Visitors to the KBRB Web site may listen to live programming, with news broadcasts from 5:55 until 11 a.m., noon to 1 p.m., and 3:45 to 4 p.m. and all our local sports broadcasts.

E-mail us at kbrb@sscg.net

   

 

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

* Gilbert D. Hanna, 90, of Johnstown later date

* Kathryn "Katy" Burt, 95, of Bassett 10 a.m. May 9

* Joyce G. Songer, 79, of Bassett 10 a.m. May 7

* Aurelia C. Krull, 92, of Ainsworth 1:30 p.m. May 6

* Emily Francine Leonard, 96, of Houston, Texas formerly of Garrison, N.D. 10 a.m. May 6

* Meeting reports located below for:

May 3 Brown County Commissioners

May 3 Brown County Hospital Board of Trustees

May 2 Ainsworth/Brown County Care Center Board

April 29 Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education

April 19 Brown County Commissioners

April 14 Ainsworth City Council

* Election Day a week away; counties announce polling places

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

Tuesday is Primary Election Day in Nebraska, with polls open from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m.
All Brown County voters cast ballots in the Ainsworth Conference Center gym. Rock County voters cast ballots in the Bassett Fire Hall. Keya Paha County voters cast ballots in Springview Grade School.

In Brown County, Republican Buddy Small will seek a third term on the Brown County Board of Commissioners. No one filed to run against Small for the four-year seat on the board.

Incumbents Brad Wilkins and Mark Johnson filed for seats on the Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education, as did former board member Scott Erthum. Incumbent Aaron Jackman chose not to seek a second term on the School Board.

Since only three candidates filed, the school board race will not appear on the primary ballot.

Incumbents Kent Taylor and Deb Hurless were the only candidates to file for the Ainsworth City Council.

Incumbent Joyce Micheel and newcomers Aaron Miller and Teresa Lemunyan filed for the Long Pine City Council. Incumbent Audrey Vandeventer did not file for re-election. That race will not appear on the primary election.

Though the deadline to file for the Johnstown Village Board is not until July, Randy Welke has already filed for an additional term. The second Village Board seat with an expiring term in 2016 belongs to Dan West.

In Rock County, Republican incumbent Ernie Hasch faces a challenge from fellow Republican Dustin Craven for a four-year term on the Rock County Board of Commissioners. That race will be decided Tuesday, as no Democrat filed for the seat.

Tim Shaw, Teresa Wiiest and Leah Hagan each re-upped for an additional four-year term on the Rock County Public Schools Board of Education. They face no challengers for their seats, and the race will not appear on the Primary ballot.

Michael Turpin and Reno Gordon are seeking another term on the Bassett City Council, and Mayor Gary Williams also filed to retain his position.

Rick Anderson, Steven Kreitman and Bernie Hart each filed to stay on the Airport Authority.

Dennis Swanson did not seek another term on the KBR Rural Public Power Board of Directors, but non-incumbents Sam Coulter and Steve Coble have filed for that open seat.

In Keya Paha County, Republican Mike Tuerk is running for another term as the West District Commissioner, and faces a challenge from Republican Jim Ruther. Republican voters will determine the winner of that race Tuesday, as there is no Democratic Party candidate.

The deadlines for candidates for the Keya Paha County Public Schools Board of Education and the Springview Village Board do not arrive until July, and no candidates have filed for those offices at this stage.

The incumbents whose terms are expiring on the Board of Education are Tanya Hallock, Kelli Gibson and Brian Munger. The Springview Village Board seats belonging to Ernest Hallock and David Lewis also expire in 2016.

In district and statewide races for the May 10 Primary Election, Al Davis of Hyannis has filed for a second term as the 43rd District representative on the Nebraska Legislature. Tom Brewer of Gordon will challenge Davis for his seat on the Legislature. Both candidates will advance to the November General Election.

Republican Adrian Smith is seeking another two-year term as the 3rd District Congressional representative. No one from either party filed to challenge Smith for the Congressional seat.

Republican Jerry Vap of McCook filed to retain his seat on the Public Service Commission representing District 5 for the next six years. He will face a challenge from Mary Ridder of Callaway in the Republican Primary Tuesday, with the winner running unopposed in November.

Bob Phares of North Platte filed to retain his seat on the University of Nebraska Board of Regents representing District 7. No one ran against Phares for the Regents position.

There are two candidates for an at-large term on the Northeast Community College Board of Governors. Ted Hillman of Crofton and Jeffrey Scherer of Beemer have each filed for a four-year term on the NECC Board.

Leonard Danielski of Valentine and Greg Wilke of Ainsworth have filed to retain their respective seats on the Middle Niobrara Natural Resources District Board. Wilke represents Subdistrict 5, and Danielski is the incumbent in Subdistrict 3. No one filed to challenge either Wilke or Danielski.

Five candidates on the Republican Ballot for President. Submitting the paperwork to appear on the Republican ballot for President are Donald Trump, Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, John Kasich and Marco Rubio, though Trump, Cruz and Kasich are the only candidates still actively campaigning.

The Democratic Party held caucuses in March to nominate its choice for President, with Bernie Sanders winning more Nebraska delegates than Hillary Clinton.

Those with questions regarding the Primary Election may visit the Nebraska Secretary of State’s web site at www.sos.ne.gov or contact their county clerk’s office.

* Commissioners award bid for fencing removal, replacement for Paradise Valley Road project

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

The Brown County Commissioners on Tuesday awarded a fencing bid to Schumacher Brothers Fencing to remove and replace fencing on both sides of Paradise Valley Road in southern Brown County as part of a road alteration project.

Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin said the project spans just shy of 1 mile of Paradise Valley Road the roads department plans to relocate. The current fencing must be removed for the project, and then replaced when the work is completed.

Schumacher Brothers Fencing submitted a bid of $13,653 for the work. Property owner Randy Priest provided a bid of $1.80 per foot, which amounted to $16,632. After being assured the low bidder would be available to perform the work on the county’s timeline and in conjunction with the property owner’s plans for having cattle in the area, the board approved the Schumacher Brothers Fencing bid.

Turpin told the commissioners quite a few county roads had washout areas from the recent heavy rains, and crews were working to repair areas that were damaged by the runoff.

In another roads item, resident Gary Kelly complained to the board about the recent work the roads department performed to replace a bridge with two culverts south of Ainsworth.

Kelly said the work changed the creek channel and would affect his property.

Commissioner Buddy Small said the project was designed by a civil engineer, and the design was then carried out by the county roads department.

In other action items Tuesday, the board approved renewing its health insurance coverage through the Nebraska Association of County Officials’ Blue Cross/Blue Shield group plan.

Assistant Clerk Becky Hardy said the Blue Cross/Blue Shield plan had a 6 percent increase in premium from the past year.

The board agreed to keep the NACO plan, pay 100 percent of the premium for the employee and 78 percent of the premium for an employee’s spouse and/or family. The plan includes a $2,500 deductible, which the county then buys down to $600 for an employee and $1,200 for a family plan.

The board also approved a cash in lieu of insurance payment of 75 percent of the cost of the premium in salary for any employees who opted not to take the county’s health insurance plan.

The board approved its FSA renewal, which Hardy said did not have an increase in premium for the upcoming year.

The commissioners also voted to purchase a sign with the depiction “In God We Trust” for the courthouse, with Commissioner Reagan Wiebelhaus offering to personally pay for the cost of the sign.

The action came following a request from Barbara Otto during the board’s previous meeting to display “In God We Trust” within the courthouse.

Small said “In God We Trust” is the official motto of the United States, and was approved by Congress. The board received a green light from County Attorney David Streich to place a sign within the courthouse.

Small reported water leaked into the assessor’s and attorney’s offices during the recent heavy rainfall. Small said hard rubber plugs on the rooftop needed to be installed to replace soft rubber plugs that were gone, but he was still waiting for a quote for the project.

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

* Bond refunding, $92,000 hospital contribution reduces remaining debt length by 1 year

(Posted 11:45 a.m. May 3)

During the recent meeting of the Brown County Hospital Board of Trustees, Administrator Shannon Sorensen reported the projected closing date on refinancing the remaining 10 years of hospital addition bonds through DA Davidson is May 5.

With the hospital’s anticipated contribution of $92,000, coupled with the savings by refinancing the remaining debt at a lower interest rate, the length of time to fully pay the remaining bonds was reduced from 10 years to nine years. Sorensen said the projected savings to property tax payers is $471,000.

Sorensen provided the board with an updated proposal for the nurses station and lab remodeling at the Ainsworth Family Clinic. After discussing improved efficiency, the possible addition of new providers and meeting electronic health records requirements, the board approved the clinic project.

Sorensen reported Dr. Tourtsev is planning a visit to the community in May or June. Dr. Tourtsev will be the newest medical doctor in the community.

The trustees approved updates to the hospital’s general surgery and general medicine clinical privileges, as recommended by the hospital’s medical staff. The board then approved medical staff privilege modifications for Dr. Andrew Reynolds, courtesy staff, and Dr. Melvin Campbell, active staff, based on the clinical privilege modifications the board had approved.

Barbara Person from Baird Hold presented “What Every Hospital Board Member Should Know: Legal Risks and Obligations” to the trustees. She then led a discussion on the topic of legal risks and obligations for the board members.

The next meeting of the Brown County Hospital Board of Trustees is scheduled for 4 p.m. May 16.

* Site east of Brown County Hospital to be pursued for construction of new nursing home

(Posted 7 p.m. May 2)

The Ainsworth/Brown County Care Center Board voted Monday to pursue a site east of the Brown County Hospital for the construction of a new nursing home in the community.

Building Design Committee Chair Todd Mundhenke said the committee met April 14with the Kearney architectural firm hired to design a new facility and Olsson Associates, the city’s engineering firm, to look at potential sites for a facility.

“The city’s engineer killed the plans for the two potential sites near Cottonwood Villa,” Mundhenke said. “There is not a large enough water line to build in that area.”

Mundhenke said the building committee’s recommendation was to pursue the site east of the hospital, owned by Brown County, for the construction of a new facility.

Mundhenke said the site would need fill work to raise the elevation level. Board member Jim Walz said he had concerns about new drainage issues that might be created for neighboring property owners if the water is rerouted due to the fill work and construction.

“I would like to know where the water there will go before I can agree to that site,” Walz said.

Mundhenke said the building committee’s progress would be stopped if the board could not agree on a site to pursue.

Following additional discussion, the board voted to pursue the site east of the Brown County Hospital as its first option, approach the county about its willingness to donate the property, and address drainage issues with the city’s engineer.

Mundhenke said he, board member Kent Taylor and building committee member John Gross toured nursing home facilities April 28 at York, St. Paul and Grand Island with representatives from the group’s architectural firm.

He said the architects took notes from the tours on things that worked well and problems each facility encountered in its design.

“The architect is going to come back May 12 with some additional details on a proposed layout for our facility,” Mundhenke said.

Taylor said, in touring the other modern facilities, it was encouraging to see where the community could be with a new facility in a couple years.

In other action Monday, the board approved a bid from Liberty Mutual to provide liability and builder’s risk insurance for the former Ainsworth Care Center facility once the ownership of the building is transferred to the Ainsworth/Brown County Care Center Board.

The cost for six months of liability insurance is $1,184, and one year of builder’s risk protection will cost $2,334. Taylor said the policies would cover the board from the time the building is acquired until the time it is ready to open doors to residents. He said the builder’s risk protection could be prorated only for the months needed.

North Central Development Center Executive Director Kristin Olson said all the documents for the transaction have been processed, and they were now waiting for the two law firms involved to complete the transaction.

“The title insurance is good,” Olson said. “We have that back. The title insurance slowed us down some, but it wasn’t due to anything on our end.”

Olson said she was hopeful the transaction would be completed this week, and ownership of the former Ainsworth Care Center facility would transfer to the North Central Development Center.

“The gift agreements have been executed, and the transfer is ready to close,” Olson said. “As soon as we get the building, we will get it transferred to the interlocal board.”

The board also approved submitting a certificate of need to the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services and taking advantage of the Sullivan amendment that will allow the community to obtain the 46 licensed beds that were sold upon the closing of the former facility.

Mike Harris with Rural Health Development said the company has been working with DHHS, as this will mark the first time in state history the certificate of need has been utilized through the Sullivan amendment.

“The state had to create an application,” Harris said. “There is a $1,000 application fee, and the state has 60 days to respond. But, this should be a slam dunk so we hope it goes through quickly. We will encourage them to do that.”

Ron Ross with Rural Health Development said the state had also agreed to submit a plan to the federal government and pursue the fixed costs above the $27 per day state threshold.

Ross said, while the state’s Medicaid program will not pay for fixed costs beyond $27 per resident daily, the state would now pursue the federal portion of the fixed costs beyond that threshold for governmental facilities.

“The state has agreed to chase down the federal portion that is over the cap,” Ross said. “The feds will reimburse you for about 52 percent of the fixed costs above $27 per day. That will amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars over the life of the new building. This is really good news for communities like yours with nursing home buildings that are wearing out.”

Ross said three candidates will interview with RHD and the interlocal board May 14 for the position of administrator of the local facility.

The board set a special meeting for 8 a.m. Saturday, May 14, in the Farmers-Ranchers Cooperative board room to interview the candidates. Taylor said, due to the interview process being personnel-related, the interviews will be conducted in executive session.

Harris had previously provided each board member with a copy of the proposed policies and procedures manual and employee handbook for the local facility.

He encouraged the board to review the documents and prepare any questions or suggestions for a future meeting. The information includes proposed pay scales for employees.

“We will figure out a plan to review and approve the handbook,” Harris said. “We hope to have an administrator on board soon, and we will continue to move forward.”

He said an inventory was completed, and there was a substantial amount of equipment in the former facility that RHD believes can be utilized by the community.

“The therapy room and the offices look good,” Harris said. “Some of the equipment will need to be tested, of course, and everything needs to be cleaned, but there is a lot of equipment we believe we can still use.”

Harris said everything with the facility would be brought up to code so it can receive a certificate of occupancy.

Ross said RHD had created a web site for the Sandhills Care Center and can be found at www.sandhillscarecenter.com. He encouraged anyone interested to apply for employment through the web site. Families potentially interested in placing a resident in the facility can also find information, though the site is still in the early stages of development.

Capital Committee Chair Roland Paddock said $201,522 had been donated or pledged to the facility. He said a mailing would be sent to Ainsworth High School alumni providing information on the efforts to return a nursing home to the community and seeking support.

The Ainsworth/Brown County Care Center Board has the special meeting scheduled for 8 a.m. May 14 to interview candidates for the administrator position. The next regular meeting of the board is scheduled for June 6.

* Road 881 closed due to culvert damage from recent rains

(Posted 2:45 p.m. May 2)

Brown County Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin reported Road 881 west of Ainsworth from Rauscher Avenue to 427th Avenue will be closed until further notice due to a culvert being undermined by the recent rains.
Turpin said the roads crew is working on the culvert and hopes to have the road re-opened sometime on Tuesday.

* April is third wettest in Ainsworth in 111 years of recorded observations

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

Ainsworth Weather Observer Gerry Osborn said the 5.70 inches of moisture in April made it the third-wettest in 111 years of recorded weather in the city.
The 5.70 inches came during the final 15 days of the month. The year-to-date moisture total jumped to 7.96 inches, which is about 3.5 inches above normal.
To hear the full weather report from Ainsworth's weather observer, click on the audio link below.

audio clips/Gerry Osborn April 2016 Weather.mp3

STUDENTS PERFORM IN ORATORY RETREAT - Third District Rep. Adrian Smith (right) welcomed Keya Paha County students Charity Hunt (second from left) and Sydney Linse (second from right) along with advisor Mike Buchanon (left) to the Capitol after Hunt and Linse were selected to perform during the National Oratory Retreat in Ford’s Theatre at Washington, D.C. Prior to their performances, Smith met with the students at the U.S. Capitol and gave them a personal tour.

* Recent cases from Brown County Court

(Posted 2 p.m. May 2)

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

Mickal Crisman, age 50, of Long Pine, charged with issuing a no-account check, fined $50; also charged with possession of less than 1 ounce of marijuana, $300.

Eli Kalambokidis, 19, of Ainsworth, criminal mischief, $50 and ordered to pay $272 in restitution; negligent driving, $25; careless driving, $100.

Austin S. Crane, 23, of Ainsworth, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Corrine V. Gross, 60, of Ainsworth, no fishing permit, $100.

Timothy A. Bunch, 34, of Ainsworth, two counts on being overweight on an axle, fined $75 on each count.

Annette Hessert, 57, of Ainsworth, two counts of having a dog running at large, fined $25 on each count; also charged with two counts of no dog license, fined $25 on each count.

Wyatt Killion, 19, of Ainsworth possession of marijuana less than 1 ounce, $300; possession of drug paraphernalia, $100.

Matthew O. Deason, 33, of Spring Court, Mich., driving under suspension, $75.

Nicholas E. Kleinhuizen, 21, of Willmar, Minn., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Brandon L. Shaul, 18, of Ainsworth, tobacco use by a minor, $100.

John Michael Fernandez, 42, of Ainsworth, no operator’s license, $75.

Raige R. Fernau, 18, of Ainsworth, minor in possession of alcohol, $300.

Brett J. Jones, 31, of Ainsworth, issuing a bad check, $50 and ordered to pay $76 restitution.

Jordan D. Keezer, 19, of Ainsworth, minor in possession of alcohol, $300.

David D. Thompson, 58, of Long Pine, resisting arrest, $300; also charged with two counts of disturbing the peace, fined $100 on each count.

Timothy M. Setterdahl, 37, of Rio, Ill., failure to carry a fuel permit, $100; also charged with a commercial vehicle log violation, $75.

Jeffery M. Davis, 41, of Newton, Kan., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Chase Robert Willers, 19, of Lincoln, first offense driving under the influence, $500, also sentenced to six months of probation, ordered not to drive for 60 days, and ordered to install an ignition interlock device.

Courtney K. McLeod, 29, of Ainsworth, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Gary Lee Kaplan Jr., 21, of Ainsworth, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Tessa J. Mueller, 17, of Ainsworth, zero tolerance violation, ordered not to drive for 30 days.

Trevor Walker Villars, 38, of Lake Dallas, Texas, first offense driving under the influence, sentenced to 14 days in jail with credit for 14 days served, driver’s license revoked for one year, and ordered to install an ignition interlock device.

Keith L. Johnson, 24, of Ainsworth, driving a commercial vehicle without a license, $100.

Timothy Michael Sullivan, 52, of St. Louis, Mo., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

James L.C. Lind III, 17, of Ainsworth, negligent driving, $25.

James E. Worden, 20, of Ainsworth, minor in possession of alcohol, $300.

Jessica M. Wessels, 36, of Plainview, possession of marijuana less than 1 ounce, $300; possession of drug paraphernalia, $100; possession of an open alcohol container in a vehicle, $50.

Allisa K. Hawkman, 25, of Ainsworth, third degree assault, sentenced to one year of probation; first offense resisting arrest, sentenced to one year of probation.

Justin E. Hruby, 25, of Johnstown, disturbing the peace, sentenced to six months of probation.

* Several area entities receive grants from Department of Environmental Quality

(Posted 7:15 a.m. May 2)

Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality Director Jim Macy announced the state is awarding $2.08 million to support 128 tire recycling and cleanup projects across the state.
"The agency received many outstanding applications from across the state,” Macy said. “These funds will provide needed support to local efforts which effectively deal with scrap tires in Nebraska.”
The grants support local efforts to clean up tire piles and conduct community scrap tire collections. In addition, funds will be used by schools and organizations across the state to provide partial reimbursement for playground mulch, synthetic turf fields, running tracks, and other recycled rubber projects that were made from scrap tires.
Nebraskans generate nearly 1.9 million scrap tires each year, about one tire for every person in the state. The grants are part of NDEQ’s Waste Reduction and Recycling Grants program, and are funded by a $1 fee on new tires purchased in Nebraska.

Nebraska Game & Parks Commission received a $23,366 grant award to reimburse 25 percent of the cost of 155 picnic tables to be used in 19 state parks and recreation areas in Nebraska. Each picnic table is made from recycled plastic and the equivalent of approximately seven passenger tires from Nebraska.

Forty-one grants totaling $683,676 were awarded to Nebraska cities, counties, and Natural Resource Districts to hold scrap tire collections in 2016 to clean up 6,979 tons of scrap tires, representing approximately 697,900 passenger tires.

Several area entities received grant awards from the NDEQ. Among them were the North Central Development Center of Ainsworth, which received a $3,536 grant for 50 percent of the cost of 19,500 pounds of rubber playground mulch.

The city of Bassett received $25,454 to hold a 250-ton scrap tire cleanup, and the city of Atkinson received $23,604 to conduct a 250-ton scrap tire cleanup.

Valentine Community Schools received a $21,502 grant for 25 percent of the cost of a new track made from recycled tires.

* Weekly summary from the Brown County Sheriff's Department

(Posted 6:30 a.m. May 2)

April 24

  • Responded to a report of a dog attacking another dog in Long Pine.

  • Investigated a report of possible gunshots in Long Pine.

  • Responded to a possible disturbance in Long Pine.

     

    April 25

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

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

  • Responded to a report of a dog running at large on East 1st St Ainsworth.

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

     

    April 26

  • Investigated a two-vehicle accident without injury at the school parking lot.

  • Responded to a report of suspicious activity on Hwy 20 in Ainsworth.

  • Responded to a report of a possible vicious dog in Long Pine.

     

    April 27

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

  • Responded to a report of reckless driving in Ainsworth.

  • The Brown Co Ambulance transported a patient from the Brown Co Hospital to the Good Samaritan Hospital in Kearney.

  • Responded to a report of a vehicle parked on the roadway, causing a traffic hazard, on Hwy 7 South of Ainsworth. The vehicle was towed.

  • Investigated a report of possible harassment between Ainsworth residents.

     

    April 28

  • Responded to a report of a vehicle speeding around the city streets of Long Pine.

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

  • Responded to a traffic complaint in rural Brown Co.

  • Assisted an individual who appeared to be lost in Ainsworth.

  • Responded to a report of a barking dog near 1st & Maple in Ainsworth.

     

    April 29

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

  • Assisted with an out of control juvenile in Ainsworth.

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

      

    April 30

  • Responded to a report of a gas drive off, from a service station in Ainsworth. The subject was contacted & returned to pay.

     

    Weekly Summary

    1 - Fix-it tickets were issued.

    2 - Handgun permits applied for

    22 - Incidents Reports were taken.

    2 - Paper Service was served.

    117 - Phone calls were received

    9 - 911emergency calls received 

    1 - Titles were inspected.

    1 - Traffic Citations were issued.

    11- Verbal & Written Warnings issued.

     

    April Summary

    3 - Arrests

    108 - Calls for Service 

    14 - Citations were issued

    9 - Defect Cards issued

    8 - Handgun permits issued

    19 - Paper Service served

    616 - Phone calls were received

    65 - 911 emergency calls received

    17 - Titles inspected

    26 - Verbal & Written Warnings issued

* School Board hires 3 teachers Friday, accepts 1 resignation for the 2016-17 year

(Posted 3 p.m. April 29)

During a special meeting Friday of the Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education, the board approved contracts for three teachers and accepted the resignation of an elementary special education teacher.

Superintendent Darrell Peterson said, after eight years with Ainsworth Community Schools, special education teacher Robyn Wright had accepted a job with Educational Service Unit 17. Wright will now handle special education service for both Ainsworth Community Schools and Rock County Public Schools.

The board approved a contract for Neiley Fernau to replace Wright. Peterson said the district was fortunate to have a highly qualified candidate for the position, as special education teachers are in short supply statewide.

Fernau is an Ainsworth High School graduate.

The board also approved contracts for Harold “Jake” Nelson and Sandi Nelson. Jake Nelson will teach math and assume the head football coaching duties.

“He has quite a few years of coaching experience, including in eight-man football,” Peterson said. “He will also likely be an assistant basketball coach.”

Jake Nelson is currently teaching and coaching at Wisner-Pilger Public Schools.

The superintendent said Sandi Nelson has a physical education endorsement and is working toward a K-12 reading endorsement.

“She will allow us to make some additions to our physical education and weight training classes,” Peterson said “We will also see where we can fit her in on the reading side. We would like to be able to get Mr. Hansmeyer some additional time for his AD duties.”

Sandi Nelson is a graduate of Rock County Public Schools.

Also during Friday’s special session, the board approved option enrollment requests to allow Kaitlyn Sease, Moriah Cheatum and Sara Warnke to attend Rock County Public Schools.

The next meeting of the Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education is scheduled for 8 p.m. May 9.

* Kozisek named 1 of 6 finalists for prestigious UN-L award; Kunz a semifinalist

(Posted 2 p.m. April 29)

Sydney Goldberg of St. Joseph, Mo., and Nicholas Knopik of Lincoln received the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's 2016 Outstanding Student Leadership Awards.
As part of the award, Goldberg and Knopik will each receive a full-tuition scholarship for the fall semester.
On behalf of the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, multiple UN-L committees select one male and one female student for recognition of exceptional leadership contributions at UN-L, including efforts to develop leadership qualities in fellow students.
The Outstanding Student Leadership Award is one of the highest honors presented to students, recognizing outstanding leadership in academic, co-curricular and/or extracurricular activities and involvement.
In addition to Goldberg and Knopik, Conner Kozisek of Ainsworth was named one of the six finalists for the awards, and Caitlin Kunz of Stuart was named one of the 21 semifinalists.

* Davis discusses his opposition to National Park Service plan to purchase Rocky Ford acreage

(Posted 2 p.m. April 28)

Nebraska 43rd District State Sen. Al Davis discussed a plan by the National Park Service to purchase acreage near Rocky Ford on the banks of the Niobrara National Scenic River. Davis said the Niobrara Council opposes the purchase, as do members of Nebraska's Congressional delegation.
To hear the report, click on the audio link below.

audio clips/State Sen Al Davis 4-28-16.MP3

* Students recognized for academic achievement at UN-L

(Posted 6:45 a.m. April 27)

More than 1,800 University of Nebraska-Lincoln students were recognized during individual college celebrations and the All-University Honors Convocation Sunday in the Lied Center for Performing Arts.

Students were recognized for their outstanding academic achievements. Honorees included:

* Chancellor's Scholars: students who graduated in December or who will receive their degrees in May or August and have maintained 4.0 grade-point averages on all collegiate work at UNL and elsewhere;

* Superior Scholars: seniors graduating in the 2015-2016 academic year who are in the top 3 percent of their college's senior class or who have been recognized at Honors Convocation each year of their enrollment;

* High Scholars: students other than Chancellor's Scholars and Superior Scholars who are in the top 10 percent of their class.

Students from the area who were recognized include:

Ainsworth

Lydia Grace Allen, High, freshman, Arts and Sciences.

Conner Kozisek, High, junior, Arts and Sciences.

Kellie Frances Sholes, High, senior, Agriculture and Natural Resources.

Shea Leigh Sinsel, High, freshman, Explore Center.

Maggie Elise Steinhauser, Superior, senior, Education and Human Sciences.

Stuart

Dylan Christopher Laible, High, junior, Arts and Sciences.

Valentine

Sydney Lauren Dunn, High, freshman, Business Administration.

* Clark, Harthoorn named John Nelson Sportsmanship Award winners Tuesday

(Posted 9 p.m. April 26)

Ainsworth High School seniors Logan Clark and Austin Harthoorn were named the John Nelson Sportsmanship Award recipients during Tuesday’s All-Sports Tailgate Party in McAndrew Gymnasium.

As voted on by the school’s coaches, Clark and Harthoorn exemplified the values of sportsmanship and fair play associated with the John Nelson Sportsmanship Award.

Five seniors were named 12-sport athletes, meaning they competed in three sports during all four years of their high school careers.

Ben Allen competed in football, basketball and track during all four of his high school years. Logan Clark participated in cross country, basketball and track. Austin Harthoorn competed in cross country, basketball and track. Dominic Henry competed in football, wrestling, basketball and golf during his four years, and Matt Kovar competed in football, basketball and track during each of the past four seasons.

Coaches handed out end-of-season awards for the fall, winter and spring seasons.

Freshman Chloe Korth was named the girls cross country most valuable athlete by coach Jared Hansmeyer. Korth won a district title and finished seventh in the Class D State Championship.

