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

* David R. Chase, 70, of Ainsworth 2 p.m. Sept. 3

* Meeting reports located below for:

Aug. 23 Ainsworth-Brown County Care Center Board special meeting

Aug. 11 Ainsworth City Council

Aug. 9 Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education

Aug. 3 Brown County Commissioners

Aug. 2 Ainsworth-Brown County Care Center Board

* Arens named to Smith's Youth Advisory Council

(Posted 2:30 p.m. Aug. 29)

Nebraska 3rd District Rep. Adrian Smith named the 20 high school students who will serve on his Youth Advisory Council for the 2016-2017 academic school year.

Among those selected to the Youth Advisory Council is Ainsworth High School student Jack Arens.

Smith’s Youth Advisory Council is a forum for high school students to discuss opinions, thoughts, and concerns about local and federal issues with Smith throughout the school year. Through in-person meetings and other contacts, the council provides students an opportunity for involvement and insight into their government and communities.

The council is open to junior and senior high school students who are selected through an application process in the spring. 

* Rock County man dies Thursday while changing a water pump north of Newport

(Posted 11 a.m. Aug. 26)

A 73-year-old Rock County man died Thursday, Aug. 25, in an accident 8 miles north of Newport.

Rock County Sheriff Jim Anderson said, at 10:20 a.m. Thursday, an emergency call was received that Lanny Heyden of Newport had been injured while replacing a water pump.

Anderson said Heyden and another individual were changing a water pump for a private well. While attempting to run air into the water tank to remove the water and reduce the weight of the tank, the tank ruptured. The tank and motor struck Heyden.

The second individual was not injured when the tank ruptured, and notified emergency responders. Heyden was pronounced dead at the scene upon the arrival of emergency medical technicians.

* Ainsworth native named rodeo coach at Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture

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

A 2014 alum and team roper of the Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture has been named the as the NCTA Aggie Rodeo Coach.

Taylor Rossenbach, a native of rural Ainsworth, was a tie-down calf and team roper with the Aggies for two years before graduating in May 2014.

Rossenback now lives in Curtis, and is an insurance and financial advisor with Farm Bureau Financial Services. He officially joined the NCTA coaching staff in mid-August.

Rossenbach is active in Frontier County organizations including Curtis Chamber of Commerce board of directors, Rotary International, and serves as the treasurer for the UNSTA-NCTA Alumni Association.

Nearly 20 students will vie for spots on the traveling team, including 2-time national collegiate finals qualifier Lexus Kelsch of McLaughlin, S.D. She and her horse, Tigger, placed fifth at the CNFR this year.

We have a great group of young men and women on the NCTA rodeo team this year, Rossenbach said. I am looking forward to helping each of them improve, and also meet and exceed their goals.

NCTAs rodeo athletes will travel to the University of Wisconsin at River Falls for the season opener on Sept. 9-10. Mid-Plains Community College will host rodeo action on Sept. 16-17.

We are excited to have Taylor back on campus as a coach and are looking forward to the experience he brings to the NCTA Rodeo Team, Dr. Doug Smith, division chair of animal science and agricultural education, said. He is a great addition to our division due to the enthusiasm he brings to NCTAs rodeo program.

NCTAs team is part of the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association, which competes among more than 100 teams from two-year and four-year colleges.

NCTA is in the Great Plains Region of the 11 NIRA regions. Student athletes compete in events of saddle bronc riding, bare back riding, bull riding, tie-down roping, steer wrestling, team roping, barrel racing, breakaway roping, and goat tying.

Former Aggie coach Bridger Chytka is leading a new agriculture education and FFA program at Thedford High School.

* Work scheduled to begin next week on Highway 281

(Posted 6:45 a.m. Aug. 25)

Weather permitting, work is scheduled to begin the week of Sept. 6 on Highway 281 near Eagle Creek, 18 miles north of O’Neill. Work includes removal of asphalt pavement, stabilization of subgrade, and replacing the roadway surface with concrete pavement, according to the Nebraska Department of Roads.

During construction, there will be a 12-foot width restriction. One-lane traffic will be controlled with reduced speeds and traffic signals. A&R Construction Co. of Plainview has the $1.2 million contract. Anticipated project completion is the end of October.

The Department of Roads project manager is Carl Hart of Ainsworth. Motorists are asked to drive cautiously through construction zones, and remember that speeding fines are doubled when workers are present.

* Progress continues toward opening Sandhills Care Center

(Posted 6:45 a.m. Aug. 23)

Items continue to be checked off as the Ainsworth-Brown County Care Center Board prepares for the opening of the Sandhills Care Center.

During a special meeting Monday, the board approved a vendor to provide the facility with electronic health records equipment and agreed on a pharmacy services provider.

Acting on a recommendation from Rural Health Development, the company hired to handle administration of the local facility, the board approved a quote from Point Click Care to provide the nursing home with electronic health records equipment.

Mike Harris with RHD said Point Click Care’s initial setup cost of $1,450 plus approximately $4,000 worth of hardware purchases was much lower than the $46,385 initial cost quoted by American Health Tech.

While the monthly support fee for Point Click Care’s electronic health records system was a little higher than American Health Tech, the five-year total cost for Point Click Care was close to $30,000 less expensive.

Also a recommendation from the RHD representatives, the board approved a pharmacy services agreement with Redler’s Pharmacy of Omaha. Harris said Redler’s Pharmacy provides services to 55 facilities across the state, including Cottonwood Villa in Ainsworth and Parkside Manor of Stuart.

Board member Jim Walz asked if the services could be provided locally. Harris said the Brown County Hospital was not able to provide all the services required by the state. The board then placed a phone call to the Rock County Hospital to see if it could provide the required service, but in the end the vote was unanimous to approve the contract with Redler’s Pharmacy.

Administrator Stephanie Rucker reported the state fire marshal toured the facility a week ago to see the progress being made to reopen the facility.

“He was happy with the progress, but there are still a couple things we need to do,” Rucker said. “The sprinkler system checked out well.”

Harris said they hoped to be completed with all renovations and have the fire marshal return for a final inspection on the Monday following Labor Day.

“We hope to have the generator circuit board repaired by then so we can pass final inspection and get a certificate of occupancy,” Harris said. “We need that so we can get licensed.”

Rucker reported the dishwasher has been installed in the kitchen, the countertops have been installed, and the room has been painted.

“The mold in the maintenance room is gone,” Rucker said. “Krotters donated all the paint for the building, and the carpets have now all been cleaned.”

Walz said there has been a substantial amount of work done on the facility.

“This group has done an excellent job,” Walz said.

Board member Leanne Maxwell said the outside of the building also looked much better.

Harris said the renovation costs have been coming in well under the original projections.

“Also, there is so much re-useable equipment in that facility,” Harris said. “The beds, the lifts, the physical therapy equipment – there is thousands of dollars of equipment that can then be moved to a new facility.”

Harris introduced Walt Dye, a Rural Health Development employee who will begin working to get the facility ready to open after helping to open a facility at White Clay. Harris said there was a large amount of paperwork for the Medicare and Medicaid certification that he would be working on in Lincoln.

Dye reported the facility has joined the Prairie Health Ventures group purchasing organization. He said there is no cost to become a part of the organization, and being a part of the network would save the facility money on day-to-day medical supplies.

“They can meet 90 percent of our needs for purchases, and we can get cheaper prices through the network than we could otherwise,” Dye said.

During its prior meeting, the board selected the firm Eid Bailey to perform a market study as a requirement for applying for a USDA direct loan for the construction of a new facility east of the Brown County Hospital.

Board Chairman Kent Taylor said the original quote of $7,000 from Eid Bailey apparently did not include all the items required by the USDA. He said Eid Bailey supplied a revised quote that fulfilled all of the USDA requirements for the study, but the price tag for the study jumped from $7,000 to $18,000.

Board member Buddy Small said he would rather the paperwork be done correctly the first time, and the board approved the revised quote for the required market study.

Following the public session, the board entered into executive session to work on wage scales, benefits packages and job descriptions for employees.

The next meeting of the Ainsworth-Brown County Care Center Board is scheduled for 4 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 7, since the first Monday of the month falls on Labor Day.

* Friday fire destroys outbuilding and vehicle west of Ainsworth

(Posted 6:45 a.m. Aug. 22)

A Friday afternoon fire destroyed an outbuilding and a vehicle west of Ainsworth, and stopped traffic on Highway 20.

According to Ainsworth Volunteer Fire Department Assistant Chief Jeff Keezer, at 5:30 p.m. Friday, firefighters responded to a fire call 1 mile west of Ainsworth. An outbuilding owned by Terry and Erin Allen caught fire, destroying the building and its contents, which included a pickup and other items. Damage to the building and its contents was estimated at between $8,000 and $10,000.

Traffic was stopped on Highway 20 in both directions while firefighters extinguished the flames.

Keezer said firefighters returned to the fire hall at approximately 7 p.m. The exact cause of the fire has not yet been determined.

* Sheriff's department participating in 'You Drink and Drive, You Lose' campaign

(Posted 7:30 a.m. Aug. 15)

The Brown County Sheriff’s Department is working overtime this month to keep roads safe from impaired drivers. The sheriff’s department is participating in the annual “You Drink and Drive, You Lose” crackdown thanks to a grant from the Nebraska Office of Highway Safety.

The department received a grant for salaries and mileage for the enforcement period that begins Thursday and continues through Labor Day, Sept. 5.

Deputies will be on the lookout for impaired drivers, and will enforce all traffic laws during the crackdown.

On average, there is one alcohol-impaired, driving-related fatality every 51 minutes across the U.S. Drunk driving kills almost 10,000 people each year, but the number of accidents and fatalities can be reduced by taking impaired drivers off the roadways.

Anyone who sees a suspected drunk driver is asked to contact local law enforcement immediately. Anyone who knows someone who is about to drive while drunk, be a friend, take their keys, and help them make other arrangements to get where they are going safely.

Anyone who plans on drinking should always designate a sober driver. Research has shown that high-visibility enforcement, like the “You Drink and Drive, You Lose” campaign, can reduce alcohol-impaired driving fatalities by as much as 20 percent. By joining the nationwide effort, the Brown County Sheriff’s Department wants to help make the county’s roadways safer throughout the Labor Day holiday period.

Sheriff Bruce Papstein said driving impaired is simply not worth the risk, as violators face jail time, the loss of their driver’s license, and steep financial consequences such as higher insurance rates, attorney fees, court costs, lost time at work and the potential loss of a job.

* Sibbel appointed to Northeast Community College District 2 Board seat

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

Carol Sibbel of O’Neill has been named the newest member of the Northeast Community College Board of Governors. Sibbel was sworn in at the board’s monthly meeting Thursday at Norfolk.

Sibbel, a loan officer with Pinnacle Bank’s O’Neill branch, succeeds Larry Poessnecker of Atkinson, who resigned his District Two seat this summer.

The district covers Keya Paha, Brown, Rock, Boyd, Holt, and Knox counties in their entirety and a portion of Cedar County. 

Sibbel said she applied for the board position because she believes in the opportunities a community college education provides students.

“Northeast Community College’s extended campus has been a wonderful addition to the O’Neill community and the surrounding area,” Sibbel said. “By serving as a member of the board of governors, I feel I can give back by serving our community in promoting higher education that is affordable to all students. Being from a small town, I appreciate higher education greatly and I like to see options available for all learners, regardless of where they live.”

Julie Robinson of Norfolk, chair of the board’s selection committee, said they look forward to Sibbel serving on the board.

“Larry Poessnecker was an outstanding, longtime member of the board and his shoes will be hard to fill,” Robinson said. “But, the selection committee felt that Carol’s experience in business and finance and her understanding of Northeast’s far western service area will bring invaluable insights to our discussions. She will make an excellent addition to our extremely dedicated board.”

Northeast President Dr. Michael Chipps said he was pleased Sibbel was selected as a District Two board member.

“Northeast has major initiatives presently underway and planned for the future with projects carefully crafted to meet the Board’s Vision 2020 goals,” Chipps said. “Carol is joining the board at an exciting time in its history as the college continues to forge the future of higher education for the Northeast service area and the state.”

Sibbel has a bachelor’s degree in business management with an emphasis in finance from the University of South Dakota; a bank management emphasis from the Graduate School of Banking at Colorado; and a master’s of science in banking and financial services from Northern State University.

She has been active in St. Mary’s Schools at O’Neill for the past 21 years. She presently serves as a member of the St. Patrick’s Parish Finance Committee and is also involved in recruitment, fundraising and development.

Sibbel said she will run for the seat when it comes up for election in 2018.

* Taxable sales remain on the decline in Brown County, May data shows

(Posted 1:30 p.m. Aug. 11)

Nebraska Department of Revenue
Comparison of May 2016 and May 2015 Net Taxable Sales
for Nebraska Counties and Selected Cities

County
or City

2016
Net Taxable
Sales

2015
Net Taxable
Sales

Percent
Change

2016
Sales Tax
5.5%

2015
Sales Tax
5.5%

Boyd

1,027,824

987,073

4.1

56,530.46

54,289.14

Brown

2,730,352

3,016,518

(9.5)

150,169.54

165,128.52

Ainsworth

2,601,513

2,808,410

(7.4)

143,083.36

153,682.57

Cherry

5,610,116

5,964,337

(5.9)

308,556.88

328,038.96

Valentine

5,467,198

5,733,939

(4.7)

300,696.26

315,366.98

Holt

9,641,222

8,778,995

9.8

530,267.82

482,872.03

Atkinson

1,511,534

1,614,788

(6.4)

83,134.53

88,813.48

O'Neill

6,603,195

5,963,417

10.7

363,175.99

327,988.29

Keya Paha

253,379

208,441

21.6

13,935.87

11,464.29

Rock

529,212

531,665

(0.5)

29,106.72

29,241.64

Valley

3,286,060

3,255,201

0.9

180,733.54

179,036.29

Ord

2,784,948

2,858,917

(2.6)

153,172.31

157,240.63

State Total

$2,348,569,032

$2,331,800,955

0.7

$129,299,292.92

$128,326,726.27

Nebraska Department of Revenue
Comparison of May 2016 and May 2015
Motor Vehicle Sales Tax Collections by County

County
or City

2016
Net Taxable
Sales

2015
Net Taxable
Sales

Percent
Change

2016
Sales Tax
5.5%

2015
Sales Tax
5.5%

Blaine

20,101

163,275

(87.7)

1,084.73

8,943.43

Boyd

492,332

577,212

(14.7)

27,144.30

31,776.71

Brown

760,444

833,417

(8.8)

42,131.52

46,031.86

Cherry

1,407,488

1,298,607

8.4

77,898.90

71,851.70

Holt

2,631,310

2,361,334

11.4

145,741.40

130,902.89

Keya Paha

203,727

205,121

(0.7)

11,197.97

11,264.68

Rock

492,791

579,973

(15.0)

27,192.87

32,050.87

Valley

885,685

1,138,879

(22.2)

49,063.33

62,951.92

State Total

$339,061,618

$326,403,961

3.9

$18,806,864.04

$18,096,880.66

* Soles appointed to Ainsworth City Council

(Posted 7 a.m. Aug. 11)

Greg Soles was sworn in as the fourth member of the Ainsworth City Council Wednesday, taking the oath of office to serve until December for the remainder of Kent Taylor’s term.

Taylor resigned from the council effective Aug. 2 due to moving outside the city limits. Soles was appointed to the seat by Mayor Larry Rice.

Deb Hurless will be the only candidate to appear on the General Election ballot for City Council. Unless a candidate agrees to run as a write-in, Rice will make another appointment to the council in December.

Judy Peterson with Central Nebraska Economic Development District presented the council with information on the latest round of nuisance abatement inspections conducted in the city.

CNEDD has been contracted to serve as the city’s nuisance abatement code enforcement officer. Peterson said 83 parcels were inspected this round, all located from Highway 20 south to Front Street, and from Elm Street west to Maple Street.

She said, of the 83 parcels inspected, 34 property owners received certified letters notifying them they had a violation of the city’s nuisance code and asking them to voluntarily correct the violation.

Peterson said there was a great response to the initial letters. Re-inspecting the parcels Tuesday, Peterson said 27 of the 34 parcels with code violations were cleared, leaving just seven parcels with violations.

After showing photos of the violations to the council, Peterson asked the council to declare the seven properties as nuisances.

Councilman Chuck Osborn asked if any of the seven had made any attempt to abate the nuisance. Peterson said there has been no response, and no effort made. Of the seven, at least three are owned by people outside the community, with the houses appearing to be vacant.

The council unanimously voted to declare the seven parcels as nuisances. Peterson said a certified letter will be sent to the parcel owners notifying them the parcels had been declared a nuisance.

Property owners receiving the violation letter can request a hearing within five days of receiving the certified letter. Any nuisances not cleared at that point will result in the council taking action to abate the nuisance. The council then has the option to have the violation abated, with the cost of doing so charged to the property owner.

Councilman Brian Williams asked about the progress on the nuisance properties from the 2014 and 2015 inspections.

Rice said the Board of Health met regarding six remaining parcels.

“Those property owners will be getting hand-delivered letters from the sheriff’s department,” the mayor said.

City Administrator Lisa Schroedl said those property owners will have 30 days upon receiving the letter to provide a plan for abatement to the city office. If no action is taken by the property owner at that point, the city will take the next step in the legal process.

This is the third year the city has conducted nuisance code inspections. Approximately 200 parcels were inspected in each of the first two years due to the city receiving a grant for the cost of the inspections.

With the grant dollars no longer available, the city opted to inspect a smaller number of parcels in 2016, but plans to continue with the nuisance inspections annually for the remaining areas of the city.

Peterson also updated the board regarding the city’s CDBG re-use loan program, the funds in which the council has indicated it would like to allocate toward the Sandhills Care Center project.

She said she is working with the state of Nebraska to make sure the amendment to the city’s re-use plan program guidelines are acceptable to the Department of Economic Development.

In other business Wednesday, the council approved two applications from the LB 840 fund totaling $185,000 following public hearings.

North Central Development Center Director Kristin Olson said the $65,000 grant to support economic development would be used to operate the NCDC office.

“We started with a request of $72,000,” Olson said. “We have tried to reduce the amount we requested each year, but this is the second year we are asking for $65,000. We have asked our other partners to increase their contributions. We asked the county to increase its contribution to the same level as the city, $12,000.”

The second LB 840 funding request, in the amount of $120,000, was labeled for professional recruitment.

Olson said the LB 840 committee reviewed the application and recommended it for approval.

She said the professional recruitment committee recently reviewed two requests.

“We try to match our funds with state funds to make sure we get a return on our investment in the community,” Olson said. “One of these applicants would have a federal match.”

Olson said there have been five applicants approved for professional recruitment assistance in the past, ranging from $5,000 and up.

Osborn asked if the professional signs a contract to receive the assistance. Olson said contracts are signed that require the professional to commit to the community.

“The federal program is typically a two-year commitment,” Olson said. “The state program is a three-year commitment. In the past, we have asked for up to a five-year commitment.”

Olson said the NCDC verifies the professional is meeting all of the contract requirements, and the funds are disbursed over a period of several years, and are typically used to assist with student loan debt.

Rice said, “Sid Salzman and I were on that committee when it was formed. We found, if we were going to be competitive with other hospitals in the state and in the area, we had better come up with incentives or we had no chance at these professionals.”

The council approved both LB 840 applications, with Hurless abstaining on the vote for the $65,000 application for economic development support.

By a 3-0 vote with Soles abstaining, the council approved a three-year agreement with Brown County for law enforcement service, with the city agreeing to contribute $16,328 per month. That total will increase by 2 percent for each of the subsequent two years.

“We had a productive meeting with the county,” Rice said. “There is no way in the world we want to go through the process of reforming the Ainsworth Police Department.”

Rice said the contract was amended to increase the money allocated for a vehicle purchase for the sheriff’s department from $12,500 annually to $13,500. If a vehicle is not purchased in the contract year, the council receives a credit for the $13,500.

Rice said the contract also had language added allowing the city the option to obtain a vehicle replaced by the sheriff’s department after the county transferred a former sheriff’s department vehicle to the roads department instead of using it as a trade-in to reduce the cost of the new sheriff’s department vehicle.

The council approved a conditional-use permit recommendation from the Ainsworth Planning Commission allowing for portable storage containers to be placed by Tate Schipporeit in an area of the city zoned for industrial use.

Schroedl said there were already portable storage containers in that area, and there was nothing in the city’s municipal zoning ordinances relating to storage containers. She said the Planning Commission is working on an amendment to the code allowing for storage containers by conditional-use permit only in areas zoned as industrial. They will not be allowed in residentially-zoned areas.

In a final action item Wednesday, the council approved renewing its liability, property and workman’s compensation insurance coverage through the League Association of Risk Management.

Schroedl said, by agreeing to a three-year renewal and a 180-day termination notice, the city would receive a 5 percent reduction on its premium, from $62,818 down to $59,676.

The council approved the three-year renewal at the 5 percent discount rate.

The next regular meeting of the Ainsworth City Council is scheduled for 7 p.m. Sept. 14.

* Smith touts tax code simplification, trade opportunities during Ainsworth stop Tuesday

(Posted 7 a.m. Aug. 10)

During a Tuesday visit in the Brown County Courthouse, Nebraska 3rd District Rep. Adrian Smith told a small gathering the biggest thing he believed Congress could accomplish is the simplification of the tax code.

“I am willing to look at any of a number of proposals that are out there,” Smith said. “Our convoluted tax policy makes it easier for people to cheat and harder for honest people to comply. It is costing Americans $170 billion to comply with our tax code.”

Smith said one proposal would simplify the code to a point that 95 percent of taxpayers could file their returns using a postcard.

Smith said the skepticism between the two parties is preventing Congress from handling even the most simple functions of government.

“If all we did in Congress was pass a budget, many would say our job is done,” he said. “But, we aren’t even getting that done. The policies coming out of Washington are inconsistent with all these continuing resolutions.”

Smith said a lot of good legislation has come out of disagreement and negotiation.

“I hope we can leverage our disagreements and move the ball down the field,” he said.

The Congressman said one of the best ways for the U.S. to address its trade deficit is to sell more American products to other countries.

“We are good at producing food in an efficient manner,” Smith said. “We don’t want to lose markets for our agricultural products.”

Smith said the country could no longer ignore a $19 trillion debt.

“That amounts to $60,000 for every person in the country,” Smith said. “The government’s income has been rising steadily. We have cut discretional spending, but the biggest part of our budget is mandatory spending. We are going to have to look at our spending.”

Following the discussion, Smith spoke to KBRB’s Graig Kinzie. To hear the conversation, click on the audio link below.
 

audio clips/Adrian Smith 8-9-16.mp3
 

* Ainsworth City Council agenda for Aug. 10 meeting

(Posted 6:30 a.m. Aug. 10)

Ainsworth City Council agenda
Meeting 7 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 10
Ainsworth Conference Center
 

1.                  Roll Call

 

2.                  *Approval of consent agenda

All items listed with an asterisk (*) are considered to be routine by the City Council and will be enacted by one motion.  There will be no separate discussion of these items unless a Council member or a citizen so requests, in which event the item will be removed from consent status and considered in its normal sequence on the agenda

 

3.                  *Minutes of the previous meetings: 07/13/2016 and 08/02/2016

 

4.                  *Treasurer’s report

 

5.                  *Department Head Reports

 

6.                  *Claims

 

7.                  Consider the Mayor’s recommendation for appointment of Council member to fill the vacant seat left by Taylor

 

8.                  Hearing to review the LB 840 2016-01 application in the amount of $65,000 for economic development administration

 

9.                  Hearing to review the LB 840 2016-02 application in the amount of $120,000 for professional recruitment

 

10.              Consider the presentation by Judy Peterson with CNEDD regarding the nuisance abatement inspections that have occurred

 

11.              Update by Judy Peterson with CNEDD regarding the amendment to the economic reuse plan and how these funds could be used toward the Sandhills Care Center

 

12.              Discuss and consider the terms of the countywide law enforcement service agreement

 

13.              Discuss and consider the League Association of Risk Management (LARM) renewal coverage proposal for the 2016-17 Pool Year

 

14.              Consider the recommendation by the Planning Commission regarding portable storage containers

 

15.              Set meeting date for the 2016-17 budget workshop

 

16.              Report from City Administrator/Clerk/Treasurer Schroedl

 

17.              Mayor’s report

* School begins Monday with 5 new teachers and a new secondary principal

(Posted 7 a.m. Aug. 9)

Four new teachers and a new principal will greet students next week when Ainsworth Community Schools opens its doors to students for the 2016-17 year.

New secondary principal Bill Lentz told the Board of Education Monday he has met with a majority of the staff members to get a feel for the direction they would like to go for the upcoming year.

“We have had some good discussions,” Lentz said. “We have a strong staff, and we have good Sandhills kids. It has been a great start.”

In addition to Lentz, Ainsworth Community Schools welcomes Sean Sterkel, Neiley Fernau, Laurie Goodloe and Jake and Sandy Nelson to the district for the 2016-17 school year.

Sterkel will teach physical education and coach the varsity and junior high boys basketball teams.

Jake Nelson will teach math and take over the head football coaching duties, while Sandy Nelson will teach physical education and reading and will coach junior high volleyball and girls basketball.

Neiley Fernau will be the new elementary resource teacher and will coach C team volleyball.

Laurie Goodloe will teach geography, world history and American government. Goodloe had previously served as a substitute teacher.

Superintendent Darrell Peterson said a few changes have been made to teaching assignments for the new school year, with the sixth grade having two teachers and being a self-contained class this year.

“Mrs. Bowers is going to teach eighth-grade science, and Mr. Nelson is going to take over chemistry for Mrs. Bowers along with his math duties,” Peterson said. “Spanish is going to be taught by Jolene Drake of Pleasanton through distance learning.”

The board approved the staffing, organization and coaching assignments for the 2016-17 year.

In other business Monday, the board approved an option enrollment request allowing Katalina and Sterling Beach to attend Ainsworth Community Schools. The family moved to Keya Paha County but wants the incoming freshman and sixth-grade student to attend school in Ainsworth.

The board approved the second reading of several policies, including the assessments and academic content standards policy; the student transportation policy; the Every Student Succeeds Act, which replaces the No Child Left Behind Act; a homeless student policy; an initiations, hazing, secret clubs and outside organizations policy; and a purchasing policy.

During his report, Peterson said representatives from the Nebraska School Board Association plan to host a community engagement session in Ainsworth to engage parents and community stakeholders. He said the session is tentatively planned for November, and he would provide additional details when the date is finalized.

He congratulated teacher Nichole Flynn for winning a Nebraska Department of Education GIS Story Map contest. Flynn was recognized for enhancing education through the utilization of GIS technology. The school will receive a GPS unit for use in classrooms.

Peterson said the new heating and cooling units have been installed, but there were leaks in the coils. The company will replace the coils, but that may not happen until after school starts for the year.

He also reported he plans to utilize a drug dog more frequently for random checks in the school buildings to discourage any drug activity in the school and around the community.

“We want to send the message that drugs are not acceptable,” the superintendent said.

During her report, elementary principal Sarah Williams said she was thrilled with the way summer school and the summer lunch program went.

She said 26 students between kindergarten and sixth grade attended. Seventh- through 12th-grade students helping with summer school volunteered 204 hours of their time.

Williams said surveys were mailed to participating families, and some good suggestions were already being received for next year.

She said more than 50 children per day ate lunch during the free summer lunch program that was held during the 12 days of summer school.

Williams reported 24 students and their parents attended kindergarten orientation Aug. 4. The 24 kindergarten students will be the smallest class in the elementary school.

The board will hold a special meeting at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 31 to approve final expenditures for the 2015-16 school year.

The annual budget hearing and property tax request is scheduled for 8 p.m. Sept. 12, followed by the board’s regular meeting.

* Sybrant wins 2 horseshoe pitching events, including Roggasch Memorial

(Posted 11:30 a.m. Aug. 8)

Jim Sybrant of Bassett won the Dennis Roggasch Memorial Horseshoe Tournament Traveling Trophy Saturday during the annual Rock County Fair event. A total of 20 horseshoe pitchers competed in the double elimination tournament was pitched.

Results were:
1st.......Jim Sybrant, Bassett
2nd......Tom Borszich,Valentine
3rd.......Jeremy Roggasch, Long Pine
4th.......Tim Roggasch, Rose
5th.......Hadan Sybrant, Bassett
6th.......Malinda Hodge, Rose
7th.......Shane Connell, Waterbury
8th.......Brian Keck, Bassett
9th.......Ginger Babcock,East Wenatchee, Wa
10th.....Steve Coble, Bassett


A state sanctioned horseshoe pitching tournament was also held Sunday at the East City Park horseshoe pits, with Jim Sybrant winning that competition as well. He was named the tournament champion and qualifies for the upcoming state tournament at Scottsbluff.

Malinda Hodge of Rose finished second, followed by Joe Paitz of Hazard in third, Tim Roggasch of Rose fourth, Brandie Messersmith of Rose fifth, and Savanah Roggasch of Rose in sixth place.

Brandie Messersmith was named the junior champion.

