for Brown County's town hall meeting Sept. 24.
* Incident Management Team transitioning out of the area Monday
(Posted 9 a.m. July 30, 2012)
According to the daily update from the Nebraska
Emergency Management Agency on Sunday, fire crews made good progress on the
Wentworth and Hall Fires. Both are now at 90 percent containment. The Fairfield
Creek Fire is at 100 percent containment and remains in patrol status.
Hot and dry is the forecast for tomorrow and for the immediate future. Fuels will continue to be very receptive to fire and the potential for new starts remains elevated. Residents can expect to see smoke within the interior especially in the afternoon when temperatures are at their highest and relative humidity is at its lowest.
Operations have shifted to demobilizing resources. On Monday, the Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team will transition the incident back to local authorities. The members of the incident management team thank the area communities and the amazing volunteers for their hospitality and cooperation.
No road closures are in place. However, expect heavy emergency vehicle traffic as engines and other resources are released from the fire in route to their home units.
* Fire containment proceeding, crews heading out of the area
(Posted 8 a.m. July 30, 2012)
Many of the state and federal resources in the area to
combat the Fairfield Creek, Wentworth and Hall fires began leaving the area
during the weekend. While some of the federal officials remain to finish mop-up
duties, many of the crews were headed out.
Thank you to everyone who has assisted in any way with the recent fires, from the firefighters on the front lines to the volunteers in the fire halls to the hundreds of people who have donated supplies or funds to assist the effort. North central Nebraska has represented its people well, as have the people who no longer reside here but who have ties to the area.
Those who donated coolers to the fire halls can pick those coolers up, and those who donated air mattresses or cots to the Red Cross for use at the community shelter can pick those items up from Ainsworth Community Schools.
Unfortunately, some people still don't realize the extreme danger of fire in the area. The Ainsworth Volunteer Fire Department was called out at 7:35 a.m. Monday to a report of a grass fire in the ditch south of Ainsworth on the Cemetery Road.
According to Fire Chief Brad Fiala, someone threw a lit cigarette from the window of a vehicle, igniting the ditch just north of the Ainsworth South Cemetery.
"If the wind would have been up, that fire would have probably gotten into a grove of trees before we could have got there to put it out," Fiala said.
Though he has not yet taken that step, Fiala said he has received permission from the Nebraska Fire Marshal's Office to ban smoking in Brown County. If a smoking ban is implemented, smoking will be restricted to inside the home and in a vehicle with the windows up.
Fiala encouraged people to be aware of the extreme dry conditions in the area. If fires continue to be sparked from smoking materials, he won't hesitate to issue the ban. If a ban on smoking materials is issued, anyone smoking outside of their homes or their enclosed vehicles can be issued a fine.
Fiala said he does not want to implement a ban, so he warned people not to throw lit cigarettes from their vehicle.
An open fire ban is already in place, yet the Brown County Sheriff's Department and volunteer firefighters have had to respond to several calls of campfires being started in the Long Pine State Park area. Fines can be issued for anyone who is caught with an open fire.
* Fischer commends responders and volunteers Saturday during stops in area
(Posted 4:45 p.m. July 28, 2012)
Seeing first-hand the effects of the fires in Keya Paha,
Brown and Cherry counties on Saturday, 43rd District State Sen. Deb Fischer said
it was a relief to see the progress that has been made on controlling the fires,
and she is amazed at the response from the people in the area.
"You see the outpouring of support from all across Nebraska, but especially from the communities here who have been affected by this horrible event," Fischer told KBRB's Graig Kinzie Saturday afternoon.
Fischer said the 43rd District has experienced some major fires during her time in the Legislature, from the Valentine area in 2006 to the Thedford fire a couple years ago and now the fires in this area and in Dawes County, which is now also in the 43rd District.
"I am trying to see how we can get some additional state and private resources to the area to help meet the huge expenses you've incurred," Fischer, the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, said.
She said the stories she has heard regarding the volunteer effort and the sacrifices made by so many make her proud to be a Nebraskan.
"It's the fire departments, the ranchers, the volunteers, the wives of the firefighters," Fischer said. "Everyone comes together in a time like this."
To hear the complete report with State Sen. Deb Fischer from Saturday, click on the audio link below:
* Region 24 manager reporting containment efforts progressing
(Posted 4:30 p.m. July 28, 2012)
Region 24 Manager Doug Fox told KBRB Radio's Graig Kinzie
Saturday afternoon substantial progress has been made on the Fairfield Creek,
Wentworth and Hall fires in Keya Paha County despite south winds gusting to 25
Things are starting to look really good," Fox said.
Though there will still be some areas inside the fire lines burning and causing some smoke, work on the edges of the three fires has progressed substantially.
Fox said he took an aerial tour of the site with Springview Fire Chief Scott Hallock, and he anticipated many of the state and federal resources would be departing the area by Monday.
To hear the complete report with Region 24 Manager Doug Fox, click on the audio link below:
* Nebraska Emergency Management Agency update on containment progress
(Posted 2:45 p.m. July 28, 2012)
On Friday, the Wentworth Fire remained in southeastern Keya Paha County remained active with medium to high rates of spread, group tree torching, crown runs and medium range spotting. Crews completed line around the largest of the three fires, the Fairfield Creek Fire, bringing it into 100 percent containment. Progress was made on both the Wentworth and Hall fire containment lines.
Fridaynight’s thunderstorm provided little moisture and several positive lightning strikes. There continues to be the potential for new starts, active burning and re-burning throughout the areas.
Fairfield Creek - Crews will continue to patrol and mop-up.
Hall - Crews will hold and improve lines.
Wentworth – Crews will continue securing open line with line construction and firing out operations. They will also continue to hold and improve line, mop-up and patrol.
Structure protection will continue on all three fires.
No road closures are in place, however local authorities recommend using Highway 183 as an alternative to Highway 7 as it will have heavy emergency vehicle traffic.
No evacuations are in place at this time.
Fire stats at a glance:
Start Date: July 20, 2012
Containment: 73 percent , estimated full containment by Monday
Acreage: 74,884 total (Fairfield 66,745; Wentworth, 5,757; Hall, 2,382)
Personnel: 423, plus approximately 40 Rural Fire Department personnel
Crews: 8 crews on the fire line
Aviation: Five heavy-lift helicopters, one medium, and one light
Engines: 27, plus 20 Rural Fire Department engines
Injuries: 3 (minor)
Structures destroyed: 14 residences, 17 associated outbuildings
Structures/outbuildings threatened: 152
* Firefighters continue work on Wentworth Fire; river valley picks up some rain
(Posted 7:45 a.m. July 28, 2012)
Area firefighters, with support from the National Guard and
federal hot-shot crews, continued work into the night with the Wentworth Fire
burning in southeastern Keya Paha County.
With the Fairfield Creek and Hall fires both under control, the Wentworth Fire has been the focus of the responders' attention since it broke through a fire line Thursday afternoon.
Reports indicate southeastern Keya Paha County picked up one-quarter of an inch of rain or so from a small line of thunderstorms that moved through the area early Saturday morning. Roger Wentworth in southeastern Keya Paha County reported .20 of an inch of rain from the overnight storm. Wentworth's property absorbed the lightning strike that officials believe started the middle of the three fires - thus the namesake.
There was some lightning with the line of storms, so responders will keep their fingers crossed that no new fires crop up from those strikes.
Ainsworth Fire Chief Brad Fiala asked area farmers and ranchers to keep all their stock tanks filled. Firefighters can fill their smaller tanks those water sources if necessary.
Preliminary reports indicate 98 different volunteer fire departments have assisted with the Niobrara River valley fires during some portion of the now nine-day response.
Officials are cautiously optimistic that they are in the home stretch of the major firefighting effort.
Preliminary reports show 14 residences have been lost, some of which were occupied full time while others were cabins, and a total of 47 other structures reportedly burned.
Monetary donations continue to be needed to help the fire departments deal with the monumental costs associated with nine days of fighting fire. Information on how to help is located at the top of this page.
Thank you to those who have already donated, as thousands of dollars are coming in to the relief fund to assist the fire departments and those who have lost homes. Additional support in the way of hay, fence posts and trucking have also been donated, not to mention the hundreds of hours of volunteered labor and equipment use from private contractors on the fire lines. There are so many stories of personal sacrifice and heroism, it is impossible to try and mention them individually. Just know all of the communities in this area are so appreciative of everything being done to assist them in this trying time.
* Springview fire chief said work continues on Wentworth Fire Friday
(Posted 2:35 p.m. July 27, 2012)
Springview Fire Chief Scott Hallock told KBRB just after
noon on Friday work continues to solidify the fire line after a breakout of the
Wentworth Fire on Thursday afternoon.
Hallock said substantial progress was made overnight and this morning after firefighters were able to stop the breakout before it jumped the Niobrara River into Rock County approximately 2-1/2 miles west of the Carnes Bridge.
According to Deputy Commander Mark Hatcher with the Rocky Mountain Incident Management Bravo Team, Thursday's breakout of the Wentworth Fire burned an additional 2,500 acres in southeastern Keya Paha County.
To hear the complete report with Springview Fire Chief Scott Hallock, click on the audio link below:
UPDATE: The Springview Volunteer Fire Department requested
mutual aid assistance from the Ainsworth, Long Pine and Bassett departments to
fight another small break-out of the Wentworth Fire Friday afternoon and to help
Brown County Sheriff's Department Dispatcher Judy Cole said the civil defense siren did sound in Long Pine for the mutual aid call, but not in Ainsworth as a truck was dispatched by Ainsworth Fire Chief Brad Fiala immediately. Cole said five trucks responded to the mutual aid call, including two from Bassett, two from Long Pine and one from Ainsworth.
(Photo Courtesy of Win Mills)
These photos were taken Monday from the vantage point of Nancy Reinhardt's ranch southwest of Springview, south of Highway 12 in Keya Paha County. Though the date on the photo says Sunday, the photos were taken Monday as the Fairfield Creek fire broke out to the north, fueled by a gusting south wind and temperatures that topped 105 degrees. Fire lines worked tirelessly to keep the fire contained to the Niobrara River canyons, but it did break the Highway 12 containment line Monday before being pushed back by firefighters. As of Friday, the Fairfield Creek Fire had burned close to 100,000 acres but was close to being declared closed by fire officials.
(Photo Courtesy of Win Mills)
A C-130 tanker drops flame retardant on the north end of the Niobrara River valley Monday in an effort to keep the fire from proceeding north. The C-130 planes were based out of South Dakota.
(Photo Courtesy of Win Mills)
Fire rages out of a Niobrara River canyon southwest of Springview as firefighters attempt to stop the flames at the canyon. The charred ground and the sod mound in the foreground show firefighters' attempts to create back burns and fire breaks to keep the fire from moving north and racing on flat ground.
