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

* James L. West, 83, of Johnstown 10 a.m. March 31

* John L. Fletcher, 93, of Bassett 10:30 a.m. March 28

* Mildred Irene Harlan, 90, of Bassett 2 p.m. March 28

* Meeting reports located below for:

March 23 Rock County and Keya Paha County 2015 property valuations

March 18 Brown County Commissioners

March 17 Brown County 2015 property valuations

March 11 Ainsworth City Council

March 10 Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education

March 4 Brown County Commissioners

March 3 Brown County Hospital Board of Trustees

* State senators provide updates as Unicameral passes midway point

(Posted 3:30 p.m. March 27)

Nebraska 43rd District State Sen. Al Davis and 40th District State Sen. Tyson Larson each reported on recent legislative activity in the Unicameral.
To hear the reports from the area senators, click on the audio links below.

audio clips/State Sen Al Davis 3-27.mp3

audio clips/State Sen Tyson Larson 3-27.mp3

* Area students receive Academic All-State recognition from the NSAA

(Posted 3 p.m. March 25)

The Nebraska School Activities Association announced the recipients of the Winter Nebraska Chiropractic Physicians Association Academic All-State Awards.

The awards recognize students who met the criteria for nomination by their school in the season of their activity.

Each year, the NSAA and the NCPA recognize students during the fall, winter and spring seasons who are nominated by their schools for their individual academic excellence, leadership and significant contributions in an NSAA activity.

Area students named to the Winter Academic All-State Team are:

Ainsworth – Austin Harthoorn and Zach Welch in boys basketball, Lydia Allen and Ellie Carr in girls basketball, Kirsten Gilliland and Nathaniel Goodloe in speech, and Dominic Henry in wrestling.

Keya Paha County - Kevin Udd in boys basketball.

Rock County - Chris Coulter in boys basketball, Kara Bruns and Paige Bruns in girls basketball, and Katie Nolles and Colin Erickson in speech.

Stuart – Conner Paxton in boys basketball, Jaden Schafer and Monique Schafer in girls basketball, and Brittany Hanzlik and Kelsey Kaup in speech.

West Holt - Evan Laible and Josiah McAllister in boys basketball, Mackenzie Hale and Courteney Hostert in girls basketball, Alex Fritz and McKenna Young in speech, and Viktor Jonseth and Jake Judge in wrestling.

Valentine - Wyatt Hitchcock and Logan O'Kief in boys basketball, McKenzie Anderson and Madison Kelber in girls basketball, Sydney Dunn and Sophie Lopez in speech, and Braxton Coleman and Jordan Kelber in wrestling.

Sandhills - Alex Coffman in boys basketball, Cassidy Hafer in girls basketball, Greg Schukei and Frankie Sierks in speech, and Landen Hopkins and Greg Schukei in wrestling.

* Davis discusses priority bills at legislative session's midpoint

(Posted 12:45 p.m. March 25)

Nebraska 43rd District State Sen. Al Davis discussed recent activity in the Nebraska Legislature, including the bill he has designated his priority for the 2015 session.
To hear the complete report, click on the audio link below.

audio clips/State Sen Al Davis 3-25.mp3

* Traffic Accident

(Posted 1:15 p.m. March 24)

The Brown County Sheriff’s Department investigated a two-vehicle accident that occurred Saturday, March 21, in Ainsworth.
According to the sheriff’s department report, at 12:44 p.m. Saturday at the Shopko parking lot, a 2011 Chevy Suburban, driven by Joanie Osborne, 46, of Valentine, was backing from a parking space and struck a parked 2007 Chevy pickup, owned by JD Alberts of Long Pine.
No injuries were reported. Damage to the Suburban was estimated at $150. The Chevy pickup sustained approximately $400 damage.

* Stuart wins D2-5 District Speech; several qualify from Rock, Keya Paha counties

(Posted 5:45 a.m. March 24)

Stuart captured the Class D2-5 District Speech Sweepstakes Thursday at Thedford, and several speakers from Stuart, Rock County and Keya Paha County qualified for the Class D-2 State Speech Meet this week by finishing in the top three during district competition.

The Broncos finished with 341 team points to run away with the title. Arcadia was the runner up with 212 points. Keya Paha County finished fourth with 202 points, followed by Rock County in fifth with 168 points in the nine-team district.

Individually, Emily Swan of Keya Paha County was the champion in humorous prose.

Moriah Heerten of Keya Paha County won the serious prose finals.

All three state qualifiers in extemporaneous speaking hailed from area schools. Colin Erickson of Rock County was the district champion, with Tate Schmaderer and Sunny Rodewald of Stuart qualifying for state by finishing second and third respectively.

Myron Hunt of Keya Paha County took third in poetry to qualify for state.

Kelsey Kaup of Stuart was the district champion in persuasive speaking.

Rock County speakers swept the top two spots in entertainment speaking, with Katie Nolles crowned the district champion and Quinton Shaw the runner up. Becky Chase of Keya Paha County finished third to qualify for state.

Brittany Hanzlik of Stuart won the informative speaking competition.

Stuart took the top two spots in the oral interpretation of drama division, with the team of Brittany Hanzlik, Hailey Paxton, Jaden Schafer and Monique Schafer taking the district title and the team of Rachel Kaup, Brook Doke, Caetlin Krysl, Alison Stracke and Peyton Alder finishing as the runner up.

The duet acting team of Monique Schafer and Jaden Schafer of Stuart won the district title to qualify.

The Class D-2 State Speech Championships are scheduled for Friday, March 27, on the University of Nebraska Kearney campus.

* Agricultural land values rise sharply in Rock, Keya Paha counties for 2015

(Posted 4 p.m. March 23)

Just like in Brown County, owners of agricultural property in Keya Paha and Rock counties will also see substantial increases in the valuations of their ground.

Rock County Assessor Monica Turpin reported recently to the Rock County Commissioners that agricultural land values had to be boosted substantially for the county to comply with a state mandate that requires agricultural property values to be between 69 percent and 75 percent of actual value.

Turpin told the commissioners, without an increase, agricultural land in Rock County would come in at 59 percent of actual value.

Using an example of the top soil ratings in each classification, Turpin indicated irrigated cropland in Rock County would double in valuation for 2015 from $1,500 per acre to $3,000 per acre.

Using the three most recent years, Turpin told the commissioners there were 70 total agricultural sales that were analyzed to determine the valuation of agricultural land.

The other classifications of agricultural property in Rock County did not escape increases, though the jumps were not as high as the doubling in value experienced by irrigated cropland.

Dryland cropland jumped from $570 per acre to $950 per acre, a two-thirds increase in value per acre. Grassland with the top soil rating jumped from $580 per acre to $900 per acre, a rise of 55 percent.

Conservation Reserve Program grassland increased in value from $565 per acre to $705 per acre, an increase of just under 25 percent.

Keya Paha County Assessor Suzy Wentworth also reported substantial increases in agricultural property values for 2015, continuing a trend that includes eight substantial jumps in agricultural property values in nine years for irrigated cropland.

For 2015, irrigated cropland with the highest soil rating will carry a value of $2,800 per acre, up $500 (almost 23 percent) from $2,300 per acre in 2014. From a historical perspective, irrigated cropland values were $580 per acre just nine years ago in 2007.

They have steadily risen since, to $860 per acre in 2008 and $990 per acre in 2009. The only year those values remained static was 2010, when values remained at $990 per acre for irrigated cropland.

The values increased to $1,040 per acre in 2011, $1,300 per acre in 2012, $1,800 per acre in 2013, $2,300 per acre in 2014 and now $2,800 per acre for 2015.

From 2007 to 2015, irrigated cropland values have risen 382 percent for Keya Paha County property owners.

Though smaller compared to irrigated cropland, dryland cropland acres in Keya Paha County have also experienced sharp valuation increases.

For 2015, the top soil rating for dryland cropland acres will increase from $740 to $900, a rise of almost 22 percent. Since 2007, dryland cropland acres in Keya Paha County have increased 109 percent, from $430 per acre to $900 per acre.

Grassland acres with the top soil rating increased by $75 per acre in Keya Paha County for 2015, but at $700 per acre are valued lower than those acres in neighboring Brown and Rock counties.

Wentworth said it was important for property owners to remember that valuations are only one piece of the puzzle in determining the amount of property tax paid.

She said the Keya Paha County Commissioners have held to a zero percent budget increase during each of the past three years, which drops the tax levy requested by the county and therefore does not increase the amount of overall tax paid to that entity. But, even with the county levy dropping, some tax does shift from the residential and commercial side to the agricultural side with the rising valuations in that sector and the static valuations in the residential and commercial classifications.

Wentworth said there are several taxing entities in the county, including the school district and others such as the community college.

She said Northeast Community College always asks for close to its maximum of 10 cents per $100 in property value, regardless of how much valuations increase. However, Wentworth said overall tax increases in Keya Paha County have been small during the past few years.

Driven by sales, agricultural land values in all three KBR counties have shown no signs of peaking, while residential and commercial property has remained nearly static in value.

Turpin reported residential valuations in Rock County would experience a small increase for 2015 based on the 47 sales analyzed over a two-year period.

Commercial values for both Rock and Keya Paha counties remained within the 92 percent to 100 percent window of actual value as mandated by the state, so valuations on that classification of property will not change.

Any property owner in Brown, Rock and Keya Paha counties who will experience a change in property valuation for 2015, whether an increase or a decrease, will receive notice from the county assessor’s office postmarked by June 1. For those whose property was unchanged, notices are not mailed.

Anyone wanting to protest the value of a parcel of property may request a valuation protest hearing from the County Board of Equalization in each county. The window to file a protest opens after the valuation notices have been sent, and are typically heard by the Board of Equalization in June. The Board of Commissioners in Brown, Rock and Keya Paha counties also serve as the Board of Equalization for each of their respective counties.

* Approximately 75 firefighters attend 2-day training to burn Ainsworth Bowl

(Posted 3:30 p.m. March 22)

The former Ainsworth Bowling Alley was used as a training site for approximately 75 firefighters across the state as part of a two-day controlled burn.

Ainsworth Fire Chief Brad Fiala said Saturday’s training focused on ways for firefighters to escape a burning building if their escape route becomes blocked.

“We worked on how to break through a wall to find another escape route,” Fiala said.

Those participating in the training were also instructed Saturday on how to ventilate the roof of a building to alleviate heat and smoke.

Sunday’s training focused on interior fire-fighting, with trainees and instructors donning air tanks and masks to train on how to keep fire from spreading inside a burning building.

Fiala said the training focused on the proper water patterns to use to knock down flames, and how to tell how a fire is burning inside a building and where it might spread.

Johnstown and Ainsworth firefighters were also called to a grass fire Saturday afternoon near Johnstown.

Fiala said a grass fire sparked from individuals shooting targets. The fire chief said hot lead or sparks from a shell ignited a grass fire, which burned approximately a 200 by 500-foot stretch of grass in a low-lying area.

“Johnstown had the fire pretty much handled by the time we got there,” Fiala said.

He said a residence in the vicinity, owned by Chad Doyle, was never in danger from the flames. Firefighters were on location for about a half hour on Saturday afternoon.

Fiala again cautioned area residents to be aware of the extremely dry conditions in the area.

* Weekly summary from the Brown County Sheriff's Department

(Posted 3:15 p.m. March 22)

March 15

* Investigated a two-vehicle accident without injury at the D & B parking lot, Ainsworth.

* Assisted individuals with a report of Brown Co residents possibly living in unlivable conditions.

* Investigated a report of possible trespassing in rural Brown Co.

* Received a report of a verbal disturbance near North Elm St Ainsworth.

* Assisted an Ainsworth resident with a report of possible harassment by electronic device.

 

March 16

* Responded to a report of a disturbance on East 3rd St, Ainsworth.

* The Ainsworth Firemen responded to a report of a grass fire in a ditch on Meadville Ave.

* Investigated a report of a possible assault in Ainsworth.

* The Ainsworth Firemen responded to a report of a cornfield on fire East & North of Ainsworth.

 

March 17

* Investigated a report of a hit and run accident that occurred in the Ainsworth School parking lot.

* Assisted a Long Pine resident with a report of a stray dog.

* The Nature Conservancy began a controlled burn in several areas & continued throughout the week.

 

March 18

* Received a report of possible child neglect in Brown Co.

* Investigated suspicious activity South of Long Pine.

* Responded to a report of a stray dog on East 2nd St. Ainsworth.

* Assisted an Ainsworth resident with a traffic complaint on West Dawes St Ainsworth.

* Arrested a subject for Driving Under the Influence & booked them into the Brown Co Jail.

 

March 19

* Investigated a report of suspicious activity South of Ainsworth.

* Released a subject from the Brown Co Jail on bond.

 

March 20

* Responded to a report of a stray dog attempting to get into a house in Long Pine

* Assisted Health & Human Services with a welfare check on Brown Co residents.

* Assisted the Ainsworth Schools with a report of a juvenile disturbance.

* Investigated a report of suspicious activity, involving drugs, in the Ainsworth area.

* Assisted Health & Human Services with a welfare check on Brown Co residents.

* Responded to a security alarm going off at a business in Ainsworth.

* Received a report of a stray dog running loose near 6th & Walnut St in Ainsworth.

* Assisted a business with a report of a gas drive off in Ainsworth.

* The Brown Co Ambulance transported an individual from the Ainsworth Care Center to the Brown Co Hospital.

 

March 21

* Investigated a two-vehicle accident without injury in the Shopko parking lot.

* The Johnstown & Ainsworth Firemen responded to a report of a grass fire near a rural residence East of Johnstown.

* Responded to a report of ATV units racing on West 2nd St Ainsworth.

 

Weekly Summary

0 - Fix-it tickets were issued.

0 - Handgun permits applied for

23 - Incidents Reports were taken.

3 - Paper Service was served.

186 - Phone calls were received.

5 - 911 emergency calls received.

6 - Titles were inspected.

1 - Traffic Citations were issued.

5 - Warnings were issued.  (These include written and verbal.)

* Seventeen students participate in 4-H speech contest Friday

(Posted 3:15 p.m. March 22)

The BKR 4-H Speech Contest was held Friday at Springview, with 17 4-H students and Cloverkids presenting speeches to judges Connie Larrington, Thad Carr, Moriah Heerten and Ann Carr.
Purple ribbons in the speech contest were awarded to Hannah Linse, CeeAnna Beel, Sydney Linse, Henry Beel, Hannah Keller and Adyson Linse.  
Blue ribbons were awarded to Baillee Palmer, Hannah Beel, Carsten Ganser, Moriah Beel, Katrina Beel, Jensen Williams, Olivia Beel and Jenna Williams
Receiving cloverkid speech ribbons were Holden Beel, Shelby Connell and Lily Beel.    
Olivia Beel received a purple ribbon for her Public Service Announcement.
Special award certificates were awarded to Jenna Williams, Sydney Linse, Olivia Beel, Hannah Linse, Hannah Beel, CeeAnna Beel, Adyson Linse, Hannah Keller, Carsten Ganser, Henry Beel, Jensen Williams and Baillee Palmer
Four-H’ers selected to represent the BKR counties during the Regional 4-H Public Speaking Contest were Olivia Beel, Jensen Williams, Sydney Linse, Jenna Williams and Hannah Linse.

* Traffic Accident

(Posted 3 p.m. March 22)

The Brown County Sheriff’s Department investigated a two-vehicle accident that occurred Monday, March 16, in Ainsworth.
According to the sheriff’s department report, at 8:14 a.m. March 16 at the Ainsworth Community Schools parking lot, a 1997 Buick sedan, driven by Riggin Temple, 16, of Ainsworth, was backing from a parking spot and struck a parked 2000 Mitsubishi sedan, owned by Mike Hempel of Long Pine.
No injuries were reported. Damage to the Buick, owned by Joseph Finley of Ainsworth, was estimated at $100. The Mitsubishi sustained approximately $300 damage.

* Commissioners vacate a portion of Road 135, but make no decision on disputed area

(Posted 4 p.m. March 18)

Following a public hearing during its previous meeting, the Brown County Board of Commissioners voted on Tuesday to vacate a portion of a little-used road in northern Brown County at the center of a dispute between neighboring landowners, but did not address the stretch of the road at the heart of the access argument.

Commissioner Buddy Small said at the outset of the discussion he was not in favor of closing Road 135 north of Keller Park and would not put a motion on the floor to vacate or abandon the route.

After an additional hour of discussion between the two property owners and the attorneys representing them, the board, following  a motion by Commissioner Reagan Wiebelhaus, agreed to close a portion of Road 135 from the north corner of a wire gate parallel to the road northwest of property owner Lanny Billings’ building site and extending north to the intersecting 877 Road that runs east and west.

“I see no reason to keep the upper portion of the road near the blowout open,” Wiebelhaus said. “The rest of this road really only affects two people. We try and make our decisions for Brown County as a whole, and are we going to use county funding to pay for a survey on a road that only affects two people?”

All parties agreed the northern stretch of Road 135 had not been used in more than 60 years since runoff from a blizzard created a large blowout in the road.

However, the dispute between Billings and neighboring property owners Dave and Jane Duffield centered on another portion of Road 135 southeast of the stretch that was abandoned.

The Duffields have claimed they used the road to access their property, while Billings argued there was no county road at that location and the access was across his property.

Wiebelhaus said, “This would have been a lot easier if the two property owners could have gotten together and come to an understanding. But, that didn’t happen.”

County Attorney David Streich said at the outset of the discussion the commissioners needed to address three questions when determining how to act.

“Is there an enforceable public road across the Billings property?” Streich asked. “If there is a route, where is the road located? If there is a road, what is the need for the county to keep it open?”

Following additional discussion, the commissioners directed Streich to send a letter to the attorneys representing both landowners to try and reach some kind of access arrangement before the county took any further action.

In other business during Tuesday’s meeting, the commissioners approved a $2,650 contract with Lance Harter of Oak Creek Engineering for the hydrology studies and permits needed to replace a timber bridge on the Norden Road northwest of Johnstown with a steel culvert.

Brown County Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin said, with the Norden Bridge across the Niobrara River scheduled for replacement, the timber bridge on the Norden Road adjacent to property owned by Royce Greder needed to be replaced in anticipation of increased traffic and heavier vehicles using the road.

“We will also plan to replace a box culvert at some point on that same stretch near the Magary property,” Turpin said. “It is narrow in that stretch.”

Harter said the timber bridge had outlived its usefulness. He recommended replacing the bridge with a culvert, as the culvert would provide plenty of drainage for the area.

Commissioner Les Waits told Turpin it was a good idea to think ahead on how traffic might change with the new bridge at Norden, similar to the way traffic increased when the Meadville Bridge was replaced.

Wiebelhaus agreed.

“I don’t want to see a relatively minor project impeding us if we are going to go through the work of replacing the Norden Bridge,” Wiebelhaus said.

Turpin reported the roads department has been removing trees from county right of way, and has been checking road signs to make sure the reflectivity meets code. He said some signs were replaced.

Turpin also said the new waste oil heater the roads department purchased for the shop has cut the shop’s heating bill from $600 per month down to just over $90 per month. He said it would not take long at that rate for the heater to pay for itself, and the roads department has not had a problem thus far finding waste oil to use as fuel.

In a final roads item, the commissioners opened bids Tuesday for armor coating county roads. The county received two bids: $13,650 per mile from Sta-bilt Construction of Harlan, Iowa, and $14,680 per mile from Top Kote of Yankton, S.D., the company that has handled the county’s armor coating work for numerous years.

Following discussion, the board accepted the low bid from Sta-bilt. Turpin said he plans to have between 12 and 15 miles of asphalt roads armor coated this year.

In other business Tuesday, Sandy Benson with the Nebraska Forest Service presented the commissioners with a copy of a revised Community Wildfire Protection Plan. She said the updated plan would be good for five years. The board approved having Small, the board chairman, sign off on the plan.

The board approved a subdivision application submitted by Brad Arens for just shy of 10 acres of land in northern Brown County.

The next meeting of the Brown County Commissioners is scheduled for 8:15 a.m. April 7.

* Brown County 2015 agricultural land values increase sharply, once again

(Posted 4 p.m. March 17)

Agricultural property owners in Brown County hoping a drop in commodity prices would lead to decreased demand for cropland, and therefore a respite from the rising tide of valuations, will be sorely disappointed when 2015 valuation notices are received in the mail.

Assessor Charleen Fox told the Brown County Commissioners during Tuesday’s meeting the prices paid for all classifications of agricultural land continue to increase substantially.

To comply with state statutes that require counties to value agricultural land within 69 percent to 75 percent of its actual value based on three years of sales, Fox said she was forced to adjust all classes of agricultural land upward by 25 percent, with dryland cropland jumping by an average of 30 percent due to a 41 percent increase in the sales prices for ground with the poorest soil rating. The top three soil classifications in dryland cropland increased by 25 percent. Fox said there was not a lot of dryland cropland acreage in Brown County.

“If we did not increase valuations, agricultural land would have been sitting at 58 percent of actual value,” Fox said. “We just didn’t have a choice, we had to get agricultural land into compliance. People are not going to be very happy, but some counties had agricultural land values go up by as much as 50 percent.”

With the state requiring county assessors to use the three most recent years of sales to establish valuations, Fox said the sales from three years ago drop off and the most recent year’s sales are added.

Thus far, there has been no ceiling on the rise in prices paid for agricultural land of all classes, from irrigated to dryland cropland, from grassland to Conservation Reserve Program ground.

Fox said the sales from three years ago were lower in price than the most recent year's sales prices, so the sales that drop off the three-year window are replaced by sales prices that are much higher. Agricultural property owners could see another valuation increase next year, if land sale prices stay at the current level.

“We have a lot of out-of-area buyers,” Fox said. “That seems to be keeping the prices up.”

A total of 56 sales of agricultural property were analyzed. With the prices being paid, the 25 percent jump in valuation across all land classes brings agricultural land to 73 percent of its actual value.

Using the example of the top soil ratings for each classification of agricultural land, pivot-irrigated cropland increased in value from $2,715 per acre to $3,395 per acre. Gravity-irrigated cropland jumped from $1,945 per acre to $2,430.

The top soil rating for grassland took a 25 percent valuation increase, from $545 per acre to $680. Irrigated grassland rose in value from $940 per acre to $1,200 per acre. Conservation Reserve Program grassland values increased from $565 per acre to $705.

Commissioner Reagan Wiebelhaus said, until the Nebraska Legislature comes up with a way to fix the way land is valued, there isn’t anything the commissioners or the assessor can do.

“As much as I hate to see a 25 percent increase for ag land, your hands are tied by the state,” Wiebelhaus said.

Fox said, based on three-year sales figures, current commercial and residential property values fell within the state-mandated level of being between 92 percent and 100 percent of actual value, so those valuations would not need adjustment for 2015.

She said new construction accounted for $6 million in additional valuation for the county in 2015.

Valuations are one factor in determining the amount of tax paid by property owners. After the valuations are set, taxing entities approve budgets with an accompanying levy rate.

The levy rates, coupled with the valuation, determine the amount of tax paid by the property owner.

For example, for a $100,000 home or business, if the county were to approve a 40-cent levy per $100 in property value and the school district were to approve a 90-cent levy per $100 in property value, the property owners would pay $400 in property tax to the county and $900 to the school district for a total of $1,300 in property tax. That would be unchanged from 2014 assuming the same levies from the previous year.
However, on the agricultural side, for a 160-acre, quarter section of pivot-irrigated cropland, the valuation of that land increased from $434,400 in 2014 to $543,200 for 2015. Assuming the same 40-cent general county levy and a 90-cent school levy per $100 in value, the owner of that quarter-section of pivot-irrigated crop land will go from paying $5,647 in property tax to $7,016.

Considering agricultural owners have seen substantial valuation increases during each of the past six years, while residential and commercial property values have remained fairly static, the tax burden being assumed by owners of ag land is becoming more onerous by the year.

There are other taxing entities in addition to the county and school, including Northeast Community College, which can levy up to 10 cents in property tax per $100 in value. The rural fire protection district typically receives 4 cents per $100 in property value. Bonds approved by voters for special projects, such as school or hospital additions, also receive property tax levy commensurate with the amount of money needed to service the bond payments.