Hansmeyer presented the boys most valuable athlete award to senior Austin Harthoorn, a district runner-up who defeated 96 percent of the runners he faced during the season.

Girls golf coach Heather Lutter presented the most improved golfer award to Rebecca Taylor, and named Vanessa Taylor the team’s most valuable player.

Football coach Wade Alberts announced two new school records in football, with sophomore quarterback Payton Allen breaking the school’s career passing yards record in just his second season.

Alberts announced senior Ben Allen had eclipsed the school record for tackles in a career with 340, breaking the record held by his older brother, Nathaniel Allen.

Ben Allen was named the football team’s most valuable player.

Riggin Temple and Jacob Fernau received the Lifter of the Year awards from Hansmeyer.

Shayden Platt was named the most valuable volleyball player by coach Misty Wroblewski. Abbey Doyle received the most improved player award, and Lauren Allen received the Hustle Award.

Wroblewski presented C Team and JV awards to Marley Murphy, Mackenzie Kovar, Megan Appelt, Jodi Allen and Andrina Stadler.

In winter sports, Todd Pollock named conference champion and state-qualifier Kyle Erthum as the most valuable wrestler for the 2015-16 season.

Girls basketball coaches Zach Welch and Nikki Welch named Logan Clark the most valuable player for the season. Clark set Bulldog single-season records for points and rebounds.

Shelby Jones received the team’s Rookie of the Year Award. Whitney Killion earned the Hustle Award, and Mikki Arens received the JV MVP Award.

Coaches Brian Delimont and Harlin Welch presented the boys basketball MVP Award to senior Brady Delimont, who set the Nebraska career record for 3-point baskets with 320. Delimont was a first-team Class C-2 All-State player, and set the school’s single-season record for 3-point makes in a year with 98.

Delimont said, for the second time in school history, the Bulldogs finished undefeated in the Southwest Conference regular season and won the Southwest Conference Tournament. It was the second straight SWC Tournament title for the Bulldogs, who qualified for the state tournament for the second time in three years.

Track and field coach Bryan Doke presented the 2015 most valuable athlete awards to Laura Peters and Brady Delimont. He said the 2015 boys track and field team won a third straight district title and finished third in the state championships. Ben Allen set a school record in the shot put, and Shayden Platt marked a school record in the pole vault during the 2015 season.

Boys golf coach Scott Steinhauser recognized the 2016 golf team and discussed the upcoming tournament schedule.

Seniors Lauren Allen, Abbey Doyle, Lisa Ludemann and Shayden Platt were recognized for participating in pom squad during all four years of high school, and Lauren Allen, Logan Clark, Sidney Fling, Whittney Pirnie and Sara Salzman participated as cheerleaders during each of their four years of high school.

Cheer sponsor Juli Murphy and pom sponsor Caren Fernau named the cheerleaders and pom squad members for the 2016-17 season.

Prior to the awards, Josh Ericson of Kearney, a three-time national champion wrestling coach at the University of Nebraska-Kearney, provided a motivational speech on the reasons to participate in sports.

Ericson told the students the process of competing in athletics will add value to their lives, whether they win or lose games or matches.

“Sports molds you into a better person,” Ericson said. “It helps form you in a way nothing else can. Every failure, every success, adds value to your life.”

The Ainsworth Lions Club hosted the 48th annual sports banquet, providing meals free of charge to all the athletes, cheer and pom members, coaches and spouses of coaches.

* North Central RC&D plans to assist area recycling efforts with remaining funding

(Posted 3:45 p.m. April 25)

The North Central Nebraska RC&D plans to focus its efforts and resources toward aiding in recycling projects in its six-county service area.

During a meeting April 20 of the RC&D Board, the group discussed suggestions made by the 45 governmental entities within its service area.

Kim Burge spent the past several months meeting with each entity, and provided the board with a summary of the suggestions made.

Burge’s report indicated housing rehabilitation and demolition, recycling projects, and training workforce were the most common responses for areas where the RC&D should direct its focus.

“Some of the entities had a lot of ideas for us,” Burge said. “Recycling, housing and job retention and creation were certainly the top three areas.”

The RC&D, after losing federal funding that forced the group to cut its paid staff, has $89,377 in funding available from its remaining project funds and the sale of its building on Highway 20 in Bassett.

Board Chair Mike Burge said the purpose of Wednesday’s meeting was to determine the future direction of the RC&D.

“We need make a decision on our future,” he said. “We need to define what we are going to do with our remaining funds.”

The board agreed it had limited funding to make a substantial impact with housing improvements in the six-county area, which includes Brown, Rock, Keya Paha, Holt, Cherry and Boyd counties.

Atkinson Economic Development Director and RC&D Board member Lou Ann Tooker said there is currently little to no profit margin in recycling, so it is more difficult for area communities to find companies willing to take the material from community-wide cleanups.

“We could have a better result if there was an effort to coordinate community recycling efforts for things such as electronics, household hazardous waste, and tires,” Tooker said.

Mike Burge agreed recycling is the area where the RC&D could have the biggest impact.

“The recycling aspect is probably the best area for us to focus our efforts,” he said. “Maybe the RC&D could help coordinate and disburse recycling information to each community. That, to me, is the direction we need to take.”

Board member Jim Keller said, with many recycled products no longer economically viable, area residents now had to resort to paying someone to pick up recyclable material.

The board agreed to research the establishment of a Keep America Beautiful chapter to help coordinate recycling efforts in the region. Becoming a Keep America Beautiful affiliate could also unlock some additional funding to help bring on a recycling coordinator.

Kim Burge agreed to gather information on becoming an affiliated chapter and present the information during the board’s next meeting, which is scheduled for 1 p.m. May 18 in the Bassett office.

* January taxable sales decline sharply in Brown County

(Posted 3 p.m. April 25)

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

County
or City

2016
Net Taxable
Sales

2015
Net Taxable
Sales

Percent
Change

2016
Sales Tax
5.5%

2015
Sales Tax
5.5%

Blaine

21,730

(D)

(D)

1,195.16

(D)

Boyd

793,619

740,051

7.2

43,649.17

40,702.93

Brown

2,384,908

3,220,893

(26.0)

131,195.03

177,149.31

Ainsworth

2,330,632

3,058,537

(23.8)

128,209.84

168,219.68

Cherry

4,992,374

5,133,879

(2.8)

274,580.88

282,363.68

Valentine

4,861,441

4,983,312

(2.4)

267,379.53

274,082.42

Custer

7,408,658

7,635,225

(3.0)

407,476.68

419,937.86

Broken Bow

6,079,578

6,264,141

(2.9)

334,377.08

344,528.02

Holt

7,794,331

8,565,639

(9.0)

428,688.81

471,110.92

Atkinson

1,168,318

1,240,869

(5.8)

64,257.64

68,247.96

O'Neill

5,835,984

6,345,079

(8.0)

320,979.45

348,979.77

Keya Paha

150,234

176,423

(14.8)

8,262.90

9,703.28

Rock

426,549

502,940

(15.2)

23,460.28

27,661.77

Valley

3,075,557

3,073,086

0.1

169,155.85

169,019.98

Ord

2,572,866

2,773,522

(7.2)

141,507.79

152,543.91

State Total

$2,081,271,143

$2,151,001,013

(3.2)

$115,250,592.23

$118,210,784.80

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

County
or City

2016
Net Taxable
Sales

2015
Net Taxable
Sales

Percent
Change

2016
Sales Tax
5.5%

2015
Sales Tax
5.5%

Blaine

144,921

107,045

35.4

7,916.90

5,828.15

Boyd

371,896

817,316

(54.5)

20,443.83

44,939.64

Brown

1,086,996

842,425

29

60,006.36

46,478.32

Cherry

1,648,689

2,544,400

(35.2)

90,981.31

140,500.78

Custer

$2,659,864

$3,553,699

(25.2)

$146,852.48

$196,347.99

Holt

2,726,667

3,148,691

(13.4)

150,764.24

173,894.51

Keya Paha

426,717

416,327

2.5

23,434.77

22,919.27

Rock

277,110

544,469

(49.1)

15,246.67

29,967.52

Valley

1,398,916

1,273,028

9.9

77,262.96

70,439.58

State Total

$300,690,974

$329,506,035

(8.7)

$16,659,782.28

$18,251,466.81

* Ainsworth choir receives state medal, superior award during District Music Contest

(Posted 7 a.m. April 25)

The Ainsworth High School mixed chorus received a state medal and superior award during the District Music Contest Friday at West Holt High School.

The Ainsworth men’s choir, women’s choir and show choir also received state medals and superior awards.

Other Ainsworth students receiving superior ratings, the top award given, were:

Emma Good - piano solo.

Jace Kremer - Xylophone solo.

Mixed Woodwind Ensemble - Sydney Fling, Chaeley Ruegge, Courtney Boon, Jodi Beach, Miranda Raymond, Jaycee Dillon, Hazey Happold, Marley Murphy, Brittani Beegle, Cassidy Gilliland, Megan Appelt, Mackenzie Kovar, Lisa Ludemann, Shane Cole and Hayes Chohon.

Mixed Brass Ensemble - Sara Salzman, Abby Masters, Shania Johnson, Jenna Williams, Tessa Lauer, Braden Ludemann, Lauren Allen, Emma Good, Vanessa Taylor, Moritz Schrammen, Kade Kral, Jon Barrow and Jacob Jeffers.

Claire Steinhauser and Payton Allen - Percussion Duet.

Sydney Fling - Flute Solo.

Lauren Allen and Emma Good - Horn Duet.

Jon Barrow and Jacob Jeffers - Baritone Duet.

Brittani Beegle, Lisa Ludemann and Hayes Chohon - Saxophone Trio.

Vanessa Taylor, Moritz Schrammen, Kade Kral, Jon Barrow and Jacob Jeffers - Low Brass Ensemble.
Miranda Raymond, Jaycee Dillon, Hazey Happold and Marley Murphy - Clarinet Quartet.

Britley Schlueter – Vocal Solo.

Kortney Kronhofman – Vocal Solo.

Brittani Beegle – Vocal Solo.

Hayes Chohon – Vocal Solo.

Brittani Beegle, Cassidy Gilliland, Megan Appelt, Mackenzie Kovar, Lisa Ludemann, Shane Cole and Hayes Chohon - Saxophone Sextet.

Hayes Chohon and Seth Taylor – Boys Duet.

Jeremiah Finley, Jacob Jeffers, Britley Schlueter and Treyvin Schlueter – Mixed Duet.

Women’s Ensemble.

Mixed Vocal Trio - Bo Painter, Abbey Doyle and Tara Taylor.

 

Performances receiving an Excellent (2) rating were:

Ainsworth High School band.

Jace Kremer, Claire Steinhauser, Payton Allen and Savana Christensen - Percussion Quartet.
Trumpet Ensemble - Sydney Fling, Chaeley Ruegge, Courtney Boon and Jodi Beach.
Flute Quartet - Sara Salzman, Abby Masters, Shania Johnson, Jenna Williams, Tessa Lauer and Braden Ludemann.

Bo Painter – Vocal Solo.

* Weekly summary from the Brown County Sheriff's Department

(Posted 7 a.m. April 25)

April 17

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

  • The Brown Co Ambulance transported a patient from a Long Pine residence to the Brown Co Hospital.

     

    April 18

  • Investigated a report of the theft of Creosote line posts from Northwest of Ainsworth.

  • The Brown Co Ambulance transported an Ainsworth resident to the Brown Co Hospital.

  • Responded to a traffic complaint in the East City Park.

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

     

    April 19

  • Assisted an Ainsworth resident with a dog at large complaint, near 1st St.

  • Responded to a report of possible illegal hunting West of Long Pine.

  • The Johnstown Fire Dept issued a burn permit for property East & North of Johnstown.

  • The Long Pine Rural Fire Dept issued a burn permit to the City of Long Pine.

     

    April 20

  • Responded to a report of a dog running at large on East 1st St Ainsworth.

  • Assisted individuals with a report of a possible uncontrollable juvenile in Ainsworth.

  • Received 911 calls from a child and responded for a welfare check in Ainsworth.

  • The Johnstown Fire Dept issued a burn permit for property East & North of Johnstown.

  • Provided a welfare check on an Ainsworth resident.

  • Responded to a report of cattle out on Hwy 20 near the Long Pine spur.

     

    April 21

  • Received a noise complaint at residences on North Main St, in Ainsworth.

  • The Johnstown Fire Dept issued a burn permit for property East & North of Johnstown.

  • Responded to a report of suspicious activity on North Main St Ainsworth.

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

     

    April 22

  • Responded to a report of truancy in Ainsworth.

  • Investigated a report of a suspicious smell coming from a residence in Ainsworth.

  • Investigated a hit & run accident in Ainsworth.

  • Investigated a report of drugs in Ainsworth. A subject was issued a citation for Possession of Marijuana less than 1 oz. & Possession of Drug Paraphernalia.

  • Received a report of a gas drive off, from an Ainsworth Service Station.

  • Assisted individuals with a report of a vehicle/ deer accident that occurred near the Niobrara River.

  • Investigated a hit and run accident that occurred in the Dollar General parking lot.

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

     

    April 23

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

  • Responded to a report of toddlers playing in the street near 3rd & Cedar St, Ainsworth.

  • Responded to a report of vehicles tearing around in the State Park near Long Pine.

  • Investigated reports of juveniles drinking near Long Pine.

     

    Weekly Summary

    1 - Fix-it tickets were issued.

    2 - Handgun permits applied for

    22 - Incidents Reports were taken.

    3 - Paper Service was served.

    129 - Phone calls were received

    33 - 911emergency calls received 

    2 - Titles were inspected.

    3 - Traffic Citations were issued.

    6 - Verbal & Written Warnings issued.

* Davis provides insights into 2016 legislative session to KBRB

(Post 6:45 a.m. April 22)

Nebraska 43rd District State Sen. Al Davis spoke with KBRB's Graig Kinzie following the completion of the 2016 legislative session. Davis said he wanted to see more done in the form of property tax relief, but he was pleased there was some relief provided. He discussed the bills he introduced that became law, including his priority bill to provide a state tax credit for volunteer first responders and a bill to transfer NPPD's water rights from the Spencer Dam on the Niobrara River to the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission and the Niobrara River Basin Alliance.
To hear the report, click on the audio links below.

audio clips/State Sen Al Davis 4-22 Property Tax bills.mp3

audio clips/State Sen Al Davis 4-22 Niobrara River bill.mp3

audio clips/State Sen Al Davis 4-22 Medicaid - filibusters.mp3

* Legislative session ends, Davis reviews action taken by senators

(Posted 7 a.m. April 21)

The Nebraska Legislature adjourned on Wednesday, and 43rd District State Sen. Al Davis provided a review of the work done during the session.
To hear the report, click on the audio link below.

audio clips/State Sen Al Davis 4-21-16.mp3

* Lions Club preparing for April 26 Ainsworth All-Sports Tailgate Party

(Posted 3:45 p.m. April 20)

The Ainsworth Lions Club is again hosting the Ainsworth High School All-Sports Tailgate Party at 6 p.m. Tuesday, April 26. Tickets for the party are $10, and are available at the door.

All athletes, cheerleaders, coaches and their spouses receive complimentary tickets to the event.

The Lions Club has a work night for members scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Monday, April 25, and all Lions are asked to be in McAndrew Gymnasium by 5:30 p.m. Tuesday so that serving may begin at 6 p.m.

During its monthly meeting Monday, Sarah Williams sent information to the meeting that the trees for the Fourth Grade Foresters project will be available on April 29.  Available Lions Club members are to be at McAndrew Elementary at 8 a.m. on Arbor Day, April 29, to participate in the distribution of the trees to the fourth-grade class.

This year Lions Club International is celebrating 100 years as a service organization. All Lions Clubs world-wide are planning a Centennial Community Legacy Project to stand as a reminder of the impact the Lions Clubs have on their respective communities and as a symbol of Lions commitment to a better future.

As a cooperative venture involving the Ainsworth Lions Club, Ainsworth Park Board, and the City of Ainsworth, a local Legacy Project has been initiated to enhance playground equipment in the city parks. Crumb rubber mulch will be used as surface material under some the playground equipment at a cost of $7,072. With the Lions Club having received an environmental grant of $3,536, based on a grant application prepared by the North Central Development Center, it was decided that the club would provide $2,000 for the project, with the balance of $1,536 to be requested from the City of Ainsworth ABC fund. A work session will be scheduled to place the crumb rubber under the playground equipment. Plans are being prepared to address additional playground equipment needs at both city parks.  

The Officers/Directors Nominations Slate for 2016-17, which was prepared during a Lions Club Directors meeting held prior to the regular Lions Club meeting, was presented by President Evan Evans. The ballot will be submitted to the membership via e-mail. 

The Lions Club will donate $100 to the Brown County Arts Council to be used for middle school student summer camp scholarships. A discussion was held regarding the possibility of holding Lions Club meetings in the Senior Center, which would assist the Senior Center in increasing its participation count.  The issue was tabled until the May meeting.

* Traffic Accident

(Posted 10:15 a.m. April 20)

The Brown County Sheriff’s Department investigated a one-vehicle accident that occurred Saturday, April 16, in Ainsworth.
According to the sheriff’s department report, at 10:50 p.m. at the Ainsworth Conference Center parking lot, a 2004 GMC pickup, driven by Dustin Privett, 18, of Ainsworth, was pulling out of the parking lot and struck a utility pole.
No injuries were reported. Damage to the GMC, owned by Allen Privett of Ainsworth, was estimated at $1,300.

* Area students receive scholarships from UN-L

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

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln has offered nearly 3,500 scholarships as of March 21 to the 2016 high school graduating class from Nebraska high schools. The total potential value of the scholarships is about $33.7 million.

The students offered scholarships include 27 Chancellor's Scholars, 645 Regent's Scholars, 402 David Distinguished Scholars, 280 Nebraska Achievement Scholars, 861 James H. Canfield Scholars, 107 Chancellor's Leadership Scholars, 611 University Honors Program Scholars, 26 Health Sciences Scholars, four Davis Scholars, three Johnny Carson Scholars, two Native American Heritage Scholars, 324 Nebraska Emerging Leader Scholars, 153 Nebraska Legends Scholars and 48 Pepsi Scholars.

Chancellor's and Regents scholarships are among the most prestigious awards granted by the university. Each of these awards pays full tuition for full-time students with the potential for renewal at a value of about $28,000 over four years. Chancellor's Scholars receive an additional $2,000 per year.
Area scholarship recipients include:

Ainsworth

Austin Harthoorn, Regents, tuition.

Dominic Henry, Nebraska Achievement, $1,000.

Heather Martin, Canfield, $1,000.

Seth Taylor, David, $3,500.

Keya Paha County

Buck Cronk, Regents, tuition; University Honors, $500.

Kevin Udd, Regents, tuition; University Honors, $500.

Rock County

Victoria Davis, Canfield, $1,000; Chancellor's Leadership, $1,000.

Colin Erickson, Canfield, $1,000.

West Holt

Kyle Linders, David, $3,500.

Caitlyn Nelson, Canfield, $1,000; Nebraska Legends, $1,000.

Sandhills

Keesha Albrecht, Canfield, $1,000.

Gregory Schukei, Nebraska Achievement, tuition.

Valentine

Nathan Luchsinger, Canfield, $1,000.

Macey Mathis, Canfield, $1,000.

* Highway superintendent updates commissioners Tuesday on bridge projects

(Posted 3:30 p.m. April 19)

During a brief meeting Tuesday of the Brown County Commissioners, Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin reported the bridge on 430th Avenue had been replaced with culverts, and the road was reopened to traffic.

Turpin said the roads department had ordered a trailer in order to haul its skid steer. He said the department was able to try out a tree cutting attachment.

“That attachment worked really well,” Turpin said. “We took down some good size cedar trees with it. I think we should look at buying one.”

Turpin said a used tree cutting attachment was approximately $8,000, while the county could purchase a new attachment for $10,000.

Commissioner Les Waits said there were miles and miles of trees in county road ditches that need to be cleared. He said the roads department did a nice job removing trees in the ditches on Meadville Avenue.

Turpin said there was also an auger attachment available for the skid steer at a cost of approximately $1,000 the roads department would utilize frequently.

The highway superintendent said the concrete deck on the Norden Bridge was poured April 12, and the roads department planned to coordinate back-filling work at the bridge site with Keya Paha County in the next week if the weather cooperates.

The Brown County Courthouse will be closed Friday, April 29, in observance of Arbor Day. The next meeting of the Brown County Commissioners is scheduled for May 3.

* Five Ainsworth students qualify for National History Day contest in Maryland

(Posted 11:30 a.m. April 19)

Five Ainsworth Community Schools students qualified to participate in the National History Day Contest in June at College Park, Md., after finishing in the top two during the state contest Saturday. Eighteen Ainsworth students competed in the state level contest.

Seventh-grade student Katrina Beel finished second for her junior individual performance about Dian Fossey.

Sixth-grader Grant Taylor placed second with his junior individual documentary titled, “Just American: The Tuskegee Airmen Explore Racial Diversity in the Military.”

Junior Vanessa Taylor took second with her senior individual documentary titled “The Day of Two Noons: Railroad Encounters With Time.”

Sixth-graders Summer Richardson and Maia Flynn placed second with their junior group exhibit titled, “Mother of Normandy: Exchanging Letters to Comfort American Families.”

All the entries were part of the 2016 theme for National History Day, which is “Exploration, Encounter, and Exchange in History.”

Teacher Nichole Flynn serves as the National History Day advisor for Ainsworth Community Schools.

* Prescription drug take-back scheduled for April 30 at Brown County Sheriff's Department

(Posted 7 a.m. April 19)

The Nebraska MEDS Coalition and Nebraska Attorney Gen. Doug Peterson remind the public that improperly disposing of unwanted medications can harm the environment.

Keeping old prescriptions in medicine cabinets can also increase the chance for misuse, possibly leading to accidental poisoning or illegal use.

Peterson said prescription drug misuse and abuse is a growing problem. A recent National Survey on Drug Use and Health revealed that prescription drugs rank second only to marijuana as the most abused category of drugs in the United States.

More Americans abuse prescription drugs than cocaine, hallucinogens, heroin and inhalants combined. Drug abuse is not the only issue. Every year, more than 70,000 children under the age of 18 end up in the emergency room because of accidental poisoning from medications – that is one child every eight minutes.

People are urged to clean out medicine cabinets at home, collect all the unwanted and expired prescription and over-the-counter medications, and take them to an authorized drug take back location.

The Brown County Sheriff’s Department will host a prescription drug collection from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. Saturday, April 30, during National Drug Take Back Day.

There are also 290 pharmacies across Nebraska that will dispose of unwanted medication every day, including Shopko Pharmacy in Ainsworth and the Rock County Pharmacy in Bassett.

* Blaine, Brown counties lead the state in 2016 ag land valuation and total valuation increases

(Posted 8 a.m. April 18)

The Nebraska Department of Revenue, Property Assessment Division, has processed the 2016 Real Property Abstracts of Assessment filed by the 93 Nebraska county assessors. Preliminary analysis indicates that real property valuations have increased 4.85% from 2015 to 2016, resulting in an increase in valuation of approximately $10.16 billion.

$ 2.33 billion (22.93%) is attributable to newly-constructed real property.

$ 7.83 billion (77.07%) is attributable to existing property valuation increases.

Real property valuations are set by the county assessors and are subject to review during the statewide equalization proceedings before the Tax Equalization and Review Commission. Real property valuation change notices will be mailed on or before June 1 to real property owners who had real property values that increased or decreased from 2015 to 2016.

Statewide, agricultural land valuation increases were modest, with a 6.24 percent increase, which marked a five-year low. That compares to increases the past three years of 22.82 percent in 2013, 29.12 percent in 2014, and 19.14 percent in 2015 statewide

Blaine County and Brown County bucked the trend of moderating ag land values, however. Blaine County led the state with an ag land valuation increase of 33.84 percent overall. Brown County had the second highest increase in agricultural land values at 29.92 percent. Those values are based on the most recent three years of sales data.

Cherry County had the fourth highest increase in ag land valuation at 22.75 percent, with Thomas County in north central Nebraska third with an increase of 22.86 percent.

Rock County’s ag land increased in value by 15.85 percent between 2015 and 2016, more than twice the statewide average, with Keya Paha County ag land moving upward by 10.9 percent.

Holt County’s agricultural land was similar to the statewide average, with an increase of 5.24 percent.

Nine counties (Antelope, Dakota, Douglas, Franklin, Hitchcock, Saline, Stanton, Thurston and Weber counties) saw ag land values decline between 2015 and 2016.

Residential valuations statewide increased by 3.66 percent, but 1.72 percent of that total was attributed to new construction. Excluding growth, existing residential property statewide was up by just 1.94 percent.

Blaine County had the second highest increase in residential value in the state at 25.69 percent, with about half of that total attributable to new construction.

Brown County saw residential values increase almost three times more than the statewide average, with total residential value up 9.13 percent. Only 1.76 percent of that increase was through new construction.

Other area counties saw primarily stagnant residential values. Excluding growth, Keya Paha County residential property inched upward by just 0.39 percent, Cherry County was up 0.85 percent, and Holt County was up by 0.72 percent. Excluding growth, residential property value in Rock County declined by 0.14 percent.

Including new construction, residential valuation in Keya Paha County was up 4.86 percent. Rock County was up 1.13 percent, Cherry County 2.24 percent, and Holt County 2.75 percent.

The value of existing commercial property statewide, excluding new construction, increased by 1.28 percent. The overall increase, including new construction, was 3.74 percent.

Most area counties saw a decline in the value of existing commercial property. Brown County declined by 1.15 percent, Rock County by 2.09 percent, Cherry County by 0.66 percent, and Holt County by 5.82 percent. Keya Paha County existing commercial property saw valuations unchanged from 2015.

Including new construction, commercial property increased by 5.02 percent in Brown County, 1.15 percent in Cherry County and 4.97 percent in Rock County. Keya Paha County remained unchanged, while Holt County commercial property valuation declined by 4.2 percent even when accounting for new construction.

Through all classifications of property and including new construction, total valuation in Brown County was up by 24.1 percent, the second highest increase in the state behind only the 32.44 percent increase in Blaine County.

Cherry County’s overall value was up 18.85 percent, followed by 14.5 percent in Rock County, 10.51 percent in Keya Paha County and 5.48 percent in Holt County.

Increases to real property valuations will result in an increase of tax revenue for local government subdivisions to spend if a corresponding reduction in tax levies is not made. Spending and budgeting decisions are made by local government subdivisions based on the amount of property taxes generated and their fiscal needs.

The final budgets must be approved by September 20 of each year. Tax rates must be determined by October 15 of each year.

* Ambulance Association to conduct public training on use of new defibrillator units

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

The Brown County Ambulance Association recently distributed 14 new defibrillators to area fire departments, the Brown County Courthouse, the Brown County Sheriff’s Department and the Ainsworth Conference Center.
The defibrillator units are designed to be used by members of the public if someone falls
into cardiac arrest and immediate assistance is needed prior to the arrival of emergency responders.
The Brown County Ambulance Association will host training sessions on how to operate a defibrillator from 2 until 4 p.m. Sunday in the Ambulance Barn on Third Street. Each training session will last 15 to 20 minutes.
The funds for the new defibrillators were provided by the ABC committee, Brown County Hospital Auxiliary and the Brown County Rural Fire Protection District.

* Weekly summary from the Brown County Sheriff's Department

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

April 10

  • Investigated a vehicle rollover accident with injury, South of Ainsworth. Two subjects were transported to the Brown Co Hospital for treatment. The Ainsworth Fire Dept & Brown Co Ambulance assisted with this call.

  • The Brown Co Ambulance transported a subject from the Brown Co Sheriff’s Office to the Brown Co Hospital.

     

    April 11

  • Investigated a report of a residential burglary in rural Brown Co.

  • Responded to a report of a dog running at large on North Main St Ainsworth.

  • Assisted an individual with a report of the possible illegal disposal of livestock in Brown Co.

  • Investigated a report of the possible theft of fuel from a vehicle on Hall St Ainsworth.

  • Responded to a report of subjects firing firearms in Ainsworth city limits.

  • Responded to a report of a reckless driver North on Meadville Ave.