(Photo Courtesy of Win Mills)
Flames shoot more than 100 feet in the air on Monday as the Fairfield Creek Fire consumed pine and cedar trees on the north edge of the Niobrara River Valley southwest of Springview.
* Fire officials provide updates on firefighting effort on KBRB's Open Line
(Posted noon July 27, 2012)
Appearing on KBRB's Open Line program Friday morning, Rocky
Mountain Incident Management Response Team Bravo Deputy Commander Mark Hatcher,
Nebraska Emergency Management Agency representative Mike White, Region 24
Emergency Management Agency Director Doug Fox and Ainsworth Fire Chief Brad
Fiala discussed the continued fire response effort, the toll fighting the fires
has taken on firefighters and volunteers, the major assistance provided by
landowners and volunteer contractors helping to save property in the river
valley, and the work that still needs to be done to help the departments pay for
the monumental expenses associated with eight straight days of fighting the
wildfires in the Niobrara River valley.
Media outlets, there is a bundle of information from these responders on the following audio links from the 40-minute live program. Feel free to use any of the information to help your newscasts. Please credit KBRB Radio as the source of the information.
Thank you to everyone who has played a role in assisting the firefighting effort and helping to spread the word about the serious needs of the area fire departments and those who have lost homes and property in these fires. Information on how to make donations to support the area fire departments and those who have lost homes and property can be found at the top of this page.
Click on the following four links for the complete audio of KBRB's Friday morning Open Line report with the fire officials.
* Gov. Heineman shares stories of the volunteers in weekly column
(Posted Noon July 27, 2012)
By Gov. Dave Heineman
July 27, 2012
Dear Fellow Nebraskans:
This week, we are monitoring the status of the drought-related fires throughout the state. While the magnitude of the fires and the drought impacts weigh heavy on Nebraskans and the economy of our state, I have been reminded the past few days of the strong resolve and resiliency of our state’s citizens.
Since the fires broke in north-central Nebraska, I have been to the affected communities twice and monitored the damage firsthand. While seeing 72,000 acres of scorched Earth is striking, what I saw in our people is inspiring. In every community, brave volunteer firefighters were on the frontlines, facing temperatures of 120 degrees. At the command posts, responders worked tirelessly to update and coordinate efforts to contain the massive fires, and anticipate the fire’s next moves through behavior modeling. In the communities, family-members and friends of the community provided aid and comfort, gathering donations of food, ice, water, ibuprofen, eye wash, and other necessities.
When meeting with volunteers, firefighters and responders, I heard story after story of the truly remarkable generosity and thoughtfulness of Nebraskans and caring strangers throughout our nation. At the Ainsworth Fire Hall, I spoke with local firefighter Ann Fiala who told me they have received much needed donations from throughout the state and as far away as Maine. Ann said they have had people walk into the Fire Hall and hand them checks for as much as $500 and $1000.
In Norden, volunteer Cathy Fauren, told me she had been volunteering for days on end. Her husband and son were in the fires, and that a simple phone call from them was all she needed to know they were ok. A volunteer in Springview, Linda Sheehan, told me about the Springview Nebraska Community Facebook page, which is covered with photos and encouraging messages.
While driving the recent fire paths in the Niobrara River Valley, the ground was still smoking and smoldering in many spots. As we drove down a dirt road, surrounded by burnt trees on both sides, we stopped to talk with a father and son from Grand Island who were driving the roads, putting out the residual fires in order to prevent a second round of immense burns.
These stories are examples of what makes Nebraska a wonderful place to live. Nebraskans are generous. We care about one another. We are always willing to help others.
At the incident command center in Ainsworth, I was briefed on current efforts. More than 32 volunteer fire departments have helped. Low humidity, high temperatures, extreme drought, and dry lightning in the weather forecast continue to be major concerns.
This week, we activated the State Emergency Operations Plan in response to the fire emergency in Cherry, Brown and Keya Paha Counties. I declared a State of Emergency in early July, which activated parts of the State Emergency Operations Plan and allowed us additional options for use of state resources. Resources from the State Patrol, the Department of Roads, the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency and the State Fire Marshal’s Office are also responding to the emergency.
The Nebraska National Guard continues to mobilize available resources as the response grows. This included the mobilization of three Nebraska Army National Guard UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters equipped with “Bambi buckets” and approximately 28 personnel to provide support to local firefighters. I also want to acknowledge and thank the Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team for their continued efforts on site.
As I write this column, we are close to having the fires contained – thanks to everyone’s hard work and support. We are very proud of you.
* July could join June as one of driest in history
(Posted 7:15 a.m. July 27, 2012)
Through the first 26 days of July, the KBRB rain gauge has
picked up a total of .32 of an inch of moisture. That .32 total in July follows
the third driest June in Ainsworth's history. Just .73 of an inch fell in June,
more than 2.5 inches below the average for the month.
July's average rainfall in Ainsworth is 3.95 inches, according to Ainsworth Weather Observer Gerry Osborne.
Through 26 days of July, the temperature has climbed above the century mark 12 times, including a high of 109 degrees on Saturday, July 21, one of the worst days firefighters had trying to fight the Fairfield Creek Fire.
An additional 10 days in July have been above 90 degrees, including three readings of 99 degrees. That is 15 of the 26 days in July with temperatures of 99 degrees or above, with what could be the least amount of precipitation for July in Ainsworth's history.
Anyone with step by step directions on a tried and true rain dance, feel free to pass them along to KBRB and we will hold a community training session.
* Niobrara River opening to Rock Barn today for float trips
(Posted 6:45 a.m. July 27, 2012)
The Niobrara River is for float trips beginning today
from the launch are at Fort Niobrara to Rock Barn. Before today, the river had
been closed east of Smith Falls State Park.
Firefighters continue to use River Road to access the fire line and continue mop-up operations on the Fairfield Creek Fire. Visitors and those traveling in the fire area are urged to use extreme caution as emergency vehicles and firefighters will continue to be working in the River Road area.
The public is also reminded that there are still hazards to be cautious of in the fire area. Smoke may continue to be visible during the next few days as unburned fuels and smoldering logs located inside the perimeter continue to burn. Also, trees that may have been weakened by the fire could fall without warning. Please use caution near the fire area, and while traveling on roads adjacent to the fire area.
* New concerns as the Wentworth fire flares up and heads toward Carnes
(Posted 5:30 p.m. July 26, 2012)
Just when it looked like progress was being made, winds picked up out of the northwest this afternoon in Keya Paha County and the Wentworth Fire jumped a fire line sending flames toward the Carnes Bridge area between Keya Paha and Rock counties. Region 24 Emergency Manager Doug Fox told KBRB fire officials are trying to get as many units into that area as possible. He said they have fire crews from Bassett, Naper, Tripp County, S.D., in addition to the federal firemen. The Ainsworth Volunteer Fire Department was also sending trucks to the area. Fox said the south moving fire line was near Walker Creek, which is just a half-mile west of Carnes.
8:30 p.m. July 26 UPDATE: Doug Fox reports that the fire crews working on the Wentworth Fire flare-up in southeast Keya Paha County Thursday afternoon and evening were able to stop the fire before it reached the Niobrara River and the Carnes Bridge area. Listen for more complete information when fire officials appear on the KBRB Open Line program Friday morning.
* Updated NEMA map shows progress made on all 3 Niobrara Valley fires
(Posted 3:30 p.m. July 26, 2012)
(Image courtesy of the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency)
Instead of producing a smaller version of the map on the site, please click on the above link for the full-scale version. Areas in black indicate fire lines that are secure. Areas in red show boundaries of the fires that have not yet been completely contained. Thank you to the hundreds of folks who responded to our offer to email the full-scale version of the map we placed on our Web site on Tuesday. We tried to get the full-scale version emailed as quickly as time allowed, but we hope this method of delivery works a little better! This is the largest version of the map we have to view. The map may be available in an even larger form on the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency's site, but not confirming that.
* Bob Kerrey tours area, visits with fire officials and volunteers
(Posted 3 p.m. July 26, 2012)
Former Gov. and U.S. Sen. Bob Kerrey visited Ainsworth and
Springview Thursday afternoon, touring the command center in the Ainsworth
Conference Center and visiting with firefighters and volunteers in the fire
halls on the front lines of the response.
"You start with the volunteer effort," Kerrey said. "The federal communications officer said she has been working on fires for 25 years and she has never seen a better community response."
He said he heard story after story of individual heroism while talking with firefighters.
"There are some great, heroic stories coming out of these fires," Kerrey said. "You have stories of firefighters turning at once, holding the line together and stopping the flames. They did it. They stopped the fire. It didn't have to be that way."
Kerrey said the main assistance that can be provided at the federal level is passing a Farm Bill and allowing the president to have the authority to declare these areas a federal disaster and unlock funding assistance.
Kerrey is the Democratic Party candidate for U.S. Senate. His Republican opponent in the General Election race, 43rd District State Sen. Deb Fischer, has said she plans to be in Ainsworth on Saturday.
To hear the complete report from former Gov. and U.S. Sen. Bob Kerrey, click on the audio link below:
* Springview fire chief reports substantial progress, mounting expenses
(Posted 1:30 p.m. July 26, 2012)
Springview Fire Chief Scott Hallock said the Hall fire in
southeastern Keya Paha County has been contained, and crews are finishing fire
lines on the south end of the Wentworth Fire in southeastern Keya Paha County
The Wentworth Fire started Saturday from a lightning strike, a day after the Fairfield Creek Fire, the largest of the three fires, ignited from a lightning strike in northwestern Brown County. The Hall Fire sparked up on Monday.
Hallock said weary area firefighters are finally starting to get a break, as federal hot-shot crews are working on the fire lines and removing hotspots.
The Springview fire chief said the current fuel bill for the department is more than $60,000, which is equal to or above the department's entire annual budget.
In addition to the North Central Development Center fund that has been established to assist the fire departments and those who lost homes and livelihoods, an additional fund has been created for the Springview department.
Donations can be made to the Springview Fire Hall at PO Box 204, Springview, NE 68778, or to West Plains Bank at PO Box 189, Springview, NE 68778. Write "fire relief" in the check's memo line.
To hear the complete report from early Thursday afternoon with Springview Fire Chief Scott Hallock, click on the audio link below:
* NEMA reports Meadville evacuation lifted, Highway 12 reopened to traffic
(Posted noon July 26, 2012)
The Nebraska Emergency
reports the evacuation notice for Meadville has been lifted, and Highway 12
west of Springview has reopened to traffic. Crews on Thursday are
focusing on improving fire lines, mopping up hot spots, patrolling the
fires' perimeters and protecting any structures still at risk.
State and federal officials estimated full containment of all three fires by Sunday.
