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

* Rose Paulson, 95, of Winner, S.D. 10:30 a.m. Sept. 24

* Berniece I. Meyers, 81, of Millard formerly of Ainsworth 10 a.m. until noon Sept. 23

* Silver Clifton Hunt, 68, of Broken Bow 2 p.m. Sept. 21

* Mary A. Straka, 85, of Atkinson 10:30 a.m. Sept. 21

* Steven J. Fox, 51, of Spencer, Iowa 10 a.m. Sept. 21

* Pete Schmaderer, 93, of Atkinson 10:30 a.m. Sept. 20

* Meeting reports located below for:

Sept. 19 Ainsworth City Council

Sept. 18 Brown County Commissioners

Sept. 10 Sandhills Care Center Board of Directors

Sept. 10 Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education

* All city water service restored, boil water order lifted for South Street

(Posted 3 p.m. Sept. 19)

Water service has now been restored to all Ainsworth residents. A water main was repaired that allowed service to resume to residents on West Second Street west of Bone Creek.

Water samples from South Street came back clear, so residents of South Street, including those on Ulrich Street and West Second Place, no longer have to boil their water prior to use.

The boil water notice remains for residents of West Second Street until water samples there come back from the state.

Anyone with questions may contact the city office.

* Council approves new law enforcement agreement with Brown County

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

By a 3-1 vote Wednesday, the Ainsworth City Council approved an interlocal agreement with Brown County for law enforcement services that will see the city pay an additional $36,000 in the first year of the new agreement.

City Administrator Lisa Schroedl said, during negotiations with county representatives on how to split the expenses to operate the Brown County Sheriff’s Department, which provides law enforcement coverage to the city, the group looked at the percentage of calls the sheriff’s department receives that originate from the city’s jurisdiction.

Schroedl said the sheriff’s department data indicated 64 percent of the calls it received in 2018 were generated from inside Ainsworth. She said the city was also having the sheriff’s department handle nuisance code enforcement, which the department was not doing when the previous agreement was finalized.

Councilman Greg Soles, who served as one of the city’s negotiators, said the percentage of the overall Brown County Sheriff’s Department budget the city pays will increase from 34 percent in the previous agreement to 39 percent of the total budget to begin the new three-year contract.

“Part of that increase is to go toward adding an additional deputy,” Soles said.

Councilman Schyler Schenk said he believed the sheriff’s department was already overstaffed and did not need to hire another deputy.

Councilman Brad Fiala asked who from the city would ensure that the city’s ordinances are being enforced by the sheriff’s department.

“Do we have someone who is going to monitor that?” Fiala asked. “If we are going to pay this, they need to enforce our ordinances.”

Schroedl said most of the code enforcement the sheriff’s department conducts is complaint driven, with either residents or city staff members contacting the department about a potential violation.

Soles said the city can work with the sheriff’s department on the codes it wants prioritized for enforcement.

While the terms of the contract are not changing from the past agreement, the amount the city will pay will jump from $203,812 in the final year of the previous agreement to $240,000 in the first year of the new agreement.

The city will also pay an additional 7 percent for the second and third years of the three-year agreement, amounting to $256,800 for the 2020-21 fiscal year and $274,776 for the final year of the agreement.

Schroedl said the agreement stipulates that $13,500 of each year’s agreement is to go toward the purchase of a vehicle for the sheriff’s department and, if a vehicle is not purchased, the city receives that amount as a credit. She said the sheriff’s department did not purchase a vehicle during the final year of the previous agreement, so the city would receive a $13,500 credit toward the first year of the new agreement.

By a 3-1 vote, with Schenk against, the council approved the three-year contract with the county for law enforcement.

In other business Wednesday, the council discussed the potential for developing houses in the city with local contractor Cory Griebel and contractor Lou Benscoter of Wayne.

Griebel said he reviewed the recently completed housing study that showed the need for homes in Ainsworth.

“I want to do my part for the community,” Griebel said. “I want to build here and support the community. I have helped build 27 homes in Wayne the last few years, and I have seen a lot of great ideas.”

Benscoter said his company has built 40 new homes and six apartment complexes in the Wayne area during the past five years.

“I hear that housing is the main issue for every smaller community,” Benscoter said. “Wayne started condemning houses with absentee landowners, and we started building.”

Benscoter said coming up with the needed down payment is the step that prohibits most people from being able to purchase a home.

“The city of Wayne has a program that provides no-interest loans for the down payment,” Benscoter said. “It has gone over well, and it can only be used for new construction.”

North Central Development Center Board member Graig Kinzie told Benscoter and Griebel the NCDC would certainly be willing to discuss a partnership to continue the past success of the NCDC housing program.

Using LB 840 funding, the NCDC housing committee had assisted in the construction of four new homes and a commercial building inside the city limits. However, as a non-profit organization, it was later determined the NCDC could not receive LB 840 funding, and the NCDC was looking for options on how to continue the housing program.

Kinzie invited Griebel and Benscoter to attend the next NCDC Board meeting in October to discuss a potential partnership for a housing program.

Council members expressed support for continued housing development in the city. No action was requested or taken.

Brian Johnson with the Brown County Historical Society discussed with the council the condition of the city’s museums.

Johnson said the number of people willing to serve on the Historical Society is dwindling, and it was difficult to staff volunteers at several locations.

“We are concerned about the condition of the current museums,” Johnson said. “There is mold in one museum. It is ruining artifacts and it is unhealthy for both our volunteers and visitors.”

He said it would be ideal for the Historical Society to operate out of one facility instead of the current three.

Schroedl said the city was aware the museums need some work. She said the budget usually includes $6,000 toward capital improvements for the museums and $5,000 for maintenance and operations. She said this year’s budget has $15,000 for capital improvements. She said the city would try and offset some of the costs for improving the museums by applying for grant funding.

The council took no action on the item Wednesday.

Levi Lucht requested a hearing with the council regarding a nuisance code violation he recently received regarding the size of firewood piles on his property and other violations. Lucht said he cuts firewood for seven homes, and he did not realize there was a limit to the size of firewood pile he could have on his property.

Schroedl said the city’s ordinances limit the size of wood piles to 10 feet by 16 feet.

“The ordinance is written as it is due to fire concerns and the potential for rodents,” the city administrator said.

Soles said the nuisance violation not only addressed the wood piles, but included general debris on the property as well as unlicensed vehicles.

“Neighbors with young children have expressed concerns,” Soles said.

Lucht said he had cleaned up some of the issues, and would continue to work on removing the violations.

Looking at photos of the property, Fiala said he wouldn’t want those large wood piles close to his property.

“I don’t like the pile that has not been cut and stacked, and the trailer with wood in it needs to be moved off the street,” Fiala said.

The council approved giving Lucht 10 days to clean up the remaining violations related to vehicles and general debris, and 30 days to begin to address the wood piles.

“Cut the remaining wood and stack it at the other properties and it will be fine,” Soles said.

During her report, Schroedl updated the council on the damage to streets and water mains sustained in the western portion of Ainsworth from Bone Creek flooding.

Schroedl said water service had been restored to all residences with the exception of those living on West Second Street west of Bone Creek. Two water mains were damaged during the flooding.

She thanked Fiala, Red and White Market and Seven Springs for assisting residents affected by the loss of water service.

“There are a lot of good people in town who came up with helpful solutions,” Schroedl said.

She said the best option for permanently repairing the water mains would be to bore in a line under the culvert on West Second Street.

“That way we don’t have to try and dam the creek and involve the Army Corps of Engineers,” Schroedl said. “Then, should this ever occur again, we would be able to restore water service in a matter of hours, not days.”

Schroedl also reported the Bone Creek bridges on South Street and West Second Street remain closed to traffic until the bridge can be inspected for any structural damage.

The next meeting of the Ainsworth City Council is scheduled for 5 p.m. Oct. 9.

* Valuation in Ainsworth spikes 36 percent, city asks for 30 percent more in tax

(Posted 10:45 a.m. Sept. 19)

The value of property inside the city limits of Ainsworth spiked 36 percent between 2018 and 2019, and property owners will pay an additional $94,000 in tax to support the 2019-20 city budget.

The City Council Wednesday approved the 2019-20 budget and property tax request. Property owners inside the city limits will pay $402,122 to support the city budget, up 30 percent from the $308,249 collected the prior year.

After residences inside the city limits were reassessed for 2019, some existing homes experienced substantial increases in their assessed valuation. The assessments are made using three years of sales data for similar homes.

Total property value in Ainsworth increased by almost $24 million, from $65.6 million in 2018 to $89.3 million in 2019.

In addition to the existing value of residential property in Ainsworth increasing substantially, City Administrator Lisa Schroedl said the Farmers Ranchers Cooperative Feed Mill expansion project had not previously been included on the tax rolls, and was included for the 2019 tax year.

Councilman Greg Soles said the city, in its budget planning, initially looked at decreasing the levy rate from 47 cents per $100 in property value down to 42 cents with the overall valuation increasing substantially.

However, Soles said the city’s accounting firm recommended the city keep the levy rate at a minimum of 45 cents or it would risk losing state funding.

Schroedl said there are plenty of places the city needed additional funding. She said the streets department will see additional expenses this budget year following the damage sustained during flooding. She said the city has supported the Sandhills Care Center to the tune of $80,000 from its general fund budget the past three years, which is an expense the city had not encountered previously.

She said the sewer improvement project would require additional funding to support, and the city’s law enforcement contract with the county was also increasing substantially.

Schroedl said the city dropped the levy rate from 47 cents per $100 in valuation down to 45 cents but, with the large increase in overall property value, the city will still receive additional property tax dollars, which she said the city will need to cover its expenses.

Had the city asked for the same $308,249 in property tax as it did with a 47-cent levy in 2018, the levy for 2019 would have plummeted to 34.5 cents per $100 in property value.

The $8 million budget approved by the City Council includes a $2.1 million wastewater project that will improve sewer pipes in the city and replace water meters with new meters that can be read electronically. With those improvements, the wastewater line item is the largest in the budget at $2.55 million.

The budget includes $982,960 for the streets department after the city sustained damage to its infrastructure in March and September.

Though the approved budget calls for $8 million in expenditures, the actual total will likely be much lower. The city actually spent $2.74 million during the 2018-19 budget year, which was about $164,000 more than the $2.58 million spent during the 2017-18 year.

The city must budget for all of its funding to potentially be spent during the year, even though the likelihood of the city spending all of the money available in its various funds is extremely remote. The city has just $417,300 in remaining bonded debt from previous streets and water department improvement projects. The bonded debt total will increase following the $2.1 million sewer improvement project scheduled for 2019-20.

The council approved the budget and property tax request following the Wednesday hearings.

* County requests $2.81 million from property owners to support 2019-20 budget

(Posted 4 p.m. Sept. 18)

Brown County will ask property owners for $2.81 million in taxes to support the 2019-20 county budget following a public hearing Tuesday.

The commissioners approved the budget that calls for $2.34 million in property tax to support the general fund, which is about $130,000 more than the prior year. The voter-approved addition to the Brown County Hospital will require $473,747 to support, which is about $2,000 less than the prior year.

The $2.81 million in property tax asking overall is $102,399 more than the prior year, as the 2018-19 fiscal year included $21,800 in property tax to support reappraisal efforts, which was not included in this year’s budget.

The county’s property tax levy to support the budget is 33 cents for every $100 in property value, which is up slightly from the 32.6 cents to support the 2018-19 levy. Total property value in Brown County increased by $21.9 million from 2018 to $853.9 million.

The levy includes 27.4 cents to support the general fund, 5.5 cents to support the hospital addition bond. In addition property owners in the county will pay 3 cents in levy, or $229,368, to support the Brown County Rural Fire Protection District, and about three-quarters of 1 cent of levy, $65,000, to support the Brown County Agricultural Society.

The county has cut into its cash reserve and into its inheritance tax fund to fund repairs to county roads following flooding in March and September. The 2019-20 budget shows a cash reserve of $2.8 million, which is a little more than half of the $5.2 million cash reserve from the 2018-19 fiscal year. The hospital represents $1.29 million of the $2.8 million cash reserve.

The county’s overall budget, which includes the budget of the Brown County Hospital, is $20.08 million. The hospital’s operating budget represents $10.4 million of that total.

The county actually spent $16.08 million during 2018-19, including the hospital’s operating expenses. The $16.08 million spent was $2.9 million less than was spent in 2017-18, thanks to the hospital’s actual expenditures dropping from $13.24 million in 2017-18 to $10.3 million in 2018-19.

The $20.08 million budget approved Tuesday is about a half million dollars higher than the $19.59 budget approved in 2018-19. The $102,399 in additional property tax to support the budget represents a 4 percent increase in tax to be collected.

The county’s total valuation increased from $831.9 million to $853.9 million.

The value of residential property increased by almost $10 million, from $74.3 million to $84.2 million. The value of commercial property in the county increased from $40.9 million in 2018 to $48.3 million for 2019. Agricultural land value, which comprises the majority of real property value in Brown County, increased only slightly from 2018 to 2019.

The commissioners approved the 2019-20 budget and property tax request following a public hearing Tuesday. The county’s fiscal year runs from July 1 of this year to June 30, 2020.

* South Street and West Second Street in Ainsworth closed to traffic

(Posted 2 p.m. Sept. 18)

The city of Ainsworth reminds residents the bridges over Bone Creek on West Second Street and South Street are closed to traffic, and motorists are urged not to drive around barricades placed on the streets.
Floodwater last week ran over the top of the streets, and the bridges need to be inspected for structural stability before South Street and West Second Street are reopened to traffic.
Anyone driving around a barricade on a closed street may be cited.

* Water service restored for city residents on West Second Street east of Bone Creek

(Posted  8:30 a.m. Sept. 18)

Water service has been restored for Ainsworth residents living on West Second Street to the east of Bone Creek. The city advises residents on West Second Street boil their water until further notice.
The city continues to work to restore water service to West Second Street residents living west of Bone Creek. Water mains on West Second Street and South Street were damaged during flooding on Bone Creek last week. Water was previously restored for South Street residents. Those residents are also asked to boil their water for the time being.

* Commissioners discuss damage to roads from most recent round of flooding

(Posted 7 a.m. Sept. 18)

Following another round of major flooding, Brown County Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin told the Board of Commissioners Tuesday the roads department is working to get everyone at least one route out from their home before prioritizing other projects.

Meadville Avenue experienced two additional washouts in addition to the Sand Draw box culvert completely washing away after having already been damaged following the March flooding.

Turpin said the roads department did get a bridge approach on the Sand Draw Creek repaired on 430th Avenue.

“That will have to be our new detour route until we can get the other two spots on Meadville Avenue fixed,” Turpin said. “We are going to need new culverts on one of those. The culverts there were crushed by cement.”

Turpin said the approaches to six bridges washed out, including three bridges on Bone Creek and two on Sand Draw Creek. Turpin said the roads department has one of those six, the Sand Draw bridge on 430th Avenue, repaired.

The highway superintendent said the roads department repaired 428th Avenue near the O’Hare feedlot, and it is now passable. He said they have also been working on Moon Lake Avenue.

“It is not the greatest, but it is passable,” Turpin said.

He said the roads department was still working to get two homeowners a way out after damage completely cut off their access in different parts of the county.

“We still need to get onto South Pine Avenue,” Turpin said. “That is going to take a while. There are 13 spots on that road with either standing water or water running over the road, and the West Y is still under water.”

Commissioner Buddy Small said the county faces a monumental problem with the recent flooding, and the damage is as widespread as anyone has likely ever seen in Brown County.

Numerous members of the audience offered their equipment and expertise to help the county wherever needed to get roads reopened as harvest season commences.

Small said he had signed a disaster declaration for the county, which has been submitted to the governor’s office. If approved, the county could be eligible for state assistance.

North Central Development Center Executive Director Kristin Olson said the county’s hazard mitigation plan has information on how to document the use of volunteer labor and equipment.

“FEMA and NEMA have sample contracts available,” Olson said. “All the contracts are specific as to what is available for reimbursement for labor and each piece of equipment. We will have to document all the people who are willing to work, the hours they work and the equipment they use.”

She said she had experience documenting equipment and manpower for reimbursement during the 2012 wildfires. If the county receives the disaster declaration from the governor, the state would cover 80 percent of the cost of repairing the damage, with the county responsible for 20 percent.

Commissioner Denny Bauer asked Olson if she would be willing to take charge of organizing the volunteer contractor effort.

“I know we have a limited amount in the inheritance tax fund, but we need to get things fixed now,” Bauer said.

The county would have to pay for the cost of the repairs up front, and then be reimbursed by the state or federal agencies if the disaster declaration is granted.

