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* Funeral Service notes: (see more on the obituaries page)
* Dick Witt, 80, of Valentine 11 a.m. Sept. 25
* Carolyn J. Dillon, 79, of Bassett 10:30 a.m. Sept. 25
* Meeting reports located below for:
Sept. 17 Brown County Commissioners
Sept. 17 Ainsworth City Council
Sept. 15 Sandhills Care Center Board of Directors
Sept. 15 Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education
Sept. 2 Brown County Commissioners
* Dunning man dies in 2-vehicle crash Friday in Blaine County
(Posted 2:45 p.m. Sept. 21)
A 23-year-old Dunning man died in a two-vehicle crash
Friday night on Highway 91 near Dunning in Blaine County.
* Rock County sees 6 additional COVID-19 cases Thursday, 3 in Brown County
(Posted 6:45 a.m. Sept. 18)
The North Central District Health Department was made aware of 26 additional COVID-19 cases in the district Thursday.
Nine cases in the district, through investigations, have been determined to be due from community spread, 11 were deemed to be due to having close contact with another positive case, and six remain under investigation.
There were three additional cases reported in Brown County Thursday, bringing the total to 20. Six additional cases were confirmed in Rock County, taking its total to 46. Four cases were confirmed in Cherry County, making it 64 total cases there. There were two cases in Holt County Thursday and one new case in Keya Paha County, just the second confirmed case there. There was also one new case confirmed in Boyd County, bringing its total to 13.
There have now been 482 people confirmed to have COVID-19 in the nine counties covered by the North Central District Health Department. Of those, 238 people have recovered, 14 people have died and there are 230 active cases in the district. Eight of the 14 deaths occurred in Pierce County, with four deaths in Cherry County.
The NCDHD also confirmed the first positive equine West Nile Virus case in the district has been found in a horse in Holt County. There are three commercially available West Nile Virus equine vaccines. If you are an equine owner, talk to a veterinarian about vaccinating for West Nile Virus.
* Commissioners ask for $2.89 million in property tax for Brown County budget
(Posted 2:30 p.m. Sept. 17)
The Brown County Commissioners will ask property owners in the county for $2.89 million in property tax to support the 2020-21 budget.
The commissioners, with Reagan Wiebelhaus absent, approved the 2020-21 budget and property tax request following a public hearing Tuesday. The budget includes projected expenditures of $19.6 million, of which $10.9 million is the budget for the Brown County Hospital.
Of the $2.89 million in property tax requested, $2.46 million will support the county’s general fund, with $402,849 in property tax going toward the voter-approved hospital addition bond and $29,697 going to the reappraisal fund.
The levy to support the general fund amounts to 30 cents per $100 in property value, with 4.8 cents in levy going to support the hospital bond fund, 2.5 cents in levy ($229,368) to the Brown County Rural Fire Protection District, and $65,000 (0.7 cents of levy) to the Brown County Agricultural Society.
The county’s overall property value decreased by approximately $23 million between 2019 and 2020, with all property in the county valued at $830.8 million for the 2020-21 fiscal year, down from $853.9 million in 2019-20.
The county’s request of $2.89 million in property tax is slightly higher than the $2.82 million requested to support the 2019-20 fiscal year budget. The overall tax levy increased to 34.8 cents per $100 in value, up from 33 cents in the 2019-20 fiscal year. Some of that increase was attributable to the $23 million overall loss in the value of property in the county.
For the 2020-21 fiscal year, 1 cent of levy equals $83,080 in property tax, down from $85,392 for every 1 cent of levy in 2019-20.
Had the county asked for the exact same amount of property tax as it did in 2019-20, the levy would have been 33.9 cents instead of the approved 34.8 cents.
During the 2019-20 fiscal year, the county spent $16.69 million. The Brown County Hospital accounted for $9.78 million of that total. The county spent $2.83 million from its general fund and $1.75 million from its roads fund, with $1.15 million spent from the inheritance tax fund to support recovery efforts following the 2019 flooding. The commissioners have indicated a plan to pay back the money used from the inheritance fund through a combination of reimbursement received from FEMA and contributions from the general fund over time.
The $16.69 million spent during the 2019-20 fiscal year was about $600,000 more than the $16.08 million spent during the 2018-19 fiscal year.
The county remains obligated for $2.41 million in bonded debt for the Brown County Hospital addition approved by voters. The county is in the final five years of paying off the hospital bond, which has $2.29 million in principal remaining and $128,520 of interest.
With its approved budget, the county is anticipating a 20 percent cash reserve of $3.49 million after finishing the 2019-20 budget year with a cash reserve of $5.81 million.