The weather is forecasted to be warmer and drier through the weekend with possibility of afternoon thunderstorms along with accompanying lightning. Fuels are still very receptive to fire and the possibility for new starts remains elevated.
“We currently have sufficient fire resources on the incident," Region 24 Emergency Manager Doug Fox said. "If additional resources are needed, local fire chiefs will put out a call for assistance."
While Highway 12 is open to traffic, the Nebraska State Patrol recommends motorists use caution when traveling in the area.
Volunteer evacuations have been lifted for Meadville and Norden.
The Niobrara River between County Line and Brewer bridge remains closed but is scheduled to reopen on Friday.
Fire stats at a glance:
Start Date: July 20, 2012
Containment: 50 percent, estimate containment by July 29
Acreage: 72,405 total (Fairfield 66,745; Wentworth, 3,278; Hall, 2,382)
Personnel: 480, plus approximately 80 Rural Fire Department personnel
Crews: 7 crews on the fire line
Aviation : Four heavy-lift helicopters, one medium, and one light.
Engines: 38, plus 40 Rural Fire Department engines
Injuries: 3 (minor)
Structures destroyed: 10 and associated outbuildings
Structures/outbuildings threatened: 152
* Fox says paying for cost of fighting fire will be a massive effort
(Posted 10 a.m. July 26, 2012)
Region 24 Emergency Manager Doug Fox said fuel costs for
the Springview Fire Department have surpassed $60,000, and fuel costs alone for
the Ainsworth Fire Department are estimated at $150,000. Both of those totals
surpass the entire annual budget for both departments.
Fox told KBRB's Grag Kinzie Thursday funds will be needed to pay for the costs associated with fighting the Fairfield Creek, Wentworth and Hall fires, as those bills will be due long before any state or federal grant funds are received.
The Region 24 emergency manager said the Fairfield Creek Fire is contained, while work continues on the Wentworth Fire in southeastern Keya Paha County.
"There will be more air drops there today," Fox said. "Hot shot crews are being sent into the fire's perimeter to down trees and create fire lines within the hot areas of the fire.
"The members of those crews are from all over the country," Fox said. "They have done a lot of work taking down trees inside the fire areas. Those guys have been a great asset."
Fox said, within the next couple days, he hopes to report that all three fires are completely contained.
To hear the complete report with Region 24 Emergency Manager Doug Fox from Thursday morning, click on the audio link below:
* Heineman says entire state focused on north central Nebraska efforts
(Posted 9 a.m. July 26, 2012)
Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman joined KBRB's Graig Kinzie
Thursday morning to discuss the effort statewide to support the firefighters and
volunteers in the area.
To hear the complete report with Gov. Heineman, click on the audio link below:
* UN-L Extension taking donations to help cattle producers affected by fires
(Posted 6:50 a.m. July 26, 2012)
North central Nebraska livestock producers have been hit
with a one-two punch -- drought and now fire. The extremely dry conditions,
coupled with a fire that is burning tens of thousands of acres of pasture land,
have caused a disaster of major proportions.
The fire has consumed hundreds of miles of permanent fence, along with what little summer grass was left for several thousand cows and calves to feed on. The fences that have been destroyed will have to be rebuilt before grazing can resume next year, if weather conditions permit a good growing season.
The North Central Development Center in Ainsworth has set up a fund to take monetary donations to help with the cost of the fire. Tax-deductible donations can be mailed to the North Central Development Center at 335 N. Main St., Ainsworth, NE 69210.
Donations of wire and post may be delivered to the Farmers and Ranchers Co-op in Ainsworth, 224 S. Main St. The contact person is Plant Manager Rocky Sheehan at 402-387-2810.
Individuals who want to specify their donations to help with fencing materials and hay may send checks to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension office in Ainsworth. The mailing address is BKR Extension Office, 148 W. Fourth St., Ainsworth, NE 69210. Donations will be deposited into the NCDC Fire Relief Fund.
All funds collected will go to help those who have been affected by the fire. All needs will be taken from the fund, whether it is fencing, hay, feed for animals, personal needs of those impacted by the fire and help for fire departments that have responded to the distress.
For more information, contact the UN-L Extension Office in Ainsworth 1-800-634-8951 or e-mail email@example.com. The NCDC can be contacted at 402-387-2740 for more information.
* Red Cross has delivered more than 4,000 meals to firefighters, volunteers
(Posted 6:45 a.m. July 26, 2012)
Additional volunteers are supporting the relief efforts
in north central Nebraska. A total of 21 Red Cross volunteers and staff have
been supporting residents and the fire departments who are responding, including
four additional volunteers who deployed late Tuesday from northeast Nebraska.
Three emergency response vehicles have been on scene providing mobile feeding.
As responders continue to battle the blaze, the Red Cross is reaching out to those whose homes were affected. Case work volunteers are meeting with affected residents to provide food, shelter, comfort and care as needed. Residents affected by the wildfires are urged to call (888) 382-3790 to talk with one of the trained Red Cross volunteers.
Red Cross volunteers will continue to deliver prepared meals to seven fixed sites where responders can escape the intensity of the sun and flames to rehydrate and refuel. There are cots and volunteers there to assist those who are working to contain the fires. So far the Red Cross has served more than 4,000 meals and snacks both in the shelter and to the emergency responders on the front lines.
The Red Cross shelter remains open in the Ainsworth Community Schools facility at 520 E. Second St. in Ainsworth. More than 70 residents, responders and volunteers have stayed at the shelter where they find comfort and care from trained Red Cross Volunteers. Disaster workers in emergency response vehicles are circulating in and near affected areas, delivering water and food, supplies and comfort items. The Red Cross is working with community partners to provide support.
You can help people affected by disasters such as floods, tornadoes, fires and hurricanes, as well as countless crises at home and around the world, by making a donation to support American Red Cross Disaster Relief. To make a donation, visit www.redcross.org or call 1-800-REDCROSS (1-800-733-2767); people can also text the word “REDCROSS” to 90999 to make a $10 donation.
* Ainsworth fire chief close to declaring Fairfield Creek Fire contained
(Posted 7:15 p.m. July 25, 2012)
Ainsworth Fire Chief Brad Fiala, after six straight days of
battling wildfires, told KBRB's Graig Kinzie Wednesday evening he was close to
declaring the nearly 100,000-acre Fairfield Creek Fire contained.
"Everything on the south side of the Fairfield Creek Fire has been cold for more than 24 hours, so that is good," Fiala said. "We still have some hot spots west of Norden, but the Valentine crews are doing an excellent job getting that area mopped up."
Fiala said, even if fire officials declare the Fairfield Creek Fire closed soon, there will still be some hot spots along the entire corridor for days to come.
"Don't be too alarmed if you see some smoke for a few days," the Ainsworth fire chief said. "Even if something starts back up, it shouldn't go far. We are still going to be monitoring the area, so if you do see flames let us know."
Fiala said there was an all-out aerial assault today on the Wentworth and Hall fires in southeastern Keya Paha County.
"When I went out and visited the Wentworth Fire today, I didn't see any smoke to the east with the Hall Fire," Fiala said. "They really knocked that one down today."
Fiala said, after six straight days of fighting fire on little rest in demanding weather conditions and terrain, the volunteers are looking forward to getting back to their regular jobs.
"This is our sixth day, and it is still kind of a blur to me," the Plains Equipment employee said. "We need to get back to work and get back to our jobs. It will be nice to get back to our jobs just to get our mind on something different."
He said the costs incurred battling the fires by the area departments are going to be staggering.
"When you get 70, 80, 90 trucks going full bore all day and all night long, that fuel bill is going to be tremendous," Fiala said.
Fuel costs alone could reach the neighborhood of $150,000, and the fire chief said that might be a low estimate. He said the support from the communities, the entire state of Nebraska, and nationwide, is unbelievable, and the volunteers have a hard time putting it into words.
"We have said for years, this is why we live in the place we do," the Ainsworth fire chief said of the area's response. "The overwhelming support we have received has been remarkable."
The North Central Development Center has set up a fund to assist all the area fire departments fighting the Niobrara River valley fires and to assist those who have lost their homes. Checks can be mailed to the North Central Development Center at 335 N. Main St., Ainsworth, NE 69210. Mention the fire relief effort in the check's memo line. Donations will go to all of the area fire departments. All donations are tax deductible, as the North Central Development Center is a 501c3 non-profit organization.
To hear the complete Wednesday evening report with Ainsworth Fire Chief Brad Fiala, click on the audio link below:
* Communications infrastructure one of the key elements of firefighting efforts
(Posted 7 p.m. July 25, 2012)
With the massive effort of more than 40 local fire
departments, state of Nebraska resources, the Nebraska Army National Guard and
federal officials in the area combating the Fairfield Creek, Wentworth and Hall
fires, communications infrastructure was just one of the vital pieces needed to
coordinate the response.
Brian Delimont with Three River Communications discusses with KBRB's Graig Kinzie the communications needs of the various agencies. Click on the audio link below to hear the complete report:
(Photo courtesy of Cody Croghan)
Fire burns above the Niobrara River canyon on Monday as the Wentworth Fire in southeastern Keya Paha County jumped out of the river valley. Firefighters pushed the fire back into the canyon Monday night, then spent Tuesday combating a change in wind direction that sent the Wentworth Fire south toward the Niobrara River.
(Photo courtesy of Cody Croghan)
A Blackhawk helicopter hovers near a raging portion of the Wentworth Fire Monday afternoon in Keya Paha County. As of Wednesday evening, the Wentworth Fire had been contained to the canyons on the north side of the Niobrara River valley in southeastern Keya Paha County.
* KBRB's Larry Rice begins putting voices to the volunteer effort
(Posted 4:30 p.m. July 25, 2012)
With the KBRB one-man news team chasing down the latest information on the progress being made to combat the Fairfield Creek, Wentworth and Hall fires burning in Keya Paha, Brown and Cherry counties, former one-man news team Larry Rice is beginning a series highlighting just a few of the stories from the thousands of volunteers who have had an impact on the fire-fighting effort. The following audio report with a 7-year-old Pender boy is the first of that series.
* Fire halls appreciative of donations, cash for fuel bills needed at this point
(Posted noon July 25, 2012)
The Ainsworth, Springview and Bassett Fire halls are
reporting they have a substantial supply of water, food and sports drinks. With
the area departments racking up extremely expensive fuel bills, cash donations
are needed to help the area departments pay for those massive fuel costs. Fuel
bills for each department are in the tens of thousands of dollars. At last
report, the Springview Fire Department's fuel bill alone was more than $60,000.
Cash donations can be made to the fire halls in Brown, Rock, Keya Paha and Cherry counties. The North Central Development Center has set up a fund to assist all the area fire departments fighting the Niobrara River valley fires and to assist those who have lost their homes.