  • Received a report of cattle out on a county road East & South of Ainsworth.

  • Investigated a vehicle/ deer accident without injury, South of Ainsworth.

     

    April 12

  • Received a report of a dead animal impeding traffic East of Hwy 183 junction on Hwy 20.

  • The Brown Co Ambulance transported an Ainsworth resident to the Brown Co Hospital.

  • The Brown Co Ambulance responded to an emergency call on East 3rd St Ainsworth. No one was transported at the time.

  • The Brown Co Ambulance transferred a patient from the Brown Co Hospital to the Good Samaritan in Kearney.

     

    April 13

  • Assisted the Ainsworth schools with a juvenile complaint.

  • Received a report of possible child abuse in Ainsworth.

  • Responded to a report of a suspicious acting person at the East City Park.

  • Responded to several traffic complaints, involving the same vehicles, in Ainsworth.

  • Investigated a report of possible vandalism to a vehicle in Ainsworth.

  • Provided traffic control for a house being moved on Hwy 183.

  • Assisted an Ainsworth resident with a report of suspicious activity on the Cowboy Trail.

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

  • Assisted an Ainsworth resident with a report of a vehicle driving recklessly on the city streets.

  • Provided traffic control for Ainsworth & Johnstown Fire Depts, as they responded to a shop fire West of Ainsworth. The Brown Co Ambulance also responded for standby.

  • April 14

  • Responded to a report of a possible fight, involving juveniles, at the East City Park.

  • Assisted individuals with a report of possible harassment in Brown Co.

  • The Brown Co Ambulance transported an Ainsworth resident to the Brown Co Hospital.

     

    April 15

  • Investigated a report of vandalism, to a pop machine, at a business in Ainsworth.

  • Responded to a domestic disturbance in Ainsworth.

  • Assisted a Brown Co resident with a report of a possible illegal firearm.

     

    April 16

  • Responded to a report of a stray dog on 3rd St Ainsworth. The dog was transported to the Ainsworth Veterinary Clinic.

  • Responded to a traffic complaint on South Maple St Ainsworth.

  • Provided traffic control, for 180 head of cattle, crossing Hwy 7 South of Ainsworth.

  • Responded to a traffic complaint in Long Pine.

  • Investigated a one-vehicle accident without injury at the Conference Center, Ainsworth.

  • Responded to a report of Ainsworth residents involved in a verbal disagreement.

     

    Weekly Summary

    2 - Fix-it tickets were issued.

    3 - Handgun permits applied for

    31 - Incidents Reports were taken.

    8 - Paper Service was served.

    167 - Phone calls were received

    11 - 911emergency calls received 

    5 - Titles were inspected.

    4 - Traffic Citations were issued.

    4 - Verbal & Written Warnings issued.

* Davis reports from the Nebraska Legislature

(Posted 7:45 a.m. April 15)

Nebraska 43rd District State Sen. Al Davis provided an update during the final week of the Nebraska legislative session.
Davis discussed a bill he voted against that would allow the children of illegal immigrants to receive commercial and professional licenses in Nebraska.
To hear the report, click on the audio link below.

audio clips/State Sen AlDavis 4-15-16.mp3

* Wednesday fire damages shop west of Ainsworth

(Posted 7:15 a.m. April 14)

Sparks from a welding torch smoldered Wednesday prior to igniting a fire in a Quonset shop west of Ainsworth.

Ainsworth Fire Chief Brad Fiala said, at 7:50 p.m. Wednesday, firefighters were called to a report of a shop on fire 4 miles west of Ainsworth on property owned by Danny Johnson.

Fiala said sparks from a welding torch caught on a piece of cardboard and began to smolder. After the individual who was welding left the shop, the cardboard ignited.

The fire chief said a motorist noticed the smoke and notified the property owner.

“The fire was going from the middle of the shop all the way to the back,” Fiala said. “Tires from a feed truck parked in the Quonset caught fire, and that caused a lot of black smoke.”

Fiala said firefighters from Ainsworth and Johnstown kept the flames from reaching the front of the shop, where numerous tools were located. He said there was extensive heat and smoke damage to the building.

Firefighters returned to their respective fire halls by approximately 11 p.m. Wednesday after extinguishing the flames.

* Three River asks City Council to consider supporting fiber optic cable into homes

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

A representative from Three River Communications asked the Ainsworth City Council Wednesday to consider supporting a project to provide fiber optic cable to all the homes in the city to improve Internet service.

Brian Delimont told the council Three River plans to run fiber into the city’s businesses to boost Internet service options. He said the company was looking for potential funds to assist in bringing the fiber into homes.

“In the future, everything is going to be on-demand,” Delimont said. “Once the local networks and sports get on board, that is where things are headed.”

Delimont said Three River would like to provide the best bandwidth possible, which is fiber.

“If we can get fiber into homes, people can get everything – phone, Internet and television – right through the fiber line.”

Delimont said the cost to outfit the homes in Ainsworth with a fiber line would cost somewhere between the upper hundreds of thousands of dollars to a million or two.

“If Three River feels there is enough support in the community, and there were some additional funds available, we would move forward with getting more concrete cost figures for the project,” Delimont said.

Councilman Brian Williams asked if the company could run the fiber to individual homes or if it needed to run fiber into every home. Delimont said the company would need to run the fiber into any homes that are livable to make the project work.

“If we could have the city come up with half through city funds or grants, we would likely move forward,” Delimont said. “The city would likely become a partner so that funding could then be paid back over time.”

No action was taken by the City Council.

In other business Wednesday, the council approved $2,000 in ABC funding to the Ainsworth Area Chamber of Commerce for the annual fireworks show July 4 at the Ainsworth Golf Course.

Mayor Larry Rice said the amount was the same the city had provided in past years to support the annual fireworks show, and the Ainsworth Betterment Committee voted to recommend the council approve the request.

Rice reported the Board of Health took a tour of the city March 31 and reviewed the six homes the City Council indicated needed to have some action taken following the 2014 and 2015 nuisance abatement inspections.

“When the report is finished, the sheriff will contact the homeowners and give them some time to address the issues,” the mayor said.

The council approved a professional services agreement with JEO Engineering for the Clean Water State Revolving Fund grant awarded by the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality.

City Administrator Lisa Schroedl said the council previously approved JEO Engineering’s proposal for the work, the agreement was the official document that is sent to the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality.

In her report to the council, Schroedl said the city has received 15 building permits since the beginning of March totaling $518,250 in building improvements. Among the permits was a potential day care center, several garages and fences.

She said a free citywide tree pickup day has been scheduled for April 27, and the city will schedule a general cleanup day toward the end of May.

The council appointed Williams to serve as the city’s representative on the Middle Niobrara Natural Resources District Integrated Management Plan stakeholder group.

Resident Jerry Allen asked the council to fix a damaged line that had supplied water to a sprinkler system on the street island near Maple and Seventh streets.

He said he had watered the island for years, but someone had apparently run over and broken the water pipe feeding the system. He asked the council to agree to have the city fix the pipe so he could continue watering the area.

The council agreed to have a city crew check to see what the problem might be with the line.

Councilman Kent Taylor provided an update on the Sandhills Care Center. He said the groups were still waiting on the title insurance to be completed so the transfer of ownership of the former care center facility could commence.

He said RHD and the interlocal board have been working on obtaining information for insuring the care center building once acquired. He said the group was working with the USDA to obtain additional information on a potential 40-year USDA guaranteed loan for the construction of a new nursing home facility.

Kim Buckley provided an update to the council on the Ainsworth Golf Course. He said the course appears to have come through the winter in good shape. More than 25 volunteers attended the annual course cleanup day Saturday, accomplishing several major projects.

He said Paul Hermsmeyer had returned as the course superintendent, and Sheri Gann was again managing the clubhouse.

Buckley asked the city to release funding it had allocated the course for equipment, as the course had purchased a 2010 greens mower for $9,700 and had two members agree to drive to Ann Arbor, Mich., where the mower was currently located to haul it to Ainsworth.

The council discussed a proposal from Judy Peterson with Central Nebraska Economic Development District to serve as the certified grant administrator for the city’s Community Development Block Grant reuse loan fund.

Schroedl said the Department of Economic Development requires a certified administrator for the CDBG reuse fund.

Councilwoman Deb Hurless said she, as an employee of the North Central Development Center, had once been certified as the grant administrator, but there had been no projects recently and her certification had expired.

Taylor said the city could potentially use the reuse loan fund, which has approximately $279,000, to help fund its contribution to the care center.

The council encouraged Hurless to retake the two-day course to be recertified as the grant administrator.

The consent agenda approved Wednesday included the reappointment of Venita Hagerman and Terry McNair to three-year terms on the Housing Committee, the reappointment of Dale Kirkpatrick and Carolyn Schipporeit to three-year terms on the Sellers-Barton Cabin Advisory Board, and the reappointment of Todd Flynn and the appointment of Alane Lentz and Tracy Alberts to four-year terms on the Ainsworth Public Library Board. Lentz and Alberts will take over for Mandy Evans and Kara Welch, whose terms on the library board were expiring.

The consent agenda also authorized the Ainsworth Area Chamber of Commerce to close Main Street for the D.C. Lynch Carnival June 10-12.

Prior to adjourning, the council held an executive session to discuss a personnel issue. No action was taken following the session.

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

* Work to begin on Highway 11 north of Atkinson

(Posted 6:15 a.m. April 14)

Weather permitting, work is scheduled to begin the week of April 25 on Highway 11, starting 8 miles north of Atkinson and extending 14.6 miles north to the Brush Creek Bridge, according to the Nebraska Department of Roads.
Vontz Paving, Inc., of Hastings is the prime contractor for the $5 million project. Work will include grading and erosion control, drainage structure installation, milling and asphaltic concrete overlay on the roadway, minor bridge repairs and application of epoxy overlay and sealant on the Brush Creek Bridge.
During construction, there will be a12-foot width limit. One-lane traffic will be controlled over the Brush Creek Bridge using temporary traffic signals, while traffic elsewhere on Highway 11 will be controlled using flaggers and a pilot car.  The highway improvement project is anticipated to be completed in late September.
The Department of Roads' project engineer is Gene Colfack of O'Neill. Motorists are urged to use caution while driving through highway work zones and to remember that speeding fines are doubled when workers are present.

* Recent cases from Brown County District Court

(Posted 10:45 a.m. April 13)

In Brown County District Court Tuesday, Deborah Fairchild, age 61, of Ainsworth, appeared for sentencing after having previously been convicted on a Class IV felony charge of criminal distribution of a controlled substance.
Fairchild was sentenced to three years of probation and ordered to perform 500 hours of community service.
Henry Whited, III, 19, of Ainsworth, pleaded guilty in District Court Tuesday to one count of child abuse, a Class I misdemeanor. Whited will be sentenced June 14.

* Two motorists injured during Sunday roll-over accident on Highway 7

(Posted 9:15 a.m. April 13)

A rollover accident Sunday morning on Highway 7 south of Ainsworth injured two motorists from Gering.

According to the Brown County Sheriff’s Department, at 4:28 a.m. Sunday, April 10, on Highway 7 approximately 4 miles south of Ainsworth, a 1995 Buick sedan, driven by Kayla Rupp, 25, of Gering, was traveling north when the vehicle left the roadway, overcorrected in the east ditch, then crossed the highway and rolled in the west ditch.

Rupp and a passenger in the Buick, Nicholas Bower, 20, of Gering, were transported by the Brown County Ambulance Association to the Brown County Hospital for injuries suffered during the crash.

The Buick was considered a total loss.

 

The sheriff’s department also investigated a vehicle-deer accident that occurred on Monday on Highway 7 south of Ainsworth.

According to the sheriff’s department report, at 8:45 p.m. Monday, April 11, on Highway 7 approximately 4 miles south of Ainsworth, a 2007 Chevy sedan, driven by Kori Yankowski, 17, of Ainsworth, was traveling north when the vehicle struck a deer in the roadway.
No persons were injured during the accident. The Chevy was considered a total loss.

* Ainsworth City Council agenda

(Posted 8:45 a.m. April 13)

Ainsworth City Council agenda
7 p.m. Wednesday, April 13
Ainsworth Conference Center
 

1.                  Roll Call

 

2.                  *Approval of consent agenda

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

 

3.                  *Minutes of the previous meetings: 03/09/2016; 04/01/2016

 

4.                  *Treasurer’s report

 

5.                  *Department Head Reports

 

6.                  *Cemetery Certificate

 

7.                  *Claims

 

8.                  *Authorizing the Ainsworth Chamber of Commerce to close Hwy 7 (Main Street) beginning 7:00 p.m. June 9, 2016 through June 12, 2016 for the annual carnival days.  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.                  *Approval of Committee Appointments:

 

Committee on Housing (3 year terms from 4/8/2016 to 4/8/2019):  Venita Hagerman and Terry McNair

Sellors-Barton Cabin Advisory Board (3 year terms from 4/12/2016 to 4/12/2019):  Dale Kirkpatrick and Carolyn Schipporeit

Library Board (4 year terms from 4/30/2016 to 4/30/2020):  Alane Lentz, Todd Flynn and Tracy Alberts

 

10.              Hear and discuss the idea/presentation by Three River Telco’s Brian Delimont regarding fiber optic to homes in Ainsworth

 

11.              Discuss and consider a proposal by Judy Peterson with CNEDD for certified grant administration work for the City’s economic development revolving loan fund

 

12.              Report from City Administrator/Clerk/Treasurer Schroedl

 

13.              Update on Sandhills Care Center/Interlocal Board from Kent Taylor

 

14.              Hear and discuss a request for watering the street island near Maple and 7th Streets from Jerry Allen

 

15.              Report from Ainsworth Golf Course

 

16.              Consider an appointment to the NRD Stakeholder IMP group for groundwater and basin

 

17.              Consider the recommendation by the Ainsworth Betterment Committee regarding a request from the Chamber of Commerce for fireworks in the amount of $2,000.00.

 

18.              Consider the Professional Services Agreement with JEO for the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) grant from NDEQ

 

19.              Mayor’s report

* Ainsworth High School Prom set for Saturday

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

Ainsworth High School’s 2016 Junior-Senior Prom is scheduled for Saturday, beginning at 5:30 p.m. with the banquet in the Ainsworth Conference Center.

This year’s theme is “Old Hollywood.” The Grand March begins at 7:30 p.m. in McAndrew Gymnasium, followed by the dance in the Ainsworth Conference Center gym.

Post prom begins at midnight in McAndrew Gymnasium.

Prom queen candidates are Tara Taylor, Heather Martin, Logan Clark, Lauren Allen, Sydney Fling, Sara Salzman and Shayden Platt.

King candidates are Kyle Erthum, Austin Harthoorn, Jayden Philben, Seth Taylor, Hayes Chohon, Matt Kovar and Dusty Worden.

The king and queen will be crowned following the Grand March.

 

* Ainsworth Senior Parliamentary Procedure team finishes third during State FFA competition

 

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


Ainsworth High School’s Senior Parliamentary Procedure team finished third in the state during the recent FFA State Convention at Lincoln.

Team members include Britley Schlueter, Whittney Killion, Emma Good, Shylo Paddock, Breanna Schwindt and Sydney Graff.

In the Leadership Skills Events portion of the state convention, Jack Arens finished third in the state in extemporaneous speaking. Arens also finished second in the State FFA Proficiency agricultural sales competition.

Six members of the Ainsworth FFA program received State Degrees during the convention. State FFA Degrees were awarded to Heather Martin, Matt Kovar, Austin Harthoorn, Sara Salzman, Jayden Philben and Lindse Painter.

* Sandhills Task Force seeks assistance with 2 projects

(Posted 11 a.m. April 12)

The Sandhills Task Force is asking for help with two research projects that are ongoing in the Sandhills. They are the Landscapes, Ranch Management and Wildlife Habitat Survey, and the Trumpeter Swan Study.

Ranchers, especially in the Great Plains, steward most of the remaining native grasslands. The health of privately-owned grasslands in the Great Plains demonstrates that ranchers are excellent stewards of grazing lands; there is much to learn from ranchers about their conservation concerns, the management strategies used to ensure conservation of their ranch resources, and ranchers' views of potential approaches for maintaining grassland systems.

Some may have recently received a request to complete a survey in the mail from Maggi Sliwinski at University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She was awarded a grant from the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program to study the human dimensions of ranch management. Her goal is to understand how landowners make management decisions on their ranch, and to dig into potential strategies for landscape management. The underpinning purpose for the research is the conservation of native grassland habitats and ranching livelihoods. Scientists are quickly learning that protecting grasslands will require active cooperation with private landowners, rather than the traditional "command and control" approach. The results of the survey will be shared with participating ranchers through supporting organizations. All responses will remain completely anonymous.

The Sandhills of Nebraska are a unique landscape in North America, and indicative of that uniqueness is the presence of trumpeter swans. Since their reintroduction into the Sandhills in the early 1960s, the trumpeter swan population has grown to over 600 birds and have spread across the region. Despite the population growth however, the number of young swans (cygnets) produced each year appears to have stagnated over the last decade. Additionally, little is known about their life-history in Nebraska.

To learn more about the Sandhills' trumpeter swan population, a study by the University of Nebraska-Kearney will begin this spring. Heather Johnson will be leading the investigation into breeding success of trumpeter swans that will attempt to gather data on nesting and hatching rates and cygnet survival. Her focus will be observing the swans during their nesting and cygnet rearing periods. Data on the number of successful nests, the number of eggs hatching at nests, and cygnets surviving until flight stage will be collected. The study is in conjunction with the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, Sandhills Task Force, and the Rainwater Basin Joint Venture. This study is complimenting ongoing work examining trumpeter swan movements from breeding to wintering areas.

"Our understanding of the trumpeter swan population cannot be accomplished without the help of landowners" Johnson said. "So far, the vast majority of landowners in the Sandhills have been extremely cooperative in getting this project off the ground".

Anyone with swans on their land are asked to contact Johnson at (402) 471-1729 or by email at ngpc.ai.temp@nebraska.gov.

* Sterkel hired for physical education, head boys basketball position at ACS

(Posted 7 a.m. April 12)

Ainsworth Community Schools filled one of its teaching vacancies for the 2016-17 school year Monday, as the Board of Education approved a contract for Sean Sterkel to teach physical education.

Sterkel, originally from Bridgeport, will also take over the head coaching duties for the Bulldog boys basketball team. Sterkel comes to Ainsworth from Williston State College of North Dakota, where he was an assistant coach for the men’s basketball team and taught classes.

He graduated from Dickinson State University in North Dakota with a bachelor’s degree in physical education and exercise science.

“Along with the head boys basketball coaching position, he will also likely fill some additional coaching duties,” Superintendent Darrell Peterson said. “We are excited to have him. He has experience in a lot of different areas.”

In other business during Monday’s meeting, the board approved a $100 contribution for each of the six AHS students who have qualified for the Destination Imagination Global Finals in May at Knoxville, Tenn.

Advisor Rachel Williams made the request to the board to help support the trip to the national event. She said the group will hold additional fund-raising events.

Peterson said the district has a policy to provide $100 for each student who qualifies to represent the school at a national contest.

Requesting to be on Monday’s agenda, Tom Bejot addressed the board regarding concerns over the way his daughter’s individual education plan was handled, and he requested the board form a committee to interview the parents who have optioned their students out of the district and fix the problems they cite for leaving.

“I am not trying to point fingers,” Bejot said. “I want our school district to do better.”

Bejot said, after he and his wife requested an educational evaluation for their daughter, they were told the school psychologist was busy.

“We decided to have a private evaluation done,” Bejot said. “Our daughter had gone from As and Bs to Ds and Fs.”

Bejot said they took their daughter to the Sylvan Learning Center at North Platte for testing, and found that she was struggling with reading comprehension. He said, after 24 summer program hours at Sylvan, her comprehension had improved.

After the summer, they began looking for a different school for their daughter, and decided to have her attend Columbus Public Schools.

“Now our family is split,” Bejot said. “I am running a business here and my wife and daughter are in Columbus. Columbus has done a lot of things for my daughter.”

Bejot said he would like to bring his daughter back to Ainsworth Community Schools, but he needed to see changes first.

“I am trying to appeal to you to make changes and take a vested interest,” Bejot said. “I would like to see you set up a committee and interview the people who have left this district, find out why, and fix the problems.”

In other action items Monday, the board approved three requests from parents to option their students out of Ainsworth Community Schools and into Rock County Public Schools.

The requests came from Brandy Connell, Randy Voss and Lynne Korth and included a total of five children ages kindergarten through sophomore. Peterson said all three families had other children who were currently or had previously attended Rock County Public Schools. One family lived near Camp Witness northeast of Long Pine, and another family lived south of Long Pine.

The board approved allowing a girl from Spain to attend Ainsworth Community Schools for the 2016-17 year as a foreign exchange student.

Peterson said Paula Welke is currently listed as the host parent.

“This is our third request for a foreign exchange student for 2016-17,” the superintendent said. “Our policy says we can accept up to three exchange students.”

The board approved the second reading of its option enrollment capacity policy, which sets the limits for the size of each class before the district would no longer accept students optioning in to the district.

Elementary Principal Sarah Williams’ report indicated 31 students are currently registered for kindergarten for the 2016-17 year. She said kindergarten teachers Caren Fernau and Sue Wragge attended a Little Paws Preschool parents meeting to visit with parents about kindergarten and steps parents could take to ensure a smooth transition from preschool to kindergarten.

Secondary Principal Dirk Coon said he was assisting in the process of interviewing for the remaining open teaching and coaching positions for the 2016-17 year.

Peterson reported the district’s school lunch program participation was steady, as the district has realized a small profit each month of the school year. The school’s goal is to break even with its breakfast and lunch program through Lunchtime Solutions.

The next meeting of the Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education is scheduled for 8 p.m. May 9.

* USGS registers small earthquake early Monday south of Wood Lake

(Posted 11:45 a.m. April 11)

A small earthquake was registered early Monday by the U.S. Geological Survey. According to the USGS, the 3.2 magnitude earthquake occurred at 12:07 a.m. approximately 26 miles south-southwest of Wood Lake, or 23 miles north-northeast of Thedford.
The USGS registered the small quake at a depth of 3.1 miles below the earth’s surface. There have been no reports of any damage.

* Long Pine man killed during 3-vehicle accident Friday east of Long Pine in Rock County

(Posted 9:45 a.m. April 11)

An 82-year-old Long Pine man died Friday during a three-vehicle accident on Highway 20 between Long Pine and Bassett in Rock County.
According to the Nebraska State Patrol, which conducted the investigation, at 12:21 p.m. Friday, April 8, near milepost 253 on Highway 20, a 2010 Buick Lucerne, driven by Lynn E. Moore, 82, of Long Pine, was traveling west and was attempting to pass when the Buick struck a pivot stand being pulled by Clarence Lanka, 60, of Ainsworth.
After striking the pivot stand, the Buick crossed the center line and struck an eastbound pickup driven by Diana Borysenko, 64, of Ainsworth, before coming to rest.
Moore was pronounced dead at the scene of the accident. Borysenko was transported to the Rock County Hospital for injuries suffered during the crash. Lanka was not injured during the accident.

* Firefighters handle Friday grass fire, conduct training during controlled burn Sunday

(Posted 8:15 a.m. April 11)

The Ainsworth Volunteer Fire Department responded to a grass fire Friday that was reported just north of the Bone Creek bridge near Keller Park.

According to Assistant Fire Chief Randy Johnson, at 12:50 p.m. Friday in the Highway 183 ditch north of the Bone Creek bridge, a drag being pulled by a four-wheeler sparked and ignited a small grass fire in the ditch.

Johnson said people in the area helped contain the fire from spreading prior to the arrival of firefighters. He said the fire was quickly extinguished, and firefighters returned to the fire hall about an hour after arriving on scene. The Long Pine Rural Volunteer Fire Department also responded to the Friday fire call.

Six fire departments, including from as far as Neligh and Wahoo, assisted the Ainsworth Volunteer Fire Department with a controlled burn and training on Sunday.

Johnson said the controlled burn and fire training was conducted in a house on North Main Street across the street from the Ainsworth Public Library.

“It was a good training,” the assistant chief said. “We did training in the upper floor and in the basement before we let the house completely burn. The weather cooperated, and everything worked well.”

He said several fire marshals were involved in the training along with the six fire departments.

* Weekly summary from the Brown County Sheriff's Department

(Posted 6:45 a.m. April 11)

April 3

  • Responded to a report of a domestic disturbance on South Woodward St. Ainsworth.

  • Assisted a Long Pine resident with a report of a possible suicidal subject.

  • Received a report of a property dispute South of Long Pine.

  • Assisted a subject with information on a civil matter involving housing.

     

    April 4

  • Assisted individual with a traffic complaint West of Ainsworth.

  • Received a report of a possible missing or stolen light.

  • Assisted individual with a traffic complaint in Long Pine.

  • Received a report of a phone scam involving the IRS.

  • Assisted with a report of cattle out south of Ainsworth.

     

    April 5

  • Investigated a report of carpet being illegally dumped near a resident South of Ainsworth.

  • Assisted individual with a report of a juvenile pointing archery equipment at people.

  • Responded to a report of the fire alarm being pulled at the Ainsworth Conference Center.

     

    April 6

  • Received a report of a security alarm going off at a business in Ainsworth.

  • Assisted an individual with a report of a rock being thrown up from a passing vehicle, causing damages to a window.

  • Received a report of barricades being removed from road construction in rural Brown Co.

  • Responded to a report of a vehicle tearing around on a county road South of Ainsworth.

  • Assisted an Ainsworth resident with the removal of an unwanted subject.

     

    April 7

  • Investigated a report of a one-vehicle accident with injury on Hwy 20 West of the Long Pine Hills. The Brown Co Ambulance transported a subject to the Brown County Hospital.

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

  • The Brown Co Ambulance transported a subject from a residence on North Elm St to the Brown Co Hospital.

  • Responded to a traffic complaint South of Long Pine.

     

    April 8

  • Investigated a hit & run accident on East 4th St Ainsworth.

  • Investigated a two-vehicle accident without injury on 3rd St Ainsworth.

     

    April 9

  • Responded to a report of a possible intoxicated subject West of Ainsworth.

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

  • Responded to a report of a vehicle / deer accident in the Long Pine hills.

  • Assisted Long Pine residents with information on a civil matter involving private property.

  • Issued a citation for possession of drug paraphernalia and possession of marijuana less than one oz.

  • Provided a welfare check on subject located in Ainsworth.

  • Responded to a report of suspicious activity West of Ainsworth.

     

    Weekly Summary

    0 - Fix-it tickets were issued.

    2 - Handgun permits applied for

    25 - Incidents Reports were taken.

    3 - Paper Service was served.

    176 - Phone calls were received

    11 - 911emergency calls received 

    6 - Titles were inspected.

    3 - Traffic Citations were issued.

    2 - Verbal & Written Warnings issued.

     

    March Summary

    11 - Arrests

    95 - Calls for Service 

    14 - Citations were issued

    0 - Crime Stopper call received

    3 - Defect Cards issued

    15 - Handgun permits issued

    23 - Paper Service served

    761 - Phone calls were received

    40 - 911 emergency calls received

    24 - Titles inspected

    33 - Verbal & Written Warnings issued

* Traffic Accident

(Posted 6:45 a.m. April 11)

The Brown County Sheriff’s Department investigated a motor vehicle accident that occurred Friday, April 8, in Ainsworth.
According to the sheriff’s department report, at 6:54 p.m. on East Third Street near the Pine Street intersection, a 2004 Dodge minivan, driven by Allyssa Carbis, 21, of Ainsworth, was turning east onto Third Street from Pine Street and struck a parked 2005 Pontiac sedan, owned by Shayden Platt of Ainsworth.
No injuries were reported. Damage to the Dodge was estimated at $1,000. The Pontiac sustained approximately $1,000 damage.

* Traffic Accident

(Posted 8:45 p.m. April 8)

The Brown County Sheriff’s Department investigated a motor vehicle accident that occurred Friday, April 8, in Ainsworth.
According to the sheriff’s department report, at 1:56 p.m. Friday in the east alley of the 300 block of North Main Street, a collision occurred between a 2012 Chevy Express van, driven by Dallas Studley, 42, of Wolbach, and a 1993 Chevy pickup, driven by Arthur Hale, 69, of Ainsworth.
No injuries were reported. Damage to the Chevy van, owned by DirecTV of Mount Laurel, N.J., was estimated at $1,500. The Chevy pickup sustained approximately $1,500 damage.