In addition to approving the budget and property tax request, the board also approved a 1 percent increase in the county’s restricted fund and reauthorized the county’s petty cash funds.
In other business Tuesday, the commissioners accepted the lone bid for meals to inmates housed in the Brown County Jail. Big John’s Restaurant submitted a bid of $9 per lunch and $8.50 per dinner, with the meals delivered to the Brown County Jail.
After visiting with outgoing Veterans Services Officer Judy Walters, the commissioners agreed to make the veterans services officer a full-time position pending the agreement of the Rock County Commissioners and the Keya Paha County Commissioners. The Brown County Veterans Services officer also provides service to veterans of Keya Paha and Rock counties.
The next meeting of the Brown County Commissioners is scheduled for 5:15 p.m. Oct 6.
* School provides guidance for those planning to attend activities this week
(Posted 7 a.m. Sept. 17)
Ainsworth Community Schools posted information for sites hosting activities this week. Click on the link below if you plan to attend any sporting events this week to learn information required at each site.
* City Council approves budget asking for $408,661 in property tax
(Posted 7 a.m. Sept. 17)
Following a public hearing Wednesday, the Ainsworth City Council approved a $9.39 million budget that asks property owners in the city for $408,661 in taxes.
The city kept the levy the same for the 2020-21 budget as it was the prior year at 45 cents per $100 in property value, while the total value of all property in the city increased from $89.3 million to $90.8 million.
Among some of the capital improvement projects budgeted for 2020-21 is approximately $100,000 in utility work to coincide with the renovation of Highway 20 in Ainsworth. City Administrator Lisa Schroedl said the city also included $1 million in the streets department budget for a potential paving district in 2020-21. She said the city also planned to armor coat 30 blocks of streets this fall.
Schroedl said the portion of the wastewater improvement project not yet completed was included in the 2020-21 budget as well. The total budget of $9.39 million will most likely not be reached, as the city annually budgets to spend all the money from each of its funds when in reality most of those funds will continue to carry a healthy balance.
The city actually spent $4.19 million during the 2019-20 fiscal year, which was substantially higher than the $3 million spent during the 2018-19 fiscal year. The sewer improvement project and streets repairs accounted for the lion’s share of the increase in spending.
In addition to the 45-cent levy to support the general fund, the city will also levy 5 cents to support interlocal agreements, which includes the city’s agreement with Brown County for law enforcement service. The 5-cent levy for interlocal agreements amounts to an additional $45,407 from property owners.
Following the hearing, the council approved the 2020-21 budget and property tax request, and voted to increase the city’s total restricted funds by an additional 1 percent, which is money the city could have collected in property tax but opted against.
The vote was made with Councilmen Schyler Schenk and Joel Klammer absent. Mayor Greg Soles said, in order to reach a quorum, state statute allowed the mayor to become a voting council member in those situations where two council members are absent from a meeting.
In other business Wednesday, the council denied a sealed bid submitted by the Ainsworth Child Development Center for a parcel owned by the city near the intersection of Third and Oak streets.
The Ainsworth Child Development Center submitted the lone bid of $4,500 for the property. However, the bid indicated it was contingent upon the group receiving setback variances and a zoning change from R-1 to R-2.
City Attorney Rod Palmer said he did not believe the city could accept a bid that was conditional.
Devyn France, representing the Ainsworth Child Development Center, said the organization has been accepted through the Communities For Kids Foundation, which helps construct child-care facilities and includes a $10,000 grant. She said, for the project to work at the site, the group would need a change in zone and some setback considerations.
Soles asked if the group could request the zoning changes and setbacks before resubmitting a bid for the property.
“Can the city handle that for them first and then advertise to rebid the property?” Soles asked.
Schroedl said the city would need the group to submit a plan for the site and how the building would be situated on the lot.
“We can look at the zoning after we get a site plan,” Schroedl said. “A building plan is the first stepping stone. The zoning change request would go to the Planning Commission and then to the City Council for public hearings. Any setback changes would require a public hearing with the Board of Adjustment.
Ainsworth Child Development Center representative Neiley Arens said it would have been nice to know about the zoning and setback procedures prior to going through this bid process first.
Soles said some of the issues may be fairly easy to resolve.
Councilman Tonny Beck said, as painful as the delay for the group is, if the council didn’t get things done the right way for the group initially the chance of obtaining LB 840 funds for the project won’t be successful.
“We want you to succeed,” Beck said. “We can have a special meeting if needed to help move this along.”
In a related item, the council followed a recommendation from the Ainsworth Betterment Committee to deny a $200,000 grant request from the Ainsworth Child Development Center to construct a child care facility in the community.