Checks can be mailed to the North Central Development Center at 335 N. Main St., Ainsworth, NE 69210. Mention the fire relief effort in the check's memo line. Donations will go to all of the area fire departments. All donations are cash deductible, as the North Central Development Center is a 501c3 non-profit organization.
The volunteers working in all of the area fire halls thank all those who have made a donation and volunteered to help. The support has been phenomenal. From the firefighters on the front lines to the volunteers in the fire halls and those helping the Red Cross purchase and prepare meals, thank you to everyone who has helped provide support.
Your help will continue to be needed when the fires are extinguished, as the costs to these small departments will otherwise be monumental.
* Nebraska Emergency Management Agency Update
(Posted 11:30 a.m. July 25, 2012)
Effective at 6 a.m. Wednesday the Fairfield Creek, Wentworth and Hall fires were combined and renamed the Region 24 Complex. The incident will continue to be managed by local units with the Rocky Mountain Type 2 Incident Management Team B providing assistance and coordination.
On Tuesday, Gov. Dave Heineman visited the fire and affected communities. “I’m very impressed with the interagency coordination,” he said. “I’d like to express my personal gratitude to the firefighters and especially all the volunteers working the incident.”
In spite of the extreme fire weather yesterday, good progress was made on all three fires. Crews were successful in constructing and securing line along several sections of the fires.
With the projected cooler temperatures and higher relative humidity expected today Todd Pechota, the commander for the Rocky Mountain team, said he is optimistic that they might have turned the corner on this incident. “However, it’s not over yet - one shift of the wind and we could be off to the races again,” Pechota said.
According to Doug Fox, Region 24 Emergency Management Director, “We currently have sufficient resources on the incident. If additional resources are needed local fire chiefs will put out a call for assistance.”
A cold front moved through the area last night bringing cooler temperatures and higher relative humidity. Combined with winds out of the north-northwest, this will help moderate fire behavior.
Additional air resources are expected on the fire today. They include six heavy-lift helicopters (three Black Hawks, a K-max, a Sky Crane, and a Boeing Vertol) for a total of eight helicopters. Another K-Max is en route to the complex today. Break-out by division:
Division A (Fairfield Fire): Continue to improve and hold fire line.
Division C (Fairfield Fire): Continue to hold and improve line. Provide structure protection.
Division E (Fairfield Fire): Continue to hold and improve line. Provide structure protection.
Division H (Fairfield Fire): Continue to hold and improve line. Provide structure protection.
Division O (Wentworth Fire): Secure line and provide structure protection.
Division M (Wentworth Fire): Construct and improve line along Hwy 7. Provide structure protection.
Division X (Hall Fire): Hold and and improve line. Provide structure protection.
Division Z (Hall Fire): Hold and improve line.
Volunteer evacuations are still in place for Meadville.
Niobrara River is closed for recreational use between County Line and Brewer bridges.
Fire stats at a glance:
Start Date: July 20, 2012
Containment: 25 percent
Acreage: 72,405 total (Fairfield 66,745; Wentworth, 3,278; Hall, 2,382)
Personnel: 321, plus approximately 80 Rural Fire Department personnel
Aviation : Six Heavy-lift helicopters, one medium, and one light.
Engines: 30, plus 40 Rural Fire Department engines
Injuries: 3 (minor)
Structures destroyed: 10 and associated outbuildings
Structures/outbuildings threatened: 128
* Firefighters making progress in difficult terrain
(Posted 10:45 a.m. July 25, 2012)
Anyone who claims Nebraska is nothing but flat land needs
to spend a day in the shoes of the firefighters who have been fighting raging
wildfires in the Niobrara River Valley since Friday.
The steep, wooded terrain in the canyons on both sides of the Niobrara River have proved to be a difficult opponent for the fire crews. Heavy equipment from the Nebraska Department of Roads and private contractors who have volunteered to assist the effort have been working to knock down trees and clear paths into areas otherwise not accessible. That equipment is also being used to create the fire lines, which have helped stall the fires' progress in several areas.
Ainsworth Firefighter Nate Rau said he has been working west end of Fairfield Creek and west of Norden, an area where on Tuesday fire officials concentrated their efforts to keep the Fairfield Creek Fire from breaking a fire line and burning unabated to the west.
"We have been doing our best to make sure it doesn't get any farther west," Rau told KBRB Radio's Graig Kinzie Wednesday morning at the Ainsworth Fire Hall while awaiting orders on where he would be deployed. "It is rough. There is no way to get two-wheel trucks in there."
Rau said, though not working frequently in areas where aerial drops have been made, he has seen their impact.
"They have been helping," Rau said. "We had one Saturday morning drop about right on me, and that cooled me off quite a bit."
To hear the complete report with Ainsworth Firefighter Nate Rau, click on the audio link below:
* Wednesday efforts to focus on Wentworth, Hall fires
(Posted 10 a.m. July 25, 2012)
Region 24 Emergency Manager Doug Fox said progress
continues to be made in containing the Fairfield Creek Fire burning in southwest
Keya Paha, northwestern Brown and eastern Cherry counties.
Fire officials are focusing their efforts Wednesday on the Wentworth and Hall fires burning in southeastern Keya Paha County.
"Additional ground units are being moved east to assist with the Hall and Wentworth fires," Fox told KBRB Radio's Graig Kinzie Wednesday morning. "There is a concern that both of those fires could jump the Niobrara River to the south, but the federal officials are confident the aerial drops can keep the fire contained to north of the river."
Springview Fire Chief Scott Hallock said firefighters on the front lines of the Wentworth and Hall fires had another exhausting night, first keeping the fire from jumping out of the canyons to the north, then watching as the wind shifted to the north and fires began blazing a new path to the south.
"There is just no way for the ground forces to get in front of it to the south," Hallock said. "The Wentworth Fire is in some very deep canyons. We don't have a way to contain it after the wind shifted."
Hallock said the Niobrara River will be used as the southern containment line for the fires, and additional crews are massing to create fire breaks to try and keep the fires from moving east and threatening additional homes.
Fox said at least nine aircraft will be focused on dropping water and fire retardant on the Hall and Wentworth fires.
As for the Fairfield Creek Fire, Fox reported containment continues to progress, and firefighters made significant progress on the fire's southwest, northwest and southeast boundaries.
"With the resources going to the east today, I am fairly optimistic that in the next few days we can get these fires to the point of being mop-up situations and we can get the job finished," Fox said.
To hear the complete Wednesday morning reports with Region 24 Emergency Manager Doug Fox and Springview Fire Chief Scott Hallock, click on the audio links below:
(Photo courtesy of Emily Estes of Stuart)
A C-130 tanker drops flame retardant on a fire burning Tuesday afternoon in the Niobrara River canyon. Firefighters pushed the flames back into the canyon in an attempt to protect Greg Bammerlin's home in southeastern Keya Paha County threatened by the Hall Fire.
(Photo courtesy of Emily Estes of Stuart)
Firefighters from Keya Paha County and several other assisting departments work to save Greg Bammerlin's home in southeastern Keya Paha County Tuesday afternoon as the Hall Fire moves north out of the Niobrara River canyons.
(Aerial photos of the Fairfield Creek Fire courtesy of Jeff Biermann, Omaha-World Herald)
The Fairfield Creek fire burns the bluffs on the north side of the Niobrara River in Keya Paha County on Monday.
(Jeff Biermann, Omaha-World Herald)
The Fairfield Creek fire, which jumped Nebraska Highway 12 Monday and moved north into the grasslands of Keya Paha County. Firefighters stopped the fire.
(Jeff Biermann, Omaha-World Herald)
Sgt. Richard Shearer of the Nebraska National Guard watches for their target for their bucket of water as the Blackhawk helicopter fights the Fairfield Creek fire.
(Jeff Biermann, Omaha-World Herald)
The Fairfield Creek fire north of Nebraska Highway 12 on Monday. Firefighters stopped the fire from continuing north, but 150 acres burned and a home was lost north of Highway 12.
To view Biermann's photo gallery taken from a Blackhawk
helicopter above the Fairfield Creek Fire, click on the following link:
* Fiala reports major progress Tuesday on Fairfield Creek Fire
(Posted 9 p.m. July 24, 2012)
Sounding optimistic for the first time since the Fairfield
Creek Fire ignited Friday morning, Ainsworth Fire Chief Brad Fiala reported
major progress was made on all fronts Tuesday despite another day of extreme
heat and south winds.
Fiala said substantial progress was made on the south side of the Niobrara River in the Plum Creek and Meadville areas.
"A large effort was focused on knocking down the flames there because of concerns with the wind possible shifting to the north later tonight," Fiala told KBRB's Graig Kinzie Tuesday evening.
The fire chief said there are still several hotspots north of Norden, southeast of the community of Sparks. On Monday night, fire officials were concerned that Sparks could be in the path of the fire if it continued to progress to the northwest Tuesday.
"We had some large flare-ups there, but we had two Blackhawk helicopters and one Huey dumping from the air," Fiala said. "We made a lot of progress in that area today."
Fiala said, with the number of volunteer crews who have responded to the area to help with the three fires burning in the Niobrara River valley, the Ainsworth crew was going to be pulled off the fire for a night of rest and to allow the department's equipment to be checked and serviced if needed.
"Some other departments have had some equipment problems, so we are pulling everyone off the fire tonight and giving them a night of rest," Fiala said. "We'll get our trucks checked out and hit it hard again tomorrow.
To hear the complete report Tuesday evening with Ainsworth Fire Chief Brad Fiala, click on the audio link below:
* Heineman hopeful containment of the fires is progressing
(Posted 7 p.m. July 24, 2012)
After visiting Ainsworth, Springview and Norden Tuesday and
hearing a briefing from Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team officials,
Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman said he is hopeful meaningful progress is being made
in combating the three major fires burning in Brown, Keya Paha and Cherry
"My sense is we are on the verge of making some significant progress to contain the fires, and that would certainly be very good news for all of us," Heineman told KBRB's Graig Kinzie Tuesday evening. "I am pleased to see all the federal, state and local forces working together."
Heineman said the volunteer spirit and effort being displayed in north central Nebraska makes him proud.
"We are in a much stronger position today trying to contain the fires," Heineman said. "I can see we are making progress, but the weather still makes you nervous."
Heineman said the state's focus will remain on assisting the volunteer fire departments in the area until the fires are completely under control.
To hear the complete report with Gov. Dave Heineman from his Tuesday evening conversation with KBRB, click on the audio link below:
* North central Nebraska not the only area dealing with fires
(Posted 6 p.m. July 24, 2012)
Hot, dry weather and stronger western winds helped Ash Creek Fire jump a line and grow to approximately 1,000 acres and 20 percent containment, compared to this morning’s 300 acres and 25 percent containment.
