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* Meeting reports located below for:
Nov. 14 Ainsworth City Council
Nov. 13 Sandhills Care Center Board of Directors
Nov. 13 Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education
Nov. 6-7 General Election Results
Oct. 26 General Election Previews
Oct. 10 Ainsworth City Council
* Council approves sewer and water rate hikes Wednesday
(Posted 10:45 p.m. Nov. 14)
Ainsworth residents will see increases to their utility bills now and in the future after the Ainsworth City Council on Wednesday approved increases to both sewer and water rates.
Randy Helbush with the Nebraska Rural Water Association said the city has been running deficits in both its sewer and water departments over a three-year period.
He said the three-year average shortfall in the sewer department has been between $80,000 and $85,000, and the three-year average deficit in the water department has been about $30,000.
Helbush said both the water and sewer departments are required to be self-sustaining departments, meaning they must take in enough revenue to cover the cost of operation.
City Administrator Lisa Schroedl said, with several major wastewater improvement projects scheduled to the tune of more than $2 million, sewer rates would have to increase so the city can provide evidence to its lender, in this case the USDA, that the city can make payments on the loan funds for the projects.
The Nebraska Rural Water Association proposed a three-step increase for sewer rates, with rates increasing by $6 per month in the first year from the current $17.50 per month plus $1.50 per 1,000 gallons of use to $23.50 per month plus $2 per 1,000 gallons of use.
The second step, which would take effect in a year, would increase the rate to $26 per month plus $2.30 per 1,000 gallons used. The third and final proposed step, which would take effect two years from now, would increase the sewer rate to $31 per month and $2.30 for every 1,000 gallons used.
Councilman Brian Williams asked Helbush if the city was currently comparable to other communities in the rates it charges residents for sewer service.
Helbush said the city was currently on the lower end of the rates communities charge. With the proposed increases over the next three years, the city would end up more toward the upper end of rates communities charge residents.
“You have been too low, so you need to catch up and also then be able to pay for the improvements you are making,” Helbush said.
The first step is projected to increase sewer department revenue by $83,000, from $244,368 currently to $327,502. By the time the third step increase is implemented, the sewer department is projected to receive $416,647 in revenue.
Councilwoman Deb Hurless said she worried about the effect the rate increase would have on people with a fixed income. Schroedl agreed it was a concern, but said the city is receiving a $485,000 grant from the USDA and was just approved for a $385,000 Community Development Block Grant to help with the projects.
The planned projects include new water meters, cure-in-place sewer lines for several sections of the city, and lift station improvements.
Helbush said putting the projects off is not the way for the city to go, as the city received a low interest rate on the loan and substantial grant funding for the projects.
The council approved the three-step recommendation for the sewer rates.
The council also approved a small increase to its water rate, but made the increase effective June 1, 2019, to give people some time to adjust to the increased sewer rate.
Schroedl said the water rate increase was unrelated to the sewer projects, but she didn’t want the city to get into the same situation with its water rates as it was now in with the sewer rates, having to make more substantial yearly increases.
The water rate will increase June 1 from $11 monthly to $12.50, with the per 1,000-gallon rate moving up from $1.35 to $1.55. The water department would receive about $32,000 more in revenue following the rate increase, from $233,767 to $265,579.
In other business Wednesday, the council approved one Ainsworth Betterment Committee funding request and tabled a second.
The request approved was submitted by Ainsworth Community Schools, asking for $35,000 to assist with the renovation of the Learning Center. The funds would be used toward new carpet, chairs, a sound system and painting.
The ABC Committee recommended the council approve the funding, with committee member David Spann saying the committee did raise questions about why the school couldn’t find $35,000 for the project within its $7 million to $8 million budget and fund the project itself.
“It was brought up that the community uses the Learning Center a lot,” Spann said. “The committee felt it was a good investment for ABC funds.”
The council tabled action on a second request from the Grand Theater for an additional $50,000 to help complete the renovations for the new theater.
The ABC Committee was split on its recommendation, with two members present voting to recommend approval of the funds and two members voting to recommend the council deny the funding request. Three ABC Committee members were not present during the meeting when the request was heard.
Hurless asked what the reasons were for why the two committee members recommended the request be denied.
Spann said there were questions on some of the estimates provided on the project.
“Some of the estimates were very specific, some were not,” Spann said. “We would like them to be more exact so we know exactly how the funds will be spent.”
Councilman Chuck Osborn said not having specific estimates for the request was the reason that was relayed to him. He asked if those working on the theater project had sought estimates by different contractors for the project.
Hurless said, when the building was first remodeled, it was done using insurance money and donations, and the NCDC utilized contractors who had worked with the organization previously on projects.
“The people we used did have the best estimates on previous projects,” Hurless said. “One we have asked to bid before either didn’t submit a bid or missed the deadline.”
She said it was hard for contractors to bid the project when there is no way to know what they may run into with an old building.
“We had the roof blow off,” Hurless said. “We had no idea that would happen.”
Councilman Brian Williams asked if another $50,000 would complete the theater renovation. Hurless said it would likely take more than $50,000 to get the project completed.
Councilman Greg Soles said the theater committee originally requested $150,000 for the project.
“We approved $50,000, and said they could then come back and ask for more,” Soles said.
Audience member Tate Schipporeit said, at this stage, the people working on the project should know how much more it would take to finish the project and get the doors open.
The council deadlocked on tabling the request, with Osborn and Hurless voting to table the request to a future meeting. Williams and Soles voted against tabling the item. Breaking the deadlock, Mayor Larry Rice voted in favor of tabling the request until additional figures are provided. At that time, he said the request could go back to the ABC Committee.
Lori Olson with Dana F Cole of O’Neill presented the council with the city’s annual audit. She said the city was very healthy financially, overall.
She said the auditors had a few issues relating to the status of some development projects, but she said those issues did not affect any of the dollars.
John Halbersleben asked Olson why Dana F Cole had not been auditing the LB 840 program prior to this year’s audit, since LB 840 has been in existence since 2008.
Olson said loans or grants from the LB 840 fund for previous years were for specific projects.
“There have been some grants and loans made that we felt should have some specific documentation,” Olson said, citing approval by the council of $100,000 to the North Central Development Center for Main Street business development, and $120,000 to the NCDC for professional recruitment.
“There wasn’t a lot of documentation in the city office on how that money was being spent,” Olson said. “I wasn’t sure what the city needed to have for documentation, and the city determined it would find a professional for assistance.”
Olson said she was 100 percent behind economic development.
“You have done some wonderful things,” the auditor said.
Halbersleben said it appeared the city and NCDC could have avoided a number of these problems if the LB 840 program would have been audited from the start.
Olson said she was not questioning whether the funds were spent appropriately.
“We just need to have the documentation in the city office,” she said.
Business owner Rick Goochey approached the council regarding a continuing alley issue west of Main Street. The alley runs east and west, and is located north of the West Second Street and North Woodward Street intersection.
Goochey thanked the council for the work that had been done to reopen the alley, but he was concerned about all the water running from the north-south paved alley onto his property.
“I don’t have
any place to drain that water once it gets onto my property,” Goochey said. “I
have to use four-wheel drive just to get trailers in and out of there.”
Osborn said the city should be able to find a solution.
“We need to get down there and do it,” Osborn said. “Having a defined alley will also make it so we know whose property is whose.”
Schroedl said she planned to have Lloyd Smith with Niobrara Valley Consultants of Valentine survey the area to determine where the actual east-west alley should be located.
In a final action item Wednesday, the council approved declaring property located in Morrison’s Addition, Block 6, Lot 8 as surplus property to be offered for sale by sealed bid.
Schroedl said the property would not be offered for sale until after the current haying contract expires on Dec. 31.
The council also appointed Ainsworth High School student Jon Ortner to a two-year term on the Ainsworth Betterment Committee as recommended by the mayor.
The council will hold a special meeting at 5 p.m. Nov. 29. The next regular meeting is scheduled for 5 p.m. Dec. 12.
* Council hears recommendations on LB 840 programs from Scottsbluff attorney
(Posted 9:15 p.m. Nov. 14)
Following a previous meeting between the Ainsworth City Council and the LB 840 Citizens Advisory Review Committee where several questions were raised, as well as preliminary findings from the city’s auditor, the council on Wednesday brought in Scottsbluff Attorney Rick Ediger to review the city’s LB 840 one-half cent sales tax program and make recommendations on how the program needed to be administered moving forward.
Ediger said his firm helped Scottsbluff implement its LB 840 program in 1995, and has consulted with several communities regarding LB 840 issues.
“It is my understanding that this is the first year the city’s audit has been comprehensive to include the LB 840 program,” Ediger said. “This is the first time I have seen where so much of the administration of the program has gone through a separate organization.”
Ediger said he was a big supporter of the LB 840 program.
“I have seen the benefits of properly run programs,” he said. “The communities I work with face the same issues you do. You need these programs to recruit talent to your community in a competitive environment.”
Ediger said the main issues he encountered were accounting issues which come with having much of the program administration coming from outside the city office.
“It just becomes tougher to audit the money going through the program,” Ediger said. “I don’t think it is a misappropriation issue. It is just accounting transparency. I understand this has been a long-standing relationship between the two entities.”
Ediger said there were three main components to LB 840 programs.
“The LB 840 act itself can only be changed by the Legislature,” Ediger said. “The plan is the city’s plan. It can be amended, generally by the voters. The Citizen Advisory Review Committee can also recommend changes, which the council can make following a public hearing. The manual is easy to change, and can be done by the council.”
Ediger said, under the way the city’s plan is currently constituted, the North Central Development Center would not be a qualifying business to receive LB 840 funding, but that could be amended under certain circumstances. The North Central Development Center has previously been approved for LB 840 funds relating to housing and professional recruitment.
“The NCDC can receive funding for administering the program,” he said.
Ediger said the city’s auditor raised questions regarding potential conflicts of interest relating to council members either also serving on the NCDC Board of Directors and/or LB 840 Loan Review Committee, or being employed by the NCDC.
Currently, Councilman Brian Williams is on the NCDC Board as the city’s appointed representative, Councilman Greg Soles is an at-large member of the NCDC Board and serves on the LB 840 Loan Review Committee, and Councilwoman Deb Hurless is employed by the development center.
“That is the most important thing that needs to be taken care of,” Ediger said. “I understand in small communities it is a lot of the time the same people who get a lot of the things done. They might not have anything to gain personally, but being on another board is a conflict.”
Ediger said, while the city can contract out the administration of the program, the official title of program administrator must come from within the city office.
“You can do a flat rate for administration to the NCDC, but you would need to change your policy,” Ediger said.
Audience member Jerry Ehlers said the NCDC used to account for all time spent on LB 840 program administration, but that became cumbersome and the city agreed to pay a flat rate for the program administration instead of having NCDC document all the time spent.
Ediger said the flat rate payment can continue, the city would just need to amend its plan’s policies.
He said it was his opinion that the NCDC should not have control of funds that are then utilized by other qualifying businesses. He said the NCDC would have to form a separate corporation to utilize funds devoted to housing.
“I am not a fan of having a housing fund, a professional fund, and a demolition fund,” Ediger said. “There is certainly a need for housing demolition, but it needs to be done through a qualifying business.”
Ediger said there was also nothing wrong with the concept of using LB 840 funds for professional recruitment.
“However, a lot are going to the hospital, which is county owned and is therefore not a qualifying business,” Ediger said.
Citizens Advisory Review Committee member John Halbersleben said the review committee has spent a fair amount of time reviewing loans and grants to ensure that everything is in compliance.
“That will go away if all the funds are disbursed by the city,” Halbersleben said. ‘There is no need for the committee to do that if the city auditors can.”
Ediger said the changes he was recommending should make the job of the Citizens Advisory Review Committee easier.
The changes Ediger recommended to the council included:
* Designating a city employee as the LB 840 program administrator.
* Authorizing the program administrator to then demand production from NCDC of all documents not provided to Dana F Cole. If records are not produced voluntarily, consideration should be given to filing suit to subpoena all documents. He said it was his understanding that the auditor has since received most of the records it requested.
* Once any missing records are produced, complete the audit of city funds paid to NCDC, and require repayment of any amounts for which the NCDC cannot properly account.
* Existing council members on the NCDC Board should file Commission Form C-2A with the city clerk, and should not vote on any matters concerning NCDC.
* No council member should serve on the NCDC Board in order to minimize conflicts of interest between the city and the NCDC Board.
* The council member who is an NCDC employee should also file Commission Form C-2A with the city clerk, and should not vote on any matters concerning the NCDC.
* Due to issues raised by the audit, it is difficult to recommend the relationship between the city and NCDC continue in its current form. It is recommended the program be operated by the city, starting with the return of remaining program funds held by the NCDC.
* Comply with the act to include that council members are not permitted to serve on the LB 840 Loan Committee; the annual budget and required monthly reports are completed; if the relationship with NCDC continues, LB 840 funds are to be administered by the city; housing program funds are distributed only to qualifying businesses; and the recruitment program is properly structured.
* Amend the LB 840 plan to allow for additional qualifying businesses if the city desires to do so, to include professional recruitment.
* Obtain proper confidentiality agreements from those having access to confidential business information.
Ediger said the last thing he would want is for the city to receive a state audit.
“No one is alleging there are any funds missing, they just need to be available for accounting purposes,” Ediger said. “You should amend your plan to allow for additional qualifying businesses. Have your Citizens Advisory Review Committee help you with that.”
Ediger said he would like to see things fixed instead of seeing any finger pointing between the two entities.
“Development corporations serve important functions,” Ediger said. “You just need to clean it up and do it right.”
Ehlers said it sounded like, through the recommendations, that the city needed to have a second opinion on its LB 840 program 10 years ago so some of these recommendations could have been included.
Ediger said things change over time.
“Your plan is now 10 years old,” he said. “It can use some tweaking. You can always improve on your plan once you see how it works after it is implemented. It doesn’t mean what you are doing is wrong, just make sure all your documents reflect what you are doing with the program.”
Following Ediger’s presentation and recommendations, the council unanimously voted to implement the recommendations.
The council then held an executive session to further discuss a potential contract. Following the executive session, the council voted to hold a special meeting at 5 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 29, to work with the LB 840 Citizens Advisory Review Committee to implement the recommendations made by Ediger.
* Monday evening accident injures motorist on east edge of Ainsworth
(Posted 3:15 p.m. Nov. 13)
A Monday evening two-vehicle accident on Highway 20 on the east edge of Ainsworth injured one motorist.
According to the Brown County Sheriff’s Department, at 6:46 p.m. Monday, a collision occurred between a 2006 Jeep Cherokee, driven by Mark Arens, 55, of Ainsworth, and a 2000 Ford Taurus, driven by Mila Pozehl, 15, of Long Pine.
The sheriff’s department report indicated the westbound Jeep attempted to turn across traffic into the Shopko parking lot when it collided with the eastbound Ford.
A passenger in the Jeep, Tony Ganser, 51, of Valentine, was transported by the Brown County Ambulance Association to the Brown County Hospital for treatment of injuries suffered during the accident.
Neither driver required medical transportation. Both the Jeep and the Ford were considered total losses.
In addition to the Brown County Sheriff’s Department and Brown County Ambulance Association, the Ainsworth Volunteer Fire Department responded to the site of the accident Monday. The accident also prompted the civil defense siren to sound in Ainsworth.
* SCC reaches new mark for residents, but agency staffing hurts facility's bottom line
(Posted 2:15 p.m. Nov. 13)
The Sandhills Care Center has reached its highest resident population since opening its doors in Ainsworth in late 2016, with 24 people now calling the facility home.
However, the facility still has to utilize agencies to handle some of its staffing, to the tune of more than $65,000 in expenses during October.
So, despite revenue of more than $133,000 during October, the facility still finished the month with an operating loss of $24,674.
Administrator Stephanie Rucker told the Sandhills Care Center Board of Directors Monday much of the agency staffing is for certified nursing assistants. She said there were seven students signed up to take a CNA certification class, and she hoped to be able to hire several of those students upon completion of the certification, which would greatly reduce the need for agency staffing.
She said the international nurse the facility has been working to bring to the community should arrive by January, pending the completion of visa paperwork. That would eliminate the need for an agency LPN.
Some larger annual payments also came due in October, including an $11,636 down payment for the facility’s workman’s compensation policy, and a $7,251 down payment for its liability and commercial property insurance.
Rucker told the board the facility admitted three new residents during October. One resident was discharged home, and another passed away, leaving the facility with 13 private pay residents, 10 residents who receive Medicaid assistance, and one who receives Medicare assistance.
Rural Health Development representative Mike Harris told the board RHD is hosting a conference titled “A Nebraska Conversation, Nursing Homes in Crisis” from 10 a.m. until noon Dec. 19 in the Lancaster Family Event Center at Lincoln to hold discussions on the state of nursing homes in Nebraska.
Harris said the state continues to reduce the reimbursement provided to nursing homes for Medicaid residents, with reimbursement rates declining 10 percent during the past few years.
Harris said the state has not been stepping up to take care of its residents, and it is putting a major strain on nursing homes across the state, particularly in rural areas.
Harris said he hoped the conference would help educate Nebraskans on the financial stress being placed on nursing homes with the falling Medicaid reimbursement from the state.