Olson said the county can set things up in a way where it can be sure documentation is done properly so reimbursement can be received. A signup sheet was passed around Tuesday to those in attendance who were willing to supply equipment and labor to the recovery effort.

Anyone interested in assisting the county by operating their own equipment or using their trucks to haul materials to assist the county is asked to contact Turpin at 402-322-1999 or visit with any of the commissioners.

Turpin said the roads department could use a lot of help, including people with trucks or bulldozers.

“Rahn Matteo has offered to help us with the bridges,” Turpin said. “Someone from NEMA is coming Monday to do preliminary assessments.”

Scott Wessel with the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission said the commission could potentially help the county out with some materials.

“We could potentially provide some culverts to use on some of these streams,” Wessel said.

Audience member Mike Freeman said the repair effort is going to be much larger than the roads department can handle by itself.

“Our county roads department can only do so much,” Freeman said. “Some of these things are beyond the scope of what the county can get done. You have done a miraculous job, but harvest and winter are just around the corner. Heavy equipment is going to be out there tearing up roads that are already in bad shape.”

Commissioner Reagan Wiebelhaus asked why the Region 24 Emergency Management Agency wasn’t helping to document the damage from the flooding.

“We pay a lot of money to our emergency manager,” Wiebelhaus said. “A lot of the things Kenny is taking on are the responsibility of the emergency manager.”

Wiebelhaus said, as long as the county’s disaster declaration is approved, he is all for contracting some of the major work to assist the roads department. If the disaster declaration is not approved, the county’s only emergency fund is its inheritance tax fund.

“If we bring that all the way down, we would have to bring the levy up, which could break some farmers and ranchers,” Wiebelhaus said.

Freeman said times are already tough, and farmers and ranchers will have to have some of these roads repaired or they are going to be in trouble regardless.

“All these arteries are severed, and we need to get them back up and working again,” Freeman said.

Small said the county has brought in some contractors and volunteers already, especially those willing to haul material.

“There is just so much to do,” Small said.

Discussion Tuesday turned to Sand Draw Creek and the head cutting that will continue to move west now that the box culvert on Meadville Avenue has been completely washed away.

Turpin said, after visiting with a representative from the Nebraska Department of Transportation, the focus has shifted from trying to stop the head cutting at Meadville Avenue to trying to stop it farther west at the Carpenter bridge.

“The head cutting is already a quarter mile west of Meadville Avenue,” the highway superintendent said.

Wiebelhaus said, “If we can get the head cut stopped at the Carpenter bridge, we won’t need to do a box culvert at Meadville Avenue. It would make that project much easier. We are getting these 100-year rains every five years.”

Audience member Tonny Beck said, if the head cutting isn’t stopped, it will have a domino effect and the county will eventually lose every bridge west of Meadville Avenue on Sand Draw Creek.

“You are going to have to try and make a stand somewhere against that head cut,” Beck said.

Bauer agreed the Carpenter bridge would be the county’s best chance to try and stop the head cutting.

In another roads item Tuesday, the commissioners approved a $60,000 contract with Perrett Construction of Valentine to raise the Elsmere road in an area just east of Clear Lake that has been underwater since March. The county will also be responsible for the cost of the fill material.

Also during Tuesday’s meeting, the commissioners held the 2019-20 budget hearing and property tax request. KBRB will provide information on the budget in an upcoming newscast.

Former Brown County Hospital Chief Financial Officer Tom Wiedell alleged to the commissioners the hospital’s consultants made a large error on their revenue projections for the hospital for its 2019-20 budget.

Wiedell said he discovered the issue the day before he was fired. He claimed he was told he was being terminated after 110 days for not being a good fit with the hospital’s culture.

“The commissioners are not being accurately informed of the financial performance at the hospital,” Wiedell claimed. “As the compliance officer, I was prepared to make the county aware of this. My integrity is at stake, and I am prepared to whistle blow on the Brown County Hospital.”

At that point, the commissioners moved to go into executive session with Wiedell. Following that executive session, the commissioners held an executive session with Hospital Administrator John Werner and Hospital Board Chairman John Gross. No action was taken following the executive sessions.

The next regular meeting of the Brown County Commissioners is scheduled for 5:15 p.m. Oct. 1.

* Ulibarri wins KBRB Football Contest for Week 3 with just 2 misses

(Posted 11 a.m. Sept. 17)

One contestant waded through a tough slate of games to stand alone on top during the third week of the KBRB Football Contest.

Tami Ulibarri of Ainsworth missed just two games, both on the high school side, while going a perfect 7-for-7 in the college games. Ulibarri wins the $40 first-place gift certificate as the only card on the week that missed just two games.

Seven contestants missed three games during the Week 3 contest card to put themselves in the running for the runner-up $10 certificate.

Donnie Tielke and Kristi Tielke of Atkinson; Terry Hollenbeck, Deb Hollenbeck and Todd Hollenbeck of Long Pine; Jacque Richey of Springview; and Andrew Walton of Ainsworth missed three games, which sent us to our tie-breaker – Nebraska’s 44-8 victory over Northern Illinois.

Both Donnie Tielke and Kristi Tielke missed the final score by just 10 points, with Donnie picking the Huskers to win, 45-17, and Kristi opting for the Huskers, 35-7. With both contestants missing the tie-breaker by 10 points, that sent us to our next tie-breaker, the contestant who submitted their card to KBRB the earliest.

Both cards carried a Friday postmark, so both Donnie Tielke and Kristi Tielke will receive a $10 runner-up certificate.

KBRB Football Contest Week 4 cards are available now from Speedy Mart, Buckles Automotive and Plains Equipment in Ainsworth, Circle B Livestock in Bassett, from the West Plains Bank in Springview, and from Speedy Mart in Atkinson.

Cards must be submitted by 4 p.m. Friday to the KBRB Studios or carry a Friday postmark to be eligible.

* Most Rock County roads reopen, a half-dozen remain closed to traffic

(Posted 8:30 a.m. Sept. 17)

Rock County Roads Department Foreman Darrell Olson reported Tuesday most county roads have reopened to motorists in Rock County. However, motorists are asked to use caution on those roads, and several remain closed to traffic.
Roads that remain closed due to damage from last week’s flooding include the Twin Lake Road, Pony Lake Road, Fish Valley Road, the Stockdale Road and Herrington Road.

* Highway 183 between Bassett and Taylor reopens to traffic

(Posted 7:30 a.m. Sept. 17)

The Nebraska Department of Transportation has reopened Highway 183 between Bassett and Taylor. The DOT began pumping water north of Rose in an area where water was running across the highway. The DOT reports there is still water across Highway 183 in some spots, but vehicles are being allowed to drive through it. Motorists are asked to use caution.
Brown County Commissioner Buddy Small reported Wilson Street just northwest of Ainsworth was now open to traffic. The county roads department replaced a bridge with culverts on Bone Creek, and was just completing the work when the flooding hit last week. Small said Wilson Street has now reopened to traffic.
The city of Ainsworth reports a water main that was damaged during the flooding on South Street has been repaired, but residents are asked to boil their water for the time being. A water main on West Second Street is still damaged and has not yet been repaired, affecting water service to residents in that area.

* Sheriff's department seeks information regarding ATV theft Friday

(Posted 9 p.m. Sept. 16)

The Brown County Sheriff’s Department is asking for the public’s help regarding the theft of an all-terrain vehicle from northeast of Ainsworth on Sept. 13.

According to the sheriff’s department, sometime Friday night, a red 2011 Honda 420 Rancher ATV was stolen from a shed along Highway 183 approximately 8 miles north of Highway 20.

The ATV has front A-Arm shields and black rims with Bear Claw tires. There is a 2-inch receive hitch welded to the back cargo frame and a PVC tube attached to the front cargo frame.

Anyone with information on the whereabouts of the ATV or knows who may be responsible for the theft is asked to contact the Brown County Sheriff’s Department at 402-387-1440 or call Crime Stoppers at 402-382-3121. All callers remain anonymous, and information leading to the recovery of the ATV and to the arrest of those responsible for its theft could result in a cash reward.

ZAK STRONG - Fans at the North Central football game Friday took the field to accept the Keya Paha County homecoming king crown on behalf of Zak Palmer. Palmer was also in attendance Friday.

* Fans support 'Zak Strong' effort after Palmer crowned homecoming king Friday

(Posted 8:45 a.m. Sept. 16)

Keya Paha County High School crowned Zak Palmer as homecoming king Friday following the North Central football game at Bassett.
Palmer, who is battling leukemia, was in attendance Friday but was unable to leave the vehicle to accept the crown. Instead, all of the North Central fans in attendance took the field to accept the crown and take photos with a “Zak Strong” banner.
Sydney Linse was named Keya Paha County homecoming queen. Wyatt Olson and Lauryn Stanton were crowned the Rock County homecoming king and queen following North Central’s game against Arcadia-Loup City Friday.
Keya Paha County, Rock County and the surrounding area continue to support the “Zak Strong” effort, and have raised more than $60,000 for the family to assist with the cost of treatment for Zak and travel expenses for the family.

* Highway 183 remains closed, water levels recede on Highway 20

(Posted 11 a.m. Sept. 13)

Chuck Osborn with the Nebraska Department of Transportation reported Friday that water has receded on Highway 20 west of Ainsworth. Highway 183 remains closed to traffic between Bassett and Taylor.
The Department of Transportation has placed pumps at the site north of Rose where water is running across the highway in an effort to pump water out of the area and get the water levels on the highway to drop.
Motorists are asked to continue to detour through Ainsworth and use Highway 7 to Brewster and Highway 91 to Taylor.

* Flooding damages two city water main lines in western Ainsworth

(Posted 6:45 a.m. and updated at 10:30 a.m. Sept. 13)

Bone Creek flooding in the western portion of Ainsworth resulted in damage to two city water mains. The breaks are located along South Street and West Second Street.
The city water department reports repairs cannot be completed until the water levels recede. Anyone who is affected by the water main breaks may obtain potable water from the Ainsworth Conference Center and use the Conference Center shower facilities. The locker room portion of the Conference Center will be open 24 hours a day to allow people access to the showers.
Seven Springs is delivering 3-gallon and 5-gallon water jugs to the city office. Those without water service may stop by the city office until 6 p.m. Friday to pick up water. Any remaining water will be taken to the Ainsworth Public Library, which is open Saturday from 1 until 5 p.m.
Red and White Market has a refilling station, and people may refill the water containers free of charge through the weekend at Red & White.
The city will also have cases of bottled water available Friday afternoon, as well as basement cleaning kits.
The Ainsworth Volunteer Fire Department will run hoses from the fire hall, and people may refill water containers at the Fire Hall. The fire department also has water pumps available for those who have water in their basement that needs to be pumped out. Contact Ainsworth Fire Chief Brad Fiala at 402-760-1512 for more information on obtaining a pump.
Anyone affected by the water outage may also camp at East City Park free of charge over the weekend if they choose.
The city will provide updates to KBRB when the water mains are repaired and service restored.

* Southwest Ainsworth residents may be without water service

(Posted 2 p.m. Sept. 12)

Residents in the southwestern portion of Ainsworth are asked to contact the city office if they return home today to find their water service is not working.

The city has experienced a potential break in the main water line in southwest Ainsworth, but no breaks have been pinpointed at this time. All city wells are working, but residents between Osborne and Ulrich streets, and between South Street and West Second Street have reported being without water service.

Until water levels recede and the city can try and pinpoint where a potential main break has occurred, residents in those areas may remain without water service.

Anyone who is without water service is asked to let the city office know by calling 402-387-2494.

Residents who need potable water or who need to shower may utilize the Conference Center facilities.

* NDOT closes Highway 183 between Bassett and Taylor due to flooding

(Posted 1:45 p.m. Sept. 12)

The Nebraska Department of Transportation has closed Highway 183 between Bassett and Taylor due to water over the road north of Rose near milepost 161.
The water is 18 inches deep and over the road for approximately 75 yards, which makes it virtually impossible for low profile vehicles to travel. Traffic is being detoured from Taylor to Brewster and north to Ainsworth on Highway 7 then east to Bassett.
There is water across Highway 83 south of Valentine, and water on portions of Highway 20 from west of Ainsworth to the Cherry County line.
Water is also across the road on Highway 7 approximately 12 miles south of Ainsworth. The water is across the southbound lane but Highway 7 is still open for travel, as is Highway 20.
Stay tuned to KBRB for more information on road closures.

* Three roads closed in Keya Paha County due to flooding

(Posted 1 p.m. Sept. 12)

Keya Paha County Commissioner Cory Nilson reported a few road closures Thursday. Carnes Avenue is closed from Lambert Road to the Niobrara River. The River Road is closed in two locations, one stretch between Mule Shoe and the Norden Road. The other stretch of the River Road closed is in the Rock Barn area.
Coon Creek Avenue in Keya Paha County is also closed from the Highway 12 intersection south.
Stay tuned to KBRB for additional updates on all road closures.

* Several roads in Cherry County closed due to flooding, damage

(Posted 11 a.m. Sept. 12)

Portions of several roads in Cherry County are closed due to flood water and road damage.

Highway Superintendent Lloyd Smith reported the following roads are closed to traffic:

·         Cut Across Road

·         East Calf Creek Road

·         Fawn Lake Road from the headquarters west

·         Goose Creek Road

·         Henderson Road from the Whitman Road intersection west

·         Kennedy Road

·         Loup River Road

·         North Ashby Road from Alkali Lake north 5 miles

·         Northeast Goose Creek Road

·         North Whitman Road from the Henderson Road intersection south

·         The Purdum-Elsmere Road

·         West Dry Valley Road

·         West Wood Lake Road

* Fire department rescues motorist caught in flood water early Thursday

(Posted 9:30 a.m. Sept. 12 by Graig Kinzie, KBRB Radio)

A motorist traveling to work north of Ainsworth early Thursday morning had to be rescued after her vehicle entered a washout on Meadville Avenue at Bone Creek.

Ainsworth Fire Chief Brad Fiala said the fire department was paged at 3:30 a.m. Thursday to a report of a woman stranded in flood water north of Ainsworth.

Fiala said the driver, identified by Brown County Sheriff Bruce Papstein as Jacey Gallegos, 35, of Ainsworth, was traveling north when her pickup went into Bone Creek after the south approach to the bridge on Meadville Avenue washed out.

Fiala said Gallegos attempted to climb out of the cab and into the bed of the pickup, but slipped and fell into the water. The fire chief said the current carried her approximately 200 to 300 yards downstream, where she was able to grab onto a tree and hang on against the current.

Fiala said the current was extremely swift, and the Bone Creek water level had risen to approximately 10 feet deep.

Despite being in the water, Fiala said Gallegos’ phone was still working, and she was able to call for help. Rescuers arrived, and were able to locate Gallegos by seeing the light from her phone.

Fiala said volunteer firefighters Brandon Evans and Trent Kinney entered the water wearing life jackets and ropes. They carried with them an additional life jacket and rope.

They were able to negotiate the fast-moving current and reach Gallegos, supplying her with a life jacket and securing her with a rope. Additional members of the fire department then pulled Gallegos and both rescuers to shore.

Evans and Kinney reached Gallegos and brought her to shore between 3:50 and 4 a.m. after she had been in the water for more than 20 minutes.

Attempting to return to Ainsworth, Fiala said firefighters were stalled as an additional culvert began to wash out on Meadville Avenue south of where the rescue occurred, in essence trapping the rescue vehicles. He said the Brown County Roads Department poured millings into the failing approach, which allowed the rescue vehicles to get across to the south.

Fiala said Gallegos, Evans and Kinney were taken to the Brown County Hospital for examination after being in the flood water.

All county roads in Brown County and Rock County are closed as the roads department in both counties attempt to identify damage.

(Photo by Dustin Craven, Brown County Roads Department)

culvert on Meadville Avenue, damaged and closed following flooding in
March, was completely washed away following the 9 inches of rain that
fell Sept. 10-11.

* All Brown County and Rock County roads are closed due to flood damage

(Posted 6 a.m. Sept. 12, updated throughout the day)

All roads in Brown County and Rock County are closed following a second night of heavy rainfall. More than 4 inches of rain fell for the second straight night, and floodwaters have washed out numerous culverts and roads in the county.

Brown County Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin said no travel is recommended on any county road, as the county is unable to flag all of the damaged areas. Meadville Avenue has several areas that have been damaged or washed out, and one motorist had to be rescued on Meadville Avenue early Thursday morning after their vehicle entered a washed out area of the road.

The Sand Draw box culvert on Meadville Avenue, damaged and closed following the flooding in March, was completely washed away late Wednesday night or early Thursday morning.