Property owners who will see the value of their property change for 2015, whether through an increase or a decrease, will receive notice from the assessor’s office. Fox said those notices will be mailed by June 1.

* Ainsworth Speech Team wins district meet, qualifies 6 events for state

(Posted 2 p.m. March 17)

District C1-6 Speech at North Platte

1st:   Jack Arens—Entertainment Speaking                            STATE QUALIFIER

            Kirsten Gilliland—Informative Speaking                 STATE QUALIFIER

2nd:  Lauren Allen—Poetry                                                    STATE QUALIFIER

            Hayes Chohon—Persuasive Speaking                       STATE QUALIFIER

            Jack Arens—Extemporaneous Speaking                   STATE QUALIFIER

3rd:  Hayes Chohon & Lisa Ludemann—Duet Acting           STATE QUALIFIER

4th:  Britley Schlueter—Poetry

5th:  Jace Kremer—Entertainment Speaking

            Nathaniel Goodloe & Lauren Allen—Duet Acting

6th:  Damen Cleal—Humorous Prose

            Seth Taylor—Informative Speaking

Superiors:  Miranda Raymond—Humorous Prose

                        Damen Cleal—Serious Prose

                        Matt Barrow—Extemporaneous Speaking

                        Matt Barrow, Kirsten Gilliland, Nathaniel Goodloe,  Emma Good—OID

 

Team:  1st of 8

 

“We had a really good day of competition," Ainsworth speech coach Mary Rau said. "Of the 11 events that made finals, six were able to qualify for state. Our district gets tougher every year, so I was excited that we were able to bring home the championship plaque again. It took solid performances from every member of our team to accomplish that goal.”

State Speech competition will be held on the University of Nebraska-Kearney campus March 26-27, with Class C1 competing on Thursday, March 26.

* Firefighters called out twice Monday as conditions remain prevalent for fire

(Posted 5:45 a.m. March 17)

Local firefighters were kept busy again Monday, as continued dry, warm and windy conditions led to two small fires near Ainsworth.

At 9:50 a.m. Monday, the Ainsworth Volunteer Fire Department responded to a report of two small fires in a cornfield northeast of Ainsworth. According to Ainsworth Assistant Fire Chief Jeff Keezer, a bearing on a stalk ripper went bad, igniting two small fires in a field owned by Jefferis Farms.

Keezer said the two fires burned only about an acre, as Pat Schumacher, who was operating the equipment when the fires started, used his machine to help knock down the flames until firefighters arrived.

Firefighters returned from that call by 10:30 a.m., but were called out again at 3:40 p.m. to a report of a grass fire 2 miles north of Ainsworth near Meadville Avenue.

Keezer said that fire started from embers remaining from a permitted controlled burn that took place nearly a month prior, Feb. 17, on ground owned by the Rolling Stone Feed Yard.

Even after almost a month of lying dormant, the assistant fire chief said there were enough embers remaining to ignite nearby grass when the north wind picked up Monday afternoon.

Keezer said firefighters were able to keep that fire to less than an acre before getting it extinguished.

There was no damage to property in either Monday fire.

Firefighters returned to the Ainsworth Fire Hall by 4:40 p.m.

Anyone operating machinery or working outdoors is reminded of the extreme fire danger the area continues to face. Conditions are expected to moderate somewhat during the next week, but the forecast continues to call for dry conditions during the next seven days.

* Lions Club making plans to host All-Sports Tailgate Party April 28

(Posted 5:30 a.m. March 17)

The Ainsworth Lions Club held its regular monthly meeting Monday, and continued to make plans for the All-Sports Tailgate Party April 28.

Darrell Peterson reported arrangements have been made for set-up and take-down of tables and chairs, with preliminary plans to seat up to 400 during the event.  The club voted to set the ticket price at $10, the same price as last year. The sale of tickets to the public helps off-set the cost of complimentary tickets provided to all high school athletes, plus cheer and pom squad members, sponsors, coaches and spouses. This year’s event will also feature a guest speaker and recognition of the Ainsworth School’s newly formed TeamMates program.

Larry Rice introduced and presented an application for membership from Chuck Osborn of Ainsworth.

Shannon Sorenson agreed to serve as chair for the Ainsworth Lions Club “Adopt A Highway” project. The club had voted earlier to sponsor a two-mile segment of Highway 20 east of town from mile markers 242 to 244.  The Nebraska Department of Roads encourages sponsors to pick up road-side trash during the month of April.

Club members agreed to conduct their section of roadway clean up on a Sunday afternoon during the month of April. The exact date will be determined later.

Ainsworth High School student Vanessa Taylor, in cooperation with the North Central Development District office, will serve as the leader for the youth soccer program this spring and the Ainsworth Lions Club voted to serve as the organizational sponsor and contributor to the program.

Brian Williams presented information to the club from his wife Sarah, Ainsworth Elementary School Principal, regarding plans for this year’s Arbor Day Trees for Fourth Grade Foresters project. The Ainsworth Lions Club provides the funds to purchase the 12 to 18 inch Norway Spruce trees that are given to each fourth grade student to take home and plant. The board voted to approve the purchase of the trees again this year.

Information was shared with members regarding a statewide survey being conducted by Lions Club District Governors asking opinions on receiving the Nebraska Lions Newspaper quarterly instead of monthly and the possibility of receiving the newspaper via email versus U.S. Mail as a cost saving measure to the state Lions organization.

The club voted to approve providing two sets of tickets for the All-Sports Tailgate Party to be offered for sale to the highest bidders during the annual Ainsworth Area Chamber of Commerce Radio Take Over Day April 1.

The club also voted to renew their membership to the Ainsworth Area Chamber of Commerce in the organizational dues amount of $100.

Sorenson provided information on finding families willing to host Graduate Medical School students when they come to train at Brown County Hospital. She said three students (two men, one woman) from the University of South Dakota and Creighton University will spend from six to eight weeks in training in Ainsworth. Anyone interested in hosting one of the students may contact Sorenson or Bryan Doke.

The club was also presented with a financial hardship case for a person in need of appropriate eye care. This will be referred to the Lions Club Board of Directors to determine club policy and action.

The next meeting of the Ainsworth Lions Club is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. April 20.

* Little Elk sentenced to probation, restitution in Brown County District Court

(Posted 2:30 p.m. March 16)

In Brown County District Court recently, Barbara Little Elk, 29, of Ainsworth, appeared for sentencing after previously entering a plea of guilty to a charge of second degree forgery, a Class IV felony.
Little Elk was sentenced to five years of probation and was ordered to pay $4,344 in restitution to the victim. If Little Elk completes the terms of probation and restitution, a 120-day jail sentence that was imposed could be waived.

* Saturday fire north of the Ainsworth Airport destroys tractor

(Posted 7:45 p.m. March 15)

The Ainsworth and Johnstown volunteer fire departments were called to a report of a tractor on fire north of the Ainsworth Airport Saturday, March 14.

According to Ainsworth Assistant Fire Chief Jeff Keezer, at approximately 1 p.m. Saturday, a tractor caught fire approximately 2 miles north of the Ainsworth Airport.

Tractor owner Micah Graff reported the tractor caught fire while being operated in a bean field.

Firefighters were able to contain the blaze to the tractor itself and keep the flames from spreading in the dry, breezy conditions.

Keezer said the Case IH tractor was destroyed. He said the exact cause of the fire was not yet known, but due to the value of the tractor Ryan Sylvester with the Nebraska Fire Marshal’s Office was summoned to try and determine how the fire in the tractor ignited.

Keezer said firefighters returned to their respective fire halls by approximately 3:30 p.m. Saturday.

The area remains extremely dry, with fire weather warnings posted almost daily by the National Weather Service. Those working outside with equipment are encouraged to use caution.

* Sheriff's department seeking information regarding Saturday burglary

(Posted 7:30 p.m. March 15)

The Brown County Sheriff’s Department is seeking information from the public regarding a recent burglary that occurred Saturday, March 14, on the south side of Ainsworth.

According to the sheriff’s department, sometime between 6 and 7 p.m. Saturday, a home located just south of Daniels Manufacturing was burglarized.

Residents reported leaving the home at approximately 6 p.m. and returning a short time later to discover someone had been inside the home and had started to remove electronic equipment.

The intruders were apparently scared off when the residents returned to the home.

Anyone with information regarding who may be responsible for this burglary, or any other crime, is asked to contact 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, or any other crime, could result in a cash reward of up to $1,000.

* Weekly summary from the Brown County Sheriff's Department

(Posted 7:30 p.m. March 15)

March 8

* Responded to a report of a dog chasing children on 3rd St near the Ainsworth Grade School.

* Performed fingerprinting services to a Brown Co resident.

 

March 9

* Investigated a two-vehicle accident without injury on Main St, Ainsworth.

* The Brown Co Ambulance transported an individual from the Ainsworth Care Center to the Brown Co Hospital.

* The Brown Co Ambulance made two transports for patients from Brown Co Hospital. One transport was to a hospital in Lincoln & the second transport was to Faith Regional in Norfolk.

 

March 10

* Responded to a report of children playing in the street on West 2nd in Ainsworth.

* Provided a welfare check on a subject, who was traveling on the wrong side of the hwy, West of Ainsworth.

* The Brown Co Ambulance transported an individual from the Ainsworth Care Center to the Brown Co Hospital.

* The Brown Co Ambulance responded to an emergency call on East 4th St Ainsworth. No one was transported from the scene.

 

March 11

* Investigated a report of a stop sign vandalized North of Ainsworth.

* Assisted a rural Ainsworth area resident with a report of a missing dog.

 

March 12

* Arrested a subject and booked them into the Brown Co Jail for Driving Under the Influence. The subject was later released on bond.

* Responded to a report of a stray dog at a residence on West 6th St, Long Pine. The dog was transported to the Ainsworth Veterinary Clinic.

* Investigated a report of the theft of calves in rural Brown Co.

 

March 13

* Assisted an individual with a report of trespassing in rural Brown Co.

* Received a report of a possible trespasser East & North of Ainsworth.

* Provided a welfare check on individuals possibly needing adult services in Ainsworth.

 

 March 14

* Arrested a subject for Driving Under the Influence of Drugs & booked them into the Brown Co Jail. The subject was later released on bond.

* The Johnstown & Ainsworth Fire Depts. responded to a report of a tractor on fire North & East of the Airport.

* Investigated a burglary at a residence South of Ainsworth.

* Assisted an Ainsworth resident with a suspicious noise coming from a chimney.

* Responded to a report of cattle out near the KBR Waste Station, East & North of Ainsworth.

* Released a subject from the Brown Co Jail as their sentence was complete.

* Received a report of suspicious activity at the East City Park, Ainsworth.

* Assisted an Ainsworth resident with information on child custody issues.

 

Weekly Summary

0 - Fix-it tickets were issued.

1 - Handgun permits applied for

18 - Incidents Reports were taken.

8 - Paper Service was served.

128 - Phone calls were received.

7 - 911 emergency calls received.

12 - Titles were inspected.

3 - Traffic Citations were issued.

7 - Warnings were issued.  (These include written and verbal.)

* Area students compete in FFA Career Development Event at Northeast CC

(Posted 3:30 p.m. March 13)

Over 1,200 high schools students participated in the FFA Career Development Event at Northeast Community College. The students represented 40 high schools from three different districts.

Most of the contests were state qualifying events and winners will proceed to the state contest in early April at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

District 10

Ag Mechanics (Team) – 1. Ainsworth, 2. West Holt, 3. Rock County, 5. Stuart, 6. Valentine.

Agronomy (Team) – 1. West Boyd, 3. West Holt, 6. Valentine, 9. Ainsworth, 10. Rock County.

Agronomy – 1. Justin Goesch, West Boyd; 2. Seth Wentworth, West Holt; 5. Zach Sextro, West Boyd; 7. Breydon Mlady, West Holt; 8. Chris Coulter, Rock County; 9. Gunnar Hitchock, Valentine; 10. Troy Childress, West Holt.

Ag Sales (Team) – 1. Rock County, 2. Stuart, 3. Ainsworth, 5. West Holt.

Ag Sales – 1. Hollie Morton, Rock County; 2. Katie Nolles, Rock County; 3. Trina Swanson, Stuart; 4. Jaden Schafer, Stuart; 5. Cole Sundquist, Ainsworth; 6. Kenady Stanton, Rock County; 8. Jacob Tasler, West Holt; 9. Matt Dickau, Stuart; 10. Hailey Paxton, Stuart.

Biotechnology (Team) – 1. West Boyd, 2. West Holt, 4. Rock County, 5. Valentine, 6. Ainsworth.

Biotechnology – 1. Mackenzie Hale, West Holt; 2. Vanessa Reiser, West Boyd; 3. Wyatt Boettcher, West Boyd; 4. Seth Hytrek, West Holt; 5. Mitchell Atkinson, West Boyd; 7. Eddie Fredrick, West Holt; 8. Emma Laible, West Holt; 9. Jack Gale, Rock County; 10. Drew Stahlecker, West Boyd.

Farm Business Management (Team) – 1. West Boyd, 3. Rock County, 4. Stuart, 6. Valentine, 7. West Holt, 9. Ainsworth.

Farm Business Management – 1. Riley Ellwanger, West Boyd; 2. Matthew Reiser, West Boyd; 3. Austin Harthoorn, Ainsworth; 5. Gunnar Hitchock, Valentine; 7. Shea Sinsel, Ainsworth.
Floriculture (Team) – 1. West Holt, 5. Valentine, 6. Rock County, 7. Stuart.

Floriculture – 1. Caitlin Butterfield, West Holt; 4. Kassidy Jelinek, West Holt; 6. Evan Laible, West Holt; 7. Jessie Mohnsen, West Holt.

Food Science (Team) – 1. Stuart, 2. West Holt, 4. Ainsworth, 6. Valentine, 8. Rock County.

Food Science – 1. Ashley Kramer, Stuart; 2. Brook Doke, Stuart; 3. Rachel Kaup, Stuart; 4. Jenae Osborne, West Holt; 5. Emily Burk, West Holt; 6. Sabree Porter, Ainsworth; 7. Bailey Kraus, West Holt; 8. Brittany Hanzlik, Stuart; 9. Holden Smith, Ainsworth; 10. Macey VonHeeder, Ainsworth.

Livestock Management (Team) – 1. Wheeler Central, 3. West Boyd, 4. Rock County, 5. West Holt, 6. Valentine, 8. Stuart, 9. Ainsworth.

Nursery and Landscape (Team) – 1. West Holt, 2. Rock County, 4. West Boyd, 5. Valentine.

Nursery and Landscape – 1. Paige Mitchell, West Holt; 2. Megan Bilstein, West Holt; 3. Caitlyn Nelson, West Holt; 4. Jake Judge, West Holt; 5. Tori Davis, Rock County; 7. Hollie Morton, Rock County; 9. Addie Shaw, Rock County.

Veterinary Science (Team) – 1. Burwell, 2. West Holt, 4. Valentine, 6. Rock County, 8.  West Boyd, 10. Stuart.

Veterinary Science – 1. Breanna Dawe, Burwell; 4. Justin Lurz, Valentine; 6. Lindy Woita, West Holt; 7. Taylor Deseive, West Holt.

Welding (Team) – 1. Stuart, 4. Valentine, 6. Ainsworth, 9. West Holt, 10. Rock County.

Arc Welding – 1. Caleb Ross, O'Neill; 2. Wyatt Cole, Ainsworth; 3. Chase Broders, Stuart; 5. Newt Bussinger, Valentine; 8. Shawn Stehlik, West Holt; 10. Justin Dearmont, Rock County.

GMAW Welding – 1. Shyenne Dickau, Stuart; 3. Jake O'Kief, Valentine; 6. Kyle Erthum, Ainsworth; 8. Jacob Pacha, West Holt; 10. Tyler Knox, Rock County.

OAW Welding – 1. Logan Olson, Stuart; 5. Logan O'Kief, Valentine; 6. Chris Coulter, Rock County; 8. Preston Dickau, West Holt; 10. Jacce Beck, Ainsworth.

* Sheriff's department investigating theft of calves in northern Brown County

(Posted 4 p.m. March 12)

The Brown County Sheriff’s Department is seeking information regarding the recent theft of two black Angus bull calves.
According to the sheriff’s department, the calves were a week old and had a yellow tag in their right ear. The calves were taken from 8 miles north and 3 miles west of Ainsworth sometime on either Tuesday or Wednesday, March 10-11.
Anyone with information on who may be responsible for the theft of these calves is asked to contact the Brown County Sheriff’s Department at 402-387-1440 or Crime Stoppers at 402-382-3121.
All callers remain anonymous, and information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for this theft, or any other crime, could be eligible for a cash reward of up to $1,000.

* Two Atkinson residents injured in Highway 20 accident Wednesday in Rock County

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

Two Atkinson residents were injured Wednesday in a one-vehicle accident on Highway 20 east of Newport.
According to the Rock County Sheriff’s Department, which investigated the accident, at 11:27 a.m. on Highway 20, a 1989 Jeep Cherokee, driven by Nichole Griess, 35, of Atkinson, was traveling east when the vehicle left the roadway and entered the north ditch. The vehicle hit an approach and became airborne. When the vehicle hit the ground, both Griess and a passenger in the Jeep, Jimmy Fox, 33, of Atkinson, were ejected from the vehicle.
One of the occupants was transported by Stuart Ambulance to the West Holt Memorial Hospital, while the other was transported by Stuart Ambulance to the Rock County Hospital due to injuries suffered during the accident.
The Jeep was considered a total loss. The Rock County Sheriff’s Department, Stuart Volunteer Fire Department, Bassett Volunteer Fire Department, Newport Volunteer Fire Department, Stuart Ambulance and Rock County Ambulance responded to the crash.

* Bassett firefighters respond to cornfield fire Wednesday southwest of Bassett

(Posted 10:30 a.m. March 12)

On a day the National Weather Service issued a fire weather warning for the area, the Bassett Volunteer Fire Department was indeed called to respond to a Wednesday afternoon fire southwest of Bassett.

According to Bassett Fire Chief Jim Stout, at approximately 3:45 p.m. Wednesday, firefighters responded to a report of a corn field on fire 8 miles south and 1-1/2 miles west of Bassett on property owned by Terry Kuchera.

Stout said equipment was being used to shred cornstalks in the field when wire wrapped around a cultivator and started the stalks on fire.

With the dry conditions and strong south winds, the fire quickly burned between 40 and 60 acres, but Stout said firefighters were able to keep the flames out of a nearby grove of trees.

He said firefighters remained on scene until approximately 7:30 p.m., then returned to the site from 11 p.m. until 1 a.m. to work on a tree that had caught fire initially and was still smoldering.

“It is scary how dry it is out there already,” Stout said. “After 2012, we get a little leery, but maybe we will get some moisture soon to help things out.”

* Northeast section of Ainsworth drawn for second round of nuisance inspections

(Posted 9 p.m. March 11)

After dividing the city into four quadrants, the Ainsworth City Council randomly drew a number during Wednesday’s meeting to select the next section of the city to be inspected for nuisance code violations.

The Central Nebraska Housing Developers, the agency the city contracts to perform the nuisance inspections, tackled the southeast portion of the city in 2014 from Elm Street to the east city limits and from Highway 20 to the south city limits.

The portion of the city drawn for nuisance inspections in 2015 includes an area from Main Street to the east city limits and from Highway 20 north to the city limits.

City Administrator Kristi Thornburg said there were about 218 parcels in that quadrant that will be inspected for nuisances by CNHD, with the city receiving grant funds to cover the cost of inspecting 150 parcels.

Thornburg said the city would again host citywide cleanup days ahead of the inspections to give property owners a chance to clean up. She said a tire amnesty event has been scheduled for April 15, as the city qualified for a grant from the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality to dispose of 180 tons of tires. Ainsworth residents will have the opportunity to call the city and then dispose of tires free of charge during the amnesty event.

Mayor Larry Rice said the city would be discussing the nuisance inspections with the CNHD staff, urging them to focus on more on the major nuisance violations.

The city plans to continue inspecting portions of the city each year for nuisance violations.

In other business during Wednesday’s meeting, the City Council approved a recommendation from the Ainsworth Betterment Committee to provide $19,451 in ABC sales tax funds to the Ainsworth Municipal Golf Course to replace an irrigation pump.

Kim Buckley, representing the Ainsworth Golf Association, said the upgraded pump will allow the course to virtually double its watering capacity.

“Our current pump, running at 100 percent capacity, gives us less than one-quarter of an inch of water per day on the golf course,” Buckley said. “We always fight to try and get enough water on the grass.”

Buckley said the new pump would upgrade the course’s irrigation capacity from 150 gallons per minute to 300 gallons per minutes.

Golf Board member Mark Gracey said the watering system had been a problem for the course for as long as he had been a member.

“We can run twice as many sprinklers with this new pump,” Gracey said. “It is bound to help.”

Rice said the ABC Committee members in attendance voted unanimously to recommend the council approve the grant request, and the council unanimously voted to accept the recommendation and award the funds for the pump upgrade, which will be installed by Beck’s Well and Irrigation.

Following a public hearing Wednesday, the council accepted a recommendation from the LB 840 Loan Committee to deny an application for a $175,000 loan from the LB 840 fund for a building acquisition and working capital project.

Following a second public hearing, the council accepted a recommendation from the Ainsworth Planning Commission to approve a zoning change from Residential II to Commercial II for lots 7 through 20 in Hall’s Addition, Block 44, on the east side of South Main Street in the southern portion of the city.

Thornburg said the Planning Commission members in attendance during a Tuesday hearing unanimously voted to recommend the zoning change from residential to commercial be approved by the council.

North Central Development Center Executive Director Kristin Olson provided an update on the first phase of a study that was conducted on the feasibility of purchasing the Ainsworth Care Center.

Olson said the first phase of the study showed the facility could potentially cash flow, but only if the current building remains useable.

“There are still a lot of things that need to be worked through,” Olson said. “Phase 2 of the study will include having an architect look at the building.”

Olson said, at this time, the Ainsworth Care Center had not been sold.

She said a 60-day closure notice for a care center at Exeter, one of the four facilities in Nebraska owned by the same company that owns the Ainsworth Care Center, had been submitted by the company.

Olson said she has been in contact with an architect, an attorney and an accountant for proposals on the scope of service the working group would need for Phase 2 of the feasibility study.

During its February meeting, the council approved funding for the first phase of the feasibility study.

Rice said the company that performed the first phase of the feasibility study manages 21 care centers in Nebraska, including the Parkside Manor at Stuart.

“This is something we all believe we need to have in our community,” Rice said. “No one knows yet, however, how this is going to play out.”

Olson said the group would need to keep moving forward, as a decision on whether to make an offer and form an ownership group for the facility would likely be needed within the near future.

“I don’t think we are going to be able to wait around on this for a long time,” Olson said.

In a streets item, Thornburg provided the council with an update on the paving assessment for the milling work done on South Street between Main and Ulrich streets.

She said a hearing would be scheduled during the council’s April 8 meeting to levy the cost of the South Street milling project to the property owners along the street.

“The assessment should be relatively low,” Thornburg said, estimating a cost of $7.06 per linear foot of street frontage.

“In April, the council will need to make a decision on how long to set up the payback period,” the city administrator said.

She said property owners choosing not to pay the assessment in full could opt to have the cost placed on their property taxes to be paid over time.

Wade Alberts provided the council with an update on Park Board activities. He said the board and youth coordinator Katie Painter would assist the Ainsworth Elks and Legion organization with the summer baseball and softball programs.

“It sounds like there has been an excellent sign up so far for teams this summer,” Alberts said. “There are 16 players signed up for the Pony League team, and the Junior and Senior Legion should both be able to field teams.”

Alberts said the coaches at the high school all recognize that a good program starts at the youth level, and they are excited to help the youth programs continue to develop.

“We are also hoping to get some of the high school players to help with some of the summer youth programs,” Alberts said.

The consent agenda approved by the City Council Wednesday included the reappointment of Pat Brudigan and Reg Pischel to the Ainsworth Housing Committee for three-year terms, and an authorization for the Ainsworth Alumni Board to close Main Street from 10 until 11:30 a.m. June 27 for the Ainsworth Alumni Parade.