The board Monday voted to transfer $34,208 from the interlocal account to the care center’s operating account to cover the month’s expenses over revenue.
The next meeting of the Sandhills Care Center Board of Directors is scheduled for 4 p.m. Dec. 10.
* School Board approves contract with ESU 10 for services
(Posted 6:45 a.m. Nov. 13)
The Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education on Monday approved a contract with Educational Service Unit 10 to provide service for deaf students.
Superintendent Darrell Peterson told the board the deaf student service provider will now come from ESU 10 instead of through a contract with Educational Service Unit 17, so the board needed to have a contract with ESU 10 for the service.
The board approved that contract.
Also Monday, the board authorized the Ainsworth Educational Facilities Leasing Corporation to pay an invoice for the agriculture and industrial technology building addition project.
The board approved a pair of option enrollment requests, one for a student optioning into the district and one for a student opting out of the district. Carey Wells-Haskell requested the board allow her son, Jace, to attend Ainsworth Community Schools, and Colleen Anderson requested the board allow her granddaughter Alexandrea Collision to attend Rock County Public Schools.
The board approved both requests.
During his report, Peterson said Ainsworth Community Schools will host a drug recognition program Nov. 26 that will be open to everyone in the area.
Elementary Principal Curtis Childers reported kindergarten through sixth grade enrollment increased by two students since the October board meeting, with 198 total students in the seven classes. The largest classes are 31 students each in the kindergarten, third and fourth grades. The smallest class is the second grade, with 23 students.
Secondary Principal Steve Dike reported enrollment for seventh grade through the senior class is 135 students, which is an increase of four students since the previous report. The largest class is the freshmen class with 43 students. The smallest is the senior class with 22 students.
The next meeting of the Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education is scheduled for 7 p.m. Dec. 10.
* Grief Share seminar scheduled for Thursday in The Connection
(Posted 6:45 a.m. Nov. 13)
The Connection on Main Street will be the host site for
a Surviving the Holidays Grief Share session for those facing the holidays
following the death of a loved one.
* Richey previews North Central semifinal game against Burwell
(Posted 6:45 a.m. Nov. 12)
North Central football coach Ryan Richey talked about
Monday's Class D-1 playoff semifinal against the undefeated Burwell Longhorns
with KBRB's Graig Kinzie.
* Sheriff's department seeks information regarding sign theft
(Posted 12:30 p.m. Nov. 7)
The Brown County Sheriff’s Department
is seeking information from the public regarding the theft of a sign from
southern Brown County.
* Kaup named Caring Kind Award winner for Rock County Hospital
(Posted 3:45 p.m. Nov. 7)
The Nebraska Hospital Association recognized 76 hospital
employees recently with the organization’s Caring Kind Award.
* Two horses killed Tuesday night in one-vehicle accident west of Bassett
(Posted 10:30 a.m. Nov. 7)
Two horses on Highway 20
Tuesday night were struck and killed by a motorist traveling west of Bassett.
* Breakdown of area county votes on regional, state and federal races
(Posted 9:45 a.m. Nov. 7)
Nebraska Statewide and Federal Races
Total votes cast plus vote breakdowns for area counties
Initiative 427 to expand Medicaid coverage
Votes For Against
Statewide 344,437 302,338
Brown 447 846
Keya Paha 101 250
Rock 210 407
Deb Fischer (R) Jane Raybould (D)
Statewide 393,536 259,626
Brown 1,149 188
Keya Paha 336 42
Rock 563 79
District 3 U.S. House of Representatives
Adrian Smith (R) Paul Theobald (D)
Statewide 162,757 49,363
Brown 1,194 159
Keya Paha 355 32
Rock 583 64
Pete Ricketts (R) Bob Krist (D)
Statewide 402,078 275,186
Brown 1,146 213
Keya Paha 347 43
Rock 566 93
Secretary of State
Bob Evnen (R) Spencer Danner (D)
Statewide 397,035 253,593
Brown 1,111 159
Keya Paha 321 34
Rock 532 68
Charlie Janssen (R) Jane Skinner (D)
Statewide 371,549 269,787
Brown 1,074 180
Keya Paha 305 35
Rock 504 77
John Murante (R)
Keya Paha 325
Nebraska Attorney General
Doug Peterson (R)
Keya Paha 321
Nebraska Legislature District 40
Tim Gragert Keith Kube
District-wide 7,181 6,738
Rock 314 261
Nebraska Public Power District Subdivision 5
Charlie Kennedy Thomas Hoff
District-wide 8,687 5,251
Brown 657 303
Lower Niobrara Natural Resources District
Linda Hoffman Paul Allen
District-wide 1,287 884
Keya Paha 109 81
Kevin Randa Bradley Mahon
District-wide 1,176 897
Keya Paha 74 88
Jeffery Uhlir Shaun Higgins
District-wide 1,082 999
Keya Paha 101 120
* Nebraskans vote to expand Medicaid coverage; Republicans sweep races
(Posted 6:45 a.m. Nov. 7)
By a 42,000-vote margin, Nebraskans voted Tuesday to expand Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act.
Nebraskans who now earn up to 138 percent of the median poverty level income will qualify for coverage under Medicaid. The federal government pays for 90 percent of the cost of the expanded Medicaid coverage, with the state responsible for 10 percent.
A total of 344,437 Nebraskans voted in favor of the expansion, which represented just over 53 percent of the vote. There were 302,338 votes against expansion, just under 47 percent.
Republicans dominated the state and federal races on the ballot Tuesday, as U.S. Sen. Deb Fischer was easily re-elected. Fischer received 58 percent of the votes cast, 393,536, while Democratic challenger Jane Raybould picked up 259,626 votes, 38.3 percent. Libertarian Jim Schultz received 24,456 votes, just over 3 percent.
Gov. Pete Ricketts earned re-election to another four-year term by an almost 20-point margin. Ricketts received 402,078 votes (59.37) percent, while Democratic challenger Bob Krist received 40.63 percent of the vote with 275,186 ballots cast in his favor.
Republicans swept the three Congressional seats in the state, with the closest race in the Second District. Incumbent Don Bacon edged Democratic challenger Kara Eastman by a 51.5 percent to 48.5 percent margin.
Adrian Smith cruised to re-election in the Third District, receiving almost 77 percent of the vote compared to just 23 percent for Democrat Paul Theobald.
Jeff Fortenberry was re-elected in District 1 by a 60-40 margin over Democratic challenger Jessica McClure.
Republican Bob Evnen will replace retiring Secretary of State John Gale. Evnen received 61 percent of the vote to 39 percent for Democrat Spencer Danner.
Charlie Janssen was re-elected as the State Auditor, receiving 58 percent of the vote to 42 percent for Democrat Jane Skinner.
Republican Doug Peterson ran unopposed for re-election as the Nebraska Attorney General, and Republican John Murante ran unopposed to replace Don Stenberg as State Treasurer.
Voter turnout in Nebraska was 56 percent in the General Election, with 685,320 Nebraskans casting ballots from the 1,219,644 who were registered to vote in the state.
* Gragert defeats Kube for 40th District Nebraska Legislature seat Tuesday
(Posted 6:30 a.m. Nov. 7)
Looking at some of the regional races during Tuesday’s General Election, Tim Gragert edged Keith Kube for the 40th District seat on the Nebraska Legislature. Gragert received 51.5 percent of the vote with 7,181 ballots cast his direction. Kube picked up 48.5 percent of the vote with 6,738 ballots cast.
Just over 400 votes separated the two candidates from the nearly 14,000 votes cast in the 40th District, which includes Rock, Holt and Boyd counties among others in north central and northeast Nebraska.
Gragert will replace Tyson Larson, who served two terms and could not run again due to term limits.
Charlie Kennedy ousted incumbent Thomas Hoff for the Subdivision 5 seat on the Nebraska Public Power District Board of Directors. Kennedy received more than 62 percent of the vote compared to 37.5 percent that went to Hoff. Subdivision 5 represents north central and northwest Nebraska.
Running unopposed, Cherryl Lovejoy in Subdistrict 4, Martin Graff in Subdistrict 6 and Dean Jochem in an at-large race won re-election to the Middle Niobrara Natural Resources District Board of Directors. Though not on the ballot, Justin Hammond received write-in votes to win election to the Subdistrict 2 seat on the Middle Niobrara NRD Board.
There were contested races for seats on the Lower Niobrara Natural Resources District Board of Directors.
Linda Hoffman defeated Paul Allen by a margin of 1,287 to 884 for the Subdistrict 3 seat on the Lower Niobrara NRD Board. Kevin Rand picked up 1,176 votes to win the Subdistrict 4 seat, with Bradley Mahon receiving 897 votes.
Jeffrey Uhlir edged Shaun Higgins for an at-large seat on the board, earning 52 percent of the vote, 1,082, compared to Shaun Higgins with 48 percent, 999 votes.
Thomas Higgins in Subdistrict 1, Marvin Leiwer in Subdistrict 2, Kent Pavlik in Subdistrict 5, Curt Morrow in Subdistrict 6, Dwain Marcellus in Subdistrict 7 and Larry Baumeister in Subdistrict 8 all ran unopposed and were elected to the Lower Niobrara NRD Board.
also ran unopposed for seats on the Educational Service Unit 17 Board of
Directors. Sue Weston in District 1, Lisa Chohon in District 3, Jean Pinney in
District 5 and Duane Gudgel in District 7 were all elected to the ESU 17 Board
* Van Houten elected assessor, Taylor county attorney in close Brown County races
(Posted 9:45 p.m. Nov. 6)
There were several tight local races in Brown County Tuesday during the General Election, two at the county level and one in the race for Ainsworth mayor.
Three candidates, two of them write-in candidates, vied to replace the retiring Charleen Fox as Brown County Assessor.
Terri Van Houten, the lone candidate appearing on the ballot, received 538 votes. That was enough to defeat two write-in candidates for the position. There were a total of 810 write-in votes cast Tuesday. Amber Happold received 409 write-in votes, and Bill Carr picked up 398 write-in votes.
Van Houten will be seated as the next Brown County Assessor.
There was one successful write-in campaign Tuesday, as Andy Taylor defeated David Streich in the race for Brown County Attorney.
Taylor received 719 write-in votes. Streich, the long-time county attorney, received 505 votes Tuesday as the lone candidate appearing on the ballot. Taylor will be sworn in as the next Brown County Attorney.
In the race to replace outgoing Ainsworth Mayor Larry Rice, Jeremiah Sullivan edged Cody Goochey by 79 votes. Sullivan finished with 360 votes, 54 percent of the votes cast, while Goochey picked up 281 votes, 43 percent.
Brad Fiala and Schyler Schenk will be seated on the Ainsworth City Council as the only two candidates to run for the expiring seats held by Brian Williams and Chuck Osborn.
In a four-way race for two seats on the Long Pine City Council, Linda Alberts led the field with 78 votes. She will be seated on the council and will be joined by Katherine Papstein, who secured 63 votes. David Cheatum received 45 votes, and Cheri Painter garnered 32 votes in the council race.
Long Pine Mayor Ed Brown was unopposed, and received re-election for another four-year term.
Brown County Clerk Travee Hobbs, Sheriff Bruce Papstein and Treasurer Deb Vonheeder ran unopposed and were re-elected to additional four-year terms.
After surviving an eight-way Republican Primary in May, Dennis Bauer and Reagan Wiebelhaus were elected to the Brown County Board of Commissioners Tuesday.
Doug Pankowski and Robert Maxwell were elected to seats on the Brown County Airport Authority without challenge.
Frank Beel, Jessica Pozehl and Jim Arens were each elected to four-year terms on the Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education. They were the only three candidates appearing on the ballot for the three seats on the School Board.
Pat Schumacher ran unopposed for another term as the Brown County representative on the KBR Rural Public Power Board of Directors.
JoAnn Johnson Parker, Brenda Goeken and P. Lynn Clay were each elected to three seats on the Johnstown Village Board. They were the only three candidates appearing on the ballot.
Brown County had voter turnout of 65.5 percent, with 1,401 votes cast from among the 2,136 registered voters in the county.
* Rock County voters approve levy and restricted fund increase for hospital, ambulance
(Posted 9:15 p.m. Nov. 6)
Rock County voters overwhelmingly approved allowing the Rock County Hospital and Rock County Ambulance Association to continue to levy property tax for operations and equipment purchases, and increase the county’s restricted funds budget to allow for the collection of the tax.
The measure passed by a margin of 455 in favor to 179 against.
In contested local Rock County races, TJ Ellermeier won the write-in election for county assessor over Monica Turpin. With neither name appearing on the ballot, Ellermeier received 355 write-in votes. Turpin picked up 71 write-in votes.
Lana Arrowsmith and Mike LeZotte won a four-way race for two Bassett City Council seats. Arrowsmith received 186 votes to lead the way, with LeZotte a close second with 180 votes from Bassett residents. Bonnie Emerson finished third in the race with 65 votes, followed by Kathy Maloun with 43 votes.
It was a close race for the Rock County seat on the KBR Rural Public Power District Board of Directors. Mike Kreitman received 200 votes to edge Dale Caskey, who finished with 187 votes.
The other local races in Rock County were uncontested, as Daunitta Buoy was elected as county clerk, Mona Davis as county treasurer, James Anderson was re-elected as county sheriff, and Avery Gurnsey was re-elected as county attorney.
Jim Stout and Glen May were the only two candidates for two seats on the Board of Commissioners and were elected.
Larry Ebert II, Tonya Larson and Kristy Beard were elected to the Rock County Board of Education, and James Nelson was re-elected to a six-year term on the Rock County Airport Authority.
Melissa Denny, Waylon Reynolds and Dan Judge were all elected to seats on the Newport Village Board.
Voter turnout in Rock County was 66 percent, with 671 votes cast from among the 1,012 registered to vote in the county.
* Prewitt, Cook and Hespe win seats on the Springview Village Board Tuesday
(Posted 10 p.m. Nov. 6)
The lone contested race locally in Keya Paha County was for the Springview Village Board, as six candidates ran for three spots on the Village Board.
Jesse Prewitt was the leading vote-getter with 115, followed by Troy Cook with 92 votes. The third candidate who will be seated on the Village Board is Larry Hespe. Hespe picked up 75 votes for the final seat.
Nathan Arends received 36 votes to finish fourth, followed by Robbie Painter with 30 votes and Joe Caulfield with 18 votes.
Mark Frick received 239 votes for Keya Paha County Public Schools Board of Education. He was the only candidate appearing on the ballot Tuesday. Two write-in candidates will be seated on the School Board, with Darcy Wiebelhaus picking up 88 write-in votes and Todd Painter receiving 86 write-in votes.
County Clerk/Assessor Suzy Wentworth, Treasurer Kaye Thiede and Sheriff Jeff Kirsch all ran unopposed and were elected to four-year terms.
Corey Nilson in the Center District and Bruce Ritterbush in the East District were each re-elected to the Keya Paha County Board of Commissioners after running unopposed Tuesday.
Randy Rowan ran unopposed and was elected to the KBR Rural Public Power District Board of Directors representing Keya Paha County.
Voter turnout in Keya Paha County was 64 percent.
* School Board seeking public input for superintendent search
(Posted 10:30 a.m. Nov. 6)
Following the retirement notice submitted by Ainsworth Community Schools Superintendent Darrell Peterson, the Board of Education has started the process to hire a replacement.
The board is asking for input from patrons, parents, students, staff and administrators. The Nebraska Association of School Boards is assisting the board in the superintendent search, and has scheduled a visit to the community on Wednesday, Nov. 28.
The board extends an invitation to the staff and community to participate in the visit and share thoughts regarding the district and the superintendent position. Suggestions pertaining to skills, qualities, or characteristics the candidate might possess in order to be successful in his or her role as superintendent, and views about the strengths of the school district and community, and areas where the district can improve, will be accepted during that session.
Those unable to attend the Nov. 28 session may share their views through the mail, by fax, or online.
Forms for those who cannot attend include the following questions:
1. What are the strengths and achievements of the
Ainsworth school district and
4. What leadership style/personal attributes are important in the new superintendent?
Forms may be found online at www.nasbsuptsearch.org
A copy of the form is also available in the district office on Third Street, and may be completed and mailed to the Nebraska Association of School Boards, Attention Ainsworth Superintendent Search, 1311 Stockwell St., Lincoln, NE 68502.
Forms may also be completed and faxed to 402-858-4604.
* Richey previews North Central quarterfinal matchup with Dundy County-Stratton
(Posted 3 p.m. Nov. 5)
North Central football coach Ryan Richey previewed the
Knights' Class D-1 State Playoff quarterfinal matchup against Dundy
* Runyan, Thomassen receive Caring Kind Awards from NHA
(Posted 12:30 p.m. Nov. 5)
The Nebraska Hospital Association recognized 76 hospital
employees recently with the organization’s Caring Kind Award.
* Economic group hosting Tuesday events at Valentine and Chadron
(Posted 9:45 a.m. Nov. 5)
Working to create a new standard of sustainable economic prosperity for all Nebraskans, Blueprint Nebraska will hold public meetings at both Chadron and Valentine on Tuesday.
The Chadron meeting will be held from 11 a.m. until noon MST in the Mari Sandoz Heritage Center on the Chadron State College campus.