Turpin reported the north approach to the bridge over Sand Draw Creek on the Meadville Avenue detour route has washed out. The approach to Bone Creek on Meadville Avenue has washed out. Both approaches to the "Sisson" bridge on 433rd Avenue between Road 880 and Road 882 are washed out. Both approaches to the 432nd Avenue bridge over Bone Creek are washed out between Road 880 and Road 881.

The approach to the 428th Avenue bridge on Sand Draw Creek has washed out between Road 881 and Road 884. The culverts are washed out on 429th Avenue between Highway 20 and Road 877.

The approach to the Willow Creek bridge on 436th Avenue has washed out. The culvert on 428th Avenue is washed out between Road 879 and Road 880.

Moon Lake Avenue is also impassable south of Cattle Drive Road due to water over the road.

In Ainsworth, Second Street is closed and is barricaded from Ulrich Street due to water flowing over the street.

Water is flowing across Highway 20 in several spots west of Ainsworth. There is water over the road on Highway 183 south of Bassett, and water over the road on Highway 83 southeast of Valentine.

Rock County Roads Department Foreman Darrell Olson also reported all county roads in Rock County are closed while the roads department assesses flood damage.

There is a 10 a.m. late start at Ainsworth Community Schools, and the school advises any parent who feels they cannot get their child to school safely today to simply call the office, it will not be an issue for the student to miss class. The Johnstown bus will not run Thursday morning due to water over the road on Highway 20.

A flood warning remains in effect for the area until Sunday afternoon.

KBRB will pass along information as it comes in regarding roads issues and flooding, but again, all roads in Brown County and Rock County are closed at this time.

* Plane crash site found, father and son from rural Crookston killed

(Posted 9 a.m. Sept. 11)

A father and son from rural Crookston died when their small plane crashed Sunday in Todd County, S.D.

The plane was reported missing Sunday, and emergency responders began a search. The wreckage was located Sunday evening north of Crookston, Neb., in Todd County, S.D.

There were two people on board, and were both pronounced dead at the scene. They were identified by the Todd County Sheriff’s Department as Clint VanderWey, 39, and Jed VanderWey, 16, of rural Crookston.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the crash. The cause has not yet been determined.

* Flash flood warning issued, water across Highway 20 in at least 2 locations

(Posted 7 a.m. Sept. 11)

With close to 6 inches of rain falling in some locations, a flash flood warning has been issued for the entire area.

The Nebraska Department of Transportation reported water across Highway 20 east of the Ainsworth Golf Course and east of Wood Lake near the Brown County and Cherry County line. The highway is passable, but Chuck Osborn with the Department of Transportation urges motorists to drive slowly.

The DOT will place cones and signs where it finds water over state highways, but drivers are reminded to use caution as there could be additional places where water runs across the road and is not marked.

There is also water across Highway 183 north of Rose, and the DOT reports a building was compromised by the water with a portion falling onto a power line, which has disrupted power service for people in the Rose area.

A resident reported water is over the top of a culvert and running across Road 881 between 427th Avenue and Rauscher Avenue west of Ainsworth.

Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin reported Road 886 east of Norden Avenue has washed out and is closed.

Water is running over the road on 430th Avenue between Road 880 and Road 881, and Turpin reported the culverts are completely full on Road 877.

Motorists are urged never to travel across county roads where water is running across, as the roads could be undermined.

Rain reports ranged from 1.35 inches in Springview to 5.80 inches in Johnstown. Ainsworth received 4.88 inches of rain, with more thunderstorms expected Wednesday.

* Cleary wins Week 2 tie-break for victory in the KBRB Football Contest

(Posted 10:15 a.m. Sept. 10)

The football prognosticators were much more dialed in during Week 2 of the KBRB Football Contest. It took one miss to be in the winnings this week, with two contestants missing a single game among the 15 high school and college football games on the Week 2 card.

Richard Cleary of Atkinson and Doug Walton of Ainsworth each missed one game, both in the college ranks. Cleary incorrectly picked Texas to win at home against LSU, while Walton’s only miss was the Illinois road win against UCONN.

That sent us to our tie-breaker score, Nebraska’s 34-31 overtime loss to Colorado. Both Cleary and Walton had the Huskers picked to win. Cleary had a score of 35-21, missing the total by 17 points, while Walton had a score of 24-17, missing the total by 24 points.

That gives Richard Cleary of Atkinson the first-place $40 gift certificate, with Walton receiving the second-place $10 certificate good to one of our contest sponsors.

Week 3 KBRB Football Contest cards are available now from Speedy Mart, Buckles Automotive and Plains Equipment in Ainsworth, Circle B Livestock in Bassett, from the West Plains Bank in Springview, and from Speedy Mart in Atkinson.

Cards must be submitted by 4 p.m. Friday to the KBRB Studios or carry a Friday postmark to be eligible.

* Care Center reaches facility-high population of 29 residents during August

(Posted 9 a.m. Sept. 10)

The Sandhills Care Center reached a facility-high population of 29 residents at one point during August before ending the month with 25 residents.

Administrator Stephanie Kinzie told the Care Center Board Monday the facility admitted four residents during August to reach 29 at one point, but had three residents pass away and one who was discharged to another facility to be closer to family to end the month with 25 residents. Of those, 13 receive Medicaid assistance, 11 pay privately, and one receives hospice care.

Kinzie said a 26th resident would enter the facility Tuesday, and there was the potential for a 27th resident to move in during the next couple weeks.

The Sandhills Care Center generated $179,200 in revenue during August, with expenses of $152,004 for a net profit of $27,195 for the month.

Board Chairman Phil Fuchs said there is $124,226 in the Care Center Board’s interlocal account, with an additional $23,000 still to come from the city of Ainsworth.

“We haven’t had to dip into those funds,” Fuchs said.

Kinzie reported the facility still utilizes agency nursing services for one LPN and one CNA position. She said nothing was set in stone yet, but the facility had an interview with an LPN about joining the Sandhills Care Center team.

The administrator reported the driveway project would begin next week, with the north half of the driveway on the east side of the facility removed by maintenance employee Matt Moody and Burdick Cement Works pouring a new driveway.

Kinzie presented the board with several quotes for used vans from First Class Auto and Ainsworth Motors to transport residents and for use by employees when attending training.

Following a review, the board approved the purchase of a 2014 Chrysler Town and Country van from First Class Auto for $10,800. The van has 96,477 miles of use.

The board opted to utilize $2,500 the care center received from an America’s Farmers Grow Communities grant awarded by Monsanto to Chelsea Hladky to pay for a portion of the cost of the van.

Activities Director Brianna Lawrenz reported she planned to meet with Ainsworth Community Schools administrators with ideas to have elementary, junior high and high school students become involved with the care center’s residents.

Lawrenz said one of the administrators had an idea about how to work in a program with the residents into the school’s curriculum. She reported she would also like to have the elementary students come in and read to the residents.

The board tabled a decision on the kitchen air-conditioning and heating unit, as Kinzie said the facility was still waiting on cost estimates to be returned for replacing the unit.

The next meeting of the Sandhills Care Center Board of Directors is scheduled for 4 p.m. Oct. 14.

* School Board approves $13 million budget asking for $6.67 million in property tax

(Posted 7 a.m. Sept. 10)

Following a public hearing Monday, the Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education unanimously passed a $13.1 million budget for the 2019-20 school year that asks property owners in Brown County for $6.67 million.

While Superintendent Dale Hafer said the difference in the overall budget is negligible from the 2018-19 budget, the budget does ask for an increase in property tax.

“In 2018-19, we had a general operating budget of $9.96 million,” Hafer said. “This year’s is $10.03 million, but that also includes our unused budget authority. The reason for the jump in taxes is our reserves have gone down the past two years. We had to get the reserves brought back up to where they need to be.”

The $6.67 million Brown County property owners will pay is approximately $650,000 more than was requested for the 2018-19 year, when property owners were asked to pay $5.92 million to support the district.

Board member Brad Wilkins said the school’s budget growth over the past several years is 1.5 percent, which he said is not out of line.

“Ten years ago, we received $2.1 million in state aid,” Wilkins said. “Last year, we had $40,000. There is a substantial burden being placed on taxpayers in our district due to the loss of state aid.”

The 2019-20 levy on property in Brown County for the school district will be 79.8 cents for every $100 in a property’s value. That is an increase from 72.7 cents for the 2018-19 school year. The district is asking for 74.1 cents to support the general fund budget, and an additional 5.6 cents to support the special building fund, which will service the debt on the new agriculture and industrial technology building addition.

Had the district kept the property tax request the same as the 2018-19 year, the levy rate would have been 70.8 cents per $100 in valuation.

Overall property values in Brown County increased a modest 3 percent, from $814 million to $836 million. Agricultural property value was virtually static from the previous year, the increase came from new construction and an increase in residential valuation.

Even though the district approved a $13.1 million budget Monday, the actual disbursements will likely be substantially lower. The district approved a similar overall budget in 2018-19, but actually spent $8.57 million. The actual dollars spent during the 2018-19 school year was $460,000 more than the $8.1 million spent during 2017-18. That increase can be fully attributed to the first payment from the special building fund for the addition project. The district spent $488,131 from the special building fund for that project after having no expenditures from the special building fund in the 2017-18 year.

However, the district’s cash reserves had indeed declined the previous two years. After having $1.14 million in cash reserves during the 2016-17 year, those reserves were reduced in an effort to limit property tax asking and were down to $501,065 following the 2018-19 year. The 2019-20 budget stabilizes the cash reserve at $505,000 instead of having a continued decline.

The $464,823 approved to service debt on the addition includes paying down $395,000 on the principal and $69,823 in interest. The district has a total debt obligation of $3.25 million, which includes interest obligations.

Following the unanimous approval of the budget and property tax request Monday, the board heard a presentation from representatives of CTS Group educational consulting.

Hafer said the board had indicated an interest to work on a strategic plan for the district, and wanted an outside opinion of the entire facility.

Duke Snider with CTS Group said the company could help the school create sustainable, efficient and safe facilities for students and staff.

“We want to partner for a long-term relationship,” Snider said.

Snider said he and a CTS Group engineer would walk through the building and create a feasibility study for the facility free of charge to help get the district started on a plan.

Following the presentation, the board agreed to allow CTS Group to perform the free feasibility study.

The board also approved the purchase of a new gym floor cover cart not to exceed $5,000.

Hafer said the existing cart is completely manual operation and weighs in excess of 150 pounds.

“We had an injury to an employee within the last few years on it,” Hafer said. “One of the custodial staff has addressed concerns. That is my concern. There are quite a few options in the $3,500 to $5,000 range.”

Hafer said a new cart to roll up the gym floor covers could prevent a significant workman’s compensation claim.

Activities Director Jared Hansmeyer said, if one of the covers drops after it is rolled up, it can really jar someone’s shoulder.

“That was the last issue we had,” Hansmeyer said.

During his report, Hafer said the district’s air-conditioning chiller unit was struck by lightning during the Labor Day weekend.

“It took out three of the five circuit boards and a compressor,” the superintendent said.

Hafer said it would likely cost between $90,000 and $100,000 to repair the 20-year-old unit that was initially designed to last between 10 and 15 years, while a new system would cost $199,000.

He said the district could likely use the insurance claim money to put toward the purchase of a new system instead of trying to repair the old unit.

Hafer also reported the McAndrew Gymnasium roof replacement project was scheduled to begin Oct. 1 and be completed by Nov. 15.

He also reported the district has two new bus drivers who will begin training Sept. 20-21. The superintendent said there are potentially an additional one or two people who would be interested in driving busses for the district if the school would increase its compensation from the current $12 per hour.

During his report, Elementary Principal Curtis Childers indicated DIBELS tests had been administered to students, and MAPS testing would begin Sept. 16 and run through Oct. 4.

There are a total of 193 students in kindergarten through sixth grade. First grade is the largest class with 32 students, while the new kindergarten class is the smallest with 23 students.

The next meeting of the Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education is scheduled for 8 p.m. Oct. 14.

* Emergency responders search for plane reported missing Sunday in Cherry County

(Posted 10:45 a.m. Sept. 9)

Emergency responders in Cherry County began searching Sunday night for a private plane that was reported missing.
Cherry County Attorney Eric Scott reported the ground search was called off for the missing plane at 9:25 a.m. Monday, and more information regarding the incident would be provided later.

* Sheriff's department makes several arrests during 'Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over'

(Posted 10:45 a.m. Sept. 6)

The Brown County Sheriff’s Department, through funding provided by the Nebraska Office of Highway Safety, participated in the national “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” enforcement Aug. 16 to Sept. 2. The enforcement is designed to increase public awareness and make roadways safer by removing impaired drivers.

Law enforcement officers across the state joined in the effort to reduce the number of deaths and injuries on the state’s roadways during the Labor Day holiday period.

The Brown County Sheriff’s Department had three deputies participate in the campaign by working a total of 39 hours of overtime.

Deputies made one arrest on a charge of driving under the influence, two were arrested on charges of driving under suspension, one was arrested on a charge of possession of a controlled substance, and one person was arrested on a charge of resisting arrest.

The sheriff’s department also arrested two motorists on outstanding warrants, and one individual on an outstanding felony warrant.

Deputies also issued 11 speeding citations and one citation on a charge of possession of an open alcohol container in a vehicle. The sheriff’s department issued a total of 19 citations and 30 warnings during the enforcement period.

The sheriff’s department used regular enforcement, saturation patrols and an enforcement zone during the campaign. Brown County Sheriff Bruce Papstein thanks everyone for doing their part to make roads safer by always designating a sober driver.

* Highway 97 culvert work to begin Monday south of Valentine

(Posted 6:30 a.m. Sept. 6)

The Nebraska Department of Transportation announced that culvert work on Highway 97 near the Brownlee Road intersection will begin Sept. 9, weather permitting. The work is necessary to alleviate flooding that has kept Highway 97 closed since April.
The contractor, Perrett Construction from Valentine, will begin mobilizing equipment and material to the site September 9 and will begin excavating to place the culvert under the highway a few days later. Once the excavation work begins, Highway 97 will be closed to all vehicular traffic at the work site until the culvert has been installed. The work site is located near mile post 104 approximately 37 miles south of Valentine.
The closure for the culvert work is expected to last approximately two weeks. Motorists who have been using private property to go around the flooded area of Highway 97 will need to use an alternate route during construction.
The entire project is expected to be completed in October. Motorists are reminded to use caution when driving through construction zones and selected alternate routes, and to wear seatbelts.  To stay up to date on the latest closure information for this project, call 511 or visit

* Commissioners approve law enforcement contract with the city of Ainsworth

(Posted 1:45 p.m. Sept. 5)

During Tuesday’s meeting, the Brown County Commissioners approved a law enforcement contract between the county and the city of Ainsworth. Commissioner Reagan Wiebelhaus provided the board with details of the contract agreement after meeting with Sheriff Bruce Papstein and representatives from the city.

The Ainsworth City Council will address the contract during its September meeting.

In other business Tuesday, the commissioners authorized Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin to purchase a new pickup using the state bid. Turpin reported he included the purchase of a pickup in his 2019-20 budget.

The commissioners and Turpin discussed the possibility of raising the Elsmere Road east of Clear Lake where water continued to run over the road. The commissioners approved sending a letter to property owner Al Hodge near the site requesting the potential purchase of fill material to raise the level of the road. The Elsmere Road remains closed at the site, with water approximately 18 inches deep over the road.

In other action items Tuesday, the commissioners approved sending a letter of support for the Long Pine Creek Watershed improvement project, and approved sending a letter to State Sen. Tom Brewer requesting a statute be amended regarding tree trimming height requirements.

The board approved a resolution directing Treasurer Deb Vonheeder to issue tax sale certificates on behalf of the county after Vonheeder presented the board with information on property tax delinquencies.

The commissioners approved an inventory list for the Brown County Court as submitted. Prior to adjourning, the board worked on the 2019-20 fiscal year budget with budget preparer Caleb Johnson. The board will hold its annual budget hearing during its next meeting, scheduled for 5:15 p.m. Sept. 17.

* Burkinshaw sentenced to 12 to 17 years in prison on felony assault conviction

(Posted 1 p.m. Sept. 5)

During Brown County District Court proceedings Wednesday, Scott Burkinshaw, 33, of Ainsworth, appeared for sentencing after having been previously convicted of committing assault in the second degree.
Judge Karin Noakes sentenced Burkinshaw to 12 to 17 years in the Nebraska Department of Corrections. Burkinshaw entered a no contest plea June 18 to the Class IIA felony assault charge stemming from an assault of John Clark, 28, of Ainsworth, that occurred June 10, 2018.

* Beel wins first week of the KBRB Football Contest

(Posted 10:30 a.m. Sept. 4)

It was a difficult opening week for the KBRB Football Contest, as there were several upsets in both the high school and college ranks.