The next meeting of the Ainsworth City Council is scheduled for 7 p.m. April 8.

* Traffic Accident

(Posted 12:30 p.m. March 11)

The Brown County Sheriff’s Department investigated a two-vehicle accident that occurred Monday, March 9, in Ainsworth.
According to the sheriff’s department report, at 3:15 p.m., a 1996 Ford sedan, driven by Agatha Lewis, 76, of Ainsworth, was backing from a parking spot in the 300 block of Main Street and struck a parked 2013 Chrysler minivan, owned by James Frizzell of Bassett.
No injuries were reported. Damage to the Ford was estimated at $1,000. The Chrysler sustained approximately $1,000 damage.

* Ainsworth finishes fourth in Southwest Conference Speech Meet

(Posted 9 a.m. March 11)

Southwest Conference

==Combined==

4th:  Matt Barrow, Kirsten Gilliland, Nathaniel Goodloe, Emma Good—OID

5th:  Jack Arens—Extemporaneous Speaking

               Jack Arens—Entertainment Speaking

6th:  Hayes Chohon & Lisa Ludemann—Duet Acting
6th:  Kirsten Gilliland - Informative speaking

Superiors:  Damen Cleal—Humorous Prose

                              Miranda Raymond—Humorous Prose

                              Damen Cleal—Serious Prose

                              Emma Good—Serious Prose

                              Lauren Allen—Poetry

                              Jace Kremer—Entertainment Speaking

                              Hayes Chohon—Persuasive Speaking

                              Britley Schlueter—Persuasive Speaking

                              Seth Taylor—Informative Speaking

                              Matt Barrow—Extemporaneous Speaking

                              Nathaniel Goodloe & Lauren Allen—Duet Acting

 

Team:  5th of 7

 

“Southwest Conference was as tough as usual," Ainsworth speech coach Mary Rau said. "Gothenburg again won the championship, followed by Ogallala and Minden. Our conference is loaded with excellent teams, but we appreciate and learn from their examples. They help us when district competition rolls around next Monday.

“I am very proud of our medalists. It’s very tough to break finals in our conference. We had some entries that barely missed making the cut, which is hard to take, but that’s part of the subjectivity of speech competition.”

The next competition for the Ainsworth speech team is the C1-6 District Contest on Monday, March 16, hosted by North Platte High School.  Rounds begin at 9 a.m.

* Ainsworth City Council agenda for Wednesday meeting

(Posted 5:45 a.m. March 11)

Ainsworth City Council agenda
Meeting 7 p.m. March 11
Ainsworth Conference Center
 

1.                Roll Call

 

2.                Open hearing on the support or opposition relating to application #2015-02 for LB 840 funds, in the amount of $175,000, for building acquisition and working capital

 

3.                *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

 

4.                *Minutes of the previous meeting

 

5.                *Treasurer’s report

 

6.                *Claims for the month of February and Housing Re-Use claims

 

7.                *Approve Mayor’s reappointments of Pat Brudigan and Reg Pischel to the Housing Committee for a three-year term

 

8.                *Authorizing the Ainsworth Alumni Board of Directors to close Hwy 7 (Main Street) on Saturday, June 27, 2015 from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. for the Ainsworth Alumni Parade.  Also, the City of Ainsworth acknowledge the acceptance of all duties set out in subsection (2) of LB 589/N.R.S. 39-1359, and that if a claim is made against the state, it shall indemnify, defend, and hold harmless the state from all claims, demands, actions, damages, and liability, including reasonable attorney’s fees, that may arise as a result of the special event.

 

9.                *Department Heads Report

 

10.             Consider application #2015-02 for LB 840 funds, in the amount of $175,000, for building acquisition and working capital

 

11.             Open hearing to consider rezoning Hall’s Addition, Block 44, Lots 7 through 20, from R-2 to C-2

 

12.             Consider Ordinance #1530-An Ordinance changing the building zone in Hall’s Addition from Residential Two to Commercial Two and to provide an effective date

 

13.             Consider ABC Committee recommendation to approve the request from Ainsworth Municipal Golf Course for an Irrigation Pump Upgrade in the amount $19,451.88 from the ABC fund

 

14.             Park Board Update

 

15.             Update on Special Assessments on Paving District 2014-1

 

16.             Update on the Nursing Home Feasibility Study

 

17.             Consider implementing “No Parking” on Residential Streets for Semi-truck/trailers

 

18.             Consider identifying a quadrant for the 2015 Nuisance Code Enforcement inspections

* Rock County Sheriff's Department seeks information following Saturday vandalism

(Posted 1:45 p.m. March 10)

The Rock County Sheriff’s Department is investigating an incident of vandalism that occurred in Bassett on Saturday, March 7.
According to Rock County Sheriff James Anderson, someone broke a large window out of a building located at 106 E. Buchanon St. in Bassett. The building’s owner discovered the damage on Sunday morning.
An estimate for the amount of damage caused has not yet been determined. Anyone with information on who may be responsible for the crime is asked to contact the Rock County Sheriff’s Department at 402-684-3811.
A reward of $200 has been offered for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of the person responsible for the damage.

* Recent cases from Brown County District Court

(Posted 1:30 p.m. March 10)

During recent Brown County District Court proceedings, Eliza Sutton, 32, of Ainsworth, entered a guilty plea to a charge of conspiracy to manufacture methamphetamine, a Class II felony.
After pleading guilty to the felony charge, Sutton was ordered to participate in the North Central Problem Solving Court.
Brown County Attorney David Streich said Problem Solving Court is an intensive program with a minimum length of 18 months. Participants are subject to higher levels of supervision than those on traditional probation. Participants must maintain employment or schooling, submit to drug testing, meet with a supervisory team weekly, and comply with additional terms individually adapted to their rehabilitation.
Terms can include participation in substance abuse inpatient service or transitional halfway houses. Streich said the purpose of the program is to reduce offender recidivism by fostering a comprehensive and coordinated court response composed of early intervention, appropriate treatment, intensive supervision and consistent judicial oversight.
Streich said cases are pending for three other co-defendants arrested in December, while three defendants have now been sentenced after entering pleas to the felony charges against them.
As part of an ongoing investigation into the manufacturing of methamphetamine in Brown County, Streich announced an additional arrest had been made. A 40-year-old Ainsworth man was arrested March 3 and charged with conspiracy to manufacture methamphetamine.
The county attorney said further arrests may still be made as law enforcement continues to investigate the illegal manufacturing of illicit drugs in the county.

* School Board approves contract for foreign language teacher

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

Ainsworth Community Schools will once again have a foreign language teacher after the Board of Education on Monday voted to hire a current University of Nebraska Kearney student.

Superintendent Darrell Peterson said the school had a couple people interested in the position after the district advertised the opening.

After interviews, Peterson said the job was offered to Emily Jacquot, a Valentine High School graduate who plans to graduate in December from the UNK.

Peterson said it is a unique situation for the district, as Jacquot will not graduate from college until after the first semester of the 2015-16 school year.

“This would be a one-semester contract,” the superintendent said. “We will likely continue with the Rosetta Stone program for the first semester next year.”

Peterson said the district was willing to make arrangements for Jacquot’s mid-year graduation because of the potential that she will be a long-term solution for the district in the foreign language department. He said she has ties to this area.

“We feel she will be a very good instructor, and we are excited about a possible long-term solution for Spanish classes,” Peterson said.

The board unanimously approved Jacquot’s hiring.

In other business during Monday’s meeting, the board opened two bids for its property and liability insurance, and accepted the low bid of $42,821 quoted by North Central Insurance through EMC Insurance.

The district received a bid of $67,796 for a one-year policy with ALICAP Public Risk Management, which Peterson said is a group of approximately 150 school districts that pool their resources and is offered through the Nebraska Association of School Boards.

Peterson said there were a few differences in the policies, but both met the bid specifications submitted by the district in the advertisement.

“There would be some advantages with the ALICAP policy, such as having a $500 deductible instead of a $5,000 deductible,” Peterson said. “There is some additional coverage in some areas, but the price difference on the policies is substantial. I don’t feel the ALICAP premium was very competitive.”

He said the quote from EMC Insurance was more comparable to what the district has paid in the past for its property and liability insurance.

Board member Brad Wilkins said EMC Insurance writes a lot of insurance policies for private schools in the state.

“The premium on the ALICAP policy is more than 50 percent above EMC,” Wilkins said.

Peterson said he did not believe the difference in deductibles would be a major factor for the district.

“The deductible rarely comes into play,” the superintendent said. “We would need five separate claims to make up the policy difference in the premiums, and I don’t think we have ever had more than one claim that I can remember in any year.”

The board unanimously approved the EMC Insurance bid submitted by North Central Insurance.

Following an executive session, the board approved contracts for the 2015-16 school year for Elementary Principal Sarah Williams and Secondary Principal Richard Gilson.

In other action items Monday, the board approved the first reading of the district’s option enrollment capacity policy for the 2015-16 school year. Peterson said the district has high numbers across the board it could accept for students wanting to option into the district.

“We have a pretty open policy for allowing students to option into and out of the district,” he said.

The board also approved two foreign exchange students for the 2015-16 school year.

Peterson said the district’s policy allows for up to three foreign exchange students per year. He said the district has had good luck in the past with the STS Foundation, which requested the placement of the female students from Denmark and Switzerland. Peterson said Loren and Laurel Appleman would serve as the host parents for both students.

The board also approved the 2015-16 school calendar as presented. Classes for students begin Aug. 13, with graduation set for May 15, 2016, and the final day for classes scheduled on May 17, 2016. Peterson said the calendar included 180 days of class for students and 185 work days for teachers.

Teachers Amanda Ganser, Nicole Flynn and Kelli Gibson presented information to the board members on the work done by the school’s internal improvement team to prepare for the upcoming external accreditation visit.

Ganser said the committee broke up into smaller groups and compiled information on how the school is meeting each of the five standards for accreditation. Those standards include purpose and direction, governance and leadership, teaching and learning, resources and support systems, and using results for continuous improvements.

Williams said the internal school improvement team was the hardest working committee in the school district.

“They put a lot of time into getting all this information together,” the elementary principal said.

Peterson said the external group works with the internal group to identify strengths and collaborate on improving identified weaknesses.

The external team will visit Ainsworth Community Schools March 16-18. The group will tour the school and hold a work session following a dinner on Monday. On Tuesday, March 17, the team will hear presentations from the principals and the steering committee, visit classrooms, and conduct interviews with parents, community members, school personnel and students.

On Wednesday, March 18, the group will present its report in the Learning Center.

During his report, Peterson thanked Shopko for a $2,000 donation the company made to the school through its “Help us Give Back” campaign.
Board President Mark Johnson thanked Schumacher Brothers Fencing for donating and installing the perimeter fence for the school’s west parking lot.

A goal setting retreat for the board is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. March 25 in the district office. The next regular meeting of the Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education is scheduled for 8 p.m. April 13, as the board moves back to its summer meeting schedule.

* Annual Niobrara Valley Preserve prescribed fire training set for March 14-29

(Posted 3:45 p.m. March 9)

Expect to see smoke in the Niobrara River Valley from March 14 through March 29, as fire professionals from as far away as Spain will call The Nature Conservancy’s Niobrara Valley Preserve home as they learn and burn during the sixth annual fire training exchange.

The exchange was designed to meet the training needs of fire practitioners – those who serve state and federal conservation agencies and fire departments, as well as private sector non-profits, businesses, and landowners. It is also a way to bring much-needed prescribed fire to land that will benefit from it.

“We know this landscape is a fire-adapted one, and we’ve seen the good results of regular controlled burns for wildlife and for grazing on the Preserve,” Rich Walters, program director at the Niobrara Valley Preserve, said. “We’ve also seen what happens when too much fuel builds up. Recent wildfires are a stark reminder of that. Having the personnel to get fire on the ground safely is essential. It’s a great two-way street of teaching and learning.”

Weather conditions permitting, participants plan to burn several thousand acres in the Niobrara Valley Preserve and at Fort Niobrara.

Sixty-four firefighters are expected from Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah and Washington, as well as from Spain.

“The Niobrara Valley Preserve has been an important base from which exchange programs have grown,” Walters said. “Folks who have met and trained in Nebraska have duplicated the event in South Africa and Spain.”

Large numbers of workers means a high level of vigilance in planning. Jeremy Bailey, associate director for fire training for The Nature Conservancy, said safety is paramount to the exchange’s leaders, who work under national standards.

“We choose the safest time of year to hold this training,” Bailey said. “We anchor into previously burned areas, spend months working on burn plans, and relentlessly monitor weather reports. Local fire departments are involved in the permitting process.”

Multiple private and public partners assemble to contribute resources for the exchange. They include: the Fire Learning Network, the Nebraska Forest Service, the Nebraska Environmental Trust, Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, Firestorm, the Niobrara Council, the U.S. Forest Service, the National Park Service, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

* Weekly summary from the Brown County Sheriff's Department

(Posted 7 p.m. March 8)

March 1

* Arrested a subject for driving under the influence and booked them into the Brown Co Jail.

* Responded to a barking dog complaint on North Maple St Ainsworth.

* Assisted Rock Co Sheriff’s Office in an investigation of an assault that possibly involved a Brown Co resident.

* Provided a civil standby on Main St in Long Pine.

* The Brown Co Ambulance transported an individual from a 5th St residence, to the Brown Co Hospital.

* Released a subject from the Brown Co Jail on bond.

 

March 2

* Assisted a Brown Co resident with a report of trespassing & possible stalking.

* Investigated a report of a two-vehicle accident without injury on Pine St, Ainsworth.

* Received a report of possible child neglect in Ainsworth.

* Released a subject from the Brown Co Jail on bond.

* The Brewster Fire Dept requested assistance with a grass & structure fire. The Raven, Calamus, Ainsworth, & Long Pine Rural Fire Depts. responded to assist.

 

March 3

* Responded to a disturbance, involving juveniles, at the Ainsworth High School.

* Arrested a subject on a warrant for conspiracy to manufacture & distribute methamphetamine, & booked them into the Brown Co Jail.

* Released a subject from the Brown Co Jail as their sentence was complete.

 

March 4

* Responded to a report of vehicles not stopping  at the intersection of 879th Rd & 432nd Ave.

* Provided a welfare check on an overdue juvenile in the Ainsworth area.

* Released a subject from the Brown Co Jail on bond.

 

Mar. 5

* Provided traffic control for 400 head of cattle crossing Hwy 20 East of Ainsworth.

* Investigated an accident without injury on Camp Witness Rd.

* Booked a subject into the Brown Co Jail on a court ordered commitment, for driving under the influence.

 

March 6

* Investigated a report of window that was possibly shot, at a business in Ainsworth.

* Investigated a report of a hit & run accident that occurred in Ainsworth.

 

March 7

* Provided traffic control for cattle traveling East on Hwy 20 through the Long Pine hills.

* Provided a civil standby in Southern Brown Co.

* Assisted an individual with a report of possible harassment in Ainsworth.

* Responded to a report of a toddler not secured in a proper child safety seat, Ainsworth.

 

Weekly Summary

1 - Fix-it tickets were issued.

1 - Handgun permits applied for

18 - Incidents Reports were taken.

5 - Paper Service was served.

131 - Phone calls were received.

5 - 911 emergency calls received.

7 - Titles were inspected.

2 - Traffic Citations were issued.

2 - Warnings were issued.  (These include written and verbal.)

* Davis and Larson both provide updates from the Nebraska Legislature

(Posted 3 p.m. March 6)

It was another busy week in the Nebraska Legislature, and both 43rd District State Sen. Al Davis and 40th District State Sen. Tyson Larson provided updates of their activities during the week.
To hear the reports, click on the audio links below.

audio clips/State Sen Al Davis 3-6-15.mp3

audio clips/State Sen Tyson Larson 3-6-15.mp3

* Hempel selected as a Nebraska Young Artist Award winner

(Posted 10:15 a.m. March 6)

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln Hixson-Lied College of Fine and Performing Arts has announced the winners of the 18th annual Nebraska Young Artist Awards.
The awards annually recognize 11th-grade students from Nebraska for their talents in visual art, dance, music, theater, and film and new media. Sixty students from more than 40 high schools across the state have been selected to participate in the day of activities on Wednesday, April 8, at UN-L. Among them is Sabrina Hemple of Long Pine, who was selected in the visual art category.
Students applied for the recognition and submitted an example of their work. Applications were received from 142 students across the state. Hixson-Lied College of Fine and Performing Arts faculty chose the students who will be recognized.
Students will take tours of the arts facilities, attend classes, meet faculty and college students and have lunch. Their parents will be invited, and they will also take tours and receive information on careers in the arts and college curriculum.
Students selected to participate in the Nebraska Young Artist Awards will be asked to nominate the teacher who provided them with the greatest amount of mentoring and support in the development of their special talents.
The day will conclude with an awards ceremony in the Sheldon Museum of Art's auditorium at 3 p.m. Students will receive a certificate and a special piece of artwork commissioned for this event and created by a Department of Art and Art History printmaking student.

* Ainsworth, Valentine experience solid increases in December taxable sales

(Posted 1:30 p.m. March 5)

Nebraska Department of Revenue
Comparison of December 2014 and December 2013 Net Taxable Sales
for Nebraska Counties and Selected Cities


County
or City

2014
Net Taxable
Sales

2013
Net Taxable
Sales

Percent
Change

2014
Sales Tax
5.5%

2013
Sales Tax
5.5%

Blaine

81,959

114,263

(28.3)

4,507.78

6,284.50

Boyd

1,046,416

1,208,713

(13.4)

57,553.12

66,479.44

Brown

4,507,764

4,284,369

5.2

247,927.30

235,640.61

Ainsworth

4,256,637

4,036,041

5.5

234,115.26

221,982.50

Cherry

6,994,186

6,294,467

11.1

384,680.93

344,407.85

Valentine

6,491,428

5,634,037

15.2

357,029.00

308,083.99

Custer

10,415,358

10,626,058

(2.0)

572,845.78

584,434.38

Broken Bow

7,834,714

7,930,972

(1.2)

430,909.79

436,204.04

Holt

11,648,036

13,272,652

(12.2)

640,643.22

729,997.01

Atkinson

2,205,248

2,888,100

(23.6)

121,288.89

158,845.82

O'Neill

7,769,927

8,505,205

(8.6)

427,346.65

467,786.82

Keya Paha

330,257

435,927

(24.2)

18,164.23

23,976.07

Loup

222,212

227,829

(2.5)

12,221.68

12,530.65

Rock

660,261

901,484

(26.8)

36,314.49

49,581.76

Valley

4,360,510

4,373,033

(0.3)

239,828.47

240,517.28

Ord

3,675,061

3,676,329

0

202,128.70

202,198.47

State Total

$2,775,163,803

$2,867,300,395

(3.2)

$153,423,589.00

$157,787,382.90

Nebraska Department of Revenue
Comparison of December 2014 and December 2013
Motor Vehicle Sales Tax Collections by County


County
or City

2014
Net Taxable
Sales

2013
Net Taxable
Sales

Percent
Change

2014
Sales Tax
5.5%

2013
Sales Tax
5.5%

Blaine

367,543

139,867

162.8

20,169.83

7,623.01

Boyd

320,281

346,649

(7.6)

17,581.41

19,017.91

Brown

743,902

793,192

(6.2)

41,067.01

43,801.46

Cherry

2,151,413

1,120,434

92

118,689.85

61,953.68

Custer

2,910,853

2,899,041

0.4

160,627.15

160,084.08

Holt

$3,311,686

$2,616,436

26.6

$183,021.21

$144,493.85

Keya Paha

299,267

160,365

86.6

16,446.38

8,792.27

Loup

194,894

142,728

36.5

10,673.08

7,791.00

Rock

480,299

440,039

9.1

26,483.58

24,249.40

Valley

928,254

617,287

50.4

51,159.07

34,105.34

State Total

$326,484,480

$301,298,987

8.4

$18,085,665.28

$16,695,320.07

* Commissioners approve permit for Verizon cell tower in western Brown County

(Posted 1:45 p.m. March 4)

The Brown County Commissioners approved the placement of a Verizon cellular tower in western Brown County following a public hearing Tuesday.

Verizon representative Chad Skinner said the company plans to construct a 300-foot cellular tower on the south side of Highway 20 on property owned by Jack King.

“We usually get an average of 8 to 10 miles of coverage from each tower, depending on the terrain,” Skinner told the commissioners. “The coverage can extend longer than that distance, but it is not as reliable.”

Skinner said Verizon’s goal was to have the tower built and in operation by the end of the year.

“There are a couple hundred cellular tower sites on our three-year plan, and that is just in Nebraska,” Skinner said.

Zoning Administrator Dean Jochem said a condition was added into the Verizon permit that would allow the county to utilize the tower for communications equipment if it does not interfere with the tower’s integrity.

Jochem said the Brown County Planning Commission recommended the project be approved by the county board.

No one spoke in opposition to the project, and the board provided its unanimous consent.

In a second public hearing Tuesday, an ongoing road access dispute between neighboring property owners in northern Brown County led to a public hearing Tuesday as the county considered a request to abandon or vacate the road in question, Road 135 located in the eastern half of the northeast and southeast quarters of Section 9, and the northwest and southwest quarters of Section 10, Township 31 North, Range 21 north of Keller Park.

Attorney Rod Palmer, representing property owner Lanny Billings, requested Road 135 be vacated by the commissioners since it had not been maintained for decades.

“There are two ways for a road to no longer be considered a road,” Palmer said. “It can be vacated by a county board, or it can be a de facto abandonment if a county does not maintain the road and if the public doesn’t use it.”

Attorney Todd Flynn, representing property owners Dave and Jane Duffield, argued his clients have used the road since the 1970s to access the southwestern portion of their property.

“It is crystal clear there has been a party that has utilized that road in the past,” Flynn said. “Mr. Duffield has used that road since 1975, and he continued to do so until a building was placed on the road that no longer allowed him to use it.”

Commissioner Reagan Wiebelhaus asked, once a county road had been established, was there ever a case that it ceased to become a road without action taken by a county board to vacate it.

County Attorney Dave Streich said, “Statutorily, there is a procedure for abandoning a county road, and that is the hearing we are having now. I am not taking sides on this. I would only tell you a county statutorily has a duty to provide a road to people who are landlocked.”

Palmer argued the Duffields had access to their property from another direction, and any county road that had been called for at that location was no longer necessary.

“It seems to me that the road should be vacated by this board,” Palmer said. “Maintaining it would certainly not be a prudent use of county funds. The board needs to weigh whether one person using the road occasionally who has access to their land from another direction is worth keeping a road open.”

Palmer cited a study conducted by Brown County Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin that indicated Road 135 had little, if any, vehicular use. Palmer said the study showed vacating the road would reduce county liability and would not result in any property owners becoming landlocked.

Flynn argued the board had approved a motion to have Road 135 surveyed.

“As far as I know, that survey has not been completed,” Flynn said.

Commissioner Buddy Small confirmed a survey of the road had not been completed as of Tuesday’s hearing.

“As of this date, no entity has abandoned this road,” Flynn said. “If the building had not been built, this would be a non-issue. The survey needs to be completed before the county determines what part of the road would or would not be abandoned. My clients are just asking for the use of a county road that they have had access to since 1975.”

Following the nearly two hour hearing, Small said the board was not prepared to make a decision on whether or not to abandon the road. He had the item placed on the board’s March 17 agenda at 11 a.m. for a decision to be made.

In other business during Tuesday’s meeting, the commissioners granted permission for deputy emergency manager Jeff Keezer to attend a training April 2-3 at Grand Island.

The board also approved a subdivision application for GJW LLC for a parcel near its facility south of Ainsworth.

The next meeting of the Brown County Commissioners is scheduled for 8:15 a.m. March 17.

* Traffic Accident

(Posted 1 p.m. March 4)

The Brown County Sheriff’s Department investigated a two-vehicle accident that occurred on Monday, March 2, in Ainsworth.
According to the sheriff’s department report, at 3:40 p.m. Monday in the 100 block of North Pine Street, a collision occurred between a 2008 Ford Ranger pickup, driven by David Chase, 69, of Ainsworth, that was backing from a private driveway, and a 1978 Ford F-150 pickup, driven by Ty Richardson, 15, of Ainsworth, that was traveling south on Pine Street.
No injuries were reported. Damage to the Ford Ranger was estimated at $1,500. The Ford F-150, owned by Kip Richardson of Ainsworth, sustained approximately $2,000 damage.