* Osborns to receive Ruby Stufft Award from the National Weather Service

(Posted 6:45 a.m. Aug. 5)

On Wednesday, Gerry Osborn and his wife Bev will be presented the Ruby Stufft award during
the 18th annual High Plains Chapter Conference. The conference and presentation will take place in the University of Nebraska-Lincoln West Central Research and Extension conference room at North Platte.
The award is named for Ruby Stufft of Elsmere, who in 1991 completed 70 years as a cooperative observer, thus becoming the first woman to ever reach that plateau. The National Weather Service presents the award in honor of Stufft to weather observers who have attained 70 years of service.
National Weather Service Central Region Director Christopher Strager will present the award to
the Osborns. Gerry Osborn was the backup observer to his father when he was younger and assumed duties as primary observer on Oct. 1, 1946. Bev is the secondary observer. Part of
their daily observations includes reporting temperature, precipitation, snowfall and snow depth to the National Weather Service. There are over 300 official volunteer cooperative weather observers in Nebraska and nearly 11,000 nationwide. Observers are placed at private residences, farms, municipal facilities, utilities, dams, parks, game refuges, radio and television stations, and other locations.
Osborn has received several awards during the years. In 1999, he was the recipient of the Thomas Jefferson Award. This award is given to an observer who has shown outstanding and unusual achievements in the field of meteorological observations. This is the highest award the National Weather Service presents to an observer. In 1993, he was the recipient of the John Campanius Holm Award. That award is given to an observer with outstanding accomplishments
with their meteorological observations.
The observer’s job is a public service to the local community and to the nation. The Osborns and other cooperative observers make the climatological program a success, volunteering their time to provide National Weather Service, and their community, with daily weather information.

* City, county amend care center agreement; appoint Taylor as fifth board member

(Posted 1:30 p.m. Aug. 3)

In an effort to keep Chairman Kent Taylor on the Ainsworth-Brown County Care Center Board, the Brown County Commissioners and Ainsworth City Council amended the interlocal agreement between the two entities to add a fifth member to the board selected by mutual consent between the city and the county.

During Tuesday’s meeting of the commissioners, with the City Council holding a special session, the groups agreed retaining Taylor on the board was a priority. The City Council representative on the interlocal board, Taylor resigned his council position effective Aug. 2 after moving to a new residence outside the city limits.

“The issue today is retaining Kent Taylor on the interlocal board,” Commissioner Buddy Small said. “The option that seems to be most favorable is adding a fifth member at-large to the board.”

Small also serves on the Care Center Board, representing the county. The original agreement called for four board members, including one commissioner, one City Council member, one member appointed by the county and one member appointed by the city.

County Attorney David Streich said the groups must first amend the interlocal agreement to include the language allowing for a fifth member that must be mutually agreed upon by the two entities. If the council and commissioners do not mutually agree on a fifth member, the board seat is to remain vacant.

Council President Chuck Osborn said, “Kent has been a leader on that board, and we agree he needs to stay on there. He has agreed to do so.”

Small said the commissioners were in agreement that it would be better for the interlocal board to retain Taylor’s expertise.

Commissioner Reagan Wiebelhaus said, “I think it has worked well having four on the board, but Kent has been a major asset so I don’t have a problem with going to five.”

Both boards approved amending the interlocal agreement, then each entity voted to appoint Taylor as the fifth member to the board.

The City Council will decide during its Aug. 10 meeting who will serve as the council representative on the board, though Osborn indicated Tuesday he would likely fill the role Taylor previously occupied.

The groups made an additional change to the interlocal agreement, adding language that allows non-board members to serve as the secretary and treasurer for the board, since County Clerk Travee Hobbs was handling the duties of recording secretary during the board’s meetings, and City Administrator Lisa Schroedl was serving as the treasurer for the board.

The City Council adjourned its special meeting following the care center discussion. Continuing their regular meeting, the commissioners discussed the extensive damage to county roadways from the weekend flooding, particularly the damage that occurred north and east of Ainsworth.

“We lost tons of gravel, and we will need a large amount of fill material,” Small said. “The roads crew has a lot of work ahead of it.”

Small said he had prepared an application requesting a disaster declaration in an effort to unlock federal funds to assist with the repair work.

Following a recommendation from Weed Superintendent Doug Mulligan, the commissioners set a public hearing for 10 a.m. Sept. 20 on declaring bull thistle as a noxious weed in Brown County, requiring landowners to spray if the thistle is detected on their property.

Mulligan said bull thistle was becoming a real problem in Brown County.

“I have been watching it for two or three years,” Mulligan said. “It is not a native thistle, it is from Europe and Asia. If we ignore it, it is going to get out of hand.”

Mulligan said bull thistle is frequently misidentified for more common, native thistle varieties. He said native thistle varieties have natural predators, such as bugs and worms. The invasive varieties, like bull thistle, do not face those same enemies.

“Some landowners are spraying for it now,” Mulligan said. “But, some are not, and those who are spraying are fighting a losing battle unless the neighbors spray too.”

Mulligan said bull thistle is distinctive from other native varieties due to the shape of its leaves. He said, if approved following the public hearing, bull thistle would be listed as a noxious weed in Brown County beginning in 2017.

“It is too late to control it this year, so this would start in 2017,” the weed superintendent said. “Rock County has already declared bull thistle as noxious.”

He said the thistle was not prevalent enough statewide to be labeled a noxious weed for the entire state.

Streich said the public hearing will give anyone opposed to declaring bull thistle a noxious weed an opportunity to speak about why they believe the thistle variety should not receive the label and require landowners to abate.

In the only other action items Tuesday, the commissioners agreed to sign a letter of support to the Middle Niobrara Natural Resources District for that entity’s Long Pine Creek Watershed Project. Small said the letter of support does not commit Brown County to any funding requirements.

The board also approved a budgeted transfer of $250,000 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. Aug. 16.

* Turpin provides road damage assessment; Road 883 and Bar 25 Road remain closed

(Posted 8 a.m. Aug. 2)

Brown County Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin reported Tuesday two roads remain closed in northern and eastern Brown County due to flood damage from more than 10 inches of rain that fell in some locations.
Road 883 west of Meadville Avenue north of Ainsworth and the Bar 25 Road on the Brown County and Rock County line remained closed due to damage.
Turpin said water remains over the road in a few places on Meadville Avenue, as there is no place for the water to drain. He said, at one point, water was over the roadway in 65 different locations in the county.
To hear the full report with the highway superintendent, click on the audio link below.

audio clips/Road closure and flood repair update.mp3

* Work continues on care center building; new $9.5 million facility design unveiled

(Posted 7 a.m. Aug. 2)

Building Committee Chairman Todd Mundhenke unveiled the design plans for an estimated $9.5 million nursing home facility to the Ainsworth-Brown County Care Center Board during its meeting Monday.

Working with Wilkins Architecture of Kearney, Mundhenke said the 46-bed facility will have 38 private rooms and four double rooms.

“We believe having the newest facility with private rooms will be a draw for private-pay residents,” Mundhenke said. “Private rooms with a private bathroom are a necessity. Bids might come in less than the $9.5 million estimate, but we would rather plan on $9.5 million and have it come in lower than estimate it too low.”

He said the initial feasibility study showed a care center facility operating with 30 residents would support a $7 million building project, so the community may be looking at needing to raise $2.5 million to support the project.

Board member Buddy Small said, after speaking with Capital Campaign Committee Chairman Roland Paddock, 66 donors have contributed and pledged $231,878 toward the project thus far.

Mundhenke said the building committee had reviewed the layout, room sizes and the outside look for the new facility design.

He said the committee reduced the room sizes to 250 square feet, which allowed for one nursing station to be within 150 feet of all three wings of the facility.

Mundhenke said, if the market study comes back and shows the facility would support 40 beds, then changes will be made to the design. USDA representatives told the board during its July meeting it would not agree to a loan for a facility with more beds than the market study shows it would support.

Board member Jim Walz said it was important to remember that a USDA loan for a new building would be paid back over 40 years by the facility’s operating income, and not funded by taxpayers.

With board member Leanne Maxwell absent Monday, the board approved a $7,000 proposal from Eid Bailly of Dubuque, Iowa, to perform the market study required for the USDA guaranteed loan application.

Chairman Kent Taylor said the board asked for proposals from four companies, and received two responses.

Small said he spoke with people from Pawnee City, Bridgeport and Madison regarding the companies that submitted proposals. He said Ron Ross with Rural Health Development recommended Eid Bailly, which also submitted the lowest of the two bids. The second bid, from Hanna-Keelan, came in at $8,500 to conduct the market study.

Taylor said the market study is the first step in the USDA application process. When the market study is completed, the board would work on securing the architect report, feasibility study and environmental study.

The board continues work on two fronts, as Sandhills Care Center Administrator Stephanie Rucker said housekeeping staff has been hired, in addition to a maintenance supervisor, and work continues on readying the former Ainsworth Care Center facility to open to residents in the fall.

Rucker told the board she hoped to have all the renovation work on the former facility completed within the next two weeks. She said 12 resident applications had already been received.

Anyone interested in placing a resident in the facility may find information and an application form on the web at www.sandhillscarecenter.com. Information on job openings is also available on the web site.

Walz said he understood the optimistic goal would be to have the facility open by the middle of September.

Mike Harris with Rural Health Development said the work is ongoing to get the facility ready to receive a certificate of occupancy from the fire marshal.

“Once we receive the certificate of occupancy, we can apply for a license,” Harris said. “That will take 30 to 45 days. Residents can be admitted shortly after that. Realistically, October would be optimistic.”

Renovation Committee Chairman Dick Schipporeit said Nelson Furniture has worked on the flooring in the facility, and the carpet cleaners are scheduled to arrive next week.

“The biggest concern right now is the air-conditioning units,” Schipporeit said. “They have not been looked at yet.”

Walz said the new countertops for the kitchen have been measured and ordered, and should arrive in a week or two.

The group continues to work off checklists provided by the fire marshal and the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services of items that need to be addressed for the facility to receive a certificate of occupancy.

Brian Delimont with Three River Communications visited with the board regarding phone and Internet service for the facility.

He suggested the board stick with the current phone system that is already wired into the building.

“We will of course be interested in setting up the phone system in your new facility,” Delimont said.

He said the board could either have Three River provide an off-site backup server, which would incur a charge, or could simply back up data on an external drive and take it from the building each night as a backup.

“We would handle any ongoing maintenance for your computer system,” Delimont said.

County Attorney David Streich discussed obtaining title insurance for the facility, since the title insurance the North Central Development Center received did not transfer to the board when the ownership of the building was transferred.

“If you want clean title insurance for yourself, you would need to have it done,” Streich said. “It is likely not a major issue, since the NCDC just had it done and it came back clean.”

He recommended the board get title insurance for about half of the $690,000 in insurance the NCDC opted to obtain. He said the one-time premium would likely be between $700 and $800, and would cover the board from any potential liens or liabilities related to the real estate.

In the only other action item Monday, the board approved requesting a letter of credit from the First National Bank that would then allow the board not to be charged a deposit by Source Gas to have natural gas turned on in the building.

The next meeting of the Ainsworth-Brown County Care Center Board of Directors is scheduled for 5 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 7.

* Traffic Accident

(Posted 10:15 p.m. Aug. 1)

The Brown County Sheriff’s Department investigated a one-vehicle accident that occurred Sunday, July 31, on Highway 20.
According to the sheriff’s department report, at 9:43 p.m. Sunday on Highway 20 approximately 2 miles west of Johnstown, a 2014 Chevy sport-utility vehicle, driven by Jeremy Fisher, 38, of Yutan, was traveling west when the vehicle struck a deer in the roadway.
No persons were injured during the accident. Damage to the Chevy was estimated at more than $1,000.

* July is 10th wettest in Ainsworth's 111-year recorded weather history

(Posted 2:30 p.m. Aug. 1)

The 6.38 inches of moisture recorded by Ainsworth Weather Observer Gerry Osborn in July is the most for the month since 1997, and puts July as the 10th-wettest in the 111-year history of the city for the month.
Ainsworth's year-to-date precipitation total of 19.94 inches is 4.99 inches above normal.
To hear the full July weather summary, click on the audio link below.

audio clips/Gerry Osborn July 2016 weather.mp3

* Rock County graduates reminded to request foundation scholarship funds

(Posted 2:30 p.m. Aug. 1)

Rock County High School graduates are reminded to request scholarship funds for the 2016-17 school year. Rock County 2016 graduates need to submit enrollment verification of at least 12 hours.
Graduates of the classes of 2013-15 are required to submit enrollment verification along with a transcript showing cumulative GPA of at least 2.5 on a 4.0 scale.
Information can be emailed to Jan Foster at mjfoster@abbnebraska.com, mailed to Jan Foster at PO Box 581 Bassett, NE 68714 or given to Brandi Hollenbeck in Rock County High School.

* BKR Archery Contest showcases youth archers

(Posted 10:45 a.m. Aug. 1)

The BKR 4-H archery contest was held last week, with area archers competing in several divisions.

Caleb Wyrick took the top spot in the advanced compound bow division, with Miah Wiebelhaus placing second and Josh Wyrick third.

Henry Beel won the advanced barebow division.

In the intermediate compound bow division, Beau Wiebelhaus was the champion archer, with CeeAnna Beel second, Katrina Beel third, Tate Kuchera fourth and Hunter Wiebelhaus fifth.

Caden Swanson won the intermediate barebow division.

Zach Wiebelhaus was the top archer in the novice compound bow division, with Kyra Anthony second, Dalya Dearmont third, Brianna Starkey fourth and Mackinzie Arnholt fifth.

Corbin Swanson won the novice barebow division, with Cole Swanson second and Baillee Palmer third.

For beginning shooters, Kip Leonard finished as the top archer, with Trey Anthony second, Trison Wenger third and Kaden Seidel fourth.

Archers were awarded trophies and ribbons based on their placing.

* Smith to hold mobile office Aug. 9 in the Brown County Courthouse

(Posted 10:30 a.m. Aug. 1)

Third District Rep. Adrian Smith will meet constituents of the Third District during a mobile office from 2:30 until 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 9, in the Brown County Courthouse.
A mobile office allows constituents to meet directly with Smith about federal issues and take advantage of the constituent services available through his office, such as assisting individuals with challenges they face while working with a federal agency, ordering flags flown over the U.S. Capitol, and booking tours in Washington, D.C.
For additional information, contact Smith’s Scottsbluff office at (308) 633-6333.

* UNMC announces Dean's List students for spring semester

(Posted 9:15 p.m. July 31)

The University of Nebraska Medical Center has announced its spring 2016 dean’s list for students enrolled in nursing, dentistry, pharmacy and the allied health professions of medical imaging and therapeutic sciences program and medical laboratory science.

To qualify for the dean’s list, nursing, medical imaging and therapeutic sciences program and medical laboratory science students must be enrolled for 12 or more hours during the semester and have a grade point average of 3.75 or above. To qualify for the pharmacy dean’s list, students must place in the top 20 percent of their class and maintain a grade point average of 3.5 or above, and College of Dentistry students must be in the top 10 percent of their class for the semester.

Area students who qualified for the Dean’s List include:

UNMC College of Nursing Lincoln Division

Atkinson – Payton Kennedy and Mariah McAllister.

UNMC College of Pharmacy

Atkinson – Matthew Laetsch.

* Traffic Accidents

(Posted 2:45 p.m. July 31)

The Brown County Sheriff’s Department investigated a pair of one-vehicle accidents during the past week.

At 4:05 p.m. Thursday, July 28, at the Colonial Estates parking lot in Ainsworth, a 1993 Kawasaki motorcycle, driven by Glenna Huffaker, 22, of Ainsworth, was entering the parking lot when the throttle on the motorcycle stuck. Huffaker laid the bike over on its side.
She was transported by the Brown County Ambulance Association to the Brown County Hospital for injuries suffered during the accident.

Damage to the Kawasaki was estimated at $300.

At 4:40 p.m. Friday, July 29, on Highway 20 at the intersection of the 9A Spur near Long Pine, a 2000 Ford pickup, driven by Chester Wilkins, 73, of Ainsworth, was turning from the 9A Spur onto Highway 20 when a load of mineral bags fell out of the bed of the Ford. As the Ford backed up, it struck a light pole.

No injuries were reported. Damage to the Ford was estimated at $500. The light pole, owned by the Nebraska Public Power District, sustained approximately $1,500 damage.

* Weekly summary from the Brown County Sheriff's Department

(Posted 2:45 p.m. July 31)

July 24

  • Investigated a report of misappropriation of funds, from a charity fund.

  • Assisted an individual with a civil matter, involving personal, property in Ainsworth.

  • Responded to a report of a disturbance on West 2nd St Ainsworth.

     

    July 25 

  • Received a report of a missing dog in Ainsworth.

  • Received a report of cattle out on Hwy 7 in Blaine Co. The information was transferred to their dispatch center

  • Assisted an individual with a report of cattle out on in Keya Paha Co. The information was relayed to the Keya Paha Sheriff’s Office.

     

    July 26

  • Responded to a disturbance on West 4th St, Ainsworth.

  • Received a report of a missing dog in Ainsworth. The owners located the dog.

  • Assisted with a report of a vehicle speeding East of Ainsworth.

  • Received reports of the city streets flooding, in Ainsworth.

     

    July 27

  • Responded to a report of suspicious activity at a residence on South Woodward St, Ainsworth.

  • The Brown Co Ambulance transported a patient from the Brown Co Hospital to a hospital in Sioux Falls, SD.

  • Responded to a report of a dog running at large on West 2nd St, Ainsworth.

  • The Ainsworth Fire Dept issued a burn permit for property located West of Ainsworth.

  • Investigated a report of the theft of wood from a residence on East 2nd St Ainsworth.

     

    July 28

  • Provided traffic control, for 35 head of cattle crossing Hwy 20 East of Ainsworth.

  • Assisted NE State Patrol with a traffic stop on Hwy 20 near the Long Pine spur. A subject was arrested & booked into the Brown Co Jail, for driving under revocation, possession of marijuana less than one oz, and possession of drug paraphernalia. The subject was released on bond.

  • Investigated a one-vehicle accident with injury on North Main St Ainsworth. The Brown Co Ambulance also responded. One individual was transported to the Brown Co Hospital.

  • The Johnstown Fire Dept issued a burn permit for property located West & North of Ainsworth.

     

    July 29

  • Provided a civil standby at a residence on South Wilson St Ainsworth.

  • Investigated a report of an accident at the Long Pine Spur, on hwy 20.

  • Responded to a report of a disturbance on North Ash St Ainsworth.

  • The Long Pine Rural Fire Dept issued a burn permit for property located East of Long Pine.

  • Received a barking dog complaint on West 2nd St Ainsworth.

  • Assisted out of county residents with an attempt to locate a camping party, to deliver an emergency message.

     

    July 30

  • The Ainsworth Fire Dept issued a burn permit for property located North on Meadville Ave.

  • A dog was transported from Ainsworth to the Ainsworth Veterinary Clinic.

  • Responded to a report of suspicious activity in Long Pine.

     

    Weekly Summary

    0 - Fix-it tickets were issued.

    1 - Handgun permits applied for

    17 - Incidents Reports were taken.

    5 - Paper Service was served.

    164 - Phone calls were received

    8 - 911emergency calls received 

    9 - Titles were inspected.

    1 - Traffic Citations were issued.

    4 - Verbal & Written Warnings issued.

* Meadville Avenue has water across the road; drivers urged to use caution

(Posted 8 a.m. July 30)

With reports of more than 4 inches of rain falling overnight north of Ainsworth, the Brown County Roads Department has advised that water is running across Meadville Avenue in some locations. Drivers are urged to use caution, barricades will be placed in areas where water is crossing the road.
As much as 5.70 inches of rain was reported near the Long Pine State Park. Do not drive across roadways with flowing water, as flash flooding can wash a vehicle from a roadway. Report any cases of water damaging roadways to either the Brown County Sheriff's Department or the Brown County Roads Department.

* Davis discusses recent audit report on the Nebraska Brand Committee

(Posted 9:15 p.m. July 29)

Nebraska 43rd District State Sen. Al Davis addressed an audit report by State Auditor Charlie Janssen that showed problems with the operation of the Nebraska Brand Committee.
To hear the report, click on the audio link below.

audio clips/State Sen Al Davis 7-29-16.mp3

* Agenda for Monday's Ainsworth/Brown County Care Center Board meeting

(Posted 9 p.m. July 29)

Ainsworth/Brown County Care Center Board
Meeting 4 p.m. Monday, Aug. 1
Ainsworth Conference Center
Agenda

1.      

2.       Roll Call

3.       Approval of Minutes from 7-18-16

4.       Review/Approval of Claims:

a.       Interlocal Claims

b.      RHD Claims

5.       Phone system discussion with representatives from Three River Communications

6.       Request a letter of credit from 1st National Bank for Source Gas

7.       Report from David Streich on:

a.       Title Insurance-Tax Liens

b.      By-Laws for the Interlocal Board

8.        USDA Direct Loan Program

a.       Selection of firm to do a Market Study

b.      Next Steps: Architect Report, Feasibility Study, Environmental Study

9.       Report from RHD and/or Stephanie

a.       Update on Preparations to Open Facility

b.      Employee Handbooks/By-Laws/Wage Scales

c.       Insurance Coverage

10.   Committee Reports

a.       Renovation

b.      Capital

c.       Building

11.   Comments from the public

12.   Agenda Topics/Meeting Date(s) for the next meeting(s):  Tuesday September 6th – 5 pm?

13.   Adjourn

* Recent cases from Brown County Court

(Posted 5:45 a.m. July 29)

In addition to fines, each case carries $48 in court costs

Bradyn A. Handsaker, age 22, of Ainsworth, charged with misdemeanor false reporting, fined $500.

Carl R. Goose, 63, of Louisville, Ky., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Jonathan D. Reetz, 43, of Indianola, Iowa, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Matthew J. Riha, 33, of Rapid City, S.D., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Simone A. Johnson, 28, of Shiloh, Ill., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Charles P. Leslie, 36, of Eagle, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Joshua R. Lacaeyse, 29, of Grinnell, Iowa, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Richard L. Morrow, 59, of Atkinson, first offense reckless driving, $500 and sentenced to seven days in jail with credit for one day served; speeding 21-35 mph over the limit, $200 and sentenced to seven days in jail.

John P. Schoeffield, 23, of Breckenridge, Colo., speeding 21-35 mph over the limit, $200.

Gene F. Lacaeyse, 62, of Grinnell, Iowa, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Coby C. Feddersen, 28, of Colome, S.D., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Francis G. King, 25, of Blossburg, Pa., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Benjamin L. Beard, 16, of Bassett, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Christopher D. Thompson, 33, of Long Pine, disturbing the peace, sentenced to 90 days of probation.

Heidi M. Steskal, 45, of Valley, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25; no operator’s license, $75.

Kylee Jo Pospahala, 30, of Monument, Colo., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Jerry L. Johnson, 48, of Ainsworth, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

* Bauer reports a strong year for corn, soybeans taking shape in the area

(Posted 9:45 a.m. July 28)

Dennis Bauer, University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension Educator for the BKR counties, reported this week's rains will give a big boost to the area's pasture and rangeland that was beginning to show signs of stress, while corn and soybean growers are on pace to see another strong year for yields.
To hear the full report, click on the audio link below.

audio clips/Crop Report - Denny Bauer UN-L Extension.mp3

* Mosquito pool in Holt County tests positive for presence of West Nile

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

One mosquito pool in Holt County has tested positive for West Nile Virus.

Across the state, 24 mosquito pools have tested positive for West Nile Virus.  In addition, the state of Nebraska has had three confirmed human cases.

 West Nile Virus is circulating in the environment. Residents not only in Holt County, but all across Nebraska should take precautions to protect themselves.  

To avoid mosquitoes consider:

Applying an EPA approved mosquito repellant (DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, or IR3535).

Limiting exposure when outdoors by wearing long sleeve shirts and pants.

Limiting time spent outdoors during when Culex mosquitoes are most active, typically dusk to midnight.

Getting rid of standing water that mosquitoes may breed.

West Nile Virus is contracted through mosquitoes that have bitten an infected bird. Generally, birds cannot pass the virus to humans. West Nile Virus symptoms are flu-like and can include a slight fever or headache. Severe symptoms are not likely, but can lead to encephalitis, which can cause inflammation of the brain, disorientation, convulsions and paralysis. People over 50, infants, and pregnant women are especially susceptible to this disease.

Mosquitos are trapped in several locations across the North Central District Health Department (NCDHD) nine-county region. NCDHD will continue to trap mosquitos and will take calls regarding sick or dead birds that have been found.  Anyone finding a dead bird that may have died from West Nile Virus, report the bird to NCDHD at 877-336-2406.

The North Central District Health Department serves Antelope, Boyd, Brown, Cherry, Holt, Keya Paha, Knox, Pierce, and Rock counties.

* Traffic Accident

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

The Brown County Sheriff’s Department investigated a one-vehicle accident that occurred Saturday, July 23, in rural Brown County.
According to the sheriff’s department report, at 10:20 p.m. Saturday at the intersection of 430th Avenue and Road 877, a 2006 Chrysler sedan, driven by Jacob Nelson, 18, of Ainsworth, was traveling south on 430th Avenue. The Chrysler went airborne across the 877 Road intersection, and the vehicle’s airbags deployed when the vehicle landed on the roadway.
Minor injuries were reported, but no emergency transportation was required. Both the driver and a passenger were wearing seat belts.
Damage to the Chrysler, owned by Jason Nelson of Ainsworth, was estimated at $2,000.

* School Board approves contract for Lentz for 2016-17 principal post

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

Following the sudden resignation of Secondary Principal Dirk Coon, the Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education during a special meeting Monday approved a contract for William Lentz to serve in that role for the 2016-17 school year.

Superintendent Darrell Peterson said the board interviewed three candidates in the past week, and extended an offer to Lentz, an Ainsworth High School alum.

“We had three good candidates,” Peterson said. “We could have worked with any one of the three.”

Peterson said Lentz had been serving as the head of the educational administration department at Concordia University. Prior to that position, he was employed as a principal with the David City school system.

“Bill agreed to start as soon as he can,” the superintendent said. “He has principal experience, and he may be interested in staying longer than the one year.”

The board approved a contract for Lentz for the 2016-17 year.

As the only item on Monday’s special meeting agenda, the board adjourned following the contract vote.

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

* Firefighters respond to Friday kitchen fire in Ainsworth

(Posted 9:15 a.m. July 25)

The Ainsworth Volunteer Fire Department was called to a report of a home fire Friday evening in Ainsworth.

According to Ainsworth Assistant Fire Chief Jeff Keezer, at 6:05 p.m. Friday, a fire was reported at 829 E. Third St. in a home owned by Robert McLeod.

Keezer said a grease fire ignited on the stove in the home’s kitchen. He said the homeowner extinguished the fire with a garden hose prior to the firefighters’ arrival.

The stove and the ceiling above the stove were damaged, and there was additional smoke damage to the home.

Keezer said firefighters returned to the fire hall by 7:30 p.m. Friday.

* Taxable sales in April slump in Brown, Rock; rise modestly in Keya Paha County

(Posted 8 a.m. July 25)

Nebraska Department of Revenue
Comparison of April 2016 and April 2015 Net Taxable Sales
for Nebraska Counties and Selected Cities

County
or City

2016
Net Taxable
Sales

2015
Net Taxable
Sales

Percent
Change

2016
Sales Tax
5.5%

2015
Sales Tax
5.5%

Blaine

41,447

36,854

12.5

2,279.60

2,026.98

Boyd

910,758

810,150

12.4

50,091.79

44,558.36

Brown

2,584,558

3,248,144

(20.4)

142,150.87

178,648.19

Ainsworth

2,440,209

3,116,818

(21.7)

134,211.66

171,425.25

Cherry

4,591,776

5,015,293

(8.4)

252,548.06

275,841.49

Valentine

4,430,654

4,793,900

(7.6)

243,686.27

263,664.80

Holt

8,929,890

8,706,046

2.6

491,144.74

478,833.15

Atkinson

1,615,946

1,481,726

9.1

88,877.20

81,495.07

O'Neill

6,296,121

6,200,670

1.5

346,287.03

341,037.15

Keya Paha

230,443

217,632

5.9

12,674.39

11,969.79

Rock

497,690

746,731

(33.4)

27,652.77

41,070.26

Valley

3,341,597

3,266,726

2.3

183,788.05

179,670.13

Ord

2,967,255

2,894,648

2.5

163,199.19

159,205.82

State Total

$2,290,661,641

$2,254,530,653

1.6

$126,578,345.27

$124,036,097.21

Nebraska Department of Revenue
Comparison of April 2016 and April 2015
Motor Vehicle Sales Tax Collections by County

County
or City

2016
Net Taxable
Sales

2015
Net Taxable
Sales

Percent
Change

2016
Sales Tax
5.5%

2015
Sales Tax
5.5%

Blaine

43,397

106,068

(59.1)

2,332.18

5,764.13

Boyd

422,352

661,884

(36.2)

23,260.89

36,475.68

Brown

644,877

881,034

(26.8)

35,686.74

48,705.78

Cherry

1,110,621

1,555,961

(28.6)

61,437.01

86,092.49

Holt

2,228,072

2,935,567

(24.1)

123,333.55

162,379.77

Keya Paha

285,452

364,025

(21.6)

15,736.90

20,012.37

Rock

437,013

473,911

(7.8)

24,039.81

26,133.02

Valley

723,039

1,422,569

(49.2)

39,986.55

78,751.29

State Total

$346,644,842

$366,713,481

(5.5)

$19,228,091.91

$20,331,251.45

* Weekly summary from the Brown County Sheriff's Department

(Posted 9 p.m. July 24)

July 17

  • Responded to a noise complaint in Ainsworth.