France said the ABC Committee’s main concern when the group met on the application seemed to be the amount the group requested.
“We are going to bring this project to Ainsworth,” France said. “It is a huge need in Ainsworth. We hope to go back and see if they will consider a smaller amount.”
Schroedl said her understanding was the ABC Committee supported the project but felt ABC funds weren’t the appropriate source and an application for LB 840 funds may be a better avenue.
France said the group would pursue an LB 840 application after it gets some additional items finalized for the project.
Beck said LB 840 would be a better way to approach the big piece of the funding puzzle.
“We are on your side, the funds just need to be through a different channel,” Beck said.
Councilman Brad Fiala applauded the group for its initiative, and said the child care facility is something that is definitely needed in the community.
The council Wednesday approved several items relating to the wastewater treatment project, including three change orders, a pair of pay applications and a request to draw down USDA grant funds on the project.
Jess Hurlbert with Olsson Associates said the first change order removed $53,935 from the project, as a 300-foot stretch of Maple Street near the Dawes Street intersection on the south side of the city could not have cure-in-place sewer pipe installed.
The alternative was a second change order that adds $62,175 to the project and includes digging up and replacing the sewer line in that stretch.
Beck said with the sewer line buried to a depth of 20 feet in that area, the replacement would be a major undertaking and would result in an exceptionally dangerous job site. Beck said the contractor would likely end up having to pump static water from the site to get to the pipe, and the soil composition would make for an extremely difficult excavation.
Beck told Hurlbert to make sure the contractor took proper precautions to keep the area marked and blocked so people could not get near the site.
The final change order approved Wednesday reduced Section C of the project from the installation of two new generators down to one, which removed $49,950 from the overall project cost.
The council approved payment of $116,658 for Section C of the project for the cost of the materials to replace a lift station on Wilson Street. For that portion of the project, the council voted to close Wilson Street between Fifth and Seventh streets on the northwest side of the city from Sept. 28 through Oct. 30 while the lift station is replaced.
With a large amount of truck traffic utilizing Wilson Street, the council rejected the proposed detour route of North Main Street to West Seventh Street back to Wilson Street, and instead opted to detour traffic to Meadville Avenue and then west on Road 879.
Beck said Seventh Street would not be able to handle the heavy traffic that would be detoured.
“We can’t handle harvest traffic on those streets,” Beck said.
Fiala said if two semis met on those streets and there had been any kind of moisture, the outcome would not be good. He agreed routing traffic to Meadville Avenue and to Road 879 was a much better route.
Hurlbert said he will stress to the contractor the importance of Wilson Street to truck traffic, especially during the harvest season, and would push to get the work done and the street reopened as soon as possible. He estimated the closure would last for approximately three weeks.
Residents on Wilson Street between Fifth and Seventh streets will be requested not to park vehicles at the site for the duration of the project.
The council approved a subdivision of one lot into two lots that lies outside the city limits but within the city’s 1-mile zoning jurisdiction. The subdivision creates one parcel of 4.17 acres and another of 2.23 acres in Smith’s Subdivision.
In a final action item, the council rejected a proposal to implement a $65 surcharge for a small number of property owners who refused to have their water meters upgraded to the new radio read meters that are being installed throughout the city, and instead opted to discontinue water service to any water user who refuses to allow the new meters to be installed.
Schroedl said the few residents cited health concerns from the radio read meters. She proposed the $65 per month surcharge since it would require the city to maintain old software and equipment and have city personnel take the meter reading from each property monthly.
Both Beck and Fiala said trying to maintain old software and equipment for fewer than five residents was not feasible regardless of a surcharge, and instead voted to discontinue city water service to any property that did not allow the installation of the new water meters.
Approving recommendations from the mayor, the council appointed Luke Hitchcock to the Ainsworth Library Board to replace Traci Ganser, and appointed Alyssa Erthum as the high school representative on the Ainsworth Betterment Committee to replace Jon Ortner, who graduated.
During her report, Schroedl said city employees Lyndi Goochey and Cody Nilson had done an excellent job tracking down the residents who received low to moderate income surveys but had not yet completed them. She said Goochey and Nilson tracked down more than 20 people to get the needed number of surveys completed. Schroedl said Miller and Associates would present the LMI results to the council during its November meeting.
The council will hold a special meeting prior to the end of September to approve the final claims for the 2019-20 fiscal year. The 2020-21 fiscal year for the city begins Oct. 1.
* Additional COVID-19 cases confirmed in the area Wednesday
(Posted 7 a.m. Sept. 17)
The North Central District Health Department was made
aware of 27 additional COVID-19 cases in the district Wednesday.