* Hospital Board approves contract with firm to assist in physician recruitment

(Posted 4:15 p.m. March 3)

During a recent meeting of the Brown County Hospital Board of Trustees, the board voted to engage the services of Adaptive Medical Partners to assist the hospital with recruiting a physician.

The hospital has been actively recruiting to add another physician to the staff at Brown County Hospital.

In other action items, the trustees were faced with a decision for the hospital’s employee health insurance policy after learning Co-Opportunity Health would be going out of business. Co-Opportunity Health was the provider of the hospital’s group health insurance plan for its employees.

Following discussion with Tim Olson of The Olson Group on quotes and potential options for insurance coverage, the trustees voted to terminate the hospital’s group policy with Co-Opportunity Health and enter into an agreement with Pareto to handle the hospital’s group health policy effective March 1.

In a final action item, the board approved the appointments of radiologists Dr. Lillian Cavin and Dr. Allison Summers to the hospital’s consulting staff, and approved the appointment of CRNA Joshua Becker to the hospital’s allied medical staff. All three appointments were recommended by the hospital’s medical staff following a review of credentials.

Hospital Administrator Shannon Sorensen provided the board with an update on the heating and cooling piping project at the hospital facility. She said more research was needed with additional quote options to ensure the hospital received the best option for the heating and cooling replacement work.

Sorensen discussed with the trustees the recent news that the Ainsworth Care Center building has been listed for sale. She told the board a community task force has been formed to research the feasibility of the facility being locally owned and operated.

Sorensen reported the Ainsworth Family Clinic would participate in a practice transformation grant through the Regional Provider Network if the clinic’s application is approved.

Prior to adjourning, the board held an executive session to discuss physician recruitment. No action was taken following the executive session.

The next meeting of the Brown County Hospital Board of Trustees is scheduled for 4 p.m. March 23.

* Monday fire destroys rural Blaine County home, ignites large grass fire

(Posted 3:30 p.m. March 3)

A Monday afternoon fire that destroyed a family’s home in rural Blaine County north of Brewster developed into a large grass fire that burned more than a 2-mile swath of ground while pushed by a gusting south wind.

Brewster Volunteer Fire Chief Ken Johnston said a trailer home owned by the Raymond Fox family approximately 4 miles north of Brewster was completely engulfed with flames when firefighters arrived on scene at approximately 12:45 p.m. Monday.

Johnston said the wind allowed the fire to jump from the trailer house and ignite a grass fire that quickly spread to the north.

While exact acreage burned is not yet known, Johnston said the fire burned a 2- to 3-mile swath from south to north that was 200 to 300 yards wide.

Johnston called in mutual aid from the Ainsworth, Raven, Calamus, Dunning, Purdum and Halsey fire departments, and also received assistance from the Forest Service.

“With the wind as strong as it was, we called for a lot of mutual aid,” Johnston said. “I sure appreciate the help we received. That fire could have made it all the way to the Calamus River otherwise.”

Johnston said most of the ground the burned had fairly short grass without a major amount of fuel vegetation, but there was substantial smoke and the fire moved quickly pushed by winds that gusted to over 25 mph.

The Brewster fire chief said the Fox home was a total loss. While the fire did start in the house before igniting the grass, the cause of the fire inside the home was not known.

He said the Brewster firefighters had finished mopping up hot spots and returned from the scene by 8 p.m. Monday after more than seven hours at the site.

* February summary from Weather Observer Gerry Osborn

(Posted 5:45 a.m. March 3)

Ainsworth Weather Observer Gerry Osborn provided a summary of weather data for the month of February. To hear the report, click on the audio link below.

audio clips/Gerry Osborn February Weather.mp3

* Ainsworth speech team takes second place at Centura

(Posted 5:30 a.m. March 2)

Centura Invitational

==Combined==

1st:  Kirsten Gilliland—Informative Speaking

               Jack Arens—Extemporaneous Speaking

2nd:  Hayes Chohon—Persuasive Speaking

3rd:  Hayes Chohon, Lisa Ludemann, Seth Taylor, Jace Kremer, Miranda Raymond—OID

4th:  Lauren Allen—Poetry

Hayes Chohon & Lisa Ludemann—Duet Acting

5th:  Damen Cleal—Humorous Prose

               Nathaniel Goodloe & Lauren Allen—Duet Acting

6th:  Britley Schlueter—Persuasive Speaking

Superiors:  Damen Cleal—Serious Prose

                              Jack Arens—Entertainment Speaking

                              Miranda Raymond—Humorous Prose

                              Britley Schlueter--Poetry

               Matt Barrow, Kirsten Gilliland, Nathaniel Goodloe, Lauren Allen—OID

 

Team:  2nd of 14

“We had a really good day in Centura,” Ainsworth speech coach Mary Rau said. “We saw new and different competition, and we measured up.  That’s always good.  Tournament champion Kearney Catholic has a very talented team this year, so I was glad we were able to see their speakers.”

The Centura Invitational ended the regular season for the speech team. The remaining competitions are conference, district, and state. Since Ainsworth hosts the Southwest Conference meet Tuesday, March 10, there will be no school that day. Rounds begin at 10 a.m. in middle and high school classrooms.
In preparation for conference competition, the speech team will hold a presentation night at 7 p.m. Monday, March 9, in the Learning Center. 

“I hope the community will support the speech team by attending the presentation night, SWC on Tuesday, or both," Rau said. "Our conference is loaded with talent, so no matter which event you see, it will be of very high quality."

* Weekly summary from the Brown County Sheriff's Department

(Posted 6:45 p.m. March 1)

Feb. 22

* Received a request for a security check on residential property in Brown County.

* The Long Pine Rural Fire Dept issued a burn permit for land North of the archery range, near Long Pine.

 

Feb. 23

* Assisted individuals with information on domestic issues in Ainsworth.

* Received a report of a verbal altercation over the phone in Ainsworth.

 

Feb. 24

* Responded to a report of a possible intoxicated subject driving West bound from Rock Co.

 

Feb. 25

* Assisted an individual with information on possible trespassing and suspicious activity on private property in Long Pine.

 

Feb. 26

* Arrested a subject for 2nd Degree Assault & booked them into the Brown Co Jail.

* Received a request for a welfare check on individuals in rural Brown Co.

* Responded to a report of a semi parking the wrong way on Elm St. Ainsworth.

* Investigated a report of a hit & run accident on North Fullerton St Ainsworth.

* Assisted an individual with a report of a lost or stolen ring in the Ainsworth area.

* Responded to a request, for a welfare check on subjects in a verbal dispute in Ainsworth.

* The Johnstown Fire Dept issued a burn permit for land West of Johnstown by Plum Creek.

 

Feb. 27

* Arrested a subject for Driving under the Influence and booked them into the Brown Co Jail.

* Responded to a report of a stray dog on North Cedar St Ainsworth.

* The Ainsworth Fire Dept responded to a report of a Feed Truck on fire East & North of Ainsworth.

 

Feb. 28

* Provided traffic control for 200 head of cattle crossing Hwy 20 West of Ainsworth.

* Received information on possible drug activity in Brown Co.


Weekly Summary

0 - Crime Stopper call received.

1 - Fix-it tickets were issued.

7 - Handgun permits applied for

15 - Incidents Reports were taken.

4 - Paper Service was served.

140 - Phone calls were received.

3 - 911 emergency calls received.

5 - Titles were inspected.

3 - Traffic Citations were issued.

5 - Warnings were issued.  (These include written and verbal.)

 

February Summary

6 - Arrests

80 - Calls for Service 

14 - Citations were issued

1 - Crime Stopper call received

3 - Defect Cards issued

15 - Handgun permits issued

25- Paper Service served

613 - Phone calls were received

19 - 911 emergency calls received

20 - Titles inspected

29 - Verbal & Written Warnings issued

* Davis and Larson provide updates from the Nebraska Legislature

(Posted 4:45 p.m. Feb. 27)

Nebraska 43rd District State Sen. Al Davis and 40th District State Sen. Tyson Larson each provided updates from the week's activity in the Nebraska Unicameral.
To hear the reports with the state senators, click on the audio links below.

audio clips/State Sen Al Davis 2-28.mp3

audio clips/State Sen Tyson Larson 2-28.mp3

* Friday fire destroys feed truck northeast of Ainsworth

(Posted noon Feb. 27)

A Friday morning fire northeast of Ainsworth destroyed an older model feed truck and prompted the response of the Ainsworth Volunteer Fire Department.
According to Ainsworth Fire Chief Brad Fiala, at 8 a.m. Friday, a fire was reported five miles north of Ainsworth on 432nd Avenue. The engine compartment in a 1970s feed truck, owned by Chris Finney of rural Ainsworth, caught fire. Fiala said the driver started the truck to allow it to warm up, and then noticed smoke coming from the hood.
Fiala said firefighters had some difficulty with the flames, as the truck’s fuel line melted and fuel continued to ignite until firefighters were able to get the fuel line plugged.
The Ainsworth fire chief said the truck was a total loss, but the fire was contained to the immediate area of the truck.
Firefighters returned to the Ainsworth Fire Hall by 8:45 a.m.

* Davis discusses property tax bills Monday and bills relating to the Niobrara Council

(Posted 3 p.m. Feb. 23)

Nebraska 43rd District State Sen. Al Davis of Hyannis visited with KBRB's Graig Kinzie Monday, discussing recent legislation relating to winner-take-all presidential elections, school funding and property taxes, and legislation relating to the Niobrara Council.
To hear the complete report with State Sen. Davis, click on the audio links below.

audio clips/State Sen Al Davis 2-23 - Property taxes and school funding.mp3

audio clips/State Sen Al Davis 2-23 - Niobrara Council.mp3

* Ainsworth speech team wins home invitational Saturday

(Posted 10 a.m. Feb. 23)

Ainsworth Speech Invitational

==Varsity==

1st:  Lauren Allen—Poetry

            Jack Arens—Extemporaneous Speaking

Matt Barrow, Kirsten Gilliland, Nathaniel Goodloe, Lauren Allen—OID

2nd:  Emma Good—Serious Prose

            Hayes Chohon—Persuasive Speaking

            Kirsten Gilliland—Informative Speaking

            Jack Arens—Entertainment Speaking

            Hayes Chohon & Lisa Ludemann—Duet Acting

3rd:  Hayes Chohon, Lisa Ludemann, Seth Taylor, Jace Kremer, Miranda Raymond—OID

4th:  Jace Kremer—Entertainment Speaking

            Emma Good & Miranda Raymond—Duet Acting

5th:  Damen Cleal—Humorous Prose

            Britley Schlueter—Persuasive Speaking

6th:  Britley Schlueter—Poetry

            Matt Barrow—Extemporaneous Speaking

            Seth Taylor—Informative Speaking

            Nathaniel Goodloe & Lauren Allen—Duet Acting

Superiors:  Miranda Raymond—Humorous Prose

                        Nathaniel Goodloe—Persuasive Speaking

                        Marley Murphy & Elizabeth Salzman—Duet Acting

 

==Novice==

1st:  Shaeyana Thin Elk—Persuasive Speaking

2nd:  Cassidy Gilliland, Marley Murphy, Bo Painter, Elizabeth Salzman, Jacob Sinsel—OID

3rd:  Jacob Sinsel—Extemporaneous Speaking

 

Team:  1st of 12

 

“It was a great day of competition for us,” Ainsworth speech coach Mary Rau said. “We were at almost 100 percent of our entries participating. We’ve been battling some illness, so it is good to see the speakers getting back into good health. Our first place finish shows that we can be competitive as a team.  I was also encouraged to see so many family and community members at the school.  It really helps to have familiar faces in the audience.

“We received many compliments about how nice our facilities are and about how smoothly the tournament ran. We couldn’t host a speech meet without the many community members and former speech team members who come back to judge the competition. And the faculty is great about volunteering to help with tabulations. The tournament really is a group event.”

The last meet of the regular season will send the Bulldogs to Centura on Saturday, with rounds beginning at 8 a.m.

* Davis and Larson provide updates from the Nebraska Legislature

(Posted 2 p.m. Feb. 20)

Nebraska 43rd District State Sen. Al Davis of Hyannis and 40th District State Sen. Tyson Larson of O'Neill provided updates of recent activity in the Nebraska Legislature.
To hear the complete reports, click on the audio link below.

audio clips/State Sen Al Davis 2-20.mp3

audio clips/State Sen Tyson Larson 2-20.mp3

* Recent cases from Brown County Court

(Posted 1 p.m. Feb. 19)

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

Logan R. Whitney, age 31, of Shady Dale, Ga., charged with having no working brake lights or turn signals, fined $25.

Joslyn A. Schonder, 19, of Bennington, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Cecil D. Rhoades, 79, of Bismarck, N.D., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Cordell L. Jeffcoat, 20, of Wood Lake, licensing a vehicle without liability insurance, $100.

Gary L. Pike, 55, of Long Pine, first offense driving under the influence, fined $500, also sentenced to seven days in jail with credit for three days served, driver’s license revoked for six months and ordered to install an ignition interlock device; also charged with leaving the scene of an accident or failing to furnish information, sentenced to seven days in jail.

Richard S. Path, 48, of Ainsworth, driving during revocation, $100, driver’s license revoked for one year, ordered to install an ignition interlock device.

Jeremy D. Mackey, 32, of Mitchell, S.D., two counts of criminal mischief, sentenced to 34 days in jail with credit for 34 days served.

Joshua R. Beach, 34, of Dickinson, N.D., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Frederick H. Forslund, 51, of O’Neill, commercial vehicle tire violation, $50; also charged with a commercial vehicle brake violation, $50.

Douglas E. Hoover, 57, of Long Pine, overweight on an axle or group of axles, $150.

Garrett D. Stricklin, 24, of Ainsworth, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Kevin G. Fobroy, 32, of Ainsworth, first offense driving under the influence, $500, also sentenced to seven days in jail with credit for four days served, driver’s license revoked for six months, and ordered to install an ignition interlock device; also charged with possession of marijuana 1 ounce or less, $300 fine and seven days in jail.

Demitrio M. Dominguez, 18, of Wisner, minor in possession of alcohol, $300.

Whitney E. Garrison, 17, of Johnstown, minor in possession of alcohol, sentenced to 90 days of probation and ordered to perform 20 hours of community service.

Patrick L. Shaul, 19, of Ainsworth, minor in possession of alcohol, $300.

Gary R. Leibrand of McLeod, Mont., two counts of issuing a no-account check, fined a total of $75 and ordered to pay a total of $127 in restitution.

Laree K. Painter, 18, of Long Pine, minor in possession of alcohol, $300.

Mitchell W. Elliott, 34, of Valentine, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Cassidy J. Hofeldt, 20, of Colome, S.D., minor in possession of alcohol, $300.

Lisa L. Orourke-Fulton, 51, of Valentine, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

* Sasse discusses first months in U.S. Senate, threat posed by the Islamic State

(Posted 12:15 p.m. Feb. 19)

U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse visited with KBRB's Graig Kinzie Thursday, discussing his transition into office, the Keystone XL pipeline vote, and the threat posed by ISIS both abroad and here at home in inspiring lone wolf terrorists.
Sasse also talked about a bill he introduced in the senate that would limit senators to two terms in office and members of the House of Representatives to three terms.
To hear the complete report with Sasse, click on the audio links below.

audio clips/US Sen Ben Sasse 2-19 transition-term limits.mp3

audio clips/US Sen Ben Sasse 2-19 - ISIS.mp3

* Traffic Accident

(Posted 12:45 p.m. Feb. 18)

The Brown County Sheriff’s Department investigated a one-vehicle accident that occurred Saturday, Feb. 14, in Ainsworth.
According to the sheriff’s department report, at 7:08 p.m. Saturday, a 2011 Mazda sport-utility vehicle, owned by Samuel Mfininga of Lincoln, was parked at the Roadrunner parking lot. After the driver and passengers exited the vehicle and entered the convenience store, the vehicle began to roll. The Mazda crossed Highway 20 and struck the Bomgaar’s fence on the south side of the highway before coming to rest against a stack of posts.
No injuries were reported. Damage to the Mazda was estimated at $750. The Bomgaar’s fence sustained approximately $150 damage.

* Commissioners approve purchase of 2006 Freightliner truck for roads department

(Posted 12:45 p.m. Feb. 18)

The Brown County Commissioners on Tuesday opened bids for a used semi truck tractor for the roads department and opted to purchase a 2006 Freightliner from the Truck Center Company of Norfolk.
The bid price on the used truck was $53,200.
In another bid opening, the board opted to re-advertise for bids for armor coating county roads for 2015 after receiving just one bid from the Stabilt Construction Company of Harlan, Iowa. Bids for armor coating work will be accepted until 5 p.m. March 13.
In another roads related item, Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin recently received a Class A Highway Superintendent's license from the state, moving up a classification from his previous Class B superintendent's license. The county now qualifies for additional roads funding by employing a Class A superintendent.
The next meeting of the Brown County Commissioners is scheduled for 8:15 a.m. March 3.

* Fernau designates Sandhills Cancer Fund for $2,500 Monsanto donation

(Posted 12:30 p.m. Feb. 18)

The Sandhills Cancer Fund will receive a $2,500 donation from the Monsanto Fund as part of the annual America’s Farmers Grow Communities Program.
The America’s Farmers Grow Communities Program selects one farmer in each of the 1,324 eligible counties across 40 states to receive $2,500 to donate to a non-profit organization of the recipient’s choice.
This year’s Brown County recipient was Karen Fernau, who designated the $2,500 to the Sandhills Cancer Fund.
Sponsored by the Monsanto Fund, the America’s Farmers Grow Communities Program is part of the America’s Farmers Initiative, which highlights the contributions farmers make to their communities every day.
The Sandhills Cancer Fund provides assistance to those who are battling cancer. The group assists with such things travel and lodging costs for cancer treatments and appointments.

* Lions Club agrees to adopt 2 mile stretch of Highway 20 for roadside cleanup

(Posted 2:15 p.m. Feb. 17)

During Monday’s meeting of the Ainsworth Lions Club, the club agreed to conduct a roadside cleanup of Highway 20 from Ainsworth east 2 two miles as part of the Nebraska Department of Roads Adopt-a-Highway Program.

Larry Rice said the requirements include conducting roadside cleanups at least twice each year. He urged as many club members as possible to participate in the cleanups when they are scheduled, as more help will lessen the physical effort and the time it takes to clean up the Highway 20 ditches in that stretch.

Rice had previously sought a volunteer organization for the stretch due to trash blowing from vehicles as people took their trash to the KBR Solid Waste Transfer Station.

In other business during Monday’s meeting, the club continued to plan for the annual Ainsworth All-Sports Tailgate Party, scheduled this year for April 28 in McAndrew Gymnasium.

Representing the local Teammates Program, Rich Gilson said Teammates has arranged for a speaker during the event. The club agreed to donate any profits from the Tailgate Party to the Teammates Program to help pay for the cost of the speaker.

The Lions Club provides one free ticket to all athletes and cheerleaders, as well as a free ticket for all coaches and their spouses. Others attending the party pay $10 per ticket.

The Lions Club prepares and serves the meal for the annual event. A preliminary worksheet for the Tailgate Party has been sent to all Lions Club members. Any members unable to serve on their assigned committee is asked to contact Rice.

Todd Mundhenke said the club’s equipment stored in the back of the Mundhenke Agency had been removed for cleaning due to the theater fire. Consumable supplies had to be thrown away. An inventory will need to be taken in conjunction with the scheduling of a cleaning session in the spring prior to the All-Sports Tailgate Party. Mundhenke said planning for the June 27 Alumni Banquet is progressing as expected.

The Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality Scrap Tire Project application, which provides crumb rubber used under playground equipment was submitted by the NCDC office on behalf of the Lions Club. Twenty-two bags of the crumb rubber product were ordered, with the city agreeing to store whatever is not used immediately. 

A “thank you” note was received from Tate and Payton Sorenson for the Christmas gifts received from Santa Claus during the Lions Club Family Christmas Party.

The club’s youth soccer program sponsorship was tabled to the March meeting.

The club approved providing $25 in Chamber Bucks for the Ainsworth Post Prom Party.

The next meeting of the Ainsworth Lions Club Board of Directors is scheduled for noon March 16 in the Golden Steer.

* King pleads guilty to 2 felony charges related to controlled substance manufacture, possession

(Posted 11 a.m. Feb. 17)

During recent Brown County District Court proceedings, Edgar Todd King, 44, of Ainsworth, pleaded guilty to two felony charges related to the manufacture and possession of a controlled substance.

According to Brown County Attorney David Streich, King pleaded guilty to a charge of manufacturing of a controlled substance, a Class II felony punishable by a minimum of one year and a maximum of 50 years imprisonment. King also pleaded guilty to possession of a controlled substance, a Class IV felony punishable by up to five years imprisonment and/or a $10,000 fine.

King will be sentenced in Brown County District Court on April 14.

In a related case, Nicholas Hoff, 28, of Ainsworth, pleaded guilty to a single charge of conspiracy to manufacture a controlled substance, a Class II felony. Hoff was ordered to participate in the North Central Problem Solving Court.

Streich said Problem Solving Court is an intensive program with a minimum length of 18 months. Participants are subject to higher levels of supervision than those on traditional probation. Participants must maintain employment or schooling, submit to drug testing, meet with a supervisory team weekly, and comply with additional terms individually adapted to their rehabilitation.

Terms can include participation in substance abuse inpatient service or transitional halfway houses. Streich said the purpose of the program is to reduce offender recidivism by fostering a comprehensive and coordinated court response composed of early intervention, appropriate treatment, intensive supervision and consistent judicial oversight.

Streich said cases are pending for four other co-defendants arrested in December in addition to King and Hoff. Each of the four is facing a charge of conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance.

* Traffic Accidents

(Posted 10:30 a.m. Feb. 17)

The Brown County Sheriff’s Department investigated a pair of recent vehicle accidents, one of which resulted in minor injuries to a driver.
At 2:10 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 15, the sheriff’s department investigated a two-vehicle accident in Ainsworth. According to the report, a 2007 Ford sedan, driven by Kimberly Van Winkle, 25, of Ainsworth, was traveling west on Third Street when the vehicle struck a parked 2003 Ford F-350 pickup, owned by Robert Sears of Ainsworth.
Van Winkle was transported by the Brown County Ambulance Service to the Brown County Hospital with what were termed as minor injuries. Damage to the Ford sedan, owned by Don Ward of Ainsworth, was estimated at $3,000. The Ford pickup sustained approximately $2,000 damage.
At 5:30 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 17, the sheriff’s department investigated a single-vehicle accident that occurred on Highway 20.
According to the report, a 2004 Pontiac sedan, driven by Aedan Coutts, 21, of Ainsworth, was traveling west on Highway 20 approximately 1.5 miles east of Ainsworth when the vehicle left the roadway due to slick conditions, entered the north ditch and struck the Ainsworth Cemetery perimeter fence.
No injuries were reported. Damage to the Pontiac, owned by Bradyn Hansaker of Ainsworth, was estimated at $2,500. The fence, owned by the city of Ainsworth, sustained approximately $1,500 damage.

* RC&D Council votes during special meeting to offer Bassett building for sale

(Posted 5:45 p.m. Feb. 16)

Following discussion during a special meeting Monday, the members of the North Central Resource and Development Planning Council in attendance unanimously voted to proceed with the process of offering the RC&D Bassett building on Highway 20 for sale.

Since the RC&D no longer receives federal funding, there is no longer a paid employee in the building.

“We don’t have a full-time presence here anymore, and we are relying on our renters to let us know when there are problems,” Council member Lou Ann Tooker of Atkinson said.

Council President Mike Burge of Valentine said the council needed to decide if it was willing to put the building up for sale, how to conduct a potential sale, and any price minimum or other stipulations the council wanted to consider with the sale.