  • Investigated a report of a possible intoxicated subject on 2nd St Ainsworth.

  • The Brown Co Ambulance transported an individual from rural Brown Co to the Brown Co Hospital.

  • Responded to a disturbance and report of trespassing on 1st Ainsworth.

  • Investigated the possible sexual assault of a minor in Brown County. The subject was later arrested for Sexual Assault of a Minor 1st degree and for Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor.

  • Investigated a report of the possible theft of a bike in Ainsworth.

  • Responded to a report of a residential security alarm in rural Brown Co.

  • Assisted an individual with a report of a civil matter involving housing in Long Pine.

     

    July 18

  • Investigated a report of a possible domestic disturbance in Ainsworth.

  • Assisted subjects in Ainsworth, with custody issues.

  • The Brown Co Ambulance transported a patient from the Brown Co Hospital to a hospital in Omaha.

     

    July 19

  • Took a Brown Co resident into Emergency Protective Custody and transported them to the Faith
    Regional Center in Norfolk.

  • Due to the high temperatures, provided a welfare check on an Ainsworth resident, after receiving a request by phone.

  • The Brown Co Ambulance transported a patient from the Brown Co Hospital to Faith Regional in Norfolk.

  • Provided a civil standby while individuals gathered personal property.

     

    July 20

  • Assisted individuals, visiting Ainsworth, with a report of a possible assault on an Ainsworth resident.

  • Received a report of possible child abuse or neglect in Ainsworth.

     

    July 21

  • Provided a welfare check on subjects at the tubers exit near Long Pine.

  • The Brown Co Ambulance responded to an emergency call in Ainsworth. No one was transported at the time.

     

    July 22

  • Received a report of possible child neglect in Ainsworth.

  • Provided a civil standby as individuals gathered personal property in Ainsworth.

  • The Ainsworth Fire Dept responded to a kitchen fire on 3rd St Ainsworth.

     

    July 23

  • Received a report of a stop sign down in rural Brown Co.

  • Investigated a report of an accident that occurred in rural Brown Co.

     

    Weekly Summary

    0 - Fix-it tickets were issued.

    2 - Handgun permits applied for

    20 - Incidents Reports were taken.

    4 - Paper Service was served.

    171 - Phone calls were received

    10 - 911emergency calls received 

    7 - Titles were inspected.

    2 - Traffic Citations were issued.

    4 - Verbal & Written Warnings issued.

* Davis discusses upcoming Day of the Cowboy celebration

(Posted 7:30 p.m. July 22)

Nebraska 43rd District State Sen. Al Davis talked about the upcoming Day of the Cowboy July 31.
To hear this week's report, click on the audio link below.

audio clips/State Sen Al Davis 7-22-16.mp3

* Free livestock disaster training workshop set for Wednesday in Ainsworth

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

There is still time to register for the upcoming Livestock Emergency Livestock Training Workshop scheduled for July 27 at Ainsworth.

The day-long workshop will be held at the Elks Lodge from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Wednesday.  While there is no cost to attend, pre-registration is required. 

Livestock feeders, livestock producers and their employees, sale barn personnel, livestock feed suppliers, veterinarians, law enforcement, public health officials, extension educators and emergency managers are urged to attend the free workshop.

“We feel that by using our Homeland Security training funds to bring ag-training locally to those involved with livestock in Central Nebraska, we can help make an impact on the education of bio-terrorism to the livestock and poultry industries,” Doug Fox, Region 24 Emergency Manager, said.

For the detailed agenda and to register, visit the Central Nebraska Economic Development District’s website at www.cnedd.org

* Ambulance Association on-call transfer schedule reduces patient wait times

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

Representatives from the Brown County Ambulance Association touted the success of a new on-call program the association has initiated for transferring patients between hospitals.

Association officers Ann Fiala, Mike Rudnick and Darlene Miller said the new initiative, which puts members of the association on an on-call schedule to respond any time the Brown County Hospital needs to transfer a patient to another facility, has led to substantially reduced wait times for patients and increased revenue for the association.

“We are getting people transferred and they are not having to wait three hours,” Rudnick told the Brown County Commissioners Tuesday as the association submitted its budget for the 2016-17 fiscal year. “We now guarantee that transfer calls are handled. We have covered 49 transfers already this year, and we had been averaging about 35 transfers for an entire year.”

Originally proposed by Miller, the new transfer initiative has members of the Ambulance Association voluntarily agreeing to be on call, with three members on call each day to respond when a transfer is needed.

Prior to the on-call schedule, if Ambulance Association members were not available to cover a transfer from the Brown County Hospital to another facility, the hospital had to contact Midwest Medical and have an ambulance travel from nearly two hours away to then transfer a patient.

Ambulance Association members are paid to be on call, and then receive their regular pay if responding to a transfer call.

Rudnick said Emergency Medical Technicians from Keya Paha, Rock and Blaine counties are helping the Brown County Ambulance Association by helping with the on-call schedule.

“We also have six new EMT candidates who plan to take the training,” Rudnick said.

Fiala said the association is considering extending its transfer services to the Rock County Hospital, as that facility has at times also experienced longer waits to get patients transferred to another facility.

“If we start helping them out, we will have a second crew on standby to cover if the first crew has to transfer a patient,” Fiala said.

Rudnick said, due to the additional transfers the association is covering, the 2016-17 budget will increase by approximately $28,000. The association has experienced increased costs related to fuel and wages to cover the on-call schedule, but the association has also seen an additional $52,000 in revenue from handling the additional transfers.

“Our current budget is $131,250,” Rudnick said. “It will go up to about $160,000 for the next budget year.”

The Brown County Ambulance Association is a self-funded organization. It does not receive tax dollars, but its budget is passed through as part of the overall county budget.

Fiala said, with the additional transfers the association is making, the transfer ambulance is starting to show some wear and tear.

“We will need to replace the transfer ambulance in the next year or two,” Fiala said. “We will need to start that process soon, putting the specs together. It will take a couple years to get an ambulance ordered and delivered.”

The commissioners thanked the association for the service it provides to the area. Commissioner Reagan Wiebelhaus said, even though the association’s budget is increasing, its additional revenue is more than outpacing its added expenses.

In other business during Tuesday’s meeting, North Central Development Center Executive Director Kristin Olson presented a budget request to the commissioners for the 2016-17 fiscal year in the amount of $12,000.

“We would like to see the county’s contribution match the contribution made by the city of Ainsworth,” Olson said.

She said, in the past year, projects made possible through the efforts of the North Central Development Center have generated an additional $13,500 in property tax revenue.

The additional valuation from the development projects increases the county’s tax base and helps relieve some of the burden shouldered by agricultural property owners.

“The home on North Osborne Street the housing committee constructed is assessed at $195,000,” Olson said. “A South Main Street project that was built on lots the NCDC obtained and cleared is assessed at more than $400,000, and the Zero Street rental housing project is assessed at $484,000.”

Olson said those projects will be added to the tax rolls for the 2016 year, bringing in thousands of additional dollars in property tax from areas that previously had either no improvements or dilapidated homes that brought very little in property tax revenue to the county.

“These are projects where the county sees a direct benefit,” Olson said.

She said, prior to the housing committee’s projects, only one new home had been constructed in Ainsworth in the previous 20 years. Since the housing committee formed, there have been four new homes constructed in the city, with additional projects scheduled for demolition that will allow for the potential for more new homes.

The board will consider the funding request when preparing its 2016-17 budget.

In action items Tuesday, the commissioners opened sealed bids for repairing the courthouse north entryway. The lone bid was submitted by Glass Edge of Norfolk in the amount of $30,696. “We have been talking about doing this for more than a year,” Wiebelhaus said. “We need to get it done.”

The board unanimously approved the bid from Glass Edge to replace the glass and ceiling in the entryway between the courthouse and the courtroom, and replace the outer rock fascia.

The board also approved a final payment to Simon Contractors in the amount of $146,133 for replacement of the Norden Bridge. Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin said the county will be reimbursed by the Nebraska Department of Roads, as the county qualified for state funding to replace the bridge.

Turpin said the county will see one more engineering bill from Miller and Associates on the Norden Bridge project.

Turpin reported the county has $153,000 in federal road buyback funding.

“My idea is we keep saving that money for a while and then use it to fix some of our asphalt roads,” Turpin said.

Turpin reported the roads department has been hauling clay onto the Paradise Valley Road and the Raven Road in southern Brown County.

In a final action item, the commissioners approved a transfer of $80,000 from the county’s miscellaneous general fund to the BKR Coop Bridge Fund.

The next meeting of the Brown County Commissioners is scheduled for 8:15 a.m. Aug. 2.

* Hoffman thrilled NASCAR helping shine light on pediatric brain cancer

(Posted 7:45 a.m. July 19)

Andy Hoffman of Atkinson, co-founder of the Team Jack Foundation, said he is thrilled with the exposure NASCAR is providing to Team Jack after Hoffman was selected as one of four finalists for the NASCAR Foundation’s Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award.
KBRB's Graig Kinzie visited with Hoffman, who provided an update on his son's prognosis and talked about the work the Team Jack Foundation is doing to fund studies on the disease.
To hear the report, click on the audio link below.

audio clips/Andy Hoffman - Team Jack.mp3

The winner of The NASCAR Foundation’s Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award will be determined through online voting, which is now underway and will continue through 4 p.m. Sept. 26.  To cast a vote once a day, visit www.NASCAR.com/Award.

* Renovation work progressing on former Ainsworth Care Center

(Posted 7 a.m. July 19)

Renovation work is progressing in the former Ainsworth Care Center building, as the Ainsworth-Brown County Care Center Board continues to make preparations for reopening the facility as the Sandhills Care Center.

Renovation committee chairman Dick Schipporeit told the board during Monday’s special meeting the water system has been inspected, and only one line near the water heater needed to be completely replaced.

He said the ice machine works, and the sinks and faucets are now in working order.

“Bruce Dannatt looked at the generator,” Schipporeit said. “It may need a new fuel injector pump because the motor would crank but wouldn’t turn over. We are getting that fixed.”

He said the kitchen area has been cleaned out and is ready for touchup work.

“The only expensive thing left might be after they look at the heating and air system,” Schipporeit said. “They need to check that out before we do any ceiling repairs.”

Administrator Stephanie Rucker said Nelson’s Furniture will place new tile under the sinks in the kitchen in the next two weeks, and will fix the seams in the flooring.

“After that is done, we will paint and clean,” Rucker said.

She said she had contacted three companies about leasing a dishwasher for the kitchen.

She said a phone line has been hooked up in the care center building, and job applications continue to come in.

She said Larry Wood has been hired to handle maintenance. She requested the board hire a couple housekeepers to assist her in the continued renovation work.

Board member Jim Walz said new countertops have been measured and ordered. He said the $900 cost for the countertops is likely no more expensive than trying to repair the current countertops would have been.

In action items Monday, the board approved opening checking accounts for operating and payroll expenses with First National Bank, and approved opening a resident trust account with Union Bank & Trust. The main Ainsworth-Brown County Care Center Board account is held with West Plains Bank.

By a 2-1 vote, with Walz voting no and board member Leanne Maxwell absent, the board approved paying delinquent personal property taxes that were unpaid by the previous management company for the 2014 and 2015 tax years. The delinquent personal property tax amounted to $1,481 for 2014 and $932 for 2015.

Board member Buddy Small said he thought the Brown County Commissioners could waive the delinquent taxes, but that was not allowed.

Board member Kent Taylor said, considering what the community was initially looking at having to invest to purchase the facility, paying the delinquent personal property tax was not the end of the world.

“We inherited this tax bill when we accepted the building,” Taylor said.

The majority of Monday’s special meeting was spent going over the process of applying to the USDA for direct loan or guaranteed loan assistance as the group continues planning for the construction of a new nursing home facility east of the Brown County Hospital.

“This has been a two-fold process,” Taylor said. “We are getting the former building operational, and then eventually we plan to build a new nursing home, which is where the USDA comes in. We know there are a lot of things that need to be done to apply to the USDA. We are not quite to the point of knowing what the new building is going to cost, but we are getting closer.”

USDA representative Ken Shaw said, since the interlocal group did not have taxing authority, the revenue generated by the operation of the facility would be the means for the board to repay the note for a new nursing home.

Shaw said the board appeared to be on the right track.

“Getting a market study completed is the key component,” Shaw said. “That will show if you have the support in the service area for a facility. That will give you your basis and is the starting point for us.”

Walz asked, if the market study were to come back and show the facility will support 35 beds, would the group have to change the building design since it is currently set up for the 46 beds the community has been approved for by the Department of Health and Human Services.

Shaw said the USDA would not want to overbuild.

“In that case, you could design it so you could add on if the need proves to be there,” Shaw said. “When the market study is done, you can forward that to us before we jump into the next steps. The market study is going to drive the project.”

Taylor said the board had requested proposals from four companies to perform a market study, and had received responses from two. The board will review the two proposals to ensure they match the USDA guidelines and will select a company to perform the market study during its Aug. 1 meeting.

Shaw said, after the market study is completed, the next step is getting the architect report.

“From there, we move on to the financial feasibility report,” Shaw said. “Your manager can help with getting the numbers to an accountant to put that report together.”

An environmental review would also be needed at the site east of the hospital. Troy Pomajzl with USDA said the environmental review is a fairly simple process.

“I don’t foresee there being any complications, since it is a virgin site,” Pomajzl said. “Phase I is a simple evaluation. A company certifies there is no hazardous waste on the site. Phase II is an environmental assessment. Is it in a flood plain? Are any historical buildings impacted?”

Shaw said, if the board completes the steps and qualifies for a direct 40-year loan through USDA, interest rates are the lowest they have been in the history of the program.

He said he would continue to work with the board and answer any questions as it works through the loan application process.

The next meeting of the Ainsworth-Brown County Care Center Board is scheduled for 4 p.m. Aug. 1 in the Ainsworth Conference Center.

* Agenda for Monday's meeting of the Ainsworth-Brown County Care Center Board

(Posted 9:15 a.m. July 18)

Ainsworth-Brown County Care Center Board Agenda
Special meeting 1 p.m. Monday, July 18
Ainsworth Conference Center

1.       Reminder of the Open Meetings Act

2.       Roll Call

3.       Approval of Minutes from 7-6-16

4.       Review/Approval of Claim – Personal Property Taxes for 2014/2015

5.       USDA Direct Loan Program - Bert Mues-USDA: 1pm at the Ainsworth Conference Center            

6.       Bank Resolution to open a subsidiary account for the Care Center at 1st National Bank

7.       Report from RHD and/or Stephanie

8.       Comments from the public

9.       Agenda Topics/Meeting Date(s) for the next meeting(s)  Monday August 1st – 4pm

10.   Adjourn

 

* Brown County Commissioners meeting agenda for Tuesday

(Posted 9:15 a.m. July 18)

Brown County Commissioners Agenda
8:15 a.m. Tuesday, July 19
Brown County Courthouse

08:15 - 08:20               Roll Call;

 

Approve Budgeted Transfer of $80,000.00 from Miscellaneous General in General to BKR COOP Bridge Fund

 

Approve Claims

                                   

08:20   Discuss/Action -Kenneth Turpin – Road Department Issues

 

            Discuss/Action- Repair/Replace sidewalks adjacent to the Courthouse Complex

                                                           

            Discuss/Action- Open sealed bids for the Courthouse Entryway

 

 9:00    Brown County Ambulance Association, Ann Fiala, Darlene Miller & Mike Rudnick – Discuss/Action - 2016-2017 Proposed Budget

 

 9:30   Kristin Olson – Discuss/Action Annual County Budget Contribution to NCDC

 

10:00  Discuss/Action -Open “Courthouse Entryway” sealed bids.

 

10:30   Discuss/Action-Geneie Andrews – GIS contract

 

     Discuss/Action-Sign Application from Miller & Associates for payment to Simon Contractors

* Middle Niobrara NRD receives grant to purchase wood chipper

(Posted 7:15 a.m. July 18)

Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality Director Jim Macy announced the awarding of $3.4 million in grants through the Waste Reduction and Recycling Incentive Grant Fund.
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 $2.08 million for projects related to tire recycling were previously announced in April.
The Middle Niobrara Natural Resources District received a $150,000 grant for the purchase of a wood chipper and expenses to operate in order to reduce overgrown eastern red cedar trees and ponderosa pine trees in the NRD’s service area. The wood chips will be recycled and sold.

* Weekly summary from the Brown County Sheriff's Department

(Posted 1:15 p.m. July 17)

July 10

  • Provided a welfare check on an individual West of Ainsworth.

  • Investigated a report of a possible attempted break in, in Ainsworth.

  • Provided a welfare check on a possible suicidal subject in Ainsworth.

  • Responded to a report of a deer that was struck by a vehicle on Hwy 20 West of Ainsworth.

     

    July 11

  • Assisted Ainsworth residents with a child custody matter.

  • Responded to a report of vehicles racing on West 2nd St Ainsworth.

  • Received a report of possible child neglect in Ainsworth.

  • Booked a subject into the Brown Co Jail, on a Bench Warrant for failure to show. The subject was released on bond.

  • Received a report of a Long Pine resident, possibly needing assistance from Adult Protective Services.

  • Responded to a report of a gas drive off from a service station in Ainsworth.

     

    July 12

  • Investigated a report of suspicious activity at an Ainsworth business.

  • The Brown Co Ambulance transported an individual from a residence on North Main St, Ainsworth to the Brown Co Hospital.

  • Responded to a traffic complaint in Long Pine.

  • The Brown Co Ambulance transported an individual from the Ainsworth Pool to the Brown Co Hospital.

  • Responded to a report of a vehicle racing around Long Pine.

  • The Brown Co Ambulance transported a patient from the Brown Co Hospital to Avera St. Anthony’s Hospital in O’Neill.

     

    July 13

  • Investigated a report of harassment in rural Brown Co.

  • Provided a welfare check on a possible suicidal subject in Ainsworth.

  • The Ainsworth Fire Dept issued a burn permit for property West of Ainsworth.

     

    July 14

  • Investigated a report of suspicious activity at a business in Ainsworth.

  • Responded to a report of a dog running at large in Ainsworth.

  • Responded to a report of juveniles riding bicycles on the track at East City Park.

  • Responded to a traffic complaint East of Ainsworth on Hwy 20.

  • Assisted an Ainsworth resident with reports of multiple stray dogs in Ainsworth.

  • Investigated a report of suspicious activity at a rural Ainsworth residence.

  • Investigated a report of drug activity in Ainsworth.

July 15

  • Investigated a report of vandalism to a vehicle parked North of Ainsworth.

  • The Brown Co Ambulance transported a patient from the Brown Co Hospital to a hospital in Lincoln.

  • The Ainsworth Fire Dept responded to a report of a bale of hay on fire, West & South of Ainsworth.

  • Responded to a report of subjects acting unruly in Hidden Paradise.

  • The Ainsworth Fire Dept issued a burn permit for property North on Meadville Ave.

  • Investigated a report of a vehicle / deer accident on Hwy 183.

     

    July 16

  • Provided traffic control for motorcyclists traveling North on Main St and turning West on Hwy 20.

  • Investigated a report of a vehicle backing over a non-functioning meter in Ainsworth.

  • Responded to a report of a stray dog on North Main St Ainsworth. The dog was returned to it’s owner, as it had a current 2016 city dog license.

  • Investigated a report of a possible burglary in Long Pine.

     

    Weekly Summary

    1 - Fix-it tickets were issued.

    2 - Handgun permits applied for

    29 - Incidents Reports were taken.

    14 - Paper Service was served.

    161 - Phone calls were received

    7 - 911emergency calls received 

    6 - Titles were inspected.

    1 - Traffic Citations were issued.

    8 - Verbal & Written Warnings issued.

* Hoffman a finalist for NASCAR humanitarian award, $100,000 donation to Team Jack

(Posted 11:30 a.m. July 14)

Andy Hoffman, Co-founder of the Team Jack Foundation, has been named one of four national finalists for The NASCAR Foundation’s Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award.

The award recognizes a volunteer who embodies the ideals of charity and community that Betty Jane France, Founder and Chairwoman Emeritus of The NASCAR Foundation, has championed throughout her life.

The winner of The NASCAR Foundation’s Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award will be determined through online voting, which is now underway and will continue through 4 p.m. Sept. 26.  To cast a vote once a day, visit www.NASCAR.com/Award.

Each finalist will receive a minimum $25,000 donation to the children’s charity they represent. Hoffman represents the Team Jack Foundation, which works to raise money and awareness for pediatric brain cancer research. Each finalist also receives a VIP experience at a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race and a trip to The NASCAR Foundation’s Honors Gala in New York City where the 2016 Award winner will be announced.

“I am humbled and grateful for our efforts with the Team Jack Foundation to receive this recognition by The NASCAR Foundation,” Hoffman said.  “This nomination helps the Team Jack Foundation make this disease a national priority, which is our number one goal.”

The NASCAR Foundation’s Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award recognizes a dedicated NASCAR fan who has positively impacted the lives of children through volunteerism. During the past six years, The NASCAR Foundation has awarded $875,000 to the charities of 20 remarkable, with almost 200,000 children positively impacted.

Andy and his wife, Brianna, have led efforts in establishing the Team Jack Foundation and have helped raise over $3 million for pediatric brain cancer research. Hoffman has helped turn his family’s nightmare into a powerful force impacting the lives of children and their families. His passion for fighting pediatric brain cancer is unprecedented. From investing personal resources to volunteering countless hours each year, Hoffman is helping lead a nation in the fight against the number one cancer cause of death in children.

The foundation has since then funded five research projects nationally. Recently, Hoffman successfully lobbied for a $3 million brain tumor program at Nebraska's Medical Center matched by the state of Nebraska. Today, the Foundation is comprised of three staff members, an eight-person board of directors as well as a scientific advisory board. The foundation continues to be powered by generous volunteers all across Nebraska for various projects and events.

“When our son was diagnosed with brain cancer and we found out that the treatments were over 30 years old, we knew we had to do something, not just for our son, but for all children,” Hoffman said. “This donation to the Team Jack Foundation will be a game changer.  It will give these children hope.  It may be the difference in funding a new clinical trial or not.”

The Team Jack Foundation’s primary focus is to raise money and awareness for pediatric brain cancer research. Childhood brain cancer affects nearly 4,600 children each year, making it the leading cancer cause of death in children.  Each year, less than four percent of U.S. federal funding is solely dedicated to childhood cancer research, even less than this is spent on child brain cancer research. The Team Jack Foundation has raised over $3 million for pediatric brain cancer research. The funding is currently fueling five research projects nationwide.  The Team Jack Foundation is working with world renowned researchers, directly, to develop relevant and impactful research initiatives.

For more information on The Team Jack Foundation, visit the web site www.TeamJackFoundation.org

* City Council accepts Taylor's resignation

(Posted 7 a.m. July 14)

After seven-plus years on the Ainsworth City Council, Kent Taylor submitted his letter of resignation Wednesday.

Taylor has purchased a home outside city limits, which will exclude him from continuing to serve on the council. The resignation is effective Aug. 2, allowing Taylor to participate in the next two meetings of the Ainsworth-Brown County Care Center Board.

In his letter, Taylor thanked those he worked with during his time on the council, including council colleagues Bruce Papstein, Doug Weiss, Jake Adkisson, Chuck Osborn, Deb Hurless and Brian Williams, Mayors Larry Rice and Russ Moody, and City Administrators Lisa Schroedl and Kristi Thornburg.

Rice and the council thanked Taylor for his years of service to the community.

Taylor had previously filed for re-election prior to purchasing the home outside city limits. He and Hurless are the only two candidates who will appear on the November General Election ballot.

If someone files as a write-in candidate for the seat, that person could be elected to the full four-year term. If there is no write-in candidate, the council would have to appoint someone to replace Taylor following the General Election.

The council did not indicate whether it planned to appoint someone to Taylor’s seat to fill the final three months of his current term.

The council held a hearing for the LB 840 Citizen Advisory Review Committee’s six-month report.

North Central Development Center Executive Director Kristin Olson said all loans made through the LB 840 fund are current. While no loans were made from the fund during the past six months, she said she anticipated three loan applications could be received in the next six months.

She said the home constructed by the housing committee on three cleared lots on North Osborne Street is still available for sale, but it has been shown several times.

“There is some interest there, but it has not sold at this point,” Olson said.

She said the housing committee acquired a dilapidated property at the corner of Third and Oak streets. The home is scheduled for demolition in the fall.

She said the Depot building on Main Street was donated to the NCDC, with the owner also providing some funding for demolition.

“We hope to get that building demolished in the next few weeks,” Olson said.

She said the former Royal Theater building sold, which saved the community potentially $40,000 in demolition costs.

“We are happy with that project,” Olson said.

Meanwhile, the NCDC purchased the former Rusty Petal building and is beginning the process of remodeling the building to serve as the next theater for the community.

“At one point, the theater committee considered the mini park for construction of a theater,” Olson said. “They opted instead to purchase the former Rusty Petal. The roof work on the building has been completed. We met with the state fire marshal with our remodeling plans. When those are approved, we will move forward.”

Olson said estimates for a new projector came in lower than anticipated, and the group met with a company regarding the installation of the sound system.

“We are looking at a 3D system,” Olson said. “So far, we are still under our budget. In a perfect world, if we can get bids back and contractors scheduled, we could be open by Jan. 1.”

Olson said the group is working to establish a non-profit organization, as the North Central Development Center’s goal is not to own the theater long-term.

Osborn said, with the group opting to utilize the former Rusty Petal building, he would rather see the city maintain ownership of the mini park lots.

Olson said she agreed, with a sidewalk on the north side of the building being the only portion of the mini park that the theater group thought might be needed.

Olson also reported the 55-and-over housing complex on Zero Street is open, and there are currently four tenants who have rented the two-bedroom units.

“The units are move-in ready,” Olson said. “They are going to do some landscaping soon. That project has local private investors, and it is on the tax rolls.”

In other business, the council approved a proposal to have Central Nebraska Economic Development District serve as the certified grant administrator for the city’s CDBG re-use loan program.

With the city hoping to allocate the more than $270,000 in the CDBG fund toward the Sandhills Care Center, Judy Peterson with CNEDD said the city’s current program guidelines do not allow for a forgivable loan to be made from the fund.

She said the guidelines could be amended to allow a forgivable loan for the project as long as the loan meets the other guidelines with the CDBG program.

The agreement with CNEDD for the account administration required the city to become a member of the Central Nebraska Economic Development District, at a cost of $2,592. CNEDD will additionally charge the city 5 percent of the overall cost of any loan made from the fund as an administration fee.

The council tabled action on the three-year law enforcement service agreement with Brown County, as Rice said the sheriff recommended the committee consisting of city and county representatives and the sheriff go over the agreement prior to adopting it.

Hurless said she was not happy recently when trying to take her grandson to the Ainsworth Swimming Pool and being told the pool was closed because attendance that day was low.

“On a nice day, the pool needs to be open regardless,” Hurless said. “There were three little girls who went to swim who were also turned away. I think we need to revise the rules.”

Schroedl said it was not an official rule to close the pool when attendance was low, but it was an unwritten guideline.

“It comes down to the number of kids you have swimming vs. having to pay for lifeguards,” the city administrator said. “I don’t know if the council wants to come up with a written policy, but I see both sides. The pool is only open about 10 weeks, but do we want to pay three lifeguards when we have four kids swimming.”

Pool Manager Susan Scholtes said three lifeguards and a pool operator have to be on site at all times when the pool is open. She said if one of the lifeguards is also certified to serve as the pool operator, the pool can get by with having three staff members on site.

“I wasn’t there that day, but was told there were only two kids swimming at 3 p.m.,” Scholtes said. “I can’t be there all the time, so I do leave some judgment calls to the lifeguards. I have now directed the lifeguards to keep the pool open no matter how many kids are swimming.”

Hurless said she believed the pool should never be closed when the weather is nice.

“We know the swimming pool doesn’t make money,” Hurless said. “There are other things they could do if there are not a lot of kids there.”

Scholtes said, overall, attendance at the pool has been consistent, with the average number of swimmers daily being better than average.

No official action was taken by the council.

During her report, Schroedl reminded the council that it was time to start thinking about the 2016-17 city budget. With the Sandhills Care Center likely requiring at least $200,000 in the next budget from both the city and the county to help cash flow the first year of operations, the council needed to begin looking to see how that funding could be worked into the city budget.

Schroedl also reported the east water main extension project was complete, and the sewer main extension project would commence this month as the engineer completes the plan for the project.

She reported the KBR Solid Waste Committee voted to increase the contributions for entities in its interlocal agreement, with the city’s costs increasing by approximately $300 per month.