* Fire department burning a house for training Sunday on North Main Street

(Posted 8:15 a.m. April 8)

The Ainsworth Volunteer Fire Department will conduct a fire training and controlled burn Sunday on a house on North Main Street east of the Ainsworth Public Library.
Ainsworth Fire Chief Brad Fiala reported one block of North Main Street from Highway 20 north to Fifth Street will be closed from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m. Sunday during the controlled burn.

* Norden Bridge concrete deck to be poured Tuesday; motorists urged to use caution

(Posted 8 a.m. April 8)

Brown County Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin reported the concrete deck on the new Norden Bridge is scheduled to be poured on Tuesday, April 12.
Turpin urged any motorists using the open portion of the Norden Road to drive with caution and watch for cement trucks traveling to and from the bridge site.
"There are some dangerous corners on the Norden Road," Turpin said, cautioning motorists that cement trucks on the road could be blocked from view until the last minute in some areas.
The replacement of the Norden Bridge remains on or ahead of schedule. Simon Contractors of North Platte is under a deadline to complete the bridge work by June 1.

* Legislative session drawing to a close; Davis and Larson provide updates

(Posted 7:45 a.m. April 8)

The final day for bills to be approved in the Nebraska Legislature is Wednesday, April 13. With the short session drawing to a close, 43rd District State Sen. Al Davis and 40th District State Sen. Tyson Larson both provided updates on the bills that have recently passed, and the bills that remain to be heard on the floor.
To hear the reports from the two area state senators, click on the audio links below.

audio clips/State Sen Al Davis 4-8-16.mp3

audio clips/State Sen Tyson Larson 4-8-16.mp3

* One-vehicle accident Thursday in Long Pine Hills draws emergency response

(Posted 6:45 a.m. April 8)

A one-vehicle accident on Highway 20 in the Long Pine hills Thursday sent a motorist to the Brown County Hospital.

According to the Brown County Sheriff’s Department report, at 12:45 p.m. Thursday on Highway 20 approximately 1 mile northeast of Long Pine, a 1988 Chevy sport-utility vehicle, driven by James Newport, 81, of Long Pine, was traveling east when the driver experienced a medical condition that caused the vehicle to leave the roadway and enter the south ditch.

A trailer being pulled by the Chevy separated from the SUV and rolled. The Chevy did not roll, but came to rest on an embankment.

Newport was transported by the Brown County Ambulance Association to the Brown County Hospital for treatment.

Damage to the Chevy was estimated at $1,000. The trailer, owned by Dan Hladky of Long Pine, sustained approximately $500 damage.

* Sheriff's department seeks information on illegally dumped carpet

(Posted 3 p.m. April 7)

The Brown County Sheriff’s Department is seeking information regarding the illegal dumping of carpet southwest of Ainsworth.
According to the sheriff’s department, someone recently dumped two large pieces of carpeting in the creek southwest of Ainsworth. The carpeting is tan in color, and both pieces were dumped into the creek.
Anyone with information on who is responsible for illegally dumping the carpet is asked to call the 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 crime, or any crime, could result in a cash reward of up to $1,000.

* Tax sale nets collection of $40,764 in delinquent property tax on 27 parcels in Brown County

(Posted 3 p.m. April 5)

Brown County Treasurer Deb Vonheeder told the County Commissioners Tuesday a recent sale of delinquent taxes netted the county $40,764, as investors purchased the delinquent property taxes on 27 parcels.

If property taxes are not timely paid, the county issues a tax sale. Taxes delinquent by more than one year may then be purchased by investors.

Those investors receive either 14 percent interest when the delinquent tax bill is paid by the property owner, or the investor has the right to foreclose on the parcel if the delinquent tax is not paid within three years of the tax sale.

The money paid by the investors during the tax sale allows the county to collect the property tax due.

In other business during Tuesday’s meeting, the commissioners approved an update to the prices charged to the county for indigent funeral services.

Jim Hoch, owner of Hoch Funeral Home, presented the board with a pricing list for county burials recently approved between his company and the Rock County Commissioners.

Hoch said the county’s burial plans had not been updated since 1993. He said the county has only funded a resident’s burial on 13 occasions during the past 22 years.

County Attorney David Streich said the county burial is available only for indigent residents who do not have the funds to pay for a service, or have any family available to handle the cost of the service. He said there is an application process to receive a county-funded service, but if the deceased has an estate, the estate is required to reimburse the county for cost.

“This service does not get abused,” Streich said.

The board approved a $400 increase for cremation with a graveside service, and a $600 increase for the cost to the county of a traditional burial with a graveside service.

The board appointed Commissioner Buddy Small to serve as the county’s representative to the voluntary Integrated Management Planning Committee being assembled by the Middle Niobrara Natural Resources District.

There is a meeting of the committee scheduled for April 13. Commissioner Reagan Wiebelhaus was named the county’s alternate representative. The Integrated Management Planning Committee will address planning and potential projects between several stakeholders on the Long Pine Creek watershed.

The commissioners reappointed Pat Schumacher and Jim Jackman to three-year terms on the Brown County Planning Commission following a recommendation from Zoning Administrator Dean Jochem.

Small reported the Norden Bridge replacement project was on schedule or ahead of schedule at this stage. He said, if the weather cooperates, the plan is to pour the concrete bridge deck April 12.

The board signed a renewal letter with Madison National Insurance for long-term disability insurance, with employees opting to receive the long-term disability insurance having the cost deducted from their paycheck. The renewal was approved for two years with no increase in premium cost.

Prior to adjourning, the board approved a budgeted transfer of $250,000 from the miscellaneous general fund to the county’s highway fund.

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

* Late rains move March to above-normal precipitation, temperatures well above normal

(Posted 7 a.m. April 5)

Ainsworth Weather Observer Gerry Osborn reported the rain and snow during the final 10 days of the month pushed the March precipitation total to 1.52 inches, slightly above normal. Temperatures in March were well above historical norms.
To hear the complete report, click on the audio link below.

audio clips/Gerry Osborn March 2016 Weather.mp3

* Progress continues toward reopening a nursing home in Ainsworth

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

The process of reopening a nursing home facility in Ainsworth continues its slow march forward, as the Ainsworth/Brown County Care Center Board Monday authorized Rural Health Development to obtain bids for insuring the former Ainsworth Care Center facility.

Ron Ross with RHD told the board the facility could be open and operational approximately 90 days after the transfer of the property from RP Midwest to the community was completed.

Board Chairman Kent Taylor said the title insurance on the building should be complete within the next week, so the transfer of ownership from RP Midwest to the North Central Development Center could be completed soon.

“We are getting closer,” Taylor said.

Ross said RHD would begin advertising for an administrator and would start creating a web site for the Sandhills Care Center.

“The web site will have information for potential residents and for potential employees,” Ross said. “We should be able to have that set up in a couple weeks. We are interested in finding an administrator as soon as possible.”

While RHD will hire the administrator, Ross said the board would have input in the process, and would have the opportunity to meet with the finalists for the position and provide input to RHD.

As part of the management agreement, Ross said RHD and the new administrator would then handle the hiring of the care center’s staff.

Ross said RHD would work with the renovation committee to ensure that the building, once acquired, would be ready for a certificate of occupancy from the state.

“As soon as the facility is licensed, we would accept a few residents,” Ross said. “We have to have a few residents in there for a time before the state would come in to inspect us and certify our license.”

Ross said he anticipated it would take 60 to 90 days for the facility to receive its Medicaid certification, and approximately seven to eight months before it would receive Medicare certification.

“We will help you process all the paperwork that is needed, and we will be in full compliance with the state,” Ross said.

He said the priority for the initial residents would be people from the area.

“We will be cautious about the early admissions process,” Ross said. “We will work with you on getting all the policies and procedures in place.”

He said 99 percent of the decisions relating to the operation of the facility would be made by the board, with RHD making recommendations.

Asked about finding enough staff to open the facility, Ross said he believed the working conditions for the employees would be better than was provided by the facility’s previous management, so he anticipated enough staffing would be found to reopen the facility in the time frame proposed.

In other notes from Monday’s meeting, Taylor said the heat in the facility has now been turned off, as the danger from pipes freezing had likely passed.

Capital campaign committee chair Roland Paddock said 36 donors had provided $77,492 cash for the nursing home project, and an additional $117,680 had been pledged for a total of $195,172 raised to date.

“The total continues to grow,” Paddock said. “We have only been making casual contacts thus far until we see blueprints for the new facility.”

Building design committee chair Todd Mundhenke said an April 14 meeting has been scheduled with the architect, and the committee hoped to finalize the site for a new facility May 12.

“Our goal is to get to the point we can break ground in 2017 and open a new facility in 2018,” Mundhenke said.

Mundhenke said sites near Cottonwood Villa and the Brown County Hospital remained the top possibilities for a new facility.

Taylor said both sites would likely need some infrastructure work to accommodate a new facility.

The next meeting of the Ainsworth/Brown County Care Center Board is scheduled for 4 p.m. May 2 in the Ainsworth Conference Center.

* Keya Paha County Commissioners deny petition for road access to school section

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

The Keya Paha County Commissioners on Tuesday voted to deny a petition from the Nebraska Board of Educational Lands and Funds asking the county to declare a section in southern Keya Paha landlocked and provide a route to access the ground.

Commissioner Mike Tuerk said he did not believe a full effort was made by the Board of Educational Lands and Funds to obtain an access easement to the section.

Keya Paha County Attorney Eric Scott said there were four tests that must be completed for a petitioner to successfully argue that the ground was indeed landlocked. One of those tests is to perform due diligence in attempting to obtain access through neighboring properties.

Scott said the Board of Educational Lands and Funds needed to establish a cost to obtain an easement through a neighboring property.

“The petitioner must show they were unable to purchase right of way for access other than at an exorbitant price,” Scott said.

Assistant Attorney Gen. John Jelkin said a price was never offered by the Board of Educational Lands and Funds because no neighboring property owner indicated an interest in allowing an access easement.

He asked the commissioners to provide him with a list of people to talk to, so that the board could attempt to make contact and see if an easement was negotiable.

In other business during Tuesday’s meeting, Assessor Suzy Wentworth provided the commissioners with the agricultural land valuations for 2016 based on three years of sales data.

Irrigated cropland, dryland cropland and grassland all experienced valuation increases for 2016, though the increases were modest compared to the jumps in 2014 and 2015.

The top soil classification of irrigated cropland rose $400 per acre, from $2,800 to $3,200. The $400 increase equates to a 14 percent gain in value.

The second soil classification also rose by $400 per acre to a value of $3,100, with the third and fourth soil classifications rising by $300 per acre, to $2,800 and $2,700 in value respectively.

The top soil classification of dryland cropland rose by $100 per acre in value, from $900 to $1,000. The increase amounts to an 11 percent rise in valuation.

The second class of dryland cropland moved upward by $70 per acre to $950, with class three up $65 per acre to $920, and class four up $55 per acre to $870.

The top soil classification of grassland jumped in value by $70 per acre, or 10 percent, from $700 to $770 per acre. All classes of grassland increased between $60 and $70 per acre from 2015 values.

Wentworth provided the commissioners with 2016 ag land valuations for five neighboring counties.

Keya Paha County’s $3,200 value for the top soil classification of irrigated cropland was the second lowest among the six counties, and was higher in value than only Cherry County, which valued its top class of irrigated ground at $2,300 per acre.

Boyd County’s top irrigated land has a value of $3,470 per acre for 2016, with Brown County at $3,900 and Holt County the highest in the area at $4,800.

Keya Paha County’s dryland cropland, at $1,000 per acre, was again above only Cherry County’s valuation of $725 per acre for the same class of dryland cropland.

Rock County’s value for dryland is $1,000 per acre, with Brown County at $1,090 per acre for 2016, Holt County at $1,800 per acre and Boyd County having the highest value for dryland cropland at $2,310 per acre.

Comparing the value of grassland acres among the six counties, Cherry County again carries the lowest value for the top soil class of grassland at $700 per acre. Keya Paha County followed at $770 per acre. Brown County’s top grassland is valued at $915 per acre for 2016, with Rock County at $1,000 per acre and Boyd County at $1,380 per acre. Holt County carries the highest value for grassland at $1,400 per acre for the top classification.

Valuation is one of the two factors that determine the amount of tax paid by a property owner. The second is the levy rates set by the taxing entities in each county. The largest share of property tax dollars support school districts, followed by county government. Community colleges, natural resources districts, fire districts and county fair boards also receive property tax dollars through smaller levies.

Showing the dramatic valuation increases during the past several years, Wentworth provided the commissioners with the valuations for Keya Paha County agricultural property for the past 10 years.

In 2007, the top class of irrigated cropland in the county was valued at $580. That class of property has increased 550 percent in value during the past 10 years.

Dryland cropland has increased 230 percent in 10 years, from $430 in 2007 to $1,000 currently, while the top grassland acres jumped by 179 percent in that 10-year time frame, from $430 to $770 per acre.

* Care Center Board agrees to accept former facility when NCDC completes acquisition

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

By a 3-1 vote Wednesday, the Ainsworth/Brown County Care Center Board of Directors voted to accept the former Ainsworth Care Center building from the North Central Development Center as soon as the transfer of ownership from RP Midwest to the NCDC was complete.

NCDC Director Kristin Olson said the appraisal performed for the community on the building showed it had a zero value for anyone except the community, since the building’s usage is restricted to a nursing home only.

“The only thing we are waiting on now is the title insurance to come back,” Olson said. “The title insurance should not take long to finish. The NCDC Board has voted to acquire the building.”

Board member Jim Walz said, if the interlocal board did not accept the old building, it would be at least two years before there was a nursing facility in the community.

“Some families can’t afford to drive to places like Broken Bow two or three times a week,” Walz said.

Board member Leanne Maxwell asked Ron Ross of Rural Health Development if he believed opening the old building first was the right move for the community.

Ross said, “There are certainly plusses and minuses to getting back into the old building. You would start serving your elderly residents two years faster by opening the old building. There is value in that. You would be creating jobs sooner.”

Ross said it was important, economically, for the community to have a nursing home.

“We will help you make sure everything is done right,” Ross said. “You have to have a facility before you can apply to the state for a license.”

Walz asked how quickly the community could open the doors to residents if it acquired the former facility.

Ross said it would take 60 to 90 days to get everything in place.

Walz asked, “How far along would we have to get into building a new facility before we would know whether or not the state approved the licenses?”

Ross said the community would only apply for the licenses once the new building was nearing completion.

Walz said he was uncomfortable with putting $6 million into a new facility without knowing for sure that the state would approve the license.

“It seems easier to me to step into the shallow water first than it would be to dive into the deep water right off the bat,” Walz said.

Walz said accepting the old building first allows RHD to move forward on acquiring the licensed beds for the community from the state right away.

“Since we are the first ones to try getting licenses this way, I am much more comfortable going for those licenses by getting into the old building first,” Walz said. “I just think that is the smart way to go. To me, the old building is an evil necessity.”

Board member Kent Taylor said this has been one of the more difficult decisions that any of the board members have ever faced.

“I agree we should start in the old building,” Taylor said.

Board member Buddy Small said he continued to oppose acquiring the old facility.

“If the old building had been maintained by Deseret, I would be in favor,” Small said. “It was not maintained. This is the most difficult decision I have had to make, but I am not in favor of taking the old building. If a majority decides to move forward with the old building, I won’t fight it. But, I won’t vote to accept the building.”

Maxwell said there was risk involved with accepting the old building, but she agreed starting in the old building first and working toward building a new nursing home was the way to proceed.

“I worked there,” Maxwell said. “I know what the facility is like. I would never agree to put someone in a situation where they weren’t safe. There are no immediate safety concerns.”

Building committee member Todd Mundhenke said any potential safety concerns would be addressed during a state inspection.

“The Department of Health will go through that building with a fine-toothed comb,” Mundhenke said. “It will have to be a safe facility to get approval.”

Ross said he was confident the residents and their families will be pleased with the care they receive in the old building.

“Going into the old building first will help you when you get into a new facility,” Ross said. “Just remember though, there is no reason to get involved with the old building unless you are willing to also work toward a new building.”

With Small voting against, the board approved the transfer of the facility from the North Central Development Center to the Ainsworth/Brown County Care Center Board following the completion of the NCDC receiving clear title to the building and closing the real estate transaction with RP Midwest.

In other business during Wednesday’s meeting, the board heard reports from the capital campaign and new building committees.

Capital campaign committee member Roland Paddock said the committee has received $63,492 through 25 donations thus far, and received five pledges totaling $97,680.

“We have not been out actively seeking donations yet,” Paddock said. “Now that we have a decision, we will start talking to people more directly.”

Paddock said the committee members have donated and pledged a total of $72,500. He said Pride Grain also pledged 25 cents per bushel in the name of the Sandhills Care Center for all corn and soybeans that are taken to the facility up to 50,000 bushels for an additional pledge of $12,500.

The board approved setting up a bank account to keep donated funds separated from the board’s general operating funds.

Mundhenke said the building committee met with Wilkins ADP, the architectural firm selected to work with the community on a new building design and site.

“We are looking at two sites,” Mundhenke said. “Both have plusses and minuses. One site is located east of the hospital. The other site is 7 acres south and east of Cottonwood Villa that has been offered to us at no cost.”

The board officially appointed Mundhenke, Jeri Biltoft, Sheryl Graff, Walz and John Gross to serve on the new building committee.

Now that the board has agreed to acquire the old building, Taylor said the renovation committee would be springing into action soon.

“We didn’t get a lot of volunteers for that committee initially,” Taylor said.

Anyone interested in helping with renovation efforts when the old building is acquired is asked to contact a board member or renovation committee chairman Dick Schipporeit.

The next meeting of the Ainsworth/Brown County Care Center Board is set for 4 p.m. April 4 in the Ainsworth Conference Center.

* The song remains the same, with county ag land valuations rising sharply for 2016

(Posted 4:30 p.m. March 15)

There will be no respite for Brown County agricultural property owners in 2016, as valuations will again rocket upward by double figure percentages, including a 60 percent increase in the value of gravity-irrigated cropland.

Assessor Charleen Fox told the Board of Commissioners Tuesday sales of agricultural land are not reflective of what is happening with commodity prices.

While pivot-irrigated land increased in value by 15 percent to get to a level between the state-required 69 percent and 75 percent of actual value based on three years of sales data, Fox said there had previously been a separate, lower value for gravity-irrigated cropland.

“We have had separate values for pivot-irrigated and gravity-irrigated,” Fox said. “The state came back and said there was not enough gravity-irrigated ground, and the few sales there were of that type were not any lower than pivot-irrigated. So, gravity-irrigated will now have the same value as pivot-irrigated. We were somewhat forced into that.”

Fox said producers had been pleased that pivot-irrigated and gravity-irrigated ground had been valued separately instead of lumped together, but the sales are not showing a difference.

Based on the past three years of sales, pivot-irrigated cropland increased by 15 percent across all soil types for 2016, with the highest-quality ground increasing in value from $3,395 per acre to $3,900.

The same classification of gravity-irrigated cropland was valued in 2015 at $2,430, almost $1,000 per acre lower than the same classification of pivot-irrigated cropland. That gravity-irrigated ground will now match the value of center-pivot irrigated cropland at $3,900, a 60 percent rise.

Fox said, had she not adjusted the value of agricultural land across the board, the county would have ag land assessed at 53 percent of its actual value based on sales data. The state requires agricultural land to be assessed between 69 percent and 75 percent of its actual value. Even if the county did not increase the valuation, the state Tax Equalization Review Commission would have arbitrarily adjusted everything to the median 72 percent valuation level.

Commissioner Reagan Wiebelhaus said, “I am afraid that our local farmers and ranchers are going to have difficulty paying these increases. This needs to be addressed through the Legislature or it is going to break people.”

Fox said the state needs to find another method for valuing property.

“Until they move it away from being market-based, we are going to have this problem,” Fox said. “But, no one from the Legislature seems to want to address it. The newest year shows sales are not decreasing in price. We are not seeing land sales go back the other way yet.”

All soil classifications of grassland will experience a valuation increase of 35 percent for 2016, with the top soil classification of grass moving from $680 per acre to $915 per acre.

CRP ground increased in value between 28 percent and 33 percent, depending on the soil classification.

Dryland cropland moved upward by 15 percent, with the top soil classification increasing in value from $950 per acre to $1,090.

Irrigated grassland also experienced a 15 percent increase in value, with the top soil class moving from $1,200 per acre to $1,380.

On the residential side, Fox said she had to adjust upward the valuation for rural residential property within 5 miles of a city, and residential property in Long Pine.

Based on two years of sales instead of three, Fox said the 11 sales of rural residential property would have left that classification at 89 percent of actual value, so an 8 percent valuation increase was needed to bring that class to 97 percent of actual value.

Unlike agricultural land, which is assessed between 69 percent and 75 percent of its actual value, residential and commercial property must be assessed between 92 percent and 100 percent of its actual value.

The 24 sales in Long Pine left that classification at 88 percent of actual value, so a 6 percent valuation increase was needed to bring Long Pine residential property up to 94 percent.

“We just reviewed Long Pine two years ago, and we had to make another adjustment because home sales in Long Pine have been high,” Fox said. “There are a lot of people who want a home and acreage in the country, and that is we see those property values keep going up.”

There were only nine sales of commercial property in the past three years in the county, so Fox said those valuations would not be adjusted. Ten sales are needed for an adjustment to commercial property.

The assessor said all classifications of property are revalued every six years. For 2015, it was residential property in Ainsworth that was revalued. There were 58 sales during the past two years in Ainsworth. Following adjustments based off those sales and drive-by inspections of residential properties in the city, those properties are now assessed at 100 percent of their actual value.

Fox said the assessments in the county would be adjusted based on sales in all classifications whether it was her who made the adjustment or the TERC board.

“There have been very few years when we haven’t had to increase ag land values,” Fox said. “There are going to be a lot of unhappy people out there, especially with the ag values. We didn’t have a choice but to make the adjustment.”

Assessed value is one of the factors when determining the amount of tax paid by a property owner. The second factor is the levy rate set by taxing entities, such as the school district, county, community college, natural resources districts and other smaller entities.

If the school and county, for instance, were to ask for the same amount of property tax dollars for their 2016-17 budgets, the overall property tax rate would drop substantially. However, with the increases in value to agricultural land, those property owners would still see a larger tax bill while properties that did not see a rise in value would see a decrease in the amount of property tax due.

Fox said the overall valuation in the county, which includes valuation changes in all classes of property as well as new construction, would be finalized in May. The property taxes levied in 2016 are paid in 2017, with the first half becoming delinquent May 1 and the second half becoming delinquent Sept. 1.

In other business during Tuesday’s meeting, the commissioners, with Les Waits absent, passed a resolution amending the 2015-16 county budget following a public hearing. The amended budget accounts for an additional $900,000 in the county bridge expense line item for the replacement of the Norden Bridge, with a corresponding $900,000 in bridge revenue to account for the money the county received from the state of Nebraska for the project. The amendment does not make any fundamental change to the county’s bottom line, only accounts for the cost of the project and the reimbursement the county is receiving.

Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin told the board the roads department planned to begin work to straighten Paradise Valley Road in southern Brown County in May. He said KBR Rural Public Power would work with the roads department to relocate power poles in the stretch as needed.

Turpin said work would begin soon to remove a wooden bridge on 430th Avenue and replace it with three culverts.

He also reported the improvement work on the canal bridge north of Beck’s Well & Irrigation is complete, but the road would remain closed for another week to allow the grout used between the concrete slabs to cure. Turpin said he hoped to have that road reopened in a week’s time.

Turpin said work on replacing the Norden Bridge was running about a week ahead of schedule, according to the contractor’s estimates.

The next meeting of the Brown County Commissioners is scheduled for 8:15 a.m. April 5.

* Commissioners, council agree to $150,000 each to support nursing home project

(Posted 3:45 p.m. March 1)

Meeting in a joint session Tuesday to go through the interlocal agreement between the two entities for the establishment and operation of a nursing home, the Brown County Commissioners and Ainsworth City Council each agreed to increase their current contribution to a total of $150,000 to support the interlocal board as it begins the process of having an architect design a new facility.

Presently, Brown County has transferred a total of $110,000 from its inheritance tax fund to the Ainsworth/Brown County Care Center account, while the city of Ainsworth has supplied $82,675.

The agreement Tuesday will provide the care center account with an additional $40,000 in county funding and $67,375 in city funding as the Care Center Board moves forward with plans for a new facility in the community.

The two entities discussed whether the interlocal agreement needed to be amended to reflect the additional dollars allocated to the care center project, but determined an existing paragraph in the agreement covered the allocations and stipulated that equal totals be provided, by agreement, between the city of Ainsworth and Brown County.

An email from County Attorney David Streich, who was unable to attend Tuesday’s session, indicated both the city and the county had each verbally agreed to contribute up to $340,000 toward the project, but that language was not included in the interlocal agreement itself.

Streich indicated the interlocal board was then put in a tough position when being asked to move forward with securing an architect without knowing for sure that the funds would be available to pay for the cost of having a new facility designed.

Commissioner Buddy Small said, at this point, no definite decision had been made as to whether to try and reopen the former Ainsworth Care Center facility or to simply start from scratch with a new facility.

City Councilwoman Deb Hurless said she believed it would make the transition to a new facility easier if the group could reopen and operate the former facility prior to having a new care center constructed.

Commissioner Reagan Wiebelhaus said going into the old building first would allow the capital campaign committee time to hit the funding goals it set for donations to a new facility.

City Councilman Kent Taylor said he understood the frustration level many in the community were experiencing due to the seemingly slow pace of progress.

“There has been continued cooperation between our two entities, and Ron Ross is serving our interests well,” Taylor said of the head of the firm hired to return a facility to the community and manage it going forward. “Ron has been working hard for us at the state level.”

Taylor said he wanted people to know that, even if the decision was made to acquire and reopen the former nursing home, the goal of the groups would continue to be the eventual construction of a new facility.

Mayor Larry Rice said months have continued to pass, and it was time for the group to move forward.

“I am hearing we need to have enough money to get the architectural plans in place so the fund-raising committee has something to take to the people,” Rice said.

While the total architect’s fee would be 8 percent of the total construction cost, the estimated cost to have the site plan and building design for a new facility would cost the group approximately $147,000.

Rice said having a building designed would show the community the group was serious about moving forward with a new facility. He asked capital campaign committee representative Roland Paddock if the site of a facility would be an important factor for people in determining whether or not they would make a financial contribution.

Paddock said, from the committee’s perspective, people seemed to be satisfied with either a site near the Brown County Hospital or a site near Cottonwood Villa.

Taylor said the architect would also play a role in the site selection.

City Administrator Lisa Schroedl said $11,000 had previously been donated for the nursing home and, following a meeting Wednesday hosted by the capital campaign committee, an additional $16,100 had been received.

Paddock said $70,000 had been pledged toward the new facility already, with the Brown County Foundation pledging $50,000, one donor pledging $10,000, and two donors pledging $5,000 each.

Schroedl said an additional pledge of $12,500 annually for five years for a total of $50,000 had been made.

Paddock said the capital campaign committee’s goal was to raise $2 million to support a community nursing home.

Wiebelhaus said he was in favor of all donations being compiled to be used toward a new facility, with the possibility of those donations being leveraged in grant applications for additional assistance toward the project.

“It would be nice if all the donations could be used to go toward the cost of the new building and reduce the amount we would need to borrow,” Wiebelhaus said.

Hurless agreed. “The other fees can be carried by the county and the city,” she said. “Donations would be better used toward the cost of the new building.”

Small said it was his hope the groups could go after additional funding from charitable foundations, but it first needed to have the plans and the cost estimates in place.

North Central Development Center Executive Director Kristin Olson said most grant applications would require matching funds, which would be an excellent place for the donations to be put toward.

“From a grant standpoint, it is important to remember there is a difference between having the cash and having a pledge,” Olson said. “Most grant applications won’t allow us to count pledged funds until the money has been donated.”