Adam Beel of Johnstown maneuvered his way to just three misses in the 15 games on the card, and was the only contestant to turn in a card missing three games. Beel missed on Wakefield’s win over defending Class D-1 state champion Creighton and Neligh-Oakdale’s home victory against Clearwater-Orchard on the high school side. His lone miss in the college games was Nevada’s home win over Purdue. Beel wins the $40 first-place gift certificate, which can be redeemed at any contest sponsor.

Nine contestants missed four games, so that sent us to our tie-breaker, Nebraska’s 35-21 victory against South Alabama. Jenny Beel of Johnstown had the closest score picked to the actual result from among those missing four games. She picked a 32-14 Nebraska win to miss the total by just 10 points. She wins the $10 second-place gift certificate.

The other contestants missing four games were Kenny Schelm and Casey Jones of Ainsworth, Trevor Ferguson of Springview, Eli Beel of Johnstown, Kylee Borg of Stuart, Nathan Finley of Valentine, Terry Hollenbeck of Long Pine, and Frank Schaffer of Atkinson.

Week 2 KBRB Football Contest cards are available now from Speedy Mart, Buckles Automotive and Plains Equipment in Ainsworth, Circle B Livestock in Bassett, from the West Plains Bank in Springview, and from Speedy Mart in Atkinson.

Cards must be submitted by 4 p.m. Friday to the KBRB Studios or carry a Friday postmark to be eligible.

* August moisture almost doubles the average in Ainsworth

(Posted 8:45 a.m. Sept. 4)

Ainsworth Weather Observer Gerry Osborn recorded 5.76 inches of rain during August, which almost doubles the monthly average of 2.90 inches. Ainsworth has received 24.23 inches of rain through the first eight months of the year, which is 6.67 inches above the average.
To hear the complete August weather report, click on the audio link below.

audio clips/Gerry Osborn August 2019 weather.mp3

* Rock County Commissioners approve bid for culvert construction

(Posted 8:30 a.m. Sept. 4)

The Rock County Commissioners approved a bid to construct a culvert on Road 889 during Tuesday’s meeting. The board received two bids for the project, one from Gentele Construction and one from Prouty Construction.

The board approved the low bid of $129,350 for the culvert construction from Gentele Construction. Gentele Construction also submitted a bid for a culvert construction project on Road 890, but Prouty Construction did not. The commissioners tabled action on the Road 890 culvert project.

In another culvert-related item Tuesday, attorney Don Blankenau, representing property owner Frank Taylor, discussed a decision to install a culvert on a county roadway without a hearing. Blankenau discussed possible solutions to address ground owned by Taylor that was now flooded due to the culvert construction. The board agreed to have Blankenau visit with County Attorney Avery Guernsey on a possible solution.

Tony Fox met with the commissioners about fixing the road near his home, as he told the board he has been unable to receive mail delivery to his home since March. The board agreed to hire a scraper at $100 per hour to repair the road.

Following a public hearing Tuesday, the commissioners voted to vacate a portion of a street in Swanson’s Subdivision lying between Block 3 and Block 5.

The commissioners approved raising the hourly wage for Weed Superintendent Mitch Dean to $16.07 per hour.
The board tabled action on certifying compliance for a Nebraska Department of Transportation program. That agenda item was tabled until Oct. 15.

The next meeting of the Rock County Commissioners is scheduled for 9 a.m. Sept. 17.

* Brown County Hospital participates in regional training exercise

(Posted 8:30 a.m. Sept. 3)

Two Regional Disaster Health Response System grants were awarded in October to Nebraska Medicine at Omaha and to the Massachusetts General Hospital at Boston, Mass.

The purpose of the demonstration grants was to explore the ability to implement the regional disaster health response system to begin to address gaps in coordinated patient care and improve health outcomes during disasters.

The focused exercise activities in Nebraska included the cities of Ainsworth, Bassett, Valentine and Kearney, with the training event held August 20-22.

The exercise sought to test existing systems, manage medical surge capacity in rural areas, the use of medical specialty teams to expand care capability, telemedicine, and the use of a new communications system.

The exercise scenario included a truck accident near Johnstown occurring during the Brown County Fair, exposing numerous individuals to chemicals. Trauma victims were transported to the Brown County Hospital, who managed the surge of patients suffering the effects of chemical exposure with the utilization of telemedicine experts and transferring facilities to deliver timely and effective care.

Lessons learned will be used to continue advancing disaster health preparedness across the state and perhaps become a model for the region and nation.

* Recent cases from Brown County Court

(Posted 2 p.m. Aug. 29)

In addition to fines, each case carries $50 in court costs

Kristine K. Bussinger, 51, of Atkinson, charged with speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, fined $25.

Kevin Price, 44, of Ainsworth, failure to license a dog or cat, $25.

Luis A. Cordero Jr., 22, of Hobart, Ind., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Hugo A. Baltierra, 38, of Westminster, Colo., no operator’s license, $75.

Kent S. Hutton, 51, of Waterloo, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Alfred E. Barlow, 51, of Williston, N.D., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Saw W. Nyunt, 48, of Aberdeen, S.D., speeding 16-20 mph over the limit, $125.

Joshua T. Vierhaf, 36, of Hendricks, Minn., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Richard J. O’Rourke, 35, of South Sioux City, speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.

Britnei N. Lewis, 20, of Bassett, entering a state park without a permit, $25.

Eric O. Arroyo Maeda, 36, of Omaha, speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.

Hope R. Snyder, 42, of Sandy, Ore., speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.

Juan J. Lugo, 39, of Pocatello, Idaho, attempting a Class 4 felony, $1,000; also charged with possession of marijuana less than 1 ounce, $300; and possession of drug paraphernalia, $100.

Derek K. Blanton, 46, of Wahoo, speeding 16-20 mph over the limit, $125.

Nicholas R. Duoos, 25, of St. Cloud, Minn., attempt of a Class 4 felony, $1,000.

Rachel N. Nesselread, 20, of Anmeng, Iowa, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

* Purdum to receive paper and cardboard recycling trailer

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

Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy Director Jim Macy announced the department awarded $761,545 in grants to 20 recipients through the Waste Reduction and Recycling Incentive Grant Fund. For 2019, the department received requests for nearly $2.2 million in eligible grant applications.
Among the grant recipients is the Upper Loup Natural Resources District, which received a $6,230 grant to purchase a recycling trailer for the village of Purdum.
The trailer will transport paper and cardboard monthly to Thedford, and then to Broken Bow. Residents currently either send paper or cardboard to landfills or burn the materials.
The Waste Reduction and Recycling Incentive Grant Fund is generated by a fee on solid waste disposed of in landfills, an annual retail business sales fee, and a fee assessed on the sale of new tires for motor vehicles. The grants are provided to local integrated waste management projects including: recycling systems, household hazardous waste collection programs, transfer stations, and yard waste composting. Tire fee grants totaling nearly $968,000 for projects related to tire recycling were previously announced in July.

* Game and Parks offering free firearm hunter safety course in September

(Posted 3:15 p.m. Aug. 26)

The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission will host a free firearm hunter safety education course Sept. 14-15, with participants required to attend the sessions on both days.

The free class is scheduled from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 14, in the Bassett Legion Club, and from 1 until 4 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 15, at the Ainsworth Rod and Gun Club. Lunch will be provided to participants on Saturday.

The course will provide instruction in the areas of safe firearms use, shooting and sighting techniques, hunter ethics, game identification and conservation management. Students must attend both sessions to complete the course.

Pre-registration is required by September 12 by calling the Game and Parks Commission Bassett office at 402-684-2921 or registering online at either or at

Workbooks may be picked up after registering from the Game and Parks Commission Bassett office and completed prior to the class. Parental releases are also required.

In Nebraska, hunters ages 12 through 29 must have proof of successful completion of firearm education on their person while hunting with a firearm or crossbow.

* City Council adopts updated housing study, comprehensive plan

(Posted 7 a.m. Aug. 22)

Following public hearings Wednesday, the Ainsworth City Council adopted a housing study and updated comprehensive plan as prepared by Miller and Associates.

Jennifer Hiatt with Miller and Associates told the council the city is required to update its comprehensive plan every 10 years, and Miller and Associates held four public sessions as part of preparing the updated plan for Ainsworth.

“The public input was strong during the four meetings we held,” Hiatt said. “This is the community’s plan.”

Hiatt said improved housing was identified by the community as the top goal for the future, followed by improving public infrastructure, promoting commercial development and promoting tourism.

She said the plan also includes future land use plans in addition to the public’s goals. It updates the city’s zoning and land use maps, and provides a map for potential future land use.

Hiatt said the housing study, which is tied in with the comprehensive plan, showed the quality of the city’s housing is solid, but the city does have some problem properties.

“Like most communities in Nebraska, you have an aging housing stock with the largest chunk built before 1930,” Hiatt said.

Hiatt said, though the city had a decline in population of 0.74 percent between 2000 and 2010, it appeared the city has seen an influx of people the past few years. She said, for the city to maintain its current population, the study showed 71 housing units would need to be built in the next 10 years.

“The fact that you need that many homes reflects that a large portion of your housing stock will be 100 years old,” Hiatt said. “Building homes is a slow process.”

She said, if the city planned for a growth rate of one-half of 1 percent each year, the city would need 243 additional housing units.

She said the study and comprehensive plan are just useful tools for the city to use during future planning.

Following the hearings, the council adopted both the housing study and the comprehensive plan as presented.

Miller and Associates also presented the council Wednesday with bids for replacing the filter system at the Ainsworth Swimming Pool.

Larry Steele with Miller and Associates said the project was re-bid after the first bids came in well above projections.

The city received two bids for the project, a $168,000 bid from Hackel Construction and a bid of $93,039 from Industrial Process Technology of Mitchell, S.D.

Steele said, if the city could undertake a half-dozen of the items on the specifications sheet, Industrial Process Technology could drop the bid down to $84,123. That would bring the bid close to the engineer’s estimate of $80,100 for the project.

Councilman Greg Soles asked water superintendent Brad Miller if the city crew could handle the additional items on the project, some of which included excavating the previous tank and pipe and seeding the area following the completion of the project. Miller indicated the city could handle the items listed to help lower the project cost.

The council approved the $84,123 bid from Industrial Process Technology with the city handling the additional items.

Steele also presented the council with a proposal to conduct a study of the swimming pool for planning purposes. Steele said the study would identify deficiencies with the current pool and develop cost estimates to bring the current pool up to standards as well as options for a new pool.

Schroedl said the city still does not have a good vision for the swimming pool.

“We don’t know if we want to repair the pool or build a new one, or what a new pool would look like,” she said. “This would put a price tag on some comparisons.”

Steele said the cost of the study is $4,200, but he said there were some grant possibilities that would potentially pay for half the cost of a study and then allow the city to apply for additional funds to assist with a major project.

The council took no action, but agreed to pursue a grant for a planning study.

In other business Wednesday, the council approved two recommendations from the Ainsworth Betterment Committee. The first placed an additional $30,000 in ABC funds into the new swimming pool account.

City Administrator Lisa Schroedl said the ABC Committee has annually added $30,000 into the new pool fund, which has grown to about $450,000. The additional $30,000 approved Wednesday added to that total.

The second recommendation for funds from the ABC Committee came following an application for a sit-to-stand lift submitted by the Sandhills Care Center. The care center had purchased two new lifts, and requested ABC funding to purchase a third for the facility.

The council approved the $3,065 recommendation.

Following the approvals, audience member John Gross said, while he did not disagree with the two applications Wednesday, he questioned the scope of how ABC funds are awarded.

Gross said ABC funds have also recently been awarded for carpeting at the school, and he asked about the guidelines the city follows for awarding funding.

Schroedl said the ABC funds are built through a portion of the city’s 1.5 percent sales tax, and have a broad scope of community betterment. While most portions of the city’s sales tax have defined purposes, such as debt service and the one-half cent that goes to the LB 840 fund, the ABC portion of the sales tax can be more broadly awarded. She said the committee hears the applications and makes recommendations to the council, but the council has the final say on how the funds are spent.

By a 3-1 vote with Schyler Schenk against, the council finalized an agreement for LB 840 program management with the North Central Development Center. With both entities previously agreeing to the parameters of the management contract, NCDC Board members Kim Buckley and Graig Kinzie told the council the NCDC had conducted interviews and hired an executive director, and was ready to fulfill the management contract.

Kinzie encouraged the Citizen Advisory Review Committee to provide the council and NCDC with updated policies and procedures so both entities were clear on their responsibilities. CARC board member Kathy Worrell said the committee had been waiting for the agreement to be finalized prior to moving forward on updating the LB 840 program policies and procedures.

The council appointed Schroedl, who will serve as the city’s LB 840 program administrator, as the city’s representative to the NCDC Board. Mayor Jeremiah Sullivan was appointed as the alternate representative.

The council approved an interlocal agreement for cooperative purchasing with the Educational Service Unit Coordinating Council.

Schroedl said the agreement would give the city an advantage for competitive purchasing with the ESU.

“We have to be a member of the cooperative, but it does not cost the city anything,” Schroedl said. “We can get state-bid pricing, and we may be able to get things at a cheaper price.”

Councilman Brad Fiala said he was all for trying to find ways to save the city money, but he said the city needed to buy what it could locally first to keep its money in town and support local businesses.

“I am all for it for the things we can’t get locally,” Fiala said.

Schroedl said she was not proposing the city stop buying items locally, the cooperative simply gave the city another avenue to look at when pricing items.

The council renewed its property, liability and workman’s compensation insurance coverage through the League Association of Risk Management. By approving the agreement for three years, the city received a 5 percent premium discount, bringing the policy cost down from $81,392 to $77,322.

The council approved an ordinance granting the Nebraska Public Power District the non-exclusive right and franchise to operate and maintain the electric light and power system in the city, though the council balked at NPPD’s proposed 25-year agreement and instead approved the agreement for five years.

The consent agenda approved Wednesday included granting a special designated liquor license for the Elks Lodge for the Pheasants Forever banquet Nov. 8 in the Conference Center.

Prior to adjourning, Councilwoman Deb Hurless said she had been asked by a member of the public about getting on the council agenda. She said the person reported being told requests to be on the agenda had to be made on the Friday prior to the Wednesday meeting instead of the prior 24-hour notice.

Sullivan said, if an item is going to require council action or request funding, the city’s new policy was to have the request in by the Friday prior to a council meeting so the city staff had time to review the request and prepare the council.

Schroedl said it was an organizational tool for the city staff, as some requests might be able to be handled without having to come before the council if the staff had enough time to address the issue.

If the item does not require action from the council, the 24-hour prior notice to be on the agenda would be sufficient.

The next meeting of the Ainsworth City Council was pushed back a week, and will be held at 5 p.m. Sept. 18.

* Commissioners approve 2019-20 levies for fire district, agricultural society

(Posted 12:45 p.m. Aug. 21)

The Brown County Commissioners Tuesday approved levies for the Brown County Rural Fire Protection District and the Brown County Agricultural Society for the 2019-20 fiscal year.

The rural fire district will receive a property tax levy of 3 cents for every $100 of property value in the county, and the agricultural society will receive $45,000 for its general operations budget and an additional $20,000 to repay to the inheritance tax fund for money previously borrowed to make improvements to the fairgrounds arena.

In a related item, the commissioners approved a resolution supporting the agricultural society as it applies for a federal grant to help construct new restroom facilities at the fairgrounds.

The commissioners also voted grant a funding request from the Brown County Historical Society in the amount of $3,500.

In other business Tuesday, the board approved a contract with Hanna Keelan Associates of Lincoln to update the county’s comprehensive plan.

Following an executive session Tuesday, the commissioners approved naming Dustin Craven as the county’s temporary roads department foreman and voted to advertise for a permanent roads foreman.

The commissioners approved an interlocal agreement between the county and non-county employees to allow members of the public to provide general maintenance on county roads with the permission of the highway superintendent. The work is limited in scope to non-county employees running a drag over county roads and removing snow. The non-county employee must sign the interlocal agreement and be authorized by Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin prior to performing any maintenance work on county roads.

The commissioners approved a contract with Jerry Paulson of Paulson Lawn Service to maintain the courthouse grounds for the 2019-20 fiscal year.

The board acknowledged the 2019-20 roster of members for the Brown County Ambulance Association, and approved 2019-20 inventories as submitted by county officials.

In a final action item, the commissioners rejected a request from True Nebraska for a resolution related to property taxes.

Budget preparer Caleb Johnson analyzed the 2019-20 budget projections with the board. The commissioners will finalize the 2019-20 budget for approval following a public hearing in September.

The next meeting of the Brown County Commissioners is scheduled for 5:15 p.m. Sept. 3.