The Valentine meeting will be held from 5 until 8 p.m. in the Peppermill Restaurant. Hosted by Cherry County Farm Bureau, appetizers will be offered prior to the 6 p.m. start of the meeting.
Blueprint Nebraska is a new, citizen-led, statewide economic development initiative that includes Nebraska leaders in business, agriculture, government and higher education. The effort seeks to establish a comprehensive and pro-active plan to stimulate the state’s economic growth, competitiveness and prosperity, while building on Nebraska’s numerous strengths.
Those participating in the meetings include the President of the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Bryan Slone; Blueprint Nebraska Executive Director, former State Senator Jim Smith; and Blueprint Nebraska Committee Member Tanya Storer of Whitman.
During the meetings, Slone will provide an overview of the state’s economy from the perspective of the State Chamber and Smith will speak to the goals of the Blueprint Nebraska initiative and important citizen participation opportunities.
Speaking to the significance of the effort, Slone said, “Looking forward, we face new competitive challenges in continuing to grow our state. Blueprint Nebraska has the potential to be a landmark statewide collaboration to help drive a new era of growth throughout our state. The State Chamber is proud to support this collaborative and visionary effort.”
Regarding the upcoming meetings, Senator Smith said, “We are looking forward to hearing the thoughts, opinions and insights of Nebraskans at the Valentine and Chadron meetings. Citizen input and participation is critical to the overall success of the project as we continue to move Nebraska forward.”
In addition to attending the public meetings, Nebraska citizens are encouraged to participate in an online survey regarding Nebraska’s major industries, economy and way of life. All Nebraska citizens are welcomed and encouraged to participate in the statewide opinion survey online at www.blueprint-nebraska.org and click the “Take the Blueprint Nebraska Survey” button on the home page.
Smith said, “We highly encourage citizens to join us for the meetings and to take the Blueprint Nebraska survey to have their voices heard.”
The gathering of citizen feedback is a critical step in the Blueprint Nebraska process. Survey responses will be used by several industry councils – comprised of Nebraskans from across the state – to analyze the state’s current strengths and challenges in areas such as manufacturing; workforce; taxation and incentives; housing; community vitality; agriculture; health care; education; and technology and innovation. Survey input will be combined with research to produce a comprehensive, long-range economic plan for the state.
* Area students named to Northeast Community College academic honor society
(Posted 7 a.m. Nov. 5)
Approximately 75 students at Northeast Community College
have qualified for membership in Phi Theta Kappa, Tau Chi Chapter.
* Several locations available to check in deer during upcoming firearm season
(Posted 2 p.m. Nov. 2)
Nebraska hunters will have several locations in the area
to check their deer during the firearm season Nov. 10-18.
* Yet again, monthly precipitation total exceeds Ainsworth norm
(Posted 8 a.m. Nov. 2)
Ainsworth Weather Observer Gerry Osborn recorded 1.77
inches of moisture during October, which was again above the average for the
month - though by just .08.
* Recent cases from Brown County Court
(Posted 2:30 p.m. Nov. 1)
In addition to fines, each case carries $50 in court costs
Shiela L. Veloz, age 22, of Grand Forks, N.D., charged with attempting a Class 4 felony, fined $1,000; also charged with possession of marijuana more than 1 ounce but less than 1 pound, $500.
Jacee J. Niehaus, 23, of Osakis, Minn., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.
Brigitte B. Timmerman, 49, of Omaha, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.
Nicholas D. Peterson, 18, of Tracy, Minn., driving left of center, $25; possession of drug paraphernalia, $100.
Spencer D. Gravly, 20, of Cottonwood, Minn., possession of drug paraphernalia, $100.
Andrew D. Thompson, 48, of Grand Island, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.
Joel S. Laleman, 22, of Kingman, Ariz., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.
Anthony E. Love, 37, of Marysville, Calif., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25; no operator’s license, $75.
John T. Bryant, 40, of Johnstown, no helmet, $50.
Brian E. Obst, 40, of Hastings, domestic assault/intentionally causing bodily injury, sentenced to 30 days in jail; failure to appear when on bail, sentenced to 10 days in jail.
William B. Norman Jr., 69, of Edgewood, Md., speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.
Heidi L. Bergstrom, 44, of Bemidji, Minn., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.
Myron T. Nilson, 51, of Ainsworth, overweight on an axle or group of axles, $75.
Jal J. Dobuol, 24, of Lisbon, N.D., attempt of a Class 4 felony, $1,000; possession of marijuana more than 1 ounce but less than 1 pound, $500; possession of drug paraphernalia, $100.
Travis V. Pike, 30, of Long Pine, careless driving, $100 and ordered to pay $2,471 in restitution.
Dustin A. Easton, 31, of Morrill, driving on the shoulder of a highway, $100; possession of an open alcohol container in a vehicle, $100.
* Races for Senate, governor highlight General Election state and federal ticket
(Posted 1 p.m. Oct. 30)
The race for governor and for a U.S. Senate seat highlight the state and federal races appearing on the Nov. 6 General Election ballot.
Nebraska voters will also decide whether to expand Medicaid coverage for those who currently earn too much to receive the benefit but too little to receive insurance subsidies from the federal government as part of the Affordable Care Act.
Republican U.S. Sen. Deb Fischer is running for a second term, and meets Democrat Jane Raybould in the General Election Tuesday.
Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts is also seeking a second term in office. His challenger is former State Sen. Bob Krist from the Democratic Party.
Republican Congressman Adrian Smith is running for another two-year term in the U.S. House of Representatives in the Third District. He faces Democratic candidate Paul Theobald Tuesday.
Republican Bob Evnen and Democrat Spencer Danner are running to replace retiring Secretary of State John Gale, and Republican State Auditor Charlie Janssen faces a challenge in his re-election bid from Democratic candidate Jane Skinner.
The ballot initiative appearing Tuesday, Initiative 427, will determine whether the state will expand Medicaid coverage to those ages 19 to 64 whose incomes are 138 percent of the federal poverty level.
Through the Affordable Care Act, the federal government would cover 90 percent of the cost of Medicaid coverage for those individuals, with the state responsible for 10 percent of the cost. Nebraska is one of 15 states that have not expanded Medicaid coverage from pre-Affordable Care Act levels.
Nebraska voters will be asked to vote either “for” the Medicaid expansion or “against” expanding coverage.
Polls Tuesday are open from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m. CST. KBRB will have coverage of the results of local and state races Tuesday night.
* Electrocuted squirrel ignites fire Monday afternoon northwest of Ainsworth
(Posted 8:15 a.m. Oct. 30)
The Ainsworth Volunteer Fire Department Monday responded
to a report of a fire in a road ditch northwest of Ainsworth.
* Deer checked in north central units will be sampled for CWD
(Posted 3 p.m. Oct. 29)
Samples to be tested for chronic wasting disease will be collected at check stations in north central, central and northwest Nebraska during the November firearm deer hunting season.
Nebraska Game and Parks Commission staff will collect lymph nodes from select harvested deer during the Nov. 10-18 season from the Keya Paha, Calamus West, Pine Ridge, Plains, Sandhills and Loup West management units.
The goal of this sampling effort is to assess the spread and prevalence of CWD through periodic testing in each region of the state, which will help biologists predict when and where future effects on deer numbers may occur. Testing will take place in other regions of the state in the next several years.
Other hunters outside of the sampling area may have their deer tested for CWD, for a fee, by the Nebraska Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory in Lincoln.
Although present in Colorado and Wyoming for several decades, CWD was first discovered in Nebraska in 2000 in Kimball County. Since 1997, Game and Parks staff have tested nearly 51,000 deer and found 499 that tested positive. CWD has been found in 40 Nebraska counties, but no population declines attributable to the disease have yet occurred.
CWD is prion disease that attacks the brain of infected deer and elk, eventually causing emaciation, listlessness, excessive salivation and death. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, no person is known to have contracted CWD; however, hunters should cautiously handle and process deer and avoid consuming animals that test positive or look sick. Livestock and other animals not in the deer family do not appear susceptible to CWD.
Hunters can help prevent the spread of CWD by using proper carcass disposal methods. CWD prions, the infectious proteins that transmit the disease, can remain viable for months or even years in the soil. Hunters should field dress animals at the place of kill, avoid spreading spinal cord or brain tissue to meat, and dispose of the head (brain), spinal column and other bones at a licensed landfill.
* Rock County voters choosing between several candidates Nov. 6
(Posted 10 a.m. Oct. 26)
Rock County voters will see a question on the Nov. 6 General Election ballot asking them whether to allow the Rock County Hospital and Rock County Ambulance to levy additional property tax of 3 cents per $100 in value from 2019 until 2024 and to allow the county to increase its restricted funds spending by 3 cents in valuation over the current levy lid to allow the hospital and ambulance to collect the funds.
A previous ballot question authorized the additional levies for the hospital and ambulance association until 2020, but did not specifically address the increase in restricted funds over the levy lid. The hospital and ambulance have not been able to collect all the funds approved by voters previously due to the restricted fund levy lid not being increased.
If approved by voters, the proposition would allow the hospital to increase its maximum levy from 7 cents per $100 in valuation to 9 cents per $100 in value to assist with hospital operations, with an additional 1 cent of levy going to the ambulance association for equipment purchases and training.
Looking at contested races appearing on the ballot for Rock County voters Nov. 6, Bassett residents may vote for up to two of the four candidates running for two seats on the Bassett City Council.
Bonnie Emerson, Kathy Maloun, Lana Arrowsmith and Mike LeZotte are candidates appearing on the ballot for City Council.
There are two write-in candidates vying for the Rock County Assessor position. Current Assessor Monica Turpin is a write-in candidate, as is TJ Ellermeier.
Daunnita Buoy (clerk), Mona Davis (treasurer), James Anderson (sheriff) and Avery Gurnsey (attorney) are all running unopposed on the Nov. 6 ballot.
After winning the Republican Primary Election, Glen May and Jim Stout are unopposed in the General Election for two seats on the Rock County Board of Commissioners.
Melissa Denny, Dan Judge and Waylon Reynolds are running for three expiring seats on the Newport Village Board.
Kristy Beard, Larry Ebert II and Tonya Larson are running for three expiring seats on the Rock County Public Schools Board of Education.
James Nelson is unopposed for a six-year term on the Rock County Airport Authority.
Rock County voters will help decide a contested race to replace Tyson Larsen on the Nebraska Legislature. Keith Kube and Tim Gragert were the top two vote-getters in the Primary Election for the District 40 seat on the Nebraska Legislature, and either Kube or Gragert will win a four-year term in the Legislature on Nov. 6.
There is a contested race for a six-year term as the Rock County representative on the KBR Rural Public Power District Board of Directors, as both Dale Caskey and Mike Kreitman are running for that position.
Thomas Hoff and Charlie Kennedy are vying for the Subdivision 5 seat on the Nebraska Public Power District Board of Directors. The winner receives a six-year term on the NPPD Board.
Dean Jochem and Marty Graff are running unopposed to retain their at-large and Subdistrict 6 seats respectively on the Middle Niobrara Natural Resources District Board of Directors. Cherryl Lovejoy is unopposed for the Subdistrict 4 seat on the NRD Board. While no names will appear on the ballot, Justin Hammond has filed as a write-in candidate for the Subdistrict 2 NRD Board seat.
Sue Weston is unopposed for the District 1 seat on the Educational Service Unit 17 Board of Directors.
All Rock County voters cast their ballots from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m. Nov. 6 in the Bassett Fire Hall.
* Six running for 3 seats on Springview Village Board during General Election
(Posted 9:45 a.m. Oct. 26)
Springview voters will see six candidates on the Nov. 6 General Election ballot running for three seats on the Springview Village Board of Trustees.
Nathan Arends, Troy Cook, Joe Caulfield, Robbie Painter, Jesse Prewitt and Larry Hespe are on the Village Board ballot. Voters can select up to three candidates, and the top three will be seated on the board.
Mark Frick is the lone candidate who will appear on the ballot for three open seats on the Keya Paha County Public Schools Board of Education. Todd Painter and Darcy Wiebelhaus are running for the School Board as write-in candidates.
Keya Paha County Commissioners Corey Nilson in the Center District and Bruce Ritterbush in the East District are unopposed in the General Election.
County Clerk/Assessor Suzy Wentworth and Sheriff Jeff Kirsch are unopposed for additional four-year terms, and Kaye Thiede is running unopposed for the office of Keya Paha County Treasurer.
There are two contested races for the Lower Niobrara Natural Resources District Board of Directors for voters in Subdistrict 3 and Subdistrict 4. Linda Hoffman and Paul Allen are running for the Subdistrict 3 seat, and Bradley Mahon and Kevin Randa are running in Subdistrict 4. Thomas Higgins in Subdistrict 1, Marvin Liewer in Subdistrict 2, Kent Pavlik in Subdistrict 5, Curt Morrow in Subdistrict 6, Dwain Marcellus in Subdistrict 7 and Larry Baumeister in Subdistrict 8 are unopposed on the ballot.
There is also a contested at-large seat for the Lower Niobrara NRD Board, as Jeffrey Uhlir and Shaun Higgins square off for the at-large spot on the NRD Board.
Dean Jochem and Marty Graff are running unopposed to retain their at-large and Subdistrict 6 seats respectively on the Middle Niobrara Natural Resources District Board of Directors. Cherryl Lovejoy is unopposed for the Subdistrict 4 seat on the NRD Board. While no names will appear on the ballot, Justin Hammond has filed as a write-in candidate for the Subdistrict 2 NRD Board seat.
Randy Rowan is unopposed for a term on the KBR Rural Public Power Board of Directors representing Keya Paha County.
Barry DeKay faces Dan Scheer in the race for the Subdivision 2 seat on the Nebraska Public Power District Board of Directors.
All Keya Paha County voters cast their ballots in the Springview Grade School. Polls on Nov. 6 are open from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m.
* Brown County voters to decide several local races Nov. 6
(Posted 9:30 a.m. Oct. 26)
Brown County voters will have several local races to decide when going to the polls on Tuesday, Nov. 6.
Voters inside the Ainsworth city limits will select a new mayor, as Cody Goochey and Jeremiah Sullivan are running to replace current Mayor Larry Rice.
Schuyler Schenk and Brad Fiala are running for two seats on the Ainsworth City Council currently held by Chuck Osborn and Brian Williams.
Four Long Pine residents are running for seats on the City Council. Long Pine voters will choose two from among David Cheatum, Cheri Painter, Linda Alberts and Katherine Papstein.
Long Pine Mayor Ed Brown is running unopposed for another term.
Brenda Goeken, JoAnn Johnson Parker and P. Lynn Clay are running for three seats on the Johnstown Village Board.
In countywide races, three are running to replace retiring Brown County Assessor Charleen Fox. Republican Terri Van Houten will appear on the ballot, while Amber Happold and Bill Carr are running for county assessor as write-in candidates.
There is also a write-in candidate for Brown County attorney. Longtime County Attorney David Streich will appear on the ballot. Andy Taylor is running for county attorney as a write-in candidate.
Dennis Bauer and Reagan Wiebelhaus survived an eight-candidate Republican Primary election for Brown County Commissioner. They will be the only names appearing on the Nov. 6 ballot, as no Democratic Party candidates ran for commissioner.
Republican Clerk Travee Hobbs, Treasurer Deb Vonheeder and Sheriff Bruce Papstein are running unopposed for additional four-year terms in office.
Three candidates – incumbent James Arens and newcomers Frank Beel and Jessica Pozehl – are running for three seats on the Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education.
Three candidates are running unopposed for seats on the Educational Service Unit 17 Board. Sue Weston is unopposed in ESU 17 District 1. Lisa Chohon faces no competition for the ESU 17 District 3 board seat, and Jean Pinney is unopposed for the District 5 seat on the ESU 17 Board.
Dean Jochem and Marty Graff are running unopposed to retain their at-large and Subdistrict 6 seats respectively on the Middle Niobrara Natural Resources District Board of Directors. Cherryl Lovejoy is unopposed for the Subdistrict 4 seat on the NRD Board. While no names will appear on the ballot, Justin Hammond has filed as a write-in candidate for the Subdistrict 2 NRD Board seat.
Brown County voters will cast their ballots on Nov. 6 in the Ainsworth Conference Center. Polls are open from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m.
* Sheriff's department to host prescription drug take-back Saturday
(Posted 7 a.m. Oct. 25)
Think drug addictions stem from street drugs? Actually, The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health shows year after year that the majority of misused and abused prescription drugs are obtained from family and friends – often when someone else’s medication is stolen from the home medicine cabinet.
On Saturday, Drug Take-back Day, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Drug Enforcement Administration of the U.S. Department of Justice and other partners urge consumers to take all unused prescription pills and patches (liquids, needles and sharps cannot be accepted) to a collection spot. The Brown County Sheriff’s Department is a collection site, and will accept unwanted and unused prescription drugs from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. Saturday.
The service is free and anonymous, no questions asked. While official Drug Take-back Days are held twice yearly – in April and November – every day can be a drug take-back day, said Sheri Dawson, director of the Division of Behavioral Health at the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services.
“In April, Americans turned in 474.5 tons of prescription drugs at more than 5,800 sites operated by the DEA and more than 4,600 of its state and local law enforcement partners,” Dawson said. “Nebraska is rallying to help the October Take-back Day reach its goal of collecting more than a million pounds this weekend. We know Take-back Day will continue to proactively address prescription abuse and misuse and reduce the avenues available for obtaining these drugs.”