“There is no rush on this, but if we did have someone who wanted this building, we need to be in a position to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’,” Burge said. “We can either set a price for the building, or wait for someone to come to us.”

Council member Doug Fox, representing the Region 24 Emergency Management Agency, said, after speaking with a Rock County commissioner, he believed the county and the city of Bassett might be interested in a joint venture to purchase the building.

“But, there has been no money budgeted for this year by either the city or the county, so there would be a time issue,” Fox said.

Council member Rod Stolcpart, the Rock County Weed Superintendent, said there also may be interest from the building’s current renter, the Nebraska Forest Service, in purchasing the building.

“The important thing is we are not disbanding as an RC&D,” Stolcpart said. “Even if the building would sell, we would still operate and move forward.”

Burge agreed disbanding was not under consideration.

“We do not want to give up our 501c3 status,” Burge said. “That is something we can offer to our communities when they need that non-profit status for fund-raising purposes.”

Since the loss of federal funding, Tooker said it had been two years or more since the RC&D had worked on any specific development projects. She said, while the RC&D no longer had a paid staff position, it still had several active accounts.

The treasurer’s report showed the RC&D had just shy of $29,000 available in its various accounts. That total did not account for the building’s value, which is assessed at more than $65,000.

Burge said, if the RC&D sells the building, it would give the organization some additional funding to utilize for development projects.

“We are currently the only RC&D that owns our own building,” Burge said. “I think our goal with a sale would be to keep the facility available in some form, and to keep the meeting room available to us. I think the consensus is we do not want to sell the building for less than its assessed value.”

He said the ideal sale would be to another public entity that agrees to keep it available to the public to use as a meeting place.

Fox said he would also like to be able to use one of the rooms of the facility for continued storage of Region 24 Emergency Management Agency property. Stolcpart said he also stored a few items in the building from the regional weed task force.

The council voted to proceed with offering the building for sale, and authorized the Executive Board to work on the details as well as propose guidelines for the potential sale of the building.

Burge said he would start by contacting an appraiser to have the building appraised to give the group an idea of its market value.

In a related item, the council approved a rental agreement with the Nebraska Forest Service to continue renting the building for office space at a cost of $750 per month. While previous lease agreements had been on an annual basis, the council agreed to set up the current lease on a month to month basis with the potential sale of the building.

The RC&D Council has representatives from Valentine, Bassett, Newport, Inman, Emmet and Atkinson, as well as the Upper Elkhorn Natural Resources District and other member entities. The North Central RC&D’s service area includes Boyd, Brown, Cherry, Holt, Keya Paha and Rock counties.

* Brown County Foundation Fund Advisory Committee meets

(Posted 5:45 a.m. Feb. 16)

In 1995, the Brown County Foundation was formed for the purpose of enhancing the quality of life for all people in Brown County through the use of funds entrusted to its stewardship.  During the past 18 years, the organization has been known by several names. 

As of Feb. 4, during the regular monthly meeting of the Fund Advisory Committee, the legal name was determined to be the “Brown County Community Foundation Fund”.  Therefore, that is the title that will be used henceforth with occasional abbreviation to the Brown County Foundation Fund or BCFF. 

The Brown County Foundation Fund Advisory Committee granted a request from the Brown County Arts Council to fund the recent Missoula Children’s Theater production of “Black Beard the Pirate” in the amount of $2,900. The grant addresses one of the vision components of the Brown County Foundation Fund to provide comprehensive educational opportunities to the residents Brown County.

The Brown County Foundation Fund Scholarship Committee will announce, in the near future, the many spring scholarships awarded through the fund.  Non-traditional and upper class scholarships will again be awarded later in the year.

Brown County Foundation Fund will be partnering with Northeast Community College in providing leadership training/development for young business persons in the area. It is anticipated the monthly sessions will begin this fall.

This past month, the Brown County Foundation Fund received a $25 memorial to the AHS Alumni Scholarship Fund and $25,100 in contributions to the Unrestricted Endowment Account.

The next meeting of the Fund Advisory Committee is tentatively set for 5 p.m. March 4 in the North Central Development Center meeting room.

* Ainsworth speech team brings home several medals from North Platte meet

(Posted 5:30 a.m. Feb. 16)

Blue and Gold (North Platte)

==Varsity==

5th:  Kirsten Gilliland—Informative Speaking

7th:  Hayes Chohon—Persuasive Speaking

10th:  Jack Arens—Extemporaneous Speaking

Hayes Chohon, Lisa Ludemann, Seth Taylor, Jace Kremer, Miranda Raymond—OID

11th:  Nathaniel Goodloe & Lauren Allen—Duet Acting

13th:  Damen Cleal—Humorous Prose

Matt Barrow, Kirsten Gilliland, Nathaniel Goodloe, Lauren Allen—OID

Superiors:  Lauren Allen—Poetry

                              Jace Kremer—Entertainment Speaking

                              Nathaniel Goodloe—Persuasive Speaking

                              Emma Good—Serious Prose

                              Emma Good & Miranda Raymond—Duet Acting

 

==Novice==

Superior:  Marley Murphy & Elizabeth Salzman—Duet Acting

 

Team:  10th of 26

 

 “North Platte is a large tournament, so I was encouraged to see the number of medalists we broke into finals,” Ainsworth coach Mary Rau said. “And, we’re still making major changes to these presentations.  Southwest Conference opponents Gothenburg and Ogallala were first and third respectively, so we know we have a lot of work to do.

 “Our next competition is at home on Saturday, Feb. 21.  It would be great to see a nice crowd to support the speech team’s hard work this season.”

Rounds will begin at 9 a.m. in the middle and high school Saturday. There is no admission fee.  A schedule of speakers will be available in the high school office.

 

* Weekly summary from the Brown County Sheriff's Department

 

(Posted 5:30 a.m. Feb. 16)

 

Feb 8

* Responded to a report of suspicious juvenile activity in rural Brown County.

 

Feb 9

* Responded to a barking dog complaint in Long Pine.

* Investigated a traffic complaint in rural Brown Co.

* The Ainsworth Fire Dept issued a burn permit for land West of the Hwy 7 & Elsmere turn off.

* Responded to a report of juveniles driving recklessly in the Ainsworth School parking lot.

* Investigated a report of a deceased animal West & South of Ainsworth.

* Responded to a report of a possible reckless driver on Hwy 183, North of 888th Road.

* Assisted a family with a report of a lost dog in Ainsworth.

* Arrested a subject on a Lake Co, South Dakota warrant for Failure to pay Child support. The subject was booked into the Brown Co Jail and was later released on bond.

 

Feb 10

* Provided traffic control for 194 head of cattle, traveling North bound on Hwy 7, South of Ainsworth.

* Responded to a report of juveniles driving recklessly in East City Park.

* Provided traffic control for 600 head of cattle crossing Hwy 20 West of Ainsworth.

 

Feb 11

* Assisted an individual with a report of vehicles blocking the view of oncoming traffic on Ash St Ainsworth.

* Investigated a report of toddlers not fastened in restraints, in a vehicle, on Main St Ainsworth.

* Assisted a resident with a report of the possible theft of identity in Ainsworth.

* Assisted with an uncontrollable juvenile at an after hours program in Ainsworth.

* Investigated a report of a subject, possibly underage, consuming alcohol in Ainsworth.

 

Feb 12

* Arrested a subject for Driving Under the Influence & booked them into the Brown County Jail.

* Received a report of a security alarm going off at an Ainsworth Business.

* Cited a subject for Driving Under Suspension in Ainsworth.

* Responded to a possible domestic disturbance on North Ash St Ainsworth. A subject was taken into Emergency Protective Custody & transported to the Faith Regional Center in Norfolk.

* Received a report of juveniles speeding around the school.

* Assisted individuals with a report of the theft of shoes & musical equipment, from a locker, at the Ainsworth Schools.

* The Brown Co Ambulance transported an individual from North Ash to the Brown Co Hospital.

 

Feb 13

* Responded to a report of suspicious juvenile activity near South Osborne St Ainsworth.

* Assisted individuals with a report of a stray dog on East 2nd St Ainsworth. The dog was transported to the Ainsworth Veterinary Clinic.

* Responded to a report of a reckless driver East & North of Ainsworth.

* Released a subject from the Brown Co Jail on bond.

 

Feb 14

* Assisted an individual with a report of a stray dog chasing cats at a residence in Long Pine.

* Responded to a request, for a possible motorist assist, West of the Ainsworth Airport on Hwy 20.

* Investigated a one – vehicle accident on Hwy 20 at Bomgaar’s lot.

* The Brown Co Ambulance transported an individual from the Ainsworth Care Center to the Brown Co Hospital.

 

Weekly Summary

0 - Crime Stopper call received.

1 - Fix-it tickets were issued.

2 - Handgun permits applied for

27 - Incidents Reports were taken.

8 - Paper Service was served.

152 - Phone calls were received.

5 - 911 emergency calls received.

4 - Titles were inspected.

5 - Traffic Citations were issued.

6 - Warnings were issued.  (These include written and verbal.)

* Hollenbeck draws tag for rare Montana mountain lion hunt

(Posted 10:30 a.m. Feb. 13)

MONTANA MOUNTAIN LION HUNT - Andrew Hollenbeck (left) of Bassett drew a tag to hunt a mountain lion in Montana. Andrew was able to bag this mountain lion on Feb. 4. His father, Wade (center) holds the lion along with the guide and dogs used for the hunt. The same week, Andrew signed a letter of intent to play football at Hastings College.

* November sales tax revenue dips in Brown, Keya Paha; increases in Rock County

(Posted 4 p.m. Feb. 12)

Nebraska Department of Revenue
Comparison of November 2014 and November 2013 Net Taxable Sales
for Nebraska Counties and Selected Cities


County
or City

2014
Net Taxable
Sales

2013
Net Taxable
Sales

Percent
Change

2014
Sales Tax
5.5%

2013
Sales Tax
5.5%

Boyd

871,699

827,616

5.3

47,943.55

45,519.00

Brown

2,881,337

2,937,275

(1.9)

158,473.76

161,550.39

Ainsworth

2,740,870

2,799,248

(2.1)

150,748.04

153,958.83

Cherry

5,219,763

5,024,500

3.9

287,087.26

276,347.96

Valentine

5,036,252

4,818,263

4.5

276,994.10

265,004.85

Custer

7,809,983

8,074,751

(3.3)

429,549.58

444,111.91

Broken Bow

6,248,224

6,421,785

(2.7)

343,652.58

353,198.55

Holt

9,239,170

9,715,343

(4.9)

508,155.03

534,344.52

Atkinson

1,438,111

1,914,643

(24.9)

79,096.30

105,305.50

O'Neill

6,716,487

6,848,194

(1.9)

369,407.12

376,651.04

Keya Paha

253,839

303,294

(16.3)

13,961.17

16,681.19

Rock

545,216

530,982

2.7

29,986.94

29,204.09

Valley

3,339,703

3,497,899

(4.5)

183,683.92

192,384.74

Ord

2,837,387

3,011,734

(5.8)

156,056.50

165,645.58

State Total

$2,331,928,737

$2,195,748,770

6.2

$129,007,888.13

$120,986,444.12

Nebraska Department of Revenue
Comparison of November 2014 and November 2013
Motor Vehicle Sales Tax Collections by County


County
or City

2014
Net Taxable
Sales

2013
Net Taxable
Sales

Percent
Change

2014
Sales Tax
5.5%

2013
Sales Tax
5.5%

Blaine

118,228

31,855

271.1

6,433.04

1,728.83

Boyd

480,950

354,522

35.7

26,399.22

19,470.64

Brown

686,699

1,057,506

(35.1)

37,994.90

58,557.05

Cherry

2,188,469

913,568

139.6

120,750.92

50,511.69

Custer

1,940,318

2,520,493

(23.0)

107,178.46

139,493.05

Holt

$1,897,673

$2,156,873

(12.0)

$104,917.15

$119,251.22

Keya Paha

250,277

144,608

73.1

13,766.21

7,936.24

Loup

134,993

113,660

18.8

7,367.67

6,198.72

Rock

502,797

404,864

24.2

27,656.75

22,242.26

Valley

698,115

789,982

(11.6)

38,511.50

43,665.81

State Total

$258,741,794

$265,813,650

(2.7)

$14,337,523.02

$14,736,355.99

* City Council agrees to LB 840 funding to study feasibility of purchasing care center

(Posted 9:15 p.m. Feb. 11)

The Ainsworth City Council on Wednesday approved $20,000 in LB 840 economic development funding for a feasibility study regarding the possible purchase of the Ainsworth Care Center.

North Central Development Center Executive Director Kristin Olson said the California company that owns the care center building has listed it for sale, as well as the 46 beds that are licensed for the facility.

“The LB 840 Loan Committee recommended $20,000 for a feasibility study to determine the proper structure for the potential ownership of the center,” Olson said. “The dollars and cents of the project would be phase one of the study, with phase two being having someone come in and look at the building itself.”

Councilman Kent Taylor said he believed the care center was something the community really needed to retain.

“But it sounds like that facility might need a lot of work,” Taylor said.

Olson said the care center’s licensed beds are up for sale, and there is the potential those licensed beds could be purchased and moved to another market.

“There is a set number of beds that can be licensed in Nebraska,” Olson said. “Any bidder can come in, place a bid on those beds, and transfer them to another market. We have seen some smaller facilities in Nebraska close and the beds moved into a larger community.”

Councilman Chuck Osborn said, when the care center was run by Bethesda years ago, it was one of the top facilities in the state.

Mayor Larry Rice said he thought it was imperative for the community to march on this issue as quickly as possible.

“If we don’t, someone else will,” Rice said.

Olson said Ainsworth is the smallest of four care centers being offered for sale in Nebraska through this company.

“I think this is something we need to strongly consider to make sure we keep the care center in the community,” Olson said.

Taylor asked if there would be any interest from an outside company to come in and put up a new facility in the community.

“If we had a new facility, don’t you think our care center would be used even more?” Taylor asked.

Olson said the feasibility study conducted by Rural Health Development of Cambridge would provide a recommendation on whether a community-owned facility would be best structured as a for-profit or non-profit entity, and whether it would be better to have it owned by the city, the county, or a non-profit corporation.

“The companies we talked to suggested the facility should not be owned by the hospital,” Olson said.

The City Council unanimously approved the $20,000 in LB 840 funding for the feasibility study.

Olson said she would sign the contract with Rural Health Development and hoped to have the results in two to four weeks.

In other business during Wednesday’s meeting, the council approved the one- and six-year streets plan for 2015 to be submitted to the Nebraska Department of Roads.

The city’s one-year plan for streets improvements includes two blocks of asphalt millings on Elm Street from Fourth to Sixth streets.

City Administrator Kristi Thornburg said there may be interest from the property owners on those streets to circulate a petition for paving those two blocks.

"That is why we included it on the one-year plan,” Thornburg said.

Two other projects are listed on the one-year plan. One would place asphalt millings on a stretch of Volunteer Drive through East City Park. The second would include concrete, curb and gutter for a small stretch of North Elm Street from Seventh Street south to the dead end.

Several projects remain on the six-year plan, including concrete paving on Maple Street from First to Fourth streets, Elm Street from First to Fourth streets, East First Street from Main to Pine streets, Oak Street from First to Second streets, and Woodward Street from First to Third streets.

The six-year plan also includes asphalt overlay projects on East and West Second Street from Woodward to Walnut streets, East and West Third Street from Woodward to Walnut streets, and West First Street from Main to Wilson streets.

In a related item, the council directed Thornburg to seek bids for armor coating the city’s streets in 2015.

Thornburg said a company from Red Cloud and a company from Omaha may be interested in submitting bids for armor coating work in addition to the city’s long-time armor coating contractor, TopKote.

After discussion on providing some guidance for the abatement inspectors, the council unanimously agreed to continue having the Central Nebraska Housing Developers conduct nuisance abatement inspections inside the city limits.

“If we want to proceed, CNHD needs to know which section of town we want them to inspect,” Thornburg said.

Rice said he has heard both positive and negative comments stemming from the first round of nuisance inspections.

“I heard a lot of support about the council’s attempt to clean up town,” Rice said. “I also heard from some people who were upset and felt like the inspector was nit-picking on some things.”

Councilwoman Deb Hurless agreed.

“We may need to give them a little guidance about looking more at big-picture issues,” Hurless said.

Councilman Brian Williams asked if the initial nuisance abatement inspections accomplished the city’s goal of having a cleaner community.

Taylor said the inspections definitely helped.

“There are still a few more properties we need to look back into this spring,” Taylor said. “I think we need to keep doing these inspections, even if it is at a smaller level.”

The council agreed to have Central Nebraska Housing Developers inspect 200 properties in 2015. The council plans to break up the rest of the properties in the city into 200-parcel quadrants and randomly draw a quadrant to inspect each year.

After voting to pay early the remaining $360,000 in debt on the Ainsworth Conference Center, the council Wednesday continued to focus on retiring city debt using sales tax proceeds.

Thornburg said, after paying off the Conference Center debt early, there is approximately $1.6 million in debt remaining from the UV improvements at the wastewater treatment plant, the recent paving project, and the water department project.

“We have $133,000 available currently to be used for debt retirement, and we average about $14,000 to $15,000 per month for that fund,” the city administrator said.

Sixty percent of the first 1 cent of city sales tax was allocated to retiring city debt, a burden that would otherwise be placed on property tax revenue.

Thornburg said she would like to pay off $50,000 early on the UV wastewater plant project debt from the $133,000 the city currently has in the debt-retirement account. The council agreed to the debt reduction, as the funds earn little interest sitting in the account.

During his report, Rice said he was interested in finding a group of volunteers willing to provide some handyman services for elderly individuals who may need some minor repairs done to their homes.

“The Senior Center has agreed to handle calls from residents who might need that kind of assistance,” Rice said.

He also said he would seek a group of volunteers willing to adopt a two-mile stretch of Highway 20 from Main Street east.

“We get a lot of trash in that stretch that blows out of the back of vehicles as people take their trash to the KBR Solid Waste Transfer Station,” the mayor said.

Thornburg’s report indicated the city’s east civil defense siren was struck by lightning, damaging the siren’s motherboard.

The east siren would need to be replaced with a high band frequency instead of a low band frequency. The city would then also have to replace the siren located at the Ainsworth Fire Hall with a high band frequency.

She said it would cost approximately $5,000 for the siren work.

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

The next meeting of the Ainsworth City Council is scheduled for 7 p.m. March 11.

* Painter and Rhoades among 17 elected to Sandhills Cowboy Hall of Fame

(Posted 10:15 p.m. Feb. 10)

Two area cowboys are among the 17 inductees into the Nebraska Sandhills Cowboy Hall of Fame.
Larry Wayne Painter of Springview and Walter L. Rhoades of Brewster will be enshrined in the Sandhills Cowboy Hall of Fame June 13 in the Bull Market at Valentine.
Also inducted into the Hall of Fame for 2015 are Glen Dee “Red” Barner of Stapleton, Jim Bixby of Ellsworth, Dennis Bonsall of Burwell, Sterling Bowers of Burwell, Bernard C. Burgess of Alliance, Ira "Sid" Sidney Cotton of Lewellen, Art Daly of Tryon, Melvin Dikeman of Hershey, Eleanor Dikeman of Hershey, Wayne Gorsuch of Alliance, Harry Walker Haythorn of Maxwell, Jack Ostergard of Gothenburg, Larry Trenary of Arthur, Tom White of Ashby and Keith Zimmerman of Harrison.
The Nebraska Sandhills Cowboy Hall of Fame Banquet begins at 4 p.m. June 13 in the Bull Market.
For more information, contact Executive Secretary Rod Palmer of Ainsworth at 402-387-2212.

* Ainsworth School Board purchases minivan to replace damaged vehicle

(Posted 8 a.m. Feb. 10)

The Ainsworth Community Schools Board, after reviewing and comparing five bids from the two local car dealers, voted to purchase a used minivan to replace the one totaled in a recent vehicle accident. The one selected from 1st Class Auto is a 2014 Dodge Grand Caravan SE with 5,008 miles for $18,800. Bids for other units from 1st Class Auto included a 2013 model for $16,900 and a 2012 model for $15,400. Ainsworth Motors offered two bids $20,600 and $22,900 for two different 2014 units. The school received $14,000 minus $500 deductible for the previous minivan meaning the replacement van costs the district $5,300.
    In other action taken by the board at the regular meeting last night (Monday, Feb. 9):
Approved Nebraska Association of School Boards annual dues in the amount of $4,513
Approved student option enrollment requests for two daughters of Carmen Garcia for the next school year. One will be in kindergarten. The other in third grade.
Approved on second reading policy on Eligibility Reports and Participation in Inter-Scholastic Activities regarding full and part-time students.
Approved a motion to authorize the superintendent to advertise for bids and request proposals to provide property/auto/liability insurance coverage for the district.
    In reports to the board of education:
* Pre-K thru 6 grade principal Mrs. Williams noted letters will be sent later this month to parents of prospective kindergarten students for the 2015-2016 school year...a grant application for after school and summer school programs has been submitted...enrollment as of Feb. 3 show 34 students in Little Paws Pre-school, 31 kindergarten, 29 first grade, 28 second, 32 third, 30 fourth grade for a K-4th total of 150.
* Grades 7-12 Principal Mr. Gilson reported on work toward building schedules for the next school year, advertising efforts for the Spanish teaching position and the Ainsworth Schools External Visit for school accreditation March 16-18.
Both noted that Parent-Teacher Conferences where being held Monday afternoon and evening.
* Co-Activities Directors Mr. Konkoleski and Mr. Steinhauser report covered current and future wrestling, girls and boys basketball, speech team, band, choir and FCCLA activities. They noted that the spring sports season will be March 2 with a spring parent meeting set for March 3.  They also reported that the Southwest Conference has received a formal request of admission from Lexington High School starting with the 2015-2016 school year.
* Superintendent Mr. Peterson reported to the board on the recent visit by leaders of Northeast Community College. He also presented a 4-year review of NECC Dual Credit classes offered and number of Ainsworth students taking these classes as well as the number of Ainsworth graduates enrolled in NECC. Mr. Peterson also mentioned preliminary State Aid figures and potential changes based on bills in the Nebraska Legislature. He also addressed other topics including Veterans Preference in hiring, the new school report card for patrons of the district, heating and cooling updates, potential changes in classes based on possible girls and/or boys qualifying for state basketball tournaments and presented the board with a proposed 2015-2016 school calendar.
    The next meeting of the Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education will be Monday, March 9, 7 p.m. in the district office.  

* Speech team competes at Kearney and West Holt

(Posted 5:30 a.m. Feb. 9)

Central Nebraska Communication Clash (Kearney)

==Varsity==

3rd:  Hayes Chohon & Lisa Ludemann—Duet Acting

Superiors:  Damen Cleal—Humorous Prose

                              Kirsten Gilliland—Informative Speaking

                              Lauren Allen—Poetry

                              Hayes Chohon—Persuasive Speaking

               Hayes Chohon, Lisa Ludemann, Seth Taylor, Jace Kremer, Miranda Raymond—OID

Team:  24 of 29

 

West Holt Speech Invitational

==Varsity==

1st:  Jack Arens—Extemporaneous Speaking

4th:  Jack Arens—Entertainment Speaking

5th:  Emma Good—Serious Prose

6th:  Emma Good & Miranda Raymond—Duet Acting

Superiors:  Jace Kremer—Entertainment Speaking

                              Miranda Raymond—Humorous Prose

 

==Novice==

4th:  Shaeyana Thin Elk—Persuasive Speaking

Cassidy Gilliland, Marley Murphy, Bo Painter, Elizabeth Salzman, Jacob Sinsel—OID

Superiors:  Jacob Sinsel—Extemporaneous Speaking

 

Team:  4th of 17

 

The speech team split this past weekend, with the varsity heading to Kearney Friday and the junior varsity and novices competing at West Holt Saturday.

“Kearney was tough, as usual,” speech coach Mary Rau said.  “We knew that before we headed to the meet last Friday, but seeing that caliber of competition is really good for us.  It’s a big piece of humble pie, as well as a great opportunity to see new and different trends in speech.