While no official action was taken on having donated funds only be used for the construction of a new facility, each board did vote unanimously to supply a total of $150,000 to the interlocal board so the architectural firm could be selected and begin designing a facility.

Audience member Graig Kinzie said there appeared to be no clear indication as to whether the commissioners and City Council supported acquiring the former facility or whether they preferred to simply move on with planning a new facility.

“With an interlocal board meeting coming up March 16 in which that board will likely have to make a final decision about whether to acquire the old building or walk away, it would probably be good for that board to have guidance from you,” Kinzie said. “I understand there are still some variables, but it would be nice to know where these two boards stand.”

Wiebelhaus and Commissioner Les Waits said they were in favor of acquiring the former facility if the financial obligation was not too great, while Small, who has voted in past interlocal board meetings to abandon the pursuit of the former facility, said his position has not changed.

Hurless and City Councilmen Chuck Osborn and Brian Williams all indicated they supported the acquisition of the former facility, if the cost to do so was within reason. Osborn and Williams had expressed hesitation about the former facility during February’s City Council meeting.

Osborn said, after receiving additional information following the February council meeting, he agreed it was better for the community to pursue both the reopening of the former facility and the construction of a new building.

Following the meeting between the two entities, the commissioners continued with the remainder of their Tuesday agenda.

The board approved an armor coat bid of $10,837 per mile from Topkote of Yankton, S.D., with the county also responsible for the cost of the armor coat gravel. The county also received a bid of $11,900 per mile from Sta-Bilt of Harlan, Iowa.

The commissioners approved allowing the Ainsworth Evangelical Free Church to host a community concert in the Courthouse Park June 5 after receiving a request from Scotty Clark. This would be the second annual summer concert held by the church at the Courthouse Park.

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

* City Council removes 2 projects from 1-year streets plan

(Posted 7 a.m. Feb. 11)

Three projects were originally placed on the city of Ainsworth’s one-year streets improvement plan during a public hearing Wednesday, but the City Council opted to remove two of the three projects.

In reviewing the one- and six-year streets plan submitted by Streets Superintendent Lloyd Smith with Niobrara Valley Consultants of Valentine, the council determined two of the projects on the one-year plan would no longer be pursued.

The three projects on the one-year plan were all carried over from the previous year, and included:

* Replacing the gravel on Elm Street from Fourth to Sixth streets with asphalt millings at an estimated cost of $40,000.

* Replacing the asphalt on Elm Street from Seventh Street to the dead end with a concrete surface and new curb and gutter at a cost of $27,500. That project was removed by the council.

* Replacing the gravel surface on Volunteer Drive through East City Park from Richardson Drive to East First Street with asphalt millings. The council opted to keep Volunteer Drive as a gravel route.

There are major concrete paving projects on the city’s six-year plan. However, several of those projects would require the passage of paving districts, with a portion of the cost of each project assessed to property owners along the streets scheduled for improvement.

Projects on the city’s six-year plan include:

* Replacing the asphalt on Oak Street from First to Second streets with concrete, $144,000.

* Replacing the asphalt on Maple Street from First to Fourth streets with concrete, $320,000.

* Replacing the asphalt on Elm Street from First to Fourth streets with concrete, $388,000.

* Replacing the asphalt on First Street from Main to Pine streets with concrete, $416,000.

* Replacing the asphalt on Meadville Avenue from Highway 20 north to the city limits with concrete, $265,000.

* Replacing the asphalt on Woodward Street from First to Third streets with concrete, $263,000.

* Placing new storm sewers and drainage structures from North Pine Street to Meadville Avenue, $240,000.

* Replacing the intersection of Highway 20 and Meadville Avenue with concrete and new curb and gutter, $14,000.

* Placing new asphalt on East Second Street between Main and Walnut streets, and on West Second Street between Main and Woodward streets, $82,000.

* Placing new asphalt on East Third Street between Main and Walnut streets, and on West Third Street between Main and Woodward streets, $82,000.

In other business during Wednesday’s meeting, Councilman Kent Taylor, who serves as the chair of the Ainsworth/Brown County Care Center Board of Directors, asked the council’s opinion on how the city wanted to proceed.

“We anticipate at our next meeting we will be making a decision on whether to continue to pursue the old building or just work on building new,” Taylor said. “If the appraisal on the old building comes back high, no one wants to take the risk. If it comes back next to nothing, I would like some guidance.”

Taylor said no one anticipated the process to try and acquire the former Ainsworth Care Center property would take as long as it has.

Councilman Brian Williams said he was in favor of moving forward with building a new facility.

“It could be a major expense down the road to demolish the old one,” Williams said.

Councilman Chuck Osborn agreed.

“I think we should just move forward with a new building,” Osborn said. “The money we put into the old facility could be put into the new one. I know there has been a lot of work done to obtain the old facility. It is a tough decision to just walk away.”

Councilwoman Deb Hurless said it may be better for the community in the long run to have control of the former facility.

“We don’t want another building just sitting there with the owners out of town like we have now with several buildings,” Hurless said.

Care Center Board member Leanne Maxwell, the city’s representative, said she believes there has been a change of opinion on whether to continue to pursue the old building with the time it has taken.

“The old facility has sat vacant for quite a while now,” Maxwell said. “Many of the former staff have found other jobs. It is a big decision. We are still committed to moving forward with a new facility no matter what.”

Capital campaign committee chair Roland Paddock told the council the group planned a Feb. 24 event to kick off the effort to raise money for a new facility. He said the committee is having a brochure made to provide to potential donors.

No official action was taken by the council.

The council approved a bid by Chris Walnofer of $38,500 annually for each of the next three years to mow and water the city’s cemeteries.

The council received three bids for the three-year contract. Todd Nilson submitted a bid of $29,998 annually, and Paulsen Lawn Service quoted a price of $45,000 annually to perform the work.

Jerry Paulsen said it takes a lot of work to weed eat the cemeteries each time they are mowed, which is stipulated in the contract language.

“I know that was not being done each time it was mowed during the past contract,” Paulsen said. “Just because a bid is lower, it doesn’t mean all the work is getting done. It is about respecting the markers and doing a good job.”

Cemetery Board member Shari Luther said the board has not been happy with the way the cemetery was being mowed in the past contract, as several stones and markers have been damaged. She said water was not applied timely, and weed eating had not been performed often.

Osborn said he had been confronted by people from out of town upset about the condition of the cemetery grounds.

The council opted to approve Walnofer’s bid for the next three years.

The council approved a bid of $15,212 from Benny Burdick to pour concrete on the east and north sides of the city shop on First Street. Burdick’s bid for the approximately 3,800 square feet of new 6-inch concrete was slightly lower than the bid of $17,611 submitted by Walton Concrete.

The council discussed issues facing the Ainsworth Swimming Pool prior to its opening. Pool manager Susan Scholtes and Water Superintendent Brad Miller went through a laundry list of challenges facing the swimming pool. The consensus of the council was to get by the best the city could for the year and continue to try and raise money and plan for a new swimming pool.

Mayor Larry Rice discussed holding a meeting of the city’s Board of Health to address nuisance properties that have not been cleaned up.

“There are six properties the council members agreed should be demolished, and three the council agreed should be taken off the list based on the cleanup that has been done,” Rice said.

Rice said he would call a meeting of the Board of Health to inspect the six properties and make a recommendation to the council.

City Attorney Rod Palmer said there was a process to follow for the Board of Health to declare the properties a health hazard. He said a public hearing would be needed to give the property owner a chance to respond.

All six properties have been through the city’s nuisance abatement process, and the steps to abate the declared nuisance violations have not been addressed.

North Central Development Center Executive Director Kristin Olson and LB 840 Committee chair Chris Raymond provided the council with a six-month review of the LB 840 fund activities.

Raymond said all loans made from the LB 840 fund are current, but no new loans had been issued during the past six months.

“We have discussed potentially using LB 840 funds to help recruit workforce to the community,” Raymond said.

Olson said the fund is not seeing as many loan applications as commercial loan rates may currently be more favorable with less paperwork than applying for a business loan through the LB 840 fund.

She said the housing projects and professional recruitment group were both continuing their work thanks to investments from the LB 840 fund.

Olson also provided a quarterly update of NCDC activities. She said an organizational meeting was scheduled for Feb. 18 to create three committees based off the priorities identified during the Jan. 20 town hall meeting.

She said the NCDC Board had approved an asset purchase agreement with the Sandhills Area Entertainment Corporation, which would allow the NCDC to take the lead on returning a theater to the community.

She said the council would see several business transitions shortly, and plans were underway to try and find a solution for reopening a steakhouse in the community.

“We also have several demolition projects in the works,” Olson said. “We have a house or two scheduled for controlled burn in April.”

She said the housing committee had a home on North Osborne Street listed for sale, and the committee had cleared a lot at 325 N. Osborne and had the lot available for someone who wanted to build a home.

She said work on the 15-unit senior housing complex on Zero Street continued, with work tentatively scheduled for completion in April.

“That project is now in the hands of the investors,” Olson said.

Myrna Jakob and Lori Ganser presented the council with information on plans to construct a no-kill pet shelter and boarding facility just southeast of Ainsworth.

Ganser said Barb Lamb had agreed to donate 2.4 acres for the construction of the shelter, and the Live, Love, Wag group had formed a 501c3 non-profit organization.

Kim Burge with the North Central RC&D told the council the group had $70,000 available from the sale of its building at Bassett to put toward projects in a six-county area of north central Nebraska.

She said the council could contact the RC&D if it had suggestions for projects. Council members mentioned the theater and nursing home projects for possible funding through the RC&D.

Rice welcomed Bryan Sisson to the community. Sisson, an Ainsworth High School graduate, began work in the city’s water and sewer department recently, and is in the process of relocating his family to Ainsworth from Broken Bow.

In other action items, the council:

* Approved a recommendation from the ABC Committee to award $530 in ABC sales tax funding to the Ainsworth Women’s Club for electrical work undertaken at the Courthouse Park Christmas display.

* Approved a $100 membership to the Ainsworth Area Chamber of Commerce.

* Approved a bid of $1.07 per square yard from Topkote for armor coating work.

* Approved the placement of a Goodwill trailer in the community. Rice said he had concerns regarding whether a Goodwill trailer would affect the Brown County Hospital Auxiliary Thrift Shop, but found the auxiliary was in favor of the trailer as it made trips to Goodwill with items the could not be sold through the thrift shop.

* Discussed the scope of professional services for the city’s wastewater system with Jess Hurlbert from engineering firm Olsson Associates. The study would be geared toward addressing issues with the city’s lift stations while also incorporating portions of the previous wastewater system study that was conducted several years ago.

* Approved the consent agenda, which included closing Main Street at 10 a.m. June 25 for the alumni parade, and a well application for Mark McNally.

The next meeting of the Ainsworth City Council is scheduled for 7 p.m. March 9.

* Turpin presents 1- and 6-year county roads plan during Tuesday hearing

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

Six roads improvement projects were completed during 2015, and 25 improvement and maintenance projects were placed on the one-year plan by Brown County Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin.

Presenting the one- and six-year roads plan to the Brown County Commissioners Tuesday during a public hearing, Turpin said the one-year plan includes $1.5 million in projects. However, more than half of that $1.5 million total came as the $814,200 Norden Bridge replacement, and Turpin said state funds were paying for 90 percent of that project.

Among the projects completed in 2015 were 11 miles of armor coating on the Elsmere Road, the resurfacing of a curve on the Norden Road, regrading on 880th Road, regrading on 432nd Avenue south of Plains Equipment, replacing a wooden bridge with a culvert on 435th Avenue, and resurfacing and grading Cattlemen Road south of Long Pine.

Following is a list of projects on the Brown County one-year plan.

* Norden Bridge replacement, estimated cost $814,200.

* Paradise Valley Road, 1 mile of grading work, estimated cost $28,000.

* Elsmere Road, 11 miles of armor coating, $167,000.

* 428th Avenue, replacing canal bridge, $90,000.

* 429th Avenue, replacing canal bridge, $86,000.

* Norden Avenue, culvert replacement, $15,000.

* 430th Avenue, replace bridge with a culvert, $20,000.

* Richardson Road, grading and easement acquisition, $30,000.

* Norden Avenue 1,5 miles north of Johnstown, replace bridge with a culvert, $25,000.

* 423rd Avenue north of the airport, grading work, $45,000 (partially completed in 2015).

* 886th Road west of Keller Park, clay base work, $12,000.

* 889th Road north of Keller Park, grading work, $15,000.

* Cattle Drive Road south of Johnstown, grading work, $22,500.

* 422nd Avenue northeast of Johnstown, grading work, $45,000.

* 885th Road north of Ainsworth, grading change to improve site line, $8,000.

* 879th Road north of Ainsworth, raising road to alleviate snow drifting, $6,000.

* 888th Road northwest of Long Pine, grading and resurfacing, $18,000 (partially completed in 2015).

* Meadville Avenue north of Ainsworth, clay and gravel resurfacing, $18,800.

* Raven Road south of Ainsworth, grading and resurfacing, $12,000.

* 432nd Avenue south of Ainsworth, grading work, $7,500.

* 879th Road northwest of Ainsworth, raise road to alleviate snow drifting, $12,000.

* 880th Road west of Ainsworth, grading and drainage work, $1,600.

* Beel Lane southwest of Johnstown, grading and resurfacing, $18,000 (partially completed in 2015).

* 876th Road southwest of Ainsworth, grading and resurfacing, $8,500.

* 431st Avenue south of Ainsworth, grading and resurfacing, $9,000.

In addition to the 25 projects on the one-year plan with a total cost of $1.5 million, Turpin identified 25 additional projects for the longer-term six-year roads plan. Those projects carry an estimated total cost of $1.4 million and include:

* Raven Road, realignment of the road south of Hagen Lake, $40,000.

* Norden Avenue, realignment of the road 10 miles north of Johnstown, $20,000.

* Meadville Avenue, Sand Draw box culvert replacement, $640,000.

* East Calamus Road, grading and resurfacing, $54,000.

* Beel Lane southwest of Johnstown, grading and resurfacing, $54,000.

* 429th Avenue northwest of Ainsworth, cutting a slope, grading and resurfacing, $20,000.

* Meadville Avenue, replacing canal bridge just north of Ainsworth, $70,000.

* 432nd Avenue one-half mile east of Ainsworth, replace canal bridge, $72,000.

* 420th Avenue 2 miles east of Johnstown, canal bridge replacement, $80,000.

* 430th Avenue 2 miles north of Ainsworth, replace bridge with culverts, $25,000.

* South Pine Avenue, partial asphalt overlay and armor coat, $127,000.

* Moon Lake Avenue 16.5 miles south of Johnstown, resurfacing work, $10,000.

* Norden Avenue, regrading and resurfacing, $6,000.

* Norden Avenue, filling and repairing pot holes and armor coating, $19,000.

* 877th Road south of Ainsworth, regrading and resurfacing, $2,500.

* 430th Avenue near Rolling Stone Feed Yard, replacing bridge with culvert or box culvert, $100,000.

* 880th Road west of Johnstown, regrading and resurfacing, $10,000.

* Moon Lake Avenue near Willow Lake, replace damaged culvert, regrading and resurfacing, $10,000.

* Rauscher Avenue northeast of Johnstown, regrading and resurfacing, $1,000.

* Rauscher Avenue 4 miles east of Johnstown, regrade a ditch and install pipe to equalize water, $5,500.

* Canal Road just north of Ainsworth, placement of asphalt millings, $10,000.

The annual one- and six-year road plan is a requirement of the Nebraska Department of Roads, and is prepared annually by the highway superintendent in each of the state’s 93 counties.

Completion of items on the one-year plan is not required, it simply provides a guide to the items the roads department plans to address. Projects are completed as time and resources allow.

* Total property tax asking rises for all area counties, valuations continue big gains

(Posted 3 p.m. Jan. 19)

The Nebraska Department of Revenue, Property Assessment Division has received the 2015 Certificates of Taxes Levied Reports from every county assessor. The data indicates that total property taxes levied, statewide, increased 6.07% from 2014 to 2015, from $3.56 billion to $3.78 billion. Overall, governmental agencies that levy property taxes will collect an additional $216 million from the 2015 tax year from Nebraska property owners.
The total increase in taxes of $216 million, includes $24 million in voter-approved bonds, which is 11 percent of the total increase; and $41 million in property taxes from new construction, which is 19 percent of the increase. However, a vast majority of the rise in tax collections, $151 million or 69 percent, comes from tax increases on existing property.

Real property valuations are determined by county assessors. Property tax rates are set by local governments. Property taxes support schools, counties, cities, community colleges, natural resource districts, fire districts, and other local governmental subdivisions. Property taxes are payable to the county treasurer.

The impact of the property tax change on individual taxpayers varies depending on the budget needs of their local governmental subdivisions and voter-approved bonds. For example, Greeley County taxes levied decreased by 4.56%, while Nuckolls County taxes levied increased by 15.40%.

Brown County taxing entities had the highest increase in property tax asking in the KBRB listening area. The total sum asked from Brown County property owners for the 2015 tax year is $10.22 million, which is a 10.25 percent increase from the $9.27 million levied in 2014. That percentage increase is the 14th highest in the state.

Holt County had the 17th largest percentage tax increase among the state’s 93 counties, at 9.76 percent. Holt County tax entities asked property owners for $36.3 million in 2015, up from the $33.1 million collected during the 2014 tax year.

Cherry County’s tax increase of 6.92 percent ranked 43rd highest. Cherry County taxing entities will collect $21.8 million from the 2015 tax year, up from $20.4 million in 2014.

Rock County ranked 54th among the counties for the rate of increased tax. Rock County property owners will pay an additional 5.56 percent in the 2015 tax year, from $6.17 million to $6.52 million.

Blaine County had the 18th lowest increase in the state among the counties at 3.28 percent. Blaine County property owners will pay $2.76 million for the 2015 tax year to fund the entities that receive property tax, modestly above the $2.67 million collected from the 2014 tax year.

Keya Paha County had the distinction of having the smallest tax increase among area counties. Property owners will pay $3.47 million for the 2015 year, up just 2.76 percent from the $3.37 million collected in 2014.
The State of Nebraska offsets a portion of the real property taxes levied in 2015 with approximately $72 million in homestead exemptions for qualified individuals and $204 million from the property tax credit relief fund, which are shown as a credit on the tax statements.

The first half of all 2015 property taxes become delinquent May 1, and the second half of 2015 taxes become delinquent Sept. 1.

From a total property valuation standpoint, several area counties again saw their total property value increase by double digits.

Rock County’s overall valuation rocketed up 30.49 percent, the third largest jump in the state behind the 42.22 percent rise in Loup County and the 32.5 percent increase in Garfield County.

Rock County’s total valuation of $580 million for 2015 was up $136 million from the $444 million total valuation in 2014.

Holt County’s valuation was up 25.43 percent from a year ago, rising from $2.48 billion to $3.11 billion.

Brown County had a total valuation increase of 19.4 percent, jumping more than $100 million from $559 million in 2014 to $668 million in 2015.

Blaine County’s valuation in 2015 increased by 18.29 percent, from $210 million to $249 million.

Cherry County, the largest county by area in Nebraska, saw an overall 17.47 percent increase in property value, from $1.39 billion to $1.63 billion.

Keya Paha County had the lowest increase in total property value in the KBRB listening area, but it still jumped by 15.83 percent in 2015, from $361 million to $418 million, a gain in value of $57 million.

Increasing agricultural land valuations continue to account for the large property value increases in the area counties. Commercial and residential property values increased slightly, and new construction accounted for a small portion of the overall increase in the counties.

* 2015 temps above normal, moisture total near average

(Posted 1:30 p.m. Jan. 4)

Ainsworth Weather Observer Gerry Osborn recorded 22.89 inches of precipitation for 2015, which is right at the city's average total of 22.99 inches.
The largest single-moisture event was July 6, when 1.52 inches of rain was recorded. Six of the first seven months finished below their respective averages for moisture, but the final five months all recorded above-average moisture. December tallied .57 of moisture, .16 above average.
To hear the complete December and 2015 reports, click on the audio links below.

audio clips/Gerry Osborn December and 2015 weather.mp3

* Thank-you area firefighters for Second Street response

(Posted 10 a.m. Oct. 17)

I would like to thank the Ainsworth, Bassett and Brown County Rural Volunteer Fire departments for their amazing response Wednesday morning to the Royal Theater Fire on Second Street.
To save our business with a fire burning that hot was an unbelievable accomplishment, and is a testament to the countless hours of training exercises our firefighters have undergone to be able to respond to situations exactly like Wednesday morning’s fire. There is not a paid fire department anywhere that could have done a better job than our area volunteers.
To whoever noticed the flames coming out of the theater at that early hour, thank you. Your call likely saved an entire half block of businesses from burning to the ground.
Thanks to everyone for their well-wishes as we clean up from the smoke. Thanks to the KBRB staff for helping to keep us on the air and operating in these less-than-optimal working conditions, and to Larry Rice and Randy Brudigan for coming down in the middle of the night to rescue what they could while the fire was still burning next door.

Graig Kinzie
KBRB Radio

* Fire causes major damage to Royal Theater

(Posted 9 a.m. Oct. 15)

Ainsworth firemen, assisted by firemen and units from Long Pine, Raven and Bassett, were called out about 3 a.m. Wednesday after someone passing by on Second Street in Ainsworth noticed smoke coming from the Royal Theater.
The fire caused extensive damage to the front lobby area and projector room. The fire also burned through the upstairs portion into the roof. Flames were also coming out of the front of the building. The entire structure suffered smoke and water damage. The recently installed new theater seats were not destroyed but may or may not be able to be used again. In addition to the theater, heavy smoke damage was sustained in adjoining businesses including the offices and studios of KBRB Radio Station, Mundhenke Agency and Ainsworth Motors. The exact cause of the fire is being investigated by the State Fire Marshall and the theater's insurance company. The theater is operated by volunteers.

********************************

Our staff has the experience to
market your home, farm, ranch
or commercial property.
Call April, Tim, Mary, Don,
Terry or Kay Lynn today.

********************************

********************************

********************************

*******************************

********************************

 

 

 

 

Information from the 2012 Wildfires in the Niobrara River Valley

* Additional fire funding in Keya Paha County approved by wide margin

(Posted 7 a.m. Oct. 5, 2012)

Just like in Brown County, Keya Paha County voters Thursday overwhelmingly approved additional property tax dollars for the Keya Paha County Rural Fire District.
With just under 70 voters needed to make the town hall meeting official, more than double that amount cast a ballot Thursday in the Springview Grade School multipurpose room.
Ninety-one percent of the 155 voters supported the 8 cents in additional property tax levy for the rural fire district in response to the costs incurred in fighting the Region 24 Complex fires in July.
A total of 141 votes were counted in favor of the additional funding. Just 14 cast ballots against the measure.
By approving the additional 8-cent levy, voters allowed the Keya Paha County Rural Fire District to collect an additional $223,984 to help pay for the extensive costs incurred fighting wildfires during the summer and begin to repair or replace damaged equipment.
Had the additional levy not been approved, the fire district would have had a budget of $41,667 from the 1.5 cents in levy given by the Keya Paha County Commissioners as part of their 2012-13 fiscal year budget. County boards can award up to 4 cents in general levy to fire districts. Anything above that amount must be approved by county voters using either the town hall or special election format.
By using the town hall format Thursday, the additional 8 cents in property tax levy will be collected for one year only.
With the levy passing, residential and commercial property owners in Keya Paha County will pay an additional $80 in property taxes for every $100,000 worth of property value. Agricultural property owners will pay an additional $60 per $100,000 in value.
The 91 percent approval rating in Keya Paha County's town hall vote was even higher than the 85 percent approval rating for Brown County's town hall meeting Sept. 24.

* Incident Management Team transitioning out of the area Monday

(Posted 9 a.m. July 30, 2012)

According to the daily update from the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency on Sunday, fire crews made good progress on the Wentworth and Hall Fires. Both are now at 90 percent containment. The Fairfield Creek Fire is at 100 percent containment and remains in patrol status.
Hot and dry is the forecast for tomorrow and for the immediate future. Fuels will continue to be very receptive to fire and the potential for new starts remains elevated. Residents can expect to see smoke within the interior especially in the afternoon when temperatures are at their highest and relative humidity is at its lowest.
Operations have shifted to demobilizing resources.  On Monday, the Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team will transition the incident back to local authorities. The members of the incident management team thank the area communities and the amazing volunteers for their hospitality and cooperation.
No road closures are in place. However, expect heavy emergency vehicle traffic as engines and other resources are released from the fire in route to their home units. 

* Fire containment proceeding, crews heading out of the area

(Posted 8 a.m. July 30, 2012)

Many of the state and federal resources in the area to combat the Fairfield Creek, Wentworth and Hall fires began leaving the area during the weekend. While some of the federal officials remain to finish mop-up duties, many of the crews were headed out.
Thank you to everyone who has assisted in any way with the recent fires, from the firefighters on the front lines to the volunteers in the fire halls to the hundreds of people who have donated supplies or funds to assist the effort. North central Nebraska has represented its people well, as have the people who no longer reside here but who have ties to the area.
Those who donated coolers to the fire halls can pick those coolers up, and those who donated air mattresses or cots to the Red Cross for use at the community shelter can pick those items up from Ainsworth Community Schools.
Unfortunately, some people still don't realize the extreme danger of fire in the area. The Ainsworth Volunteer Fire Department was called out at 7:35 a.m. Monday to a report of a grass fire in the ditch south of Ainsworth on the Cemetery Road.
According to Fire Chief Brad Fiala, someone threw a lit cigarette from the window of a vehicle, igniting the ditch just north of the Ainsworth South Cemetery.
"If the wind would have been up, that fire would have probably gotten into a grove of trees before we could have got there to put it out," Fiala said.
Though he has not yet taken that step, Fiala said he has received permission from the Nebraska Fire Marshal's Office to ban smoking in Brown County. If a smoking ban is implemented, smoking will be restricted to inside the home and in a vehicle with the windows up.
Fiala encouraged people to be aware of the extreme dry conditions in the area. If fires continue to be sparked from smoking materials, he won't hesitate to issue the ban. If a ban on smoking materials is issued, anyone smoking outside of their homes or their enclosed vehicles can be issued a fine.
Fiala said he does not want to implement a ban, so he warned people not to throw lit cigarettes from their vehicle.
An open fire ban is already in place, yet the Brown County Sheriff's Department and volunteer firefighters have had to respond to several calls of campfires being started in the Long Pine State Park area. Fines can be issued for anyone who is caught with an open fire.

* Fischer commends responders and volunteers Saturday during stops in area

(Posted 4:45 p.m. July 28, 2012)

Seeing first-hand the effects of the fires in Keya Paha, Brown and Cherry counties on Saturday, 43rd District State Sen. Deb Fischer said it was a relief to see the progress that has been made on controlling the fires, and she is amazed at the response from the people in the area.
"You see the outpouring of support from all across Nebraska, but especially from the communities here who have been affected by this horrible event," Fischer told KBRB's Graig Kinzie Saturday afternoon.
Fischer said the 43rd District has experienced some major fires during her time in the Legislature, from the Valentine area in 2006 to the Thedford fire a couple years ago and now the fires in this area and in Dawes County, which is now also in the 43rd District.
"I am trying to see how we can get some additional state and private resources to the area to help meet the huge expenses you've incurred," Fischer, the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, said.
She said the stories she has heard regarding the volunteer effort and the sacrifices made by so many make her proud to be a Nebraskan.
"It's the fire departments, the ranchers, the volunteers, the wives of the firefighters," Fischer said. "Everyone comes together in a time like this."
To hear the complete report with State Sen. Deb Fischer from Saturday, click on the audio link below:

audio clips/Deb Fischer Saturday report.mp3

* Region 24 manager reporting containment efforts progressing

(Posted 4:30 p.m. July 28, 2012)

Region 24 Manager Doug Fox told KBRB Radio's Graig Kinzie Saturday afternoon substantial progress has been made on the Fairfield Creek, Wentworth and Hall fires in Keya Paha County despite south winds gusting to 25 mph.
Things are starting to look really good," Fox said.
Though there will still be some areas inside the fire lines burning and causing some smoke, work on the edges of the three fires has progressed substantially.
Fox said he took an aerial tour of the site with Springview Fire Chief Scott Hallock, and he anticipated many of the state and federal resources would be departing the area by Monday.
To hear the complete report with Region 24 Manager Doug Fox, click on the audio link below:

audio clips/Doug Fox Saturday Afternoon Update.mp3

* Nebraska Emergency Management Agency update on containment progress

(Posted 2:45 p.m. July 28, 2012)

On Friday, the Wentworth Fire remained in southeastern Keya Paha County remained active with medium to high rates of spread, group tree torching, crown runs and medium range spotting. Crews completed line around the largest of the three fires, the Fairfield Creek Fire, bringing it into 100 percent containment. Progress was made on both the Wentworth and Hall fire containment lines.