* Lions Club nominates Ehlers for Melvin Jones Fellowship

(Posted 2:45 p.m. Aug. 20)

During its meeting Monday, the Ainsworth Lions Club nominated longtime member Jerry Ehlers for the Melvin Jones Fellowship. The fellowship recognizes outstanding service by a member of the Lions Club.

Connie Lentz provided the board with information from the “Adopt-A-Highway” cleanup project in June. A total of 14 Lions Club members picked up eight large bags of trash just east of Ainsworth along Highway 20.

Vergil Heyer and Lentz attended the District 38-I Summer Cabinet/Officers Training at Hastings Aug. 11. Heyer told the board there was information provided about being a Lions Club chapter president.

Lentz informed the members about Campaign 100 Lions the motto being “We Serve”. Campaign 100 is about empowering service and increasing Lions Club membership, district participation, foundation giving and service challenges.

Jim Arens provided a work schedule signup sheet for the Brown County Fair concession stand Aug. 31 through Sept. 2. This year, the Lions Club will serve a biscuits and gravy breakfast on the Saturday morning of the fair.

Ehlers shared a signup sheet for taking tickets during the four home Ainsworth Bulldog football games this fall.  

Lentz will look into the style and design of a new shirt for Lion Club membership to consider.

The next Lions Club meeting is scheduled for noon Sept. 16 in Canyon Creek.

* Brown County Hospital participating in disaster training exercise

(Posted 11 a.m. Aug. 19)

The National Strategic Research Institute at the University of Nebraska is facilitating disaster preparedness training with local residents in Ainsworth and Kearney Aug. 20 – 22. Local law enforcement, community leadership, medical staff and others are participating as patients in the full-scale simulation.  
Organized through Nebraska Medicine’s Regional Disaster Health Response System grant of $3 million from the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, the training will begin to address gaps in coordinated patient care during disasters, specifically focused on event recognition, use of medical specialty teams to expand care capability, telemedicine and the use of a new interoperable communications system called Knowledge Center.
Ainsworth and Kearney were selected through the Rural Region One Medical Response System and primarily include Brown County, Rock County and Cherry County hospitals. St. Francis Hospital at West Point, Columbus Community Hospital at Columbus, Providence Medical Center at Wayne, and others are also participating via Knowledge Center and through sending professionals to the primary participant hospitals.

* Wilson Street closed while bridge is replaced with culverts

(Posted 7:30 a.m. Aug. 19)

Brown County Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin reported Wilson Street just northwest of Ainsworth is closed until further notice while the county roads department replaces a bridge across Bone Creek with culverts. Traffic is asked to divert to either 429th Avenue or Meadville Avenue until the work is done, which could take approximately 10 days.
Turpin also reported 430th Avenue south of Rolling Stone Feed Yard is closed while the county roads department replaces a culvert. Both roads will be posted with signs marking the closures.

* Johnson graduates from UN-L Saturday

(Posted 7 a.m. Aug. 19)

Susan Fritz told the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s summer graduates to follow their dreams, live their values and keep an open mind.

Fritz, who recently became interim president of the University of Nebraska — the first woman to serve in the position — delivered the commencement address “This Place, These People, These Opportunities” Saturday at Pinnacle Bank Arena.

A Nebraska native and first-generation college student, Fritz recalled how she originally planned to be an accountant but changed her mind two weeks before she was supposed to take the CPA exam. She said she woke up and realized it wasn’t what she wanted to do with her life.

“I will never know what would have happened if I would have silenced that voice inside me and taken that exam,” she said. “Maybe I would have had a perfectly pleasant career as an accountant. But 30-some years later, I get to wake up every day and come to a job that I love, doing work that I’m passionate about, with more adventures still on the way. I know I made that right choice for me.”

From the area, Aaron Mark Johnson of Atkinson received a Bachelor of Science degree from the College of Arts and Sciences on Saturday.

 * May taxable sales decline for most area counties

(Posted 6:45 a.m. Aug. 16)

Nebraska Department of Revenue
Comparison of May 2019 and May 2018 Net Taxable Sales
for Nebraska Counties and Selected Cities

or City

Net Taxable

Net Taxable


Sales Tax

Sales Tax

















































Keya Paha
























State Total






Nebraska Department of Revenue
Comparison of May 2019 and May 2018
Motor Vehicle Sales Tax Collections by County

or City

Net Taxable

Net Taxable


Sales Tax

Sales Tax































Keya Paha












State Total






* School Board approves replacement of McAndrew Gymnasium roof

(Posted 8:52 a.m. Aug. 14)

The Board of Education approved several projects; replacing the gymnasium roof; school phone; intercom and bell system plus construction and concrete work around the new Ag/Tech Facility. The board reviewed three bids for replacement of the gym roof. Guarantee Roofing of Norfolk bid of $79,421, Chappell Roofing of Fairbury bid of $128,000, and Weathercraft Roofing of Broken Bow bid of $146,680. The board voted to accept the low bid of $79,421 from Guarantee Roofing.
They reviewed and approved a bid of $41,831.08 Applied Connective firm of Albion, Fullerton and Columbus to replace the telephone, intercom and school bell system.  Other bids were from Business Telecommunication Systems of North Platte and Electron Contracting Company of Lincoln. Also approved a payment of $139,600.80 to Walton Concrete of Ainsworth for concrete work around the new Ag/Tech Facility. Payment of these were from school depreciation funds. Option Enrollment requests were approved for Michell Sease's daughter Taylor Kelley to attend kindergarten at Rock County Elementary School, for Lynne Cozad's daughters Carter and Collins to attend kindergarten at Rock County Elementary School, and for Jennifer Hodge's daughter Torrance to attend Sandhills Public Schools. 
The board also reviewed and heard reports from the Co-Activities Directors Scott Steinhauser and Jared Hansmeyer for sports and other activities.  Current participation numbers are projected to be approximately 21 for football, 23 for volleyball, 9 for girls golf, 18 for cross country with 6 boys and 12 girls.
Elementary Principal Curtis Childers' report covered plans for a change for arrival and departure location for students.  His report also noted total K-6 enrollment at 193 students. Middle and High School Principal Steven Dike report covered Staff Development Planning and training sessions prior to the opening of classes Thursday, August 15. Superintendent Dale Hafer's report highlighted facility needs, implementing a new plan and location for bus load/unload, and a board budget work session on August 22. The next meeting of the school board will include a budget hearing and tax request hearing. This meeting will be held at 8 p.m. on Sept. 9.

* Sandhills Care Center Board approves purchase of 3 additional computers

(Posted 8:50 a.m. Aug. 14)

Sandhills Care Center Board members heard a report from Matt Moody on the need to replace the air conditioning unit located in the attic above the kitchen plus additional heat and air units throughout the center.
Moody discussed the aging boiler and other equipment. He suggested that the board might want to look at a plan to replace one or two units per year to spread out the total cost. 
Board Chairman Phil Fuchs ask Moody to obtain cost estimates to assist the board in making a decision. Moody also updated the board on plans to make needed repairs to the driveway.  He said they are looking at tearing out the old cement driveway starting near the end of this month. 
The board voted to approve the purchase of three new desk-top computers at a cost of $2,348.61. These will be used in three areas: nurses station, therapy department and one for care center residents use. Stephanie Kinzie addressed policy on residents' computer usage and said she would email the board members so they could review the policies.
The board approved changing policy which will allow paying mileage to staff of 58 cents per mile when using their own vehicle to attend out-of-town meetings.  They were being reimbursed for gasoline purchases only. This also led to a discussion regarding possible purchase of a used vehicle, such as a mini-van equipped with a lift.  Stephanie said she would obtain some possible options and costs.
The activities director addressed the board regarding a desire to find volunteers to spend time to enhance the life of care center residents. She expressed interest in finding junior high and high school age students to share their talents. She said it could be visiting residents, reading, providing music or any number of other possibilities. Anyone interested is welcome to call or visit with her.  Board Chairman Fuchs reported that he had visited both the county commissioners and city council to ask their continued financial support of the care center and that both said they would consider this as they work on their new budgets.
During Stephanie's report, she reported that Sandhills Care Center now has 26 residents and will add one more Tuesday bringing the number to 27, the most since it reopened.
Stephanie also reported that Andrew Klatt will begin duties as business office manager at Sandhills Care Center in Ainsworth Monday, Aug. 19.

* Highway 12 reopens west of Niobrara after temporary bridge completed

(Posted 6:30 a.m. Aug. 12)

The Highway 12 bridge over the Niobrara River west of Niobrara is now open to traffic.
The March flood event caused significant damage to the approach and girders of the bridge and completely washed out the bridge over the Mormon Canal.

“Nebraska’s road to recovery continues to move forward and today marks another great milestone in our state’s efforts to rebuild after the March 2019 floods,” Gov. Pete Ricketts said. “The opening of Highway 12 over the Niobrara River is another key link in establishing connectivity for local residents, the community, travelers, and commerce in the area, which have all been so profoundly impacted by the flood damage.  NDOT’s work with Benesch and Hawkins Construction on this project has been incredible and our collective efforts are the reason why today’s announcement is possible,”

Reconstruction of Highway 12 was the most complex and expensive transportation flood recovery project in the state. On June 5, the Department of Transportation awarded a $44.1 million contract to Hawkins Construction to begin immediate work to repair the Niobrara River Bridge and install a 24-foot wide, single lane temporary bridge to provide access over the Mormon Canal, while a new permanent bridge is being built.

Chris Hawkins, Chief Operating Officer of Hawkins Construction, said, “As a proud Nebraska company, Hawkins is honored to work alongside NDOT in reconnecting our communities. Highway 12 presented a unique challenge due to the pace and complexity of the project. That, combined with the amount of flood recovery work we were already performing, required us to bring in a team from multiple states – whom we thank for their rapid response and commitment to opening the bridge early.  Hawkins, our dedicated workforce, and our project partners are grateful for the opportunity to prove once again that our state is Nebraska Strong.”

The Department of Transportation also worked closely with Alfred Benesch & Company to expedite the design of the reconstruction and set an aggressive schedule to have the temporary roadway in service by Aug. 15.
Subcontractors included United Contractors, Inc., of Johnston, Iowa, temporary bridge

installation; Ames Construction Inc., of Burnsville, Minnesota, grading contractor; Contractor

Services, Inc., of North Platte, traffic control; D-K Contracting Corporation, of Beatrice, concrete pavement patching; Gross Seed Company, of Johnstown, erosion control and seeding; Iron Works, Inc. of Nebraska City, reinforcing steel installation;  JMN Construction, LLC, of Valley, bridge repair; Longfellow Foundations, Inc., of Hutchinson, Kansas, installation of shaft foundations; Midwest Fence Company – Guardrail Systems, of Ralston, guardrail.  

Prior reconstruction efforts in the area included repair work to damaged sections of Highway 12

east of Niobrara where K. Porter Construction was able to rebuild approximately one-fourth of a

mile of pavement in just 24 days. 

“Getting Highway 12 reopened has been a tremendous challenge and I’m so proud of the District 3 staff and our industry partners who put in the sweat and long hours to make this happen," said
Kevin Domogalla, NDOT District 3 Engineer. "As Director Schneweis said, we literally watched the canal bridge float down the river.  Over the last several months, we worked every angle from design to construction to deliver a solution to get this highway reopened as soon and as safely as possible. We set an aggressive schedule and our people, with the help of Hawkins Construction and Benesch delivered."

NDOT thanks the community and all involved in the reconstruction for their patience, partnership, effort, and dedication on completing repairs in an expedited time-period.

* Rock County Commissioners approve holding public hearing for road vacation

(Posted 3 p.m. Aug. 7)

During Tuesday’s meeting of the Rock County Commissioners, the board voted to hold a public hearing for the possible vacation of two portions of a road in the Swanson Subdivision. The commissioners had previously addressed vacating a portion of the road in the subdivision, located in the west half of the northeast quarter of Section 15, Township 30 North, Range 19 West.

The commissioners also approved an interlocal agreement between Rock, Brown and Keya Paha counties to have Brown County Veterans Services Officer Judy Walters also provide services to veterans in Rock and Keya Paha counties. Rock County will pay a portion of the overall cost of the veterans service office based on the number of veterans in the county.

The commissioners conducted their quarterly inspection of the Rock County Jail, and received information from the Nebraska Crime Commission that the jail was in compliance with state standards.

Several residents were on hand to discuss plans for repairing the approaches to the Carnes Bridge across the Niobrara River damaged during the March flooding. The bridge remains inaccessible, and the road leading to it in Rock County and in Keya Paha County remain closed.

The commissioners approved the purchase of a laptop computer for Weed Superintendent Mitch Dean.

In roads items Tuesday, the board approved an agreement with the Nebraska Department of Transportation to have the state perform fracture critical bridge inspections in the county.

The board voted to waive bidding requirements from the county purchasing act when awarding a contract to replace culverts due to the emergency need for the culverts to protect life and property in the county.

The board tabled action on a resolution from True Nebraska asking the county to participate in a petition drive. The board will await advice from the Nebraska Association of County Officials before taking action.

The commissioners approved allowing TJ Ellermeier to proceed with aerial photos of properties in the county. Ellermeier also discussed with the board steps in front of the courthouse that were deteriorating.

In a final action item Tuesday, the board appointed Commissioner Dustin Craven to the Rock County Senior Center Executive Board.

* Highway 11 bridge work will commence next week

(Posted 7 a.m. Aug. 7)

Weather permitting, work will resume the week of August 12 on Highway 11, approximately 18 miles south of Atkinson, according to the Nebraska Department of Transportation.
Werner Construction Inc., of Hastings is the contractor on the project, which includes replacing a bridge with a box culvert. Single lane traffic will be maintained with traffic control devices and a 12-foot width restriction will be in place through the duration of the project. The anticipated completion is October. Motorists are asked to drive cautiously in and near construction zones and to expect delays.

* Commissioners approve initial agreements for Sand Draw box culvert replacement

(Posted 11:30 p.m. Aug. 6)

The Brown County Commissioners Tuesday approved agreements for engineering and environmental services as part of the replacement of the Sand Draw Creek box culvert on Meadville Avenue.

The commissioners approved a $105,000 contract with Miller and Associates of Kearney to conduct the preliminary engineering for the project, and the board approved a contract with Felsburg, Holt and Ullevig of Lincoln in the amount of $50,569 for environmental study work on the project.

Gary Steele with Miller and Associates said the box culvert replacement has qualified for federal funding, since Meadville Avenue is a federal route. The county will only be responsible for 20 percent of the cost of replacing the box culvert, which has had issues for several years but was damaged beyond repair during the March flooding.

Steele said, since the county was receiving federal funds, there was a specific process that had to be followed.

“We have to make four separate submittals to the Nebraska Department of Transportation,” Steele said. “We have the total project programmed for $1 million, but I think that is high. It should come in at around $600,000 to $700,000.”

Steele said it will likely be next spring before the project is ready to go out for bids because of all the steps that must be followed.

“NDOT will bid the project, not the county,” Steele said. “We will do everything we can to keep it moving, but a lot of it is out of our hands.

Several residents expressed frustration about the timeline for the box culvert to be replaced and Meadville Avenue to reopen to traffic, saying the detour route would be difficult to navigate if Meadville Avenue remained closed through the harvest and winter seasons.

Audience member Rod Palmer said next year was not an acceptable time frame for the project to be bid and completed.

“It needs to move faster,” Palmer said. “I have made calls to the Department of Transportation, and was told Miller and Associates was not up to speed on the project and didn’t have things submitted properly.”

Palmer said the early portions of the project were not getting done in a timely fashion, and he believed residents who rely on Meadville Avenue were being let down in a lot of areas.

Audience member Tammy Painter told the board she had 10 to 15 people per day traveling Meadville Avenue to reach her hair salon, and she worried not only for her livelihood but for the safety of her customers.

“My livelihood in the winter is going to be in jeopardy,” Painter told the commissioners.

Commissioner Denny Bauer said, if the county wanted the federal dollars for the project, it had to follow the process.

Steele told those in the audience that his firm would pursue the project as hard as it could to keep things moving.

In other roads items Tuesday, the commissioners approved an agreement with the Nebraska Department of Transportation to perform fracture critical bridge inspections in the county, though Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin told the board this was the final year the state would agree to perform the inspections.

Turpin said Brown County has only one fracture critical bridge that requires annual inspection – the McCullough Bridge located in eastern Brown County across Pine Creek.

Turpin reported the roads department has made repairs to Moon Lake Avenue, and had installed a pipe to help drain water in the Hidden Paradise area.

“We regraded the Bar 25 Road, and raised it up in areas where we had water issues,” Turpin said.

The highway superintendent said the county also has been hauling armor coat gravel, as that work would begin next week on Meadville Avenue and several other paved roads in the county.