Steve Lenzo, deputy forest supervisor, said, “We ordered a Type 2 Incident Management Team that is expected to arrive tomorrow by mid-afternoon. At this time there have been no evacuations or structures lost. There was one injury.”
Most of the fire growth is attributed to weather, especially shifting western winds. Additionally, fire crews’ efforts are hindered by steep ravines and rugged terrain.
The Ash Creek fire started from a Saturday late night lightning storm in the Pine Ridge National Recreation Area approximately 20 miles southwest of Chadron.
* Hallock reports Wentworth, Hall fires flaring, but firefighters keeping up
(Posted 5:30 p.m. July 24, 2012)
Springview Fire Chief Scott Hallock told KBRB Radio late
Tuesday afternoon the Wentworth and Hall fires burning in southeastern Keya Paha
County are again trying to climb out of the Niobrara River Canyons, jump fire
lines and move north, but firefighters have been able to get the fires put out
before they gain much steam north of the fire lines that have been built.
Hallock said additional manpower and equipment is on scene at the Wentworth and Hall fires today, helping to keep both fires from gaining momentum.
Federal officials are anticipating a wind change Tuesday night, with winds expected to move from southerly to northerly. While Hallock said crews are prepared to combat them if the flames move south, having the fire move back onto ground that has already burned may help firefighters gain even more grounds.
For the complete report from 5 p.m. Tuesday with Springview Fire Chief Scott Hallock, click on the audio link below:
* Nebraska Emergency Management Agency provides map of fires
(Posted 4:45 p.m. July 24, 2012)
Map provided by the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency
(A larger copy of the map can be emailed by providing a
return email address to firstname.lastname@example.org, but
will be forwarded only as staff time allows)
With the Niobrara River dissecting it, the large orange area on the left is the Fairfield Creek Fire, which is burning in Brown, Keya Paha and Cherry counties on both sides of the Niobrara River. That fire started Friday morning in northern Brown County from a lightning strike. The western edge of the fire is the prime concern for firefighters today, as they are trying to keep the fire east of the fire breaks that have been created along the river valley.
The area jutting to the northern end of the fire area represents the ground that was burned Monday evening after the fire broke the containment line north of Highway 12 approximately 3 miles west of Cub Creek. A home was destroyed when the fire broke north of Highway 12 before firefighters could get it stopped. Approximately 150 acres burned north of Highway 12.
The center orange area represents the scope of the Wentworth Fire in southeastern Keya Paha County. After starting from a lightning strike Saturday, the fire raced to the north Monday afternoon before being pushed back by firefighters into the Niobrara River canyons Monday night.
The far right orange area is the Hall Fire burning in southeastern Keya Paha County. That fire started on Monday and moved quickly to the north, fueled by south winds gusting to 25 mph. Firefighters were able to halt the progress of the Wentworth and Hall fires before any homes were lost.
* Red Cross serving 1,800 meals per day to firefighters, volunteers; donations of cash, bananas, snack mixes and beef jerky sought
(Posted 4:30 p.m. July 24, 2012)
Mindy Mangus, the disaster services manager with the
Central Plains Chapter of the American Red Cross, said volunteers with the Red
Cross are cooking and serving as many as 1,800 meals daily to assist the
firefighters and volunteers working in Brown, Keya Paha and Cherry counties.
Mangus told KBRB's Graig Kinzie Tuesday the Red Cross is delivering meals to 10 staging areas near the front line of the fires, and volunteers are preparing as many as 600 meals per meal from their location at Ainsworth Community Schools.
Mangus said the communities have been very welcoming and appreciative of the Red Cross, and the volunteer support has been tremendous.
She said, in addition to cash donations to help support the 100 percent volunteer effort, the Red Cross can use bananas, Chex Mix, peanuts, and snack items such as beef jerky that are sent out with the prepared meals. Those items can be delivered to Ainsworth Community Schools.
The work of the Red Cross is completely voluntary, and free of charge for those receiving its services. Red Cross operations are paid for through the generosity of the American public.
For the complete report with Mindy Mangus, click on the audio report below:
* Southern Baptist Disaster Relief Team volunteers preparing 1,800 meals daily
(Posted 4:30 p.m. July 24, 2012)
Andrew Lee of North Platte is one of the 17 volunteers from
the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief Team assisting the American Red Cross by
cooking meals at Ainsworth Community Schools for the firefighters battling the
fires burning in the area and the volunteers working to help support the
Lee said the Southern Baptist team volunteers have been welcomed warmly to the area, and are working hard to provide the firefighters and volunteers with the energy they need to sustain their effort.
For the complete report with Andrew Lee from the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief Team, click on the audio link below:
* Johanns says he will pursue additional federal resources if needed
(Posted 2:45 p.m. July 24, 2012)
U.S. Sen. Mike Johanns said on Tuesday he is monitoring
the fires burning in the Niobrara River Valley, and will pursue additional
federal resources for the area if needed.
“This summer’s drought has adversely affected nearly every Nebraskan and is now exacerbating the wildfires in the Niobrara River Valley,” Johanns said. “My thoughts are with those who have been displaced, who have lost homes, or whose livelihoods are being threatened. I also want to join every Nebraskan in thanking the firefighters, National Guard and other emergency responders for their dedicated, tireless service as they work to extinguish this blaze.
“I am closely monitoring the situation and in contact with the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency and county officials. If additional federal assistance is required, I’m ready to ensure that aid is delivered quickly and efficiently.”
* Officials provide Gov. Heineman with an update on fire progress
(Posted 2:30 p.m. July 24, 2012)
Officials with the Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team
provided Gov. Dave Heineman and Nebraska Emergency Management Agency officials
with an update on the three fires burning in Brown, Keya Paha and Cherry
Officials said the priority for fire officials today is the western lines of the Fairfield Creek Fire. A substantial effort is being made to stop the western progress of the fire, which has entered Cherry County west of the Rocky Ford area.
With fire crews launching a massive effort to create fire breaks in that area, if the fire jumps those breaks and continues west, it will be extremely difficult to contain.
Heineman said any state resources needed will be available to combat the three fires burning in the Niobrara River valley.
"We don't want these fires going on for another two or three weeks," Heineman said. "With the conditions we have across the state, we could see more and more fires spring up."
Heineman asked about a realistic estimate for having the fires brought under control.
"I know that is hard a question to answer at this point, but do you have any sense on when you can say it is contained?" Heineman asked.
The Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team officials indicated, unless the fires erupted again Tuesday afternoon and evening and broke out past the fire lines, that the fires could be contained in approximately three days, though they said there are still several factors that could alter that timeline.
Officials estimated the containment of the Fairfield Creek Fire at 15 percent on Tuesday, though they said they hoped that percentage would go up by nightfall.
Region 24 Emergency Manager Doug Fox said there are an additional 22 to 24 pieces of fire equipment moving into the area today from surrounding volunteer departments.
"That is going to allow some of these departments that have been up here for a while to rotate back out," Fox said.
Though costs of the federal and state resources used in the fire-fighting effort were briefly discussed, Heineman said the first priority was getting the fires controlled.
Following the briefing, Heineman toured the Norden area to see first-hand the damage caused by the Fairfield Creek Fire as it moved through that community on Friday night.
Following a tour of the area today, Heineman will appear on KBRB to talk about the firefighting efforts and the state and federal response.
* Nebraska Emergency Management Agency Tuesday fire report, statistics
(Posted 12:50 p.m. July 24, 2012)
“We will coordinate and integrate efforts with local, state and federal resources to be effective as possible,” said Incident Commander Todd Pechota at this morning’s briefing. “The Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team 2B is interagency, comprised of state and local resources, as well as federal. Our role is to assist and coordinate state and local fire management.”
Hot, dry conditions are expected for another day at the Fairfield Creek, Wentworth fire and Hall fires in north central Nebraska close to the Niobrara River. A total of approximately 65,580 acres have burned.
The Fairfield fire is approximately 58,560 acres and straddles the river. The Wentworth fire is 20 miles east of the Fairfield Creek fire and 3 miles north of the river. It is estimated at 2,595 acres.
A new fire started yesterday approximately 6 miles east of the current Wentworth fire and 3 miles north of the river. It has been labeled the Hall Fire and was estimated at 1,425 in size. Both the Wentworth and Hall fires are east of Springview.
For most of Tuesday hot and dry weather is expected. A heat advisory is in effect until 9 p.m. on Tuesday and a Red Flag Warning is in effect for winds and low relative humidity. Late afternoon severe weather with high winds is forecast with the potential to affect fire behavior.
Work continues on the four divisions of the Fairfield Creek fire:
Division A (southwest) Cherry County Fire District—continue to establish and hold line.
Division C (northwest): Springview Fire District, Keya Paha County--hold line and burn-out where possible to bring defensible line down to the river.
Division E (northeast): Springview Fire District, Keya Paha County—anchor line at the river, hold, improve and secure spot that crossed Highway 12.
Division H (southeast): Ainsworth Fire District, Brown County—construct a direct hand line toward the southwest.
Four Helicopters and Two Air Tactical Platforms will continue to assist ground crews in achieving containment goals.
Fire retardant drops may be available.
Road blocks will be in place on Highway 12. Motorists are asked to find alternate travel routes. The Meadville Avenue and Norden Road are also closed to traffic.
Volunteer evacuations are still in place for Meadville.
Niobrara River is closed for recreational use between County Line and Brewer bridges.
Fire stats at a glance:
Start Date: July 20, 2012
Acreage: 65,580 total
Aviation : (3) Type (1) National Guard Black Hawks, and 1 Type 2
Injuries: 3 (minor)
Structures destroyed: 10 and associated outbuildings
Structures/outbuildings threatened: 80
* North Central Development Center has established a Pay Pal account for funds to support fire departments
(Posted 11:30 a.m. July 24, 2012)
The North Central Development Center has established an
online Pay Pal account that allows those who would like to donate funds to
support the firefighters fighting the Fairfield Creek, Wentworth and Hall fires.
Go to Facebook and like the North Central Development Center. A link to the Pay Pal account can be found on the NCDC Facebook page.
For those not on Facebook, make checks payable to the North Central Development Center, 335 N. Main St., Ainsworth, NE 69210. Write fire relief on the check.
All donations are tax deductible, and 100 percent of the money donated will be used to support the firefighting efforts and support the victims who have lost their homes.
* Springview fire chief says Wentworth, Hall fires pushed back into Niobrara River canyons, 1 home lost west of Springview when fire jumped Highway 12
(Posted 11:15 a.m. July 24, 2012)
Springview Fire Chief Scott Hallock said crews worked
through the night to push back the Wentworth and Hall fires southeast of
Springview that raced north Monday afternoon fueled by the heat and strong south
"We have both those fires contained to the canyons, but they could flare up again today with the wind," Hallock reported at 11 a.m. Tuesday from the Springview Fire Hall.