 “West Holt was very successful for our novices and junior varsity.  I was very proud of the way our freshmen and sophomores represented AHS, bringing home fourth against schools that sent full teams.  Based on that finish, the speech program has great potential in its underclassmen. “

The next competition will take Ainsworth to the Blue and Gold Tournament at North Platte on Saturday, Feb. 14.

 

* Weekly summary from the Brown County Sheriff's Department

 

(Posted 5:30 a.m. Feb. 9)

 

Feb. 1

* Received a report of possible elderly abuse or neglect in the Ainsworth area.

* Investigated a report of a possible sexual assault that might have occurred in Brown Co.

 

Feb. 2

* Received a report of a possible accident without injury South of Ainsworth.

* Assisted a rural Brown Co resident with a report of possible suspicious activity on their property West of Ainsworth.

* Responded to a report of vehicles speeding East of Long Pine, on Hwy 20.

* The Brown Co Ambulance transported an individual, from a residence on East 2nd St, to the Brown Co Hospital.

* The Ainsworth Fire Dept issued 2 (Two) Burn permits in rural Ainsworth area.

* The Long Pine Rural Fire Dept issued 2 (Two) Burn Permits in rural Long Pine area.

 

Feb. 3

* Deputies responded to a report of possible suspicious activity at a residence West of Ainsworth.

* Deputies responded to a report of vehicles driving erratically on Hwy 20 East of the Long Pine spur.

* Assisted a Long Pine resident with a possible vicious dog.

* The Ainsworth Fire Dept issued 2 (Two) Burn Permits in rural Ainsworth area.

* The Brown Co Ambulance transported an individual from a residence on North Woodward to the Brown Co Hospital.

* Released a subject from the Brown County Jail as their sentence was complete.

 

Feb 4

* Provided public assistance for an intoxicated subject walking on a county road East of Ainsworth.

* Responded to assist the Brown Co Ambulance with an emergency call on East 2nd St. Ainsworth. No one was transported at the time.

* The Long Pine Rural Fire Dept issued a burn permit in rural Long Pine area.

* Released a subject from the Brown Co Jail, time served.

 

Feb. 5

* Assisted a rural Ainsworth resident with an unruly teenager.

* The Long Pine Rural Fire Dept issued a burn permit for 4 (four) days in rural Long Pine area.

* The Ainsworth Fire Dept issued a burn permit for 2 (two) days in rural Ainsworth area.

* Booked a subject into the Brown Co Jail on a court ordered commitment.

 

Feb. 6

* Received a report of a possible theft of money from a vehicle parked on West 2nd St Ainsworth.

* Assisted an Ainsworth resident reference a possible domestic disturbance that might occur in the evening hours.

* Received a request for traffic control for 400 head of cattle crossing Hwy 20 East of Ainsworth.

* Responded to a report of a possible intoxicated subject in a vehicle parked in H & R’s parking area.

* Received a request for a welfare check on an elderly individual who appeared to be lost in the Ainsworth area.

* Responded to a report of a vehicle operating with auxiliary lights on in rural Ainsworth area.

* Assisted individuals with a report of a possible assault that occurred in Ainsworth area.

* Received a report of possible intoxicated subjects in a business in Long Pine.

* The Long Pine Rural Fire Dept issued 1 (one) burn permit in rural Long Pine area for 2 days.

* Released a subject from the Brown Co Jail as their sentence was complete.

 

Feb. 7

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

* The Long Pine Rural Fire Dept issued a burn permit in rural Long Pine area.

 

Weekly Summary

1 - Crime Stopper call received.

0 - Fix-it tickets were issued.

5 - Handgun permits applied for

18 - Incidents Reports were taken.

6 - Paper Service was served.

157 - Phone calls were received.

4 - 911 emergency calls received.

7 - Titles were inspected.

2 - Traffic Citations were issued.

9 - Warnings were issued.  (These include written and verbal.)

* Fernau spells 'catalyst' and 'photosynthesis' correctly to win annual Ainsworth Spelling Bee

(Posted 3:30 p.m. Feb. 6)

Correctly spelling the words “catalyst” and “synthesis,” Ainsworth eighth-grader Tate Fernau was crowned the champion of the 2015 Ainsworth Community Schools Oral Spelling Bee Friday in the Learning Center.

Fernau outlasted fifth-grader Caleb Allen, who advanced all the way to the final round in his first year of eligibility in the Spelling Bee. Fifth- through eighth-grade students take written spelling tests, with the top spellers from each class selected to comprise the 15-student Oral Spelling Bee.

Josie Ganser won a three-way spell-off for third place with Sam Wilkins and Tessa Lauer.

Other finalists in the fifth- through eighth-grade competition were Alyssa Erthum, Trey Schleuter, Mikki Arens, Ben Barrow, Ben Flynn, Adrian Stuckman, Coy Carson, Mackenzie Kovar, Henry Beel and Brittany Harrison.

Fernau advances to the state round of the Spelling Bee competition.

Elementary students also participated in the Oral Spelling Bee, with the top five students in each class from the written spelling test advancing to the Friday’s competition.

In the fourth-grade contest, Tami Cook was the champion, with Colten Orton finishing second and Moriah Cheatum third. The other fourth-grade finalists were Breanna McLeod and Ethan Fernau.

In the third-grade contest, Lilyonna Vonheeder and Jocelyn Good spelled more than a dozen words correctly before Vonheeder spelled two straight after a Good miss to win the contest. Lily Gudgel finished third. The other third-grade finalists were Katherine Kerrigan and Karli Kral.

Logan Schroedl outlasted Kaitlyn Fernau for the second grade spelling bee title. Sidon Brock finished third, with Emma Kennedy and Jordan Beatty also participating in the finals.

In the first-grade competition, Megan Jones was the top speller Friday, with Alexis Bryant and Violet Harris tying for second place. Kaitlyn Sease and Sam Titus were also finalists in the first grade competition.

* Sheriff's department investigating theft in Ainsworth

(Posted noon Feb. 5)

The Brown County Sheriff's Department is investigating a theft that occurred on Thursday, Jan. 29, in Ainsworth.
According to the sheriff's department report, sometime between 11:30 a.m. and 4:15 p.m. on Jan. 29, someone entered a vehicle parked at the Ainsworth Senior Center and stole an undisclosed amount of cash from a wallet that was in the vehicle. The wallet was taken, then returned to the owner's residence later in the evening on Jan. 29.
Anyone with information on who may be responsible for the theft is asked to call the Brown County Sheriff's Department at 402-387-1440 or Crime Stoppers at 402-382-3121. All callers remain anonymous, and information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for the theft could result in a cash reward.
The sheriff's department asked people to lock their vehicles and do not leave keys or anything of value inside the vehicle when parked. Anyone who spots suspicious activity, such as people peering into parked vehicle windows, is asked to contact the Brown County Sheriff's Department immediately.

* Rural Bassett family loses home, belongings in Tuesday fire

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

A rural Bassett family lost its home and most of its belongings Tuesday after a fire broke out near a clothes dryer.

According to Bassett Fire Chief Jim Stout, at 3:10 p.m. Tuesday, a fire was reported in a house southwest of Bassett owned by Bud and Maacah Tarrell.

Stout said no one was in the home when the fire started. One of the homeowners returned to the house to find it on fire, and called in the report.

The fire chief said, upon the arrival of firefighters, the home was completely involved in flames.

The Long Pine Rural Volunteer Fire Department provided mutual aid to the Bassett Volunteer Fire Department, and firefighters were on scene until approximately 9 p.m.

Stout said the home and its belongings were a total loss. He said the fire started near the home’s clothes dryer, but the exact cause of the fire is unknown at this time. Ryan Sylvester with the Nebraska Fire Marshal’s Office is investigating the cause of the fire.

The Rock County Public School staff and students, the freshman class, and the Rock County FFA are sponsoring a clothing drive for the Tarrell family.

The group is asking for donations of clothing, coats, snow boots, snow pants, personal hygiene items, household consumables (laundry soap, bar soap, toilet paper) and small house ware items (dishes, pots and pans, silverware).

Clothing sizes needed include boys size 18 or men’s 30-30 pants, small men’s shirts, men’s size 9 shoes; boys size 10 husky pants, size 10-12 boys large shirts, size 3 shoes; boys size 12 slim pants, size 10-12 boys large shirts, size 4 shoes; men’s size 34-36 pants, men’s size large or extra-large shirts, 10-1/2 men’s shoes; and women’s size zero or 1 pants, small or medium size women’s shirts, and size 7-1/2 women’s shoes.

Items for the family can be dropped off at Rock County High School. Monetary donations can be made to Rock County Public School – Tarrell Fire Fund. Items will be purchased for the family with any monetary donations.

For more information on how to help the family, call the school at 402-684-3411.

* Commissioners adopt one- and six-year roads plan

(Posted 4 p.m. Feb. 3)

Following a public hearing Tuesday, the Brown County Commissioners approved the county’s one- and six-year roads improvement plan as presented by Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin.

Turpin listed 27 projects of varying degrees he would like to complete during the next year, with an additional 18 projects on the six-year plan.

Turpin said the county roads department completed 14 projects from the 2014 one-year plan.

“Some counties only do these plans as a requirement to get their funding from the state,” Turpin said. “If we are going to do a plan, let’s put some thought into it and use it as a map to get things done.”

While some smaller projects range from simple grading or clay and gravel surfacing, there are several larger projects on the one-year roads plan.

Among those is the completion of a new bridge across the Niobrara River on Norden Avenue, a project the county will undertake jointly with Keya Paha County. The counties qualified for state funding for the bridge replacement, and will be responsible for only about 10 percent of the $1.06 million cost.

Turpin said he included several projects on Norden Avenue in the one-year plan in anticipation that replacing the bridge would result in additional and heavier traffic on the entire road, similar to what Meadville Avenue experienced after that bridge was replaced a few years ago.

The one-year plan for Norden Avenue includes a culvert replacement on the southern portion of the road near Johnstown, the replacement of a second culvert 1.5 miles north of Johnstown, and road base improvement north of Johnstown.

In addition to the Norden Bridge replacement project, Turpin’s one-year plan includes 11 miles of armor coating work on the Elsmere Road at an approximate cost of $167,000.

A bridge at 430th Avenue south of Ainsworth will be replaced with culverts south of Ainsworth, and a wood box culvert on 435th Avenue northwest of Long Pine will be replaced with a new steel culvert.

Other projects on the one-year plan include numerous grading, road base and surface improvements on gravel roads. Roads scheduled to receive improvements include Paradise Valley Road south of Ainsworth, 889 Road north of Keller Park, Richardson Road southeast of Ainsworth, Cattle Drive Road, 886 Road west of Keller Park, 879 Road north of Ainsworth, 885 Road north of Ainsworth, 888 Road northwest of Long Pine, 880 Road east of Johnstown, two miles of Meadville Avenue eight miles north of Ainsworth, two segments of 432nd Avenue southwest of Ainsworth, Raven Road south of Ainsworth, 422nd Avenue northeast of Johnstown, 879 Road northwest of Ainsworth, 880 Road west of the Ainsworth Airport, Beel Lane southwest of Johnstown, Cattleman Road south of Long Pine, 423rd Avenue north of the Ainsworth Airport, and 876 Road southwest of Ainsworth.

Brown County Commissioner Buddy Small thanked Turpin for the detail he put into the one- and six-year plan.

“I believe the one- and six-year plan Kenny put together is an ambitious plan,” Small said. “It is well thought-out, detailed and comprehensive. We have received numerous complimentary remarks about the condition of our roads. We get a few complaints, but many people now just call us to let us know about a problem, and Kenny and his crew get out there and address it.”

Small said Turpin gathers information from the roads employees who are out working on the roads every day, and they identify things that can be done to make the roads better.

Some of the larger projects on the six-year plan include the replacement of the box culvert on Meadville Avenue at Sand Draw Creek with either a new culvert or as part of a larger basin-wide drainage project, 11 miles of armor coating on the remaining portion of the Elsmere Road not completed in 2015, and 7.5 miles of armor coating on South Pine Avenue.

Turpin said he included several bridge replacement projects on the six-year plan, particularly canal bridge replacements.

“A lot of those bridges don’t need to be replaced right now, but they will need to be replaced down the road, and I would like to have them on the six-year plan before they start to fail,” the highway superintendent said.

Turpin said the 14 projects cleared from the one-year roads plan in 2014 were the most he has seen in the years he has gone back and looked at previous plans.

Projects completed by the roads department in 2014 included replacing a bridge on 880 Road with twin culverts northwest of Ainsworth, armor coating 7.5 miles of Meadville Avenue, placing millings on 1.25 miles of Rauscher Avenue, armor coating projects on 429th Avenue and Ponderosa Road, replacing a bridge with a culvert on 881 Road, replacing a culvert on 431st Avenue, and grading and surfacing projects on 423rd Avenue, 877 Road, Richardson Road, 427th Avenue, 429th Avenue and West Y Avenue.

Following the hearing, the board, with Commissioner Reagan Wiebelhaus absent, approved the one- and six-year plan. A copy of the plan will be submitted to the Nebraska Department of Roads.

In other business during Tuesday’s meeting, Brown County Hospital Administrator Shannon Sorensen and Chief Financial Officer Lisa Wood provided the commissioners with an update on hospital activity for the previous quarter.

Wood said in-patient stays in the Brown County Hospital had increased by about 50 percent from the previous year, while out-patient visits were down about 15 percent.

She said, overall, the hospital is in a strong financial position, with approximately $2.7 million in cash and cash equivalents.

“We continue to work on electronic health records,” Wood said. “We are in the process of filing a report that will allow us to receive $600,000 in reimbursements for the cost of implementing the electronic health records.”

Wood said the hospital was operating with an $80,000 profit through the first six months of the fiscal year.

“We have about a 2 percent operating margin,” the hospital financial officer said. “I have seen a lot of critical access hospitals that don’t operate at a profit, so we are doing pretty well.”

Wood said the hospital was in the process of taking bids for its employee health insurance policy, as the CoOpportunity plan the hospital had been with was no longer available due to the company being liquidated.

“We were seeing about $17,000 to $20,000 in savings per month with CoOpportunity from the previous plan,” Wood said. “We are taking bids, but we will likely see an increase in our insurance premiums.”

Sorensen said the hospital was also taking bids to improve the facility’s heating and cooling system.

She said the current two-pipe system takes time to switch from heating to cooling to keep a consistent temperature in patient rooms.

“That piping system, after 40 years, is starting to leak,” Sorensen said. “It is a big project.”

Commissioner Les Waits asked if there were any grant funds available to help with the cost of replacing the heating and cooling system.

Sorensen said she is looking into grant possibilities.

“As far as loans go, we can get a competitive loan rate locally instead of going through the USDA for a similar rate that is going to require much more reporting and paperwork,” Sorensen said.

In action items, the board accepted the audit report for the county’s 2013-14 fiscal year as completed by Certified Public Accountant Michael Pommer. The board also renewed a three-year contract with Pommer for accounting services at a cost of $7,500 in the first year of the contract, $7,700 in the second year and $8,000 in the third year.

The commissioners also approved a budgeted transfer of $200,000 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. Feb. 17.

* Davis checks in from Nebraska Legislature

(Posted 5 p.m. Feb. 2)

Nebraska 43rd District State Sen. Al Davis reported on activities from the Nebraska Legislature as committee hearings begin.
To hear the complete report, click on the audio link below.

audio clips/State Sen Al Davis 2-2.mp3

* Traffic Accident

(Posted 4 p.m. Feb. 2)

The Brown County Sheriff's Department investigated a one-vehicle accident that occurred on Saturday, Jan. 31, in Ainsworth.
According to the sheriff's department, at 7:43 p.m. Saturday on Harrington Street near the Third Street intersection, a 1994 Chrysler sedan, driven by Donald Stevens, 68, of Ainsworth, was traveling north when the vehicle slid on ice, jumped onto the sidewalk and struck a pole on the southwest side of the intersection.
No injuries were reported. Damage to the Chrysler was estimated at $2,000.

* Osborn reports Jan. 27 temperature of 72 sets all-time Ainsworth record for the month

(Posted 12:15 p.m. Feb. 2)

Ainsworth weather observer Gerry Osborn reported the 72-degree reading in Ainsworth on Tuesday, Jan. 27, set not only a record for that day, but set an all-time record high in Ainsworth for the entire month of January since records began to be kept.
Valentine also set an all-time January high of 72 degrees on that date.
Osborn reported Ainsworth received just 0.21 of an inch of moisture during January, half the normal total of 0.42 of an inch.
The 0.46 of an inch of moisture Osborn recorded on Saturday, Jan. 31, will be calculated in the February weather summary.
To hear the complete January weather report, click on the audio link below.

audio clips/Gerry Osborn January 2015 weather.mp3

DECADES OF MAYORAL EXPERIENCE - Former Ainsworth Mayors Wilford Leach (1978-82), Sid Salzman (1990-94), Gerry Osborn (1994-2002), Russ Moody (2002-14) and current Mayor Larry Rice met Tuesday in the Ainsworth Conference Center to discuss past city successes and struggles, and to share ideas on the future of the community.

* Rice holds session with 5 decades of past Ainsworth mayors

(Posted 1:15 p.m. Jan. 6)

Newly elected Ainsworth Mayor Larry Rice held an informal gathering Tuesday of five decades of past city mayors, discussing successes and areas where they believe the city needs to continue investing its resources.

Attending Tuesday’s session in the Ainsworth Conference Center were Rice, the current mayor who took office in December; Russ Moody, a three-term mayor from 2002-14; Gerry Osborn, a two-term mayor from 1994-02; Sid Salzman, who served one term from 1990-94; and Wilford Leach, a one-term mayor from 1978-82 who then moved on to a position on the Brown County Board of Commissioners.

The late Robert Malone served from 1982-86, and the late Leo Beckley was mayor of Ainsworth from 1986-90.

Rice said he initiated the gathering to learn about some of the difficulties each mayor experienced, some of the successes during their tenures, and what they see in store for the future of Ainsworth.

Leach said, while he found himself at odds with the City Council at times, the city did build the east water tower during his tenure, greatly increasing the water pressure available to residents on the east side of the city.

Salzman may have served just one term, but it was an active one, with the city constructing a more than $1 million wastewater treatment plant, implementing a 1 percent city sales tax, and signing off on the expansion of a feed lot on the northern edge of the city.

“I had an excellent City Council to work with,” Salzman said. “We had two or three spirited public meetings on whether or not to allow the feed yard to expand. I found we always seemed to get along better when we asked the public to be involved in our bigger decisions.”

Salzman said he also was at the helm when the city transitioned from a local dump site to building the KBR Solid Waste Transfer Station and signing an agreement with the Lexington Area Solid Waste.

“We were forced by the state to either haul our solid waste or build a new facility,” Salzman said. “It would have been a huge amount of money to build a new facility, and there wasn’t a site anywhere near Ainsworth where we could build. Going with Lexington was our least expensive option.”

The city remains in the KBR Solid Waste compact with the village of Johnstown, Brown County and the city of Long Pine.
The city experienced significant changes during Osborn’s two terms on the council, including the construction of the Ainsworth Conference Center in cooperation with Ainsworth Community Schools, the addition of the LB 840 program and the additional one-half cent city sales tax, and the purchase of a new well field south of Ainsworth.

“I really tried to work to promote the additional one-half cent sales tax that we now have for community development,” Osborn said. “People want good utilities and infrastructure, but they don’t necessarily want to pay the taxes for larger projects, so you have to be creative.”

Osborn said he tried to be an ambassador for the city, becoming involved in the League of Nebraska Municipalities.

“I never had any significant problems with the city councils I worked with,” Osborn said.

Another substantial change during Osborn’s tenure as mayor was the city dissolving its police force and signing an agreement for countywide law enforcement with Brown County.

“It made so much sense for us to consolidate our law enforcement with the county,” Osborn said.

That consolidation continues today.

Moody said water and sewer and street paving improvements were a major undertaking during his three terms as mayor.

He kidded the other former mayors in attendance, saying they should have been undertaking concrete paving projects during their tenures instead of making him tackle streets during his three terms.

Salzman said the funding simply wasn’t available at the time to go after concrete streets.

“It was a shame some areas opted out of that paving project,” Salzman said.

Moody said it would be incumbent upon Rice and future mayors to continue to address street paving and water and sewer line replacement in the next few years.

A new fire hall was also constructed during Moody’s time in office. He said there were long discussions about where to build the new fire hall, with the council ultimately deferring to the fire department to build the new hall at the same location on Third Street.

“We talked a lot about whether to build it on the highway or go back in the same spot,” Moody said.

He said the city also invested substantial resources into improving East City Park, including building several new ball fields.

Rice asked if the current water, sewer and garbage rates could keep those departments solvent.

City Administrator Kristi Thornburg said the city supplements its water and sewer department through funding it receives from the Nebraska Public Power District for an electric franchise agreement, and some of the NPPD funding also goes toward paying for the new garbage truck.

“We cut down to three days per week on trash pickup, and the guys average about six hours per day during those three days,” Thornburg said.

Moody said the city’s new garbage truck has been burning through tires.

“It is not a well-designed truck,” Moody said. “It has gone through three sets of tires in 22,000 miles. On a normal garbage truck, those tires would last closer to 100,000 miles.”

Rice thanked the former mayors for their participation, and said he would continue to seek their input in the future.

* Council identifies 21 properties for nuisance abatement

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

Twenty-one property owners in the southeast quadrant of the city of Ainsworth will receive notice that the declared nuisances on their property will be abated by the city and charged back to the property owner if not remedied by March 31 of next year.

The Ainsworth City Council on Wednesday approved a recommendation from Nuisance Abatement Officer Judy Peterson to remove 18 properties from the list of declared nuisances after those property owners took care of the nuisances that were listed by the abatement officer.

Peterson said another 21 property owners did not sufficiently remove the nuisance violation from their property.

“This process gives the city the right to abate the nuisance and charge the cost of doing so back to the property owner,” Peterson said. “If that charge is not paid, it is then assessed to the property.”

Some of the violations were due to unlicensed vehicles and trailers or vehicles and trailers with expired licenses. The council suggested those vehicles be turned over to the Brown County Sheriff’s Department to enforce.

“I agree with the process, but I think we need to tread lightly when we talk about going onto someone’s property,” Councilman Chuck Osborn said.

Councilman Kent Taylor said the property owners had been given plenty of time to clean up the problem.

“I don’t have any sympathy for 99 percent of these,” Taylor said.

With two or three of the nuisances that showed dilapidated and uninhabitable homes, the council indicated an interest to have the city’s Board of Health inspect the homes and determine whether they should be condemned instead of simply going onto the property to board up broken windows and doors of places that have obviously been empty for some time.

With winter approaching and the city likely being unable to find contractors to abate the nuisances during those months, the council set a deadline of March 31 to give property owners one final chance to abate the violation prior to the city taking action to have the violation removed.

The 21 parcel owners identified by the nuisance abatement officer as having continued violations of the code will be sent certified letters, informing them of the March 31 deadline and the plans of the city to abate the nuisance and charge the property owner for the cost of doing so.

The southeast quadrant of the city from Elm Street east and from Highway 20 south was the first to receive the nuisance inspections. The remaining three quadrants in the city will be inspected as well, one each year.

The council indicated an interest to begin the inspection process earlier in 2015 to keep from having the process reach the abatement stage right as winter hits.

In other business during Wednesday’s meeting, the council approved a $200,000 loan from the LB 840 program to the North Central Development Center’s Housing Committee for continued housing development in the city.

The Housing Committee has recently cleared three properties on North Osborne Street and is constructing a single-family home at the location. It will be the fourth new home in Ainsworth built as a result of the program.

“With these funds, it will allow us to finish one project while not having to completely stop until that project is finished,” NCDC Director Kristin Olson told the council. “We are also finding it is tough to get a project completed for $150,000.”

The Housing Committee initially received a $150,000 loan from the city to improve the housing situation in the community.

Olson said the home being constructed on North Osborne Street will be 1,600 square feet, and include three bedrooms and two bathrooms.

Olson said, with the first three homes built, along with the completion of the fourth home and the construction of a commercial property on a fifth site obtained and cleared by the Housing Committee, the valuation increase for the city from the new properties will approach $1 million.