“We have also scheduled the Wilson Street Bridge replacement,” Turpin said. “The culverts have been made. That project will start Aug. 19, and we will use a jack hammer and the excavator to tear out the old bridge.”

Turpin said that project would take seven to 10 days to complete, and Wilson Street traffic would be routed to Meadville Avenue to the east or 429th Avenue to the west.

He said the county also planned to work on a stretch of Richardson Road to raise the road and add a second culvert to help drain water.

Audience member Heather Painter said she had spoken to the county for several years regarding the condition of Richardson Road.

“There are several road areas that need to be addressed,” Painter said. “It is time that road gets fixed. I know you declare it minimum maintenance, but there are a lot of vehicles that use it.”

Turpin said the stretch of road in question is not a mail route, and no one lives on it.

“It is minimum maintenance, but we have spent thousands of dollars on that road,” he said. “We have to prioritize.”

Bauer told Painter Turpin indicated he was planning to add another culvert and raise the road.

“We will get it addressed,” Bauer said.

Turpin also reported there was still water 15 to 16 inches deep across portions of the Elsmere Road, though the water level has started to go down.

“We have had engineers look at that area,” Turpin said.

In other business Tuesday, representatives of the Brown County Agricultural Society asked the commissioners to provide $55,000 in funding to support the fairgrounds and an additional $20,000 in property tax funds to pay back the inheritance tax fund for money borrowed to complete improvements to the arena.

Dave Sherman with the Agricultural Society said the group received a $20,000 donation recently, and also received a three-year commitment for $5,000 annually from the Brown County Foundation, which it planned to utilize to replace the restrooms at the fairgrounds.

“After the fair we plan to tear down the existing bathrooms,” Sherman said. “We hope to get the dirt work done before winter, so we will be ready for construction in the spring.”

He asked the commissioners if they would support the project, which all three indicated they would.

The commissioners will make final decisions on funding for the Agricultural Society and the Brown County Rural Fire Protection District during its Aug. 20 meeting.

Zoning Administrator Tom Jones told the board the Planning Commission met with representatives from Hannah Keelan regarding updating the county’s zoning regulations and comprehensive plan. He said the Planning Commission was satisfied that Hannah Keelan would be able to complete the project for the county at a cost of $16,000.

Jones said the company will start on the plan Sept. 1, and will hold three public meetings as part of updating the comprehensive plan.

The commissioners approved the purchase of a John Deere lawn tractor for removing snow from the courthouse parking lot and sidewalks. The cost of the lawn tractor is $10,600.

Bauer reported the Ainsworth Senior Center earned all of the incentive funding it was eligible to receive, and had achieved all the benchmarks required to receive the $9,141.

“A lot of senior centers didn’t receive anything,” Bauer said. “Our senior center served 9,931 meals, which was down about 70 meals from the year before. A lot of centers were down much farther.”

The commissioners approved a subdivision for the Salzman Family Ranch for a small tract which John Salzman said was a land exchange with the Gambill Ranch.

“My dad just had a handshake agreement with Bill Gudgel for this years ago,” Salzman said. “It is a small acreage. This is just cleaning up the paperwork.”

In a final action item Tuesday, the commissioners approved a $100,000 transfer from the inheritance tax fund to the county’s disaster recovery fund.

The next meeting of the Brown County Commissioners is scheduled for 5:15 p.m. Aug. 20.

* Residents of Rock, Holt and Blaine counties eligible for scrap tire event

(Posted 2:15 p.m. Aug. 6)

The Lower Loup Natural Resources District was awarded a scrap tire cleanup grant from the Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy. The grant will fund a scrap tire collection for residents within the Loup Basin RC&D, which includes residents of Rock, Holt and Blaine counties among several others.
The collection is scheduled from 8 a.m. until 3 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 14, at the Loup Rivers Scenic Byway in Burwell across the highway from the high school.
Tires on rims, and tires for which a disposal fee has been received will not be accepted. Tires of all sizes will be accepted, including tractor and combine tires.
Area FFA members will help unload tires for a freewill donation. The tires will be recycled, and could be turned into mulch for park benches, picnic tables or playground equipment, or as alternative cover for landfills.
For more information on the Sept. 14 scrap tire cleanup, contact Janet Sanders with the Loup Basin RC&D at 308-346-3393.

* July fails to reach anticipated moisture level

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

Ainsworth Weather Observer Gerry Osborn reported 17 days had measurable precipitation in July, though on 12 of those 17 occasions the rainfall amount to .05 of an inch or less.
The 2.04 inches of rain in July was more than an inch shy of normal, but the year-to-date moisture total of 18.47 inches through the first half of the year was still pacing well ahead of normal.
To hear the full report, click on the audio link below.

audio clips/Gerry Osborn July 2019 Weather.mp3

* Area students named to Deans' List at Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture

(Posted 9:45 a.m. Aug. 6)

Seventeen students at the Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture at Curtis had perfect 4.0 grade point averages for the spring semester, including two from the area.

“We are proud of the academic achievements of our students at the Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture,” NCTA Dean Ron Rosati said. “It takes dedication, maturity and hard work to achieve a 4.0 GPA in college.”

In addition to the 17 students on the Deans’ List, 63 students were named to the NCTA Honor Roll for a GPA of 3.5-3.99.

Students must be fulltime enrollees, with at least 12 credit hours for the semester to be eligible for the designation by NCTA which is the sole two-year degree program of the University of Nebraska system.

Among the 17 students achieving perfect 4.0 grade point averages during the spring semester were Luke Peters of Ainsworth and Lindse Painter of Valentine.

Students on the honor roll included Cole Sundquist of Ainsworth and Ashley Connell of Newport.


* Hodge wins Dennis Roggasch Memorial Horseshoe Tournament Saturday


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

Malinda Hodge of Rose pitched her way to the title during the 14th annual Dennis Roggasch Memorial Horseshoe Tournament Saturday at the Rock County Fairgrounds.
The tournament was double elimination, with 17 horseshoe pitchers taking part. Hodge received the Dennis Roggasch Memorial Traveling Trophy from Randy Roggasch after winning the tournament.
Jim Sybrant of Bassett finished as the runner up, followed by Tim Roggasch of Rose in third, Curt Anderson of Yankton, S.D., in fourth, and John Strong of Chambers in fifth.

* Safe Routes to School project work to begin Wednesday in Springview

(Posted 2 p.m. Aug. 5)

Weather permitting, work is scheduled to begin Wednesday, Aug. 7, on the Springview Community Safe Routes to School in the Village of Springview, according to the Nebraska Department of Transportation.
Kirk Barnes Construction of Valentine has the $630,818 contract. Work includes grading, concrete pavement, seeding and signing. Anticipated completion is September.
The Village of Springview is the owner of the project and will maintain the walkway.

VETERANS MEMORIAL ERECTED - Allen Monument placed the Brown County Veterans Memorial stone segments Monday on the courthouse lawn. The monument stands as a tribute to all Brown County veterans.

* Two arrested after vehicle stolen Saturday recovered in South Dakota

(Posted noon Aug. 5)

Two vehicles reported stolen Saturday morning in Brown County led to the arrest of two Kansas residents in South Dakota.

According to Sheriff Bruce Papstein, the sheriff’s department received two calls Saturday morning within 15 minutes of each other reporting stolen vehicles.

The first call came at 10:23 a.m. Saturday, as a 1990 Ford pickup, owned by Mark and Cris Johnson of rural Ainsworth, was reported stolen from northwest of Ainsworth.

At 10:37 a.m., the sheriff’s department received a report of a 1989 Dodge pickup, owned by Lenny Fernau of Ainsworth, that was stolen from the northeast side of Ainsworth.

Upon investigation, the sheriff’s department located the Dodge pickup at the site northwest of Ainsworth where the Ford pickup was stolen.

The sheriff’s department engaged the public for assistance in finding the stolen Ford, and Papstein said a former Ainsworth resident saw a post on social media and reported spotting the vehicle Saturday afternoon in Sturgis, S.D.

South Dakota law enforcement officers located the pickup and took two people into custody. A 26-year-old Kansas man and 30-year-old Kansas woman are being held in South Dakota. Papstein said they will be extradited to Brown County, where they will face charges related to the vehicle thefts.

* Traffic Accident

(Posted 7 a.m. Aug. 2)

The Brown County Sheriff’s Department investigated a vehicle-deer accident that occurred July 22.
According to the sheriff’s department report, at 9:54 p.m. July 22 on Highway 20 approximately 2 miles east of Ainsworth, a 2014 Ford sedan, driven by Tami Francis, 57, of Shelby, was traveling west when the vehicle struck a deer in the roadway.
No persons were injured during the accident. Damage to the Ford was estimated at more than $1,000.

* Recent cases from Brown County Court

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

In addition to fines, each case carries $50 in court costs

Manuel A. Lozano-Rivas, age 42, of Milbank, S.D., charged with driving left of center, fined $25; also charged with no operator’s license, $75.

Donald R. Morrison, 40, of Omaha, speeding 16-20 mph over the limit, $125.

Bailey J. Kinnick, 17, of Ainsworth, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Hannah L. Grapevine, 21, of Brandon, S.D., speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.

John M. Kirk, 32, of Denver, Colo., speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.

Allen R. Privett, 20, of Ainsworth, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Debra S. Barr, 56, of Lafayette, Calif., speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.

Adam J. Sawyer, 30, of Valenitne, violating a stop or yield sign, $75.

Richard S. Mulholland, 54, of Spearfish, S.D., speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.

David W. Goger, 65, of Mariposa, Calif. speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Roberta W. Zima, 56, of Antigo, Wis., speeding 16-20 mph over the limit, $125.

Michael L. Schneider, 54, of Tell City, Ind., speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.

Gregory C. Irwin, 37, of Ainsworth, possession of an open alcohol container in a vehicle, $50.

Benjamin L. Beard, 19, of Norfolk, first offense driving under the influence, $500 and also sentenced to seven days in jail, driver’s license revoked for six months, and ordered to install an ignition interlock device; speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.

Devon L. Jefferis, 43, of Pierre, S.D., third-degree assault, $300.

Casey B. Hughbanks, 34, of Ainsworth, third-degree assault, $300.

George R. Matucha, 42, of Pierre, S.D., third-degree assault, $300.

Tanner L. White, 22, of Long Pine, third-degree assault, $300.

Dallas G. Hughbanks, 37, of Ainsworth, third-degree assault, $300.

Kenneth B. Sisson, 26, of Ainsworth, first offense driving under the influence, $500 and sentenced to six months of probation, driver’s license revoked for 60 days, and ordered to install an ignition interlock device.

Ursulita P. Touchstone, 26, of Grandforks, N.D., attempting a Class 4 felony, $1,000; possession of marijuana less than 1 ounce, $300.

James E. Worden, 23, of Ainsworth, possession of an open alcohol container in a vehicle, $50.

Oren M. Pozehl, 18, of Long Pine, speeding 21-35 mph over the limit, $200.

Steven J. Santara, 62, of Lincoln, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Jerry L. Johnson, 51, of Ainsworth, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

James L. Lind, 20, of Ainsworth, speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.

Cade L. Hibdon, 24, of Manhattan, Kan., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Derrek J. Dodd, 22, of Johnstown, speeding 21-35 mph over the limit, $200.

Lawrence, R. Dwyer, 37, of Pine Ridge, S.D., speeding 21-35 mph over the limit, $200.

Joshua L. Shald, 34, of Denver, Colo., speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.

* Nolles completes Washington, D.C., internship

(Posted 10 a.m. Aug. 1)

Katie Nolles of Bassett recently wrapped up a summer in Washington D.C. as the most recent recipient of the Keith R. Olsen Agricultural Policy Internship Award.

Nolles is a member of the Rock County Farm Bureau and is a senior at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln majoring in Agricultural Education. The Olsen Internship Award enabled her to intern in Congressman Adrian Smith’s office in Washington, D.C., this summer. The monetary award helped cover Nolles’ living and housing expenses.

“I was truly able to observe and be involved with all aspects of working on Capitol Hill,” Nolles said. “I loved learning about all of the moving pieces that go into making policy happen, applying what I learned in all of my coursework, and connecting with fellow constituents.”

Noells described her experience in Washington D.C. as a dream internship since her early teenage years. Admittedly, life in D.C. and working on Capitol Hill was an adjustment since she comes from a town of 600 people. But she said everyone was helpful.

“Visiting with interns from offices across the country, I quickly found out how fortunate I was to have interned in an office where I got to visit with Congressman Smith regularly, where the staff trusted me with projects, and where my values aligned,” Nolles said.

Nolles said her internship has given her valuable insight and understanding of the federal legislative process that she will utilize in her future teaching career. She is minoring in Leadership-Entrepreneurship through the Engler Agribusiness Entrepreneurship Program and Nebraska Beef Industry Scholars.

She said, “A question that I have been asked frequently since accepting the internship is, ‘Wait, if you want to be a teacher, why are you working in politics?’  I am fortunate that global awareness and understanding of government and democracy was instilled in me from a young age, but many youth don’t understand these concepts. As a future teacher, I am excited to share my experiences with students while teaching them to analyze issues and how policy affects agriculture.”

Nolles said she is thankful for the Nebraska Farm Bureau’s support and recommends that any student members who are interested in agriculture policy to apply for the Keith R. Olsen Agricultural Policy Internship Award and experience Capitol Hill first-hand.

“Last fall, when I took AECN 345, an agriculture policy course, with Dr. Brad Lubben,” Nolles said. “I enthusiastically absorbed any information that was shared in his class, and met all of the guest speakers who shared their careers relating to ag policy. When Jordan Dux spoke to our class, I knew that I wanted to receive the Olsen Award. Finding a paid internship in D.C. is a challenge in itself. While I did receive payment for my internship, it was incredibly helpful to receive this award to help fund housing and living expenses. Especially as I student teach this semester and cannot work, I am so grateful to have Nebraska Farm Bureau supporting my growth and alleviating some financial burden, so that I can focus on doing my best work.”

The Keith R. Olsen Agricultural Policy Internship Award was established in 2011 by the Nebraska Farm Bureau Federation to honor Olsen, who served as Farm Bureau president from 2002-11 and on the board of directors for nearly 20 years. Olsen had emphasized creating opportunities in agriculture for young people during his years with the organization.

The award provides up to $3,000 to a UNL College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources junior or senior to work as an intern in a Nebraska Congressional office, a Congressional Committee or approved agricultural organization.

* Signup opens for Market Facilitation Program

(Posted 6:45 a.m. July 30)

Signup is open for the Market Facilitation Program, a U.S. Department of Agriculture program to assist farmers who continue to suffer from damages because of tariffs from foreign nations. Through MFP, USDA will provide up to $14.5 billion in direct payments to impacted producers, part of a broader trade relief package announced in late July. The sign-up period runs through Dec. 6.

“Our team at USDA reflected on what worked well and gathered feedback on last year’s program to make this one even stronger and more effective for farmers. Our farmers work hard, are the most productive in the world, and we aim to match their enthusiasm and patriotism as we support them,” said Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue.

MFP payments will be made to producers of certain non-specialty and specialty crops, as well as dairy and hog producers.

MFP payments will be made to producers of alfalfa hay, barley, corn, flaxseed, lentils, millet, oats, sorghum, soybeans, sunflower seed, wheat and other crops.

MFP assistance for 2019 crops is based on a single county payment rate multiplied by a farm’s total plantings to the MFP-eligible crops in aggregate in 2019. Those per acre payments are not dependent on which of those crops are planted in 2019. A producer’s total payment-eligible plantings cannot exceed total 2018 plantings.

Dairy producers who were in business as of June 1 will receive a per hundredweight payment on production history, and hog producers will receive a payment based on the number of live hogs owned on a day selected by the producer between April 1 and May 15.

Payments will be made in up to three tranches, with the second and third tranches evaluated as market conditions and trade opportunities dictate. If conditions warrant, the second and third tranches will be made in November and early January.

MFP payments are limited to a combined $250,000 for non-specialty crops per person or legal entity. MFP payments also are limited to a combined $250,000 for dairy and hog producers and a combined $250,000 for specialty crop producers. However, no applicant can receive more than $500,000. Eligible applicants also must have an average adjusted gross income (AGI) for tax years 2015, 2016, and 2017 of less than $900,000, or 75 percent of the person’s or legal entity’s average AGI for those tax years must have been derived from farming and ranching. Applicants also must comply with the provisions of the Highly Erodible Land and Wetland Conservation regulations.

More information can be found on, including payment information and a program application.