Friday night’s thunderstorm provided little moisture and several positive lightning strikes. There continues to be the potential for new starts, active burning and re-burning throughout the areas.

Fairfield Creek - Crews will continue to patrol and mop-up. 

Hall - Crews will hold and improve lines.

Wentworth – Crews will continue securing open line with line construction and firing out operations.  They will also continue to hold and improve line, mop-up and patrol. 

Structure protection will continue on all three fires.

No road closures are in place, however local authorities recommend using Highway 183 as an alternative to Highway 7 as it will have heavy emergency vehicle traffic.

No evacuations are in place at this time.

Fire stats at a glance:

Start Date: July 20, 2012

Containment: 73 percent , estimated full containment by Monday

Cause: Lightning

Acreage: 74,884 total (Fairfield 66,745; Wentworth, 5,757; Hall, 2,382)

Personnel: 423, plus approximately 40 Rural Fire Department personnel

Crews: 8 crews on the fire line

Aviation: Five heavy-lift helicopters, one medium, and one light

Engines: 27, plus 20 Rural Fire Department engines

Injuries: 3 (minor)

Structures destroyed: 14 residences, 17 associated outbuildings

Structures/outbuildings threatened: 152

* Firefighters continue work on Wentworth Fire; river valley picks up some rain

(Posted 7:45 a.m. July 28, 2012)

Area firefighters, with support from the National Guard and federal hot-shot crews, continued work into the night with the Wentworth Fire burning in southeastern Keya Paha County.
With the Fairfield Creek and Hall fires both under control, the Wentworth Fire has been the focus of the responders' attention since it broke through a fire line Thursday afternoon.
Reports indicate southeastern Keya Paha County picked up one-quarter of an inch of rain or so from a small line of thunderstorms that moved through the area early Saturday morning. Roger Wentworth in southeastern Keya Paha County reported .20 of an inch of rain from the overnight storm. Wentworth's property absorbed the lightning strike that officials believe started the middle of the three fires - thus the namesake.
There was some lightning with the line of storms, so responders will keep their fingers crossed that no new fires crop up from those strikes.
Ainsworth Fire Chief Brad Fiala asked area farmers and ranchers to keep all their stock tanks filled. Firefighters can fill their smaller tanks those water sources if necessary.
Preliminary reports indicate 98 different volunteer fire departments have assisted with the Niobrara River valley fires during some portion of the now nine-day response.
Officials are cautiously optimistic that they are in the home stretch of the major firefighting effort.
Preliminary reports show 14 residences have been lost, some of which were occupied full time while others were cabins, and a total of 47 other structures reportedly burned.
Monetary donations continue to be needed to help the fire departments deal with the monumental costs associated with nine days of fighting fire. Information on how to help is located at the top of this page.
Thank you to those who have already donated, as thousands of dollars are coming in to the relief fund to assist the fire departments and those who have lost homes. Additional support in the way of hay, fence posts and trucking have also been donated, not to mention the hundreds of hours of volunteered labor and equipment use from private contractors on the fire lines. There are so many stories of personal sacrifice and heroism, it is impossible to try and mention them individually. Just know all of the communities in this area are so appreciative of everything being done to assist them in this trying time.

* Springview fire chief said work continues on Wentworth Fire Friday

(Posted 2:35 p.m. July 27, 2012)

Springview Fire Chief Scott Hallock told KBRB just after noon on Friday work continues to solidify the fire line after a breakout of the Wentworth Fire on Thursday afternoon.
Hallock said substantial progress was made overnight and this morning after firefighters were able to stop the breakout before it jumped the Niobrara River into Rock County approximately 2-1/2 miles west of the Carnes Bridge.
According to Deputy Commander Mark Hatcher with the Rocky Mountain Incident Management Bravo Team, Thursday's breakout of the Wentworth Fire burned an additional 2,500 acres in southeastern Keya Paha County.
To hear the complete report with Springview Fire Chief Scott Hallock, click on the audio link below:

audio clips/Scott Hallock Friday Noon Report.mp3

UPDATE: The Springview Volunteer Fire Department requested mutual aid assistance from the Ainsworth, Long Pine and Bassett departments to fight another small break-out of the Wentworth Fire Friday afternoon and to help with back-burns.
Brown County Sheriff's Department Dispatcher Judy Cole said the civil defense siren did sound in Long Pine for the mutual aid call, but not in Ainsworth as a truck was dispatched by Ainsworth Fire Chief Brad Fiala immediately. Cole said five trucks responded to the mutual aid call, including two from Bassett, two from Long Pine and one from Ainsworth.


(Photo Courtesy of Win Mills)

These photos were taken Monday from the vantage point of Nancy Reinhardt's ranch southwest of Springview, south of Highway 12 in Keya Paha County. Though the date on the photo says Sunday, the photos were taken Monday as the Fairfield Creek fire broke out to the north, fueled by a gusting south wind and temperatures that topped 105 degrees. Fire lines worked tirelessly to keep the fire contained to the Niobrara River canyons, but it did break the Highway 12 containment line Monday before being pushed back by firefighters. As of Friday, the Fairfield Creek Fire had burned close to 100,000 acres but was close to being declared closed by fire officials.


(Photo Courtesy of Win Mills)

A C-130 tanker drops flame retardant on the north end of the Niobrara River valley Monday in an effort to keep the fire from proceeding north. The C-130 planes were based out of South Dakota.


(Photo Courtesy of Win Mills)

Fire rages out of a Niobrara River canyon southwest of Springview as firefighters attempt to stop the flames at the canyon. The charred ground and the sod mound in the foreground show firefighters' attempts to create back burns and fire breaks to keep the fire from moving north and racing on flat ground.


(Photo Courtesy of Win Mills)

Flames shoot more than 100 feet in the air on Monday as the Fairfield Creek Fire consumed pine and cedar trees on the north edge of the Niobrara River Valley southwest of Springview.

* Fire officials provide updates on firefighting effort on KBRB's Open Line

(Posted noon July 27, 2012)

Appearing on KBRB's Open Line program Friday morning, Rocky Mountain Incident Management Response Team Bravo Deputy Commander Mark Hatcher, Nebraska Emergency Management Agency representative Mike White, Region 24 Emergency Management Agency Director Doug Fox and Ainsworth Fire Chief Brad Fiala discussed the continued fire response effort, the toll fighting the fires has taken on firefighters and volunteers, the major assistance provided by landowners and volunteer contractors helping to save property in the river valley, and the work that still needs to be done to help the departments pay for the monumental expenses associated with eight straight days of fighting the wildfires in the Niobrara River valley.
Media outlets, there is a bundle of information from these responders on the following audio links from the 40-minute live program. Feel free to use any of the information to help your newscasts. Please credit KBRB Radio as the source of the information.
Thank you to everyone who has played a role in assisting the firefighting effort and helping to spread the word about the serious needs of the area fire departments and those who have lost homes and property in these fires. Information on how to make donations to support the area fire departments and those who have lost homes and property can be found at the top of this page.
Click on the following four links for the complete audio of KBRB's Friday morning Open Line report with the fire officials.

audio clips/Friday Open Line w Fire Officials Pt 1.mp3

audio clips/Friday Open Line w Fire Officials Pt 2.mp3

audio clips/Friday Open Line w Fire Officials Pt 3.mp3

audio clips/Friday Open Line w Fire Officials Pt 4.mp3

* Gov. Heineman shares stories of the volunteers in weekly column

(Posted Noon July 27, 2012)

Fighting Fires

By Gov. Dave Heineman

July 27, 2012

 

Dear Fellow Nebraskans:

 

This week, we are monitoring the status of the drought-related fires throughout the state. While the magnitude of the fires and the drought impacts weigh heavy on Nebraskans and the economy of our state, I have been reminded the past few days of the strong resolve and resiliency of our state’s citizens.

Since the fires broke in north-central Nebraska, I have been to the affected communities twice and monitored the damage firsthand. While seeing 72,000 acres of scorched Earth is striking, what I saw in our people is inspiring. In every community, brave volunteer firefighters were on the frontlines, facing temperatures of 120 degrees. At the command posts, responders worked tirelessly to update and coordinate efforts to contain the massive fires, and anticipate the fire’s next moves through behavior modeling. In the communities, family-members and friends of the community provided aid and comfort, gathering donations of food, ice, water, ibuprofen, eye wash, and other necessities.

When meeting with volunteers, firefighters and responders, I heard story after story of the truly remarkable generosity and thoughtfulness of Nebraskans and caring strangers throughout our nation. At the Ainsworth Fire Hall, I spoke with local firefighter Ann Fiala who told me they have received much needed donations from throughout the state and as far away as Maine. Ann said they have had people walk into the Fire Hall and hand them checks for as much as $500 and $1000.

In Norden, volunteer Cathy Fauren, told me she had been volunteering for days on end. Her husband and son were in the fires, and that a simple phone call from them was all she needed to know they were ok. A volunteer in Springview, Linda Sheehan, told me about the Springview Nebraska Community Facebook page, which is covered with photos and encouraging messages.

While driving the recent fire paths in the Niobrara River Valley, the ground was still smoking and smoldering in many spots. As we drove down a dirt road, surrounded by burnt trees on both sides, we stopped to talk with a father and son from Grand Island who were driving the roads, putting out the residual fires in order to prevent a second round of immense burns.

These stories are examples of what makes Nebraska a wonderful place to live. Nebraskans are generous. We care about one another. We are always willing to help others.

At the incident command center in Ainsworth, I was briefed on current efforts. More than 32 volunteer fire departments have helped.  Low humidity, high temperatures, extreme drought, and dry lightning in the weather forecast continue to be major concerns.

This week, we activated the State Emergency Operations Plan in response to the fire emergency in Cherry, Brown and Keya Paha Counties. I declared a State of Emergency in early July, which activated parts of the State Emergency Operations Plan and allowed us additional options for use of state resources. Resources from the State Patrol, the Department of Roads, the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency and the State Fire Marshal’s Office are also responding to the emergency.

The Nebraska National Guard continues to mobilize available resources as the response grows. This included the mobilization of three Nebraska Army National Guard UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters equipped with “Bambi buckets” and approximately 28 personnel to provide support to local firefighters. I also want to acknowledge and thank the Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team for their continued efforts on site.

As I write this column, we are close to having the fires contained – thanks to everyone’s hard work and support. We are very proud of you.

* July could join June as one of driest in history

(Posted 7:15 a.m. July 27, 2012)

Through the first 26 days of July, the KBRB rain gauge has picked up a total of .32 of an inch of moisture. That .32 total in July follows the third driest June in Ainsworth's history. Just .73 of an inch fell in June, more than 2.5 inches below the average for the month.
July's average rainfall in Ainsworth is 3.95 inches, according to Ainsworth Weather Observer Gerry Osborne.
Through 26 days of July, the temperature has climbed above the century mark 12 times, including a high of 109 degrees on Saturday, July 21, one of the worst days firefighters had trying to fight the Fairfield Creek Fire.
An additional 10 days in July have been above 90 degrees, including three readings of 99 degrees. That is 15 of the 26 days in July with temperatures of 99 degrees or above, with what could be the least amount of precipitation for July in Ainsworth's history.
Anyone with step by step directions on a tried and true rain dance, feel free to pass them along to KBRB and we will hold a community training session.

* Niobrara River opening to Rock Barn today for float trips

(Posted 6:45 a.m. July 27, 2012)

The Niobrara River is for float trips beginning today from the launch are at Fort Niobrara to Rock Barn. Before today, the river had been closed east of Smith Falls State Park.
Firefighters continue to use River Road to access the fire line and continue mop-up operations on the Fairfield Creek Fire. Visitors and those traveling in the fire area are urged to use extreme caution as emergency vehicles and firefighters will continue to be working in the River Road area.
The public is also reminded that there are still hazards to be cautious of in the fire area. Smoke may continue to be visible during the next few days as unburned fuels and smoldering logs located inside the perimeter continue to burn. Also, trees that may have been weakened by the fire could fall without warning. Please use caution near the fire area, and while traveling on roads adjacent to the fire area.

* New concerns as the Wentworth fire flares up and heads toward Carnes

(Posted 5:30 p.m. July 26, 2012)

Just when it looked like progress was being made, winds picked up out of the northwest this afternoon in Keya Paha County and the Wentworth Fire jumped a fire line sending flames toward the Carnes Bridge area between Keya Paha and Rock counties. Region 24 Emergency Manager Doug Fox told KBRB fire officials are trying to get as many units into that area as possible. He said they have fire crews from Bassett, Naper, Tripp County, S.D., in addition to the federal firemen. The Ainsworth Volunteer Fire Department was also sending trucks to the area. Fox said the south moving fire line was near Walker Creek, which is just a half-mile west of Carnes. 

8:30 p.m. July 26 UPDATE: Doug Fox reports that the fire crews working on the Wentworth Fire flare-up in southeast Keya Paha County Thursday afternoon and evening were able to stop the fire before it reached the Niobrara River and the Carnes Bridge area. Listen for more complete information when fire officials appear on the KBRB Open Line program Friday morning.

* Updated NEMA map shows progress made on all 3 Niobrara Valley fires

(Posted 3:30 p.m. July 26, 2012)
 images/20120726_Region24Complex_NE_NES_120791_PIOThreeFire_MapCompressed_11x17.JPG
(Image courtesy of the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency)

Instead of producing a smaller version of the map on the site, please click on the above link for the full-scale version. Areas in black indicate fire lines that are secure. Areas in red show boundaries of the fires that have not yet been completely contained. Thank you to the hundreds of folks who responded to our offer to email the full-scale version of the map we placed on our Web site on Tuesday. We tried to get the full-scale version emailed as quickly as time allowed, but we hope this method of delivery works a little better! This is the largest version of the map we have to view. The map may be available in an even larger form on the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency's site, but not confirming that.

* Bob Kerrey tours area, visits with fire officials and volunteers

(Posted 3 p.m. July 26, 2012)

Former Gov. and U.S. Sen. Bob Kerrey visited Ainsworth and Springview Thursday afternoon, touring the command center in the Ainsworth Conference Center and visiting with firefighters and volunteers in the fire halls on the front lines of the response.
"You start with the volunteer effort," Kerrey said. "The federal communications officer said she has been working on fires for 25 years and she has never seen a better community response."
He said he heard story after story of individual heroism while talking with firefighters.
"There are some great, heroic stories coming out of these fires," Kerrey said. "You have stories of firefighters turning at once, holding the line together and stopping the flames. They did it. They stopped the fire. It didn't have to be that way."
Kerrey said the main assistance that can be provided at the federal level is passing a Farm Bill and allowing the president to have the authority to declare these areas a federal disaster and unlock funding assistance.
Kerrey is the Democratic Party candidate for U.S. Senate. His Republican opponent in the General Election race, 43rd District State Sen. Deb Fischer, has said she plans to be in Ainsworth on Saturday.
To hear the complete report from former Gov. and U.S. Sen. Bob Kerrey, click on the audio link below:

audio clips/Bob Kerrey Thursday visit.mp3

* Springview fire chief reports substantial progress, mounting expenses

(Posted 1:30 p.m. July 26, 2012)

Springview Fire Chief Scott Hallock said the Hall fire in southeastern Keya Paha County has been contained, and crews are finishing fire lines on the south end of the Wentworth Fire in southeastern Keya Paha County today.
The Wentworth Fire started Saturday from a lightning strike, a day after the Fairfield Creek Fire, the largest of the three fires, ignited from a lightning strike in northwestern Brown County. The Hall Fire sparked up on Monday.
Hallock said weary area firefighters are finally starting to get a break, as federal hot-shot crews are working on the fire lines and removing hotspots.
The Springview fire chief said the current fuel bill for the department is more than $60,000, which is equal to or above the department's entire annual budget.
In addition to the North Central Development Center fund that has been established to assist the fire departments and those who lost homes and livelihoods, an additional fund has been created for the Springview department.
Donations can be made to the Springview Fire Hall at PO Box 204, Springview, NE 68778, or to West Plains Bank at PO Box 189, Springview, NE 68778. Write "fire relief" in the check's memo line.
To hear the complete report from early Thursday afternoon with Springview Fire Chief Scott Hallock, click on the audio link below:

audio clips/Scott Hallock Thursday Noon Report.mp3

* NEMA reports Meadville evacuation lifted, Highway 12 reopened to traffic

(Posted noon July 26, 2012)

The Nebraska Emergency Management Agency reports the evacuation notice for Meadville has been lifted, and Highway 12 west of Springview has reopened to traffic.  Crews on Thursday are focusing on improving fire lines, mopping up hot spots, patrolling the fires' perimeters and protecting any structures still at risk.
State and federal officials estimated full containment of all three fires by Sunday.

The weather is forecasted to be warmer and drier through the weekend with possibility of afternoon thunderstorms along with accompanying lightning.  Fuels are still very receptive to fire and the possibility for new starts remains elevated.

“We currently have sufficient fire resources on the incident," Region 24 Emergency Manager Doug Fox said. "If additional resources are needed, local fire chiefs will put out a call for assistance."

While Highway 12 is open to traffic, the Nebraska State Patrol recommends motorists use caution when traveling in the area.

Volunteer evacuations have been lifted for Meadville and Norden.

The Niobrara River between County Line and Brewer bridge remains closed but is scheduled to reopen on Friday.

Fire stats at a glance:

Start Date: July 20, 2012

Containment: 50 percent, estimate containment by July 29

Cause: Lightning

Acreage: 72,405 total (Fairfield 66,745; Wentworth, 3,278; Hall, 2,382)

Personnel: 480, plus approximately 80 Rural Fire Department personnel

Crews: 7 crews on the fire line

Aviation : Four heavy-lift helicopters, one medium, and one light.

Engines: 38, plus 40 Rural Fire Department engines

Injuries: 3 (minor)

Structures destroyed: 10 and associated outbuildings

Structures/outbuildings threatened: 152

* Fox says paying for cost of fighting fire will be a massive effort

(Posted 10 a.m. July 26, 2012)

Region 24 Emergency Manager Doug Fox said fuel costs for the Springview Fire Department have surpassed $60,000, and fuel costs alone for the Ainsworth Fire Department are estimated at $150,000. Both of those totals surpass the entire annual budget for both departments.
Fox told KBRB's Grag Kinzie Thursday funds will be needed to pay for the costs associated with fighting the Fairfield Creek, Wentworth and Hall fires, as those bills will be due long before any state or federal grant funds are received.
The Region 24 emergency manager said the Fairfield Creek Fire is contained, while work continues on the Wentworth Fire in southeastern Keya Paha County.
"There will be more air drops there today," Fox said. "Hot shot crews are being sent into the fire's perimeter to down trees and create fire lines within the hot areas of the fire.
"The members of those crews are from all over the country," Fox said. "They have done a lot of work taking down trees inside the fire areas. Those guys have been a great asset."
Fox said, within the next couple days, he hopes to report that all three fires are completely contained.
To hear the complete report with Region 24 Emergency Manager Doug Fox from Thursday morning, click on the audio link below:

audio clips/Doug Fox Thursday AM Update.mp3

* Heineman says entire state focused on north central Nebraska efforts

(Posted 9 a.m. July 26, 2012)

Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman joined KBRB's Graig Kinzie Thursday morning to discuss the effort statewide to support the firefighters and volunteers in the area.
To hear the complete report with Gov. Heineman, click on the audio link below:

audio clips/Gov Dave Heineman Thursday Report.mp3

* UN-L Extension taking donations to help cattle producers affected by fires

(Posted 6:50 a.m. July 26, 2012)

North central Nebraska livestock producers have been hit with a one-two punch -- drought and now fire. The extremely dry conditions, coupled with a fire that is burning tens of thousands of acres of pasture land, have caused a disaster of major proportions.
The fire has consumed hundreds of miles of permanent fence, along with what little summer grass was left for several thousand cows and calves to feed on. The fences that have been destroyed will have to be rebuilt before grazing can resume next year, if weather conditions permit a good growing season.
The North Central Development Center in Ainsworth has set up a fund to take monetary donations to help with the cost of the fire. Tax-deductible donations can be mailed to the North Central Development Center at 335 N. Main St., Ainsworth, NE 69210.
Donations of wire and post may be delivered to the Farmers and Ranchers Co-op in Ainsworth, 224 S. Main St. The contact person is Plant Manager Rocky Sheehan at 402-387-2810.
Individuals who want to specify their donations to help with fencing materials and hay may send checks to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension office in Ainsworth. The mailing address is BKR Extension Office, 148 W. Fourth St., Ainsworth, NE 69210. Donations will be deposited into the NCDC Fire Relief Fund.
All funds collected will go to help those who have been affected by the fire. All needs will be taken from the fund, whether it is fencing, hay, feed for animals, personal needs of those impacted by the fire and help for fire departments that have responded to the distress.
For more information, contact the UN-L Extension Office in Ainsworth 1-800-634-8951 or e-mail dbauer1@unl.edu. The NCDC can be contacted at 402-387-2740 for more information.

* Red Cross has delivered more than 4,000 meals to firefighters, volunteers

(Posted 6:45 a.m. July 26, 2012)

Additional volunteers are supporting the relief efforts in north central Nebraska. A total of 21 Red Cross volunteers and staff have been supporting residents and the fire departments who are responding, including four additional volunteers who deployed late Tuesday from northeast Nebraska. Three emergency response vehicles have been on scene providing mobile feeding.
As responders continue to battle the blaze, the Red Cross is reaching out to those whose homes were affected. Case work volunteers are meeting with affected residents to provide food, shelter, comfort and care as needed. Residents affected by the wildfires are urged to call (888) 382-3790 to talk with one of the trained Red Cross volunteers.
Red Cross volunteers will continue to deliver prepared meals to seven fixed sites where responders can escape the intensity of the sun and flames to rehydrate and refuel. There are cots and volunteers there to assist those who are working to contain the fires. So far the Red Cross has served more than 4,000 meals and snacks both in the shelter and to the emergency responders on the front lines.
The Red Cross shelter remains open in the Ainsworth Community Schools facility at 520 E. Second St. in Ainsworth. More than 70 residents, responders and volunteers have stayed at the shelter where they find comfort and care from trained Red Cross Volunteers. Disaster workers in emergency response vehicles are circulating in and near affected areas, delivering water and food, supplies and comfort items.  The Red Cross is working with community partners to provide support.
You can help people affected by disasters such as floods, tornadoes, fires and hurricanes, as well as countless crises at home and around the world, by making a donation to support American Red Cross Disaster Relief. To make a donation, visit www.redcross.org or call 1-800-REDCROSS (1-800-733-2767); people can also text the word “REDCROSS” to 90999 to make a $10 donation.

* Ainsworth fire chief close to declaring Fairfield Creek Fire contained

(Posted 7:15 p.m. July 25, 2012)

Ainsworth Fire Chief Brad Fiala, after six straight days of battling wildfires, told KBRB's Graig Kinzie Wednesday evening he was close to declaring the nearly 100,000-acre Fairfield Creek Fire contained.
"Everything on the south side of the Fairfield Creek Fire has been cold for more than 24 hours, so that is good," Fiala said. "We still have some hot spots west of Norden, but the Valentine crews are doing an excellent job getting that area mopped up."
Fiala said, even if fire officials declare the Fairfield Creek Fire closed soon, there will still be some hot spots along the entire corridor for days to come.
"Don't be too alarmed if you see some smoke for a few days," the Ainsworth fire chief said. "Even if something starts back up, it shouldn't go far. We are still going to be monitoring the area, so if you do see flames let us know."
Fiala said there was an all-out aerial assault today on the Wentworth and Hall fires in southeastern Keya Paha County.
"When I went out and visited the Wentworth Fire today, I didn't see any smoke to the east with the Hall Fire," Fiala said. "They really knocked that one down today."
Fiala said, after six straight days of fighting fire on little rest in demanding weather conditions and terrain, the volunteers are looking forward to getting back to their regular jobs.
"This is our sixth day, and it is still kind of a blur to me," the Plains Equipment employee said. "We need to get back to work and get back to our jobs. It will be nice to get back to our jobs just to get our mind on something different."
He said the costs incurred battling the fires by the area departments are going to be staggering.
"When you get 70, 80, 90 trucks going full bore all day and all night long, that fuel bill is going to be tremendous," Fiala said.
Fuel costs alone could reach the neighborhood of $150,000, and the fire chief said that might be a low estimate. He said the support from the communities, the entire state of Nebraska, and nationwide, is unbelievable, and the volunteers have a hard time putting it into words.
"We have said for years, this is why we live in the place we do," the Ainsworth fire chief said of the area's response. "The overwhelming support we have received has been remarkable."
The North Central Development Center has set up a fund to assist all the area fire departments fighting the Niobrara River valley fires and to assist those who have lost their homes. Checks can be mailed to the North Central Development Center at 335 N. Main St., Ainsworth, NE 69210. Mention the fire relief effort in the check's memo line. Donations will go to all of the area fire departments. All donations are tax deductible, as the North Central Development Center is a 501c3 non-profit organization.
To hear the complete Wednesday evening report with Ainsworth Fire Chief Brad Fiala, click on the audio link below:

audio clips/Fire Chief Brad Fiala Wednesday Evening.mp3

* Communications infrastructure one of the key elements of firefighting efforts

(Posted 7 p.m. July 25, 2012)

With the massive effort of more than 40 local fire departments, state of Nebraska resources, the Nebraska Army National Guard and federal officials in the area combating the Fairfield Creek, Wentworth and Hall fires, communications infrastructure was just one of the vital pieces needed to coordinate the response.
Brian Delimont with Three River Communications discusses with KBRB's Graig Kinzie the communications needs of the various agencies. Click on the audio link below to hear the complete report:

audio clips/Communications Report w Brian Delimont.mp3


(Photo courtesy of Cody Croghan)

Fire burns above the Niobrara River canyon on Monday as the Wentworth Fire in southeastern Keya Paha County jumped out of the river valley. Firefighters pushed the fire back into the canyon Monday night, then spent Tuesday combating a change in wind direction that sent the Wentworth Fire south toward the Niobrara River.


(Photo courtesy of Cody Croghan)

A Blackhawk helicopter hovers near a raging portion of the Wentworth Fire Monday afternoon in Keya Paha County. As of Wednesday evening, the Wentworth Fire had been contained to the canyons on the north side of the Niobrara River valley in southeastern Keya Paha County.

* KBRB's Larry Rice begins putting voices to the volunteer effort

(Posted 4:30 p.m. July 25, 2012)

With the KBRB one-man news team chasing down the latest information on the progress being made to combat the Fairfield Creek, Wentworth and Hall fires burning in Keya Paha, Brown and Cherry counties, former one-man news team Larry Rice is beginning a series highlighting just a few of the stories from the thousands of volunteers who have had an impact on the fire-fighting effort. The following audio report with a 7-year-old Pender boy is the first of that series.

audio clips/Larry Rice Report on Volunteer Effort.mp3

* Fire halls appreciative of donations, cash for fuel bills needed at this point

(Posted noon July 25, 2012)

The Ainsworth, Springview and Bassett Fire halls are reporting they have a substantial supply of water, food and sports drinks. With the area departments racking up extremely expensive fuel bills, cash donations are needed to help the area departments pay for those massive fuel costs. Fuel bills for each department are in the tens of thousands of dollars. At last report, the Springview Fire Department's fuel bill alone was more than $60,000.
Cash donations can be made to the fire halls in Brown, Rock, Keya Paha and Cherry counties. The North Central Development Center has set up a fund to assist all the area fire departments fighting the Niobrara River valley fires and to assist those who have lost their homes.
Checks can be mailed to the North Central Development Center at 335 N. Main St., Ainsworth, NE 69210. Mention the fire relief effort in the check's memo line. Donations will go to all of the area fire departments. All donations are cash deductible, as the North Central Development Center is a 501c3 non-profit organization.
The volunteers working in all of the area fire halls thank all those who have made a donation and volunteered to help. The support has been phenomenal. From the firefighters on the front lines to the volunteers in the fire halls and those helping the Red Cross purchase and prepare meals, thank you to everyone who has helped provide support.
Your help will continue to be needed when the fires are extinguished, as the costs to these small departments will otherwise be monumental.