She said there have been 37 building permits issued by the city in 2016, with an estimated valuation of $870,900.
The next meeting of the Ainsworth City Council is scheduled for 7 p.m. Aug. 10.

* School Board accepts resignation of principal, effective immediately

(Posted 8 a.m. July 12)

With a little more than a month remaining before the start of the 2016-17 school year, the Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education accepted the sudden resignation of Principal Dirk Coon during its Monday meeting.

Superintendent Darrell Peterson said, with the late resignation, there was no decision Monday on whether the school would try and find a principal or go with a temporary option for a year.

Audience member Tonny Beck asked if the school planned to report to the State Board of Education on this case so another school district does not have to go through what the Ainsworth district went through.

Peterson said he had contacted the school attorney, and will proceed based on the attorney’s advice.

Audience member Jeff Keezer asked if the school had a policy for a staff member who broke a contract.

Peterson said, in this case, the resignation was mutually agreeable.

Audience member Reagan Wiebelhaus said there were companies that provide extensive background checks that go beyond a standard criminal record check.

“I don’t know what kind of background checks are being done now,” Wiebelhaus said.

Peterson said the school uses One Source, which provides a background check through seven or eight registries.

“It is the same check that just about all schools use,” the superintendent said. “Maybe we could use a second check.”

Beck said the school has had a less than stellar record the last five years with its new hires.

“Maybe we need to make a change to weed out some of these problems before they get here,” Beck said. “It doesn’t do us any good as a community to have these situations occur.”

Peterson said the district has also hired some excellent staff members in recent years, but agreed to look into the possibility of expanding the background check process.

Requesting to be on the agenda, Heather Stec said more than 30 members of the community met Thursday to discuss the school district.

“There are a lot of good things happening, but when negative things happen it overtakes the positive,” Stec said. “We would like to see the communication improve between the board, the administrators, and parents. We would like you to address at the next meeting how many kids have opted out of the district the past two years. We would like facts instead of relying on rumors. We are ready to work with you and move forward.”

Also requesting to be on the agenda, Nadine Starkey said the main issue she had was taken care of.

“We found out one teacher was no longer in the school because they had been removed by law enforcement,” Starkey said. “I understand there are some things that can’t be discussed, but I think there should be notification to parents when things like this happen. The community wants to support you. We ask that you support us as well.”

Peterson said he knew of no employee who was arrested or taken out of the school.

“We can’t say anything about personnel issues,” the superintendent said. “Part of my job is protecting the school from lawsuits, and discussing personnel issues would be the quickest way to a lawsuit.”

Board member Mark Johnson said the case Starkey was referring to was investigated by the sheriff’s department and the State Patrol, and nothing was found.

“I think there are also a lot of rumors that get started that cause problems for people,” Johnson said.

Board member Brad Wilkins said the board shared the concerns of the community.

“We all want to have a great school system,” Wilkins said. “It is great to see people taking an interest in the school.”

During the public comment portion of the meeting regarding agenda items, audience member Wade Alberts questioned the board regarding the language in Policy 4026 on the prohibition of aiding and abetting sexual abuse.

Alberts said the policy reads, “A school employee, contractor or agent of the school district is prohibited from assisting another school employee, contractor or agent in obtaining a new job if the individual knows, or has probable cause to believe, that such other employee, contractor or agent engaged in sexual misconduct with a minor or student in violation of the law.”

Alberts asked if a school employee is not already under obligation to report any kind of sexual misconduct.

Peterson said state law requires school employees to report any suspected child abuse. He said the policy Alberts was referencing was a state statute passed that the district was simply updating its policy to align with.

Alberts said, unfortunately, the policy was not related to a hypothetical situation.

“Twice during my time as head football coach, school employees, contractors and agents of this school district knew or had probable cause to believe that another employee, contractor or agent was engaged in sexual misconduct with a minor,” Alberts said. “Furthermore, other employees, contractors or agents of this school were asked to submit letters of recommendation, all of which were declined to the best of my knowledge.”

He asked the policy be amended to more clearly define the proper procedures for reporting potential sexual misconduct within the school.

Peterson said the board did not need to take action on the policy during Monday’s meeting, and he would visit with the school attorney about the language in the policy crafted by the state.

“These policies are crafted by the attorneys for schools to satisfy state statutes,” the superintendent said. “We are required to update our policies within a year of them being updated by the state.”

In action items Monday, the board approved an option enrollment request allowing Justene Beach to opt in to Ainsworth Community Schools from the Keya Paha County Public School District.

The board approved an option enrollment request allowing Baillee Palmer to opt out of the district and attend Keya Paha County Public Schools, and the board approved an option enrollment request allowing Sailor and Collin Jewett, who were previously home-schooled, to opt out of the district and into Rock County Public Schools.

The board approved an agreement with Dana F. Cole Co. of Ord to provide audit services to the school district.

During his report, Peterson said Spanish will be taught by distance learning from Pleasanton.

“It is taught by a teacher who has taught this way for several years,” he said. “We will see how it works and decide if we want to continue it or look for a teacher for next year.”

The superintendent said three cattle producers have agreed to donate beef for the new initiative that will feed district students locally raised and processed beef during school lunches. He said some additional monetary donations have been received to help with the cost of processing the animals.

Peterson reviewed the annual vehicle mileage report for the 2015-16 school year. He said overall mileage on the school’s fleet of vehicles was down compared to the previous two years, and repairs to the district’s fleet were minimal.

The district fleet of busses, vans and cars traveled a total of 101,784 miles during the 2015-16 school year, compared to 128,191 miles driven during the 2014-15 year.

Elementary Principal Sarah Williams said 44 people ate lunch during the first day of the free summer lunch program being provided Monday through Thursday for the next three weeks at Ainsworth Community Schools.

All children 18 and younger can eat at the school free of charge. Adults can eat lunch at the school on those days for $3.75.

With the exception of Policy 4026, which was tabled, the board approved the first reading of several policies Monday, including:

* Policy 6212 regarding assessments and academic content standards.

* Policy 3515 regarding student transportation, which allows parents to be paid monthly for mileage as opposed to once per semester.

* Policy 3205 regarding the sale and disposal of school property.

* Policy 3570 regarding the Every Student Succeeds Act, which replaces the No Child Left Behind Act.

* Policy 5110 regarding homeless students.

* Policy 5330 regarding initiations, hazing, secret clubs and outside organizations. Peterson said the law has been strengthened after a hazing incident in a high school could not be dealt with because the law only dealt with college hazing. It has been amended to include hazing at all levels.

* Policy AR 1210.01 regarding Title 1 parental and family involvement.

* Policy 3305 regarding the district’s purchasing policy. Peterson said the policy adds security regarding the use of a school credit card.

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

* Highway 20 overlay work from Valentine east begins today

(Posted 8 a.m. July 12)

Weather permitting, work is scheduled to begin today (Tuesday) on Highway 20 in Cherry County, from the Valentine city limits east to the junction of Highway 83, according to the Nebraska Department of Roads.

Werner Construction of Hastings has the $2.5 million contract for the 4.6-mile project, which will include milling and asphaltic concrete overlay of the roadway.

Traffic will be maintained during construction with use of a pilot car. Work is anticipated to be completed in November.

The Department of Roads project manager is Darrell Lurz of Valentine. Motorists are reminded to drive cautiously through highway construction zones.

 

* Department of Roads plans meetings to discuss prioritization of roads projects

 

(Posted 8 a.m. July 12)

The Nebraska Department of Roads will host eight regional meetings, including from 3 until 5 p.m. Monday, July 18, in the Niobrara Lodge at Valentine, to share the preliminary results of the project prioritization process and gather feedback through facilitated group discussions.
The input provided during the meetings will help inform investment decisions for the next round of capital improvement projects.
The regional meetings are a follow-up to those held in January, where NDOR staff presented information on expanding the agency’s project prioritization process to better consider economic impacts and include more stakeholder input. The prioritization process evaluates capital improvement projects, which have the biggest impact on the economy. These include projects that add lanes, build new interchanges or improve the expressway system.
Following the July meetings, NDOR staff will begin the process of selecting the next round of capital improvement projects, taking into account the results of this new prioritization process as well as things like public support, geographic inclusion, corridor completion and opportunities for supplemental funding.
NDOR plans to announce the projects this fall.

* North Central District Health Department confirms West Nile presence in tested bird

(Posted 2:30 p.m. July 11)

One dead American Blackbird in the North Central District Health Department coverage area has tested positive for West Nile Virus. The NCDHD traps mosquitoes in several locations across their region to test for West Nile Virus. At this time, no mosquito pools in the NCDHD region have tested positive. 

West Nile Virus is contracted through mosquitoes that have bitten an infected bird. Generally, birds cannot pass the virus to humans. West Nile Virus symptoms are flu-like and can include a slight fever or headache. Severe symptoms are not likely, but can lead to encephalitis, which can cause inflammation of the brain, disorientation, convulsions and paralysis. People over 50, infants, and pregnant women are especially susceptible to this disease.

Across the state, seven positive West Nile Virus mosquito pools have been detected.  This is an indicator that West Nile Virus is circulating in the environment. Nebraskans in all regions should take precautions to protect themselves.  

The North Central District Health Department recommends:

* Applying an EPA approved mosquito repellant (DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, or IR3535).

* Limiting exposure when outdoors by wearing long sleeve shirts and pants.

* Limiting time spent outdoors when Culex mosquitoes are most active, typically dusk to midnight.

* Getting rid of standing water where mosquitoes may breed.

The North Central District Health Department will continue to take calls regarding sick or dead birds that have been found; however, the positive West Nile Virus bird indicates NCDHD will no longer accept birds for testing.  If you find a dead bird that may have died from West Nile Virus, do not touch the bird.  Use gloves or an inverted bag to safely dispose of it. To report dead birds, call NCDHD at 1-877-336-2406.

North Central District Health Department serves Antelope, Boyd, Brown, Cherry, Holt, Keya Paha, Knox, Pierce, and Rock counties.

* Department of Roads plans 9 projects for 2017 in District 8

(Posted 9:30 a.m. July 11)

Nebraska Department of Roads Director Kyle Schneweis released the fiscal year 2017 Surface Transportation Program, which details how the NDOR plans to use highway user dollars to provide the best state highway system possible for all Nebraskans and the traveling public.

The 2017 State Highway System Program is published at $520 million and is funded from state and federal highway user taxes and fees. 

Ninety-five projects will be let to contract on the State Highway System during fiscal year

2017, which runs July 1, 2016, through June 30, 2017.

There are nine projects on the 2017 highway plan for District 8, which encompasses north central Nebraska. Seven of those nine projects include resurfacing, with the other two slated for micro-surfacing.

Milling, resurfacing work and bridge repairs are scheduled for 6.3 miles of Highway 7 from the Calamus River north in Brown County at an estimated cost of just under $2 million.

An additional 12.3 miles of Highway 7 milling and resurfacing work is planned for Highway 7 north of the first project at a cost of $3.2 million.

An 8-mile stretch of Highway 12 from Springview west in Keya Paha County is scheduled for milling and resurfacing work at an estimated cost of $3.3 million.

More than 25 miles of Highway 61 in Cherry County is scheduled for micro-surfacing work at a cost of $1.5 million. There is a 7.8-mile stretch of Highway 83 between Thedford and Valentine scheduled for milling and resurfacing work at a cost of $3.2 million.

The other District 8 projects are planned for Highway 91 in Loup County, Highway 91 in Garfield County, Highway 183 in Loup County and Highway 281 in Boyd County.

The nine projects planned in District 8 for 2017 carry a total estimated cost of $29.2 million.

Numerous projects are included on the Department of Roads’ five-year plan, including:

NDOR Five-Year Plan

Highway 7

Blaine County from Brewster north – 8.4 miles of milling and resurfacing, $3.6 million.

Brown County  in the Ainsworth area – Micro-surfacing, $2.3 million.

Brown County in Ainsworth and south – 7.2 miles of milling and resurfacing, $3.8 million.

Rock County from the Niobrara River south – 5.3 miles of milling and resurfacing, $3.1 million.

Keya Paha County from the Niobrara River north – 4.7 miles of milling and resurfacing, $2 million.

Highway 20

Brown County in Ainsworth – 1.3 miles of concrete paving, $4.8 million.

Brown County near Willow Creek – Culvert repair, $600,000.

Brown County near Long Pine Creek – Bridge rehabilitation, $870,000.

Rock County – Micro-surfacing, $2.3 million.

Cherry County in Valentine – Micro-surfacing work, $4.3 million.

Cherry County from Merriman west – Micro-surfacing, $900,000.

Cherry County from Eli to Nenzel – Micro-surfacing, $1.7 million.

Holt County in O’Neill – Joint repair and grinding, $390,000.

Highway 183

Rock County from Rose south – 6 miles of milling and resurfacing, $2.6 million.

Rock County from Rose north – Micro-surfacing, $1.8 million.

Rock County from Bassett south – 10.1 miles of resurfacing, $3.7 million.

Keya Paha County north and south of Springview – Micro-surfacing, $890,000.

Keya Paha County from the Niobrara River north – 4.3 miles of milling and resurfacing, $2.1 million.

Keya Paha County from the Highway 12 junction north to the South Dakota line – 7.1 miles of milling and resurfacing, $2.9 million

Loup County north and south of Taylor – Micro-surfacing, $1.5 million.

Highway 137

Rock County from Newport north – Resurfacing, $4.5 million.

Keya Paha County from the Niobrara River north – 9.7 miles of milling and resurfacing, $3.3 million.

Keya Paha County from the Keya Paha River to the South Dakota line – 6.5 miles of milling, resurfacing and bridge repair, $3.5 million.

Highway 12

Cherry County at the Minnechaduza Creek – Bridge project, $1.5 million.

Cherry County from Sparks east – 3.5 miles of milling and resurfacing, $1.5 million.

Keya Paha County east and west of Burton – 9.4 miles of milling, resurfacing and bridge work, $4.5 milion.

Boyd County near Bristow – Culvert repair, $1.1 million.

Boyd County from Lynch to Monowi – 8.6 miles of milling, resurfacing and bridge repair, $3.2 million.

Highway 11

Holt County from Amelia north – 6.4 miles of milling, resurfacing and bridge repair, $3.2 million.

Holt County north and south of Holt Creek – 8.5 miles of milling and resurfacing, $3 million.

Holt County from Atkinson south – 6.1 miles of milling, resurfacing and bridge repair, $2.8 million.

Holt County from Brush Creek to the Niobrara River – 4.8 miles of milling and resurfacing, $2.2 million.

Boyd County from the Niobrara River to Butte – 5.2 miles of resurfacing, $1.9 million.

Boyd County from Butte north – 7.3 miles of resurfacing, $2.5 million.

Highway 91

Blaine County from Brewster east – 9.6 miles of milling and resurfacing, $4.7 million.

Loup County from the Blaine County line east – 6.3 miles of milling and resurfacing, $2.5 million.

There are additional District 8 projects in the five-year plan for Highway 61 in Cherry County, Highway 83 in Cherry County, Highway 96 in Loup and Garfield counties, and Highway 281 in Holt County.

The projects on the District 8 five-year plan total $144 million.

The state received $246 million from motor fuel taxes, $119 million for transportation funding from motor vehicle sales taxes, and $43 million from motor vehicle registration taxes.

The Transportation Innovation Act, passed by the Nebraska Legislature in 2016, will also begin providing revenue for the Department of Roads. An estimated $58.5 million in roads revenue is projected for the 2017 fiscal year.

* Amber Alert issued for infant taken from Faith Regional Medical Center Sunday night

UPDATE - The Amber Alert has been cancelled by the Nebraska State Patrol at 6:30 a.m. Monday after the infant and her mother were found safe.

The Nebraska State Patrol has issued an Amber Alert for a 2-day-old child who was taken from the Faith Regional Medical Center at Norfolk.

The Nebraska State Patrol and Norfolk Police Department are searching for infant Bentley Tuttle, who was last seen at Faith Regional Medical Center Sunday. The Amber Alert was issued at 10:41 p.m. Sunday. The infant is believed to be in danger.

The child may be in the company of Lacee Tuttle, 35, who stands 5-feet-5 and weighs 195 pounds, with brown hair. She was last seen wearing blue jean capris with blue shirt. She may be traveling with Chad Raff, 29, who stands 5-feet-10 and weighs 150 pounds with blonde hair. He was last seen wearing blue jeans, a brown shirt and black hat.

They may be traveling in a Green 1997 Pontiac Transport van, NE 40 F703, that was last seen leaving the hospital parking lot.

Anyone with information on the whereabouts of Bentley Tuttle, call 911 or contact Norfolk Police Department at 402-644-8700 immediately. Contact law enforcement if you see anyone matching the suspects’ descriptions or if observing the suspect vehicle.

* Work to begin Monday on Highway 91 just west of Taylor

(Posted 9:30 a.m. July 8)

Weather permitting, work is scheduled to begin the week of July 11 on Highway 91, starting at milepost 38.77 and ending at the junction of Highway 183 at Taylor, according to the Nebraska Department of Roads.
Werner Construction Inc. of Hastings has the $2.2 million contract. Work includes milling and asphaltic concrete overlay. Traffic will be maintained with flaggers and a pilot car. Work is anticipated to be completed in October.
The Department of Roads’ project manager is Michael Rudnick of Ainsworth.  Motorists are reminded to drive cautiously through highway construction zones and to remember that fines are doubled when workers are present.

* Davis discusses Oil and Gas Commission decision during weekly report

(Posted 8 a.m. July 8)

Nebraska 43rd District State Sen. Al Davis provided information on the Nebraska Oil and Gas Commission's decision regarding wastewater disposal in western Nebraska during his weekly report.
To hear the report, click on the audio link below.

audio clips/State Sen Al Davis 7-7-16.mp3

* Sandhills Care Center group moving ahead with plans to open a facility in September

(Posted 7 a.m. July 7)

The goal of Rural Health Development and the Ainsworth/Brown County Care Center Board of Directors is to try and have the Sandhills Care Center ready to accept residents in September.

Ron Ross with RHD introduced Stephanie Rucker, who has been hired as the manager for the facility. Rucker, originally from Gordon, told the board she was thrilled to be in the community and was looking forward to getting the facility open for area residents.

Ross told the board during its meeting Wednesday RHD is receiving quite a few applicants for positions with the facility.

“We have several applications for maintenance, nursing, the business office, director of nursing, and CNAs,” Ross said. “We are also getting interest from people who want to move in a family member.”

Rucker and Mike Harris with RHD will begin interviewing applicants soon. Information on applying for a position with the care center, as well as information for those interested in placing a family member as a resident, can be found online at www.sandhillscarecenter.com.

Harris said the goal is to get the renovations to the former Ainsworth Care Center building completed and get a certificate of occupancy for the building.

“When we get that certificate, we will fill out the licensing paperwork,” Harris said. “It is about a two-week process to get a state license. Once we are licensed, we will admit a few residents and the state would then come out and certify us for Medicaid. Medicare certification takes a little longer.”

Ross reviewed the first feasibility study conducted by RHD for the community. The study shows an initial cash need of $210,000 to get the facility open, and an additional $250,000 in cash to fund the first six months of operations.

“It is important for the board to have a grasp on what the cash-flow situation will look like for the first year,” Ross said.

Board chairman Kent Taylor said the city and the county have each contributed $150,000 thus far, and more than $90,000 in donations have been received.

“It is going to take more from a cash flow standpoint, so we need to consider that from a budgeting perspective for both the city and the county,” Taylor said.

Ross said, as the resident population builds toward 30, the facility shows a small positive cash flow after 10 months of operations. He said there is some lag time on receiving Medicare and Medicaid payments.

Ross estimated the facility would receive $400 per day from Medicare for each qualified resident, $165 per day for each resident who qualifies for Medicaid, and $200 per day for private-pay residents.

“I think we can get to 30 residents,” Ross said. “I think the public will have a better opinion of the nursing home now that it will be community owned with stable management.”

The board, RHD and renovation committee chair Dick Schipporeit reviewed some of the issues that will be addressed in the building prior to seeking a certificate of occupancy.

Schipporeit said the water has been turned on to the facility, and the stools and sinks were all operational.

“There were three or four pages of things to do, but a great majority are things that a maintenance man could take care of in a week or so,” Schipporeit said.

Schipporeit said there were some bad water valves in the kitchen, boiler room and patient rooms. He said the plumber contracted by the board should have those valves replaced soon. He said water to the fire suppression system had been bypassed at this point.

Board member Jim Walz said the fire suppression system was checked, and had been shut down properly.

“One heater had a bad thermostat, so we got that fixed,” Walz said.

Schipporeit said the countertop in the kitchen needs repaired, as do a few seams in the flooring.

Board member Leanne Maxwell said Nelson Furniture employees walked through the facility and indicated to her they would be able to repair the flooring without major expense.

During its walk-through meeting June 24, the board approved allowing building renovations costing $2,000 or less to be approved by Schipporeit or an individual board member.

Renovations costing between $2,000 and $5,000 must have the approval of two board members, and renovations costing in excess of $5,000 require the approval of the entire board during a regular meeting.

Todd Mundhenke and representatives from the architectural firm hired to create design schematics for a new nursing home presented the latest vision for a new facility east of the Brown County Hospital.

Mundhenke said, in a continued effort to bring the price tag for the project into a manageable range, the size of the facility has been adjusted downward. Private rooms will now be 250 square feet, down slightly from the 280 square feet in the original design.

“We are going to build a little smaller than our first proposal, but the room sizes are still adequate,” Mundhenke said.

Reducing the room sizes slightly allows the new facility to have one nursing station that is within the required 150 feet of all residential rooms. Plans are to construct 40 private units and three double-units, with each room having its own bathroom.

“There will also be individual thermostats in each room, so each resident can adjust the temperature,” Mundhenke said. “The architect has been good about working with us on the redesign to bring the square footage down.”

With the changes, the facility now encompasses 35,250 square feet, down from 38,700 square feet. At an estimated $225 per square foot, Mundhenke said the adjustments would reduce the cost of construction by just less than $1 million.

In action items Wednesday, the board approved opening a business account for operating the Sandhills Care Center and making an initial $15,000 deposit into the account to pay for renovations to the facility.

The board approved setting up charge accounts with local businesses and allowing the administrator and maintenance person to make charges for needed items.

The board also approved a letter of engagement with law firm Erickson Sederstrom for legal services as needed.

Brown County Treasurer Deb Vonheeder discussed an unpaid balance of $1,473 in personal property taxes from the former care center management company. Those taxes were unpaid from the 2015 tax year, and a distress warrant was issued.

The board tabled the item to discuss options with Brown County Attorney David Streich.

The Ainsworth/Brown County Care Center Board will meet at 1 p.m. Monday, July 18, with representatives from the USDA to continue the process of utilizing the USDA direct loan program.

* Nine north central Nebraska tobacco retailers fail recent State Patrol compliance checks

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

The Nebraska State Patrol recently conducted tobacco compliance checks in a nine-county area of north central Nebraska.
Of the 80 tobacco retailers who were checked, 71 were found to be in compliance with Nebraska tobacco laws.
The non-compliance rate in the nine counties was 11.25 percent. The state of Nebraska mandates that retailers can only sell tobacco products to individuals 18 years old and older. The North Central District Health Department reminds tobacco retailers of the law, and encourages adherence to all tobacco-related laws to reduce the non-compliance rate in the area. 

* Several area students selected to participate in Nebraska Agricultural Youth Institute

(Posted 3 p.m. July 6)

Approximately 175 Nebraska high school juniors and seniors will grow their knowledge and passion for agriculture by serving as delegates at this year’s 45th annual Nebraska Agricultural Youth Institute July 11-14 at Lincoln.

Among the students selected to attend the Youth Institute are Austin Harthoorn, Heather Martin, Emma Good, Vanessa Taylor and Jacce Beck of Ainsworth. Others from the area who will participate include Jaycee Fleming and Rachel Calvo of Bassett, Rachel Stewart of Newport and Brent Lemmer of Atkinson.

The Youth Institute will be held July 11-14 at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s East Campus. During the  five-day Institute, delegates participate in agriculture policy and group discussions, as well as learn about potential career paths available in the agricultural industry. Motivational speakers and a farm management program help delegates develop leadership potential and strengthen their pride in Nebraska agriculture. The week also provides delegates an opportunity to network with industry leaders, top-notch speakers and ag representatives.

“NAYI began as a program to encourage youth to expand their knowledge of agriculture and over the years has expanded to also include agricultural career exploration,” Nebraska Department of Agriculture Director Greg Ibach said. “As the program celebrates its 45th year this year, it is the longest running program of its kind in the country.”

Since its start in 1971, NAYI has shared the importance of agriculture with more than 5,500 youth from across the state. Delegates apply for and are selected to attend the Institute free of charge due to numerous donations from agricultural businesses, commodity groups and industry organizations.

The Nebraska Agricultural Youth Council helps organize several agricultural learning experiences for Nebraska youth including all NAYI events. NDA selects council members who are passionate about agriculture and who want to teach young Nebraskans about the state’s leading industry.

This year’s Council is comprised of 23 college-age men and women from across the state.

* Group running across America will go through Ainsworth Saturday morning

(Posted 2:30 p.m. July 6)

A group of people, including an Ainsworth graduate’s wife, are running across America to raise money for cancer and will run through Ainsworth on Saturday morning.
The 26 runners are raising money and awareness for The Ulman Cancer Fund for Youth, and are scheduled to run through Ainsworth between 9 and 10 a.m. Saturday on their more than 4,000-mile trek from San Francisco to New York City.
Among the runners is Allyson Schumacher, a Hastings College graduate and the wife of Ainsworth graduate Michael Schumacher.
She plans to run approximately 500 miles of the cross-country journey, as the group of runners will tackle the trip in stages. Runners cover between 6 and 16 miles daily. Each participant is attempting to raise at least $4,500 to support The Ulman Cancer Fund for Youth.
Those interested may follow Schumacher and her companions’ journey online at www.therunningschu.wordpress.com.

* Commissioners hear budget requests from Agricultural Society, rural fire district

(Posted 7 a.m. July 6)

The Brown County Commissioners Tuesday listened to a budget request from the Brown County Agricultural Society for the 2016-17 fiscal year as the board begins preparing its upcoming budget.

Agricultural Society members Dave Sherman, Tim Iverson, Tom Vonheeder and Ken Eggers told the commissioners the fairgrounds is being utilized more and more each year, and there are some infrastructure issues that need addressed.

Sherman said a lot of the buildings have some pretty dire needs.

“The stage and the arena need a lot of work,” Sherman said. “The recent high winds tore off the south end of the stage. Our insurance deductible is $5,000. That is the only policy we can afford, and our insurance still costs us about $10,000 per year.”

Sherman said the Agricultural Society typically about breaks even with the annual Brown County Fair, and the fair certainly does not bring in enough revenue to allow the group to make any repairs or improvements.

The Agricultural Society requested $40,000 from county property tax revenue, with an additional $5,000 toward a sinking fund for infrastructure repair or replacement.

Iverson said the group asked for $35,000 during the previous fiscal year, and the commissioners approved $30,000 plus an additional $2,500 for the sinking fund.

Sherman said the community hall is being utilized frequently, with the nine members of the Ag Society staffing the events at no charge. Anyone can rent the community hall for $300 to host an event.

“You can see from all the events we have scheduled, there is a big time commitment for our members,” Sherman said. “We just don’t have the time to do a lot of the repair work at the fairgrounds. We need to contract some of that work.”

Commissioner Reagan Wiebelhaus asked what the Ag Society believed was its most pressing infrastructure need.

The consensus was the stock handling areas in the arena needed replaced, as several gates were in bad shape. Wiebelhaus asked if that area could be replaced in stages, with the county budgeting some funding over a three-year period. While the group indicated a three-year project might work, logistically, it would be better to renovate the area all at once.

The commissioners acknowledged the request from the Ag Society, and will make a decision on the group’s funding when finalizing the 2016-17 budget.

The board also received a budget request for the 2016-17 fiscal year for the Brown County Rural Fire Protection District. The district again requested 4 cents in property tax levy.

The District 8 Probation Office submitted its budget request to the county. Brown County is responsible for 7 percent of the probation office’s $57,500 budget, which translates to $4,025 for the county.

The budget does not include salaries for the probation officers, as those are paid by the state. The district includes Brown, Blaine, Boyd, Cherry, Custer, Garfield, Greeley, Holt, Howard, Keya Paha, Loup, Rock, Sherman, Valley and Wheeler counties.

In other business during Tuesday’s meeting, the commissioners met with Sheena Ferris, who owns the property where The Country Barn is located, and with Lesa Dillon, who staffs events at the facility through a special-use permit held by Ferris that came with the recent purchase of the property.

Wiebelhaus requested meeting with Ferris and Dillon to discuss some additional safety measures at the site after a pedestrian was struck by a vehicle and killed near the site east of Ainsworth two years ago.

“When we approved the permit, we expressed safety concerns at that time due to the location and the speeds on the highway,” Wiebelhaus said. “Instead of ending the special-use permit and making you go through the process of reapplying, I thought we could have a conversation and see if we could agree on some additional safety measures, like lighting and fencing.”