Taylor said he was encouraged by the work of the housing group, the dilapidated homes that have been cleared and the projects that have been completed.

The committee identifies and acquires property, clears any dilapidated structures, constructs a new house and then sells the home at a break-even cost. In two instances, the committee has sold the cleared lots and the purchaser of the lots has constructed the home.

The council also approved $60,000 in LB 840 funds to be used for the recruitment of professionals to the community.

Larry Rice said the funding was identified for recruitment efforts through the original Nebraska Community Improvement Program committee needs assessment.

“We are matching this program with state funds,” Rice said. “We successfully used past money to recruit one medical professional to the community.”

With the $260,000 in funding allocated Wednesday, the LB 840 fund has approximately $160,000 still available. There is an additional $273,362 in the Community Development Block Grant re-use fund available to loan for business projects.

The council approved a $4,000 allocation from ABC sales tax funds to the Ainsworth Elementary Backpack program following a recommendation from the Ainsworth Betterment Committee.

Rice, the committee chairman, said there was discussion in the committee on whether the backpack program, which provides students in need with a backpack of food for weekends, was a program that fit the original design of the ABC program.

“There was discussion on whether a program like this should be funded by donations, churches and other sources,” Rice said.

Program coordinator Pam Bauer said the program costs about $10 per student per week to supply that student one week with things they can prepare themselves and the next week with things the family can prepare together.

“There are 16 students who have qualified and signed up for the program,” Bauer said. “The evaluations have come back showing the program is very helpful for these families, especially at the end of the month.”

Councilwoman Deb Hurless said she felt the program was a good use of the ABC funds.

City Administrator Kristi Thornburg said the ABC program receives about $60,000 in funding annually from an allocation of 20 percent of the original 1 percent sales tax that was implemented in the city.

In other action items Wednesday, the council:

* Approved a franchise agreement with the Nebraska Public Power District to operate and maintain all electric light and power systems in the city.

* Approved the purchase of two desktop computers and one laptop computer for city personnel.

* Authorized Osborn and Councilman Jake Adkisson to meet with the mayor and city administrator to compare quotes and secure a health insurance policy for the city’s employees prior to the Dec. 1 expiration of the city’s current insurance policy.

* Approved a request from the village of Johnstown to terminate the agreement with the city for garbage pickup services effective Dec. 1. Thornburg said Johnstown purchased a garbage truck and plans to pick up its own garbage.

* Approved the consent agenda, which included the reappointment of Mike Kreycik and Rick Goochey to the Ainsworth Planning Commission for three-year terms, and the reappointment of Tony Allen to the Ainsworth Cemetery Board for a three-year term.

The next meeting of the Ainsworth City Council is scheduled for 7 p.m. Dec. 10.

* Ricketts elected as Nebraska's 40th governor

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

Pete Ricketts will be the 40th governor of the state of Nebraska, winning by a comfortable margin during Tuesday’s General Election.

Ricketts, a Republican, succeeds Dave Heineman, the longest-tenured governor in state history, after 10 years in office. Former State Auditor Mike Foley will be sworn in as the lieutenant governor.

Ricketts received 58.5 percent of the Nebraska vote to just 39 percent for Democrat Chuck Hassebrook. There were 301,646 votes cast for Ricketts, and 203,968 votes for Hassebrook.

Republican Ben Sasse is headed to the U.S. Senate after winning a four-man race for that office over Democrat Dave Domina and Independent candidates Jim Jenkins and Todd Watson.

Sasse received almost 65 percent of the vote in the state, compared to 31 percent for Domina, 3 percent for Jenkins and a little over 1 percent for Watson.

Republican Adrian Smith was comfortably re-elected to another term in the U.S. House of Representatives, winning the Third District race by more than a three to one margin over Democratic challenger Mark Sullivan. Smith received 75.5 percent of the vote in the Third District, with Sullivan receiving 24.5 percent.

Republican incumbent Jeff Fortenberry had no trouble winning another two-year term in the House, defeating Democratic challenger Dennis Crawford by a margin of 69 percent to 31 percent.

It appears Democrat Brad Ashford in District 2 is the only candidate keeping the Republican Party from a clean sweep Tuesday.

Though not yet certified, Ashford has a slim lead over Republican incumbent Lee Terry. Ashford received 76,354 votes, 48.6 percent of the ballots cast. Terry picked up 72,222 votes, 46 percent of the ballots. Libertarian Steven Laird received just over 5 percent of the vote in District 2.

The state’s minimum wage will increase, after voters overwhelmingly favored Ballot Initiative 425. More than 59 percent of Nebraskans favored the state’s minimum wage increasing to $8 per hour on Jan. 1, 2015, and to $9 per hour on Jan. 1, 2016.

Republican Doug Peterson will replace Jon Bruning as the state’s attorney general after Bruning held the office for the past 12 years. Peterson received 66.5 percent of the vote, compared to the 33.5 percent for Democrat Janet Stewart.

In the race to replace Foley as the state auditor, former State Sen. Charlie Janssen, a Republican, bested Democratic candidate State Sen. Amanda McGill by a margin of 59.5 percent to 40.5 percent.

Republicans John Gale and Don Stenberg were easily reelected as secretary of state and state treasurer respectively.

By a 2-1 margin, Tyson Larson won reelection to the Nebraska Legislature in District 40 over challenger Keith Kube. Larson secured 67 percent of the vote to 33 percent for Kube.

In the Subdistrict 2 race for Nebraska Public Power District Board of Directors, Barry DeKay picked up just over 54 percent of the vote to slip past Dan Scheer.

James Lee in Cherry County, Stanley Tuton in Keya Paha County, and Charles Shaw in Rock County were elected to seats on the KBR Rural Public Power Board of Directors.

Larry Poessnecker of Atkinson was reelected to the Northeast Community College Board of Directors in District 2 without a challenge.

Molly O’Holleran won reelection to the Nebraska State Board of Eduction, defeating Robin Stevens by a margin of 62 percent to 38 percent.

Sue Weston, Jean Pinney and Duane Gudgel were reelected without opposition to the Educational Service Unit 17 Board of Directors.

Voter turnout in Nebraska was 46.5 percent, with 539,123 of the 1,159,085 registered voters casting a ballot in the General Election.

* Brown County Election results

(Posted 11 p.m. Nov. 4)

The 2014 General Election is in the history books, and the few contested races at the local level in Brown County have been decided.

Two of the three incumbent candidates were elected to four-year terms on the Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education.

Incumbent Jim Arens received the most votes in the race with 701, while incumbent Dan Dailey secured 633 votes to win reelection. The third spot on the School Board was decided by 15 votes, with newcomer Erin Bejot Rathe edging incumbent Scott Erthum by a 570 to 555 margin. Jason Atkisson received 400 votes, and Cody Stutzman picked up 250 votes for School Board.

In the only other contested race at the local level, Larry Rice was elected as the Mayor of Ainsworth by a 430 to 145 margin over Myrna Jakob.

Running unopposed and winning offices at the county government level were Commissioners Les Waits (949 votes) and Reagan Wiebelhaus (922 votes), Sheriff Bruce Papstein (1,044 votes) , Treasurer Deb Vonheeder (1,059 votes), Attorney David Streich (920 votes), Assessor Charleen Fox (1,001 votes) and Clerk Travee Hobbs (1,009 votes).

At the city level, Brian Williams and Chuck Osborn were elected to four-year terms on the Ainsworth City Council with 487 and 466 votes respectively.

Spencer Schenk was elected unopposed to a six-year term on the Ainsworth Airport Authority with 475 votes.

Beverly Newport is the next Long Pine mayor, receiving 40 votes in an uncontested race.

David Cheatum and Fred Meyer were elected to the Long Pine City Council, receiving 54 and 52 votes respectively.

Brenda Goeken was the only candidate elected to the Johnstown Village Board. She received 10 votes. Two additional members will be appointed to the board by the four sitting members.

In state and federal races, Brown County voters sided with Republican Pete Ricketts in the race for governor by a 758 to 293 margin over Democrat Chuck Hassebrook.

Voters in the county favored Republican Ben Sasse for the U.S. Senate over Democrat Dave Domina, 880 to 176. Independent candidates Jim Jenkins and Todd Watson garnered 49 and 18 votes respectively.

Third District Rep. Adrian Smith, another Republican, won the Brown County vote for another term in the House of Representatives, besting Democrat Mark Sullivan in the county by a 976 to 133 margin.

Republican Doug Peterson earned 903 votes in Brown County in the Nebraska attorney general race to 154 for Democrat Janet Stewart.

State Treasurer Don Stenberg was reelected to his seat, and coasted to a 939 to 107 margin over Democrat Michael O’Hara.

In the race to replace Foley as state auditor, Charlie Janssen secured 803 votes in Brown County compared to 210 for Democrat Amanda McGill.

Molly O’Holleran bested challenger Robin Stevens in the District 7 State Board of Education race in Brown County by a 567 to 240 margin.

All four candidates ran unopposed for four seats on the Middle Niobrara Natural Resources District Board of Directors, with Dean Jochem At Large, Marty Graff in District 6, Cherryl Lovejoy in District 4 and Justin Hammond in District 2 elected.

Larry Poessnecker of Atkinson ran unopposed for the Northeast Community College Board of Directors District 2 seat.

Jean Pinney in District 5 and Sue Weston in District 1 ran unopposed for seats on the Educational Service Unit 17 Board of Directors.

Initiative 425 to increase the state’s minimum wage from $7.25 per hour to $9 per hour was favored by Brown County voters by a 609 to 495 margin.

Brown County voters chose to retain all four judges on the ballot. District 8 Judge Mark Kozisek received 874 votes for retention compared to 176 against. Nebraska Workers Compensation Court judges Laureen Van Norman, Michael High and Thomas Stine were also voted for retention in Brown County, with Van Norman’s margin 646 to 216 in favor of retention, High’s 632 to 226, and Stine’s 641 to 227 to retain.

Voter turnout Tuesday in Brown County was 53 percent, with 1,150 of the 2,150 registered voters casting a ballot in the General Election.

* Rock County Election results

(Posted 10:45 p.m. Nov. 4)

Bassett voters approved the two issue items on the General Election ballot by a comfortable margin Tuesday.

The vote finished at 203 to 58 in favor of establishing an economic development program, and 197 to 63 in favor of imposing a 0.5 percent city sales and use tax with the proceeds to be allocated to the Bassett Economic Development Program.

The new 0.5 percent sales tax will be implemented beginning April 1, 2015, for all products sold inside the Bassett city limits that carry the state sales tax. The 0.5 percent sales tax sunsets on March 31, 2030.

In other Rock County races, Larry Ebert II, Becky LeZotte and Kayti Gordon were elected to the Rock County Public Schools Board of Education. Ebert II received 452 votes, followed by 416 votes for LeZotte.

The margin for the third seat on the School Board was razor thin, with Gordon picking up 346 votes to 342 for Tonya Larson.

Charles Shaw received 247 votes to 92 for Steve Coble to win election to the Rock County seat on the KBR Rural Public Power Board of Directors.

Rick Foxworthy and Cheryl Arrowsmith were elected to the Bassett City Council, with Foxworthy garnering 205 votes and Arrowsmith 194 in the unopposed race. Foxworthy received 493 votes after running unopposed for a six-year term on the Rock County Airport Authority.

Winning election at the county government level and running unopposed were Clerk Joyce Stahl (561 votes), Treasurer Mona Davis (574 votes), Sheriff James Anderson (516 votes), Attorney Avery Gurnsey (505 votes), Assessor Monica Turpin (513 votes) and Commissioners Jim Stout (518 votes) and Stan Larson (418 votes).

Rock County voters supported Tyson Larson for another term in the Nebraska Legislature. Larson won the 40th District vote in Rock County by a 425 to 135 margin over challenger Keith Kube.

In state and federal races, Rock County voters sided with Republican Pete Ricketts in the race for governor by a 416 to 175 margin over Democrat Chuck Hassebrook.

Voters in the county favored Republican Ben Sasse for the U.S. Senate over Democrat Dave Domina to the tune of a 496 to 101 spread, with Independent candidates Jim Jenkins and Todd Watson picking up 23 and nine votes respectively.

Third District Rep. Adrian Smith, another Republican, won the Rock County vote for another term in the House of Representatives, besting Mark Sullivan in the county by a 562 to 56 vote.

Rock County voters sided with Republican Doug Peterson over Democrat Janet Stewart, 499 to 81, to be Nebraska’s next attorney general.

Republican Charlie Janssen earned 434 votes to 110 for Democrat Amanda McGill in the state auditor’s race.

Molly O’Holleran secured 233 Rock County votes for the State Board of Education compared to 164 for her challenger, Robin Stevens.

There were three contested races in the Upper Elkhorn Natural Resources District Board of Directors races, with Chip Whitaker receiving 191 votes in Subdistrict 4 in Rock County to 118 for Jerry Childers.

In Subdistrict 7, Michael Moser earned 165 Rock County votes compared to 114 for Keith Heithoff, and Paul Bartak secured 186 At Large votes to 124 for Christopher Dierks.

The other Natural Resources District Board seats from the Middle Niobrara, Lower Niobrara and Upper Elkhorn were uncontested races.

Initiative 425 to increase the state’s minimum wage from $7.25 per hour to $9 per hour passed in Rock County by a 275 to 210 margin.

Rock County voters voted to retain all four judges on the ballot for retention. District 8 Judge Mark Kozisek received 362 votes for retention compared to 142 against. Nebraska Workers Compensation Court judges Laureen Van Norman, Michael High and Thomas Stine were also voted for retention in Rock County, with Van Norman’s margin 305-150 in favor of retention, High’s 286-150 and Stine’s 288-154 to retain.

Voter turnout in Rock County was almost 63 percent, with 644 of the 1,027 registered voters casting a ballot in the General Election.

* Keya Paha County Election results

(Posted 10:30 p.m. Nov. 4)

The only contested local races Tuesday in Keya Paha County were for the Springview Village Board and the KBR Rural Public Power District Board of Directors seat.

Five candidates ran for three open positions on the Springview Village Board. Joe Caulfield was the leading vote-getter with 85 ballots cast in his favor. Larry Hespe finished with 77 votes to win a four-year term on the Village Board, and Rob Painter edged Larry Worth by two votes, 77-75, for the third seat. Michael Swan finished fifth in the race with 57 votes.

In the race for the Keya Paha County seat on the KBR Rural Public Power Board of Directors, Stanley Tuton defeated Kirk Sharp by a margin of 315 to 89.

Bruce Ferguson and Donald Connell were elected to the Keya Paha County Public Schools Board of Education, with 338 and 288 votes respectively. Mark Frick ran as a write-in candidate for the third opening on the School Board, and received 108 votes to earn a seat on the School Board.

Winning reelection at the county level were the slate of uncontested Republican candidates, including Keya Paha County Sheriff Jeff Kirsch (343 votes), Clerk/Assessor Suzy Wentworth (351 votes), Treasurer Sandra McCoy (354 votes), Center District Commissioner Corey Nilson (130 votes) and East District Commissioner Bruce Ritterbush (95) votes.

In state and federal races, Keya Paha County voters sided with Republican Pete Ricketts in the race for governor by a 275 to 92 margin over Democrat Chuck Hassebrook.

Voters in the county favored Republican Ben Sasse for the U.S. Senate over Democrat Dave Domina and Independent candidates Jim Jenkins and Todd Watson. Sasse received 313 votes to 53 for Domina, seven for Watson and five for Jenkins.

Third District Rep. Adrian Smith, another Republican, won the Keya Paha County vote for another term in the House of Representatives, besting Mark Sullivan in the county by a 333 to 45 vote.

Keya Paha County voters favored Republican Doug Peterson over Democrat Janet Stewart, 294 to 60, in the race for attorney general.

Republican Charlie Janssen received 261 votes for state auditor to just 63 for Democrat Amanda McGill.

Molly O’Holleran picked up 149 Keya Paha County votes to 83 for Robin Stevens in the State Board of Education race.

All of the Lower Niobrara Natural Resources District and Middle Niobrara NRD candidates ran unopposed in the General Election. Thomas Higgins in Subdistrict 1, Marvin Liewer in Subdistrict 2, Bradley Mahon in Subdistrict 4, Kent Pavlik in Subdistrict 5, Dwain Marcellus in Subdistrict 7, Larry Baumeister in Subdistrict 8 and Sterling Schultz At Large were elected to the Lower Niobrara NRD Board.

Justin Hammond in Subdistrict 2, Cheryl Lovejoy in Subdistrict 4, Marty Graff in Subdistrict 6 and Dean Jochem At Large were elected to the Middle Niobrara NRD Board.

Barry DeKay picked up 136 Keya Paha County votes for the Nebraska Public Power District Board of Director position, compared to 113 for Dan Scheer.

Initiative 425 to increase the state’s minimum wage from $7.25 per hour to $9 per hour failed in Keya Paha County by a 196-167 margin.

Keya Paha County voters overwhelmingly voted to retain all four judges on the ballot for retention. District 8 Judge Mark Kozisek received 239 votes for retention compared to 56 against. Nebraska Workers Compensation Court judges Laureen Van Norman, Michael High and Thomas Stine were also voted for retention in Keya Paha County, with Van Norman’s margin 164-60 in favor of retention, High’s 160-63, and Stine’s 161-69 to retain.

Sixty-five percent of Keya Paha County’s 651 registered voters cast a ballot in the General Election.

* Thank-you area firefighters for Second Street response

(Posted 10 a.m. Oct. 17)

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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* Region 24 emergency manager discusses damage in Brown, Rock counties

(Posted 7 p.m. June 3)

Region 24 Emergency Manager Doug Fox, who serves Brown, Rock, Keya Paha, Cherry and Boyd counties, provided an update Tuesday evening on the damage he viewed from the afternoon severe thunderstorms that moved through the area.
Fox said six irrigation systems were overturned in Rock County, two grain bins were flattened, and an outbuilding near Newport was destroyed.
In addition, substantial damage to trees and public power lines occurred, especially in Rock County.
To hear the complete report with the Region 24 emergency manager and KBRB's Graig Kinzie, click on the audio link below.

audio clips/Region 24 damage report from June 3 storm.mp3

* Substantial storm causes widespread damage in KBRB listening area


(Photo by Jake and Shea Olberding)

A large tree in Stuart Tuesday was uprooted in its entirety and came to rest on the Parkside Manor building. A Stuart Volunteer firefighter surveys the damage from the rooftop. The National Weather Service received a report that all the west-facing windows at Parkside Manor were damaged by hail. Tuesday's storm damaged power lines and caused extensive tree, building and vehicle damage in Keya Paha, Brown, Rock and Holt counties. Straight line winds of between 80 mph and 100 mph were reported in eastern Rock and western Holt counties. Hail up to golf ball size in diameter was reported in Keya Paha, Brown, Rock and Holt counties, and a storm chaser and trained spotter reported the brief touch-down of a tornado between 1 and 1-1/2 miles northwest of Bassett.


(Photo by Rachel Kaup)

Following the storm, all the west-facing windows at Parkside Manor had to be boarded up. The tree that fell on the building was removed by late Tuesday afternoon.


(Photo by Rod Stolcpart)

Tuesday's storm caused extensive damage in portions of Keya Paha, Rock and Holt counties. This photo was taken of a shop owned by Kurt Micheel that was destroyed in Rock County near Newport. Straight line winds of up to 100 mph were reported in the Newport area, and a storm chaser and a trained storm spotter reported the brief touchdown of a tornado between 12:15 and 12:30 p.m. one mile northwest of Bassett. Region 24 Emergency Manager Doug Fox reported six irrigation systems were overturned in Rock County, and two grain bins were completely destroyed in addition to the outbuilding owned by Micheel.


(Photo by Jake and Shea Olberding)

A large tree landed on a camper at Stuart Tuesday afternoon when a severe thunderstorm swept into the area from the northwest. The camper was reportedly unoccupied at the time. The Stuart Fire Chief reported to the National Weather Service that numerous trees were knocked down at Stuart Park.


(Photo by Jake and Shea Olberding)

An entire row of trees were toppled at Stuart in a domino effect from the winds that exceeded 80 mph in some locations. Trees at Stuart were twisted and broken Tuesday afternoon, damaging the campers parked beneath. As of late Tuesday afternoon, no reports of injuries from the storm had surfaced.


(Photo by Matt Kaup)

Numerous long-standing trees at Stuart Park were leveled by Tuesday's severe storm. Cleanup efforts in Stuart began soon after the storm passed through the area.


(Photo by Rod Stolcpart)

A center pivot irrigation system in Rock County was overturned by the strong winds, one of six that was damaged in Rock County alone.


(Photo by Jake and Shea Olberding)

This photo shows the size of the hail that fell in Stuart Tuesday afternoon. Hail up to golf ball size, 1-3/4 inches, in diameter fell along a line from eight miles west of Springview to Meadville and northern Brown County, to 2 miles south of Springview, to three miles north of Bassett, and then continued into Newport, Stuart and Atkinson and points east.


(Photo by Jake and Shea Olberding)

An intimidating storm front moved into western Holt County Tuesday afternoon. The strongest portion of the cell moved southeast from northeastern Cherry County into western and central Keya Paha County, then from southern Keya Paha County and northern Brown County into northern and central Rock County, and from eastern Rock County into western and central Holt County, leaving substantial damage in its wake.


(Photo by Steve Camp)

Steve Camp captured this image of unique cloud formations near Bassett during Tuesday afternoon's severe storm. Severe storms pounded eastern Nebraska Tuesday evening after causing widespread damage in Rock and Holt counties during the early afternoon hours.

* Substantial storm causes widespread damage in KBRB listening area

(Posted 2 p.m. June 3, updated 4:30 p.m. June 3)

From just after noon Tuesday through 1:30 p.m., a large storm cell moved through parts of four counties, causing widespread damage from hail and straight line winds.
The first hail reports came in just after noon Tuesday west of Springview. Hail up to golf ball size in diameter was reported at 12:05 p.m. eight miles west of Springview.
Also at 12:05 p.m. trained spotters reported hail more than three-quarters of an inch in diameter 10 miles north of Ainsworth in Brown County. At 12:18 p.m., hail 1-3/4 inches in diameter was reported by fire and rescue personnel 11 miles north of Ainsworth. Golf ball size hail was reported at the same time in Meadville, and two miles south of Springview.
From 12:15 to 12:30 p.m., a storm chaser and a trained spotter reported the brief touchdown of a tornado 1-1/2 miles northwest of Bassett. The National Weather Service has not yet confirmed whether a tornado did indeed touch down, but information was forwarded from two sources with training.
The cell continued to move in an east-southeast direction, and dropped golf ball size hail three miles north of Bassett. By 12:30 p.m., the heaviest portion of the cell had reached Bassett. Hail 1-3/4 inches in diameter was reported by a trained spotter 7 miles north of Bassett.
As the storm continued to travel to the southeast, straight-line winds picked up. Straight line winds up to 100 mph were reported in the Newport area at 12:46 p.m. At least one building was destroyed, trees were uprooted, power lines were damaged and irrigation equipment was overturned. In addition to the wind, fire personnel reported hail 1-3/4 inches in diameter in the village of Newport and four miles north of Newport.
Winds caused power lines to come down two miles west of Stuart, and a semi and trailer were overturned on Highway 20 west of Stuart, and the vehicle's windows were broken out by hail.
Tree damage in Stuart was extensive, as was hail damage to buildings and vehicles.
The Stuart fire chief reported to the National Weather Service that numerous trees were knocked down in Stuart. One large tree landed on the Parkside Manor building on the north end of Main Street, and numerous trees fell at Stuart Park, one of which landed on an unoccupied camper.
Large hail fell in Stuart around 1 p.m., as well as southeast of Stuart. By 1:10 p.m., the large, 1-3.4 inch-diameter hail had reached Atkinson, causing widespread damage.
The storm continued to track east-southeast, depositing large hail north of Emmett and northeast of Page before moving into the O'Neill area.
Residents of the Bassett, Newport and Stuart area remain without power Tuesday afternoon. KBR Rural Public Power General Manager Bob Beatty said power was restored to Keya Paha County customers Tuesday afternoon after power was rerouted around damaged areas.
Information from area emergency management officials will be provided when the officials have had a chance to survey the area and gather additional information from residents and spotters.
Anyone with photos from Tuesday's storm may submit them by email to kbrb@sscg.net. Please include the photographer and a description of the location where the photo was taken. Some of the photos will be posted on the KBRB web site.