Overall, in its 14 previous take-back events, DEA and its partners have taken in more than 9 million pounds - more than 4,500 tons - of pills.
“This initiative helps address a public safety and public health issue,” said
Susan Strohn, deputy director of the Division of Public Health at DHHS.
“Medicines that languish in home cabinets can be susceptible to theft,
unintentional misuse and abuse. It is important to dispose of them
* Traffic Accident
(Posted 1:15 p.m. Oct. 24)
The Brown County Sheriff’s Department investigated a
vehicle-deer accident that occurred Monday, Oct. 22, on Highway 20.
* July taxable sales climb for most area counties
(Posted 2:45 p.m. Oct. 23)
Nebraska Department of Revenue
Nebraska Department of Revenue
* Shaws sweep final week of KBRB Football Contest
(Posted 11:30 a.m. Oct. 23)
Five contestants were tripped up just once in the eighth and final week of the KBRB Football Contest.
It was Purdue’s shocking home blowout over unbeaten and second-ranked Ohio State that cost five contestants from turning in a perfect card during the final contest week.
Andrew Walton of Ainsworth, Kurtis Mizner and Becky Chase of Springview, and Kim Shaw and Walker Shaw of Bassett had a perfect card other than checking the box for the Buckeyes.
That sent us to the first tie-breaker to determine the Week 8 winner, Nebraska’s first victory, 53-28, over Minnesota. Only Mizner had the Gophers picked to win.
Of the four who took the Huskers, Kim Shaw picked it closest to the actual score, missing the total by just six combined points by predicting a 48-27 Husker triumph.
Kim Shaw wins the first-place, $40 certificate.
Both Walker Shaw, with a 37-34 prediction, and Becky Chase, with a 31-28 final, missed the total by 22 points, and Andrew Walton picked it 31-21 Huskers to miss by 29 points.
With Walker Shaw and Chase tied after the first tie-breaker, the second tie-breaking criteria came into effect, which was the contestant who turned in their card the earliest.
Shaw delivered his card to the KBRB Studios on Wednesday, while Chase’s card was postmarked on Thursday, so Walker Shaw earned the $10, second-place prize.
KBRB thanks everyone who turned in cards during this year’s football contest. Gift certificates may be spent at Buckles Automotive, Road Runner or at Plains Equipment in Ainsworth; at the West Plains Bank in Springview; Circle B Livestock in Bassett; at the Central Bar in Stuart; or at Road Runner in Atkinson.
STATE CHAMPIONS - The Ainsworth girls cross country team defended its Class D title Friday, scoring 63 team points to beat runner-up North Platte St. Patrick's by 14. Junior Rylee Rice (second from left) won her third straight individual state title and sophomore CeeAnna Beel (fourth from left) placed fifth individually.
BULLDOG SWEEP - Ainsworth senior Ben Arens (left) won
not just the
* Ainsworth runners sweep Class D individual titles, girls win second straight title
(Posted 1 a.m. Oct. 20)
The Ainsworth girls cross country team captured its second
straight state title Friday during the Class D State Championships at the
Kearney Country Club. Led by three-time state individual champion junior Rylee
Rice, the Bulldogs finished with 63 team points to win by 14 over runner-up
North Platte St. Patrick's.
* Commissioners approve bid for crack-seal work
(Posted 2:45 p.m. Oct. 18)
During a light agenda Tuesday, the Brown County Commissioners approved the low bid of three submitted to perform crack-seal work on paved roads in the county.
Bader’s Highway and Street Maintenance of Norfolk provided the board with a bid of 39 cents per lineal foot for crack seal work. That bid was lower than the 44 cents per foot from Hein Construction of Fairbury and the 50 cents per foot submitted by TopKote of Yankton, S.D.
In other business Tuesday, the commissioners acknowledged the 2017-18 county audit report as submitted by accountant Michael Pommer. The board also discussed an agreement between the county and the village of Johnstown for snow removal. An amended agreement between the county and village will be addressed during the board’s Nov. 6 meeting.
The commissioners signed a contract with Big John’s to provide delivered meals to the Brown County Jail for inmates after accepting the lone bid from the restaurant during the Oct. 2 meeting. Commissioner Buddy Small had also asked the Sandhills Care Center Board if the facility was interested in delivering lunch and dinner to the jail. The Care Center Board quoted the county $7.75 per delivered meal. No action was taken on that quote Tuesday. The bid from Big John’s was for $9.50 per delivered lunch and $7.50 per evening sack lunch.
The next meeting of the Brown County Commissioners is scheduled for 5:15 p.m. Nov. 6.
* Ricketts discusses Medicaid expansion, property taxes and economy
(Posted 10:15 a.m. Oct. 17)
Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts visited with KBRB's Graig
Kinzie Wednesday, discussing the proposed expansion of Medicaid on the ballot
Nov. 6, as well as the lack of state funding for rural school districts and the
state economy in general.
* Three Boyd County students injured Tuesday when bus is hit by semi
(Posted 6:45 a.m. Oct. 17)
Three Boyd County High School students were injured Tuesday when a semi collided with a school bus on Highway 20 near Osmond.
According to the Nebraska State Patrol, which is investigating the accident, the accident took place at approximately 3 p.m. The school bus had stopped at a railroad crossing, and had just started to cross the railroad tracks, when a semi struck the rear end of the bus. According to the State Patrol, the bus did have its flashing lights activated at the crossing.
Three students were transported to the Osmond Hospital. Two were subsequently transferred to other facilities for treatment of their injuries. The bus was carrying about 25 students. Neither the bus driver nor the semi driver was injured in the accident.
Names of the injured have not been released, and the accident remains under investigation by the Nebraska State Patrol.
* 11 Lions Club members assist with Adopt-a-Highway cleanup effort
(Posted 1:30 p.m. Oct. 16)
During its Monday meeting, the Ainsworth Lions Club heard from President Connie Lentz that 11 members of the club and one additional volunteer assisted with the Adopt-a-Highway cleanup project on Highway 20 just east of Ainsworth.
Eight bags of trash were collected, with the Nebraska Department of Transportation picking up the trash after it was collected by the volunteers.
At the request of the Brown County Fair Board, the Lions Club will provide a continental breakfast on the Saturday morning of the fair for early arrivals. The club was advised the Saturday morning concession stand work crew would provide rolls, coffee, and biscuits and gravy for next year.
Evan Evans reported he is working with a contractor regarding the building of forms to create concrete borders for park playground equipment. Evans advised the cost associated with the production and installation of concrete borders will be available later.
As an alternative, it was suggested that pre-formed concrete borders, like those typically used in parking lots, be considered.
Two years ago, the Lions Club Board of Directors presented a proposal, which the club adopted, to establish a budget to finance Lions Club projects in accordance with its mission to serve.
The budget included $1,500 for health care projects, $2,000 for community service projects, $2,000 for park benches, $6,000 for crumb rubber under playground equipment, and $3,000 for playground borders.
Secretary Jerry Ehlers provided an update of the expenditures to-date regarding each project, with a recommendation that the Board of Directors review the expenditure information and prepare an updated budget for the club to consider during its November meeting.
Lentz informed the club the Lions Club Family Christmas Party is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Monday, Dec. 17, in the United Methodist Church Parish Hall.
The next meeting of the Ainsworth Lions Club Board of Directors is scheduled for noon Nov. 19.
* Father-son duo sweep top spots in Week 7 KBRB Football Contest
(Posted 10:45 a.m. Oct. 16)
A father-son duo ran the gauntlet of the KBRB Week 7 Football Contest, sweeping both spots during a tough week to pick winners.
With numerous competitive games on both the high school and college side in Week 7, Kurt Johnson and Glen Johnson of Ainsworth were nearly spotless on their picks.
Kurt Johnson missed just one game, Central Valley’s win over CWCE on the high school side. He picked all the college games correctly, including Michigan State’s road win at Penn State, LSU’s home win over No. 2 Georgia, and top 10 Washington’s loss in overtime at Oregon.
Kurt also had Northwestern picked to beat Nebraska in the tie-breaker by a 30-28 margin, close to the Cats’ 34-31 overtime win over the Huskers.
For missing just one game during a week when most contestants missed four or more contests, Kurt Johnson receives the $40 first-place certificate.
Glen Johnson missed just two games on the Week 7 card – Central Valley’s win over CWCE on the high school side and Kansas State’s win over Oklahoma State on the college side. Glen also had Northwestern picked to win in the tie-breaker, but it didn’t come to that as his was the only card to miss two games. Glen Johnson receives the $10, second-place certificate.
Steve Salzman of Ainsworth had the only card that missed three games, as all the other cards turned in missed four or more on the Week 7 slate.
Week 8 KBRB Football Contest cards are available from Buckles Automotive, Road Runner and Plains Equipment in Ainsworth; Circle B Livestock in Bassett; the West Plains Bank in Springview; the Central Bar in Stuart; and from Road Runner in Atkinson.
Just a reminder, the Week 8 Football Contest has an early deadline, since most games will be played on Thursday. Cards must be turned in to the KBRB Studio by 4 p.m. Thursday or carry a Thursday postmark if mailed to be eligible.
* New York Time columnist Brooks to visit area communities Oct. 24
(Posted 9 a.m. Oct. 15)
The Atkinson, Brown County, O’Neill, Rock County, and Stuart Community Foundation funds along with Nebraska Community Foundation and the Aspen Institute announce that New York Times Op-Ed columnist David Brooks will visit five north central Nebraska communities Oct. 24 as part of Weave: The Social Fabric Project.
Launched in the spring, Weave starts with the idea that social fragmentation is the central problem of our time — isolation, alienation and division. Fortunately, all across the country, groups and individuals are rebuilding communities and creating social capital. Weave seeks to work with these groups to spur a movement to repair the national fabric. Through community visits, the Weave team identifies these groups, celebrates them, synthesizes the values that move them, and helps forge a common identity.
During his time in the region, Brooks and his team will engage in a listening tour, including one-on-one interviews and community tours featuring the accomplishments of these extraordinary Nebraska communities.
North central Nebraska communities including Stuart, Ainsworth, Bassett, Atkinson and O’Neill were selected through a partnership with the Nebraska Community Foundation.
“There is an abundance of good news to be shared across the Nebraska Community Foundation network and Mr. Brooks and his team had their pick of numerous Nebraska communities that have excelled in people attraction, economic development and community building,” said Jeff Yost, president and CEO of the Nebraska Community Foundation. “These communities have long been a model to the NCF network and we are thrilled to see our friends at Stuart, Ainsworth, Bassett, Atkinson and O’Neill getting the attention and recognition they deserve on a national level.”
More details on the times and meeting places of Brooks’ visits to each community will be announced soon.
* Council signs letter of intent to explore solar power project with NPPD
(Posted 10 p.m. Oct. 10)
The Ainsworth City Council took the first step during Wednesday’s meeting toward potentially installing a solar power generation facility in partnership with the Nebraska Public Power District.
NPPD representative Cathy Cathol discussed the possibility of having Ainsworth become a Sunwise Community and install enough solar panels to generate 500 kilowatts of daily electricity.
Cathol said approximately 1,500 solar panels would be installed at a site the city can secure that is close enough to connect to NPPD’s transmission system.
“If you have pieces of property you think would work, you send them to us and our engineers will take a look,” Cathol said.
She said the Sunwise Community program has no up-front costs for the city or electric customers. Residential and commercial customers would be able to secure shares of the power generated by the solar panels. One solar share would be equal to 150 kilowatt-hours of electricity per month. There would be a $50 enrollment fee charged per customer who participates, which would be refunded after three years.
She said the city would partner with NPPD, and the utility would then help put together a request for proposals from private developers. The proposals would then give the city and its electric customers an idea of how competitive the solar power would be price-wise with standard electricity rates. Customers participating could choose to exit the program at any time.
NPPD would agree to purchase any additional power generated by the solar panels at its wholesale rate.
Cathol said the new solar panels have been able to withstand direct hail hits and continue to function. Any maintenance and repair required at the solar farm would be the responsibility of the developer, not the city.
Cathol said the program is simple for the community, for the electric customer, and for NPPD. The program began in 2016, and there are currently solar power-generating facilities at Venango, Kearney and Scottsbluff, with several other communities showing interest in installing the renewable energy resource.
Mayor Larry Rice said he would recommend the city pursue this venture by signing the letter of intent.
“The letter of intent is nothing that is binding,” Rice said.
After a site is selected and proposals are received, the community could then see the cost comparisons for generating the solar power compared to conventional power and decide whether to undertake the project.
The council unanimously approved signing a letter of intent to have NPPD put together a request for proposals.
In other business Wednesday, by a 3-1 vote, the council agreed to sign a letter of engagement with law firm Simmons Olsen of Scottsbluff to have an attorney with the firm review the city’s LB 840 plan, the program’s administration and documents, and review recommendations that may be made by the city auditor related to the program.
City Attorney Rod Palmer said Dana F Cole recommended the Scottsbluff firm.
“They have told us they are going to write us up on the way we have been doing things,” Palmer said. “If we don’t want the state auditor after us, we will need to rectify those findings.”
Palmer said the city needed to be proactive in addressing any concerns raised by the auditor, as he said there are apparently numerous things that aren’t correct now.
Councilman Greg Soles asked if this is the second straight year that the city audit has not been completed by Dana F Cole on time, forcing an extension to be filed. City Administrator Lisa Schroedl said the audit was due March 20, but an extension was filed and the audit has to be finalized by Nov. 1.
Soles asked, “Do we have a commitment from Dana F Cole that they will have this audit done by Nov. 1?”
Schroedl said Dana F Cole knows the city could potentially lose its highway allocation funding if the audit report is not completed on time.
“Dana F Cole will require the city to respond to the findings,” Schroedl said. “They are looking for an action plan that can be in motion when the report is filed.”
Hurless asked why, instead of spending $205 per hour for the Scottsbluff law firm to review the program, the city did not go to the person who wrote the LB 840 program?
wrote it,” Hurless said. “Would he not know how it should be run? He probably
wouldn’t even charge us to review it.”
Palmer said the auditors would require an impartial third party to review the program.
With Hurless voting against, the council approved signing the engagement letter with Simmons Olsen.
Following a public hearing, the council approved submitting a Community Development Block Grant application in the amount of $385,000 for the wastewater improvement projects the city has identified.
The city would be responsible for providing $577,080 in matching funds to coincide with the potential grant.
Schroedl said the grant application is part of the more than $2 million in wastewater improvements that are planned. She said the USDA has accepted the city’s application for loan and grant funding for the projects, which include installing cured-in-place pipe in several locations, replacing all water meters in the city, replacing two lift stations and adding portable generators.
In a related item, the council approved an engineering agreement with Olsson Associates for the wastewater improvement projects.
Jess Hurlbert with Olsson Associates said the project includes 17,000 feet of cured-in-place pipe, which essentially gives the city a new sewer line in those areas without having to dig trenches and tear up streets.
Hurlbert said replacing the water meters will be the most labor-intensive portion of the project.
“A majority of the water meters are located inside residences,” Hurlbert said. “The contractors may be able to knock out about 50 meters per week, but that will take the better part of a construction season.”
Rice said there were about 900 water meters in the city that are scheduled for replacement.
The council held two nuisance hearings for properties at 373 N. Woodward St. and 355 S. Woodward St.
Jack Shaul, who owns the property at 355 S. Woodward, said he had now cleaned up everything he could without throwing away things that cost him a lot of money.
“We got rid of three cars, and all the vehicles and trailers are licensed,” Shaul said. “We hauled seven loads out, even some things that I now wish I still had.”
Shaul said the remaining pickup on the property was needed for parts to install into another pickup, and he hoped to be able to complete that project by the spring. Soles asked if May 8, 2019, would give Shaul enough time to swap out pickup parts. Shaul indicated he would get the project completed by that date.
Rice thanked Shaul for the work he had done to clean up the property, and the council approved providing an extension until May 8, 2019.
Regarding the property at 373 N. Woodward, Rice said the ordinance violation noted either licensing or removing vehicles, and cleaning up debris on the property.
The council received a letter from the property owner, asking for an extension until Oct. 15 to allow him to finish cleaning up the items identified as nuisances.
Hurless said she was ok with giving the property owner the short extension, with the understanding that the sheriff’s department would serve the property owner with notice if the items are not cleaned up by that time.
Palmer said, if the work is not completed by Oct. 15, then the sheriff’s department could issue a citation and the property owner would be asked to appear in court.
The council approved giving the property owner until Oct. 15 to abate the nuisances identified.
Schroedl said the sheriff’s department had now issued three citations to property owners who received nuisance abatement notices but did not act upon clearing the items identified.
Palmer said the fine for the citation could be up to $500 for each occurrence.
The council also directed Schroedl to move forward and create a resolution declaring city property at Morrison’s Block 6, Lot 8 as surplus property to then list for sale.
Schroedl said the parcel is currently used as hay ground, with this year being the last of a contract the city had with a resident to mow the property for its hay value.
with the contract is interested in purchasing the property, but we would have to
put it out for bids,” Schroedl said. “To do that, we have to declare it as
Palmer said, if fewer than 30 percent of those who voted in the prior election object, the city can then sell the property through either public auction or by accepting sealed bids. After the property is sold, the council would then have to pass an ordinance that includes the buyer’s information and the terms of the sale.