Ferris said income from renting the facility is not something she and her family were relying on.

“We just think it is nice for the community to have it available,” Ferris said. “Lisa handles all the events. For no more events than we have there, is the juice worth the squeeze if we have to spend a lot more money. We don’t make money off of this. If it is not too expensive, I don’t mind working with you.”

Dillon said she and Ferris have discussed adding lighting near the entrance.

“I agree we can probably do something with the lighting,” Dillon said.

Wiebelhaus said adding lighting near the entrance to the facility would be a great step, and he suggested potentially having a staff member near the entrance to make sure people don’t wander out onto the highway during an event.

No action was taken by the board.

During his report, Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin told the commissioners the roads department had finished hauling clay onto the Norden Road.

“We got some moisture, and that helped seal it up,” Turpin said. “It was pretty powdery before the rain.”

Turpin said the Norden Road is in much better shape now than it was after the Norden Bridge work was completed, when heavy trucks and equipment took a toll on the surface.

He said he did not believe the county would have been able to access the clay it used to improve the Norden Road if it did not have the excavator available.

In two final action items, the board approved a Nebraska Department of Roads sign permit renewal for Johnstown that reads, “Home of the Brown County Fair and Rodeo.”

The commissioners approved having chairman Buddy Small sign an annual agreement with the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, which County Attorney David Streich said allows the county to be partially reimbursed for child support services it provides.

The next meeting of the Brown County Commissioners is scheduled for 8:15 a.m. July 19.

* Area students named to Wayne State College Dean's List

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

Wayne State College included close to 1,000 students on the Dean's List for exemplary academic achievement during the past semester.

Students listed on the dean's list are full-time undergraduate students who have achieved a GPA of 3.5 or above on a 4.0 scale for the semester.

Area students named to the Dean’s List were:

Ainsworth – Ashley Murphy.

Long Pine – Stephanie Hempel.

Newport – Tabitha Belmont and Sarah Connell.

Stuart – Tanisha Fahrenholz, Dakota Murphy and Samantha Sattler.

Atkinson – Tina Dobias.

Valentine – Kyle Osnes.

* Hospital Board approves contract, will welcome Dr. Bea Taylor in September

(Posted 7 a.m. July 5)

The Brown County Hospital will welcome a new provider in September, as Dr. Bea Taylor has agreed to join the hospital’s medical staff.

Hospital Administrator Shannon Sorensen told the Board of Trustees during its recent meeting that Taylor had agreed to provide services to the Brown County Hospital.

Following an executive session, the board approved a contract for Dr. Taylor.

Dr. Rus Tourtsev will also join the Brown County Hospital this summer, bringing two new providers to the hospital.

The Board of Trustees approved consulting privileges for Dr. Vernon Smith and Dr. Heeyoung Wang. The credentials of the physicians were reviewed by the hospital’s medical staff and recommended for approval.

The board also approved the resignations from consulting privileges of Dr. David Huebner, CRNA Christan Ford, CRNA Alvin Schmitt, CRNA Debra Topp, CRNA Steven Wood, Dr. Lillian Cavin, Dr. Jared Friedman and Dr. Nicole Kress.

The board approved a change to the hospital’s prompt pay discount policy. The change expanded the length of time the discount is offered.

The board also approved the hospital’s quarterly financial report as presented by Financial Officer Lisa Wood.

Prior to adjourning, the board took a tour of the Ainsworth Family Clinic to view the remodeling project to better utilize space in the clinic.

* Traffic Accident

(Posted 5:45 a.m. July 4)

The Brown County Sheriff’s Department investigated a two-vehicle accident that occurred Friday, July 1, south of Ainsworth.
According to the sheriff’s department report, at 5:46 p.m. Friday on Highway 7 approximately 2 miles south of Ainsworth at the 876 Road intersection, a collision occurred between a 2013 Ford F-150 pickup, driven by Byron Steskal, 63, of Stuart, and a 1997 Dodge pickup, driven by Caspar M. Rehkopf, 16, of Long Pine.
No injuries were reported. Damage to the Ford was estimated at $5,000. The Dodge sustained approximately $3,000.

* Ainsworth posts a dry, warm June according to observer's records

(Posted 2 p.m. July 1)

Ainsworth Weather Observer Gerry Osborn recorded 12 days in June that eclipsed 90 degrees, with just 1.61 inches of precipitation. June was both warmer and drier than normal, as the city averages 3.29 inches of precipitation in June.
Even falling below normal for the month, Ainsworth is still well ahead of its moisture average for the year. Through the first half of 2016, Ainsworth has received 13.56 inches of moisture, 2.28 inches above normal.
The mercury hit 96 degrees on both June 9 and June 11 for the warmest readings of the month, and June 1 saw an overnight low of 48 degrees for the cool mark.
To hear the complete report, click on the audio link below.

audio clips/Gerry Osborn June Weather Summary.mp3

* Davis discusses interim studies he introduced

(Posted 7 a.m. July 1)

Nebraska 43rd District State Sen. Al Davis discussed two interim studies he proposed. Interim studies are held following the completion of the legislative session with the goal of having legislation introduced the following session.
To hear the report, click on the audio link below.

audio clips/State Sen Al Davis 7-1.mp3

* Recent cases from Brown County Court

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

In addition to fines, each case carries $48 in court costs

Levi D. Stevens, age 30, of Pacific Junction, Iowa, charged with speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, fined $75.

Henry F. Whited III, 20, of Ainsworth, violation of fishing regulations, $50 and ordered to pay $50 in liquidation damages.

Shelby R. Nachtman, 24, of Miliken, Colo., speeding 16-20 mph over the limit, $125.

James L. Weber, 46, of Burwell, overweight on an axle or group of axles, $150.

Bryon W. Painter, 43, of Ainsworth, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Anthony W. Anderson, 46, of Hot Springs, S.D., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Robert T. Manes, 27, of Raleigh, N.C., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Kaleb C. Lauer, 18, of Ainsworth, overweight on capacity plates, $75; commercial vehicle brake violation, $50.

Douglas J. Sanford, 39, of Chadron, no valid registration, $200; defective signal equipment, $25.

Kayla A. Rupp, 25, of Gering, possession of marijuana less than 1 ounce, $300; possession of drug paraphernalia, $100; false report, $100.

Harold S. Kidder, 34, of Springview, criminal mischief between $200 and $500, fined $300 and ordered to pay $503 in restitution.

Beau J. Hanson, 23, of Fargo, N.D., possession of drug paraphernalia, $100; possession of marijuana less than 1 ounce, $300.

* March taxable sales decline in Brown and Rock counties, rise sharply in Keya Paha

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

Nebraska Department of Revenue
Comparison of March 2016 and March 2015 Net Taxable Sales
for Nebraska Counties and Selected Cities

County
or City

2016
Net Taxable
Sales

2015
Net Taxable
Sales

Percent
Change

2016
Sales Tax
5.5%

2015
Sales Tax
5.5%

Blaine

58,157

50,165

15.9

3,198.65

2,759.10

Boyd

909,668

895,533

1.6

50,031.86

49,254.46

Brown

2,724,072

2,954,418

(7.8)

149,824.30

162,493.30

Ainsworth

2,585,367

2,819,060

(8.3)

142,195.45

155,048.56

Cherry

5,053,399

5,224,366

(3.3)

277,937.46

287,340.58

Valentine

4,874,750

4,976,935

(2.1)

268,111.63

273,731.80

Custer

8,068,153

8,447,167

(4.5)

443,749.10

464,651.45

Broken Bow

6,368,602

6,723,304

(5.3)

350,273.50

369,782.01

Holt

8,835,864

9,121,497

(3.1)

485,973.34

501,683.07

Atkinson

1,475,328

1,633,738

(9.7)

81,143.24

89,855.77

O'Neill

6,273,406

6,261,634

0.2

345,037.78

344,390.24

Keya Paha

248,573

192,226

29.3

13,671.55

10,572.47

Rock

480,543

640,200

(24.9)

26,429.93

35,211.07

Valley

3,309,450

3,405,502

(2.8)

182,020.01

187,302.92

Ord

2,860,484

2,811,920

1.7

157,326.81

154,655.86

State Total

$2,401,881,920

$2,439,170,523

(1.5)

$132,003,156.59

$133,811,342.96

Nebraska Department of Revenue
Comparison of March 2016 and March 2015
Motor Vehicle Sales Tax Collections by County

County
or City

2016
Net Taxable
Sales

2015
Net Taxable
Sales

Percent
Change

2016
Sales Tax
5.5%

2015
Sales Tax
5.5%

Blaine

166,469

304,989

(45.4)

9,111.26

16,719.29

Boyd

404,042

397,594

1.6

22,218.42

21,871.89

Brown

1,058,242

1,062,748

(0.4)

58,488.19

58,762.03

Cherry

1,346,310

1,833,742

(26.6)

74,476.99

101,336.94

Custer

$2,820,055

$3,294,587

(14.4)

$155,988.88

$182,076.70

Holt

2,155,607

3,271,909

(34.1)

119,327.69

181,099.82

Keya Paha

531,641

223,504

137.9

29,225.89

12,276.39

Rock

442,625

363,887

21.6

24,394.75

20,018.80

Valley

1,230,139

835,817

47.2

68,130.74

46,327.26

State Total

$370,963,225

$365,062,481

1.6

$20,577,248.60

$20,239,189.68

* Traffic Accident

(Posted 6:30 a.m. June 27)

The Brown County Sheriff’s department investigated a two-vehicle accident that occurred Friday, June 24, in Ainsworth.
According to the sheriff’s department report, at 7:47 a.m. Friday at the Subway parking lot, a 2004 Chevy pickup, driven by Chelsey Lane, 30, of Long Pine, was backing from a parking space and struck a parked 2011 Toyota sedan, owned by Mark Dekraai of Lincoln.
No injuries were reported. Damage to the Chevy was estimated at $250. The Toyota sustained approximately $1,000 damage.

* Ricketts touts property tax relief, improvement of state services during Friday town hall

(Posted 4:45 p.m. June 24)

Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts told more than 30 area residents during a Friday town hall gathering in the Ainsworth Conference Center his continued mission is to grow the state and create employment opportunities by having state government provide better customer service and work more efficiently.

Ricketts said his focus during the 2015-16 sessions of the Nebraska Legislature was on controlling the state’s budget, providing property tax relief, passing the Transportation and Innovation Act, and stopping the expansion of Medicaid.

The governor touted the 45 percent increase in direct property tax relief provided by the state, with $408 million allocated in direct relief during the two-year budget biennium, in addition to cutting the growth in state spending from an annual average increase of 6 percent to 3.6 percent for the first two years of his administration.

Ricketts conceded changes were needed to the state’s school aid funding formula, but it would take compromise to get urban senators to agree to overhaul the formula.

“We absolutely need to look at the TEEOSA formula,” the governor said. “Senators never anticipated what would happen with ag values when that formula was created. But, if you look at changing the formula, it is challenging because there are only 11 to 14 rural senators. They will need to find ways to get urban senators involved.”

Ricketts said schools also need to control their spending or there will be no tax relief.

“If we put more money into the formula, it just gets spent and property taxes don’t decrease.”

He said property tax relief would continue to be a step-by-step process.

The governor answered numerous questions from the audience, ranging from the way the state values agricultural property the recent issues within the Department of Corrections.

Following the town hall session, Ricketts visited with KBRB’s Graig Kinzie. To hear that conversation, click on the audio link below.
 

audio clips/Gov Pete Ricketts 6-24 Town Hall.mp3

* Ainsworth boy hospitalized following incident at Dawson County church camp

(Posted 9:30 a.m. June 23)

As reported by the Lexington Clipper-Herald, the Dawson County Sheriff’s Department reported a 12-year-old Ainsworth boy nearly drowned at a rural Lexington Church Camp on Tuesday.

However, according to the sheriff’s department, the quick actions of church camp personnel, Lexington Rescue personnel, and the Lexington Regional Health Center emergency room staff saved the boy’s life.

He was subsequently flown to Children’s Hospital at Omaha.

The call came in to Dawson County Sheriff’s Office dispatch at 5:12 p.m. Tuesday. The call indicated the boy had been rescued from a swimming pool at church camp. The Lexington Volunteer Fire Department transported him to the Lexington Regional Health Center.

The incident remains under investigation by the Sheriff’s Office and Lexington Police Department.

On Thursday, the child was identified by family members as Isaiah Porter. There are some fund-raising efforts that have been started on social media to help the family with medical expenses.

* Lions Club work night scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Friday ahead of Alumni Banquet

(Posted 7 a.m. June 23)

During its recent meeting, the Ainsworth Lions Club finalized plans for serving the annual Ainsworth Alumni Banquet.

A work night is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Friday to help set up the serving area. All Lions Club members are asked to attend. With several members having other commitments Saturday, those who attend are asked to recruit spouses and others to assist with Saturday’s banquet.

The Lions Club agreed to assist the Tour de Nebraska bike riders by providing assistance and information at East City Park. Several Lions have agreed to assist bikers from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. as they arrive at East City Park.

In recognition of the Lions Club Centennial Community Legacy Project to enhance playground equipment in the city parks, a work session was held June 6 to spread crumb rubber under some of the playground equipment at East City Park. Four bags of crumb rubber remain to be spread out during a future work session.

Secretary Jerry Ehlers reported 17 members had paid their 2016-17 dues. Reminders will be sent to those who have not yet paid.

The Ainsworth Lions Club Family picnic will be held at 6:30 p.m. Monday, July 18, at East City Park. President Evan Evans will be in charge of arrangements, as his final act as president. New officers and directors will be installed.   

The Lion Club State Convention was held in Grand Island on June 3-5. Ehlers attended the District 38-I meeting held during the convention. He reported the 2017 convention will be held at Chadron, and the new District Governor is Dave Collins of Bartlett, who had scheduled a new cabinet meeting at Bartlett July 16. Ehlers will attend as zone chair. District 38-I dues will increase $1 per year for each of the next three years. The District Lions Club has delivered 183 pair of glasses and 1 hearing aid set.

Evans presented Larry Rice with the Lions International Club Silver Centennial Membership Award for the recruitment of new members to the club during the Centennial year.

* Commissioners approve motor grader purchase, replacing 1989 machine

(Posted 3 p.m. June 21)

With a vote to replace Brown County’s final pre-1990 model motor grader Tuesday, Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin told the County Commissioners they would likely be able to go several years before having to replace another machine.

The board unanimously approved the state bid for a 2016 Caterpillar motor grader from Nebraska Machinery of Norfolk at a cost of $260,000. Turpin said he was disappointed in the trade-in value offered for the county’s 1989 model Caterpillar. He said the county would be better off, and the Nebraska Machinery representative agreed, with selling the older motor grader on the Big Iron auction web site.

“They offered us $29,000 as a trade-in,” Turpin said of the 1989 machine. “I think we could get $35,000 to $40,000 if we use Big Iron.”

Turpin said, by purchasing the 2016 Caterpillar to replace the 1989 model, all of the county’s motor graders would be model year 2000 or newer.

“We probably won’t have to buy any for at least three or four years,” Turpin said. “That was our last old machine to replace, and we also get a $14,000 parts credit from Caterpillar.”

With the 2015-16 budget ending June 30, the board discussed with Turpin taking a large portion of the cost of the machine from the current budget year since the roads budget had plenty of money remaining in its current-year budget.

The board set a special meeting for 1 p.m. Tuesday, June 28, and will pay approximately $200,000 of the cost of the motor grader at that time to get the claim into the 2015-16 year. Turpin said the roads department had budgeted to replace the 1989 Caterpillar in the current year.

In another roads-related item Tuesday, the commissioners approved wage increases for roads department employees ranging from 30 cents per hour to more than 50 cents per hour based on performance evaluations.

The board also set a starting wage of $15 per hour for all county hourly employees, and adjusted current employees’ wages upward by $1 per hour to provide separation from the new starting wage.

Denny Bauer and Pat Jones from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension office presented the commissioners with the BKR Extension budget for 2016-17. The overall budget for 2016-17 of $72,450 is $1,000 higher than the 2015-16 budget.

Brown County is responsible for 42 percent of the Extension’s budget, which will be $30,429 for the 2016-17 year, a $420 increase from the current budget. Rock County is responsible for 33 percent of the Extension budget, and Keya Paha County pays for 25 percent. The University of Nebraska pays for the salaries and benefits of the Extension educators, with the counties responsible for the office assistant salary as well as office expenses such as postage and office supplies.

The commissioners approved a new three-year countywide law enforcement agreement. The agreement would result in a 2 percent annual increase to the city of Ainsworth’s costs for each of the three years of the contract.

The agreement will be voted on by the Ainsworth City Council during its July meeting.

In another budget-related item, the board approved a resolution removing the courthouse remodeling line item from the county’s budget and folding it into the building and grounds line item in the general fund budget.

Treasurer Deb Vonheeder said there was currently no money in the courthouse remodeling fund.

The board also approved a transfer of $9,600 from the county’s miscellaneous general fund, with $750 transferred to the county attorney fund, $2,050 to the institution fund and $6,800 to the finance administration fund.

The commissioners appointed Marvin Ohlrich to a five-year term on the Veterans Service Committee, and set valuation protest hearings for 8 a.m. July 12, 1 p.m. July 19 and 5:30 p.m. July 20.

Following the 1 p.m. June 28 special meeting, the next regular meeting for the Brown County Commissioners is scheduled for 8:15 a.m. July 5.

* NCDHD again conducted West Nile surveillance on dead birds

(Posted 2:15 p.m. June 21)

West Nile Virus season has arrived. The North Central District Health Department is once again providing surveillance throughout the nine county district that includes Antelope, Boyd, Brown, Cherry, Holt, Keya Paha, Knox, Pierce and Rock counties.
The health department is now accepting phone reports of dead birds and collecting corvid birds for West Nile Virus testing. Corvid birds include Black birds, Blue Jays, Magpies and Crows.  The health department is asking people who find any of those species dead to contact the health department at 877-336-2406.

* Highway 91 overlay work near Almeria scheduled to start this week

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

Weather permitting, work is scheduled to begin this week on Highway 91 in the Almeria area, 15 miles east of the Highway 7 junction between mileposts 30 and 39, according to the Nebraska Department of Roads.
Werner Construction of Hastings has the $2.6 million contract for the Highway 91 work between Brewster and Taylor. Work will include milling and asphaltic concrete overlay. Traffic will be maintained with flaggers and a pilot car. Work is anticipated to be completed in late September.
The Department of Roads’ project manager is Michael Rudnick of Ainsworth. Motorists are reminded to drive cautiously through highway construction zones and to remember that fines are doubled when workers are present.

* Sheriff's department participates in 'Click It or Ticket' enforcement campaign

(Posted 11:45 a.m. June 20)

Through funding provided by the Nebraska Office of Highway Safety, the Brown County Sheriff’s Department recently participated in the “Click it or Ticket” campaign in an effort to increase public awareness and make roadways safer by encouraging all motorists to comply with seatbelt laws.
The sheriff’s department used regular enforcement, saturation patrols and an enforcement zone to strongly enforce the state’s seatbelt laws. Three deputies worked a total of 33 hours of overtime during the enforcement period.
During the campaign, the sheriff’s department issued two speeding citations, one citation on a charge of possessing an open alcohol container in a vehicle, and one motorist was arrested on a charge of driving under the influence.
The sheriff’s department also issued 21 warnings during the two-week enforcement period.
Brown County Sheriff Bruce Papstein thanks everyone for doing their part to make roadways safer by always wearing a seat belt and making sure everyone in the vehicle is buckled up at all times.

* Traffic Accidents

(Posted 11:30 a.m. June 20)

The Brown County Sheriff’s Department investigated a pair of vehicle-deer accidents that occurred during the past week.

At 10:46 p.m. Tuesday, June 14, the sheriff’s department investigated a vehicle-deer accident on Highway 20 east of Ainsworth.

A 2016 Nissan sedan, driven by Ty Wieser, 30, of Lincoln, was traveling west on Highway 20 near the Highway 183 intersection east of Ainsworth when the vehicle struck a deer in the roadway.

No persons were injured during the accident. The Nissan, owned by Hertz Rental Car of Lincoln, was considered a total loss.

 

At 2 a.m. Saturday, June 18, on Highway 183 just north of the 879 Road intersection northeast of Ainsworth, a 2004 Subaru Forester, driven by William Ferwerda, 23, of Coon Rapids, Minn., was traveling north when the vehicle struck a deer in the roadway.

No persons were injured during the accident. The Subaru, owned by Todd Ferwerda of Coon Rapids, Minn., was considered a total loss.

* Ricketts to visit north central Nebraska Friday and Saturday

(Posted 9 a.m. June 20)

Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts will be in north central Nebraska Friday speaking with residents regarding progress being made at the state level in various areas. Ricketts on Saturday will participate in the Tour de Nebraska bike ride.
Ricketts is scheduled to speak with residents at 12:30 p.m. Friday in the Blarney Stone at O’Neill, and at 2:30 p.m. in the Ainsworth Conference Center to provide his thoughts on the recently completed session of the Nebraska Legislature and discuss his priorities for the future.
On Saturday, Ricketts will take part in the Tour de Nebraska bike ride from Valentine to Springview.

* Department of Roads schedules July regional meetings on capital improvement projects

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

The Nebraska Department of Roads  has scheduled eight regional meetings to continue discussions on its expanded project prioritization process for capital improvement projects. 

The capital improvement projects are those projects that most impact the state’s economy and allow Nebraska to grow. Examples include the addition of new lanes, building new interchanges or viaducts, and improvements to the expressway system or federally designated high priority corridors.

The regional meetings are a follow-up to those held in January where NDOR staff presented information on expanding the agency’s project prioritization process to better consider economic impacts and include more stakeholder input.

During the upcoming regional meetings, NDOR staff will share preliminary results of the project prioritization process and gather feedback through facilitated group discussions.

“So far, over 1,000 people have been engaged in this initiative to expand the prioritization process for capital improvement projects,” NDOR Director Kyle Schneweis said. “The meetings coming up in July are an opportunity for people from across the state to come out and see the progress we’ve made in analyzing projects and to share their feedback. Including more stakeholder input is a key component to our new project prioritization process and we look forward to hearing from everyone as we continue our efforts to Grow Nebraska.”

One of the meetings is scheduled from 3 until 5 p.m. Monday, July 18, in the Niobrara Lodge at Valentine.

After the July meetings, NDOR staff will begin the process of selecting the next round of capital improvement projects, taking into account the results of this new prioritization process as well as things like public support, geographic inclusion, corridor completion and opportunities for supplemental funding.

NDOR plans to announce the projects this fall. Information about the upcoming meetings is available online at www.roads.nebraska.gov/projects/grow-ne/.

The NDOR’s Innovation Task Force continues to focus on ways the public and private sectors can work together, explore innovative approaches and opportunities to advance transportation, and further examine how transportation investments can help grow Nebraska.

During its meeting last week, Task Force members discussed the concept of practical design, which could provide NDOR engineers flexibility in addressing transportation issues and the ability to tailor solutions that may not always meet the state’s minimum design standards.

Task Force members supported the idea of NDOR utilizing practical design. More conversations will be held ragarding how NDOR would implement it internally and externally.

NDOR Engineer Brandie Neemann provided an update on the project prioritization process, sharing that NDOR is currently analyzing economic performance for more than 200 candidate project options based on stakeholder feedback from January. Preliminary results of the project prioritization process will be presented at the July stakeholder meetings.

The Innovation Task Force will meet again this fall.

* Board of Education approves contract for special education services with ESU 17

(Posted 7 a.m. June 14)

The Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education approved a special education services contract with Educational Service Unit 17 during Monday’s meeting, and will see a 4 percent increase from the previous year to $687,151.

The contract covers speech therapy, resource teachers, occupational therapy, program supervision and evaluation, early childhood services, and a school nurse.

In addition, the contract includes $28,716 for health services provided for regular education, which is a 1 percent rise from the prior year.

The ESU 17 contract was the only action item on Monday’s agenda. The board held public hearings on the district’s student fee and parent involvement policies. No changes were recommended for either policy.

The board also reviewed, as it is required to do annually, its anti-bullying policy and the district’s bomb threat policy. No changes were recommended to either policy.

During his report, Superintendent Darrell Peterson said the school was ready to begin accepting local beef donations for the school lunch program.

“This program is catching on at schools across the state,” Peterson said. “We have worked through the details with Lunchtime Solutions. The idea is to get better tasting beef into the school lunch program.”

The superintendent said any beef producers interested in donating an animal to be made into hamburger may contact the school to be put on a list. The district will notify the producer when the animal is needed.

He said non-producers can also support the program by contributing to the cost of processing the beef. Approximately $600 per animal will be needed to cover the processing costs.

Board member Brad Wilkins asked if the district would receive credit from Lunchtime Solutions for supplying the beef needed for the school lunch program.

Peterson said Lunchtime Solutions will provide the school with credit for what it would have cost the company to purchase the same amount of beef that will be donated through the program.

The superintendent also reported the Nebraska Board of Education made changes to the statewide testing schedule for 2016-17. He said no statewide writing test would be administered due to technology problems experienced during the past few years.

He said the college entrance exam for all high school juniors approved by the Nebraska Legislature would now be implemented for the 2016-17 school year, which is a year ahead of the original schedule.

Peterson said student Emma Good won the Girls State scholarship from the more than 400 girls who attended Girls State. He said several students were elected to offices during both Girls State and Boys State.

The superintendent reported four college-credit classes are scheduled for the fall semester through Northeast Community College. He said Jeff Carr will teach an English composition class for college credit, and American history, college algebra and intro to psychology will be offered through distance learning with Northeast Community College staff.

He said 39 students took a college-credit class during the 2015-16 school year, which was a four-year high. Just six students took college-credit classes during the 2014-15 year.

Peterson said data provided by NECC showed fewer Ainsworth students needing placement in developmental education classes at the college level compared to the 20-county average served by Northeast.

He said 17 percent of Ainsworth students needed a developmental math class at the community college level compared to 42 percent of students in the 20-county area, with 13 percent of AHS graduates needing developmental writing compared to 27 percent of the region, and 9 percent needing developmental reading compared to 30 percent of the region’s graduates.

Elementary Principal Sarah Williams reported 27 students have enrolled in the 12-day summer program for kindergarten through sixth-grade students that begins in July. The program will be held from 9 a.m. until noon each day, with academics, physical activity and extended-learning activities.

“I am excited about this program,” Williams said. “We have great teachers and volunteers lined up.”

Williams said the school is offering, for the first time, a summer meal program. The summer lunch program begins July 11 and is served from Monday through Thursday for three weeks. Lunch is free for any child age 1 to 18, and adults are welcome to eat for $3.75. She said Broken Bow and O’Neill are also offering the free summer meal program.

Peterson said the district needs students to take advantage of the free meal program so Lunchtime Solutions can serve enough students to be reimbursed for the cost of having someone prepare the meal.

“We need about 50 people to eat for Lunchtime Solutions to break even,” the superintendent said.

The daily menu for the summer meal program is available online at www.ainsworthschools.org by clicking on the “Cafeteria Menus” on the right side of the web page.

During the public comment portion of Monday’s meeting, Karen Prewitt asked the board to address its dress code policy for graduation. Prewitt said a couple seniors showed up to graduation in jeans and were asked to change, while the board president handed out diplomas to students while dressed in jeans.

Audience member Heather Stec expressed concern over a staff member who she believed had been involved on a personal level with the Department of Health and Human Services Child Protection Services.

“This is someone we trust with our children daily,” Stec said. She asked the board to look into any allegations.

Prior to adjourning, the board held an executive session regarding personal information. No action was taken following the executive session.

The next meeting of the Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education is scheduled for 8 p.m. July 11.

* Sheriff's department seeking information on residential burglary in Ainsworth

(Posted 9:45 a.m. June 13)

The Brown County Sheriff’s Department is seeking information regarding a residential burglary that occurred in Ainsworth.
According to the sheriff’s department report, sometime prior to May 17, someone gained entry to a home in the 1000 block of East Third Street and stole a safe with an undisclosed amount of cash. No forced entry was found.
Anyone with information on who may be responsible for the residential burglary is encouraged to call the Brown County Sheriff’s Department at 402-387-1440 or call Crime Stoppers at 402-382-3121.
All callers remain anonymous, and information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for the burglary could result in a cash reward of up to $1,000. An additional $5,000 in reward money has been added for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of those responsible.

* Lightning strike sparks fire in southern Brown County, destroying old school house

(Posted 9 a.m. June 13)

Three area fire departments responded to a blaze Friday evening in southern Brown County that started in a tree grove and destroyed an old school house and a camper.
Tony Ruhter with the Raven Volunteer Fire Department said the fire started at 7 p.m. Friday 3 miles west of Highway 7 and 3 miles south of the West Calamus Road on property owned by Rich Einspahr and Ben Einspahr.
Ruhter said lightning struck a tree in a grove and started the fire. While burning less than 1 acre of ground, Ruhter said the fire ignited an old school house at the site that was being used for storage, and also burned an older camper. He said both the camper and the structure were destroyed.
Firefighters from the Raven, Calamus and Ainsworth volunteer departments responded. Ruhter said the Raven department remained on scene until 3 a.m. Saturday mopping up hot spots and ensuring the fire did not flare up.