* Ogden submits perfect card to win Week 3 KBRB Football Contest
(Posted 7 a.m. Sept. 16)
It was a good week for prognosticators from Atkinson during the third week of the KBRB Football Contest, and the first week a perfect card was submitted.
Larry Ogden of Atkinson picked every game on the Week 3 contest correctly, earning him the $40 first-place certificate.
It took a perfect card to garner the top spot, as Roger Brink of Atkinson missed just one game on the Week 3 card. His lone miss was Stuart’s home opening win over Hampton. For missing just one game, Brink picks up the $10 second-place certificate.
Winners may pick up their certificates from the KBRB Studios.
Week 4 KBRB Football Contest cards are available now from Buckles Automotive, AKRS Equipment and Speedee Mart of Ainsworth, Circle B Livestock in Bassett, the West Plains Bank in Springview, from the Tri County Bank in Stuart, or from the TCB Atkinson branch or Speedee Mart in Atkinson.
Cards must be submitted to the KBRB Studios by 4 p.m. Thursday or carry a Thursday postmark to be eligible.
* Agenda for Wednesday Ainsworth City Council meeting
(Posted 6:45 a.m. Sept. 16)
I. ROUTINE BUSINESS
a. Announcement of Open Meetings Act
b. Roll Call
c. Pledge of Allegiance
II. BUDGET AND TAX REQUEST HEARINGS
a. 2019-20 Budget hearing - 5:00 p.m.
b. 2019-20 Tax Request Hearing
III. CONSENT AGENDA – All items approved with the passage of one motion.
a. Approve minutes from the August 12, 2020 regular meeting and the September 9, 2020 Special Meeting
b. Approval of Claims
c. Treasurer’s Report
d. Department Head Reports
IV. MAYOR’S APPOINTMENTS AND REPORT
a. Mayor’s Report
b. Mayor’s Appointments
V. PUBLIC HEARINGS
VI. OLD BUSINESS
VII. REGULAR AGENDA
a. Consider approval of the 2019-20 Budget and Tax Levy – Resolution #19-09
b. Consider an increase of total restricted funds by an additional 1%
c. Consider an Administrative Subdivision of the following described real estate: Lots 2A and 2B, a Subdivision of Lot 2, Tri County Subdivision of Lots 3, 4, and 5 of Smith’s Subdivision being part of the NE ¼ of Section 25, T30N, R22W of the 6th P.M., Brown County, Nebraska
d. Consider authorization to request grant funds for Community Development Block grant wastewater project drawdowns 1 and 2
e. Consider wastewater improvement project Bid Section B Change Order #2, reducing the contract price $53,935.94
f. Consider wastewater improvement project Bid Section B Pay App #3 (FINAL) in the amount of $81,465.34
g. Consider wastewater improvement project Bid Section B Final Completion Letter
h. Consider wastewater improvement project Bid Section C Pay App #1 in the amount of $116,658.50
i. Consider wastewater improvement project Bid Section C Change Order #2 reducing the contract price $49,950.00
j. Consider wastewater improvement project Bid Section C Change Order #3 increasing the contract price $62,175
k. Discuss and consider the closing of Wilson Street between 5th Street and 7th Street for the completion of lift station modifications for the wastewater improvement project between September 28, 2020 and October 30, 2020; and declaration of a detour route from Highway 20 to North Main Street, North Main Street to W 7th Street, West on W 7th Street back to Wilson Street
l. Consider Resolution #20-06 Setting aside W 7th Street from North Main Street to Wilson Street and North Main Street from 6th Street to 7th Street where street vehicle parking shall be prohibited such that no vehicle shall stand or be parked adjacent to the curb or portion thereof, coinciding with the detour route between September 28, 2020 and October 30, 2020
m. Discuss and consider sealed bids received regarding the sale of excess property located at Lot 1, Block 34, Hall’s Addition to the City of Ainsworth, Brown County, NE
n. Discuss and consider Ordinance #1543 authorizing and confirming the conveyance of a parcel of real estate owned by the City of Ainsworth described as Lot 1, Block 34, Hall’s Addition
o. Discuss and consider Ordinance #1544 regarding rates to be applied to all non-radio read water users
p. Consider the recommendation by the Ainsworth Betterment Committee (ABC) to deny the funding request by Ainsworth Child Development Center, LLC in the amount of $200,000
q. City Administrator/Clerk/Treasurer Report
* Three additional Brown County COVID-19 cases reported Tuesday
(Posted 6:45 a.m. Sept. 16)
The North Central District Health Department was made aware of 18 additional COVID-19 cases in the district Tuesday.