* Independent team to investigate the failure of the Spencer Dam

(Posted 10:45 a.m. July 29)

The Association of State Dam Safety Officials, a national non-profit organization focused on the safety of dams, will conduct an independent investigation to identify the likely causes that contributed to the breach of the Spencer Dam on the Niobrara River March 14. The investigation is being conducted upon request of the Nebraska Department of Natural Resources, the regulating authority over the Spencer Dam.

The independent investigation will compile information and lessons to be learned from the event with the goal of advancing the dam safety engineering profession.

The Spencer Dam experienced a breach after a storm brought heavy rain to frozen ground in Nebraska, creating additional snowmelt and thawing large sections of ice in and around the Niobrara River.

There was extensive flood damage in the area, including downstream of the dam and one person was swept away by the flood and is presumed deceased. The dam, originally constructed in 1927 as a hydroelectric plant, is owned by the Nebraska Public Power District.

The team compiled by the Association of State Dam Safety Officials has decades of dam safety engineering experience with specific expertise in dam safety failure investigations, hydrology, hydraulics, ice and debris flow, and hydraulic structures.

Selected to conduct the independent investigation are Mark E. Baker of Dam Crest Consulting, Dr. Robert Ettema of the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering with Colorado State University, Martin Teal of WEST Consultants, and John Trojanowski of Trojanowski Dam Engineering.

The investigation is now underway and will proceed in three phases: data collection, analyses and completion of a publicly-available written report. The investigation is expected to take six months, although the team will receive the necessary time needed and the patience of all stakeholders to do a thorough investigation.

“It is our goal that, through this investigation, we will be able to further industry knowledge to improve the dam safety industry best practices,” said team member Mark Baker. 

* NPPD plans to upgrade electric meters next week in Boyd County

(Posted 10:30 a.m. July 29)

Nebraska Public Power District will upgrade electric meters for residences and businesses in Bristow, Lynch, Butte and Anoka beginning on Monday, Aug. 5. It is expected that work will be completed by late August. The meter replacement in those four Boyd County communities is part of a program that will replace 24,500 meters in 40 communities as part of a three-year project by NPPD.

Prior to installation, NPPD’s customer service organization will contact retail customers in those communities via telephone to alert them to the installation of the meters. A District employee will switch out the meter at the residence or business and will remove the old one from the premises. A resident or business owner does not need to be there when the switch out occurs and 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 and will include the latest technology in this type of equipment. The new meters display the reading in a digital LCD 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, business or industry.

“In addition to what we will do this year, in 2018 we successfully replaced 43,000 meters and more will be replaced in 2020. The installation of the AMI systems helps maintain competitive electric rates for our customers by reducing operating expenses,” said NPPD Retail General Manager Tim Arlt.

Arlt said NPPD’s retail customers have not had a rate increase over the past six years.

“With AMI equipment we can also pinpoint the exact location of outages quicker, meaning a faster response time in restoring power,” Arlt said.

The new AMI meters installed will continue to be a key in providing reliable electric service for its customers and will provide an additional level of safety for NPPD employees when troubleshooting or handling routine maintenance. The new AMI equipment cannot control any appliances or electronics 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.

The remaining schedule for retail communities runs through the end of 2019 although weather conditions could create some delays.

* Highway 281 temporary bridge now open south of Spencer

(Posted noon July 26)

The Nebraska Department of Transportation announced Friday that Highway 281 over the Niobrara River south of Spencer is open to traffic.  The highway has been closed since March 13 due to flooding that caused significant damage and washed out a segment of the highway just south of the bridge.

The NDOT partnered with contractors and subcontractors to open the temporary bridge and restore mobility within months of the historic 2019 flooding.  Olsson, of Lincoln, worked alongside the NDOT on the design work of the project and on May 22, Hawkins Construction of Omaha was awarded the $25.4 million contract, which covers the temporary bridge and roadway as well as a permanent 1,050-foot bridge over the Niobrara River channel. Hawkins mobilized within hours and with the help of subcontractors Acrow Corporation of America, of New Jersey, temporary bridge construction; Kirkham Michael of Omaha, construction engineering;
and Prouty Construction of O’Neill, grading contractor; were able to open several days
ahead of the projected Aug. 1 contract date.

“Today is about partnerships and community,” NDOT Director Kyle Schneweis said. “The 2019
flooding caused devastating damage to many of our Nebraska communities and the transportation system took a large hit in the northeast part of the state. Opening the temporary bridge in under five months took large-scale efforts from all involved and is really an accomplishment. I couldn’t be more proud of the work the NDOT has done with our partners to rebuild this road for the community.”

The temporary bridge will be open to one-lane traffic controlled by a traffic signal, with a 12-foot-wide width restriction. Motorists with legal loads are permitted to cross the bridge, but no overweight or over dimensional vehicles will be allowed. The traffic restriction will be in place until the permanent bridge is completed, currently scheduled for November 2020.

Completion of the entire project is anticipated to be spring of 2021. Motorists are reminded to use caution when driving through the construction zone and to wear seatbelts.

The NDOT thanks the community and all involved in the reconstruction for their patience, partnership, effort, and dedication on completing repairs in an expedited time period.

To celebrate, Gov. Pete Ricketts and the NDOT will partner with the local community and KBRX radio station to host a Bridging the Gap Community Celebration on Monday, July 29, at 3:30 p.m. recognizing those who helped make the project a reality.

* Council reviews 2 bids for streets building expansion project

(Posted 7 a.m. July 26)

During a special meeting Thursday, the Ainsworth City Council opened two bids for a planned expansion of the city streets building on First Street. The council opted to table taking action until its August meeting to allow council members time to review both bids.

Brahmer Construction of Ainsworth submitted a bid of $185,000 for the expansion, and Green Gable Contracting Corp. of Fort Calhoun supplied a bid of $242,184. Green Gable representative Kelly Cobb said the company was currently in the area working on projects for the Nature Conservancy and a local business.

Both Cobb and Brahmer Construction owner Cory Griebel indicated the timeline for the project would likely be in the spring, though both said they could make fall construction work if the city preferred.

Councilman Greg Soles said, realistically, the project would likely not start until spring, so he said he would like to have some time to review both proposals.

Councilman Brad Fiala agreed, saying he would like to look at the two bids to see where the dollar difference lies.

The council will take action on the proposals during its August meeting, which was moved back a week to Aug. 21 due to conflicts with two councilmen on the normal second Wednesday meeting date.

In other business Thursday, the council approved a pair of grants from the LB 840 fund. The first provided a $5,000 grant to an applicant to assist with housing demolition.

City Administrator Lisa Schroedl said the applicant had already handled the asbestos removal on the property, and the remaining cost to have the house burned and the property leveled was $7,350.

Schroedl said the application requested $5,000, but the LB 840 loan committee recommended the council approve $6,500 to assist with the demolition.

Soles said all past grants from the LB 840 fund for housing demolition in the city have been for $5,000.

“Are we planning to increase the lid?” Soles asked. “That is my only concern.”

With Councilwoman Deb Hurless absent Thursday, the council voted to award $5,000 to the applicant to assist in the demolition.

The council also approved a $10,000 grant from the LB 840 fund to an applicant for a business revitalization project.

Schroedl said the applicant asked for $30,000 in assistance for the $50,000 total project. She said the LB 840 loan committee recommended the council approve a $5,000 grant and advise the applicant to apply for a loan from the LB 840 fund for an additional amount.

Schroedl said the project was a large building with a lot of square footage.

Soles said the council had previously awarded up to $10,000 in grant funds for business revitalization projects.

“In the past, it has been a 50-50 match up to a total of $10,000,” Soles said. “I just want to be consistent.”

The council voted to deny the initial request of $30,000 and then awarded the applicant $10,000 in LB 840 grant funds for the façade improvements to the business.

The council approved a proposal from the Brown County Community Foundation youth committee to place three disc golf holes at the East City Park.

Schroedl said the youth committee was allotted $2,000 by the foundation for a project, and identified starting a disc golf course at the East City Park.

“There would be no cost to the city,” the city administrator said. “They want to start by installing three disc golf targets, with the potential for further expansion if it is popular.”

She said the youth committee would handle the installation work. She said the city’s park board had also in the past talked about starting a Frisbee golf course at the park.

The council approved purchasing the equipment and then having the Brown County Foundation youth committee reimburse the city for the cost of the equipment.

Schroedl said the youth committee would also like to revive the sand volleyball court at East City Park by hauling in new sand and then placing a protective cover at the site when the court was not in use.

In a final action item Thursday, the council approved allowing Allen Monument Company to close the westbound lane of Highway 20 for a period of three hours sometime between Aug. 2 and Aug. 6 to allow for the installation of the Brown County Veterans Memorial on the courthouse lawn.

Schroedl said she believed they could get the monument placed without having to close the entire highway.

Fiala said it would be much easier to just have one lane of Highway 20 closed and use flaggers to let traffic through instead of going through the process of setting up a detour.

In one other agenda item, Mandy McCoy with Dana F. Cole & Co. presented the council with information on the city audit completed in September of 2018.

McCoy said the city had actual expenditures of $2.58 million on its more than $5 million budget, and entered the 2018-19 year with more than $3.9 million in cash on hand throughout all of its funds. She said receipts for the fiscal year exceeded expenditures by a little more than $100,000.

McCoy said one finding from the audit was a lack of segregation of duties with city finances, but she said that was a common finding for smaller entities.

Schroedl said the city staff has done cross training of job responsibilities, and the mayor reviews and initials all claims.

The next meeting of the Ainsworth City Council was pushed back a week to 5 p.m. Aug. 21.

* Scammers spoof NPPD number in attempt to fool Nebraskans

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

A series of robocalls have been going out to Nebraskans throughout the state this week. The round of calls that were made Wednesday show a caller ID number for the Nebraska Public Power District’s Beatrice Power Station. Many Nebraskans are then calling the Beatrice station back to question the call. NPPD believes the scammers are ‘spoofing’ this caller ID in an effort to make the scam call appear more legitimate.
The recording is threatening the caller with having their power shut off and directing them to call back an 800 number in order to pay their overdue bill. This call and number of course are not legitimate and are an attempt to scam people into paying for a bill that is not legitimate. No one should make any payments if contacted by phone. NPPD only communicates with overdue customers by mail.

* Grand Theater committee members provide update on theater opening

(Posted 7:45 a.m. July 24)

Grand Theater committee representatives Kathy Klammer and Bryan Doke announced the theater would be opening to the public soon, with The Lion King slated to be shown Aug. 9-11. The theater will show movies weekly Friday and Saturday nights at 8 p.m., with a 4 p.m. Sunday matinee.
Doke said theater volunteers are going through a test run this weekend, and if all goes well, a movie may be shown to the public next weekend.
To hear the full report, click on the audio link below.

audio clips/Grand Theater 7-23.mp3

* Most area counties see taxable sales increases in April

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

Nebraska Department of Revenue
Comparison of April 2019 and April 2018 Net Taxable Sales
for Nebraska Counties and Selected Cities

or City

Net Taxable

Net Taxable


Sales Tax

Sales Tax

















































Keya Paha












State Total






Nebraska Department of Revenue
Comparison of April 2019 and April 2018
Motor Vehicle Sales Tax Collections by County

or City

Net Taxable

Net Taxable


Sales Tax

Sales Tax































Keya Paha












State Total






* Area students scheduled to graduate Friday from UNK

(Posted 8 a.m. July 22)

The University of Nebraska at Kearney will confer degrees for 182 graduate and undergraduate students during commencement exercises 10 a.m. Friday, July 26, in the Health and Sports Center on campus.

Longtime music educator and choral director David Bauer will deliver the commencement address.

Scheduled to graduate from this area include:



Sarah Connell, with a Master of Science degree in clinical mental health counseling.

Kelli Gibson, with a Master of Education degree in curriculum and instruction – instructional effectiveness.



Lindsey Christman with a Bachelor’s degree in general studies



Leah Pickering with a Bachelor’s degree in recreation, park and tourism management



Carolyn Petersen with a Bachelor of Science degree in business administration

Kandi Young with a Master of Science degree in secondary school counseling



Derek Camp with a Master of Education degree in pre-kindergarten through eighth grade school principalship

* Grafs win #ZakStrong fund-raising Corn Hole Tournament Saturday

(Posted 7 a.m. July 22)

Trey and Troy Graf were the winning team during the Corn Hole Tournament fund-raiser for Zak Palmer Saturday at the Bassett Country Club. More than 40 teams entered the tournament, which was held to support the Zak Strong effort as the Springview youth battles leukemia.
Dolan Pospichal and Ryan Painter won the youth division of the Corn Hole Tournament Saturday.

Also Saturday, the Ainsworth Volunteer Fire Department drew raffle winners, with Tim Hinkhouse winning the shotgun. Dwain Grunke won a pellet grill. Tony Buckles and Jorge Ruiz Margies won coolers, with Roger Magary winning a $100 beef draft and Angie Vonheeder winning a $100 gift certificate to the Elks Club. The firefighters thank everyone who purchased raffle tickets for their fund-raiser.

* Governor appoints 2 from Valentine to state boards

(Posted 6:30 a.m. July 19)

Gov. Pete Ricketts announced Thursday recent appointments he has made to fill Nebraska’s boards and commissions.
Among the appointees were two from this area. Carolyn Petersen of Valentine was appointed by the governor to the Enhanced Wireless 911 Advisory Board, and Kyle Arganbright of Valentine was appointed to the Nebraska Workforce Development Board.
The appointments are unpaid, and do not require approval from the Legislature.

* Lions Club installs new officers Monday during annual family picnic

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

The Ainsworth Lions Club installed new officers during its annual family picnic Monday at East City Park. Officers installed included President Vergil Heyer, Past President Connie Lentz, Vice President Vance Heyer, Secretary Connie Lentz, Assistant Secretary Jerry Ehlers, Treasurer Phil Fuchs, Lion Tamer Steve Salzman, Tail Twister Dwain Grunke, Membership Director Bill Lentz, and Board members Bob Beatty, Pat Jones, Rita Paddock and Larry Rice.
Outgoing President Connie Lentz thanked the outgoing officers and directors for their service, and thanked the spouses of members who volunteered for several events throughout the year.
Several members received awards for years of service to the Lions Club. They included Richard Albrecht, Jerry Ehlers and Gary Kinzie for 45 years of service to the club; David Spann for 40 years; Vergil Heyer, Jim Hoch and Roger Lechtenberg for 30 years; Harlin Welch for 20 years; Doug Weiss for 15 years; and Sarah Williams, Brenda Syfie-Mundhenke and Graig Kinzie for 10 years with the Lions Club.
New members Steve and Amy Dike were also initiated Monday.
The next meeting of the Ainsworth Lions Club is scheduled for noon Aug. 19 in Canyon Creek.

* Rock County Commissioners approve ag society, fire district levies

(Posted 12:45 p.m. July 17)

The Rock County Commissioners on Tuesday approved levies for 2019-20 for the Rock County Agricultural Society and the rural fire districts.

The commissioners approved the Rock County Agricultural Society’s request of $29,070 for the 2019-20 fiscal year. The agricultural society receives property tax to operate and maintain the Rock County Fairgrounds.

The commissioners set the levy for the Gracy, Rock and Newport rural fire districts at 1.8 cents in levy per $100 in property value.

In other business Tuesday, the commissioners approved leasing a drone from the Middle Niobrara Natural Resources District for Rock County Weed Superintendent Mitch Dean at a cost of $50.

The commissioners received the 2019-20 budget for the Rock County Hospital from Administrator Stacey Knox.

The board voted to hire Daniele Becker to a part-time custodial position at a wage of $15 per hour.

The commissioners also set a Board of Equalization meeting for 9 a.m. July 23 to hear one property valuation protest and 25 destroyed real property applications.

Region 24 Emergency Manager Doug Fox discussed a second disaster declaration for the county from flooding in May. A special recovery scoping meeting is scheduled for 11 a.m. Aug. 1 in the Rock County Courthouse.

* Commissioners discuss whether to allow volunteer work on county roads

(Posted 7 a.m. July 17)

The Brown County Commissioners Tuesday discussed whether to allow non-county employees to perform any kind of maintenance on county roads.

With some in the county currently using a county-owned drag on roads near their property, and the fact that some currently remove snow from county roadways near their property, the commissioners discussed formalizing an agreement prior to allowing any non-county employee to perform any kind of work on a county roadway.

County Attorney Andy Taylor said he prepared an agreement for the board to consider. He said the draft agreement was very specific as to what would and would not be allowed, and any volunteer would have to meet several guidelines and notify Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin to get permission to perform any kind of maintenance or snow removal work.

Commissioner Denny Bauer said he would like to have the agreement be as generic as possible.

“A lot of other counties are doing this,” Bauer said. “NIRMA covers volunteers. If there is a claim against the county, it would be covered but our rates would go up.”