* Nebraska Emergency Management Agency Update

(Posted 11:30 a.m. July 25, 2012)

Effective at 6 a.m. Wednesday the Fairfield Creek, Wentworth and Hall fires were combined and renamed the Region 24 Complex. The incident will continue to be managed by local units with the Rocky Mountain Type 2 Incident Management Team B providing assistance and coordination.

On Tuesday, Gov. Dave Heineman visited the fire and affected communities.  “I’m very impressed with the interagency coordination,” he said. “I’d like to express my personal gratitude to the firefighters and especially all the volunteers working the incident.”

In spite of the extreme fire weather yesterday, good progress was made on all three fires. Crews were successful in constructing and securing line along several sections of the fires. 

With the projected cooler temperatures and higher relative humidity expected today Todd Pechota, the commander for the Rocky Mountain team, said he is optimistic that they might have turned the corner on this incident.  “However, it’s not over yet - one shift of the wind and we could be off to the races again,” Pechota said. 

According to Doug Fox, Region 24 Emergency Management Director, “We currently have sufficient resources on the incident. If additional resources are needed local fire chiefs will put out a call for assistance.”

A cold front moved through the area last night bringing cooler temperatures and higher relative humidity. Combined with winds out of the north-northwest, this will help moderate fire behavior. 

Additional air resources are expected on the fire today.  They include six heavy-lift helicopters (three Black Hawks, a K-max, a Sky Crane, and a Boeing Vertol) for a total of eight helicopters.  Another K-Max is en route to the complex today.  Break-out by division:

  • Division A (Fairfield Fire): Continue to improve and hold fire line.

  • Division C (Fairfield Fire): Continue to hold and improve line.  Provide structure protection.

  • Division E (Fairfield Fire): Continue to hold and improve line.  Provide structure protection.

  • Division H (Fairfield Fire): Continue to hold and improve line.  Provide structure protection.

  • Division O (Wentworth Fire): Secure line and provide structure protection.

  • Division M (Wentworth Fire): Construct and improve line along Hwy 7.  Provide structure protection.

  • Division X (Hall Fire): Hold and and improve line.  Provide structure protection.

  • Division Z (Hall Fire): Hold and improve line.

Volunteer evacuations are still in place for Meadville.

Niobrara River is closed for recreational use between County Line and Brewer bridges.

Fire stats at a glance:

Start Date: July 20, 2012

Containment: 25 percent

Cause: Lightning

Acreage: 72,405 total (Fairfield 66,745; Wentworth, 3,278; Hall, 2,382)

Personnel: 321, plus approximately 80 Rural Fire Department personnel

Aviation : Six Heavy-lift helicopters, one medium, and one light.

Engines: 30, plus 40 Rural Fire Department engines

Injuries: 3 (minor)

Structures destroyed: 10 and associated outbuildings

Structures/outbuildings threatened: 128

* Firefighters making progress in difficult terrain

(Posted 10:45 a.m. July 25, 2012)

Anyone who claims Nebraska is nothing but flat land needs to spend a day in the shoes of the firefighters who have been fighting raging wildfires in the Niobrara River Valley since Friday.
The steep, wooded terrain in the canyons on both sides of the Niobrara River have proved to be a difficult opponent for the fire crews. Heavy equipment from the Nebraska Department of Roads and private contractors who have volunteered to assist the effort have been working to knock down trees and clear paths into areas otherwise not accessible. That equipment is also being used to create the fire lines, which have helped stall the fires' progress in several areas.
Ainsworth Firefighter Nate Rau said he has been working west end of Fairfield Creek and west of Norden, an area where on Tuesday fire officials concentrated their efforts to keep the Fairfield Creek Fire from breaking a fire line and burning unabated to the west.
"We have been doing our best to make sure it doesn't get any farther west," Rau told KBRB Radio's Graig Kinzie Wednesday morning at the Ainsworth Fire Hall while awaiting orders on where he would be deployed. "It is rough. There is no way to get two-wheel trucks in there."
Rau said, though not working frequently in areas where aerial drops have been made, he has seen their impact.
"They have been helping," Rau said. "We had one Saturday morning drop about right on me, and that cooled me off quite a bit."
To hear the complete report with Ainsworth Firefighter Nate Rau, click on the audio link below:

audio clips/Firefighter Nate Rau.mp3

* Wednesday efforts to focus on Wentworth, Hall fires

(Posted 10 a.m. July 25, 2012)

Region 24 Emergency Manager Doug Fox said progress continues to be made in containing the Fairfield Creek Fire burning in southwest Keya Paha, northwestern Brown and eastern Cherry counties.
Fire officials are focusing their efforts Wednesday on the Wentworth and Hall fires burning in southeastern Keya Paha County.
"Additional ground units are being moved east to assist with the Hall and Wentworth fires," Fox told KBRB Radio's Graig Kinzie Wednesday morning. "There is a concern that both of those fires could jump the Niobrara River to the south, but the federal officials are confident the aerial drops can keep the fire contained to north of the river."
Springview Fire Chief Scott Hallock said firefighters on the front lines of the Wentworth and Hall fires had another exhausting night, first keeping the fire from jumping out of the canyons to the north, then watching as the wind shifted to the north and fires began blazing a new path to the south.
"There is just no way for the ground forces to get in front of it to the south," Hallock said. "The Wentworth Fire is in some very deep canyons. We don't have a way to contain it after the wind shifted."
Hallock said the Niobrara River will be used as the southern containment line for the fires, and additional crews are massing to create fire breaks to try and keep the fires from moving east and threatening additional homes.
Fox said at least nine aircraft will be focused on dropping water and fire retardant on the Hall and Wentworth fires.
As for the Fairfield Creek Fire, Fox reported containment continues to progress, and firefighters made significant progress on the fire's southwest, northwest and southeast boundaries.
"With the resources going to the east today, I am fairly optimistic that in the next few days we can get these fires to the point of being mop-up situations and we can get the job finished," Fox said.
To hear the complete Wednesday morning reports with Region 24 Emergency Manager Doug Fox and Springview Fire Chief Scott Hallock, click on the audio links below:

audio clips/Doug Fox Wednesday AM Report.mp3

audio clips/Springview Chief Scott Hallock Wednesday.mp3


(Photo courtesy of Emily Estes of Stuart)

A C-130 tanker drops flame retardant on a fire burning Tuesday afternoon in the Niobrara River canyon. Firefighters pushed the flames back into the canyon in an attempt to protect Greg Bammerlin's home in southeastern Keya Paha County threatened by the Hall Fire.


(Photo courtesy of Emily Estes of Stuart)

Firefighters from Keya Paha County and several other assisting departments work to save Greg Bammerlin's home in southeastern Keya Paha County Tuesday afternoon as the Hall Fire moves north out of the Niobrara River canyons.


(Aerial photos of the Fairfield Creek Fire courtesy of Jeff Biermann, Omaha-World Herald)

The Fairfield Creek fire burns the bluffs on the north side of the Niobrara River in Keya Paha County on Monday.


(Jeff Biermann, Omaha-World Herald)

The Fairfield Creek fire, which jumped Nebraska Highway 12 Monday and moved north into the grasslands of Keya Paha County. Firefighters stopped the fire.


(Jeff Biermann, Omaha-World Herald)

Sgt. Richard Shearer of the Nebraska National Guard watches for their target for their bucket of water as the Blackhawk helicopter fights the Fairfield Creek fire.


(Jeff Biermann, Omaha-World Herald)

The Fairfield Creek fire north of Nebraska Highway 12 on Monday. Firefighters stopped the fire from continuing north, but 150 acres burned and a home was lost north of Highway 12.

To view Biermann's photo gallery taken from a Blackhawk helicopter above the Fairfield Creek Fire, click on the following link:
http://odc.omaha.com/index.php?u_page=5002&p=3787

* Fiala reports major progress Tuesday on Fairfield Creek Fire

(Posted 9 p.m. July 24, 2012)

Sounding optimistic for the first time since the Fairfield Creek Fire ignited Friday morning, Ainsworth Fire Chief Brad Fiala reported major progress was made on all fronts Tuesday despite another day of extreme heat and south winds.
Fiala said substantial progress was made on the south side of the Niobrara River in the Plum Creek and Meadville areas.
"A large effort was focused on knocking down the flames there because of concerns with the wind possible shifting to the north later tonight," Fiala told KBRB's Graig Kinzie Tuesday evening.
The fire chief said there are still several hotspots north of Norden, southeast of the community of Sparks. On Monday night, fire officials were concerned that Sparks could be in the path of the fire if it continued to progress to the northwest Tuesday.
"We had some large flare-ups there, but we had two Blackhawk helicopters and one Huey dumping from the air," Fiala said. "We made a lot of progress in that area today."
Fiala said, with the number of volunteer crews who have responded to the area to help with the three fires burning in the Niobrara River valley, the Ainsworth crew was going to be pulled off the fire for a night of rest and to allow the department's equipment to be checked and serviced if needed.
"Some other departments have had some equipment problems, so we are pulling everyone off the fire tonight and giving them a night of rest," Fiala said. "We'll get our trucks checked out and hit it hard again tomorrow.
To hear the complete report Tuesday evening with Ainsworth Fire Chief Brad Fiala, click on the audio link below:

audio clips/Brad Fiala Tuesday Night Report.mp3

* Heineman hopeful containment of the fires is progressing

(Posted 7 p.m. July 24, 2012)

After visiting Ainsworth, Springview and Norden Tuesday and hearing a briefing from Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team officials, Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman said he is hopeful meaningful progress is being made in combating the three major fires burning in Brown, Keya Paha and Cherry counties.
"My sense is we are on the verge of making some significant progress to contain the fires, and that would certainly be very good news for all of us," Heineman told KBRB's Graig Kinzie Tuesday evening. "I am pleased to see all the federal, state and local forces working together."
Heineman said the volunteer spirit and effort being displayed in north central Nebraska makes him proud.
"We are in a much stronger position today trying to contain the fires," Heineman said. "I can see we are making progress, but the weather still makes you nervous."
Heineman said the state's focus will remain on assisting the volunteer fire departments in the area until the fires are completely under control.
To hear the complete report with Gov. Dave Heineman from his Tuesday evening conversation with KBRB, click on the audio link below:

audio clips/Gov Heineman Tuesday Evening Report.mp3

* North central Nebraska not the only area dealing with fires

(Posted 6 p.m. July 24, 2012)

Hot, dry weather and stronger western winds helped Ash Creek Fire jump a line and grow to approximately 1,000 acres and 20 percent containment, compared to this morning’s 300 acres and 25 percent containment.

Steve Lenzo, deputy forest supervisor, said, “We ordered a Type 2 Incident Management Team that is expected to arrive tomorrow by mid-afternoon.  At this time there have been no evacuations or structures lost. There was one injury.”

Most of the fire growth is attributed to weather, especially shifting western winds. Additionally, fire crews’ efforts are hindered by steep ravines and rugged terrain.

The Ash Creek fire started from a Saturday late night lightning storm in the Pine Ridge National Recreation Area approximately 20 miles southwest of Chadron.

* Hallock reports Wentworth, Hall fires flaring, but firefighters keeping up

(Posted 5:30 p.m. July 24, 2012)

Springview Fire Chief Scott Hallock told KBRB Radio late Tuesday afternoon the Wentworth and Hall fires burning in southeastern Keya Paha County are again trying to climb out of the Niobrara River Canyons, jump fire lines and move north, but firefighters have been able to get the fires put out before they gain much steam north of the fire lines that have been built.
Hallock said additional manpower and equipment is on scene at the Wentworth and Hall fires today, helping to keep both fires from gaining momentum.
Federal officials are anticipating a wind change Tuesday night, with winds expected to move from southerly to northerly. While Hallock said crews are prepared to combat them if the flames move south, having the fire move back onto ground that has already burned may help firefighters gain even more grounds.
For the complete report from 5 p.m. Tuesday with Springview Fire Chief Scott Hallock, click on the audio link below:

audio clips/Scott Hallock Tuesday 5 PM update.mp3

* Nebraska Emergency Management Agency provides map of fires

(Posted 4:45 p.m. July 24, 2012)


Map provided by the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency

(A larger copy of the map can be emailed by providing a return email address to kbrb@sscg.net, but will be forwarded only as staff time allows)
With the Niobrara River dissecting it, the large orange area on the left is the Fairfield Creek Fire, which is burning in Brown, Keya Paha and Cherry counties on both sides of the Niobrara River. That fire started Friday morning in northern Brown County from a lightning strike. The western edge of the fire is the prime concern for firefighters today, as they are trying to keep the fire east of the fire breaks that have been created along the river valley.
The area jutting to the northern end of the fire area represents the ground that was burned Monday evening after the fire broke the containment line north of Highway 12 approximately 3 miles west of Cub Creek. A home was destroyed when the fire broke north of Highway 12 before firefighters could get it stopped. Approximately 150 acres burned north of Highway 12.
The center orange area represents the scope of the Wentworth Fire in southeastern Keya Paha County. After starting from a lightning strike Saturday, the fire raced to the north Monday afternoon before being pushed back by firefighters into the Niobrara River canyons Monday night.
The far right orange area is the Hall Fire burning in southeastern Keya Paha County. That fire started on Monday and moved quickly to the north, fueled by south winds gusting to 25 mph. Firefighters were able to halt the progress of the Wentworth and Hall fires before any homes were lost.

* Red Cross serving 1,800 meals per day to firefighters, volunteers; donations of cash, bananas, snack mixes and beef jerky sought

(Posted 4:30 p.m. July 24, 2012)

Mindy Mangus, the disaster services manager with the Central Plains Chapter of the American Red Cross, said volunteers with the Red Cross are cooking and serving as many as 1,800 meals daily to assist the firefighters and volunteers working in Brown, Keya Paha and Cherry counties.
Mangus told KBRB's Graig Kinzie Tuesday the Red Cross is delivering meals to 10 staging areas near the front line of the fires, and volunteers are preparing as many as 600 meals per meal from their location at Ainsworth Community Schools.
Mangus said the communities have been very welcoming and appreciative of the Red Cross, and the volunteer support has been tremendous.
She said, in addition to cash donations to help support the 100 percent volunteer effort, the Red Cross can use bananas, Chex Mix, peanuts, and snack items such as beef jerky that are sent out with the prepared meals. Those items can be delivered to Ainsworth Community Schools.
The work of the Red Cross is completely voluntary, and free of charge for those receiving its services. Red Cross operations are paid for through the generosity of the American public.
For the complete report with Mindy Mangus, click on the audio report below:

audio clips/Mindy Mangus w the Red Cross.mp3

The Red Cross has mobilized to support area residents and the more than 30 fire fighting departments who are responding to the Fairfield Creek Wildfire in north central Nebraska with urgently needed hydration, meals and a shelter to comfort those in need. 
So far, the Red Cross has served 2,583 meals and snacks both in the shelter and to the emergency responders at the front lines. The organization has also provided cots and other relief items to firefighters in multiple staging areas set up in the field.
The Red Cross shelter remains open in the Ainsworth Community Schools facility at 520 E. Second St. in Ainsworth.
Displaced residents and responders can find comfort and care from trained Red Cross Volunteers. Disaster workers in emergency response vehicles are circulating in and near affected areas, delivering water and food, supplies and comfort items. The Red Cross is working with community partners to provide support.
The easiest way to help is to make a financial donation. Financial donations are the best option to support those in need because they offer agencies, like the Red Cross, the most flexibility in obtaining the most-needed resources. Donations of goods require helping agencies to redirect valuable resources away from providing relief services to sort, transport, warehouse and distribute items that may not meet the needs of those affected by the disaster.
You can help people affected by disasters such as floods, tornadoes, fires and hurricanes, as well as countless crises at home and around the world, by making a donation to support AmericanRed Cross Disaster Relief. To make a donation, visit www.redcross.org or call 1-800-REDCROSS (1-800-733-2767).  Contributions may also be sent to a local American Red Cross chapter or to the American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, DC 20013.

* Southern Baptist Disaster Relief Team volunteers preparing 1,800 meals daily

(Posted 4:30 p.m. July 24, 2012)

Andrew Lee of North Platte is one of the 17 volunteers from the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief Team assisting the American Red Cross by cooking meals at Ainsworth Community Schools for the firefighters battling the fires burning in the area and the volunteers working to help support the firefighting effort.
Lee said the Southern Baptist team volunteers have been welcomed warmly to the area, and are working hard to provide the firefighters and volunteers with the energy they need to sustain their effort.
For the complete report with Andrew Lee from the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief Team, click on the audio link below:

audio clips/Southern Baptist Disaster Relief Team Report.mp3

* Johanns says he will pursue additional federal resources if needed

(Posted 2:45 p.m. July 24, 2012)

U.S. Sen. Mike Johanns said on Tuesday he is monitoring the fires burning in the Niobrara River Valley, and will pursue additional federal resources for the area if needed.
“This summer’s drought has adversely affected nearly every Nebraskan and is now exacerbating the wildfires in the Niobrara River Valley,” Johanns said. “My thoughts are with those who have been displaced, who have lost homes, or whose livelihoods are being threatened. I also want to join every Nebraskan in thanking the firefighters, National Guard and other emergency responders for their dedicated, tireless service as they work to extinguish this blaze.
“I am closely monitoring the situation and in contact with the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency and county officials. If additional federal assistance is required, I’m ready to ensure that aid is delivered quickly and efficiently.”

* Officials provide Gov. Heineman with an update on fire progress

(Posted 2:30 p.m. July 24, 2012)

Officials with the Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team provided Gov. Dave Heineman and Nebraska Emergency Management Agency officials with an update on the three fires burning in Brown, Keya Paha and Cherry counties.
Officials said the priority for fire officials today is the western lines of the Fairfield Creek Fire. A substantial effort is being made to stop the western progress of the fire, which has entered Cherry County west of the Rocky Ford area.
With fire crews launching a massive effort to create fire breaks in that area, if the fire jumps those breaks and continues west, it will be extremely difficult to contain.
Heineman said any state resources needed will be available to combat the three fires burning in the Niobrara River valley.
"We don't want these fires going on for another two or three weeks," Heineman said. "With the conditions we have across the state, we could see more and more fires spring up."
Heineman asked about a realistic estimate for having the fires brought under control.
"I know that is hard a question to answer at this point, but do you have any sense on when you can say it is contained?" Heineman asked.
The Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team officials indicated, unless the fires erupted again Tuesday afternoon and evening and broke out past the fire lines, that the fires could be contained in approximately three days, though they said there are still several factors that could alter that timeline.
Officials estimated the containment of the Fairfield Creek Fire at 15 percent on Tuesday, though they said they hoped that percentage would go up by nightfall.
Region 24 Emergency Manager Doug Fox said there are an additional 22 to 24 pieces of fire equipment moving into the area today from surrounding volunteer departments.
"That is going to allow some of these departments that have been up here for a while to rotate back out," Fox said.
Though costs of the federal and state resources used in the fire-fighting effort were briefly discussed, Heineman said the first priority was getting the fires controlled.
Following the briefing, Heineman toured the Norden area to see first-hand the damage caused by the Fairfield Creek Fire as it moved through that community on Friday night.
Following a tour of the area today, Heineman will appear on KBRB to talk about the firefighting efforts and the state and federal response.

* Nebraska Emergency Management Agency Tuesday fire report, statistics

(Posted 12:50 p.m. July 24, 2012)

“We will coordinate and integrate efforts with local, state and federal resources to be effective as possible,said Incident Commander Todd Pechota at this morning’s briefing. “The Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team 2B is interagency, comprised of state and local resources, as well as federal. Our role is to assist and coordinate state and local fire management.”

Hot, dry conditions are expected for another day at the Fairfield Creek, Wentworth fire and Hall fires in north central Nebraska close to the Niobrara River. A total of approximately 65,580 acres have burned.

The Fairfield fire is approximately 58,560 acres and straddles the river. The Wentworth fire is 20 miles east of the Fairfield Creek fire and 3 miles north of the river. It is estimated at 2,595 acres.

A new fire started yesterday approximately 6 miles east of the current Wentworth fire and 3 miles north of the river.  It has been labeled the Hall Fire and was estimated at 1,425 in size. Both the Wentworth and Hall fires are east of Springview.

For most of Tuesday hot and dry weather is expected.  A heat advisory is in effect until 9 p.m. on Tuesday and a Red Flag Warning is in effect for winds and low relative humidity. Late afternoon severe weather with high winds is forecast with the potential to affect fire behavior.

Work continues on the four divisions of the Fairfield Creek fire:

Division A (southwest) Cherry County Fire District—continue to establish and hold line.

Division C (northwest): Springview Fire District, Keya Paha County--hold line and burn-out where possible to bring defensible line down to the river.

Division E (northeast): Springview Fire District, Keya Paha County—anchor line at the river, hold, improve and secure spot that crossed Highway 12.

Division H (southeast): Ainsworth Fire District, Brown County—construct a direct hand line toward the southwest.

Air Operations

Four Helicopters and Two Air Tactical Platforms will continue to assist ground crews in achieving containment goals. 

Fire retardant drops may be available.

Road Closures

Road blocks will be in place on Highway 12.  Motorists are asked to find alternate travel routes. The Meadville Avenue and Norden Road are also closed to traffic.

Evacuations: 

Volunteer evacuations are still in place for Meadville.

Niobrara River is closed for recreational use between County Line and Brewer bridges.

Fire stats at a glance:

Start Date: July 20, 2012

Containment: 15%

Cause: Lightning

Acreage: 65,580 total

Personnel: 239

Aviation : (3) Type (1) National Guard Black Hawks, and 1 Type 2

Engines: 30

Injuries: 3 (minor)

Structures destroyed: 10 and associated outbuildings

Structures/outbuildings threatened: 80

* North Central Development Center has established a Pay Pal account for funds to support fire departments

(Posted 11:30 a.m. July 24, 2012)

The North Central Development Center has established an online Pay Pal account that allows those who would like to donate funds to support the firefighters fighting the Fairfield Creek, Wentworth and Hall fires.
Go to Facebook and like the North Central Development Center. A link to the Pay Pal account can be found on the NCDC Facebook page.
For those not on Facebook, make checks payable to the North Central Development Center, 335 N. Main St., Ainsworth, NE 69210. Write fire relief on the check.
All donations are tax deductible, and 100 percent of the money donated will be used to support the firefighting efforts and support the victims who have lost their homes.

* Springview fire chief says Wentworth, Hall fires pushed back into Niobrara River canyons, 1 home lost west of Springview when fire jumped Highway 12

(Posted 11:15 a.m. July 24, 2012)

Springview Fire Chief Scott Hallock said crews worked through the night to push back the Wentworth and Hall fires southeast of Springview that raced north Monday afternoon fueled by the heat and strong south winds.
"We have both those fires contained to the canyons, but they could flare up again today with the wind," Hallock reported at 11 a.m. Tuesday from the Springview Fire Hall.
Hallock said the Wentworth and Hall fires were kept clear of homes in southeastern Keya Paha County, but one home west of Springview was damaged Monday evening when the Fairfield Creek fire jumped the northern containment at Highway 12 approximately 3 miles west of Cub Creek, 6 miles west of Springview.
Hallock praised the volunteers working in the Springview Fire Hall to keep the front lines supplied with water and food.
"They were making food and water runs out to the guys at 3 and 4 a.m. this morning," Hallock said.
He reported federal forces were assisting with the Hall and Wentworth fires, and fire lines would continue to be created with some back-burning to try and keep the fires from moving north rapidly if they again move up out of the river canyons.
To hear the complete report with the Springview fire chief, click on the audio link below:

audio clips/Scott Hallock Tuesday 11AM Fire Report.mp3

* Susan Ford with the Rocky Mountain Incident Management team checks in with an update on the fire response efforts

(Posted 10:45 a.m. July 24)

audio clips/Susan Ford incident management Tuesday report.mp3

* Firefighters describe conditions at the front line of the fires

(Posted 9:30 a.m. July 24, 2012)

Ainsworth Volunteer Firefighter Brandon Evans said he has never seen anything like the fire burning in the Niobrara River valley.
It is unbelievable," Evans told KBRB's Graig Kinzie Tuesday morning as his crew was getting its marching orders and preparing to head back out for another day on the fire lines. "I never imagined something like this could happen. I hope we never see anything like it again."
Evans said the crews are basically trying to surround the Niobrara River valley and put out fires as they jump out of the canyons.
"We have seen fire moving at more than 60 mph," Evans said.
Ainsworth Firefighter Jeff Keezer said his crew was out 32 hours straight from the time the Fairfield Creek Fire ignited Friday morning north of Johnstown until they grabbed a break Saturday morning.
"After we got a little break, we went back out for another 24 hours," Keezer said.
Keezer said trying to get ahead of the flames when they break out of the canyons is not an easy task for the crews on the front line.
"When it breaks out, you are moving fast and driving hard over some very rough terrain," Keezer said.
To hear the complete report with the firefighters, click on the audio link below:

audio clips/Report w firefighters Evans & Keezer.mp3

* Region 24 manager says crews made progress overnight, another tough day ahead

(Posted 9:15 a.m. July 24, 2012)

Region 24 Emergency Manager Doug Fox told KBRB Tuesday morning progress was made overnight to push the numerous fires burning in Brown, Keya Paha and Cherry counties back into the Niobrara River basin after gusting south winds Monday caused the fire to break out at several locations.
Fox said the Wentworth Fire exploded Monday, but crews there pushed it back south into the canyons and are now working on fire lines in anticipation of strong south winds again today.
Fires continue to burn in several locations. He said the western edge of the Fairfield Creek fire was still burning west of Norden in the Rocky Ford area, and fires were still burning on both the north and south sides of the Niobrara River.
The hear the complete report Tuesday with the Region 24 emergency manager, click on the audio link below:

audio clips/Doug Fox Tuesday AM report.mp3

* Ainsworth fire chief says ground units struggling to keep up with fires; asks Sparks residents to be on alert in case fire continues west

(Posted 9:15 p.m. July 23, 2012)

Ainsworth Fire Chief Brad Fiala says the 300 to 400 fire personnel are doing their best to knock down fires that are flaring to the north out of the Niobrara River valley at numerous locations, pushed by gusting south winds and extreme heat on Monday.
Fiala said the Fairfield Creek Fire's western edge is burning rapidly, and the small community of Sparks should be on notice that an evacuation may be necessary on Tuesday if the fire continues on its current path.
"Today, the aerial units were giving the ground forces their only chance to keep up," Fiala said. "If we can keep the wind down on Tuesday, we might be able to get on top of it a little."
During the late afternoon hours Monday, a portion of the Fairfield Creek Fire broke the northern containment line on Highway 12 approximately 3 miles west of Cub Creek.
"It burned about 150 acres north of Highway 12, but the fire resources in that area got it knocked down," Fiala said. "It would have been a huge fire in that terrain if had kept burning north, and there would have been no place to stop it."
Fiala also commended the work of the crews that battled the Wentworth and Hall fires in southeastern Keya Paha County on Monday afternoon.
"The Wentworth Fire blew up in the early afternoon hours," the Ainsworth fire chief said. "Those guys were working really hard to slow that fire down."
For the complete Monday night report with Ainsworth Fire Chief Brad Fiala, click on the audio link below.

audio clips/Fire Chief Brad Fiala Monday Night.mp3

* Fairfield Creek Fire reportedly crosses Highway 12 west of Springview

(Posted 5:45 p.m. July 23, 2012)

KBRB has received reports that a portion of the Fairfield Creek Fire has moved across Highway 12 west of Springview, which had been the northern boundary of the fire that has been burning since Friday morning.
The fire reportedly jumped the highway approximately three miles west of Cub Creek.
Firefighters are continuing to battle extreme weather conditions in addition to the fires, and are working to try and keep the flames from breaking free to the north of the river valley in several areas.
KBRB will try and bring listeners an evening update on the status of the Fairfield Creek, Wentworth and Hall fires.