The council directed Schroedl to create the resolution declaring the city block located on the west side of Ainsworth as surplus property.
In a final action item, the council reappointed Renee Adkisson to a three-year term on the Ainsworth Betterment Committee. Rice said he had not yet heard back from current board member Sue Wragge on whether she would be agreeable to a three-year reappointment, nor had he heard back yet from Ainsworth High School student Jon Ortner regarding his interest in one of the two high school seats on the Ainsworth Betterment Committee.
The next meeting of the Ainsworth City Council is scheduled for 5 p.m. Nov. 14.
* AHS homecoming royalty candidates chosen; king and queen to be crowned Friday
(Posted 10:15 a.m. Oct. 10)
Homecoming royalty candidates have been chosen for
Ainsworth Community Schools.
* Swan edges Beel for first place in Week 6 KBRB Football Contest
(Posted 10 a.m. Oct. 9)
Even with some difficult games to pick and a few upsets, KBRB Football Contest participants still fared well with their weekly prognostications.
Two contestants missed just two games on the Week 6 contest card, with each missing one game from both the high school and college ranks.
Olivia Beel of Johnstown had just two misses, incorrectly picking West Holt to knock off Boyd County in the high school portion of the card, and missing LSU’s loss on the road at Florida. That was the most widely missed game of the week, with the No. 5 Tigers dropping an SEC road game to the Top 25 Gators.
Brett Swan of Springview also missed the LSU and Florida game on the college side. His lone miss on the high school side was having Stuart picked to beat Chambers/Wheeler Central/Ewing. The Renegades won a home matchup against the Broncos in Class D-2.
That sent us to the tie-breaker to determine the winner. Both Beel and Swan had the Badgers correctly picked to beat the Huskers. Swan nearly nailed the final score by the exact margin, picking it 42-24 Badgers to miss the 41-24 final by a single point.
Beel had the Husker total also pegged with 24, but picked the Badgers to score 35 points to miss their score by just six.
Swan wins the $40 first-place certificate, and Beel picks up $10 for second place. The certificates are good to any KBRB Football Contest sponsor.
Those sponsors, where Week 7 Football Contest cards may be picked up, include Buckles Automotive, Road Runner and Plains Equipment of Ainsworth; Circle B Livestock in Bassett; the West Plains Bank in Springview; the Central Bar in Stuart; and from Road Runner in Atkinson.
Week 7 cards must be completed and returned to the KBRB Studios by 4 p.m. Friday or carry a Friday postmark if mailed.
* Peterson to retire in June after 14 years as ACS superintendent
(Posted 8:15 a.m. Oct. 9)
After 14 years leading the district, Ainsworth Community Schools Superintendent Darrell Peterson Monday submitted his retirement letter to the Board of Education.
Peterson’s final day with the district will be June 30, 2019.
“It has been my pleasure to serve as superintendent for the past 14 years,” Peterson said.
He told the board, by submitting his retirement letter early, he wanted to provide plenty of time for the board to find a replacement and have a smooth transition.
Board members thanked Peterson for his years of service to the district.
Peterson sought and received proposals from three companies to assist the school board in its search for a new superintendent. The board voted to approve a proposal submitted by the Nebraska Association of School Boards to assist in the search.
Board member Mark Johnson said the district has a long-term relationship with the NASB. He said, if the board is not satisfied with the candidate within the first two years, the NASB will help the district conduct an additional search free of charge.
Board member Brad Wilkins said Ord used the NASB with its superintendent search last year and was very complimentary about the way the group performed.
The district will pay the NASB $5,500 to assist in the search for a new superintendent.
In other business Monday, Jerry Ehlers presented the board with information on an update to the Ainsworth/Brown County Strategic Plan. Ehlers, a former superintendent with the district, joked that this was only the second board meeting he has attended since his retirement from the top spot in the district 20 years ago.
He provided the board with background information on the original strategic plan created following a town hall meeting in 2007. With support from the Brown County Foundation, the plan was updated in 2016 to come up with categorized suggestions for community improvement projects.
Ehlers reported the new leadership committee for the strategic plan consists of himself, board member Jim Arens, Haley Miles, Rhe Ann McBride, Kristin Olson and Colleen Lentz.
“We are going to get together with organizations and ask them about their priorities,” Ehlers said. “That gives everyone guidance, and allows those organizations to make a difference with their contributions. We hope to get that done prior to Thanksgiving.”
Ehlers said some of the projects the group has been working on include reopening the theater, which he said was $50,000 or so away from being completed. The Sandhills Care Center has reopened, and has 22 residents to put it close to cash-flowing. The group is working on projects to coincide with Highway 20 and Main Street renovation scheduled in the next few years, and continuously works to improve housing in the community.
“Twenty-five years ago, it was about recruiting new businesses to the community,” Ehlers said. “Now, it is more about recruiting workforce. We are trying to improve opportunities so people want to move here.”
He applauded the district for moving forward with the addition to enhance the school’s agriculture and industrial technology programs.
Board member Scott Erthum said, with the Valentine theater closing, completing the theater project in Ainsworth would be timely. Ehlers said the O’Neill theater also closed recently.
“Those were both private ventures,” Ehlers said. “This will stay a non-profit, volunteer effort.”
Wilkins said he was glad there was a plan in place for community improvement.
“The school is a key driver for economic development,” Wilkins said in thanking Ehlers for including the school board when deciding on priorities for the community.
Representatives from the school’s improvement committee also presented information to the board Monday on that group’s activities.
Secondary Principal Steve Dike said one thing to look for in a successful school is teacher-driven leadership, and the school improvement group consisting of several teachers and parents is doing good work.
“Wendy Allen and Amanda Ganser really drive this committee,” Dike said.
Allen told the board the group works on a five-year cycle for continuous improvement. The group identifies a goal and works five years toward implementing programs that lead to measureable improvement. She said the goal for the committee in this five-year cycle is to increase reading comprehension with an emphasis on vocabulary.
Ganser said the group has also worked on the school’s climate and culture after receiving surveys from students.
“We implemented the Bulldog Battle,” Ganser said. “We engage the kids with team class efforts, giving them ways to earn points for their class. The class competitions have been fun. The kids are really good at being competitive, and the attitudes have improved.”
Erthum said he was glad to see the committee coming up with ways to get the kids to re-engage.
Peterson said the group has put forth a lot of effort to improve the school.
In action items Monday, the board approved the annual multicultural education report.
The board authorized the Ainsworth Educational Facilities Leasing Corporation to pay an invoice relating to the agriculture and industrial technology building addition project.
The board also approved a corporate certificate of authority updating the school’s activity account to include Angie Welke and Dike as signatories.
Elementary Principal Curtis Childers’ report showed 196 students enrolled in kindergarten through sixth grades, which is an increase of seven students from the district’s September enrollment.
Dike reported there are 67 students combined in the seventh and eighth grades, and 133 high school students enrolled.
Peterson reported a Nebraska State Trooper toured the building recently to conduct a security audit. Peterson said the trooper met with 15 students and 15 staff members, and will provide the district with suggestions on additional security measures the school could take.
The next meeting of the Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education is scheduled for 7 p.m. Nov. 12.
* Care Center Board approves having the facility deliver meals to jail inmates
(Posted 5:30 p.m. Oct. 8)
During its Monday meeting, the Sandhills Care Center Board of Directors voted to have the facility staff prepare and deliver meals to inmates in the Brown County Jail.
Board member Buddy Small said the Brown County Commissioners discussed the possibility of having the care center prepare meals for jail inmates after receiving just one bid for the service.
Big John’s Restaurant submitted a bid of $9.50 per delivered lunch and $7.50 per delivered evening sack lunch. Small said the county accepted the bid, but either party could end the agreement by providing 30-day notice.
“We discussed the possibility of having the nursing home provide the meals to give the nursing home some additional revenue,” Small said.
Sandhills Care Center Business Manager Sarah Schipporeit told the board she had discussed the possibility of preparing and delivering the meals to the jail with Administrator Stephanie Rucker.
“We usually plan for a few extra meals anyway in case there are family members who want to stay and eat,” Schipporeit said. “I recommend we go ahead with it. We would have one of our dietary aides deliver.”
Schipporeit said the care center would charge the county $7.75 per meal for lunch and $7.75 per dinner, and Brown County Jail inmates would receive whatever is on the facility’s menu for the day.
The board approved allowing the care center to prepare and deliver lunch and evening meals to the jail at a cost of $7.75 per meal.
Small said he would inform the commissioners during their next meeting of the board’s decision to provide the meals.
Schipporeit reported the care center had 22 residents in September. One resident passed away during the month, leaving the facility with 13 private-pay residents and eight who receive Medicaid assistance entering October.
“We have the potential for getting up to three new residents,” Schipporeit said. “We are just not sure on the time frame yet.”
Schipporeit said the care center is working on an agreement with the Brown County Hospital to share a maintenance position, as the hospital needs an additional maintenance staffer but would likely be willing to lease the employee to the care center as needed.
Hospital Administrator John Werner told the board, if the two entities could work out the details, it would be a win-win for the hospital and the nursing home.
Schipporeit reported the facility had $48,829 in outside nursing expenses in September, as the facility employed five CNAs and one LPN from an agency nursing pool to fill needed shifts.
“There is a CNA class that will potentially be held in November,” Schipporeit said. “We have had some interest from people wanting to take the class.”
She said the nursing home would pay for the cost of becoming certified as a CNA if it is the person’s first certification. She said the facility also increased its wages for certified nurse assistants.
With the larger expense in pool nursing, the Sandhills Care Center finished September with revenue of $121,501 and expenses of $145,816 for a net loss during September of $24,314. The board voted to pay the September claims and transfer $13,582 from its interlocal account to the operating account to cover the expenses.
Part of the transferred funds would go toward reimbursing Medicaid $7,097 from money that was overpaid to the facility.
Jo Fuller with Rural Health Development, the company contracted to manage the facility, said the refund to Medicaid was due to a rate adjustment from the last cost report for the facility.
Fuller said Medicaid paid the facility an average rate when it opened. Following the first cost report, the actual rate is then determined. She said the state paid just over $2 per resident per day more than the cost report indicated the center should have been reimbursed, therefore the facility owed the state a refund of $7,097.
Board Chairman Phil Fuchs said the board had enough in its interlocal account to cover September expenses, and also had access to $80,000 in city funding whenever it was needed.
The next meeting of the Sandhills Care Center Board is scheduled for 4 p.m. Nov. 12.
* September finishes above average in both temperature and precipitation
(Posted 8 a.m. Oct. 4)
Ainsworth Weather Observer Gerry Osborn reported September
finished above normal in both average temperature and in precipitation.
September marked the eighth time in nine months the city recorded more moisture
* Fire destroys pickup Wednesday afternoon
(Posted 7:45 a.m. Oct. 4)
The Ainsworth Volunteer Fire Department responded to a
report of a pickup on fire Wednesday afternoon.
* Commissioners approve bid for used John Deere backhoe
(Posted 2 p.m. Oct. 3)
During Tuesday’s meeting of the Brown County Commissioners, Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin recommended the board approve a bid from Murphy Tractor and Equipment of Grand Island for a used John Deere backhoe.
The commissioners opened bids for used backhoes during the Sept. 18 meeting, and asked Turpin to inspect the machines that were bid to the county. Turpin said he believed the John Deere backhoe bid by Murphy Tractor was the best machine for the county, and the board approved his recommendation.
The $58,250 bid from Murphy Tractor and Equipment of Grand Island for the 2012 John Deere 310SK backhoe with 2,900 hours of use also included a $5,000 parts and service credit.
In another roads department item Tuesday, the board approved certifying a Standardized System of Annual Reporting to the Board of Public Roads Classifications and Standards as presented by Turpin.
The board received a single bid after advertising for meals for Brown County Jail inmates. Big John’s Restaurant submitted a bid of $9.50 per delivered lunch and $7.50 per delivered evening sack lunch.
Attorney Todd Flynn and residents Cathy Hinrichs and Brett Fernau approached the board regarding a subdivision for the estate of Freda Hinrichs. The board approved the subdivision as presented by Flynn for the southwest quarter of Section 26, Township 30 North, Range 22 West.
Newly appointed Brown County Zoning Administrator Tom Jones discussed a vacancy to the County Planning Commission created by his appointment. The board opted to advertise the vacancy on the Planning Commission for one week prior to appointing a new member to the Planning Commission.
The board voted to reappointment the current members to the Brown County Board of Adjustment.
The commissioners also approved a job description for Jones as prepared by Brown County Attorney Tom Herzog.
In a final action item Tuesday, the commissioners approved transferring $400,000 from the county’s miscellaneous general fund to the county highway fund.
The next meeting of the Brown County Commissioners is scheduled for 5:15 p.m. Oct. 16.
* Annual fund-raiser nets more than $17,000 for Sandhills Cancer Fund
(Posted 12:45 p.m. Oct. 3)
The annual Riders Unite for the Fight Against Cancer event raised more than $17,247 for the Sandhills Cancer Fund.
Despite dreary conditions, the events Saturday drew a solid turnout and will allow the Sandhills Cancer Fund to continue to provide support to those fighting cancer.
The live auction raised $6,007, with the silent auction bringing in $2,253. Thirteen teams competed in a two-person scramble golf tournament, and all flight winners donated their prize money back to help that event bring in $2,352.
The dinner event brought in $1,152 for the fund, the winner of the 50/50 raffle donated the winnings back to raise a total of $595.
The Pink Ladies Dart League donated $1,000, and two different raffles brought in a total of $1,280.
The iron horse ride netted $420, with the car ride bringing in $445 and the horse poker run adding $215 to the total.
Thanks to everyone who helped support the annual Riders Unite for the Fight Against Cancer event.
* Mizner submits perfect card to win KBRB Football Contest for Week 5
(Posted 9:30 a.m. Oct. 2)
Week 5 produced the first perfect card during the KBRB Football Contest. Kurtis Mizner of Springview picked all 15 games on the Week 5 card correctly, though he did have the Huskers picked to win the tie-breaker game over Purdue.
With the first perfect card of the season, Mizner wins the first place, $40 gift certificate to one of the KBRB Football Contest sponsors.
It took a perfect card to win this week, as eight contestants missed just one game on the Week 5 card.
Todd Hollenbeck of Long Pine, Lois Kaup of Stuart, and Brett Swan, Russ Richey and Jacque Richey all of Springview missed one game and correctly picked Purdue to beat Nebraska, while Jhett Hollenbeck and Deb Hollenbeck of Long Pine, and Carl Chase of Springview missed just one game but had Nebraska picked to win in the tie-breaker.
Russ Richey had the closest tie-breaker score, picking Purdue, 31-27, to miss the actual 42-28 final score by 12 points.
Jacque Richey missed the total score by 17 points, picking a 30-23 Purdue win. Todd Hollenbeck and Becky Chase missed the total by 18 points, both picking a 28-24 final. Kaup picked Purdue to win, 27-14, missing the final by 29 points, while Swan had the Boilermakers, 24-17, also missing the total by 29 points.
Russ Richey wins the second-place, $10 gift certificate. Week 6 KBRB Football Contest cards are available now from Buckles Automotive, Road Runner, and Plains Equipment in Ainsworth; the West Plains Bank of Springview; Circle B Livestock in Bassett; the Central Bar in Stuart; and from Road Runner in Atkinson.
Cards must be submitted to the KBRB Studios by 4 p.m. Friday, or carry a Friday postmark if mailed.
* City Council approves year-end claims during emergency session Monday
(Posted 3:30 p.m. Oct. 1)
During a brief emergency meeting Monday, the Ainsworth City Council, with two members absent, approved the final 2017-18 claims and changed the date for a previously approved special designated liquor license.
Prior to discussing agenda items, City Administrator Lisa Schroedl addressed the issue of having only two council members present. Schroedl said Councilwoman Deb Hurless was not available Monday, and Councilman Greg Soles had planned to attend but was ill.
“The city attorney’s advice is we can proceed with two members,” Schroedl said.
Mayor Larry Rice said he figured the city would just postpone the meeting until Thursday, when a majority of members were available.
Audience members Graig Kinzie and Rod Worrell both questioned whether having two council members available satisfied the city’s requirement to have a quorum present.
Kinzie used the example of having two council members attend a town hall function or another public event, which is allowable. However, he said, if three council members attended a town hall session, one would have to leave to keep the council from having a quorum of members.
He asked if that principle should not work the same for a meeting, that the council would need a quorum of three members to hold a meeting and take action.
Worrell said, if the city’s ordinances do not indicate what constitutes enough council members for a meeting, as the city attorney suggested, then the city should consider amending its ordinances to specify how many members are needed to hold a meeting.
Schroedl said the emergency session was called to approve an engineering agreement between the city and Olsson Associates for the upcoming wastewater improvement projects. However, she said she was still waiting on the engineering agreement between Olsson Associates and the USDA, so that item would need to be tabled.
By a 2-0 vote, with Councilmen Chuck Osborn and Brian Williams in favor, the council approved tabling the agreement.
The council approved paying the year-end claims for the 2017-18 fiscal year, as Monday marked the first day of the city’s 2018-19 fiscal year.