Commissioner Reagan Wiebelhaus said the agreement scared him.

“I know the intent, but without the training and supervision that our employees receive, this scares me. If a mistake is made, even a million dollars in liability coverage might not be enough if there is a death.”

Wiebelhaus said the biggest detriment to the county was not the possibility of a liability claim, it was the chance that someone would be hurt or lose their life due to the county allowing a volunteer to work on a road.

Taylor said the county could include in the agreement that anyone who wants to drag a road or remove snow has to have experience running the equipment.

Wiebelhaus said, if the agreement was limited to volunteers running a drag or removing snow, he would have fewer hesitations.

“I don’t want them out there doing any other maintenance,” Wiebelhaus said.

Bauer said he believed most of the people who would be interested in signing an agreement with the county are those who are already out there dragging a road or removing snow.

“I think it is worth the risk,” Bauer said.

Taylor said he would limit the agreement to allow volunteers to use a county-owned drag or remove snow.

No official action was taken.

In other roads matters Tuesday, the commissioners discussed the potential placement of a culvert on 432nd Avenue south of Richardson Road.

Turpin said the roads department’s work building up the road has kept some water from flowing. He said the road was built up about 18 inches from its previous elevation.

“I can’t find an existing culvert,” Turpin said. “We are probably going to make someone happy and someone mad if we do anything.”

Bauer suggested the county wait until the fall and the completion of any agricultural work in the area before placing a culvert at the site. Wiebelhaus agreed, urging Turpin to wait until all agricultural operations are complete in the area before placing a culvert.

Turpin said, if the roads department places a culvert at the site, he would place it at the existing grade and not dig the ditch down in an effort to keep the flow in a natural state.

“It won’t drain it all, but it will take it down some,” Turpin said of the current water level at the site.

Bauer agreed the culvert should be kept at natural elevation.

“They will both have to share the water,” Bauer said.

Bauer said cleaning and inspecting the culverts in the county should be a priority for the roads department this fall.

“If we repaired or replaced the culverts that have had the most problems, that would solve some of our problems if we have high water again,” Bauer said.

Turpin said the roads department would try and look at culverts this fall. He said, if culverts need to be replaced, he would need to call in and have lines located as in several cases there are lines running just inches below the culverts.

Providing the board with an update on other roads department activities, Turpin said the county continues to have to repair washouts on Moon Lake Avenue along the Enders Overflow. The highway superintendent said, any time the wind blows, the water levels are so high at that location that it causes waves to wash out the road.

“We keep fixing it, but it is going to be a problem until the water level goes down,” Turpin said.

Turpin said the roads department has been hauling sand onto South Pine Avenue and the Raven Road, and has been fixing washouts on Norden Avenue and Moon Lake Avenue.

“We are also cleaning silt out of a ditch on Road 876,” Turpin said. “Part of that road will be closed.”

Turpin reported he has been working on the damage inventory from the March flooding, and would have everything uploaded to the FEMA site by Friday.

“We had a total of 123 sites identified that were damaged,” Turpin said. “That included six bridges and nine culverts. The total estimated cost of the damage is $578,300 on non-federal routes.”

If approved by FEMA, the county would receive reimbursement for 75 percent of the cost of the damage.

In a final roads matter, Turpin presented the commissioners with three applications for the full-time roads department employee the county advertised. The commissioners directed Turpin to conduct two interviews and make a recommendation to the board.

Sandhills Care Center Board Chairman Phil Fuchs presented the commissioners with the 2019-20 budget for the facility.

He reported there are currently 25 residents in the facility. He told the commissioners the expenses for the facility were pretty fixed if it maintains between 15 and 25 residents. The income is the variable, as each resident gained or lost makes a $6,000 monthly change in revenue.

Fuchs asked the commissioners to budget for the full $80,000 in support the county had previously agreed to provide, but the care center only planned to ask the county for $40,000 in funding.

“We are making progress,” Fuchs said. “If we can keep the resident numbers where they are now, we would likely ask for even less next year.”

He reported the facility has been replacing outdated computers, and just approved a bid to replace the concrete on half of the circle drive at the nursing home.

Wiebelhaus thanked Fuchs for the board’s efforts, saying the budget was good news.

“It would be nice to see the city and county work together on a contract to help pay the cost of schooling for a nurse who then agrees to come back and work there for five years,” Wiebelhaus said.

Bauer encouraged Fuchs and the board not to hesitate to ask the county for assistance if upgrades to the nursing home are needed.

The only action taken by the commissioners Tuesday with Commissioner Buddy Small absent was to approve a $50 monthly payment to Weed Superintendent Scott Erthum to cover half the cost of his cellular phone bill, as Erthum uses his personal phone for county weed business.

Following the regular meeting Tuesday, the commissioners reconvened as the Board of Equalization to hear property valuation protests.

The next meeting of the Brown County Commissioners is scheduled for 5:15 p.m. Aug. 6.

* School Board approves software to provide easy access to meeting info, policies

(Posted 7 a.m. July 16)

Ainsworth Community Schools Superintendent Dale Hafer talked to the Board of Education Monday about a program through the Nebraska Association of School Boards that will make the district’s meeting agendas and policies more accessible and user-friendly for the public.

Hafer said about half of the school districts in Nebraska use the Sparq Meeting software on their web sites, as well numerous organizations in Nebraska and several other states.

Nicole Covess with the NASB presented a tutorial to the board on how the system operates. Sparq allows for paperless meetings, with all content for meetings provided through the software, and also allows the board to upload all of its policies for immediate access.

Board member Brad Wilkins said he uses the Sparq program as part of being on the NASB Board, and said it was very user-friendly.

“If I can use it, anyone can,” Wilkins said. “We would be able to go back and search to see who had bids on previous projects. The alternatives cost around $10,000. This is a great system that is being used in other states.”

Hafer said the district could try itself to add content to its web site, but would not be able to duplicate this level of convenience for public use.

“We can make something work either way,” Hafer said.

Board President Jim Arens said having the school’s policies on the system and searchable would be an excellent feature.

With Wilkins abstaining and Scott Erthum absent, the board approved purchasing the software at a cost of $2,500 with an additional $500 setup fee.

The board also discussed working with the NASB or the district’s law firm to review and revise all of the district’s policies.

Arens said a review of all the district’s policies was recommended by Darrell Peterson prior to his retirement as superintendent.

Wilkins said a lot of the district’s policies have not been looked at since around 2000.

Hafer presented the board with options, which included using the district’s law firm to review and revise the policies with the board at a cost of $9,500. The NASB provided the district with an option to simply have access to its policies for school boards at a cost of around $700 with an annual fee of $495 for updates following any legislation passed.

Hafer said it would be around an additional $2,000 to have NASB representatives meet with the board to review current policies.

Wilkins said the district has not faced much in the way of litigation related to its policies, and he believed using the NASB service was adequate.

Hafer said it was certainly more cost effective if the board was happy with the policies the NASB has created. It would be more expensive to customize them to the district.

The board ultimately voted to table action until its August meeting.

In other action items Monday, the board approved option enrollment requests to allow Caylee Kenyon to option into Rock County Public Schools, and to allow Hardin and Thomas Voss to attend Rock County Public Schools after receiving requests from parents.

The board approved the final invoice of approximately $23,000 for the agriculture and industrial technology building addition project, and approved several items to replace Peterson with Hafer on documentation related to the Ainsworth Educational Facilities Leasing Corporation as well as corporate banking documents.

The board approved the first reading of a purchasing policy for the district, and second readings of policies relating to tobacco use prohibition, substance abuse and activity suspensions, offenses and penalties, school food authority procurement plan, admission requirements, wage information, military recruiters, curriculum assessment, and standing and temporary committees.

During his initial report to the board, Hafer said he believed he was getting off to a good start on the superintendent transition.

He said he has been busy identifying potential facilities issues that may need to be addressed, including the gym roof and the district’s phone system.

Hafer said the district’s building and grounds committee met with a representative from Weathercraft regarding the roof, which he said has been leaking.

“We need to get that done before we can get to some other projects,” Hafer said. “We advertised for bids, and will open bids on the Wednesday before the August board meeting.”

Hafer said he reviewed options for the district’s phone system, as the system needed to be expanded into the new addition.

“The system we have is obsolete,” Hafer said. “We did have Applied Connective and Three River take a look, and we think we can get wiring into the addition and get it done without replacing the entire system.”

Hafer said the buildings and grounds committee would look at options and provide a recommendation to the board about what makes the most sense moving forward with the phone system.

Hafer reported he was working with the NASB to hold a strategic planning session for the community, which he said is fairly common when a district hires a new superintendent.

“The NASB provides this service when they assist a district with a superintendent search,” Hafer said. “Be thinking about a strategic planning committee, which will include board members, staff, students and community members.”

Hafer said it would be a good opportunity to engage with the public, staff and students and see the direction people want to go.

Hafer also reported the district has hired one full time and one part time custodian to fill vacancies, and has started the search to replace administrative assistant Danielle Palmer, who resigned from her position.

“We have received several applications already,” Hafer said.

He said he hoped to get interviews complete and a new assistant hired as Palmer was willing to help provide training to the new employee.

The next regular meeting of the Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education is scheduled for 8 p.m. Aug. 12.

* Poker Tube nets more than $3,000 for Long Pine Fire Department

(Posted 2 p.m. July 11)

More than 140 tubers turned out for the Hidden Paradise Poker Tube Saturday to support the Long Pine Fire Department. More than doubling the inaugural year’s total, the Poker Tube netted more than $3000 for the fire department.
Only a few months after the spring floods damaged many Hidden Paradise cabins and created chaos in the creek, tubers from California, Colorado, Mexico, Texas, and across Nebraska enjoyed sunshine and a clear creek for the event.
The Poker Tube featured six host cabins, including the Hochs, Sladeks, Thiemans, Grahams and Touchtones, Hedlunds and Kremlaceks, and ended at Bronson’s Hidden Paradise Motel. Designed to connect the Hidden Paradise community, tubers enjoyed gourmet sliders, pulled pork and a variety of craft cocktails along the Poker Tube, all generously donated by the host cabins. Winners received tubes and cash prizes.

* Council votes to maintain ownership of property acquired for potential street

(Posted 7 a.m. July 11)

The Ainsworth City Council Wednesday opted to maintain ownership of a parcel of property on the west side of the city after hearing a request from a neighboring property owner to relinquish the parcel.

Don and Janet Schuyler approached the council about purchasing a parcel on the west side of the South Wilson Street and West Dawes Street intersection.

Janet Schuyler said the couple wanted to purchase the parcel for sentimental reasons, as it had belonged to their family prior to the city obtaining it.

“We own the property next to it, and we would like that property to give us better access,” Janet Schuyler said. “The city was going to put a road in at one time, but nothing has been done since the 1970s.”

Don Schuyler told the council he believed the agreement was initially set up that the property would revert back to the previous owner if a street was not built. He told the council he and his wife should have the right of first refusal to obtain the property if the city is not going to use it.

City Councilmen Brad Fiala and Greg Soles both expressed concerns about relinquishing ownership of the parcel.

“I do have hesitation,” Fiala said. “If we give up ownership, we have a portion of land that is dead. This would put up a roadblock we can’t get back.”

Soles said the city owns property to the northwest of the site, and vacating that parcel would land lock the rest of the ground the city owns in that area.

City Administrator Lisa Schroedl said, under the city’s comprehensive plan, that area is targeted for potential residential development.

“If we were to add another residential area, there aren’t any other through streets in that area,” Schroedl said. “If you were ever to expand there, you would potentially want to connect that area to Dawes Street.”

Schroedl told the council, if it did decide to move forward with relinquishing the property, a resolution would have to be created to vacate the parcel and it would be advertised for sale.

By a 3-0 vote with Councilman Schyler Schenk absent, the council voted to maintain ownership of the parcel.

In another street item, the council discussed vacating an approximately 150-foot portion of North Elm Street south of East Seventh Street.

Mayor Jeremiah Sullivan said the parcel in question sat between the Wilkins and Arens residences on the north side of the city.

Schroedl said a house was built in that area that would prevent that portion of North Elm Street from connecting to the rest.

“The neighboring property owners have informed us that the city doesn’t take care of it very well,” Schroedl said. “The city really has no use for it.”

The city administrator said, if the council agreed, she would send a certified letter to the neighboring property owners and have a resolution drafted to vacate that portion of North Elm Street. She said her recommendation was to vacate the street so the city did not have to maintain it.

City Attorney Rod Palmer said, if the council chooses to vacate the parcel as a street, the ground can either go back to the adjoining property owners or the city can maintain ownership.

The council authorized Schroedl to move forward with the process of vacating the street.

In other business Wednesday, Sandhills Care Center Board Chairman Phil Fuchs presented the council with the 2019-20 care center budget.

Fuchs reported there are 25 current residents in the Sandhills Care Center, and if the facility can continue to maintain a census of 23 to 25 residents, the facility should be able to ask the city and county for less support moving forward.

Fuchs said the care center board put together a conservative budget, and he requested the city to budget for the full $80,000 in support it had previously agreed to provide. However, with $177,000 in current cash reserves, Fuchs said the facility would only initially request $40,000 in support from both the city and the county.

“Our expenses are pretty well fixed if we have between 15 and 25 residents,” Fuchs said. “We feel like we have a handle on our expenses. The income is the variable, and we can have a big swing there depending on the number of residents.”

Fiala said he was glad to see the care center census up to 25 residents.

No action was taken, as the council will address the funding request as part of its 2019-20 budget preparation.

The council voted to reappoint Jason Nelson to a three-year term on the city’s Committee on Housing as recommended by the mayor.

The council also approved a recommendation from the Ainsworth Betterment Committee to provide funding to the Ainsworth Golf Course to assist in the cost of the annual Fourth of July fireworks display.

Schroedl said the ABC Committee recommended the council award funding to cover the gap between the donations the fire department and golf course took in and the total cost of the fireworks up to a maximum contribution of $3,000.

Schroedl reported the fire department and golf course raised $2,022 in donations for the display, which cost a total of $3,517. That left a gap of $1,495, which the council approved providing from the ABC fund.

The council briefly discussed an agreement with the Brown County Sheriff’s Department to provide law enforcement for the city. Schroedl said a new three-year agreement has not yet been completed, and the current contract expired July 1.

She recommended the council agree to extend the current agreement until the new draft is completed.

“This gives us something formalized for the interim,” Schroedl said.

Fiala said this was probably an issue that should have been addressed sooner so the council had more time to research it.

The council approved extending the previous agreement until a new one is created. The council held an executive session prior to adjourning Wednesday to discuss the contract.

Prior to entering executive session, Schroedl reported the city is continuing to work on FEMA documentation for aid from the damage to the streets during the March flooding. She said she was working with the FEMA project coordinator to group projects and bid work on repairs the city crews can’t handle themselves.

She also reported the request for proposals has been completed by the Nebraska Public Power District for a community solar project. The site for the proposed solar panels is located south of the south baseball diamond.

She reported the part-time employee who operated the city’s street sweeper resigned from the position.

Soles asked about an area under the alley behind Ranchland Western Store and the Grand Theater after contractors spotted a void under the alley.

“We need to determine who is responsible for fixing that problem,” Soles said. “They have been patient, but they can’t continue to wait.”

Palmer said it appeared the void was in the alley, and therefore the city’s responsibility to fix. The council directed Schroedl to have the city’s streets superintendent survey the site.

Schroedl also reported the city received the initial $200,000 bond from Ameritas to replenish the sewer fund for money spent in preparation for the sewer improvement projects approved by the council. The city will pay 1.8 percent interest on the initial bond funds received for the project.

The next meeting of the Ainsworth City Council is scheduled for 5 p.m. Aug. 14.

* 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                 


U.S. Senate    

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


Nebraska Governor

                        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


State Auditor

                        Charlie Janssen (R)     Jane Skinner (D)

Statewide        371,549                       269,787

Brown             1,074                           180

Keya Paha       305                              35

Rock                504                              77


State Treasurer

                        John Murante (R)

Statewide        502,190

Brown             1,175

Keya Paha       325

Rock                546


Nebraska Attorney General

                        Doug Peterson (R)

Statewide        502,743

Brown             1,175

Keya Paha       321

Rock                546


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

Sub-District 3

                        Linda Hoffman           Paul Allen

District-wide   1,287                           884

Keya Paha       109                              81


Sub-District 4

                        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.

Four candidates 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 Tuesday.
Outgoing Nebraska Secretary of State John Gale was nearly spot-on on his prediction for voter turnout, as 685,320 Nebraskans cast ballots during the General Election. That represents 56.19 percent of the 1,219,644 voters registered in the state.

* 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.



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