Hallock said the Wentworth and Hall fires were kept clear of homes in southeastern Keya Paha County, but one home west of Springview was damaged Monday evening when the Fairfield Creek fire jumped the northern containment at Highway 12 approximately 3 miles west of Cub Creek, 6 miles west of Springview.
Hallock praised the volunteers working in the Springview Fire Hall to keep the front lines supplied with water and food.
"They were making food and water runs out to the guys at 3 and 4 a.m. this morning," Hallock said.
He reported federal forces were assisting with the Hall and Wentworth fires, and fire lines would continue to be created with some back-burning to try and keep the fires from moving north rapidly if they again move up out of the river canyons.
To hear the complete report with the Springview fire chief, click on the audio link below:
* Susan Ford with the Rocky Mountain Incident Management team checks in with an update on the fire response efforts
(Posted 10:45 a.m. July 24)
* Firefighters describe conditions at the front line of the fires
(Posted 9:30 a.m. July 24, 2012)
Ainsworth Volunteer Firefighter Brandon Evans said he has
never seen anything like the fire burning in the Niobrara River valley.
It is unbelievable," Evans told KBRB's Graig Kinzie Tuesday morning as his crew was getting its marching orders and preparing to head back out for another day on the fire lines. "I never imagined something like this could happen. I hope we never see anything like it again."
Evans said the crews are basically trying to surround the Niobrara River valley and put out fires as they jump out of the canyons.
"We have seen fire moving at more than 60 mph," Evans said.
Ainsworth Firefighter Jeff Keezer said his crew was out 32 hours straight from the time the Fairfield Creek Fire ignited Friday morning north of Johnstown until they grabbed a break Saturday morning.
"After we got a little break, we went back out for another 24 hours," Keezer said.
Keezer said trying to get ahead of the flames when they break out of the canyons is not an easy task for the crews on the front line.
"When it breaks out, you are moving fast and driving hard over some very rough terrain," Keezer said.
To hear the complete report with the firefighters, click on the audio link below:
* Region 24 manager says crews made progress overnight, another tough day ahead
(Posted 9:15 a.m. July 24, 2012)
Region 24 Emergency Manager Doug Fox told KBRB Tuesday
morning progress was made overnight to push the numerous fires burning in Brown,
Keya Paha and Cherry counties back into the Niobrara River basin after gusting
south winds Monday caused the fire to break out at several locations.
Fox said the Wentworth Fire exploded Monday, but crews there pushed it back south into the canyons and are now working on fire lines in anticipation of strong south winds again today.
Fires continue to burn in several locations. He said the western edge of the Fairfield Creek fire was still burning west of Norden in the Rocky Ford area, and fires were still burning on both the north and south sides of the Niobrara River.
The hear the complete report Tuesday with the Region 24 emergency manager, click on the audio link below:
* Ainsworth fire chief says ground units struggling to keep up with fires; asks Sparks residents to be on alert in case fire continues west
(Posted 9:15 p.m. July 23, 2012)
Ainsworth Fire Chief Brad Fiala says the 300 to 400 fire
personnel are doing their best to knock down fires that are flaring to the north
out of the Niobrara River valley at numerous locations, pushed by gusting south
winds and extreme heat on Monday.
Fiala said the Fairfield Creek Fire's western edge is burning rapidly, and the small community of Sparks should be on notice that an evacuation may be necessary on Tuesday if the fire continues on its current path.
"Today, the aerial units were giving the ground forces their only chance to keep up," Fiala said. "If we can keep the wind down on Tuesday, we might be able to get on top of it a little."
During the late afternoon hours Monday, a portion of the Fairfield Creek Fire broke the northern containment line on Highway 12 approximately 3 miles west of Cub Creek.
"It burned about 150 acres north of Highway 12, but the fire resources in that area got it knocked down," Fiala said. "It would have been a huge fire in that terrain if had kept burning north, and there would have been no place to stop it."
Fiala also commended the work of the crews that battled the Wentworth and Hall fires in southeastern Keya Paha County on Monday afternoon.
"The Wentworth Fire blew up in the early afternoon hours," the Ainsworth fire chief said. "Those guys were working really hard to slow that fire down."
For the complete Monday night report with Ainsworth Fire Chief Brad Fiala, click on the audio link below.
* Fairfield Creek Fire reportedly crosses Highway 12 west of Springview
(Posted 5:45 p.m. July 23, 2012)
KBRB has received reports that a portion of the Fairfield
Creek Fire has moved across Highway 12 west of Springview, which had been the
northern boundary of the fire that has been burning since Friday morning.
The fire reportedly jumped the highway approximately three miles west of Cub Creek.
Firefighters are continuing to battle extreme weather conditions in addition to the fires, and are working to try and keep the flames from breaking free to the north of the river valley in several areas.
KBRB will try and bring listeners an evening update on the status of the Fairfield Creek, Wentworth and Hall fires.
* Area departments trying to head off fires in southeastern Keya Paha County
(Posted 5 p.m. July 23, 2012)
Springview Fire Chief Scott Hallock said crews in
southeastern Keya Paha County are struggling to slow down the Wentworth Fire and
the Hall Fire that have jumped out of the Niobrara River valley and are being
pushed northwest by the wind.
Hallock said the Wentworth Fire is now eight miles southeast of Springview, moving to the northeast, and the Hall Fire is located farther east in southeastern Keya Paha County.
Hallock said getting enough water to the fire crews is a big issue at this point, as tankers are doing their best to keep up with demand. Firefighters on the ground are also trying to coordinate with one of the Blackhawk helicopters being used to drop water from the air.
For the complete report with Springview Fire Chief Scott Hallock, click on the audio link below:
* Firefighter and EMT Ann Fiala discusses the volunteer effort
(Posted 4:45 p.m. July 23, 2012)
Ann Fiala, a firefighter and Emergency Medical Technician
who is helping to coordinate the volunteers assisting the front lines with food
and water, told KBRB Monday afternoon she continues to be overwhelmed by the way
the communities have come together to support the firefighting effort.
For the full report with Fiala, including how to assist the volunteer effort, click on the audio link below:
* Fox reports 3 fires jumping out of Niobrara canyons fueled by dry, south winds
(Posted 4 p.m. July 23, 2012)
In addition to the Wentworth Fire in southeastern Keya Paha
County that has jumped out of the Niobrara River basin and is moving northeast,
Region 24 Emergency Manager Doug Fox said a new fire, being referred to as the
Hall Fire, is now burning in southeastern Keya Paha County east of the Wentworth
Fire, and a third fire has jumped out of the river canyons in western Keya Paha
County. These flare-ups are in addition to the large Fairfield Creek Fire that
continues to burn in the river canyons in northwestern Brown and southwestern
Keya Paha counties.
To listen to the full report with Region 24 Emergency Manager Doug Fox, click on the audio link below:
* Wentworth Fire southeast of Springview breaks containment, heading northeast
(Posted 2:15 p.m. July 23, 2012)
During the late morning and early afternoon hours on
Monday, the fire burning in southeastern Keya Paha County known as the Wentworth
Fire broke containment in the Niobrara River basin canyon area and is now moving
over open ground to the northeast.
Springview Fire Chief Scott Hallock said the fire is moving quickly, and personnel from several departments are en route to try and get ahead of the fire as it moves to the northeast.
Hallock said, if its present direction holds, the fire should miss Burton, but it could move close to that community if the departments cannot get it slowed down.
Residents potentially in the fire's path have been notified. Temperatures at 2 p.m. were already 104 degrees and climbing, with south winds at 16 gusting to 25 mph.
To hear the full report with Springview Fire Chief Scott Hallock, click on the audio link below:
* Federal team coordinating firefighting efforts from conference center
(Posted 11:30 a.m. July 23, 2012)
The Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team 2 Bravo has set
up in the Ainsworth Conference Center to help coordinate firefighting efforts on
the Fairfield Creek Fire. This is the third wildland fire to which the team has
been deployed during 2012.
KBRB's Graig Kinzie spoke with Susan Ford, the team's public information officer, Monday in the conference center.
Ford said aerial infrared data shows the southwestern and southeastern edges of the Fairfield Creek Fire are continuing to burn at a very high temperature. She said their aerial surveillance of the fire showed it had burned approximately 50,000 acres. Estimates have ranged from 50,000 to 100,000 acres that have burned since the fire started Friday morning in the Fairfield Creek area.
To hear the complete report with Ford, click on the audio link below:
* Meadville Avenue, Norden Road, Highway 12 remain closed
(Posted 10 a.m. July 23, 2012)
Brown County Sheriff Bruce Papstein reported Monday morning
to KBRB that the Norden Road and Meadville Avenue in both Brown and Keya Paha
counties, and Highway 12 in Keya Paha County remain closed to traffic.
Papstein said, with fire equipment traveling the narrow roads, other vehicle traffic is prohibited. He warned people to stay away from the area. Law enforcement officials have had to warn several motorists to turn around who were trying to make their way toward the Niobrara River for a closer look at the fire.
To hear the complete report with Sheriff Papstein, click on the audio link below:
* Fox reports another home lost Sunday night, 1 feared lost found still standing
(Posted 8:30 a.m. July 23, 2012)
Region 24 Emergency Manager Doug Fox said he plans to tour
the area to assess the damage from the Fairfield Creek Fire, which has been
burning since Friday morning in northwestern Brown County and southwestern Keya
More than 100,000 acres have burned. Fox said six homes have been lost to the fire. One home feared lost in the Norden area was found still intact with only the outbuildings burned. That home was one of several in the Norden area that were saved from destruction, though others were lost.
However, Fox said the fire again jumped the Niobrara River to the south, where it destroyed a home in the Fairfield Creek area Sunday night. He said the fire is moving quickly west, and is now burning several miles west of Norden. Another finger of the fire is burning in the Rocky Ford area of Cherry County.
Fox said the wind will be the main factor on Monday, and could cause additional problems. He said the backfire efforts west of Meadville has stopped the fire for the time being from moving east. Those backfires were set approximately five miles west of Meadville to remove the dry vegetation on which the fire is feeding.
The fire is still burning in Brown County south of the Niobrara River, and is currently west of the old Plum Creek dam.
To hear the complete report from Monday morning with the Region 24 emergency manager, click on the audio link below:
* Heineman reports state assets being brought to bear on Fairfield Creek Fire
(Posted 8:30 a.m. July 23, 2012)
Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman told KBRB Monday morning state
and federal resources have been brought in to assist with the effort to contain
the Fairfield Creek Fire.
Heineman said a federal incident management team has taken control of the coordination of the firefighting efforts. He said the federal team has extensive experience in fighting wildland fires.