The council also revised, by a 2-0 vote, a previously approved special designated liquor license for the Ainsworth Elks Lodge to serve alcohol in the Conference Center during the annual Sandhills Chapter Pheasants Forever Banquet.
The council originally approved the special designated liquor license for Nov. 3, but Schroedl said the date for this year’s event is Nov. 2, so the revision Monday provided the Elks Lodge with permission to serve alcohol from 3 p.m. Nov. 2 until midnight on Nov. 3.
The next regular meeting of the Ainsworth City Council is scheduled for Oct. 10.
* Arens, Mlady and Atkinson named Believers & Achievers by NSAA
(Posted 6:45 a.m. Oct. 1)
U.S. Bank and the Nebraska School Activities Association announced the 2018-19 Believers and Achievers.
Believers & Achievers is a state-wide program designed by U.S. Bank and the NSAA to give recognition to Nebraska’s future leaders.
Beginning in October and continuing through March, 48 Nebraska high school seniors will be recognized as Believers & Achievers.
From those 48 finalists, eight will receive $500 scholarships from U.S. Bank to the college or university of their choice during a scholarship banquet to be held April 28, 2019.
The students will be recognized during NSAA State Championships throughout the 2018-19 activities year, and on posters sent to all NSAA member schools and U.S. Bank branches throughout the state.
Area Believers & Achievers Award winners are Ben Arens of Ainsworth, Leighton Mlady of West Holt, and Sydney Atkinson of Boyd County
* Recent cases from Brown County Court
(Posted 2:15 p.m. Sept. 27)
In addition to fines, each case carries $50 in court costs
Brent A. Goeken, age 37, of Long Pine, charged with second offense driving under the influence, fined $500 and sentenced to 30 days in jail, driver’s license revoked for 18 months, and ordered to install an ignition interlock device; also charged with driving under suspension, driver’s license revoked for two years.
Nolan D. Grint, 21, of North Loup, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.
Pawku T. Ju, 25, of Denver, Colo., speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $25.
Robert J. McLeod, 44, of Ainsworth, third offense driving under the influence, $1,000, sentenced to 30 days in jail with credit for 28 days served, 15 months of probation, driver’s license revoked for two years, ordered to install an ignition interlock device; commit child abuse negligently, sentenced to 30 days in jail and one year of probation; driving left of center, sentenced to one year of probation; transporting a child while intoxicated, sentenced to one year of probation.
Levi J. White, 28, of Ainsworth, second offense driving under the influence, $500, sentenced to 30 days in jail, driver’s license revoked for 18 months, ordered to install an ignition interlock device; possession of an open alcohol container in a vehicle, $50.
Peter L. Fixsel, 25, of Sioux Falls, S.D., possession of marijuana less than 1 ounce, $300; possession of drug paraphernalia, $100; speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.
Tanner L. White, 21, of Long Pine, first offense driving under the influence, $500, sentenced to seven days in jail, driver’s license revoked for six months, ordered to install an ignition interlock device.
James E. Worden, 22, of Ainsworth, leaving the scene of an accident or failing to furnish information, $500, driver’s license revoked for 60 days, ordered to install an ignition interlock device.
Charles A. Johnson, 59, of Battle Creek, Mich., speeding 16-20 mph over the limit, $125.
Torry W. Norling, 56, of Willmar, Minn., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.
Bonnie L. Kennedy, 56, of Littleford, Minn., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.
William A. Rogers, 65, of Modesto, Calif., speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.
Anthony M. Castillo, 31, of Colorado Springs, Colo., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.
Lillian K. Hullinger, 71, of Mount Morris, Mich., driving left of center, $25.
Kevin Meyer, 50, of West Monroe, La., speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.
Joeline M. Baratta, 55, of Ericson, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.
Daniel T. Gilbert, 36, of Hays, Kan., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.
Luis F. Perez, 28, of Long Pine, failure to yield the right of way, $25.
Lydia V. Robinson, 46, of Macy, possession of marijuana more than 1 ounce but less than 1 pound, $350; possession of drug paraphernalia, $100.
* Chase wins Week 4 KBRB Football Contest
(Posted 12:15 p.m. Sept. 25)
There was a clear-cut winner for the Week 4 KBRB Football Contest. Carl Chase of Springview checked the right boxes and was the only contestant to miss just two of the 15 games on the Week 4 card.
Chase incorrectly picked Stuart to beat St. Mary’s on the high school side, as the Cardinals shocked the Broncos Friday, 20-16. On the college side, Chase’s only miss was top 25 Boston College losing on the road to a previously winless Purdue Boilermaker team.
Chase earns the $40 first-place gift certificate for his work.
The second-prize took us to the tie-breaker, as seven contestants missed three games during Week 4. It was Kim Shaw of Bassett who most closely predicted Michigan’s 56-10 whitewashing of the Huskers in Ann Arbor. Shaw had the Wolverines picked to win, 42-10, to miss the total score by just 14 points. She wins the second-place, $10 gift certificate redeemable at one of our football contest sponsors.
Six of the seven contestants who missed three games had Michigan picked to win over the Huskers. It was a strong picking week for folks from the Springview area. In addition to the winner, Andrew Steinhauser, Hazel Chase, Kurtis Mizner and Russ Richey of Springview were among those missing three games. Also missing three games on the Week 4 card were Rob Dawkins of Stuart, and Casey Jones of Ainsworth.
Week 5 cards are available now from Buckles Automotive, Road Runner and Plains Equipment of Ainsworth; the West Plains Bank of Springview; Circle B Livestock of Bassett; the Central Bar of Stuart; and Road Runner of Atkinson.
Cards must be submitted by 4 p.m. Friday to the KBRB Studios, or carry a Friday postmark.
* Purchase agreement signed for Spencer Dam on the Niobrara River
(Posted 6:45 a.m. Sept. 25)
The Niobrara River Basin Alliance, the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, and the Nebraska Public Power District on Monday signed a purchase agreement for the eventual transfer of the assets and water rights associated with the Spencer Hydro-electric Generating Facility near Spencer from NPPD to the Game and Parks Commission and Niobrara River Basin Alliance on or before Jan. 31, 2021, when all conditions of the purchase agreement are met.
The agreement is part of a series of steps that started with a memorandum of understanding the parties entered into in September 2015.
NARD President Larry Reynolds said, “This signing shows the Niobrara River Basin Alliance, four natural resources districts in the alliance and our two partners working together to take proactive steps as we find ways to protect the river for generations to come.”
The agreement will assist in providing protection for all users of the river including wildlife, recreation and agriculture. It will help keep water in the river for fish and wildlife, including endangered species, and will also protect recreation use such as canoeing, tubing and kayaking, along with irrigation for agricultural users.
Game and Parks Commissioner Jim Douglas said, “Today the Game and Parks Commission and the Niobrara River Basin Natural Resources Districts moved one step closer to reaching our goal. The Commission, the NRDs and NPPD want to ensure the best possible future of the Niobrara River, in which the interests of stakeholders, users, fish and wildlife are all considered.”
Several years before the partnership, the Niobrara River was the focus of studies and lawsuits. In 2015, the alliance joined the Game and Parks Commission to work with NPPD and seek options for transferring NPPD’s senior water rights to the state and to the NRDs.
In 2016, Legislative Bill 1038 was passed by the Nebraska Unicameral that allowed the entire water right to be transferred for basin management purposes while retaining the priority dates; an essential component needed to provide the protection to the river.
Basin Alliance Secretary Marty Graff said, “LB 1038 was a significant change in Nebraska water law that will be key in protecting the Niobrara River Basin. The legislation ensures the Spencer water rights retained the seniority needed for instream flows and water user protection.”
With the legislation and purchase agreement completed, the alliance and Game and Parks will work to secure funding to complete the $9 million purchase of the Spencer Dam. NPPD established the original sale price of the facility at $12 million and is providing an in-kind contribution of $3 million.
NPPD Corporate Environmental Manager Joe Citta said, “NPPD is pleased to be a party to this agreement, which will provide water sustainability in the Niobrara River Valley and enable Nebraskans to continue to enjoy the river for fishing, wildlife, recreation and other uses in the future.”
* District governor initiates new Lions Club members during recent meeting
(Posted 7 a.m. Sept. 24)
During the Ainsworth Lions Club’s recent meeting, District Gov. Delan Reed and Past District Gov. Dave Collins conducted the club initiation ceremony for new members Vance Heyer and Steve Salzman. New members Bob Beatty and Crystal Dailey were unable to attend.
Reed then addressed the club, providing information regarding numerous Lions Club service programs available.
Collins, who is currently serving as chair of the Nebraska Lions Club Foundation, encouraged the use of the service programs available through the foundation. He provided a demonstration of a new eye impairment screening device, which is now available from the foundation to be used by local Lions Club.
The Linda Hapner Family provided a check in the amount of $300 in memory of Steve Hapner. The money is to be used in whatever fashion the club chooses. The board opted to add the money to the special purpose account set up to fund a future project in accordance with the Lions Club mission to serve.
Roland Paddock told the board he had been approached by a member of the Brown County Fair Board regarding the need for a Saturday morning breakfast during the fair. Jerry Ehlers, as a member of the Saturday morning work crew, said he would discuss a breakfast shift with the Fair Board as well as the Saturday morning schedule of events at the fair.
Larry Rice reported the installation of the crumb rubber under the playground equipment continues to be delayed due to the need to find a suitable border to be installed surrounding each piece of equipment. Evan Evans has a design in mind and continues to investigate the cost associated with the production and installation of concrete borders.
Connie Lentz advised that the “Adopt-A-Highway” Cleanup Project is scheduled for 3 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 30, just east of Ainsworth.
Volunteers are still needed to take tickets for the Oct 12 and Oct 18 Ainsworth football home games.
* Local Believers and Achievers nominees announced
(Posted 6:45 a.m. Sept. 24)
U.S. Bank and the Nebraska School Activities Association announced the 2018-19 local school winners of the Believers and Achievers Award. Every member school is able to submit two senior students for recognition in this awards program.
A total of 48 statewide Believers & Achievers will be awarded from the member school submissions.
Local school nominees include:
Benjamin Arens and Megan Appelt
Brodee Fleming and Josie Kuchera
Leighton Mlady and Lindee Wentworth
Carlie Collier and Jacy Hafer
Caleb Long and Mercy Maunu
* Commissioners appoint Jones as zoning administrator
(Posted 4 p.m. Sept. 19)
In addition to approving the 2018-19 budget Tuesday, the Brown County Commissioners unanimously voted to appoint Tom Jones as the new zoning administrator to replace the retiring Dean Jochem.
Jones, who has previously served on the county’s zoning board of directors, was Jochem’s recommendation for his successor.
The commissioners held an executive session to interview Jones and another resident who expressed interest in the position, Danny Bennett.
Following the interviews, the commissioners voted to name Jones as the zoning administrator effective Sept. 19.
The board held a second executive session with Nebraska Intergovernmental Risk Management Association representative Brandy Johnson to discuss the possibility of the county appealing a District Court decision vacting a ruling by the commissioners regarding a conservation easement sought by The Nature Conservancy.
The Sept. 10 decision by District Court Judge Mark Kozisek vacated a decision made by the commissioners during a June 20, 2017, meeting in which the county denied a request made by The Nature Conservancy for a perpetual conservation easement on 868 acres in Brown County the conservancy had planned to sell.
While it planned to sell the property, the conservancy asked the county to grant a perpetual conservation easement, which the new owners had agreed was acceptable.
Citing the county’s comprehensive plan and a recommendation from the zoning board to deny the request, the commissioners voted to deny the conservation easement. The Nature Conservancy filed a petition in error in District Court, claiming the commissioners committed errors in their decision.
The court ruled the commissioners did not have statutory authority to deny The Nature Conservancy’s right to reserve a perpetual easement on land it owned and planned to sell to a buyer willing to accept the easement.
The board took no action Tuesday following the executive session with the NIRMA representative.
The commissioners opened bids for a used backhoe for the roads department. One bid was submitted after the 5 p.m. Sept. 17 deadline and was not opened.
The county received a $58,250 bid from Murphy Tractor and Equipment of Grand Island for a 2012 John Deere 310SK backhoe with 2,900 hours of use. The bid included a $5,000 parts and service credit.
Nebraska Machinery of Norfolk submitted two bids – one for a 2010 Caterpillar 420E backhoe with 3,000 hours at a price of $61,700, and the other for a 2010 Caterpillar 420E backhoe with 2,600 hours at a price of $58,000.
The commissioners did not take action on the bids, directing Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin to inspect each machine and make a recommendation to the board.
Turpin presented the board with a quote from Madison’s Great Western to contract propane for the Johnstown roads department shop for the winter at a price point of $1.41 per gallon. The board asked Turpin to get a second quote from the Farmers-Ranchers Cooperative to ensure a competitive price.
Turpin also discussed the requirement for property owners to mow road ditches twice each year. The commissioners set a deadline of Oct. 15 for all property owners to have road ditches adjacent to their property mowed or risk having the county contract for the mowing work and assess the cost on the following year’s property tax statement.
Treasurer Deb Vonheeder presented the board with her annual distress warrant report. Vonheeder reported all distress warrants issued in November 2017 by the county had been collected by the Brown County Sheriff’s Department.
In a final action item Tuesday, the commissioners met with BKR Extension Educator Chandra Murray regarding a revised interlocal agreement between Brown, Rock and Keya Paha counties for the operation of the Extension office.
The board approved the interlocal agreement, and agreed to allow the Extension office to utilize a portion of its emergency fund to upgrade the Extension office phone system.
The next meeting of the Brown County Commissioners is scheduled for 5:15 p.m. Oct. 2.
* Area students begin health careers with UNMC
(Posted 8:15 a.m. Sept. 19)
The University of Nebraska Medical Center recently held ceremonies to signify the beginning of health careers for students in Omaha, Lincoln, Kearney, Scottsbluff and Norfolk. The students are enrolled in programs for medicine, nursing, pharmacy, dentistry, the allied health professions and graduate studies.
Students in many of the programs receive white coats. Area students include:
O'Neill -- Emily Everitt
Ainsworth -- Maikayla Weiss
College of Pharmacy
Atkinson -- Mackenzie Hale
Stuart – Samantha Sattler
* Taxable sales in June slip for most area counties; Rock and Boyd the exceptions
(Posted 8 a.m. Sept. 19)
Nebraska Department of Revenue
* Commissioners lower property tax request for 2018-19 budget
(Posted 6:30 a.m. Sept. 19)
Brown County will ask property owners for $150,000 less in property tax than it did the previous year following the approval of the 2018-19 fiscal year budget Tuesday by the Board of Commissioners.
The county will tax property owners for $2.24 million to support the general fund and reappraisal fund, with an additional $475,460 in property tax going to support the voter-approved Brown County Hospital addition bond.
The commissioners asked for $2.86 million in property tax for the 2017-18 budget, which produced a tax levy rate of 34.5 cents for every $100 in a property’s valuation. The 2018-19 property tax request of $2.71 million drops the levy rate to 32.6 cents per $100 in valuation.
The levy rate for 2018-19 dropped almost 2 cents despite overall property valuation in the county remaining relatively flat the past two years after several years of substantial increases.
Total value of all residential, commercial and agricultural property in Brown County for 2018 is $831 million, which is up only slightly from the $829 million in total valuation for 2017. Total valuation in the county was $824 million in 2016.
Prior to 2016, total property value in the county had increased by $109 million between 2014 and 2015, and by an additional $156 million between 2015 and 2016 due to agricultural property valuations that increased some years by more than 20 percent.
With the 2018 total valuation of $831 million, 1 cent of levy is equal to $83,195 in property tax.
Had the commissioners asked for the same $2.86 million in property tax as 2017-18, the levy rate would have been 34.4 cents per $100 in valuation. Decreasing its tax asking by $150,000 dropped the levy an additional 1.8 cents to 32.6 cents.
The overall $19.62 million budget includes $3.96 million for the county’s general fund, and $1.99 million for the roads fund. Much of the $19.62 million budget is due to the county including the Brown County Hospital’s operating budget of $10.5 million. The hospital is a county-owned facility, so its annual operating budget is included under the county’s overall budget.
The county actually spent $3.19 million in general fund expenditures in 2017-18, which was up from $2.79 million spent in 2016-17. The roads fund had $1.74 million in actual expenditures during the 2017-18 fiscal year, up from $1.51 million spent in 2016-17.
The Brown County Hospital experienced actual expenditures of $9.43 million in 2017-18, which was down from $10.17 million spent during 2016-17. The hospital is self-supporting, and does not receive any county assistance other than the $475,460 in property tax to support the bond payment for the voter-approved hospital addition. The hospital in the past has contributed additional funds to assist in paying down the bond. The final bond payment for the hospital addition is scheduled to be made in December of 2025.
The approved budget leaves the county with a cash reserve of $4.9 million. Of that total, there is a $700,000 cash reserve in the general fund and $400,000 in reserves in the road fund. The hospital has a cash reserve of $3.42 million, which accounts for almost 70 percent of the total cash reserve in the county budget.
The county has $1.97 million in its inheritance tax fund. The county received $182,672 in revenue into the inheritance tax fund during the 2017-18 fiscal year, and spent just $9,278 from the fund. A majority of the expenditures went to the Brown County Agricultural Society for improvements to the fairgrounds. Those funds will be paid back into the inheritance tax fund through part of the upcoming property tax funds received by the Agricultural Society.