* Council adopts ordinance allowing accessory buildings as sole structure on adjacent property

(Posted 7 a.m. June 9)

During a light agenda Wednesday, the Ainsworth City Council adopted an ordinance that allows a property owner to construct an accessory building on a lot as the only structure on the lot as long as the property owner also owns a home on an adjacent lot.

The ordinance change was requested by the Board of Adjustment. Prior to the ordinance change, any homeowner who purchased an adjacent lot had to go through the Board of Adjustment for a permit to construct a garage or other form of accessory building, as city code did not allow an accessory building to be the only structure on a lot.

With many lot sizes in the city not large enough to accommodate a home and an accessory building, many homeowners have purchased adjacent lots for garages or other accessory buildings.

The code amendment will save property owners time instead of having to go through the Board of Adjustment for a permit.

The council waived the three readings of the ordinance and passed it by a 3-0 vote Wednesday, with Councilman Chuck Osborn absent.

In other business Wednesday, the council approved an agreement with the Nebraska Public Power District for the development and maintenance of a city web site.

City Administrator Lisa Schroedl said there was no charge to the city for NPPD to create and host the web site. The only charge was an annual $35 fee to register the web site’s domain.

Councilwoman Deb Hurless recommended working with NPPD on a city web site.

“We work with NPPD on facts books for our area communities,” Hurless said. “They are excellent to work with.”

The council discussed the countywide law enforcement service agreement with Brown County. The three-year contract expires July 1. City Attorney Rod Palmer said he shared with County Attorney Dave Streich the city’s concerns regarding not being notified on whether annual equipment purchases had been made by the sheriff’s department.

In the agreement, if the sheriff’s department does not purchase major equipment, such as a new patrol vehicle, the city receives credit from the county.

Palmer said Streich indicated he planned to draft an amended agreement that does away with the equipment purchase stipulation and cleans things up.

There was no action taken, with the agreement placed on the July agenda for council action.

During her report, Schroedl said 100 properties will be inspected for nuisance violations in 2016. With grant funding at an end, the city will inspect about half the number of properties as it did during the past two years.

Properties located between Elm Street and Maple Street between Highway 20 and First Street in the center of the city will be inspected for nuisance violations. The inspections include properties on the west side of Elm Street, all of Oak Street, and the east side of Maple Street.

Schroedl discussed the city’s insurance coverage on playground equipment and other structures at the city’s parks. She said discussion on insurance began after the E&L baseball program asked if the city would consider insuring the new scoreboard at Legion Field.

“As we looked, the shelter by the horseshoe pits, the concession stand, and the restrooms are covered,” Schroedl said. “But, there are some gaps. None of the playground equipment is insured, and neither is the crow’s nest or the bleachers.

Mayor Larry Rice said there was typically a $5,000 deductible through the city’s insurance before any damage would be covered.

Schroedl said some pieces of playground equipment would cost $20,000 to $30,000 to replace if they were damaged in a storm.

Schroedl said she would look further into what is covered and what is not and would report back to the council.

The council discussed purchasing water meters that can be read electronically. Schroedl said it currently takes a city employee at least a week to read water meters. With the city recently short-handed, a part-time employee was tasked with reading the meters, and was bitten by a dog.

Rice said he checked with a company, and the cost to replace the meters was between $200 and $250 per meter.

Schroedl said some communities budget for replacing a few meters each year and gradually change over to meters that transmit the data electronically.

She reported there were a few minor issues with the opening of the swimming pool for the season, with the boiler having trouble starting and the chlorine levels fluctuating. She said those problems have been corrected and the pool was open during regular hours.

Ainsworth High School student Luke Peters visited with the council about an Eagle Scout project. He said the Boy Scouts did not approve his initial plan to place a large flag in the community due to the cost and the time frame Peters had to complete the project.

He discussed with the council the possibility of putting foul ball return stations at a few of the city’s baseball and softball fields.

“I would like to get them installed by the time we host state baseball,” Peters said.

Rice advised Peters to check with the E&L baseball and softball program and report back to the council.

The consent agenda approved Wednesday included approval of Ainsworth Betterment Committee recommendations to award ABC funding in the amount of $1,536 to cover half the cost to place rubber tire mulch at city playground equipment, and $6,825 to make improvements to the Legion baseball field in preparation for Ainsworth hosting the 2016 Class C Senior Legion State Baseball Tournament.

Councilman Kent Taylor asked if the city was still providing annual funding for baseball field improvement. Schroedl said the city had agreed to provide $5,000 annually for baseball and softball field improvement for a five-year period. That five-year period, however, had expired, and no money was allocated in the current budget for baseball or softball field improvements.

The next meeting of the Ainsworth City Council is scheduled for 7 p.m. July 13.

DELIMONT IS KBRB ATHLETE OF YEAR - Ainsworth graduate
Brady Delimont was voted the 2015-16 KBRB Athlete of the Year by
the school's varsity coaches. Delimont (right) will have his name added
to the Athlete of the Year plaque and received a scholarship check
from KBRB owner Graig Kinzie (left). Delimont plans to play basketball
and pursue a business degree from the University of South Dakota.

* Delimont named 2015-16 KBRB Athlete of the Year by vote of AHS coaches

(Posted 2:30 p.m. June 8)

Based on a vote of Ainsworth varsity coaches, Brady Delimont is the 2015-16 KBRB Athlete of the Year.

Delimont, a three-sport standout for the Bulldogs, set the Nebraska all-class record for 3-point baskets made in a career with 320, including 52 during his freshman year, 74 as a sophomore, 96 as a junior and 98 as a senior. His final two years are among the top 15 single seasons for 3-point baskets. Delimont finished his career with 1,888 points, second in school history. He set the single-season scoring record for Ainsworth with 655 points during his senior season, averaging 27.3 points per game. He was named All-State in Class C-2 as a senior, helping the team qualify for the State Basketball Tournament for the second time in three years.

Delimont also starred in track and field for the Bulldogs, setting modern-era school records in career team points earned during the State Track and Field Championships and a single-season school record 28 team points in 2015, including Class C state titles in the 3200 meters and 3200-meter relay.

Delimont ended his high school career with 11 medals from the Nebraska Track and Field Championships.

He also competed on two Class D state runner-up cross country teams in 2012 and 2014. Delimont finished third in the Class D state cross country race as a junior.

He receives a scholarship from KBRB Radio to the University of South Dakota, where he plans to pursue a degree in business and play basketball.

The KBRB Athlete of the Year is awarded annually to a senior class member at Ainsworth High School who lettered in at least two varsity sports for at least two years, and epitomizes character and leadership on and off the field or court.

Varsity coaches in football, girls and boys golf, cross country, volleyball, girls and boys basketball, wrestling and track and field vote for the KBRB Athlete of the Year annually.

* County saves $471,984 by refinancing remaining hospital bonds

(Posted 7 a.m. June 8)

Brown County Hospital Administrator Shannon Sorensen told the Brown County Commissioners Tuesday the county saved $471,984 by refinancing the remaining 10 years on the hospital addition bond.

Refinancing the remaining bond at an interest rate of 1.86 percent coupled with a $92,000 contribution from the hospital allowed the county to remove one full year of the remaining bonded debt. The bond will be paid in nine years instead of 10.

Commissioner Reagan Wiebelhaus said he appreciated the hospital contributing the $92,000 to help pay down the bond on the addition.

Sorensen provided the commissioners with a quarterly report of hospital finances. The facility has $4.2 million cash on hand, which equates to 175 days of operations. She said the hospital was running a little shy on the revenue side from what it budgeted, but revenue was still ahead of the previous year.

Through the first nine months of the fiscal year, the hospital has a net profit of $277,894.

She said Dr. Russ Tourtsev will finish his residency at the end of the month, and will begin practicing in the Brown County Hospital in August.

Sorensen thanked the Brown County Hospital Auxiliary for its continued efforts to assist the facility. She told the commissioners the Auxiliary recently donated a new podiatry chair to the hospital at a cost of approximately $10,000.

“The Auxiliary has contributed about $607,000 since they formed,” Sorensen said. “They are a great organization.”

In other business during Tuesday’s meeting, the commissioners met with Lesa Dillon, the owner of the Sandhills Lounge, regarding the potential to place additional safeguards at the Country Barn east of Ainsworth.

Dillon holds a conditional-use permit for events at the facility on the south side of Highway 20 east of the Highway 20 and Highway 183 junction.

Wiebelhaus said he would like to see extra lighting placed near the entrance to the facility.

“My hope is that additional lighting is something the new property owner would agree to,” Wiebelhaus said. “I don’t want to take away the permit, I would just like to see some additional safety measures out there.”

Dillon said the new property owner was unable to make Tuesday’s meeting. She said she would talk to the property owner and find a date that worked to meet with the board.

In action items, the board directed Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin to move forward with information on replacing a 1989 motor grader. Turpin said, after replacing the 1989 motor grader, the county’s oldest machine would be a 2000 model so the county would likely be able to go a few years without having to purchase another grader.

He said if the county moves forward with purchasing a motor grader before the end of July, there is a $14,000 parts credit available through Caterpillar.

The board voted to switch the county’s vision insurance from Ameritas to a vision plan offered by the Nebraska Association of County Officials. County Attorney Dave Streich said there was no cost to the county for the insurance, as it is optional for employees and they pay the premium. He said the NACO plan offered the same benefits for about a 15 percent smaller premium.

The commissioners approved replacing the fax machine in the county clerk’s office at a cost of approximately $600.

The board named Wiebelhaus as an alternate representative to Commissioner Buddy Small on the Ainsworth/Brown County Care Center Board, and named Cheryl Graff as an alternate to Jim Walz on the Care Center Board.

Small said having an alternate representative was important since, as a board of four, if two board members could not attend a meeting there could be no quorum and the Care Center Board has been scheduling meetings with people who drive to Ainsworth from several hours away.

The commissioners approved getting quotes for repairing the enclosed walkway between the courthouse and the courtroom. Small said he would work with Streich to prepare specifications, since an informal quote for the repair work came in just above the $20,000 threshold that requires the county to bid a project.

Veterans Service Officer Judy Walters discussed the possibility of placing a Brown County Veterans Memorial on the courthouse grounds. The board discussed possible sites on the courthouse grounds for the memorial.

The next meeting of the Brown County Commissioners is scheduled for 8:15 a.m. June 21.

* Transaction complete, community owns former Ainsworth Care Center property

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

The community officially owns a nursing home, as North Central Development Center Executive Director Kristin Olson told the Ainsworth-Brown County Care Center Board Monday the paperwork has been completed and the former Ainsworth Care Center property is now owned by the NCDC.

“We do, as a community, officially own a nursing home,” Olson said. “We have the paperwork ready to get the building transferred to the interlocal board. Our board meets Wednesday and plans to authorize the execution of the documents.”

While RP Midwest donated the building to the North Central Development Center, Olson said the NCDC did incur legal expenses in acquiring the facility and asked the interlocal board to cover those expenses as part of the transfer of ownership.

By a 3-0 vote with board member Leanne Maxwell absent, the Care Center Board approved a resolution accepting the building and the tangible personal property from the North Central Development Center and signing the memorandum of understanding that allows the NCDC to recoup its legal expenses as part of the transfer of the property.

Board member Buddy Small, who had previously voted against acquiring the former facility, said, “I still have reservations about the old building, but it is pointless for me to continue to resist it.”

In other business during a packed agenda Monday, Ron Ross with Rural Health Development announced Stephanie Rucker of Gordon has been hired as the administrator for the Sandhills Care Center.

“Stephanie will bring enthusiasm and energy to the position,” Ross said. “The board and I felt she would bring a lot to the community. This will be her first administrative position, but she has worked in one of our facilities.”

Board Chairman Kent Taylor said he was appreciative of having a say in the hiring process for the administrator.

“We had three good candidates,” Taylor said. “Stephanie was very enthusiastic in her interview.”

Rucker and Rural Health Development will now be charged with hiring staff as the interlocal board begins the process of readying the facility to accept residents.

Mike Harris with RHD said the company has already received 11 employment applications through the Sandhills Care Center web site at www.sandhillscarecenter.com.

Ross reported the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services has agreed Ainsworth meets the certificate of need exemption.

“That is good news,” Ross said. “We will not have to go through the certificate of need process. We are now able to apply for a license.”

Ross said the board will need a certificate of occupancy from the State Fire Marshal’s office.

“Once licensed, we will need to get certified into the Medicare and Medicaid program,” Ross said. “We will request a survey once we get licensed so that we can become certified and accept Medicare and Medicaid residents.”

Ross said the facility could be ready to admit its first residents in 60 to 90 days, as it will take a little time to get the former care center facility back up and ready to go.

“We will not admit a lot of people until we get certified, but we will have to admit a couple private-pay residents so the state can come in and survey,” Ross said. “I think we can have that building up to code quickly.”

The board discussed renovation plans for the former facility. Board member Jim Walz said he believed renovation committee chair Dick Schipporeit should coordinate the renovation efforts, working in conjunction with RHD and the board.

Ross said RHD would need the renovation committee to guide the efforts of getting the building up to code.

The board approved a continuing management agreement with RHD at a monthly cost of $12,000. RHD handled Phase I management services for the board as it worked through the process of getting a facility reopened. The action Monday allows Rural Health Development to continue to manage the facility once it opens.

RHD will employ the care center administrator as part of the management agreement.

Capital campaign committee chair Roland Paddock said $11,100 had been donated to the project in the past month, bringing the total donations and pledges to $222,622.

“We sent mailings to 400 alumni,” Paddock said. “That has netted us $3,100 thus far.”

Jacob Sertich and Joanell Staab with Wilkins Architectural Design Firm of Kearney presented the board with a design of a proposed new 46-bed facility at a site east of the Brown County Hospital.

Sertich said the architectural firm has been working with the board’s building committee, looking at comparative facilities and designing a building based on the community’s needs.

“We are now working on the schematic design, which includes room sizes, nursing stations and offices,” Sertich said.

Staab said the Department of Health and Human Services has guidelines about residential rooms and dining rooms.

“We will try and maximize the efficiency of the floor plan to maximize the staff’s ability,” Staab said. “We want this facility to be a showcase for the community, and give it a home look instead of an institutional look.”

Walz, who serves on the building committee, said the facility will be functional and will look nice, but it will not be elegant.

“We are striving to make sure a new facility will cash flow,” Walz said. “We have gained a lot of ground, and we are trimming some more things to make sure we can get close to the initial estimates in our feasibility study.”

To begin Monday’s meeting, the board met with Bert Mues with USDA Rural Development’s Kearney office.

Mues discussed options for the community in utilizing either a loan guarantee or a direct loan through USDA Rural Development.

Should the community apply and be approved for a direct loan, she said the current interest rate on the 40-year note is 2.78 percent.

“The interest rate can never go up,” Mues said. “The direct loan is for 40 years. Most commercial lenders don’t want to extend a loan for more than 20 years.”

She said every project is unique, and sometimes the USDA utilizes a combination of a direct loan and a loan guarantee.

The loan guarantee requires the community to obtain a loan from a commercial lender, with the USDA guaranteeing 90 percent of the loan value.

“The guarantee allows the lender to provide a good rate and make a loan they might not otherwise make,” Mues said. “The only time Rural Development would get involved on a guaranteed loan is if there is a loss.”

Should the community choose to move forward with an application to the USDA program, she said the board would need to meet with Rural Development’s architect and program specialist from Lincoln.

The board, by a 3-0 vote, approved beginning the process of applying for a USDA Rural Development loan, and set a 2 p.m. meeting Wednesday, July 6, in the Ainsworth Conference Center to meet with the Rural Development representatives.

Mues said the community would need a feasibility study with five-year projections, and a market study showing a need for a facility in the community.

The board approved having Rural Health Development work with USDA to find a company to complete a market study, and the board approved having RHD submit a letter to see if USDA would allow RHD to conduct the feasibility study even though it is not an independent third party since RHD has already conducted a feasibility study for the project.

Prior to adjourning, Taylor presented a financial snapshot of the board’s activity thus far. Expenses total $76,918, with Brown County and the city of Ainsworth each supplying $150,000 in funding thus far in addition to the $92,362 in donated cash that has been received for the care center project.

The next meeting of the Ainsworth-Brown County Care Center Board was moved from the first Monday of the month due to the Fourth of July holiday and will be held at 2 p.m. Wednesday, July 6, in the Ainsworth Conference Center.

* School Board approves 1-year teaching contract for Laurie Goodloe during special meeting

(Posted 8 a.m. June 3)

During a brief special meeting of the Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education Friday, the board approved a one-year contract for Laurie Goodloe to teach social studies.

Superintendent Darrell Peterson said the district interviewed several candidates for the position, and had a few turn down the position.

“Laurie did a lot of subbing in that class this spring, and she did a nice job,” Peterson said. “She is only interested in teaching for the 2016-17 year.”

The superintendent said Goodloe was in the process of obtaining a Nebraska teaching certificate, as her previous teaching certificate was for the state of Kansas.

With board member Erin Rathe absent, Goodloe’s contract for the 2016-17 year was approved.

The board then accepted Goodloe’s resignation following the completion of the 2016-17 school year.

In other action items, the board approved two option enrollment requests. Becky Kraft requested her three daughters attend Rock County Public Schools for the 2016-17 year. The family moved to Long Pine recently from North Dakota.

Loren Sherman and Amber Polen requested their two children attend Rock County Public Schools for the 2016-17 year.

The board approved both requests.

The Board of Education will meet in regular session at 8 p.m. June 13 in the district office.

* May first month since August with below normal temps; rainfall more than 4 inches

(Posted 1:15 p.m. June 2)

Ainsworth Weather Observer Gerry Osborn reported May was the first month since August 2015 that experienced below-average overall temperatures.
May also saw more than 4 inches of rainfall, which pushed the 2016 total to 12.05 inches, nearly 4 inches above average through the year's first five months.
To hear the complete May weather report, click on the audio link below.

audio clips/Gerry Osborne May Weather Summary.mp3

* Murphy provides details on Middle Niobrara NRD Long Pine Creek Watershed Plan

(Posted 2:45 p.m. May 31)

Middle Niobrara Natural Resources District Manager Mike Murphy provided details on the informational session for area residents and property owners planned for 6 p.m. Thursday, June 2, in the Ainsworth Conference.
The session is scheduled to allow the NRD to discuss the Long Pine Creek Watershed Integrated Management Plan. The NRD is working with area stakeholders with funding provided by the Department of Environmental Quality and the Environmental Trust to address the water quality issues in the Long Pine Creek watershed, and erosion control structures for Sand Draw Creek.
To hear the report, click on the audio link below.

audio clips/Middle Niobrara NRD Manager Mike Murphy.mp3 

* Commissioners agree to provide land east of hospital for new care center facility

(Posted 1:30 p.m. May 17)

The Brown County Commissioners Tuesday agreed to work with the Sandhills Care Center Board to provide the acreage needed for the construction of a new nursing home east of the Brown County Hospital on ground owned by the county.

Sandhills Care Center Board Chairman Kent Taylor told the commissioners east of the hospital was the preferred site for the planned facility, as sites near Cottonwood Villa did not have adequate water line capacity to handle the facility’s requirements.

“The Hospital Board also expressed a preference of having the nursing home near the hospital for the continuity of care,” Taylor said. “We would just be able to extend Zero Street and have the nursing home next door. It is county land, so I am looking for your thoughts on the care center acquiring that land.”

Commissioner Buddy Small said he was in favor of gifting the county land for the care center.

“It shouldn’t even take half of the land we have out there,” Small said.

Commissioner Reagan Wiebelhaus expressed interest in taking fill material needed to build up the site of the facility from east of the site and creating a fishing pond, a project the county has been contemplating.

“That would let us kill two birds with one stone,” Wiebelhaus said.
He has advocated for the county creating a fishing pond close enough to Ainsworth youth could bike to it.

The commissioners agreed to gift the property needed for the new facility to the Sandhills Care Center Board.

Taylor gave the board an update on the progress of reopening the former care center facility. He said the application has been submitted to the state for the 46 licensed beds sold when the Ainsworth Care Center closed.

“We are the first community to use the Sullivan Amendment to regain the licensed beds our community lost,” Taylor said. “They had to create an application for us.”

He said the board was working with Rural Health Development on the extensive process of creating a policies and procedures manual.

“Our board met Saturday and interviewed three candidates for care center administrator,” Taylor said. “We did agree to make an offer to one candidate.”

He said a representative from USDA planned to attend the board’s June 6 meeting to discuss the potential for the community to utilize a USDA 40-year loan guarantee for the construction of a new nursing home.

In other business during Tuesday’s meeting, the board approved a certificate of payment to Simon Contractors for the Norden Bridge replacement project.

Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin said the bridge work is mostly complete, with the company returning in the next week or two to install guard rail.

“Our dirt work on the approach is complete,” Turpin said.

Turpin reported the fence along Paradise Valley Road was being torn out, with the county scheduled to renovate the road next week.

Royce Greder approached the board about silt washing into his dam near the Norden Road between Road 880 and Road 881.

“A lot of water is running down from 880 Road and is washing into my dam,” Greder said. “It really silts it in. There is no grass ditch anymore, so when we get a rain it all washes in.”

Small said the board planned to take a trip following Tuesday’s meeting to look at several roads items, and would include Greder’s site on their trip.

In other action items, the board approved an application renewal for the county’s Blue Cross/Blue Shield health and dental plan through the Nebraska Association of County Officials. The board also approved a $10,000 transfer from the county’s miscellaneous general fund to the judicial fund.

Small reported the Ainsworth Public Library had submitted a request for the 2016-17 budget for $11,000 in county support, a total equal to its request from the past several years.

He reported the Region 24 Emergency Management Agency Board had approved its 2016-17 budget, and requested $28,592 as Brown County’s share for the five-county region.

Cherry County will pay approximately $60,000, with Rock and Boyd counties each contributing $24,000 and Keya Paha County $13,000.

The next meeting of the Brown County Commissioners is scheduled for 8:15 a.m. June 7.

* City Council approves conditional-use permit for daycare facility on Osborne Street

(Posted 7:30 a.m. May 12)

Despite objections from three neighboring property owners, the Ainsworth City Council Wednesday, by a 3-1 vote, approved a conditional-use permit for Aaron and Teresa Lemunyan to construct a daycare facility on Osborne Street.

Teresa Lemunyan said there was a great need for daycare in the community, and the couple planned to construct a 72-by-46 foot pole barn building on the Osborne Street lot.

“We are building a 6-foot privacy fence, and we will have off-street parking,” she said. “Hours will be 7 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. We currently serve 22 kids in Long Pine. We have families on a list, and we have willing employees.”

Aaron Lemunyan said the building would fit in well aesthetically with the rest of the homes in the residential area.

“We want it to be as homey as possible,” he said. “No one wants to take a child to something that looks like a commercial building.”

City Administrator Lisa Schroedl said a daycare center is allowed in an R-2 zone under a conditional-use permit.

“The Planning Commission recommended approval for the permit,” Schroedl said. “There were no objections during its hearing.”

Three Osborne Street homeowners questioned the project, citing additional traffic and the aesthetics of a pole barn building in a residential block.

“We agree there is a need for daycare,” resident Wanda Raymond, who lives across the street from the proposed site, said. “We just don’t agree with the location. If it was a daycare in a home, we would be supportive.”

Teresa Lemunyan said the interior of the center would be constructed similar to a home, with five separate rooms, a kitchen and four bathrooms.

Residents asked why the facility couldn’t be constructed in an area already zoned for commercial use.

Teresa Lemunyan said finding a suitable property in the community had been difficult.

“We looked at numerous places,” she said. “None were feasible. We are trying to help the community and bring jobs.”

Aaron Lemunyan said he didn’t feel it would be safe for parents to have to drop their young children off and pick them up on a busy street like Main Street or Highway 20.

Prior to the proposed daycare facility, an unoccupied, dilapidated home had been situated on the lot.

Councilman Kent Taylor said he supported the project.

“It is zoned for daycare,” Taylor said. “They have applied for a permit, and, as a general rule, if the zoning committee recommends approval, we rarely go against it. Daycare is really needed in the community.”

The Osborne Street residents said they were not aware of the April 21 planning commission hearing on the matter. Schroedl said the hearing had been published in the Ainsworth Star-Journal and aired on KBRB Radio.

“In the future, we could look at placing signage on the property itself when a hearing is going to be held,” Schroedl said.

By a 3-1 vote, with Councilman Brian Williams against, the council approved the conditional-use permit for the daycare facility.

In other business Wednesday, the council discussed amending city code relating to the construction of accessory buildings.

Schroedl said the Board of Adjustment had set the precedent of approving variances to the code allowing property owners to construct accessory buildings on lots adjacent to their homes. Currently, city code states an accessory building shall not be constructed as the only structure on a lot. She recommended striking that line and allowing property owners to construct accessory buildings as the sole structure on a lot as long as the property owner had a residence on the adjacent lot.

Board of Adjustment member Jerry Ehlers said, if the council would rather the Board of Adjustment continued to meet on each case, that was fine.

“Otherwise, this seems like an unneeded delay,” Ehlers said. “We have never had anyone object to something like this.”

The council instructed City Attorney Rod Palmer to craft an adjustment to the ordinance to provide clarification that a property owner must have a residence on an adjacent lot for it to be allowable for the construction of an accessory building as the only structure on a lot.

Ainsworth High School student Luke Peters approached the council about constructing a 150-foot flag pole at East City Park to fly a 30-by-60 foot flag for his Eagle Scout project.

Peters said the flag would fly seasonally.

Mayor Larry Rice said he has seen the large flag that flies at Ord.

“It is very eye-catching,” Rice said. “We need to have an idea of the cost before moving forward.”

Rice asked if there was a deadline for Peters to complete the project.

Peters said he had to have the project done prior to his 18th birthday to meet Eagle Scout guidelines.

Rice told Peters to work with Schroedl on obtaining cost estimates for the project and bring those estimates back to the council.

Central Nebraska Economic Development District Executive Director Judy Peterson approached the council about providing certified administration services on the city’s Community Development Block Grant re-use loan fund.

Peterson said the city was required to have a certified administrator for the fund. She suggested any loans made from the re-use fund be paid back to a CNEDD non-profit that would then de-federalize the funds and remove the federal restrictions. She said those funds could then be re-loaned throughout the Central Nebraska Economic Development District.

Taylor said the council planned to use the re-use funds as a forgivable loan for operating the Sandhills Care Center.

Councilwoman Deb Hurless said the North Central Development Center already handles everything included in Peterson’s proposal, with the exception of the certified grant administration.

The council agreed to solicit bids for just that aspect, and Peterson said she would be willing to submit a bid only for the certified grant administration.

Chris Raymond, president of the Ainsworth Area Chamber of Commerce, asked the council to consider supplying liability insurance for the upcoming alumni parade.

Raymond said the chamber has sponsored the parade for numerous years, and has in the past provided liability insurance.

“Liability insurance is a problem for us right now,” he said. “The quote we received for special event insurance was $300 per event above and beyond standard liability insurance. We are hoping to put the alumni parade on the city’s liability insurance plan.”

Schroedl said parades are covered for the city through its LARM liability insurance policy without needing any special event coverage.

“The chamber would then have to serve as city volunteers to cover the parade,” the city administrator said. “This would be completely different than what the city has done in the past. Prior to this, the city closed streets and required groups to list the city as an additional insured party on its liability insurance.”

The council agreed to have the parade fall under the city’s liability insurance coverage, with chamber members serving as city volunteers to assist with the parade.

In a related item, the council approved a permit for the Ainsworth Alumni Board to hold the alumni parade June 25 and close Main Street from First to Third streets from 10 until 11:30 a.m. that day.

The council approved a wording change to its workers compensation policy, having the language in the policy for non-union employees match the language in the union contract. Schroedl said the city’s workers compensation policy pays employees two-thirds of the average wage for each position if they are injured on the job.

Schroedl said all the seasonal employees are lined up for the summer months, but the city was short-handed currently with three employees out due to injury or medical issues.

Prior to adjourning, Taylor announced he had purchased a home outside of the Ainsworth city limits and would no longer have a city voting address within the next month or two. Therefore, he will have to resign his seat on the City Council. Taylor said he filed for re-election prior to having the opportunity to purchase the rural home.

The next meeting of the Ainsworth City Council is scheduled for 7 p.m. June 8.

* Public Service Commission District 5 race may be too close to call

(Posted 7 a.m. May 11)

The vote may be too close to call for the District 5 seat on the Nebraska Public Service Commission following Tuesday's Primary Election.
Fewer than 60 votes separates Mary Ridder and incumbent Jerry Vap. Both Republicans, Ridder received 21,818 votes (50.07 percent) Tuesday to 21,761 (49.93 percent) for Vap. That 57-vote margin represents just a 0.14 percent difference between the two candidates and may trigger an automatic recount in the race.
As expected, Donald Trump easily carried the state of Nebraska during Tuesday’s Republican Party Presidential Primary.

Trump received 61.5 percent of the Republican vote statewide, with Ted Cruz finishing a distant second at 18.5 percent.