* Sasse advances; Ricketts wins by tiny margin in Republican governor race

(Posted midnight May 14, updated 5:45 a.m. and 10 a.m. May 14)

Nebraska's Republican race for governor was extremely close Tuesday, but Pete Ricketts held off Jon Bruning by 1 percentage point, 26.5 percent to 25.5 percent. Ricketts received 57,922 votes to 55,751 for Bruning. Beau McCoy received 21 percent of the Republican vote for governor, 45,804 votes, with Mike Foley earning better than 19 percent of the ballots cast, 42,029. Democrat Chuck Hassebrook ran unopposed and advanced to the General Election.
Ben Sasse will be the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, as Sasse received more than 49 percent of the vote. Sid Dinsdale finished a distant second and Shane Osborn ran third in the Republican Senate race. Sasse will face Democrat Dave Domina in the General Election.
3rd District Rep. Adrian Smith had no trouble in his Republican Primary match-up with Tom Brewer. Smith received 68 percent of the vote to 32 percent for the retired military officer. Smith will face Democrat Mark Sullivan in the General Election.
2nd District Rep. Lee Terry survived his primary against Republican Dan Frei. Terry earned just under 53 percent of the vote to more than 47 percent for Frei. Terry faces State Sen. Brad Ashford in the General Election.
In District 1, Rep. Jeff Fortenberry cruised in the Republican Primary with 86 percent of the vote. He faces Democrat Dennis Crawford in November.
Doug Peterson emerged from a tight, four-way race for the Republican attorney general nomination. Peterson received more than 35 percent of the Republican vote, 10 points better than second-place finisher Brian Buescher. Mike Hilgers received almost 23 percent of the Republican vote, and Pete Pirsch finished fourth in the race with 16 percent of the primary vote.
Peterson will square off with Democrat Janet Stewart in November. Stewart earned 72 percent of the Democratic Party Primary votes compared to 28 percent for Allen Eurek.
Charlie Janssen bested Larry Anderson in the Republican bid for state auditor of public accounts. Janssen picked up 56.5 percent of the Republican vote, and will face fellow State Sen. Amanda McGill, who ran unopposed for the Democratic state auditor nomination.
State Treasurer Don Stenberg received 85 percent of the Republican vote in his bid for re-election, and will face Democrat Michael O'Hara in the General Election.
In the 40th District state legislative race, incumbent Tyson Larson secured 68.5 percent of the vote. Both Larson and Keith Kube advanced to the General Election in the non-partisan race, as Kube finished with 31.5 percent of the vote.
A total of 316,117 voters cast a ballot during the Primary Election cycle statewide. That accounts for fewer than 28 percent of the 1.15 million registered voters in Nebraska.
Brown, Rock and Keya Paha County each had more than double the percentage of voters cast ballots during the Primary than the statewide average.

* Wiebelhaus, Waits re-elected as Brown County Commissioners; Hobbs edges Huggins

(Posted 11:45 p.m. May 13)

Both Republican incumbent Brown County Commissioners were re-elected during Tuesday’s Primary Election.

Just as he did four years ago in his first race, Reagan Wiebelhaus was the leading vote-getter with 763 Republican ballots cast in his favor. Les Waits will rejoin Wiebelhaus for four more years on the Board of Commissioners, as Waits edged challenger Will Williams by 35 votes, 554 to 519. Joe Nelson finished fourth in the race with 212 votes.

In a four-way race for Brown County Clerk, Republican challenger Travis Hobbs edged longtime incumbent Janet Huggins by 26 votes. Hobbs collected 438 Republican votes to 412 for Huggins. Hobbs received just under 40 percent of the overall vote in the clerk's race, while Huggins received 37.5 percent of the vote. Amber Happold finished third in the race with 141 votes, and Denise Dougherty collected 112 votes in the race for county clerk.

Larry Rice was the overwhelming choice for Ainsworth mayor. Rice received 464 votes to advance to the November General Election. Joining Rice in November will be Myrna Jakob, who tallied 91 votes from Ainsworth voters in the non-partisan race to advance to the November Election. Cynthia Castor finished third with 28 votes.

Long Pine voters selected Dian Dodds and Beverly Newport to advance to the General Election from the three-way race in Tuesday’s Primary for mayor of Long Pine.

Dodds scored a vast majority of the vote in Long Pine with 73 ballots cast in her favor. Newport received 24 votes to advance. Steven Swett received 16 votes.

Close to 58 percent of registered Brown County voters cast ballots in the Primary Election, with 1,252 ballots cast from among the 2,170 registered county voters.

In the state and federal races, Brown County Republicans chose Ben Sasse for U.S. Senate with 433 votes. Shane Osborn received 284 votes, with Sid Dinsdale picking up 266 votes, Bart McLeay 48 and Clifton Johnson 17.

On the Democratic ticket, Larry Marvin edged Dave Domina for U.S. Senate by a 38-36 margin in Brown County.

In the Republican Primary race for Nebraska governor, Brown County chose Jon Bruning with 358 votes to 325 for Beau McCoy, 209 for Pete Ricketts, 105 for Mike Foley, 38 for Tom Carlson and 21 for Bryan Slone.

In the four-way Republican battle for attorney general, Brown County voters sided with Brian Buescher. Buescher received 368 votes. Mike Hilgers picked up 231 votes, followed by Doug Peterson with 201 votes and Pete Pirsch with 123. On the Democratic Party ticket, Brown County chose Janet Stewart for attorney general by a 56-19 margin over Allen Eurek.

Republican 3rd District Rep. Adrian Smith carried Brown County with ease in his bid for another two-year term. Smith received 723 votes to 322 for challenger Tom Brewer.

Incumbent State Treasurer Don Stenberg received 847 votes in his re-election bid from Brown County Republicans, compared to 105 votes for challenger Christopher Costello.

Republican voters in Brown County chose Charlie Janssen for state auditor by a 418-312 margin over Larry Anderson.

Brown County voters picked incumbent Molly O’Holleran over challenger Robin Stevens by a 491-348 margin in the race for the State Board of Education District 7 seat.

Brown County Republicans selected Bradley Wilkins and Wendy Wilkins to represent the county as delegates to the Republican Convention.

Brad Wilkins received 377 votes. Wendy Wilkins picked up 335 votes, and Rodney Palmer finished third in the race with 196 votes.

* Rock County incumbent commissioners advance; Davis tops Devall for treasurer

(Posted 10:30 p.m. May 13)

In a close race to replace retiring Rock County Treasurer Linda May, Mona Davis defeated Janice Devall by 77 votes in Tuesday's Republican Primary.
 Davis finished with 302 votes to 225 for Devall. With no Democratic Party candidate running, Davis will become the next Rock County treasurer.
 It appears both Republican incumbents will hold on to their seats on the Rock County Board of Commissioners.
 Incumbent Jim Stout led the three-candidate countywide race for two seats on the Board of Commissioners with 401 votes. The second seat was a tight finish between incumbent Stan Larson and challenger Dustin Craven.
 While the results at this point are still unofficial, Larson received 270 votes to 266 for Craven, which is less than a 1 percent margin of victory.
 A total of 58 percent of the registered voters in Rock County cast ballots in the Primary Election. Of the 1,036 registered voters, 601 filled out a ballot.

In the U.S. Senate race, Rock County Republicans picked Ben Sasse. Sasse received 204 votes to 162 for Sid Dinsdale, 103 for Shane Osborn, 28 for Bart McLeay and eight for Clifton Johnson.

Rock County Democrats chose Dave Domina over Larry Marvin by a 32-14 margin.

For Nebraska governor, Rock County voters opted for Jon Bruning with 188 votes to 169 for Beau McCoy, 87 for Pete Ricketts, 50 for Mike Foley, 15 for Bryan Slone and 11 for Tom Carlson.

Brian Buescher strongly carried Rock County Republican voters for attorney general, scoring 367 votes to 60 for Doug Peterson, 35 for Mike Hilgers and 15 for Pete Pirsch. Rock County Democrats chose Janet Stewart by a 30-11 margin over Allen Eurek.

Rock County Republicans cast 418 votes for incumbent State Treasurer Don Stenberg to just 52 for challenger Christopher Costello.

For state auditor, Rock County chose Charlie Janssen by a 188 to 137 margin over Larry Anderson.

In the 3rd District Congressional race, Republicans in Rock County were solidly behind incumbent Adrian Smith. Smith earned 470 votes to 146 for challenger Tom Brewer.

Incumbent 40th District State Sen. Tyson Larson was the overwhelming choice of Rock County voters in his bid for a second term in the Nebraska Legislature.

Larson received 403 votes to 111 for Keith Kube.

Incumbent Molly O’Holleran picked up 213 votes in Rock County in her bid for re-election to the State Board of Education in District 7 to 174 for challenger Robin Stevens.

* Nilson, Ritterbush hold onto Keya Paha County Commissioner seats

(Posted 9:30 p.m. May 13)

Both incumbent candidates for Keya Paha County Commissioner will keep their seats for another four years, as Keya Paha County Republican voters elected Cory Nilson to the Center District Commissioner seat in a close race over challenger David Lewis, and Bruce Ritterbush received better than 80 percent of the Republican votes in the East District Commissioner race.

Nilson received 65 Republican votes in the Center District to 49 for Lewis. Ritterbush garnered 64 votes in the East District race to 15 for challenger Bryan Kienke.

Keya Paha County Republicans chose Ben Sasse in the race for U.S. Senate. Sasse received 117 votes in Keya Paha County to lead the Republican field. Shane Osborn picked up 80 votes in Keya Paha County, Sid Dinsdale received 63 votes, Bart McLeay 12 and Clifton Johnson four.

Just 18 Democrats voted in the U.S. Senate race in Keya Paha County, and chose Larry Marvin by a 10-8 margin over Dave Domina.

Keya Paha County Republicans gave the most votes Tuesday to Beau McCoy in the race for Nebraska governor. McCoy received 85 votes, four better than Jon Bruning. Pete Ricketts earned 57 votes in Keya Paha County, followed by 31 for Mike Foley, 17 for Tom Carlson and 13 for Bryan Slone.

Democratic candidate Chuck Hassebrook received 16 votes for governor in Keya Paha County.

In the Republican race for Nebraska Attorney General, 125 Keya Paha County voters gave the not to Brian Buescher. Doug Peterson received 58 votes, followed by 31 for Mike Hilgers and 26 for Pete Pirsch.

Democratic voters selected Janet Stewart by a 13-4 margin over Allan Eurek for Attorney General.

In the other contested state race, Republican voters in Keya Paha County gave incumbent State Treasurer Don Stenberg 215 votes to 30 for challenger Christopher Costello.

Incumbent Republican 3rd District Rep. Adrian Smith had no trouble in Keya Paha County, receiving 216 votes to 63 for challenger Tom Brewer.

For District 7 State Board of Education, Keya Paha County voters chose incumbent Molly O’Holleran by a 119-84 margin over challenger Robin Stevens.

For Nebraska Public Power District Board of Directors in Subdivision 2, Dan Scheer received 107 votes to 53 for Barry DeKay and 44 for Ross Knott.

Keya Paha County Clerk Suzy Wentworth reported 392 of the 638 registered voters in Keya Paha County cast ballots for the Primary Election, a 61 percent turnout.

* Agricultural land again fuels large valuation increases across Nebraska

(Posted 11 a.m. April 15)

The Nebraska Department of Revenue, Property Assessment Division, has processed the 2014 Real Property Abstracts of Assessment filed by the 93 Nebraska county assessors. Preliminary analysis indicates that real property valuations have increased 12.45 percent statewide from 2013 to 2014, resulting in an increase in valuation of approximately $20.93 billion.

Of that total, $1.99 billion ( 9.5 percent) is attributable to newly-constructed real property, and $18.94 billion (90.5 percent) is attributable to existing property valuation increases.

The real property value percentage change by property type is based on the total property reported in each county. The real property value of individual property in each county may not be affected by the same percentage change.

In looking at area counties, Brown County experienced an overall valuation increase of 10.58 percent. Excluding new growth, the increase is 9.26 percent in Brown County. Residential property value increased by 3.36 percent overall, but only by 1.15 percent when excluding new growth. Commercial property values increased by 7.41 percent overall, but that was virtually all attributed to new growth. Existing commercial values were flat compared to 2012.

Agricultural land in Brown County again saw strong increases, up 12.82 percent from 2012.

Rock County experienced a 14.65 percent overall valuation increased in 2013. New growth accounted for a minor increase, as 14.39 percent of the change was due to increased value of existing property. Rock County’s residential value was nearly static from 2012. Commercial valuation was up 15.74 percent, and 12.78 percent of that increase came from existing commercial property. Agricultural land values in Rock County rose in 2013 to the tune of 16.58 percent.

Keya Paha County had a 14.29 percent increase in overall value, with 13.2 percent of the change coming from existing property. Residential property value increased by 1.27 percent, but, excluding new growth, residential values on existing residential property dropped by 8.65 percent. Commercial property was static, but excluding new growth, commercial property values in Keya Paha County declined by 28.94 percent in 2013. Agricultural land values in Keya Paha County rose in 2013 by 15.28 percent.

Cherry County saw slight valuation increases in residential and commercial properties, but that was due to new growth. Existing residential property in Cherry County was up by 0.58 percent from 2012, and existing commercial property decreased in value by 0.45 percent. Agricultural land in Cherry County increased by 7 percent, fueling the 6.13 percent overall valuation increase in Cherry County in 2013.

Holt County saw an overall increase of more than 21 percent, and less than 1 percent of the valuation increase was attributed to new construction. While existing residential and commercial values saw less than a 1 percent increase, agricultural land values in Holt County jumped by 26 percent.

Only 15 of Nebraska’s 93 counties saw overall valuations increase by less than 10 percent from 2012, and 37 counties saw overall valuations increase by at least 20 percent. The state’s most populated counties saw the smallest valuation percentage increases. Douglas County’s overall valuation increased by just 1.78 percent, and Lancaster County’s overall valuation was up by just 1.7 percent.
On the reverse side, Chase County in southwestern Nebraska saw an overall valuation increase of an astounding 44.27 percent. That was due to a one-year, 58.48 percent, increase in agricultural land value. Another 17 counties experienced value increases of between 30 percent and 40 percent between 2012-13. The increases in those counties - Antelope, Clay, Franklin, Gosper, Greeley, Harlan, Hitchcock, Kearney, Nuckolls, Perkins, Pierce, Sherman, Stanton, Thayer, Thurston, Valley, Wayne, Webster and Wheeler - was due almost exclusively to a rise in agricultural values.

Excluding new construction, residential property statewide increased just 1.48 percent in 2013. Commercial property, excluding new construction, was up by just 0.53 percent. Agricultural land values statewide skyrocketed another 29.12 percent, and have now doubled in value since just 2009, a four-year stretch.

Nebraska Farm Bureau President Steve Nelson said, “This increase ensures the statewide valuation of agricultural land for tax purposes will have doubled since 2009, as our estimates suggest nearly a 120 percent increase in valuation since that time. Our estimates also suggest that due to the increase, the statewide property taxes paid by farm and ranch families on agricultural land will near $1 billion in 2015.

“As we have pointed out on many occasions the unprecedented growth in valuation on agricultural land and the associated increases in property taxes are carried by farm and ranch families who make up less than 3 percent of our population, but pay more than 25 percent of the property taxes collected statewide. While the Legislature placing more monies into the property tax credit program in the vein of property tax relief is appreciated, the fact remains that Nebraska farmers and ranchers pay the third highest property taxes in the U.S. and will continue to do so until something is done to address this issue.”

Overall valuations statewide have increased by around 5 percent each year since 2009. The overall increase for 2013 was the highest of the group at 8.76 percent, with the majority of that spike fueled by the increase in agricultural land values.

Excluding new construction, the overall increase statewide has been between 3 percent and 5 percent annually, with the exception of 2013, which increased 7.65 percent.

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, 2014 to real property owners who had real property values that increased or decreased from 2013 to 2014.

Increases to real property valuations may result in an increase of tax revenue for local governmental subdivisions. If the tax rates from the previous year remain unchanged, additional property taxes would be generated. Local property taxes are the product of spending and budgeting decisions made by local governments, based on their fiscal needs.
Brown County, for example, left the amount of tax dollars it asked from property owners the same for the 2013-14 budget as the county did in 2012-13. The tax rate, overall, decreased substantially due to the commissioners keeping the asking the same, but the burden continued to shift toward the agricultural side due to the state formula. The rate was decreased for all property owners, so residential and commercial property owners will pay fewer taxes in 2013, while agricultural property owners will pay more despite the lowering of the levy rate.

The final budgets must be approved by Sept. 20 of each year. Tax rates must be determined by Oct. 15 of each year.

* Brown County Sheriff's Department 2013 summary

 

2013 Year End Totals

 

Accidents Investigated – 91                                 Fire Calls Ainsworth

 

Ainsworth Calls Responded to – 689                  Accidents with Injuries - 6

 

Animal Cases – 16                                               One (1) Fatality

 

Board Of Health – 0                                            Accidents w/o Injuries - 5

 

Brown County Arrests – 74                                Assist other Agencies - 3

 

Burglaries – 3                                                     Burn Permits Issued - 123

 

Citations – 200                                                  Canyon Fires - 1

 

County Calls Responded to – 381                    Controlled burns (bldgs) - 2

 

Court Commitments – 13                                 Fire Alarms - 2

 

Crime Stopper Calls – 25                                 Garage Fires - 2

 

Criminal Cases – 41                                        Gas Meters & Leaks - 8

 

Dog Complaints –132                                     Grass Fires - 0

 

Domestic Assault Cases – 9                            Hay Bales - 2

 

Drug Cases – 11                                              House Fires - 5

 

Fix it tickets – 103                                           KBR Solid Waste out of control - 2

 

Handgun Permits – 77                                     Motor Fires/Irrigation & Sump - 2

 

Incident Reports – 1,213                                 Reports of Smoke - 1

 

Incoming Phone Calls – 8,617                        Storm Spotting - 5

 

Information Files – 33                                     Tree Fires - 3

 

Inmates Housed in Brown County – 104       Vehicle Fires - 3

 

Inmates Housed for other agencies – 3

 

Inmates Housed for NSP arrests – 14

 

Inmates – Females - 20

 

Inmates – Males – 84

 

Johnstown Calls Responded to - 10

 

Juvenile Cases – 14

 

Long Pine Calls Responded to - 133

 

Mental Health Cases – 11

 

MIP’s - 14

 

911 Calls – 516

 

Papers Served – 288

 

Sex Crimes – 4

 

Thefts – 23

 

Titles Inspected – 257

 

Total Traffic Stops – 805

 

Traffic cases – 56

 

Vandalism Cases –18

 

Written Warnings - 502

 

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)

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.

* Nelson praises firefighters and volunteers in weekly column

(Posted 10:15 a.m. July 30)

By Sen. Ben Nelson

In large rural states like Nebraska, we depend heavily on volunteer firefighters to protect our homes and property. These are very special people who deserve our gratitude and respect because of their selfless devotion to a part time job that requires extensive training and doesn’t pay anything.

Their courage and bravery have never been more apparent than during the raging wildfires that have swept across parts of Nebraska this summer. In the face of unknown dangers, hundreds of volunteer firefighters answered the call. They left their paying jobs, their homes and their families to try to quell the dangerous fires.

Heroic Effort

Several hundred volunteers joined forces with federal firefighters and National Guard troops on the front lines of the wildfires. They came from more than 30 communities from all over Nebraska; some traveling hundreds of miles to help out.

They are our heroes. They do what they do out of a sense of duty to their communities and now their state. It is a calling that reaps them no financial rewards. They ask nothing in return for risking their lives, giving of their time and talents to fight the fires and the hours and hours of intense schooling required before they can do what they do. They cannot just get on a truck and put out a fire, especially fires as sprawling and fast moving as these.

It’s difficult to find just the right words to describe Nebraska’s volunteer firefighters, especially those who rose to this occasion. There are times when the actions of some are so heroic and extraordinary that a simple thank you doesn’t seem to be enough even though it’s about all we have to offer other than the food and water that so many generous Nebraskans donated.

Natural Disasters Require Help

When natural disasters like wildfires and drought strike we pull together as Americans and put political differences aside but we also need a little help from Washington.

That’s where the Farm Bill comes in. On a strong bipartisan vote, the Senate passed the Farm Bill that includes a number of provisions for financial relief for those suffering from drought and wildfires. Relief provisions include an authorization of direct and guaranteed loans for recovery from wildfires and drought.  Funding for the construction and rehabilitation of fire breaks, and other pre-suppression efforts. Compensation for ag producers that have incurred livestock and livestock feed losses resulting from wildfires and much more.

But, while Nebraska burns the House plays politics and refuses to bring the bill modernizing farm programs for the next five years to a vote. There’s talk of just extending the last farm bill for a year, which would be another half-hearted move by this Kick the Can Down the Road Congress and wouldn’t provide the certainty our producers need or all drought and fire assistance needed after this summer’s disaster.

I have called on the Speaker of the House to put politics aside. Think of the agriculture producers who are in need of help. Show the same courage as all the volunteers who pitched in to fight the fires. There was no political gamesmanship there. Just a common goal to do the right thing. Now, it’s Washington’s turn to do the same.

* Incident Management Team transitioning out of the area Monday

(Posted 9 a.m. July 30)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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.

* Kerrey proposes expanding drought program, streamlining disaster process

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

After completing a tour of the fire-affected Niobrara River Valley Thursday, former Gov. and U.S. Sen. Bob Kerrey said expanding the crop insurance program and streamlining the disaster declaration process would help the people dealing with the drought and the fires.
Kerrey’s comments came as he returned from a tour of drought and fire-affected areas of north central Nebraska. While there, Kerrey met with fire victims, National Guard personnel, first responders, Forest Service officials and volunteers to learn more about the fire and its impact.
“The response of the volunteer community and the pressure this puts on county and city budgets reminded me of the aftermath of the tornado of 1975 that destroyed hundreds of businesses (including mine), thousands of homes and much more besides,” Kerrey said. “The storm put tremendous pressure on Omaha and Douglas County’s budget. The good news for us was that the area was declared a federal disaster two days later.
“This fire is part of a larger disaster occurring as a consequence of drought conditions. The impact on local governments is substantial. For example, the city of Ainsworth’s Fire Department budget was exhausted in just two hours of fighting this fire. I can’t tell you how impressed I am at the courage, tenacity and effectiveness of everyone involved in this effort. These folks are heroes and I want to do whatever I can to support them. Unfortunately, we may be facing a very long fire season.”  
Based on the information he gathered from the tour, Kerrey offered the following proposals for aiding farmers and ranchers affected by the drought:
“First the House must pass the five-year Farm Bill and renew the disaster programs to deliver relief to our struggling farmers and ranchers,” Kerrey said. “The bill’s enactment would also allow the Department of Agriculture to deliver assistance for livestock feed lost due to the drought and to provide compensation for livestock losses. Finally, the bill provides critical assistance to communities by funding fire prevention and firefighting resources.
“Second, the USDA should press forward with, and Congress should support, its efforts to streamline disaster declarations and speed up the turnaround time for low-interest loans to farmers and ranchers impacted by the drought.
“Third, Congress should consider expanding the crop insurance program for grazing land. The bill generates $23 billion in savings and expands the crop insurance program. I think we should look at rolling some of that savings into expanding the program allowing ranchers to purchase insurance for their pastures and grassland.”
Kerrey's opponent in the U.S. Senate race, State Sen. Deb Fischer, is visiting north central Nebraska today (Saturday).

* Springview fire chief said work continues on Wentworth Fire Friday

(Posted 2:35 p.m. July 27)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)
 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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)


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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

“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)

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)

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)

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 today

(Posted 9:15 a.m. July 24)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)
(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)

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)

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)

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)

(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)

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.)

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.)

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)

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)

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)

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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