The Agricultural Society will receive $35,000 in property tax to support the maintenance and operation of the Brown County Fairgrounds, and an additional $20,000 toward fairground improvements. The $20,000 will be paid back to the Inheritance Tax Fund for money that was previously given to the Agricultural Society to allow the organization to make major arena improvements at one time.
The $55,000 for the Agricultural Society amounts to an additional two-thirds of 1 cent of property tax.
The commissioners voted to provide the Brown County Rural Fire Protection District with 2.5 cents in property tax levy, which is down from the 4 cents that has been provided to the Rural Fire District following the 2012 Niobrara River Valley fires.
The 2.5 cents of levy amounts to $207,987 in property tax to support the Rural Fire District’s operations.
The Brown County Visitors Committee budget is also included in the overall county budget. Funds come from a 4 percent lodging tax charged by all hotels, motels and guest lodges in the county. The county budgeted for $42,600 in expenditures from the promotion fund for 2018-19. A total of $23,748 was expended from the promotion fund in 2017-18, down from $30,895 spent from the fund in 2016-17. Those funds are spent to promote tourism to the area.
There is an additional $65,280 budgeted for the visitor improvement fund to potentially improve tourism attractions. There was $20,000 expended from that fund during 2017-18.
Board Chairman Buddy Small said, with the annual budget, the county wants to provide the residents of the county the services they are entitled to, such as good roads, fire protection and law enforcement.
“The bottom line is, we try to treat the taxpayers with respect,” Small said. “We try to be moderate. We don’t want to spend money that doesn’t need to be spent, but we want to be proactive instead of reactive.”
Small said the commissioners are starting to budget funds for a couple of major projects. He said the county included $50,000 in the budget to put into a fund to eventually replace the Meadville Avenue box culvert on the Sand Draw Creek, and an additional $50,000 to eventually add on to the roads department’s Ainsworth shop so the county can house some of its expensive pieces of roads department equipment indoors.
Following the budget hearing Tuesday, the commissioners approved the 2018-19 county budget and property tax request. The budget approved gives the county $1.49 million in unused budget authority. That unused budget authority is money the county could have asked for in property tax but chose to leave in the pockets of property owners. The unused budget authority could be included in a future budget should catastrophic expenses be incurred that would otherwise cause the county to exceed its 50-cent levy threshold.
KBRB will have additional information from Tuesday’s commissioner meeting during the Thursday news.
* Shaw wins Week 3 KBRB Football Contest
(Posted 10:45 a.m. Sept. 18)
There was a clear-cut winner during Week 3 of the KBRB Football Contest, as Kim Shaw of Bassett finished two games clear of all the other area prognosticators.
Shaw picked a perfect high school card. Her three misses were all on the college side, and included the two most widely missed games of the week – Temple’s 35-14 win at Maryland and BYU’s upset over No. 6 Wisconsin. She also had Auburn incorrectly picked to win at home over LSU in a matchup of top 10-rated SEC teams.
Shaw picks up the $40 first-place certificate.
The runner-up prize was a little cloudier, as eight contestants missed five games on the Week 3 card. While all eight contestants had the Huskers picked to win in our tie-breaker, only one saw a close, low-scoring matchup. The Troy Trojans shocked the Huskers Saturday, 24-19. Austan Walton of Ainsworth picked the Huskers to win, 20-19, missing the total by just six combined points. The other seven contestants who missed five games all had the Huskers winning by at least a two-touchdown margin, and all had the Huskers to score at least 31 points.
The other contestants with five incorrect picks were Marc Gentele, Jorden Hollenbeck, Walker Shaw, Mike Swan, Steve Salzman, Kurtis Mizner and Russ Richey.
With his tie-breaker pick, Walton earns the $10 second-place certificate. Certificates may be redeemed at any of our football contest sponsors.
Those sponsors, where Week 4 cards are also available, include Buckles Automotive, Road Runner and Plains Equipment in Ainsworth; Circle B Livestock in Bassett; the West Plains Bank in Springview; the Central Bar in Stuart; and Roadrunner in Atkinson.
* Agenda for Brown County Board of Commissioners meeting Tuesday
(Posted 6:45 a.m. Sept. 18)
Meeting 5:15 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 18
Brown County Courthouse
05:15 - 05:20 Roll Call;
Acknowledge posting of Open Meetings Law;
Pledge of Allegiance;
Approve minutes of the September 4, 2018 Commissioner meeting;
05:15 Kenneth Turpin – Road Department Issues
Enforcement of mowing of road ditches
Contract propane for Johnstown shop for 2018/2019 winter season
05:30 Open Sealed Bids for Backhoe
05:30 Budget Hearing
Brown County Treasurer - Annual Distress Warrant Report
Discuss action on possible appeal of District Court decision in The Nature Conservancy v Brown County Board of Commissioners
05:45 Chandra Murray - BKR Extension RE:
Review/Adoption of Interlocal agreement between Brown, Rock & Keya Paha counties
Permission to use BKR Extension Emergency Fund
BKR Extension – How to handle finances & possible credit card
06:00 Interview Zoning Administrator candidate – Tom Jones
06:15 Interview Zoning Administrator candidate – Danny Bennett
Appoint Brown County Zoning Administrator
* Ainsworth awarded USDA funds for wastewater projects
(Posted 2 p.m. Sept. 17)
Assistant to the Secretary for Rural Development Anne Hazlett announced USDA is investing $392 millionto help rebuild and improve rural water and wastewater infrastructure in 42 states. Nebraska is the recipient of nearly $7 million.
The city of Ainsworth will use a $1.27 million loan and $453,000 grant to reconstruct sewage lift stations and provide backup power to lift stations by installing generators. New radio read meters will be installed. Also, pipe linings will be upgraded, providing better service to more than 880 users.
Project funds were also awarded to the villages of Alexandria, Wauneta and Western.
“Put simply, modern and reliable water infrastructure is foundational to quality of life and economic development,” Hazlett said. “USDA’s partnerships with rural communities underscore Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue’s commitment to rural people and the places they call home.”
USDA is supporting investments in 120 infrastructure projects through the Water and Waste Disposal Loan and Grant program. It can be used to finance drinking water, storm water drainage and waste disposal systems for rural communities with 10,000 or fewer residents. In many cases, states, other federal partners and nonprofits work with USDA to also provide funding for the projects.
* Northeast Community College Board of Governors approves $49 million budget
(Posted 1 p.m. Sept. 14)
The Northeast Community College Board of Governors Thursday approved a $49 million budget that increases the property tax levy for the 20 counties served by Northeast from 9.09 cents per $100 in valuation to 9.5 cents.
The Board of Governors cited a decrease in funding from the state and no change in property valuations are among factors that led to the increased property tax levy request.
Board Chairman Dirk Petersen of Norfolk said he and the board are taxpayers themselves, and therefore, are mindful of being good stewards of the funds necessary for college operations.
“Student success is our highest priority,” Petersen said. “Northeast Community College is diligent in achieving this goal and we take our stewardship of public funds very seriously. I am confident that this budget will allow the college to continue to provide a quality education for our students, which prepares them to help address the pressing skilled workforce shortages.”
The 9.5-cent levy is below the maximum levy allowed by the state of 11.25 cents per $100 of valuation.
According to Lynne Koski, vice president of administrative services at the college, the owner of a home in Northeast’s 20-county service area with a taxable value of $100,000 would pay approximately $4.08 more over the previous year.
During Thursday’s public hearings, Koski reviewed the general operating budget of $49.02 million, which includes $18.3 million in the building improvement budget.
Koski said increases in the 2018-19 general operating budget are attributed mainly to personnel and support services to help students succeed in college.
“Funding for the college’s general fund budget comes primarily from student tuition and fees, state aid, and property taxes.” Koski said.
The Board of Governors has also approved a budget lid override as set forth by state statute. Koski said the override permits the college to accept additional state aid or property tax dollars if they would become available.
Dr. Michael Chipps, college president, said the approved budget provides for the continued “forward work” of the college, as well as playing an integral role in meeting Northeast’s strategic goals.
“Across our 20-county service area, Northeast Community College provides an exceptional educational experience for our diverse student population,” Chipps said. “Through the Vision 2020 comprehensive plan, the Board of Governors has been strategic about where the college needs to be in order to best educate a 21st century, highly skilled workforce; and this budget supports the board’s direction.”
Chipps said Northeast Community College plays a significant role in not only providing a skilled workforce, but it is also a major player in the growth of the service area’s economy.
“The college is an investment in the future of our 20-county service area and the more than 100 communities we serve,” he said.
* City Council asks for $308,249 in property tax to support 2018-19 budget
(Posted 7:30 p.m. Sept. 12)
The city of Ainsworth will ask property owners for $308,249 in tax to support the 2018-19 general fund budget following the City Council’s approval Wednesday of the budget and property tax request.
With total valuation of $65.58 million in property located inside the city limits, the $308,249 in property tax requested represents 47 cents in levy for every $100 of a property’s value.
The council approved a $7.36 million budget, which includes more than $2.1 million for major wastewater improvement projects. The city received 40 percent of the cost of the projects in grant funds, and will borrow the remaining funds from the USDA to repair wastewater pipes in the city and install automatic-read water meters.
Even though the city adopted a $7.36 million budget, the total amount spent will likely come in well below that figure. The budget includes the city potentially spending all available money in funds such as the LB 840 fund and Ainsworth Betterment Committee fund. While the city must budget for that possibility, the actual dollars spent will likely be much lower.
For example, the city ended the 2017-18 budget year spending a total of $2.67 million, which was down from the $2.88 million actually disbursed in 2016-17.
The $308,249 being collected in property tax for 2018-19 is an increase of 4.6 percent from the $294,565 in property tax collected to support the 2017-18 budget. The 47-cent levy remains the same as 2017-18. The total value of property inside the city limits increased from $62.67 million in 2017 to $65.58 million in 2018. That valuation increase included new construction as well as adjustments to existing property, and allowed for the $13,684 increase in property tax asking for the 2018-19 budget while keeping the levy rate the same.
In addition to the property taxes that will be collected, the city is anticipating $536,000 in receipts from its 1.5 percent city sales tax, $32,000 from motor vehicle sales tax collections, and $30,000 from tax in lieu payments.
The 47-cent levy includes 42 cents to support the general fund, and an additional 5 cents in levy to support the city’s interlocal agreements. Those agreements include a $204,831 line item for countywide law enforcement, $22,954 for fire protection and $80,000 to assist with the operation of the Sandhills Care Center.
The city will carry a cash reserve of $1.57 million.
Prior to the wastewater projects scheduled for the upcoming budget year, the city had a total of $506,570 in bonded debt from previous water, wastewater and streets projects.
Following a public hearing, the council approved the 2018-19 budget and property tax request. The council also voted to increase its restricted funds authority by an additional 1 percent over the allowable 2.5 percent annual growth allowance.
In other business Wednesday, the LB 840 Citizens Advisory Review Committee presented its six-month report to the city of LB 840 activity. Review Committee representative John Halbersleben said the report is basically just a rehash of what was submitted six months ago, as the committee has not received information it requested during the previous six-month review.
“The previous entry system had numerous double entries,” Halbersleben said. “Nothing has been received to show those have been corrected.”
Halbersleben said the only monitoring device the committee has available to review is the LB 840 bank statements. He requested the city provide the committee an official transcript report from the city’s accounting system for LB 840 dating back to April 27, 2017.
Mayor Larry Rice asked City Administrator Lisa Schroedl if she could take care of getting that information to the committee. Schroedl said she would email Halbersleben the information Thursday.
Halbersleben provided an update on all the LB 840 loans and grants that have been made to date. He said there was one loan approved by the council almost two years ago that has still not closed. The committee previously recommended to the council that all loans be closed within 30 days of council approval.
Councilman Greg Soles said the loan applicant received a letter from attorney Avery Gurnsey stating the applicant needed to provide an additional nine items that were different from the original application the council approved.
Rice said the applicant knows there is additional info that he must provide before the loan can close.
“Don’t blame the city, the city is not at fault,” Rice said. “We want that loan closed and off the books.”
Review committee member Chris Raymond asked why the applicant needed to provide additional information after the council approved the application as it was originally submitted.
Councilwoman Deb Hurless said she had the same question.
“If we approved it that way, why wasn’t it just closed?” Hurless asked.
City Attorney Rod Palmer said Gurnsey has indicated he does not have the documentation needed to close the loan.
“The city’s interests need to be protected,” Palmer said.
Halbersleben reported city office personnel had not yet provided confidentiality agreements for the LB 840 program, to which Schroedl replied the LB 840 program, by state statute, is owned by the city.
“We are under confidentiality through state statute,” Schroedl said. “We are already required to keep it confidential.”
Palmer said the city office is under no responsibility to sign additional confidentiality agreements since the LB 840 records already belong to the city.
Halbersleben said this was the first time the committee has been made aware of that information.
“There needs to be a revision then,” he said.
Schroedl said, as part of the pending city audit, the city is going to be forced to make some changes.
“We have already been advised of concerns from Dana F Cole,” Schroedl said.
Dana F Cole handles the city’s annual financial audit.
Review committee member Kathy Worrell asked what kind of changes Schroedl was referring to.
Schroedl said, “The city will have to respond to the concerns of the auditors."
Palmer said the city’s auditor was frustrated in not receiving all the information it needed from the North Central Development Center in order to complete its audit of the LB 840 program.
“The auditors contacted me and said they made numerous requests for NCDC documents and they have not been received,” Palmer said.
Soles said NCDC Board member Doug Weiss had been visiting with Dana F Cole on a weekly basis, and had been told up until Wednesday that Dana F Cole did not have a list ready of the information it still needed.
“Doug has been requesting this information for weeks, and Dana F Cole did not have it ready,” Soles said. “Doug finally received a list this morning.”
Palmer said the
audit report from Dana F Cole would include some things that were not correct
with the LB 840 program accounting.
“Dana F Cole urged the city to be proactive with a plan to correct what may appear in the audit,” Palmer said. “If there are any red flags the state auditor could pick up on, that is in no one’s best interests.”
Audience member Rod Worrell asked Palmer if the city has any of the info it needs to create an action plan.
Palmer said he had an idea after speaking with the auditors on some of the issues. He said there may be potential conflicts of interest with Soles being on the council and also being on the LB 840 loan committee, and with Hurless being on the council while also being an NCDC employee.
Palmer said there is an attorney in Scottsbluff who does a substantial amount of work relating to LB 840 programs.
“If Dana F Cole can put in its audit report that the city has contacted him to take care of any issues in the audit, it would show the city is taking an interest,” Palmer said.
Audience member Cody Goochey said it appeared both sides were blaming the other.
“Why can’t you just sit down together and get this all taken care of?” Goochey asked.
Audience member Tate Schipporeit suggested representatives from the city and from the NCDC meet with the auditors.
“Dana F Cole doesn’t have someone here to let people know what is needed,” Schipporeit said.
Soles encouraged all parties to do what needs to be done to move forward.
“Otherwise, it is no good for the community,” Soles said.
Rice said one of the primary needs for the community is to keep the LB 840 program going.
“We have had too many successes to let this program go away,” the mayor said.
Originally approved by voters in 2008, the LB 840 program sunsets in 2023, and would need another vote of the people to continue to collect an additional one-half cent of city sales tax to strengthen economic development in the city.
In other items Wednesday, the council appointed Bill Lentz to fill the remainder of a term on the Ainsworth Airport Authority created by the resignation of Spencer Schenk. Schenk’s term ends Dec. 1, 2020.
The consent agenda approved Wednesday included a special-designated liquor license for the Elks to serve alcohol in the Ainsworth Conference Center Nov. 3 during the annual Sandhills Chapter Pheasants Forever banquet, and included permission for the Ainsworth Women’s Club to close Main Street from 4:30 until 6 p.m. Oct. 31 for the annual Trick or Treat Safe Street event.
The next regular meeting of the Ainsworth City Council is scheduled for 5 p.m. Oct. 10.
* Agenda for Ainsworth City Council meeting Wednesday
(Posted 8 a.m. Sept. 12)
Meeting 5 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 12
Ainsworth Conference Center
I. ROUTINE BUSINESS
a. Announcement of Open Meetings Act
b. Roll Call
c. Pledge of Allegiance
II. CONSENT AGENDA – All items approved with the passage of one motion.
a. Approve minutes from the August 8, 2018 Regular Meeting and the August 23, 2018 Special Meeting
b. Approval of Claims
c. Treasurer’s Report
d. Department Head Reports
e. Approval of an application for a special designated liquor license for Elks BPOE #1790 to serve alcohol at the Ainsworth Conference Center for the Pheasant Forever Banquet on November 3, 2018 from 3:00 p.m. to 12:00 a.m. November 4, 2018.
f. Authorize the Ainsworth Women’s Club to close Hwy 7 (Main Street) on Wednesday, October 31, 2018 from 4:30-6:00 p.m. for the Trick or Treat Street. Also, the City of Ainsworth acknowledges 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.
*Any item listed on the Consent Agenda may, by the request of any single Council member, be considered as a separate item under the Regular Agenda section of the Agenda.