On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton received 53 percent of the statewide vote to 47 percent for Bernie Sanders. The vote was largely symbolic, however, as Sanders won 15 of the 25 Nebraska delegates during the Presidential Caucus that was held in March. Tuesday’s support for Clinton was a reversal of the Caucus results two months prior.

In the Second District Republican Congressional Primary, Don Bacon captured 66 percent of the vote to 34 percent for Chip Maxwell. Bacon will face Democratic incumbent Brad Ashford in the November General Election.

Jeff Fortenberry in District 1 and Adrian Smith in District 3 both ran unopposed. Fortenberry faces Daniel Wik from the Democratic Party in November to retain his seat. Smith does not face a challenger in November.

While both candidates advance to the November General Election, Tom Brewer made an early statement by garnering 54.3 percent of the vote in the Nebraska Legislature’s 43rd District race. Incumbent Al Davis received 45.7 percent of the vote.

Davis will find himself in a similar position as four years ago, when he trailed John Ravenscroft following the Primary Election but defeated Ravenscroft in the General Election.

Brewer received 5,204 votes to 4,380 votes cast for Davis.

Voter turnout statewide was just 26.5 percent Tuesday, with 309,079 votes cast from the 1,165,371 registered voters.

Cherry County voter turnout eclipsed 50 percent at 50.5 percent, with 2,134 ballots cast from the 4,219 registered voters.

Holt County turnout was above the state average at 33 percent, with 2,305 ballots cast from the 6,988 registered voters.

Blaine County turnout was 42.3 percent, as 162 of the 383 registered voters showed up at the polls Tuesday.

* Voter turnout just 39.5 percent in Brown County with few races on the ballot

(Posted 10 p.m. May 10)

With few contested races Tuesday, voter turnout in Brown County was its lowest in several election cycles. Just 825 voters, 39.5 percent of the 2,087 registered, cast ballots in the Primary Election.

There were 744 votes cast in the Republican Primary, 60 in the Democratic Primary, and 21 non-partisan ballots were cast.

By a narrow margin, 417-387, Brown County voters favored challenger Tom Brewer over incumbent 43rd District State Sen. Al Davis. Both Davis and Brewer advance to the November General Election.

Republican voters in Brown County cast 555 ballots for Donald Trump for President. Ted Cruz finished second with 79 votes, followed by 36 for Ben Carson, 33 for John Kasich an 18 for Marco Rubio.

Brown County also favored challenger Mary Ridder for the Public Service Commissioner District 5 seat over incumbent Jerry Vap by a 396-207 margin.

* Craven, Tuerk win contested commissioner races in Rock, Keya Paha counties

(Posted 9:30 p.m. May 10)

Rock County Republican voters chose Dustin Craven to be the next commissioner and Keya Paha County Republicans re-elected Mike Tuerk to the Board of Commissioners in the only two contested local races in the area.

Craven received 313 Republican votes during Tuesday’s Primary Election, to 170 for incumbent Ernie Hasch. There was no Democratic Party candidate, so Craven will run unopposed in November.

In Keya Paha County’s West District Commissioner race, Tuerk received 96 votes in his re-election bid to 44 for challenger Jim Ruther. Tuerk will not face opposition in November from the Democratic Party.

Rock County and Keya Paha County Republicans overwhelmingly selected Donald Trump as their candidate for President. Though all Republican challengers had suspended their campaigns, five candidates had previously filed paperwork to appear on the ballot.

Trump secured 308 Republican votes in Rock County and 203 in Keya Paha County. Ted Cruz finished second in both counties, with 74 votes in Rock County and 31 in Keya Paha County. John Kasich picked up 31 votes in Rock County and 15 in Keya Paha County. Ben Carson had 26 votes in Rock County and 20 in Keya Paha County, and Marco Rubio received 13 votes in Rock County and four in Keya Paha County.

In the race for the District 5 seat on the Public Service Commission, challenger Mary Ridder carried both Rock and Keya Paha counties over incumbent Jerry Vap. Ridder secured 217 votes in Rock County to 140 for Vap, and 124 votes in Keya Paha County to 67 for Vap.

Keya Paha County voters favored challenger Tom Brewer over incumbent Al Davis for the 43rd District seat on the Nebraska Legislature by a 168-132 margin.

Republican Third District Rep. Adrian Smith ran unopposed Tuesday, as did Bob Phares for re-election to the University of Nebraska Board of Regents.

Voter turnout was 52 percent in Keya Paha County despite the few contested races, with 320 of the 634 registered voters casting a ballot.
Turnout in Rock County was solid as well at 53.6 percent. A total of 540 of the 1,006 registered voters in Rock County cast a ballot Tuesday.

* Schlueter named 2016-17 Ainsworth FFA Chapter President

(Posted 10 a.m. May 9)

During the recent Ainsworth FFA banquet, Britley Schlueter was named the 2016-17 chapter president.

Sydney Graff will be the vice president, with Whittney Killion the secretary, Jack Arens the treasurer, Emma Good the reporter, Jacob Fernau the junior advisor, Jacce Beck the sentinel, Maria Harthoorn the parliamentarian and Shylo Paddock the chapter historian.

The FFA and Advisor Roger Lechtenberg presented Honorary Chapter Degrees to Mark Ewert, Darrell Peterson, Brad Wilkins, Jim Pinney and Mark Kovar.

Receiving State FFA Degrees, the highest degree the FFA awards, were Jayden Philben, Austin Harthoorn, Heather Martin, Lindse Painter, Matt Kovar and Sara Salzman.

Greenhand Degrees were awarded to Megan Appelt, Ben Arens, Michaela Arens, Henry Beel, Gage Delimont, Tate Fernau, Rhion Irwin, Shelby Jones, Chloe Korth, Kade Kral, James Polen, Hunter Reed, Trey Schlueter, Michael Spotted Bear, Rebecca Taylor, Sam Wilkins, Jenna Williams, Jody Allen, Megan Grupe, Courtney Lauer, Britney Lewis, Luke Peters, Moritz Schrammen, Sara Warnke, Kortney Kronhoffman, Tatum Hansen, Rebecca Jensen and Andrina Stadler.

Chapter Degrees were given to Jaycee Dillon, Carsten Ganser, Maria Harthoorn, Michaela Hobbs, Caeleb Irwin, Bo Painter, Ned Pozehl, Ty Richardson, Chaeley Ruegge, Elizabeth Salzman, Blake Schipporeit, Jacob Sinsel, Brianna DeBolt, Tess Mueller, Luke McLeod and Sydney Quinn.

Four FFA members earned Chapter Star Awards. They included Michaela Hobbs in Ag Production, Cole Sundquist in Ag Placement, Jacce Beck in Agri-science, and Jack Arens in Agribusiness.

Four FFA members earned Star Greenhand Awards. Sam Wilkins earned the Star Award in Ag Production, Kade Kral the Star Award in Ag Placement, Gage Delimont the Star Award in Agribusiness, and Henry Beel the Star Award in Agri-science.

Proficiency Award winners included: Rebecca Taylor in vegetable production, Britley Schlueter in diversified agricultural production, Jacce Beck in agricultural mechanics (district contest silver medal), Ned Pozehl in agricultural mechanics, Whittney Killion in environmental service systems and natural resources systems research, Sam Wilkins in diversified crop production (district bronze), Jacob Fernau in diversified crop production, Breanna Schwindt in beef production, Michaela Hobbs in beef production, Jayden Philben in turf grass management (district silver), Gage Delimont in agricultural processing, Jack Arens in agricultural services, Jacob Sinsel in forage production, Heather Martin in home and community development, Emma Good in agriculture education (district gold), Sydney Fling in agricultural sales, Brittany Cole in equine science (district bronze) and Shylo Paddock in equine science.

The FFA Senior Parliamentary Procedure team of Breanna Schwindt, Britley Schlueter, Emma Good, Sydney Graff, Whittney Killion and Shylo Paddock finished as the district runners-up and third in the state contest.

* Chohon sweeps major awards to win Fine Arts Student of the Year

(Posted 9 a.m. May 9)

Hayes Chohon was named the 2015-16 Ainsworth High School Fine Arts Student of the Year May 3.

Chohon swept the major awards during the Fine Arts Awards Night, winning the John Phillip Sousa Award in band, the National High School Choral Award, the Senior Oratory Award and the Jess Duden Memorial Speech Team Member of the Year in speech, and the Thespian of the Year Award.

Lauren Allen was the runner-up in the Fine Arts Student of the Year race, with Sara Salzman and Sabrina Hempel the other finalists for the award.

In other band awards, the Patrick S. Gilmore Award was presented to Sydney Fling. Jace Kremer was named the Outstanding Junior. Marley Murphy and Claire Steinhauser shared the Outstanding Sophomore Award, and Megan Appelt was the Outstanding Freshman.

Instructor Kim Bejot presented a Leadership by Diversity Award to Marley Murphy and Kade Kral for learning to play an additional instrument.

Band letters were given to Sydney Fling, Courtney Lauer, Miranda Raymond, Jaycee Dillon, Marley Murphy, Megan Appelt, Mackenzie Kovar, Cassidy Gilliland, Lisa Ludemann, Hayes Chohon, Sara Salzman, Abby Masters, Tessa Lauer, Lauren Allen, Emma Good, Vanessa Taylor, Kade Kral, Jacob Jeffers, Jace Kremer and Claire Steinhauser.

Lisa Ludemann and Sara Salzman were four-year letter winners in band.

Sunshine Awards were presented to Jodi Maxwell, Sydney Fling, Jaycee Dillon, Payton Allen, Moritz Schrammen, Jacob Jeffers, Savana Christensen, Jenna Williams, Marley Murphy, Miranda Raymond, Hayes Chohon, Vanessa Taylor and Jace Kremer.

Most improved band members were Megan Appelt, Jon Barrow, Shania Johnson, Mackenzie Kovar, Kade Kral, Tessa Lauer, Braden Ludemann, Jodi Maxwell, Jenna Williams, Marley Murphy, Courtney Lauer, Jace Kremer, Brittani Beegle, Lisa Ludemann, Sydney Fling, Hayes Chohon and Jacob Jeffers.

Choir director Kayla Seefus presented Chohon with the National High School Choral Award. Seth Taylor was named the outstanding senior choir member. Britley Schlueter was the outstanding junior, Bo Painter the outstanding sophomore, and Trey Schlueter the outstanding freshman. Most improved choir members were Payton Allen, Jeremiah Finley, Jodi Maxwell and Kayla Witt.

Sunshine awards were given to McKenna Erthum, Marley Murphy, Britley Schlueter, Jacob Jeffers, Trey Schlueter, Kayla Witt and Amanda Pike.

Above and Beyond awards were given to Brittani Beegle, Hayes Chohon, Seth Taylor, Britley Schlueter, Kortney Kronhofman, Jeremiah Finley and Miranda Raymond.

In addition to the Senior Oratory Award and Jess Duden Memorial Speech Team Member of the Year awards given to Chohon, speech coach Mary Rau named Chohon the Outstanding Varsity Speaker. Henry Beel received the Outstanding Novice Award.

Thespian advisor Rachel Williams presented Chohon with the National Honor Thespian Award in addition to the Thespian of the Year Award.

Brittani Beegle, Emma Good, Marley Murphy, Sara Salzman and Tara Taylor were named Honor Thespians, and Payton Allen, Jeremiah Finley, Bo Painter, Luke Peters, Bradi Scott and Jacob Sinsel received Thespian Initiate awards.

Journalism instructor Juli Murphy presented Britley Schlueter and Marley Murphy with Volunteer Photographer Awards. Lauren Allen and Tara Taylor were co-editors of the school yearbook. Bulldog Beat editors were Abby Doyle, Lisa Ludemann, Sydney Fling, Breanna Schwindt, Jack Arens, Shylo Paddock, Sydney Graff, Vanessa Taylor and Moritz Schrammen.

* Bond refunding, $92,000 hospital contribution reduces remaining debt length by 1 year

(Posted 11:45 a.m. May 3)

During the recent meeting of the Brown County Hospital Board of Trustees, Administrator Shannon Sorensen reported the projected closing date on refinancing the remaining 10 years of hospital addition bonds through DA Davidson is May 5.

With the hospital’s anticipated contribution of $92,000, coupled with the savings by refinancing the remaining debt at a lower interest rate, the length of time to fully pay the remaining bonds was reduced from 10 years to nine years. Sorensen said the projected savings to property tax payers is $471,000.

Sorensen provided the board with an updated proposal for the nurses station and lab remodeling at the Ainsworth Family Clinic. After discussing improved efficiency, the possible addition of new providers and meeting electronic health records requirements, the board approved the clinic project.

Sorensen reported Dr. Tourtsev is planning a visit to the community in May or June. Dr. Tourtsev will be the newest medical doctor in the community.

The trustees approved updates to the hospital’s general surgery and general medicine clinical privileges, as recommended by the hospital’s medical staff. The board then approved medical staff privilege modifications for Dr. Andrew Reynolds, courtesy staff, and Dr. Melvin Campbell, active staff, based on the clinical privilege modifications the board had approved.

Barbara Person from Baird Hold presented “What Every Hospital Board Member Should Know: Legal Risks and Obligations” to the trustees. She then led a discussion on the topic of legal risks and obligations for the board members.

The next meeting of the Brown County Hospital Board of Trustees is scheduled for 4 p.m. May 16.

* Site east of Brown County Hospital to be pursued for construction of new nursing home

(Posted 7 p.m. May 2)

The Ainsworth/Brown County Care Center Board voted Monday to pursue a site east of the Brown County Hospital for the construction of a new nursing home in the community.

Building Design Committee Chair Todd Mundhenke said the committee met April 14with the Kearney architectural firm hired to design a new facility and Olsson Associates, the city’s engineering firm, to look at potential sites for a facility.

“The city’s engineer killed the plans for the two potential sites near Cottonwood Villa,” Mundhenke said. “There is not a large enough water line to build in that area.”

Mundhenke said the building committee’s recommendation was to pursue the site east of the hospital, owned by Brown County, for the construction of a new facility.

Mundhenke said the site would need fill work to raise the elevation level. Board member Jim Walz said he had concerns about new drainage issues that might be created for neighboring property owners if the water is rerouted due to the fill work and construction.

“I would like to know where the water there will go before I can agree to that site,” Walz said.

Mundhenke said the building committee’s progress would be stopped if the board could not agree on a site to pursue.

Following additional discussion, the board voted to pursue the site east of the Brown County Hospital as its first option, approach the county about its willingness to donate the property, and address drainage issues with the city’s engineer.

Mundhenke said he, board member Kent Taylor and building committee member John Gross toured nursing home facilities April 28 at York, St. Paul and Grand Island with representatives from the group’s architectural firm.

He said the architects took notes from the tours on things that worked well and problems each facility encountered in its design.

“The architect is going to come back May 12 with some additional details on a proposed layout for our facility,” Mundhenke said.

Taylor said, in touring the other modern facilities, it was encouraging to see where the community could be with a new facility in a couple years.

In other action Monday, the board approved a bid from Liberty Mutual to provide liability and builder’s risk insurance for the former Ainsworth Care Center facility once the ownership of the building is transferred to the Ainsworth/Brown County Care Center Board.

The cost for six months of liability insurance is $1,184, and one year of builder’s risk protection will cost $2,334. Taylor said the policies would cover the board from the time the building is acquired until the time it is ready to open doors to residents. He said the builder’s risk protection could be prorated only for the months needed.

North Central Development Center Executive Director Kristin Olson said all the documents for the transaction have been processed, and they were now waiting for the two law firms involved to complete the transaction.

“The title insurance is good,” Olson said. “We have that back. The title insurance slowed us down some, but it wasn’t due to anything on our end.”

Olson said she was hopeful the transaction would be completed this week, and ownership of the former Ainsworth Care Center facility would transfer to the North Central Development Center.

“The gift agreements have been executed, and the transfer is ready to close,” Olson said. “As soon as we get the building, we will get it transferred to the interlocal board.”

The board also approved submitting a certificate of need to the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services and taking advantage of the Sullivan amendment that will allow the community to obtain the 46 licensed beds that were sold upon the closing of the former facility.

Mike Harris with Rural Health Development said the company has been working with DHHS, as this will mark the first time in state history the certificate of need has been utilized through the Sullivan amendment.

“The state had to create an application,” Harris said. “There is a $1,000 application fee, and the state has 60 days to respond. But, this should be a slam dunk so we hope it goes through quickly. We will encourage them to do that.”

Ron Ross with Rural Health Development said the state had also agreed to submit a plan to the federal government and pursue the fixed costs above the $27 per day state threshold.

Ross said, while the state’s Medicaid program will not pay for fixed costs beyond $27 per resident daily, the state would now pursue the federal portion of the fixed costs beyond that threshold for governmental facilities.

“The state has agreed to chase down the federal portion that is over the cap,” Ross said. “The feds will reimburse you for about 52 percent of the fixed costs above $27 per day. That will amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars over the life of the new building. This is really good news for communities like yours with nursing home buildings that are wearing out.”

Ross said three candidates will interview with RHD and the interlocal board May 14 for the position of administrator of the local facility.

The board set a special meeting for 8 a.m. Saturday, May 14, in the Farmers-Ranchers Cooperative board room to interview the candidates. Taylor said, due to the interview process being personnel-related, the interviews will be conducted in executive session.

Harris had previously provided each board member with a copy of the proposed policies and procedures manual and employee handbook for the local facility.

He encouraged the board to review the documents and prepare any questions or suggestions for a future meeting. The information includes proposed pay scales for employees.

“We will figure out a plan to review and approve the handbook,” Harris said. “We hope to have an administrator on board soon, and we will continue to move forward.”

He said an inventory was completed, and there was a substantial amount of equipment in the former facility that RHD believes can be utilized by the community.

“The therapy room and the offices look good,” Harris said. “Some of the equipment will need to be tested, of course, and everything needs to be cleaned, but there is a lot of equipment we believe we can still use.”

Harris said everything with the facility would be brought up to code so it can receive a certificate of occupancy.

Ross said RHD had created a web site for the Sandhills Care Center and can be found at www.sandhillscarecenter.com. He encouraged anyone interested to apply for employment through the web site. Families potentially interested in placing a resident in the facility can also find information, though the site is still in the early stages of development.

Capital Committee Chair Roland Paddock said $201,522 had been donated or pledged to the facility. He said a mailing would be sent to Ainsworth High School alumni providing information on the efforts to return a nursing home to the community and seeking support.

The Ainsworth/Brown County Care Center Board has the special meeting scheduled for 8 a.m. May 14 to interview candidates for the administrator position. The next regular meeting of the board is scheduled for June 6.

* Davis provides insights into 2016 legislative session to KBRB

(Post 6:45 a.m. April 22)

Nebraska 43rd District State Sen. Al Davis spoke with KBRB's Graig Kinzie following the completion of the 2016 legislative session. Davis said he wanted to see more done in the form of property tax relief, but he was pleased there was some relief provided. He discussed the bills he introduced that became law, including his priority bill to provide a state tax credit for volunteer first responders and a bill to transfer NPPD's water rights from the Spencer Dam on the Niobrara River to the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission and the Niobrara River Basin Alliance.
To hear the report, click on the audio links below.

audio clips/State Sen Al Davis 4-22 Property Tax bills.mp3

audio clips/State Sen Al Davis 4-22 Niobrara River bill.mp3

audio clips/State Sen Al Davis 4-22 Medicaid - filibusters.mp3

* Blaine, Brown counties lead the state in 2016 ag land valuation and total valuation increases

(Posted 8 a.m. April 18)

The Nebraska Department of Revenue, Property Assessment Division, has processed the 2016 Real Property Abstracts of Assessment filed by the 93 Nebraska county assessors. Preliminary analysis indicates that real property valuations have increased 4.85% from 2015 to 2016, resulting in an increase in valuation of approximately $10.16 billion.

$ 2.33 billion (22.93%) is attributable to newly-constructed real property.

$ 7.83 billion (77.07%) is attributable to existing property valuation increases.

Real property valuations are set by the county assessors and are subject to review during the statewide equalization proceedings before the Tax Equalization and Review Commission. Real property valuation change notices will be mailed on or before June 1 to real property owners who had real property values that increased or decreased from 2015 to 2016.

Statewide, agricultural land valuation increases were modest, with a 6.24 percent increase, which marked a five-year low. That compares to increases the past three years of 22.82 percent in 2013, 29.12 percent in 2014, and 19.14 percent in 2015 statewide

Blaine County and Brown County bucked the trend of moderating ag land values, however. Blaine County led the state with an ag land valuation increase of 33.84 percent overall. Brown County had the second highest increase in agricultural land values at 29.92 percent. Those values are based on the most recent three years of sales data.

Cherry County had the fourth highest increase in ag land valuation at 22.75 percent, with Thomas County in north central Nebraska third with an increase of 22.86 percent.

Rock County’s ag land increased in value by 15.85 percent between 2015 and 2016, more than twice the statewide average, with Keya Paha County ag land moving upward by 10.9 percent.

Holt County’s agricultural land was similar to the statewide average, with an increase of 5.24 percent.

Nine counties (Antelope, Dakota, Douglas, Franklin, Hitchcock, Saline, Stanton, Thurston and Weber counties) saw ag land values decline between 2015 and 2016.

Residential valuations statewide increased by 3.66 percent, but 1.72 percent of that total was attributed to new construction. Excluding growth, existing residential property statewide was up by just 1.94 percent.

Blaine County had the second highest increase in residential value in the state at 25.69 percent, with about half of that total attributable to new construction.

Brown County saw residential values increase almost three times more than the statewide average, with total residential value up 9.13 percent. Only 1.76 percent of that increase was through new construction.

Other area counties saw primarily stagnant residential values. Excluding growth, Keya Paha County residential property inched upward by just 0.39 percent, Cherry County was up 0.85 percent, and Holt County was up by 0.72 percent. Excluding growth, residential property value in Rock County declined by 0.14 percent.

Including new construction, residential valuation in Keya Paha County was up 4.86 percent. Rock County was up 1.13 percent, Cherry County 2.24 percent, and Holt County 2.75 percent.

The value of existing commercial property statewide, excluding new construction, increased by 1.28 percent. The overall increase, including new construction, was 3.74 percent.

Most area counties saw a decline in the value of existing commercial property. Brown County declined by 1.15 percent, Rock County by 2.09 percent, Cherry County by 0.66 percent, and Holt County by 5.82 percent. Keya Paha County existing commercial property saw valuations unchanged from 2015.

Including new construction, commercial property increased by 5.02 percent in Brown County, 1.15 percent in Cherry County and 4.97 percent in Rock County. Keya Paha County remained unchanged, while Holt County commercial property valuation declined by 4.2 percent even when accounting for new construction.

Through all classifications of property and including new construction, total valuation in Brown County was up by 24.1 percent, the second highest increase in the state behind only the 32.44 percent increase in Blaine County.

Cherry County’s overall value was up 18.85 percent, followed by 14.5 percent in Rock County, 10.51 percent in Keya Paha County and 5.48 percent in Holt County.

Increases to real property valuations will result in an increase of tax revenue for local government subdivisions to spend if a corresponding reduction in tax levies is not made. Spending and budgeting decisions are made by local government subdivisions based on the amount of property taxes generated and their fiscal needs.

The final budgets must be approved by September 20 of each year. Tax rates must be determined by October 15 of each year.

* Keya Paha County Commissioners deny petition for road access to school section

(Posted 6:45 a.m. March 23)

The Keya Paha County Commissioners on Tuesday voted to deny a petition from the Nebraska Board of Educational Lands and Funds asking the county to declare a section in southern Keya Paha landlocked and provide a route to access the ground.

Commissioner Mike Tuerk said he did not believe a full effort was made by the Board of Educational Lands and Funds to obtain an access easement to the section.

Keya Paha County Attorney Eric Scott said there were four tests that must be completed for a petitioner to successfully argue that the ground was indeed landlocked. One of those tests is to perform due diligence in attempting to obtain access through neighboring properties.

Scott said the Board of Educational Lands and Funds needed to establish a cost to obtain an easement through a neighboring property.

“The petitioner must show they were unable to purchase right of way for access other than at an exorbitant price,” Scott said.

Assistant Attorney Gen. John Jelkin said a price was never offered by the Board of Educational Lands and Funds because no neighboring property owner indicated an interest in allowing an access easement.

He asked the commissioners to provide him with a list of people to talk to, so that the board could attempt to make contact and see if an easement was negotiable.

In other business during Tuesday’s meeting, Assessor Suzy Wentworth provided the commissioners with the agricultural land valuations for 2016 based on three years of sales data.

Irrigated cropland, dryland cropland and grassland all experienced valuation increases for 2016, though the increases were modest compared to the jumps in 2014 and 2015.

The top soil classification of irrigated cropland rose $400 per acre, from $2,800 to $3,200. The $400 increase equates to a 14 percent gain in value.

The second soil classification also rose by $400 per acre to a value of $3,100, with the third and fourth soil classifications rising by $300 per acre, to $2,800 and $2,700 in value respectively.

The top soil classification of dryland cropland rose by $100 per acre in value, from $900 to $1,000. The increase amounts to an 11 percent rise in valuation.

The second class of dryland cropland moved upward by $70 per acre to $950, with class three up $65 per acre to $920, and class four up $55 per acre to $870.

The top soil classification of grassland jumped in value by $70 per acre, or 10 percent, from $700 to $770 per acre. All classes of grassland increased between $60 and $70 per acre from 2015 values.

Wentworth provided the commissioners with 2016 ag land valuations for five neighboring counties.

Keya Paha County’s $3,200 value for the top soil classification of irrigated cropland was the second lowest among the six counties, and was higher in value than only Cherry County, which valued its top class of irrigated ground at $2,300 per acre.

Boyd County’s top irrigated land has a value of $3,470 per acre for 2016, with Brown County at $3,900 and Holt County the highest in the area at $4,800.

Keya Paha County’s dryland cropland, at $1,000 per acre, was again above only Cherry County’s valuation of $725 per acre for the same class of dryland cropland.

Rock County’s value for dryland is $1,000 per acre, with Brown County at $1,090 per acre for 2016, Holt County at $1,800 per acre and Boyd County having the highest value for dryland cropland at $2,310 per acre.

Comparing the value of grassland acres among the six counties, Cherry County again carries the lowest value for the top soil class of grassland at $700 per acre. Keya Paha County followed at $770 per acre. Brown County’s top grassland is valued at $915 per acre for 2016, with Rock County at $1,000 per acre and Boyd County at $1,380 per acre. Holt County carries the highest value for grassland at $1,400 per acre for the top classification.

Valuation is one of the two factors that determine the amount of tax paid by a property owner. The second is the levy rates set by the taxing entities in each county. The largest share of property tax dollars support school districts, followed by county government. Community colleges, natural resources districts, fire districts and county fair boards also receive property tax dollars through smaller levies.

Showing the dramatic valuation increases during the past several years, Wentworth provided the commissioners with the valuations for Keya Paha County agricultural property for the past 10 years.

In 2007, the top class of irrigated cropland in the county was valued at $580. That class of property has increased 550 percent in value during the past 10 years.

Dryland cropland has increased 230 percent in 10 years, from $430 in 2007 to $1,000 currently, while the top grassland acres jumped by 179 percent in that 10-year time frame, from $430 to $770 per acre.

* The song remains the same, with county ag land valuations rising sharply for 2016

(Posted 4:30 p.m. March 15)

There will be no respite for Brown County agricultural property owners in 2016, as valuations will again rocket upward by double figure percentages, including a 60 percent increase in the value of gravity-irrigated cropland.

Assessor Charleen Fox told the Board of Commissioners Tuesday sales of agricultural land are not reflective of what is happening with commodity prices.

While pivot-irrigated land increased in value by 15 percent to get to a level between the state-required 69 percent and 75 percent of actual value based on three years of sales data, Fox said there had previously been a separate, lower value for gravity-irrigated cropland.

“We have had separate values for pivot-irrigated and gravity-irrigated,” Fox said. “The state came back and said there was not enough gravity-irrigated ground, and the few sales there were of that type were not any lower than pivot-irrigated. So, gravity-irrigated will now have the same value as pivot-irrigated. We were somewhat forced into that.”

Fox said producers had been pleased that pivot-irrigated and gravity-irrigated ground had been valued separately instead of lumped together, but the sales are not showing a difference.

Based on the past three years of sales, pivot-irrigated cropland increased by 15 percent across all soil types for 2016, with the highest-quality ground increasing in value from $3,395 per acre to $3,900.

The same classification of gravity-irrigated cropland was valued in 2015 at $2,430, almost $1,000 per acre lower than the same classification of pivot-irrigated cropland. That gravity-irrigated ground will now match the value of center-pivot irrigated cropland at $3,900, a 60 percent rise.

Fox said, had she not adjusted the value of agricultural land across the board, the county would have ag land assessed at 53 percent of its actual value based on sales data. The state requires agricultural land to be assessed between 69 percent and 75 percent of its actual value. Even if the county did not increase the valuation, the state Tax Equalization Review Commission would have arbitrarily adjusted everything to the median 72 percent valuation level.

Commissioner Reagan Wiebelhaus said, “I am afraid that our local farmers and ranchers are going to have difficulty paying these increases. This needs to be addressed through the Legislature or it is going to break people.”