* Area departments trying to head off fires in southeastern Keya Paha County

(Posted 5 p.m. July 23, 2012)

Springview Fire Chief Scott Hallock said crews in southeastern Keya Paha County are struggling to slow down the Wentworth Fire and the Hall Fire that have jumped out of the Niobrara River valley and are being pushed northwest by the wind.
Hallock said the Wentworth Fire is now eight miles southeast of Springview, moving to the northeast, and the Hall Fire is located farther east in southeastern Keya Paha County.
Hallock said getting enough water to the fire crews is a big issue at this point, as tankers are doing their best to keep up with demand. Firefighters on the ground are also trying to coordinate with one of the Blackhawk helicopters being used to drop water from the air.
For the complete report with Springview Fire Chief Scott Hallock, click on the audio link below:

audio clips/Scott Hallock update on southeastern KPC fires.mp3

* Firefighter and EMT Ann Fiala discusses the volunteer effort

(Posted 4:45 p.m. July 23, 2012)

Ann Fiala, a firefighter and Emergency Medical Technician who is helping to coordinate the volunteers assisting the front lines with food and water, told KBRB Monday afternoon she continues to be overwhelmed by the way the communities have come together to support the firefighting effort.
For the full report with Fiala, including how to assist the volunteer effort, click on the audio link below:

audio clips/Ann Fiala report on volunteer effort.mp3

* Fox reports 3 fires jumping out of Niobrara canyons fueled by dry, south winds

(Posted 4 p.m. July 23, 2012)

In addition to the Wentworth Fire in southeastern Keya Paha County that has jumped out of the Niobrara River basin and is moving northeast, Region 24 Emergency Manager Doug Fox said a new fire, being referred to as the Hall Fire, is now burning in southeastern Keya Paha County east of the Wentworth Fire, and a third fire has jumped out of the river canyons in western Keya Paha County. These flare-ups are in addition to the large Fairfield Creek Fire that continues to burn in the river canyons in northwestern Brown and southwestern Keya Paha counties.
To listen to the full report with Region 24 Emergency Manager Doug Fox, click on the audio link below:

audio clips/Doug Fox Monday Afternoon Report.mp3

* Wentworth Fire southeast of Springview breaks containment, heading northeast

(Posted 2:15 p.m. July 23, 2012)

During the late morning and early afternoon hours on Monday, the fire burning in southeastern Keya Paha County known as the Wentworth Fire broke containment in the Niobrara River basin canyon area and is now moving over open ground to the northeast.
Springview Fire Chief Scott Hallock said the fire is moving quickly, and personnel from several departments are en route to try and get ahead of the fire as it moves to the northeast.
Hallock said, if its present direction holds, the fire should miss Burton, but it could move close to that community if the departments cannot get it slowed down.
Residents potentially in the fire's path have been notified. Temperatures at 2 p.m. were already 104 degrees and climbing, with south winds at 16 gusting to 25 mph.
To hear the full report with Springview Fire Chief Scott Hallock, click on the audio link below:

audio clips/Scott Hallock - Wentworth Fire.mp3

* Federal team coordinating firefighting efforts from conference center

(Posted 11:30 a.m. July 23, 2012)

The Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team 2 Bravo has set up in the Ainsworth Conference Center to help coordinate firefighting efforts on the Fairfield Creek Fire. This is the third wildland fire to which the team has been deployed during 2012.
KBRB's Graig Kinzie spoke with Susan Ford, the team's public information officer, Monday in the conference center.
Ford said aerial infrared data shows the southwestern and southeastern edges of the Fairfield Creek Fire are continuing to burn at a very high temperature. She said their aerial surveillance of the fire showed it had burned approximately 50,000 acres. Estimates have ranged from 50,000 to 100,000 acres that have burned since the fire started Friday morning in the Fairfield Creek area.
To hear the complete report with Ford, click on the audio link below:

audio clips/Rocky Mountain Incident Management.mp3

* Meadville Avenue, Norden Road, Highway 12 remain closed

(Posted 10 a.m. July 23, 2012)

Brown County Sheriff Bruce Papstein reported Monday morning to KBRB that the Norden Road and Meadville Avenue in both Brown and Keya Paha counties, and Highway 12 in Keya Paha County remain closed to traffic.
Papstein said, with fire equipment traveling the narrow roads, other vehicle traffic is prohibited. He warned people to stay away from the area. Law enforcement officials have had to warn several motorists to turn around who were trying to make their way toward the Niobrara River for a closer look at the fire.
To hear the complete report with Sheriff Papstein, click on the audio link below:

audio clips/Sheriff Papstein Road Closure Report.mp3

* Fox reports another home lost Sunday night, 1 feared lost found still standing

(Posted 8:30 a.m. July 23, 2012)

Region 24 Emergency Manager Doug Fox said he plans to tour the area to assess the damage from the Fairfield Creek Fire, which has been burning since Friday morning in northwestern Brown County and southwestern Keya Paha County.
More than 100,000 acres have burned. Fox said six homes have been lost to the fire. One home feared lost in the Norden area was found still intact with only the outbuildings burned. That home was one of several in the Norden area that were saved from destruction, though others were lost.
However, Fox said the fire again jumped the Niobrara River to the south, where it destroyed a home in the Fairfield Creek area Sunday night. He said the fire is moving quickly west, and is now burning several miles west of Norden. Another finger of the fire is burning in the Rocky Ford area of Cherry County.
Fox said the wind will be the main factor on Monday, and could cause additional problems. He said the backfire efforts west of Meadville has stopped the fire for the time being from moving east. Those backfires were set approximately five miles west of Meadville to remove the dry vegetation on which the fire is feeding.
The fire is still burning in Brown County south of the Niobrara River, and is currently west of the old Plum Creek dam.
To hear the complete report from Monday morning with the Region 24 emergency manager, click on the audio link below:

audio clips/Doug Fox Monday Report.mp3

* Heineman reports state assets being brought to bear on Fairfield Creek Fire

(Posted 8:30 a.m. July 23, 2012)

Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman told KBRB Monday morning state and federal resources have been brought in to assist with the effort to contain the Fairfield Creek Fire.
Heineman said a federal incident management team has taken control of the coordination of the firefighting efforts. He said the federal team has extensive experience in fighting wildland fires.
To hear the full report with Gov. Heineman, click on the audio link below:

audio clips/Gov Heineman Monday Report.mp3

* Fairfield Creek Fire 50 percent contained, but tentative with Monday winds expected; 6 homes lost thus far

(Posted 8:30 p.m. July 22, 2012)

In a report with KBRB's Graig Kinzie Sunday evening, Region 24 Emergency Manager Doug Fox estimated the Fairfield Creek Fire was 50 percent contained, though that figure could easily change Monday as southwest winds are forecast at 10-20 and gusting to 30 mph.
Fox said six homes have been destroyed by the fire since it started Friday morning north of Johnstown from a lightning strike. The fire tore through the Norden area Friday, but Fox said some homes have been saved in that area.
As of Sunday evening, the western edge of the fire was the most aggressive, burning rapidly west of Norden and potentially endangering three homes. Fire breaks burned Sunday west of Meadville have helped slow the eastern movement of the fire and protect the Meadville area for another day. The northern edge of the zone remains at Highway 12, and the southern edge of the fire continues to jump south of the Niobrara River.
Fox said the fire that started in southeastern Keya Paha County Saturday evening due to a lightning strike has been contained to the river canyons. No homes have been lost in that fire.
For the complete report Sunday with Region 24 Manager Doug Fox, click on the link below:

audio clips/Doug Fox Sunday Evening Report.mp3

* Updated information from the American Red Cross

(Posted July 22, 2012)

KBRB's Graig Kinzie spoke with Red Cross volunteer Susan Epps Sunday on the activities of the organization, which has set up a shelter at Ainsworth Community Schools to aid firefighters and those who have been displaced by the Fairfield Creek Fire.
Also, Ainsworth Fire Hall volunteers reported they now have a sufficient number of coolers to transport water to the front lines of the fire. They again thank everyone who has made donations to the firefighting effort.
To hear the full report with Susan Epps of the Red Cross, click on the link below:

audio clips/Red Cross Sunday update.mp3

* NCDC setting up online avenue to assist firefighting effort

(Posted July 22, 2012)

The North Central Development Center is in the process of setting up an online shopping cart for all of the local departments and those who have been impacted by the fire.
All donations will be tax-deductible. Anyone who would like to help with the effort can go online to donate to the departments. As soon as everything is set up, more information will be posted. Items the departments have requested include an ice truck, supplies and items for the families who have lost their home. The North Central Development Center thanks everyone who is supporting the effort to control the Fairfield Creek Fire.

* Fiala reports fire still threatening Meadville area, impossible to control

(Posted July 22, 2012)

Ainsworth Fire Chief Brad Fiala said two Ainsworth firefighters were injured while working on the front lines of the Fairfield Creek Fire on Saturday. Both firefighters were injured while working on the fire lines. They were taken to the Cherry County Hospital, where they were treated and released.
Fiala said the difficult terrain and the high level of fuel in the Niobrara River valley are making the fire almost impossible to slow down. Fiala said a large amount of resources are being utilized to protect Meadville. He said C-130 tankers are being flown into the area dropping fire retardant, and three Blackhawk helicopters are taking water from area dams and dropping it in certain areas.
Fire lines are in the vicinity of the Coleman Creek canyon west of Norden on the fire's western front, west of Meadville on the eastern front, Highway 12 on its northern boundary, and just south of the Niobrara River on its southern boundary.
Winds are not expected to blow at more than 10 to 15 mph for the remainder of Sunday, and will generally be from the northwest. However, on Monday, winds are expected out of the south at 15-20 mph with gusts to 30 mph.
To hear the full report from Fire Chief Fiala, click on the link below:

audio clips/Brad Fiala Sunday Fire Report.mp3

* Heineman activates Emergency Operations Plan; 3 Blackhawk helicopters dropping water on Fairfield Creek Fire

(Posted July 22, 2012)

Gov. Dave Heineman has activated the State Emergency Operations Plan in response to the fire emergency in Brown and Keya Paha Counties. Saturday, Heineman surveyed firsthand the affected areas in north central Nebraska and met with local responders in Ainsworth, Long Pine and Norden.

“I am continually impressed with the hard work of Nebraskans in difficult situations,” Heineman said. “The local communities are working very hard and are supportive of the efforts of local responders and firefighters, including providing aid in the forms of food and water. We will continue to work closely together as we fight these fires.”

The Nebraska National Guard continues to mobilize available resources as the response grows. This includes the mobilization of three Nebraska Army National Guard UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters equipped with “Bambi buckets” and approximately 28 personnel to provide support to local firefighters fighting a wildfire in Keya Paha and Brown Counties at the request of the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency. The helicopters are equipped with “Bambi buckets” which can scoop water from local sources and place the water where needed by ground firefighters.

The Nebraska National Guard is also preparing to send up to 35 additional ground, red-card certified Nebraska National Guardsmen to support local firefighters if needed.

Resources from the Nebraska State Patrol, Nebraska Department of Roads, the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency and the State Fire Marshal’s Office are also responding to the emergency.

At the beginning of this month, Heineman authorized an emergency declaration for statewide drought and fires that allows state personnel and resources to assist with emergency situations and prevention, and allows maximum flexibility to the state to deploy Nebraska National Guard and Nebraska Emergency Management Agency assets and resources as needed.

The governor and the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency will continue to monitor the situation throughout the state, as the drought continues.

* Gov. Heineman reports additional state resources on the way to battle fire

(Posted July 21, 2012)

Calling in Saturday evening to KBRB, Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman said two additional Blackhawk helicopters and members of the Nebraska National Guard would be in the area Sunday to help combat the Fairfield Creek Fire, which as of Saturday evening had burned to within four miles west of Meadville.
Heineman said the state of Nebraska has declared a state of emergency to allow for the use of additional state and federal resources to combat wild fires in the state.
The complete audio report with Gov. Heineman can be accessed by clicking the link below.

audio clips/Gov Heineman Report Saturday.mp3

* Fairfield Creek Fire has now burned approximately 100,000 acres

(Posted July 21, 2012)

Region 24 Emergency Manager Doug Fox said the Fairfield Creek Fire was now burning out of control on Saturday evening. Despite massive efforts from fire departments representing almost one-third of Nebraska, the fire is burning faster than allows for fire lines to be established.
Fox said firefighters were beginning to experience major fatigue and heat-related problems, and a few firefighters have been injured in non-fire incidents relating to digging fire suppression lines.
The fire, at last report, was located four to five miles west of Meadville, which has been evacuated. The fire on Friday devastated the small community of Norden on the north side of the Niobrara River in Keya Paha County.
Additional fires have sparked southeast of Springview Saturday evening from another round of lightning strikes, and some of the firefighting resources from the Fairfield Creek Fire were moved to suppress those fires before they spread.
The complete report with Region 24 Manager Doug Fox is located below. Click on the link for the audio report.

audio clips/Doug Fox Saturday Update.mp3
 

* Brown County Ambulance Service requests towels, ice packs

(Posted July 21, 2012)

Anyone with towels and ice packs to spare, please drop them off at the Brown County Ambulance Service. The towels and ice packs will be used to help aid in cooling down firefighters battling the Fairfield Creek Fire.

Some area retailers are running low on water and ice. Deliveries are expected again tomorrow. Stay tuned to KBRB for reports on inventory supply.

* Report with Red Cross organizer Susan Epps

(Posted July 21, 2012)
(Click on the link below for the audio report)

audio clips/Red Cross Report.mp3

* Red Cross volunteers have arrived at Ainsworth Community Schools

(Posted July 21, 2012)

The American Red Cross has opened a shelter for people displaced by the Niobrara River Canyon Fire in north central Nebraska.  The shelter is located in the Ainsworth Community Schools facility at 520 E. Second St. Anyone displaced by the fire is urged to come to the shelter for a safe place to sleep, a meal, minor first aid, referrals and a shoulder to lean on. Volunteer teams will continue to provide food and hydration to the firefighters from 16 departments battling the wildfire.
As soon as conditions are deemed safe by local authorities, additional Red Cross volunteers will arrive to assess damage to area homes and conduct interviews with affected families. Food, clothing, shelter, comfort and care will be provided based on need. Snacks and drinks will be provided to area residents as well.

* Red Cross setting up emergency shelter at Ainsworth Community Schools

(Posted July 21, 2012)

Two teams of Red Cross volunteers from Grand Island and North Platte are setting up an emergency shelter at Ainsworth Community Schools for residents evacuated from the path of the Fairfield Creek Fire.
The Red Cross will also help provide meals and hydration to firefighters from the now more than 16 departments trying to battle the fire in the Niobrara River Valley.
More Red Cross volunteers are standing by. The Red Cross will work with local agencies and community organizations to ensure that the needs of first responders and those who have been evacuated are met.
To make a donation to the Red Cross Disaster Relief, call 1-800-REDCROSS or visit the web at www.redcross.org.

* Emergency personnel evacuating area east of the Norden Bridge to Highway 183

(Posted July 21, 2012)

Region 24 Emergency Manager Doug Fox has issued an evacuation notice for all residents of the Niobrara Valley from the Norden Bridge east to Highway 183. This evacuation notice includes Meadville and the surrounding area.
The Fairfield Creek Fire is moving quickly to the east today, and with the dry and hot conditions and the steep terrain.
Those people east of the Norden Bridge to Highway 183 need to evacuate to the south, not to the north. Those evacuees are asked to report to the Ainsworth Community Schools, where the Red Cross has set up a temporary shelter.
The Brown County Ambulance Service is asking for donations of ice packs and towels to help cool down firefighters who have been battling the fire since it started before 10 a.m. Friday.
Stay tuned to KBRB for the latest information on the Fairfield Creek Fire.

* Updated Fairfield Creek Fire Report with Region 24 Emergency Manager Fox

(Posted at 8 a.m. Saturday, 2012)

(click on the link below)

audio clips/Doug Fox Fire Update.mp3

Fox reported the fire has now burned more than 30,000 acres, with numerous structures destroyed. Firefighters are trying to contain the fire to a line south of Highway 12, and fire lines have been set up both east and west of Norden. Fox said the fire is still raging in the Norden area. While firefighters try and contain the fire from the east and the west, aerial support is being brought in from South Dakota and other areas. A Blackhawk helicopter is dropping water on the flames, and a tanker plane from Rapid City will be utilized to drop a slurry mixture on the flames.
Fox said any food, water and ice donations for the firefighters can be taken to the Ainsworth Fire Hall. Highway 12 west of Springview remains closed. No traffic is allowed anywhere near the Norden area, which has been completely evacuated.

* Audio report with Ainsworth Fire Chief Brad Fiala Friday evening

* Fox reports leading edge of Fairfield Creek Fire 6 to 7 miles wide

(Posted 8 p.m. July 20, 2012)

Region 24 Emergency Manager Doug Fox is reporting the leading edge of the Fairfield Creek Fire is between 6 and 7 miles wide as it moves through Keya Paha County north of Highway 12.
"The wind is starting to switch a little, so we may be able to start slowing this thing down," Fox said.
The fire has burned several thousand acres in northern Brown County and southern and central Keya Paha County, including extensive damage in the community of Norden. Numerous homes and structures in the Norden area have been damaged, though Fox said the exact number of homes damaged won't be known until the area can be surveyed.
Fox said more firefighting assets continue to move into the area, as units from the six-county North Platte Mutual Aid District are making their way to the area from as far south as Curtis. Fox said those firefighters will concentrate on mopping up hot spots Saturday in both Brown and Keya Paha counties.
A large air tanker from Rapid City, S.D. will also be in the area Saturday, as will a water-carrying helicopter from Lincoln.
No injuries have been reported from the fires, though Fox said some firefighters were being treated for symptoms relating to heat stress. A Long Pine Volunteer Fire Department truck was destroyed by the Fairfield Creek Fire, and a second truck belonging to the South Brown County Fire Department was damaged fighting a second fire south of Long Pine Friday afternoon, though Fox said that truck will be salvageable but will require new wiring.
Fox will again appear on KBRB Saturday morning to provide an update on the firefighting activities and the extent of the damage.

* Fire does severe damage to Norden area, jumps Highway 12 containment line

(Posted July 20 at 6:30 p.m., 2012)

The small community of Norden has been severely damaged by a fast-moving fire that began at 9:45 a.m. Friday north of Johnstown, jumped the Niobrara River and broke through a containment line on Highway 12 in Keya Paha County.
Recapping the events since the fire was first reported 13 to 14 miles north of Johnstown, the flames moved quickly through the Fairfield Creek area and jumped across the Niobrara River. The fire began moving north through Keya Paha County. Residents of Norden and the surrounding area were evacuated ahead of the fire reaching the community.
Region 24 Emergency Manager Doug Fox told KBRB Radio's Graig Kinzie Friday evening most of the Norden area has sustained extensive damage. No injuries have been reported due to the fire, but the Long Pine Rural Volunteer Fire Department did lose a fire truck to the blaze, and another truck belonging to the South Brown County Fire Department was damaged fighting another Friday afternoon fire south of Long Pine. Fox said that truck is salvageable with new wiring.
"We haven't had any injuries," Fox said. "People were evacuated ahead of time. Some of our firefighters are experiencing some symptoms of heat stress."
Temperatures Friday again soared to near 105 degrees, and south winds gusting to 25 mph led to the fire moving quickly through the area already dealing with severe drought.
As of 6 p.m. Friday, the fire had burned an area more than 10 miles long and reportedly up to four miles wide in some areas near Norden.
"The fire is moving faster than we can keep up with," Fox said after the blaze jumped a containment line set up on Highway 12 in Keya Paha County.
Some residents living north of Highway 12 in northern Keya Paha County and into southern Tripp County, S.D., are being evacuated. Highway 12 has been closed to traffic west of Springview.
Firefighters from the Ainsworth, Johnstown, Wood Lake, Long Pine, Bassett, Springview, Calamus, Raven and South Brown County departments battled what is being referred to as the Fairfield Creek Fire, while the Ainsworth, Long Pine, Bassett and Stuart fire departments fought the fire south of Long Pine. That fire was brought under control by 5 p.m. Friday. Damage from the fire south of Long Pine was limited to pasture ground and the loss of the South Brown County Fire Department truck.
Fox reported additional fires were burning north of Merriman in Cherry County on both sides of the Niobrara River, and east of the Spencer Dam in Boyd County. All of the fires in the area Thursday night and Friday morning were sparked by lightning from a storm that carried extensive lightning but little rain.
Aerial support was utilized, but Fox said the numerous buckets of water dropped from the plane were not effective in slowing down the fire in Keya Paha County.
The extent of the damage is not yet known, but thousands of acres and numerous structures, including homes, have now been burned by the Fairfield Creek Fire.
Brown County Board of Commissioners Chairman Buddy Small on Friday signed a declaration asking for disaster assistance for the county stemming from the wildfires burning in northern and southern Brown County.
Dozens of volunteers flooded the Ainsworth Fire Hall with bottled water, sports drinks, ice and coolers to send to the front lines of the fires. Organizer Heather Walnofer said the outpouring of support from the area has been overwhelming.
Stay tuned to KBRB for additional information.

* Fire crosses Niobrara River, Norden area evacuated

(Posted July 20 as of 4:50 p.m., 2012)

The fire burning north of Johnstown has crossed the Niobrara River, pushed by strong south winds. The Keya Paha County Sheriff's Department confirmed at 4:45 p.m. firefighters are attempting to contain the fire to an area south of Highway 12 in Keya Paha County.
Norden residents and those in Keya Paha County between the Niobrara River and Highway 12 in the Norden area have been evacuated from their residences.
Traffic is prohibited in the area until the fire has been contained.
The Keya Paha County Sheriff's Department is asking for anyone with a large disc to call the sheriff's department at 402-497-3201, as firefighters are trying to utilize that type of equipment to create a containment area and keep the fire from crossing Highway 12.
The Brown County Sheriff's Department reported just before 5 p.m. Friday the fire burning south of Long Pine had been brought under control by the Long Pine, Ainsworth, Stuart and Bassett departments. A Brown County Rural Fire Department truck was damaged fighting the fire south of Long Pine, though no injuries were reported.
No structure damage has been reported with either fire, though that could change as the fire moves its way from the Niobrara River north into the Norden area in Keya Paha County.
Brown County Board of Commissioners Chairman Buddy Small on Friday signed a declaration asking for disaster assistance for the county stemming from the wildfires burning in northern and southern Brown County. Aerial resources continue to be sought to battle the fire burning north of Johnstown that has now crossed into Keya Paha County.

* Another large fire burning south of Long Pine

(Posted July 20, 2012)

Area fire resources continue to be taxed to the limit as another large fire has been reported south of Long Pine.
According to Brown County Sheriff Bruce Papstein, just before 1 p.m. Friday a fire was reported 15 miles south of Long Pine on property owned by Glenna Abbott. Resources from the Ainsworth, Long Pine, Bassett and Stuart volunteer fire departments responded to fight that fire while numerous area departments continue to fight a large fire north of Johnstown.
According to Papstein, a South Brown County fire truck was damaged by the fire south of Long Pine, but no injuries have been reported.
Area residents continue to volunteer at the Ainsworth Fire Hall, filling coolers with donated water, sports drinks and ice to get to the firefighters as they work in the 100-plus degree heat. Dozens of volunteers were working in the fire hall early Friday afternoon to get coolers of cold drinks headed to the front lines of the fires.
Volunteer organizer Heather Walnofer thanked the community for its support in answering the call for supplies.
"The response has been overwhelming," Walnofer said.
Papstein said the fire north of Johnstown continues to be pushed north by strong south winds, and firefighters are having a difficult time containing the blaze.
"It is a real bear," Papstein said. "It is just really tough for them to keep up with it right now. Thankfully, there has not been any structure damage."
Papstein said the fire has approached the Niobrara River, and there have been conflicting reports on whether it had possibly jumped the river. There has, as of yet, been no confirmation of the fire burning north of the river.
Stay tuned to KBRB for more information throughout the day.

* Firefighters battling large fire north of Johnstown

(Posted July 20, 2012)

Numerous area fire departments are battling a 1,000-acre fire that started Friday morning north of Johnstown due to a lightning strike.
According to Brown County Sheriff Bruce Papstein, the fire was reported at approximately 9:45 a.m. 13 to 14 miles north of Johnstown.
Firefighters from the Ainsworth, Johnstown, Wood Lake, Long Pine, Bassett, Springview, Calamus, Raven and South Brown County departments are on the scene trying to keep the fire from spreading.
Papstein said a plane is also on its way to drop water on the fire. He said residents in the area have been contacted and provided information. He said one residence was in jeopardy from the fire, which he estimated at between 800 and 1,000 acres.
Papstein urged people to stay away from the area and let the fire departments have room to work and try and contain the fire.
Stay tuned to KBRB for additional updates.

* Lightning sparks 500-acre fire northwest of Ainsworth Thursday

(Posted July 20, 2012)

A lightning strike Thursday night sparked a fire northwest of Ainsworth that burned more than 500 acres and prompted the mutual aid response of four fire departments to get the blaze under control.

According to Ainsworth Fire Chief Brad Fiala, a lightning strike sparked the fire at 8:45 p.m. approximately 5 miles west and 4 miles north of Ainsworth on property owned by Pat Schumacher.

Fiala said winds with the thunderstorm pushed the fire to the southwest onto ground owned by Taylor Johnson.

He said the fire remained on pasture ground but did work its way into a tree grove.

“It burned through the tree grove fast enough that it didn’t do much damage,” Fiala said. “It only burned the bottom of the trees.”

Fiala said firefighters were able to get the fire under control by using a county road and two cornfields to help block its advance.

Fiala said the fire was under control by 11:30 p.m., and firefighters returned to the fire hall by 12:30 a.m. Friday.

The Johnstown, Long Pine and Wood Lake fire departments provided mutual aid to the Ainsworth Volunteer Fire Department.

“We are just waiting now to see if any more fires start up today from those lightning strikes last night,” the Ainsworth fire chief said.

* Brown County Sheriff’s Department 2014 year-end report

2014 Year End Totals

 

Accidents Investigated – 77                         Fire Calls Ainsworth

 

Ainsworth Calls Responded to – 723            Accidents with Injuries - 9

 

Animal Cases – 14                                       Accidents w/o Injuries - 4

 

Board Of Health –           0                                     Assist Tower Rescue - 1

 

Brown County Arrests – 70                         Attempt to Locate missing people - 2

 

Burglaries – 6                                               Building Fires: House/Garage/Royal Theater - 3

 

Citations – 190                                             Burn Permits Issued - 102        

 

Crime Stopper Calls – 28                             Canyon Fires - 1

 

County Calls Responded to – 358                Chimney Fires - 1

 

Court Commitments – 17                             Corn Field Fire - 1

 

Criminal Cases –   32                                   Gas Meters & Leaks -3

 

Dog Complaints – 139                                 Grass Fires - 5

 

Domestic Assault Cases – 14                       Hay Bales - 1

 

Drug Cases – 3                                            Possible Electrical Fire - 1

 

Fix it tickets – 55                                         Power Lines Down - 2                       

 

Handgun Permits – 110                                School Alarm - 3  

 

Incident Reports –          1,204                              Storm Spotting - 3

 

Incoming Phone Calls –   8,467                     Tractor/Mechanical Fires - 2

 

Information Files – 28                                  Vehicle Fires - 4

 

Inmates Housed in Brown County – 106                

 

Inmates Housed for other agencies – 3

 

Inmates Housed for NSP arrests – 12           Ambulance Calls

 

Inmates – Females – 27                                This is just a summary of the Ambulance

 

Inmates – Males – 79                                   calls for 2014

 

Johnstown Calls Responded to – 5               Local Calls for Service - 137

 

Juvenile Cases – 15                                      Transfers to other Facilities - 43

 

Long Pine Calls Responded to – 118           

 

Mental Health Cases – 16

 

MIP’s – 18

 

911 Calls – 404

 

Papers Served – 200

 

Sex Crimes – 1

 

Thefts – 23

 

Titles Inspected – 242

 

Total Traffic Stops – 688

 

Traffic cases – 62

 

Traffic Stops where no action was taken - 7

 

Vandalism Cases – 15

 

Verbal Warnings - 144

 

Written Warnings - 292

 
   

 

Hit Counter