To hear the full report with Gov. Heineman, click on the audio link below:
* Fairfield Creek Fire 50 percent contained, but tentative with Monday winds expected; 6 homes lost thus far
(Posted 8:30 p.m. July 22, 2012)
In a report with KBRB's Graig Kinzie Sunday evening, Region
24 Emergency Manager Doug Fox estimated the Fairfield Creek Fire was 50 percent
contained, though that figure could easily change Monday as southwest winds are
forecast at 10-20 and gusting to 30 mph.
Fox said six homes have been destroyed by the fire since it started Friday morning north of Johnstown from a lightning strike. The fire tore through the Norden area Friday, but Fox said some homes have been saved in that area.
As of Sunday evening, the western edge of the fire was the most aggressive, burning rapidly west of Norden and potentially endangering three homes. Fire breaks burned Sunday west of Meadville have helped slow the eastern movement of the fire and protect the Meadville area for another day. The northern edge of the zone remains at Highway 12, and the southern edge of the fire continues to jump south of the Niobrara River.
Fox said the fire that started in southeastern Keya Paha County Saturday evening due to a lightning strike has been contained to the river canyons. No homes have been lost in that fire.
For the complete report Sunday with Region 24 Manager Doug Fox, click on the link below:
* Updated information from the American Red Cross
(Posted July 22, 2012)
KBRB's Graig Kinzie spoke with Red Cross volunteer Susan
Epps Sunday on the activities of the organization, which has set up a shelter at
Ainsworth Community Schools to aid firefighters and those who have been
displaced by the Fairfield Creek Fire.
Also, Ainsworth Fire Hall volunteers reported they now have a sufficient number of coolers to transport water to the front lines of the fire. They again thank everyone who has made donations to the firefighting effort.
To hear the full report with Susan Epps of the Red Cross, click on the link below:
* NCDC setting up online avenue to assist firefighting effort
(Posted July 22, 2012)
The North Central Development
Center is in the process of setting up an online shopping cart for all of the
local departments and those who have been impacted by the fire.
All donations will be tax-deductible. Anyone who would like to help with the effort can go online to donate to the departments. As soon as everything is set up, more information will be posted. Items the departments have requested include an ice truck, supplies and items for the families who have lost their home. The North Central Development Center thanks everyone who is supporting the effort to control the Fairfield Creek Fire.
* Fiala reports fire still threatening Meadville area, impossible to control
(Posted July 22, 2012)
Ainsworth Fire Chief Brad Fiala said two Ainsworth
firefighters were injured while working on the front lines of the Fairfield
Creek Fire on Saturday. Both firefighters were injured while working on the fire
lines. They were taken to the Cherry County Hospital, where they were treated
Fiala said the difficult terrain and the high level of fuel in the Niobrara River valley are making the fire almost impossible to slow down. Fiala said a large amount of resources are being utilized to protect Meadville. He said C-130 tankers are being flown into the area dropping fire retardant, and three Blackhawk helicopters are taking water from area dams and dropping it in certain areas.
Fire lines are in the vicinity of the Coleman Creek canyon west of Norden on the fire's western front, west of Meadville on the eastern front, Highway 12 on its northern boundary, and just south of the Niobrara River on its southern boundary.
Winds are not expected to blow at more than 10 to 15 mph for the remainder of Sunday, and will generally be from the northwest. However, on Monday, winds are expected out of the south at 15-20 mph with gusts to 30 mph.
To hear the full report from Fire Chief Fiala, click on the link below:
* Heineman activates Emergency Operations Plan; 3 Blackhawk helicopters dropping water on Fairfield Creek Fire
(Posted July 22, 2012)
Gov. Dave Heineman has activated the State Emergency Operations Plan in response to the fire emergency in Brown and Keya Paha Counties. Saturday, Heineman surveyed firsthand the affected areas in north central Nebraska and met with local responders in Ainsworth, Long Pine and Norden.
“I am continually impressed with the hard work of Nebraskans in difficult situations,” Heineman said. “The local communities are working very hard and are supportive of the efforts of local responders and firefighters, including providing aid in the forms of food and water. We will continue to work closely together as we fight these fires.”
The Nebraska National Guard continues to mobilize available resources as the response grows. This includes the mobilization of three Nebraska Army National Guard UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters equipped with “Bambi buckets” and approximately 28 personnel to provide support to local firefighters fighting a wildfire in Keya Paha and Brown Counties at the request of the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency. The helicopters are equipped with “Bambi buckets” which can scoop water from local sources and place the water where needed by ground firefighters.
The Nebraska National Guard is also preparing to send up to 35 additional ground, red-card certified Nebraska National Guardsmen to support local firefighters if needed.
Resources from the Nebraska State Patrol, Nebraska Department of Roads, the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency and the State Fire Marshal’s Office are also responding to the emergency.
At the beginning of this month, Heineman authorized an emergency declaration for statewide drought and fires that allows state personnel and resources to assist with emergency situations and prevention, and allows maximum flexibility to the state to deploy Nebraska National Guard and Nebraska Emergency Management Agency assets and resources as needed.
The governor and the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency will continue to monitor the situation throughout the state, as the drought continues.
* Gov. Heineman reports additional state resources on the way to battle fire
(Posted July 21, 2012)
Calling in Saturday evening to KBRB, Nebraska Gov. Dave
Heineman said two additional Blackhawk helicopters and members of the Nebraska
National Guard would be in the area Sunday to help combat the Fairfield Creek
Fire, which as of Saturday evening had burned to within four miles west of
Heineman said the state of Nebraska has declared a state of emergency to allow for the use of additional state and federal resources to combat wild fires in the state.
The complete audio report with Gov. Heineman can be accessed by clicking the link below.
* Fairfield Creek Fire has now burned approximately 100,000 acres
(Posted July 21, 2012)
Region 24 Emergency Manager Doug Fox said the Fairfield
Creek Fire was now burning out of control on Saturday evening. Despite massive
efforts from fire departments representing almost one-third of Nebraska, the
fire is burning faster than allows for fire lines to be established.
Fox said firefighters were beginning to experience major fatigue and heat-related problems, and a few firefighters have been injured in non-fire incidents relating to digging fire suppression lines.
The fire, at last report, was located four to five miles west of Meadville, which has been evacuated. The fire on Friday devastated the small community of Norden on the north side of the Niobrara River in Keya Paha County.
Additional fires have sparked southeast of Springview Saturday evening from another round of lightning strikes, and some of the firefighting resources from the Fairfield Creek Fire were moved to suppress those fires before they spread.
The complete report with Region 24 Manager Doug Fox is located below. Click on the link for the audio report.
* Brown County Ambulance Service requests towels, ice packs
(Posted July 21, 2012)
Anyone with towels and ice packs to spare, please drop them off at the Brown County Ambulance Service. The towels and ice packs will be used to help aid in cooling down firefighters battling the Fairfield Creek Fire.
Some area retailers are running low on water and ice. Deliveries are expected again tomorrow. Stay tuned to KBRB for reports on inventory supply.
* Report with Red Cross organizer Susan Epps
(Posted July 21, 2012)
(Click on the link below for the audio report)
* Red Cross volunteers have arrived at Ainsworth Community Schools
(Posted July 21, 2012)
The American Red Cross has
opened a shelter for people displaced by the Niobrara River Canyon Fire
in north central Nebraska. The shelter is located in the Ainsworth
Community Schools facility at 520 E. Second St. Anyone displaced by the
fire is urged to come to the shelter for a safe place to sleep, a meal,
minor first aid, referrals and a shoulder to lean on. Volunteer teams
will continue to provide food and hydration to the firefighters from 16
departments battling the wildfire.
As soon as conditions are deemed safe by local authorities, additional Red Cross volunteers will arrive to assess damage to area homes and conduct interviews with affected families. Food, clothing, shelter, comfort and care will be provided based on need. Snacks and drinks will be provided to area residents as well.
* Red Cross setting up emergency shelter at Ainsworth Community Schools
(Posted July 21, 2012)
Two teams of Red Cross volunteers from Grand Island and
North Platte are setting up an emergency shelter at Ainsworth Community Schools
for residents evacuated from the path of the Fairfield Creek Fire.
The Red Cross will also help provide meals and hydration to firefighters from the now more than 16 departments trying to battle the fire in the Niobrara River Valley.
More Red Cross volunteers are standing by. The Red Cross will work with local agencies and community organizations to ensure that the needs of first responders and those who have been evacuated are met.
To make a donation to the Red Cross Disaster Relief, call 1-800-REDCROSS or visit the web at www.redcross.org.
* Emergency personnel evacuating area east of the Norden Bridge to Highway 183
(Posted July 21, 2012)
Region 24 Emergency Manager Doug Fox has issued an
evacuation notice for all residents of the Niobrara Valley from the Norden
Bridge east to Highway 183. This evacuation notice includes Meadville and the
The Fairfield Creek Fire is moving quickly to the east today, and with the dry and hot conditions and the steep terrain.
Those people east of the Norden Bridge to Highway 183 need to evacuate to the south, not to the north. Those evacuees are asked to report to the Ainsworth Community Schools, where the Red Cross has set up a temporary shelter.
The Brown County Ambulance Service is asking for donations of ice packs and towels to help cool down firefighters who have been battling the fire since it started before 10 a.m. Friday.
Stay tuned to KBRB for the latest information on the Fairfield Creek Fire.
* Updated Fairfield Creek Fire Report with Region 24 Emergency Manager Fox
(Posted at 8 a.m. Saturday, 2012)
(click on the link below)
Fox reported the fire has now burned more than 30,000
acres, with numerous structures destroyed. Firefighters are trying to contain
the fire to a line south of Highway 12, and fire lines have been set up both
east and west of Norden. Fox said the fire is still raging in the Norden area.
While firefighters try and contain the fire from the east and the west, aerial
support is being brought in from South Dakota and other areas. A Blackhawk
helicopter is dropping water on the flames, and a tanker plane from Rapid City
will be utilized to drop a slurry mixture on the flames.
Fox said any food, water and ice donations for the firefighters can be taken to the Ainsworth Fire Hall. Highway 12 west of Springview remains closed. No traffic is allowed anywhere near the Norden area, which has been completely evacuated.
* Fox reports leading edge of Fairfield Creek Fire 6 to 7 miles wide
(Posted 8 p.m. July 20, 2012)
Region 24 Emergency Manager Doug Fox is reporting the
leading edge of the Fairfield Creek Fire is between 6 and 7 miles wide as it
moves through Keya Paha County north of Highway 12.
"The wind is starting to switch a little, so we may be able to start slowing this thing down," Fox said.
The fire has burned several thousand acres in northern Brown County and southern and central Keya Paha County, including extensive damage in the community of Norden. Numerous homes and structures in the Norden area have been damaged, though Fox said the exact number of homes damaged won't be known until the area can be surveyed.