Fox said the state needs to find another method for valuing property.

“Until they move it away from being market-based, we are going to have this problem,” Fox said. “But, no one from the Legislature seems to want to address it. The newest year shows sales are not decreasing in price. We are not seeing land sales go back the other way yet.”

All soil classifications of grassland will experience a valuation increase of 35 percent for 2016, with the top soil classification of grass moving from $680 per acre to $915 per acre.

CRP ground increased in value between 28 percent and 33 percent, depending on the soil classification.

Dryland cropland moved upward by 15 percent, with the top soil classification increasing in value from $950 per acre to $1,090.

Irrigated grassland also experienced a 15 percent increase in value, with the top soil class moving from $1,200 per acre to $1,380.

On the residential side, Fox said she had to adjust upward the valuation for rural residential property within 5 miles of a city, and residential property in Long Pine.

Based on two years of sales instead of three, Fox said the 11 sales of rural residential property would have left that classification at 89 percent of actual value, so an 8 percent valuation increase was needed to bring that class to 97 percent of actual value.

Unlike agricultural land, which is assessed between 69 percent and 75 percent of its actual value, residential and commercial property must be assessed between 92 percent and 100 percent of its actual value.

The 24 sales in Long Pine left that classification at 88 percent of actual value, so a 6 percent valuation increase was needed to bring Long Pine residential property up to 94 percent.

“We just reviewed Long Pine two years ago, and we had to make another adjustment because home sales in Long Pine have been high,” Fox said. “There are a lot of people who want a home and acreage in the country, and that is we see those property values keep going up.”

There were only nine sales of commercial property in the past three years in the county, so Fox said those valuations would not be adjusted. Ten sales are needed for an adjustment to commercial property.

The assessor said all classifications of property are revalued every six years. For 2015, it was residential property in Ainsworth that was revalued. There were 58 sales during the past two years in Ainsworth. Following adjustments based off those sales and drive-by inspections of residential properties in the city, those properties are now assessed at 100 percent of their actual value.

Fox said the assessments in the county would be adjusted based on sales in all classifications whether it was her who made the adjustment or the TERC board.

“There have been very few years when we haven’t had to increase ag land values,” Fox said. “There are going to be a lot of unhappy people out there, especially with the ag values. We didn’t have a choice but to make the adjustment.”

Assessed value is one of the factors when determining the amount of tax paid by a property owner. The second factor is the levy rate set by taxing entities, such as the school district, county, community college, natural resources districts and other smaller entities.

If the school and county, for instance, were to ask for the same amount of property tax dollars for their 2016-17 budgets, the overall property tax rate would drop substantially. However, with the increases in value to agricultural land, those property owners would still see a larger tax bill while properties that did not see a rise in value would see a decrease in the amount of property tax due.

Fox said the overall valuation in the county, which includes valuation changes in all classes of property as well as new construction, would be finalized in May. The property taxes levied in 2016 are paid in 2017, with the first half becoming delinquent May 1 and the second half becoming delinquent Sept. 1.

In other business during Tuesday’s meeting, the commissioners, with Les Waits absent, passed a resolution amending the 2015-16 county budget following a public hearing. The amended budget accounts for an additional $900,000 in the county bridge expense line item for the replacement of the Norden Bridge, with a corresponding $900,000 in bridge revenue to account for the money the county received from the state of Nebraska for the project. The amendment does not make any fundamental change to the county’s bottom line, only accounts for the cost of the project and the reimbursement the county is receiving.

Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin told the board the roads department planned to begin work to straighten Paradise Valley Road in southern Brown County in May. He said KBR Rural Public Power would work with the roads department to relocate power poles in the stretch as needed.

Turpin said work would begin soon to remove a wooden bridge on 430th Avenue and replace it with three culverts.

He also reported the improvement work on the canal bridge north of Beck’s Well & Irrigation is complete, but the road would remain closed for another week to allow the grout used between the concrete slabs to cure. Turpin said he hoped to have that road reopened in a week’s time.

Turpin said work on replacing the Norden Bridge was running about a week ahead of schedule, according to the contractor’s estimates.

The next meeting of the Brown County Commissioners is scheduled for 8:15 a.m. April 5.

* City Council removes 2 projects from 1-year streets plan

(Posted 7 a.m. Feb. 11)

Three projects were originally placed on the city of Ainsworth’s one-year streets improvement plan during a public hearing Wednesday, but the City Council opted to remove two of the three projects.

In reviewing the one- and six-year streets plan submitted by Streets Superintendent Lloyd Smith with Niobrara Valley Consultants of Valentine, the council determined two of the projects on the one-year plan would no longer be pursued.

The three projects on the one-year plan were all carried over from the previous year, and included:

* Replacing the gravel on Elm Street from Fourth to Sixth streets with asphalt millings at an estimated cost of $40,000.

* Replacing the asphalt on Elm Street from Seventh Street to the dead end with a concrete surface and new curb and gutter at a cost of $27,500. That project was removed by the council.

* Replacing the gravel surface on Volunteer Drive through East City Park from Richardson Drive to East First Street with asphalt millings. The council opted to keep Volunteer Drive as a gravel route.

There are major concrete paving projects on the city’s six-year plan. However, several of those projects would require the passage of paving districts, with a portion of the cost of each project assessed to property owners along the streets scheduled for improvement.

Projects on the city’s six-year plan include:

* Replacing the asphalt on Oak Street from First to Second streets with concrete, $144,000.

* Replacing the asphalt on Maple Street from First to Fourth streets with concrete, $320,000.

* Replacing the asphalt on Elm Street from First to Fourth streets with concrete, $388,000.

* Replacing the asphalt on First Street from Main to Pine streets with concrete, $416,000.

* Replacing the asphalt on Meadville Avenue from Highway 20 north to the city limits with concrete, $265,000.

* Replacing the asphalt on Woodward Street from First to Third streets with concrete, $263,000.

* Placing new storm sewers and drainage structures from North Pine Street to Meadville Avenue, $240,000.

* Replacing the intersection of Highway 20 and Meadville Avenue with concrete and new curb and gutter, $14,000.

* Placing new asphalt on East Second Street between Main and Walnut streets, and on West Second Street between Main and Woodward streets, $82,000.

* Placing new asphalt on East Third Street between Main and Walnut streets, and on West Third Street between Main and Woodward streets, $82,000.

In other business during Wednesday’s meeting, Councilman Kent Taylor, who serves as the chair of the Ainsworth/Brown County Care Center Board of Directors, asked the council’s opinion on how the city wanted to proceed.

“We anticipate at our next meeting we will be making a decision on whether to continue to pursue the old building or just work on building new,” Taylor said. “If the appraisal on the old building comes back high, no one wants to take the risk. If it comes back next to nothing, I would like some guidance.”

Taylor said no one anticipated the process to try and acquire the former Ainsworth Care Center property would take as long as it has.

Councilman Brian Williams said he was in favor of moving forward with building a new facility.

“It could be a major expense down the road to demolish the old one,” Williams said.

Councilman Chuck Osborn agreed.

“I think we should just move forward with a new building,” Osborn said. “The money we put into the old facility could be put into the new one. I know there has been a lot of work done to obtain the old facility. It is a tough decision to just walk away.”

Councilwoman Deb Hurless said it may be better for the community in the long run to have control of the former facility.

“We don’t want another building just sitting there with the owners out of town like we have now with several buildings,” Hurless said.

Care Center Board member Leanne Maxwell, the city’s representative, said she believes there has been a change of opinion on whether to continue to pursue the old building with the time it has taken.

“The old facility has sat vacant for quite a while now,” Maxwell said. “Many of the former staff have found other jobs. It is a big decision. We are still committed to moving forward with a new facility no matter what.”

Capital campaign committee chair Roland Paddock told the council the group planned a Feb. 24 event to kick off the effort to raise money for a new facility. He said the committee is having a brochure made to provide to potential donors.

No official action was taken by the council.

The council approved a bid by Chris Walnofer of $38,500 annually for each of the next three years to mow and water the city’s cemeteries.

The council received three bids for the three-year contract. Todd Nilson submitted a bid of $29,998 annually, and Paulsen Lawn Service quoted a price of $45,000 annually to perform the work.

Jerry Paulsen said it takes a lot of work to weed eat the cemeteries each time they are mowed, which is stipulated in the contract language.

“I know that was not being done each time it was mowed during the past contract,” Paulsen said. “Just because a bid is lower, it doesn’t mean all the work is getting done. It is about respecting the markers and doing a good job.”

Cemetery Board member Shari Luther said the board has not been happy with the way the cemetery was being mowed in the past contract, as several stones and markers have been damaged. She said water was not applied timely, and weed eating had not been performed often.

Osborn said he had been confronted by people from out of town upset about the condition of the cemetery grounds.

The council opted to approve Walnofer’s bid for the next three years.

The council approved a bid of $15,212 from Benny Burdick to pour concrete on the east and north sides of the city shop on First Street. Burdick’s bid for the approximately 3,800 square feet of new 6-inch concrete was slightly lower than the bid of $17,611 submitted by Walton Concrete.

The council discussed issues facing the Ainsworth Swimming Pool prior to its opening. Pool manager Susan Scholtes and Water Superintendent Brad Miller went through a laundry list of challenges facing the swimming pool. The consensus of the council was to get by the best the city could for the year and continue to try and raise money and plan for a new swimming pool.

Mayor Larry Rice discussed holding a meeting of the city’s Board of Health to address nuisance properties that have not been cleaned up.

“There are six properties the council members agreed should be demolished, and three the council agreed should be taken off the list based on the cleanup that has been done,” Rice said.

Rice said he would call a meeting of the Board of Health to inspect the six properties and make a recommendation to the council.

City Attorney Rod Palmer said there was a process to follow for the Board of Health to declare the properties a health hazard. He said a public hearing would be needed to give the property owner a chance to respond.

All six properties have been through the city’s nuisance abatement process, and the steps to abate the declared nuisance violations have not been addressed.

North Central Development Center Executive Director Kristin Olson and LB 840 Committee chair Chris Raymond provided the council with a six-month review of the LB 840 fund activities.

Raymond said all loans made from the LB 840 fund are current, but no new loans had been issued during the past six months.

“We have discussed potentially using LB 840 funds to help recruit workforce to the community,” Raymond said.

Olson said the fund is not seeing as many loan applications as commercial loan rates may currently be more favorable with less paperwork than applying for a business loan through the LB 840 fund.

She said the housing projects and professional recruitment group were both continuing their work thanks to investments from the LB 840 fund.

Olson also provided a quarterly update of NCDC activities. She said an organizational meeting was scheduled for Feb. 18 to create three committees based off the priorities identified during the Jan. 20 town hall meeting.

She said the NCDC Board had approved an asset purchase agreement with the Sandhills Area Entertainment Corporation, which would allow the NCDC to take the lead on returning a theater to the community.

She said the council would see several business transitions shortly, and plans were underway to try and find a solution for reopening a steakhouse in the community.

“We also have several demolition projects in the works,” Olson said. “We have a house or two scheduled for controlled burn in April.”

She said the housing committee had a home on North Osborne Street listed for sale, and the committee had cleared a lot at 325 N. Osborne and had the lot available for someone who wanted to build a home.

She said work on the 15-unit senior housing complex on Zero Street continued, with work tentatively scheduled for completion in April.

“That project is now in the hands of the investors,” Olson said.

Myrna Jakob and Lori Ganser presented the council with information on plans to construct a no-kill pet shelter and boarding facility just southeast of Ainsworth.

Ganser said Barb Lamb had agreed to donate 2.4 acres for the construction of the shelter, and the Live, Love, Wag group had formed a 501c3 non-profit organization.

Kim Burge with the North Central RC&D told the council the group had $70,000 available from the sale of its building at Bassett to put toward projects in a six-county area of north central Nebraska.

She said the council could contact the RC&D if it had suggestions for projects. Council members mentioned the theater and nursing home projects for possible funding through the RC&D.

Rice welcomed Bryan Sisson to the community. Sisson, an Ainsworth High School graduate, began work in the city’s water and sewer department recently, and is in the process of relocating his family to Ainsworth from Broken Bow.

In other action items, the council:

* Approved a recommendation from the ABC Committee to award $530 in ABC sales tax funding to the Ainsworth Women’s Club for electrical work undertaken at the Courthouse Park Christmas display.

* Approved a $100 membership to the Ainsworth Area Chamber of Commerce.

* Approved a bid of $1.07 per square yard from Topkote for armor coating work.

* Approved the placement of a Goodwill trailer in the community. Rice said he had concerns regarding whether a Goodwill trailer would affect the Brown County Hospital Auxiliary Thrift Shop, but found the auxiliary was in favor of the trailer as it made trips to Goodwill with items the could not be sold through the thrift shop.

* Discussed the scope of professional services for the city’s wastewater system with Jess Hurlbert from engineering firm Olsson Associates. The study would be geared toward addressing issues with the city’s lift stations while also incorporating portions of the previous wastewater system study that was conducted several years ago.

* Approved the consent agenda, which included closing Main Street at 10 a.m. June 25 for the alumni parade, and a well application for Mark McNally.

The next meeting of the Ainsworth City Council is scheduled for 7 p.m. March 9.

* Turpin presents 1- and 6-year county roads plan during Tuesday hearing

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

Six roads improvement projects were completed during 2015, and 25 improvement and maintenance projects were placed on the one-year plan by Brown County Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin.

Presenting the one- and six-year roads plan to the Brown County Commissioners Tuesday during a public hearing, Turpin said the one-year plan includes $1.5 million in projects. However, more than half of that $1.5 million total came as the $814,200 Norden Bridge replacement, and Turpin said state funds were paying for 90 percent of that project.

Among the projects completed in 2015 were 11 miles of armor coating on the Elsmere Road, the resurfacing of a curve on the Norden Road, regrading on 880th Road, regrading on 432nd Avenue south of Plains Equipment, replacing a wooden bridge with a culvert on 435th Avenue, and resurfacing and grading Cattlemen Road south of Long Pine.

Following is a list of projects on the Brown County one-year plan.

* Norden Bridge replacement, estimated cost $814,200.

* Paradise Valley Road, 1 mile of grading work, estimated cost $28,000.

* Elsmere Road, 11 miles of armor coating, $167,000.

* 428th Avenue, replacing canal bridge, $90,000.

* 429th Avenue, replacing canal bridge, $86,000.

* Norden Avenue, culvert replacement, $15,000.

* 430th Avenue, replace bridge with a culvert, $20,000.

* Richardson Road, grading and easement acquisition, $30,000.

* Norden Avenue 1,5 miles north of Johnstown, replace bridge with a culvert, $25,000.

* 423rd Avenue north of the airport, grading work, $45,000 (partially completed in 2015).

* 886th Road west of Keller Park, clay base work, $12,000.

* 889th Road north of Keller Park, grading work, $15,000.

* Cattle Drive Road south of Johnstown, grading work, $22,500.

* 422nd Avenue northeast of Johnstown, grading work, $45,000.

* 885th Road north of Ainsworth, grading change to improve site line, $8,000.

* 879th Road north of Ainsworth, raising road to alleviate snow drifting, $6,000.

* 888th Road northwest of Long Pine, grading and resurfacing, $18,000 (partially completed in 2015).

* Meadville Avenue north of Ainsworth, clay and gravel resurfacing, $18,800.

* Raven Road south of Ainsworth, grading and resurfacing, $12,000.

* 432nd Avenue south of Ainsworth, grading work, $7,500.

* 879th Road northwest of Ainsworth, raise road to alleviate snow drifting, $12,000.

* 880th Road west of Ainsworth, grading and drainage work, $1,600.

* Beel Lane southwest of Johnstown, grading and resurfacing, $18,000 (partially completed in 2015).

* 876th Road southwest of Ainsworth, grading and resurfacing, $8,500.

* 431st Avenue south of Ainsworth, grading and resurfacing, $9,000.

In addition to the 25 projects on the one-year plan with a total cost of $1.5 million, Turpin identified 25 additional projects for the longer-term six-year roads plan. Those projects carry an estimated total cost of $1.4 million and include:

* Raven Road, realignment of the road south of Hagen Lake, $40,000.

* Norden Avenue, realignment of the road 10 miles north of Johnstown, $20,000.

* Meadville Avenue, Sand Draw box culvert replacement, $640,000.

* East Calamus Road, grading and resurfacing, $54,000.

* Beel Lane southwest of Johnstown, grading and resurfacing, $54,000.

* 429th Avenue northwest of Ainsworth, cutting a slope, grading and resurfacing, $20,000.

* Meadville Avenue, replacing canal bridge just north of Ainsworth, $70,000.

* 432nd Avenue one-half mile east of Ainsworth, replace canal bridge, $72,000.

* 420th Avenue 2 miles east of Johnstown, canal bridge replacement, $80,000.

* 430th Avenue 2 miles north of Ainsworth, replace bridge with culverts, $25,000.

* South Pine Avenue, partial asphalt overlay and armor coat, $127,000.

* Moon Lake Avenue 16.5 miles south of Johnstown, resurfacing work, $10,000.

* Norden Avenue, regrading and resurfacing, $6,000.

* Norden Avenue, filling and repairing pot holes and armor coating, $19,000.

* 877th Road south of Ainsworth, regrading and resurfacing, $2,500.

* 430th Avenue near Rolling Stone Feed Yard, replacing bridge with culvert or box culvert, $100,000.

* 880th Road west of Johnstown, regrading and resurfacing, $10,000.

* Moon Lake Avenue near Willow Lake, replace damaged culvert, regrading and resurfacing, $10,000.

* Rauscher Avenue northeast of Johnstown, regrading and resurfacing, $1,000.

* Rauscher Avenue 4 miles east of Johnstown, regrade a ditch and install pipe to equalize water, $5,500.

* Canal Road just north of Ainsworth, placement of asphalt millings, $10,000.

The annual one- and six-year road plan is a requirement of the Nebraska Department of Roads, and is prepared annually by the highway superintendent in each of the state’s 93 counties.

Completion of items on the one-year plan is not required, it simply provides a guide to the items the roads department plans to address. Projects are completed as time and resources allow.

* Total property tax asking rises for all area counties, valuations continue big gains

(Posted 3 p.m. Jan. 19)

The Nebraska Department of Revenue, Property Assessment Division has received the 2015 Certificates of Taxes Levied Reports from every county assessor. The data indicates that total property taxes levied, statewide, increased 6.07% from 2014 to 2015, from $3.56 billion to $3.78 billion. Overall, governmental agencies that levy property taxes will collect an additional $216 million from the 2015 tax year from Nebraska property owners.
The total increase in taxes of $216 million, includes $24 million in voter-approved bonds, which is 11 percent of the total increase; and $41 million in property taxes from new construction, which is 19 percent of the increase. However, a vast majority of the rise in tax collections, $151 million or 69 percent, comes from tax increases on existing property.

Real property valuations are determined by county assessors. Property tax rates are set by local governments. Property taxes support schools, counties, cities, community colleges, natural resource districts, fire districts, and other local governmental subdivisions. Property taxes are payable to the county treasurer.

The impact of the property tax change on individual taxpayers varies depending on the budget needs of their local governmental subdivisions and voter-approved bonds. For example, Greeley County taxes levied decreased by 4.56%, while Nuckolls County taxes levied increased by 15.40%.

Brown County taxing entities had the highest increase in property tax asking in the KBRB listening area. The total sum asked from Brown County property owners for the 2015 tax year is $10.22 million, which is a 10.25 percent increase from the $9.27 million levied in 2014. That percentage increase is the 14th highest in the state.

Holt County had the 17th largest percentage tax increase among the state’s 93 counties, at 9.76 percent. Holt County tax entities asked property owners for $36.3 million in 2015, up from the $33.1 million collected during the 2014 tax year.

Cherry County’s tax increase of 6.92 percent ranked 43rd highest. Cherry County taxing entities will collect $21.8 million from the 2015 tax year, up from $20.4 million in 2014.

Rock County ranked 54th among the counties for the rate of increased tax. Rock County property owners will pay an additional 5.56 percent in the 2015 tax year, from $6.17 million to $6.52 million.

Blaine County had the 18th lowest increase in the state among the counties at 3.28 percent. Blaine County property owners will pay $2.76 million for the 2015 tax year to fund the entities that receive property tax, modestly above the $2.67 million collected from the 2014 tax year.

Keya Paha County had the distinction of having the smallest tax increase among area counties. Property owners will pay $3.47 million for the 2015 year, up just 2.76 percent from the $3.37 million collected in 2014.
The State of Nebraska offsets a portion of the real property taxes levied in 2015 with approximately $72 million in homestead exemptions for qualified individuals and $204 million from the property tax credit relief fund, which are shown as a credit on the tax statements.

The first half of all 2015 property taxes become delinquent May 1, and the second half of 2015 taxes become delinquent Sept. 1.

From a total property valuation standpoint, several area counties again saw their total property value increase by double digits.

Rock County’s overall valuation rocketed up 30.49 percent, the third largest jump in the state behind the 42.22 percent rise in Loup County and the 32.5 percent increase in Garfield County.

Rock County’s total valuation of $580 million for 2015 was up $136 million from the $444 million total valuation in 2014.

Holt County’s valuation was up 25.43 percent from a year ago, rising from $2.48 billion to $3.11 billion.

Brown County had a total valuation increase of 19.4 percent, jumping more than $100 million from $559 million in 2014 to $668 million in 2015.

Blaine County’s valuation in 2015 increased by 18.29 percent, from $210 million to $249 million.

Cherry County, the largest county by area in Nebraska, saw an overall 17.47 percent increase in property value, from $1.39 billion to $1.63 billion.

Keya Paha County had the lowest increase in total property value in the KBRB listening area, but it still jumped by 15.83 percent in 2015, from $361 million to $418 million, a gain in value of $57 million.

Increasing agricultural land valuations continue to account for the large property value increases in the area counties. Commercial and residential property values increased slightly, and new construction accounted for a small portion of the overall increase in the counties.

* 2015 temps above normal, moisture total near average

(Posted 1:30 p.m. Jan. 4)

Ainsworth Weather Observer Gerry Osborn recorded 22.89 inches of precipitation for 2015, which is right at the city's average total of 22.99 inches.
The largest single-moisture event was July 6, when 1.52 inches of rain was recorded. Six of the first seven months finished below their respective averages for moisture, but the final five months all recorded above-average moisture. December tallied .57 of moisture, .16 above average.
To hear the complete December and 2015 reports, click on the audio links below.

audio clips/Gerry Osborn December and 2015 weather.mp3

* Thank-you area firefighters for Second Street response

(Posted 10 a.m. Oct. 17)

I would like to thank the Ainsworth, Bassett and Brown County Rural Volunteer Fire departments for their amazing response Wednesday morning to the Royal Theater Fire on Second Street.
To save our business with a fire burning that hot was an unbelievable accomplishment, and is a testament to the countless hours of training exercises our firefighters have undergone to be able to respond to situations exactly like Wednesday morning’s fire. There is not a paid fire department anywhere that could have done a better job than our area volunteers.
To whoever noticed the flames coming out of the theater at that early hour, thank you. Your call likely saved an entire half block of businesses from burning to the ground.
Thanks to everyone for their well-wishes as we clean up from the smoke. Thanks to the KBRB staff for helping to keep us on the air and operating in these less-than-optimal working conditions, and to Larry Rice and Randy Brudigan for coming down in the middle of the night to rescue what they could while the fire was still burning next door.

Graig Kinzie
KBRB Radio

* 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 Theater.
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:

audio clips/Deb Fischer Saturday report.mp3

* 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 mph.
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:

audio clips/Doug Fox Saturday Afternoon Update.mp3

* 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.

Friday night’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

Cause: Lightning

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:

audio clips/Scott Hallock Friday Noon Report.mp3

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 with back-burns.
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.

audio clips/Friday Open Line w Fire Officials Pt 1.mp3

audio clips/Friday Open Line w Fire Officials Pt 2.mp3

audio clips/Friday Open Line w Fire Officials Pt 3.mp3

audio clips/Friday Open Line w Fire Officials Pt 4.mp3

* Gov. Heineman shares stories of the volunteers in weekly column

(Posted Noon July 27, 2012)

Fighting Fires

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)
 images/20120726_Region24Complex_NE_NES_120791_PIOThreeFire_MapCompressed_11x17.JPG
(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:

audio clips/Bob Kerrey Thursday visit.mp3

* 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 today.
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:

audio clips/Scott Hallock Thursday Noon Report.mp3

* NEMA reports Meadville evacuation lifted, Highway 12 reopened to traffic

(Posted noon July 26, 2012)

The Nebraska Emergency Management Agency 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

Cause: Lightning

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:

audio clips/Doug Fox Thursday AM Update.mp3

* 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:

audio clips/Gov Dave Heineman Thursday Report.mp3

* 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 dbauer1@unl.edu. 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:

audio clips/Fire Chief Brad Fiala Wednesday Evening.mp3

* 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:

audio clips/Communications Report w Brian Delimont.mp3


(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.

audio clips/Larry Rice Report on Volunteer Effort.mp3

* 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

Cause: Lightning

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:

audio clips/Firefighter Nate Rau.mp3

* 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:

audio clips/Doug Fox Wednesday AM Report.mp3

audio clips/Springview Chief Scott Hallock Wednesday.mp3


(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:
http://odc.omaha.com/index.php?u_page=5002&p=3787

* 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:

audio clips/Brad Fiala Tuesday Night Report.mp3

* 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 counties.
"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:

audio clips/Gov Heineman Tuesday Evening Report.mp3

* 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:

audio clips/Scott Hallock Tuesday 5 PM update.mp3

* 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 kbrb@sscg.net, 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:

audio clips/Mindy Mangus w the Red Cross.mp3

The Red Cross has mobilized to support area residents and the more than 30 fire fighting departments who are responding to the Fairfield Creek Wildfire in north central Nebraska with urgently needed hydration, meals and a shelter to comfort those in need. 
So far, the Red Cross has served 2,583 meals and snacks both in the shelter and to the emergency responders at the front lines. The organization has also provided cots and other relief items to firefighters in multiple staging areas set up in the field.
The Red Cross shelter remains open in the Ainsworth Community Schools facility at 520 E. Second St. in Ainsworth.
Displaced residents and responders can 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.
The easiest way to help is to make a financial donation. Financial donations are the best option to support those in need because they offer agencies, like the Red Cross, the most flexibility in obtaining the most-needed resources. Donations of goods require helping agencies to redirect valuable resources away from providing relief services to sort, transport, warehouse and distribute items that may not meet the needs of those affected by the disaster.
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 AmericanRed Cross Disaster Relief. To make a donation, visit www.redcross.org or call 1-800-REDCROSS (1-800-733-2767).  Contributions may also be sent to a local American Red Cross chapter or to the American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, DC 20013.

* 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 firefighting effort.
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:

audio clips/Southern Baptist Disaster Relief Team Report.mp3

* 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 counties.
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.

Air Operations

Four Helicopters and Two Air Tactical Platforms will continue to assist ground crews in achieving containment goals. 

Fire retardant drops may be available.

Road Closures

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.

Evacuations: 

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: 15%

Cause: Lightning

Acreage: 65,580 total

Personnel: 239

Aviation : (3) Type (1) National Guard Black Hawks, and 1 Type 2

Engines: 30

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 winds.
"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:

audio clips/Scott Hallock Tuesday 11AM Fire Report.mp3

* 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)

audio clips/Susan Ford incident management Tuesday report.mp3

* 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:

audio clips/Report w firefighters Evans & Keezer.mp3

* 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:

audio clips/Doug Fox Tuesday AM report.mp3

* 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.

audio clips/Fire Chief Brad Fiala Monday Night.mp3

* 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:

audio clips/Scott Hallock update on southeastern KPC fires.mp3

* 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:

audio clips/Ann Fiala report on volunteer effort.mp3

* 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:

audio clips/Doug Fox Monday Afternoon Report.mp3

* 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:

audio clips/Scott Hallock - Wentworth Fire.mp3

* 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:

audio clips/Rocky Mountain Incident Management.mp3

* 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:

audio clips/Sheriff Papstein Road Closure Report.mp3

* 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 Paha County.
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:

audio clips/Doug Fox Monday Report.mp3

* 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:

audio clips/Gov Heineman Monday Report.mp3

* 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:

audio clips/Doug Fox Sunday Evening Report.mp3

* 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:

audio clips/Red Cross Sunday update.mp3

* 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 and released.
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:

audio clips/Brad Fiala Sunday Fire Report.mp3

* 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 Meadville.
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.

audio clips/Gov Heineman Report Saturday.mp3

* 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.

audio clips/Doug Fox Saturday Update.mp3
 

* 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)

audio clips/Red Cross Report.mp3

* 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 surrounding area.
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)

audio clips/Doug Fox Fire Update.mp3

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.

* Audio report with Ainsworth Fire Chief Brad Fiala Friday evening

* 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 County.
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 – 77                         Fire 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

 

Drug Cases – 3                                            Possible Electrical Fire - 1

 

Fix it tickets – 55                                         Power Lines Down - 2                       

 

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           

 

Mental Health Cases – 16

 

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

 
   

 

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