III. MAYOR’S APPOINTMENTS AND REPORT
a. Mayor’s Report
b. Airport Authority (6 year terms) – Appointment of Bill Lentz to fulfill the remaining term of Spencer Schenk with term ending 12/01/2020
IV. PUBLIC HEARINGS
a. 2018-2019 Budget Hearing - 5:15 p.m.
b. 2018-2019 Tax Request Hearing – 5:30 p.m.
c. Citizen Advisory Review Committee 6-month report – 5:45 p.m.
V. OLD BUSINESS
VI. REGULAR AGENDA
a. Consider approval of the 2018-2019 Budget and Tax Levy – Resolution #18-03
b. Consider an increase of total restricted funds by an additional 1%
c. City Administrator/Clerk/Treasurer Report
* Ulibarri's tie-breaker pick leads to Week 2 KBRB Football Contest win
(Posted 10:15 a.m. Sept. 11)
Games proved difficult to pick correctly during Week 2 of the KBRB Football Contest. Of the 15 games on the card, the best our area prognosticators could do was four incorrect picks. A majority of this week’s misses were in the high school ranks, as the college slate proved to be a little easier to decipher.
Both Becky Schelm of Johnstown and Tami Ulibarri of Ainsworth missed four games to lead the way in Week 2. Schelm missed all four of her games on the high school side, while three of Ulibarri’s misses came in the high school ranks.
That sent us to our tie-breaker, Colorado’s 33-28 victory against the Huskers. Ulibarri correctly picked the Buffaloes to win, 25-19, while Schelm believed in the Huskers, 24-21.
That gives Tami Ulibarri of Ainsworth the Week 2 victory and a $40 gift certificate to one of our contest sponsors. Schelm receives the $10 runner-up prize.
Week 3 KBRB Football Contest cards are available now from Buckles Automotive, Road Runner and Plains Equipment in Ainsworth, Circle B Livestock in Bassett, the West Plains Bank in Springview, the Central Bar in Stuart, and from the Atkinson Road Runner.
Week 3 cards must be submitted to the KBRB Studios by 4 p.m. Friday or carry a Friday postmark if mailed to be eligible.
* School Board asks for $5.92 million in property tax to support 2018-19 budget
(Posted 6:45 a.m. Sept. 11)
The Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education will ask property owners in the county for $5.92 million to support the 2018-19 district budget following the approval of the annual budget and property tax request Monday.
Following public hearings, the board approved a $13.65 million budget, of which $5.92 million will be requested from property owners. For the fifth straight year, the school will receive next to no state assistance. The district is projected to receive just $40,284 in state aid to education. The last time the district received anything of substance from the state was the 2013-14 year, when the state directed $356,086 to the school district.
Since that time, total valuation of real property in the county has increased from $496 million to $814 million.
Board member Brad Wilkins said the three-legged stool for funding education has shifted due to rural districts no longer receiving state aid.
“State aid in 2012-13 was more than $600,000,” Wilkins said.
Superintendent Darrell Peterson said, prior to that, the district had received up to $2 million in state assistance.
The levy rate for the district for 2018-19 to support the school is 72.7 cents per $100 in property value, up from 68.9 cents per $100 in value from the 2017-18 year. The levy rate increased by 3.77 cents, which ended a nine-year streak of levy rate declines.
While the rates declined annually, the amount of property tax collected did not decline, thanks to rising overall property values, until the 2017-18 property tax request came in substantially below the 2016-17 request. A large factor there was the completion of the previous building addition bond payments prior to the 2017-18 budget. The district went from a property tax request of $6.26 million for 2016-17 to $5.59 million for 2017-18.
The 2017-18 property tax asking included $247,474 for the district’s special building fund, the first time money had been requested for that fund since the 2009-10 year. The district had been collecting close to $300,000 annually prior to the 2017-18 year for the voter-approved building addition bond payments. The district is requesting $469,042 for the special building fund for 2018-19, which represents 5.7 cents in levy.
The 2018-19 levy rate of 72.7 cents is well below the $1.05 lid imposed by the state.
Peterson indicated the levy rate for 2018-19 rose in part because the district included 5.7 cents of levy to begin paying for the agriculture and industrial technology building addition project, and overall property valuation in the county did not see a large increase as it had in past years.
For the 2017-18 school year, the district collected $5.35 million in property tax. If the district had chosen to collect the same amount of tax for 2018-19, the levy rate would have been 65.6 cents per $100 in valuation.
The district saw actual expenditures of $8.04 million for the 2017-18 year, which was higher than the $7.71 million spent in the 2016-17 year. While the approved budget for 2018-19 is $13.65 million, the actual expenditures will likely come in substantially lower than that.
The 2018-19 budget includes $1.29 million for the district’s special building fund, which relates to the addition project. That line item was not included in the previous year’s budget.
Of the $13.65 million overall budget, $9.96 million is included in the general fund. A total of $5.45 million of the property taxes being requested will go to support the general fund, with $469,042 in property tax supporting the special building fund.
Peterson reported, while the district is asking for $327,535 more in property tax than it did for the 2017-18 budget year, the property tax request is still $339,096 less than the district requested for the 2016-17 year.
The budget includes a cash reserve of $601,812, which Peterson said is 16.4 percent of the overall budget and well below the 45 percent cash reserve allowed by the state.
Following public hearings Monday, the board approved the 2018-19 budget and property tax request.
In other business Monday, former board member Angie Davis was appointed to serve the remainder of Erin Rathe’s board term. Rathe had to resign her seat after accepting a teaching position with the district. Davis previously served six years on the Board of Education, and she will remain on the board through December, as Rathe’s seat is up for election Nov. 6.
Representatives of the local Teammates chapter presented information to the board on the program’s recent successes, including the local chapter receiving the highest average score of all chapters in the five states participating in Teammates.
Director Lisa Schlueter said the local chapter currently has 20 mentors with students, and should have 23 within a couple weeks. She said the program is voluntary for all students.
“If a student does not want to participate, it won’t work,” Schlueter said. “Teammates is open to all students, not just for at-risk students.”
She said mentees improved their grades by 47 percent during the 2017-18 year, and disciplinary referrals decreased by 59 percent. Unexcused absences also declined by 6 percent for students with a mentor.
She said the program is in search of additional mentors. Mentors are asked to make at least one visit per week with their mentee. Anyone interested in becoming a mentor may go online to www.teammates.org.
In action items Monday, the board authorized Board President Dan Dailey to sign a request for payment, and the Ainsworth Educational Facilities Leasing Corporation would then make the first payment for the new agriculture and industrial technology building addition.
The board also approved the second reading of a procurement plan policy for school food authorities.
During his report, the superintendent said Mr. Pollock’s classes have been working to get the Learning Center prepared for the installation of new carpet. Peterson said he planned to request funding from the Ainsworth Betterment Committee and from the Brown County Foundation for assistance in remodeling the Learning Center, since it serves as a site for numerous community functions in addition to school-related activities.
He said Chief Construction planned to begin building the inside walls of the agriculture and industrial technology addition Tuesday.
Elementary Principal Curtis Childers reported total enrollment of 189 students for kindergarten through sixth grade. The first-grade class and fourth-grade class each have 30 students, which is the largest of seven grades. There are 22 second-grade students, which is the smallest class.
Secondary Principal Steve Dike reported junior high enrollment of 67 students, with 37 seventh-graders and 30 eighth-grade students. There are 132 students enrolled in high school, including 42 freshmen, 39 sophomores, 29 juniors and 22 seniors.
The next meeting of the Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education is scheduled for 8 p.m. Oct. 8.
* Care Center profitable in August, in search of people for CNA positions
(Posted 5:15 p.m. Sept. 10)
With 22 residents in August, the Sandhills Care Center generated $146,041 of income with a net profit of $10,389 for the month.
During Monday’s meeting of the Board of Directors, Administrator Stephanie Rucker said the facility has 14 private-pay residents and eight receiving Medicaid assistance. She said the facility admitted two new residents in August, and did not lose anyone during the month.
“It was a good month,” Rucker said. “We also didn’t end up needing to take the $2,000 in additional funding from last month to cover expenses.”
Despite the more than $10,000 cushion in operating margin for the month, Rucker said the facility again is seeing a larger cost associated with agency staffing services.
“We are short four CNAs and one nighttime LPN,” Rucker said. “We lost CNAs to college and a couple to the hog farm. We can’t compete with the pay and benefits they offer.”
Board member Leanne Maxwell asked what the cost difference was between having an on-staff CNA compared to having to use an agency.
Rucker said the care center typically starts CNAs at around $14 per hour, and it costs the facility $39 per hour for a CNA supplied by an agency.
Maxwell said, “Maybe there is something proactive we can do, some incentives we could provide to get people trained.”
Board member Chuck Osborn said, if the facility is losing staff to the hog farm, wouldn’t it be worth it to offer them a couple more dollars per hour.
Rucker said the facility could look at increasing pay, but it is still tough to compete with the benefits package and other incentives the hog farm is currently offering.
Jo Fuller with Rural Health Development, the company contracted by the board to manage the care center, said most nursing homes in the state are having the same problems.
“Staffing issues are everywhere,” Fuller said. “Pool agencies are costing everyone. There are not enough people available to fill the positions.”
Board Chairman Phil Fuchs said the care center, in addition to paying for someone to take the CNA certification class, could offer a $500 incentive payment when they sign up for the class and another $500 incentive payment when they have worked for the care center for a year.
“Doing that would save us enough in contract labor to cover that bonus in a month,” Fuchs said.
Rucker said she would work with the board to put together and promote an incentive package to try and get people interested in filling the CNA positions in-house instead of having to use an agency.
In addition to the CNA and LPN shortage, Rucker reported the facility still had received no applications for a maintenance person.
“The hospital administrator contacted me,” Rucker said. “They need another maintenance person, but not full time, so we may be able to share someone. There are some things we need to work out, but it is promising. We don’t really need a full time position either.”
Board member Buddy Small said, if the care center could subcontract someone from the hospital as needed, it would be a great option.
In other business Monday, Fuchs said RHD has agreed to cover all the legal expenses related to trying to appeal the state’s decision not to pursue $70,000 in Medicare funding for the care center because the facility fell just shy of the Medicaid occupancy rate required.
“We received notice the Medicare payment was denied by the state,” Fuchs said, after RHD submitted an amended census report to try and bring the facility to the 40 percent Medicaid population requirement.
The state initially ruled it would not pursue the additional funding due to the facility being at 39.87 percent Medicaid occupancy. The state refused to change its position following the appeal and amended report from RHD.
In building maintenance items, Rucker said the recent leaks in the kitchen and laundry room have been fixed, and the ceilings in both rooms have been repaired. She said five additional air-conditioning units for resident rooms have been ordered.
She also reported the stumps have now been removed after several dead trees were recently cut down on the property. Small said DJ Hladky has offered to remove the remaining surface roots.
“Chuck and I will then go over it with rakes, smooth it out and plant some grass seed,” Small said.
Capital Campaign Committee chair Rolland Paddock said the cost to remove the stumps was being covered by a donor, and he encouraged Rucker to provide him with the bill for the stump removal when it was received.
The next meeting of the Sandhills Care Center Board of Director is scheduled for 4 p.m. Oct. 8.
* Traffic Accident
(Posted 6:45 a.m. Sept. 10)
The Brown County Sheriff’s Department investigated a
one-vehicle accident that occurred Sunday, Sept. 2, in Ainsworth.
According to the sheriff’s department report, at 8:18 p.m. on Sept. 2 in the 900 block of East Second Street, a 2006 Pontiac sedan, driven by Amanda Pike, 19, of Long Pine, was traveling west on Second Street when the driver said she swerved to miss a cat in the street and struck a mailbox.
No injuries were reported. Damage to the Pontiac was estimated at $200. The mailbox, owned by Marcus Fairhead of Ainsworth, sustained approximately $100 damage.
* Bassett Country Club hosts second annual barbecue cook-off
(Posted 6:30 a.m. Sept. 10)
During the second annual Bassett Country Club barbecue
cook-off Saturday, the Master Class Champions and Mystery Meet winners were
Jarod Steenson, Shelby Steenson, Sheryl Steenson, and Ruben Andrews.
The People’s Choice Award and Brisket Winners were Christi Leonard, Logan Leonard, and Tucker Iverson.
Winners of the best pork loin were Clay Fischer, Kevin Allen and Flint Licking.
* Traffic Accident
(Posted 6:45 a.m. Sept. 7)
The Brown County Sheriff’s Department investigated a
one-vehicle accident that was reported at 7:09 a.m. Tuesday, Sept. 4, northwest
According to the sheriff’s department report, a 2006 Ford Taurus, driven by Andrew Wiebesiek, 19, of Ainsworth, was traveling north on the Skillman Road when the vehicle missed the intersection with Road 879 and entered the north ditch. The Ford went through a fence and into a cane field before striking a metal pole and two mailboxes on the north side of Road 879.
No injuries were reported. The Ford was considered a total loss. Damage to the pole and mailboxes, owned by William Frederickson of Ainsworth, was estimated at $100. The cane field, owned by Mike Freeman of Ainsworth, sustained approximately $500 damage.
* Stuart to increase sales tax rate from 1 percent to 1.5 percent in October
(Posted 7 a.m. Sept. 6)
Nebraska Tax Commissioner Tony Fulton announced,
effective Oct. 1, the village of Stuart will increase its sales tax rate from 1
percent to 1.5 percent.
Tekamah and Wisner are increasing their sales tax rates from 1.5 percent to 2 percent. The city of Lincoln is decreasing its sales and use tax rate from 1.75 percent to 1.5 percent.
* Walton wins Week 1 KBRB Football Contest
(Posted 6:30 a.m. Sept. 6)
The cancellation of the Husker football game Saturday against Akron threw a bit of a wrench into Week 1 of the KBRB Football Contest.
While having the tie-breaker game voided by Mother Nature did not affect the outcome of the Week 1 winner, it did throw a kink in the weekly runner-up prize.
Missing just two of the 15 games on the Week 1 card, Andrew Walton captured the first-place, $40 certificate. Walton incorrectly had North Central defeating Ansley-Litchfield in the high school ranks. Ansley-Litchfield won in a shootout, 50-42, over the Knights.
The college game Walton missed was the most widely missed of the contest week, Maryland’s 34-29 victory over No. 23 Texas.
Seven contestants missed three games on their cards, and with no Husker tie-breaker to sort it out, KBRB had to go to its second tie-breaker, which was the earliest card entry.
Derek Swan of Springview and Patty Finley of Ainsworth both submitted their contest cards on Wednesday, Swan through the post office and Finley in person. They will tie for second place and each receive a $10 certificate.
Others missing three games but submitting their cards either Thursday or Friday were Bart Waits, Steve Salzman, Jacque Richey, Britt Hollenbeck and Donnie Tielke.
Winners may pick up their certificates from the KBRB Studios.
Week 2 KBRB Football Contest cards are available now from Buckles Automotive, Road Runner and Plains Equipment in Ainsworth, the West Plains Bank in Springview, Circle B Livestock in Bassett, the Central Bar in Stuart, and Road Runner in Atkinson.
* NPPD to replace electric meters at Long Pine and Bassett this month
(Posted 6:45 a.m. Sept. 4)
The Nebraska Public Power District plans to upgrade electric meters at Bassett and Long Pine next week. The meter replacements are part of a program to replace 43,000 existing electric meters in 33 communities served at retail by NPPD.
New AMI equipment for residences and businesses in Bassett and Long Pine will be installed beginning Sept. 10. NPPD’s customer service organization will contact customers in advance to alert them to the installation of the meters.
A district employee will make the change of the meters and will remove the old meter from the premises. A resident or business owner does not need to be there when the switch out occurs. There will be a short interruption of electric service.
The new meters are equipped with two-way communication known as Advanced Metering Infrastructure, a digital metering technology used around the world for more than a decade. The current meters in communities slated for replacement are electro-mechanical devices. The new meters display the reading, but in digital LED format. The meters will have an electronic circuit board module installed that will receive and securely transmit the data back to NPPD on the total amount of kilowatt hours used by a residence or business.
“The installation of the AMI systems will help maintain competitive electric rates by reducing operating expenses,” said NPPD Retail General Manager Tim Arlt. “With these units we can also pinpoint the exact location of outages quicker, meaning a faster response time to restore power.” Since the new meters have been installed, NPPD has seen a 60 percent reduction in service calls for new customer move-in requests from a year ago.
In addition, the new meters will allow NPPD personnel to automatically read electric meters from service centers, provide a higher level of customer service, help customer service representatives troubleshoot billing concerns, and improve electric service reliability and power quality for customers. Another reason for the meter replacement is from a safety perspective for NPPD’s employees when troubleshooting or handling routine maintenance.
The AMI equipment cannot control any appliances, electronics or heating and cooling systems within a residence or business. In addition to the new meters, NPPD will also have numerous routers placed strategically in the community to relay the information to NPPD’s operations.
* August temperatures right on average, precipitation above normal again
(Posted 9:30 a.m. Sept. 3)
Ainsworth Weather Observer Gerry Osborn reported August's
temperatures hit the average on the button, and 3.49 inches of rain moved the
city 7 inches above normal through the first eight months of the year.
To hear the full summary, click on the audio link below.
Mon-Sat - 8 a.m. until 7 p.m.
Sunday - 11 a.m. until 4 p.m.