Fox said more firefighting assets continue to move into the area, as units from the six-county North Platte Mutual Aid District are making their way to the area from as far south as Curtis. Fox said those firefighters will concentrate on mopping up hot spots Saturday in both Brown and Keya Paha counties.
A large air tanker from Rapid City, S.D. will also be in the area Saturday, as will a water-carrying helicopter from Lincoln.
No injuries have been reported from the fires, though Fox said some firefighters were being treated for symptoms relating to heat stress. A Long Pine Volunteer Fire Department truck was destroyed by the Fairfield Creek Fire, and a second truck belonging to the South Brown County Fire Department was damaged fighting a second fire south of Long Pine Friday afternoon, though Fox said that truck will be salvageable but will require new wiring.
Fox will again appear on KBRB Saturday morning to provide an update on the firefighting activities and the extent of the damage.
* Fire does severe damage to Norden area, jumps Highway 12 containment line
(Posted July 20 at 6:30 p.m., 2012)
The small community of Norden has been severely damaged by
a fast-moving fire that began at 9:45 a.m. Friday north of Johnstown, jumped the
Niobrara River and broke through a containment line on Highway 12 in Keya Paha
Recapping the events since the fire was first reported 13 to 14 miles north of Johnstown, the flames moved quickly through the Fairfield Creek area and jumped across the Niobrara River. The fire began moving north through Keya Paha County. Residents of Norden and the surrounding area were evacuated ahead of the fire reaching the community.
Region 24 Emergency Manager Doug Fox told KBRB Radio's Graig Kinzie Friday evening most of the Norden area has sustained extensive damage. No injuries have been reported due to the fire, but the Long Pine Rural Volunteer Fire Department did lose a fire truck to the blaze, and another truck belonging to the South Brown County Fire Department was damaged fighting another Friday afternoon fire south of Long Pine. Fox said that truck is salvageable with new wiring.
"We haven't had any injuries," Fox said. "People were evacuated ahead of time. Some of our firefighters are experiencing some symptoms of heat stress."
Temperatures Friday again soared to near 105 degrees, and south winds gusting to 25 mph led to the fire moving quickly through the area already dealing with severe drought.
As of 6 p.m. Friday, the fire had burned an area more than 10 miles long and reportedly up to four miles wide in some areas near Norden.
"The fire is moving faster than we can keep up with," Fox said after the blaze jumped a containment line set up on Highway 12 in Keya Paha County.
Some residents living north of Highway 12 in northern Keya Paha County and into southern Tripp County, S.D., are being evacuated. Highway 12 has been closed to traffic west of Springview.
Firefighters from the Ainsworth, Johnstown, Wood Lake, Long Pine, Bassett, Springview, Calamus, Raven and South Brown County departments battled what is being referred to as the Fairfield Creek Fire, while the Ainsworth, Long Pine, Bassett and Stuart fire departments fought the fire south of Long Pine. That fire was brought under control by 5 p.m. Friday. Damage from the fire south of Long Pine was limited to pasture ground and the loss of the South Brown County Fire Department truck.
Fox reported additional fires were burning north of Merriman in Cherry County on both sides of the Niobrara River, and east of the Spencer Dam in Boyd County. All of the fires in the area Thursday night and Friday morning were sparked by lightning from a storm that carried extensive lightning but little rain.
Aerial support was utilized, but Fox said the numerous buckets of water dropped from the plane were not effective in slowing down the fire in Keya Paha County.
The extent of the damage is not yet known, but thousands of acres and numerous structures, including homes, have now been burned by the Fairfield Creek Fire.
Brown County Board of Commissioners Chairman Buddy Small on Friday signed a declaration asking for disaster assistance for the county stemming from the wildfires burning in northern and southern Brown County.
Dozens of volunteers flooded the Ainsworth Fire Hall with bottled water, sports drinks, ice and coolers to send to the front lines of the fires. Organizer Heather Walnofer said the outpouring of support from the area has been overwhelming.
Stay tuned to KBRB for additional information.
* Fire crosses Niobrara River, Norden area evacuated
(Posted July 20 as of 4:50 p.m., 2012)
The fire burning north of Johnstown has crossed the Niobrara River, pushed by strong south winds. The Keya Paha County Sheriff's Department confirmed at 4:45 p.m. firefighters are attempting to contain the fire to an area south of Highway 12 in Keya Paha County.
Norden residents and those in Keya Paha County between the Niobrara River and Highway 12 in the Norden area have been evacuated from their residences.
Traffic is prohibited in the area until the fire has been contained.
The Keya Paha County Sheriff's Department is asking for anyone with a large disc to call the sheriff's department at 402-497-3201, as firefighters are trying to utilize that type of equipment to create a containment area and keep the fire from crossing Highway 12.
The Brown County Sheriff's Department reported just before 5 p.m. Friday the fire burning south of Long Pine had been brought under control by the Long Pine, Ainsworth, Stuart and Bassett departments. A Brown County Rural Fire Department truck was damaged fighting the fire south of Long Pine, though no injuries were reported.
No structure damage has been reported with either fire, though that could change as the fire moves its way from the Niobrara River north into the Norden area in Keya Paha County.
Brown County Board of Commissioners Chairman Buddy Small on Friday signed a declaration asking for disaster assistance for the county stemming from the wildfires burning in northern and southern Brown County. Aerial resources continue to be sought to battle the fire burning north of Johnstown that has now crossed into Keya Paha County.
* Another large fire burning south of Long Pine
(Posted July 20, 2012)
Area fire resources continue to be taxed to the limit as
another large fire has been reported south of Long Pine.
According to Brown County Sheriff Bruce Papstein, just before 1 p.m. Friday a fire was reported 15 miles south of Long Pine on property owned by Glenna Abbott. Resources from the Ainsworth, Long Pine, Bassett and Stuart volunteer fire departments responded to fight that fire while numerous area departments continue to fight a large fire north of Johnstown.
According to Papstein, a South Brown County fire truck was damaged by the fire south of Long Pine, but no injuries have been reported.
Area residents continue to volunteer at the Ainsworth Fire Hall, filling coolers with donated water, sports drinks and ice to get to the firefighters as they work in the 100-plus degree heat. Dozens of volunteers were working in the fire hall early Friday afternoon to get coolers of cold drinks headed to the front lines of the fires.
Volunteer organizer Heather Walnofer thanked the community for its support in answering the call for supplies.
"The response has been overwhelming," Walnofer said.
Papstein said the fire north of Johnstown continues to be pushed north by strong south winds, and firefighters are having a difficult time containing the blaze.
"It is a real bear," Papstein said. "It is just really tough for them to keep up with it right now. Thankfully, there has not been any structure damage."
Papstein said the fire has approached the Niobrara River, and there have been conflicting reports on whether it had possibly jumped the river. There has, as of yet, been no confirmation of the fire burning north of the river.
Stay tuned to KBRB for more information throughout the day.
* Firefighters battling large fire north of Johnstown
(Posted July 20, 2012)
Numerous area fire departments are battling a 1,000-acre
fire that started Friday morning north of Johnstown due to a lightning strike.
According to Brown County Sheriff Bruce Papstein, the fire was reported at approximately 9:45 a.m. 13 to 14 miles north of Johnstown.
Firefighters from the Ainsworth, Johnstown, Wood Lake, Long Pine, Bassett, Springview, Calamus, Raven and South Brown County departments are on the scene trying to keep the fire from spreading.
Papstein said a plane is also on its way to drop water on the fire. He said residents in the area have been contacted and provided information. He said one residence was in jeopardy from the fire, which he estimated at between 800 and 1,000 acres.
Papstein urged people to stay away from the area and let the fire departments have room to work and try and contain the fire.
Stay tuned to KBRB for additional updates.
* Lightning sparks 500-acre fire northwest of Ainsworth Thursday
(Posted July 20, 2012)
A lightning strike Thursday night sparked a fire northwest of Ainsworth that burned more than 500 acres and prompted the mutual aid response of four fire departments to get the blaze under control.
According to Ainsworth Fire Chief Brad Fiala, a lightning strike sparked the fire at 8:45 p.m. approximately 5 miles west and 4 miles north of Ainsworth on property owned by Pat Schumacher.
Fiala said winds with the thunderstorm pushed the fire to the southwest onto ground owned by Taylor Johnson.
He said the fire remained on pasture ground but did work its way into a tree grove.
“It burned through the tree grove fast enough that it didn’t do much damage,” Fiala said. “It only burned the bottom of the trees.”
Fiala said firefighters were able to get the fire under control by using a county road and two cornfields to help block its advance.
Fiala said the fire was under control by 11:30 p.m., and firefighters returned to the fire hall by 12:30 a.m. Friday.
The Johnstown, Long Pine and Wood Lake fire departments provided mutual aid to the Ainsworth Volunteer Fire Department.
“We are just waiting now to see if any more fires start up today from those lightning strikes last night,” the Ainsworth fire chief said.
* Brown County Sheriff’s Department 2014 year-end report
2014 Year End Totals
Accidents Investigated – 77Fire Calls Ainsworth
Ainsworth Calls Responded to – 723 Accidents with Injuries - 9
Animal Cases – 14 Accidents w/o Injuries - 4
Board Of Health – 0 Assist Tower Rescue - 1
Brown County Arrests – 70 Attempt to Locate missing people - 2
Burglaries – 6 Building Fires: House/Garage/Royal Theater - 3
Citations – 190 Burn Permits Issued - 102
Crime Stopper Calls – 28 Canyon Fires - 1
County Calls Responded to – 358 Chimney Fires - 1
Court Commitments – 17 Corn Field Fire - 1
Criminal Cases – 32 Gas Meters & Leaks -3
Dog Complaints – 139 Grass Fires - 5
Domestic Assault Cases – 14 Hay Bales - 1
Handgun Permits – 110 School Alarm - 3
Incident Reports – 1,204 Storm Spotting - 3
Incoming Phone Calls – 8,467 Tractor/Mechanical Fires - 2
Information Files – 28 Vehicle Fires - 4
Inmates Housed in Brown County – 106
Inmates Housed for other agencies – 3
Inmates Housed for NSP arrests – 12 Ambulance Calls
Inmates – Females – 27 This is just a summary of the Ambulance
Inmates – Males – 79 calls for 2014
Johnstown Calls Responded to – 5 Local Calls for Service - 137
Juvenile Cases – 15 Transfers to other Facilities - 43
Long Pine Calls Responded to – 118
MIP’s – 18
911 Calls – 404
Papers Served – 200
Sex Crimes – 1
Thefts – 23
Titles Inspected – 242
Total Traffic Stops – 688
Traffic cases – 62
Traffic Stops where no action was taken - 7
Vandalism Cases – 15
Verbal Warnings - 144
Written Warnings - 292