There were three additional cases reported in Brown County Tuesday, one of which was due to community spread and two due to being in close contact with another confirmed case.
There were two additional cases in Cherry County and two in Holt County.
The North Central District Health Department reported 60 people recovered from the virus during the past week. There were 13 recoveries in Cherry County, 11 recoveries in Rock County, four in Holt County and two in Brown County.
As of Tuesday afternoon, there have been 429 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the nine counties served by the NCDHD. Of those, 238 people have recovered and 14 have died, leaving 177 active cases in the district.
There have been 15 confirmed cases in Brown County, with seven recoveries and one death. Half of the 36 confirmed cases in Rock County have recovered. Of the 47 confirmed cases in Holt County, 24 have been deemed to have recovered. There have been 30 recoveries among the 59 confirmed cases in Cherry County. Four people have died from the virus in Cherry County. Ten of the 11 confirmed cases in Boyd County have recovered, and the lone case in Keya Paha County has recovered from the virus.
* Care Center Board discusses plan for reopening facility to visitors
(Posted 2:15 p.m. Sept. 15)
The Sandhills Care Center Board and Administrator Stephanie Clifton on Monday discussed when the facility might again allow families to visit residents during the pandemic.
Board member Leanne Maxwell said she would like to see the nursing home allow family members to visit in the activities room soon.
“I understand the regulations, but it is really hard to take away the precious time people have left with their loved ones,” Maxwell said. “We have to have compassion for family members distanced from their loved ones. I understand there needs to be limitations, but I think we should let families come in every couple weeks at least.”
Clifton said she wrestles with the decision every day when it comes to keeping visitors out of the facility due to the risk of COVID-19 getting into the building.
“We are surrounded right now,” Clifton said. “The numbers in Cherry County and Rock County are awful right now. If I approached it with my heart, I would allow all the family members in. Plainview’s nursing home lost 16 residents to COVID and had to evacuate. I am petrified of that happening here.”
Board member Henry Beel said a family member of a Sandhills Care Center resident called in to Gov. Pete Ricketts’ call-in program asking whether the state could make a rule allowing family members to visit their loved ones in nursing homes.
“How have family members been that you’ve talked to?” Beel asked.
Clifton said families, for the most part, have been understanding.
“The families upset at not being able to visit would also be very upset if their loved one contracted COVID,” Clifton said. “Ultimately, my responsibility is to do my best to keep COVID out of the building.”
Currently, family members are not allowed to visit the facility, but Clifton said they can visit their loved one on Zoom or other online avenues.
She said, after one staff member tested positive for COVID-19, all of the residents and staff were tested on two occasions, and everyone tested negative on both occasions.
“We are back to communal dining and group activities,” Clifton said. “Residents are getting outside. But nothing replaces being able to touch and see their loved ones.”
Clifton said she would continue to evaluate the numbers of COVID cases in the area as she determines when to potentially allow family visitations again.
In other business Monday, Clifton reported the care center is using an agency to provide an interim director of nursing. In addition to that position, she said the facility has a full-time opening for a nurse, and two full-time and two part-time CNA positions available. She said she did hire a new MDS coordinator for the facility.
The care center currently has 19 residents, and Clifton said they received one referral in the past week.
The Sandhills Care Center generated revenue of $144,528 in August and also received federal stimulus funding in the amount of $76,700. Expenses during the month totaled $145,825. The board voted to move the $76,700 in grant funding from the operations account to the interlocal account.
Clifton discussed some short-term and long-term goals with the board.
“With COVID, it seems like we are just spinning our wheels,” the administrator said. “But, we want to continue to work toward short-term and long-term goals.”
She said short-term goals would include hiring a permanent director of nursing, establish competitive pay rates for nurses and LPN positions, provide bonuses for staff members who pick up additional shifts, and have a deficiency-free state survey.
Long-term goals include building the census in the care center, updating the bath and shower house, replacing the generator, replacing the flooring in the facility, providing tuition reimbursement for employees to attend nursing school, and hold future CNA classes in-house.
“We are trying to do some forward thinking, even with COVID taking up a lot of our time now,” Clifton said. “We have been painting inside, and received donations for some added décor. It looks nice.”
Maxwell said Northeast Community College was offering a CNA class to high school students each Wednesday. She said there are currently four students enrolled in the class, which lasts for a semester.
Board President Phil Fuchs said another item for the long-term planning would be replacing the facility’s windows, which he said are 60 years old.
Fuchs encouraged Clifton to find comparisons with what other facilities in the area are paying their employees and bring a recommendation for the board to consider to the next meeting.
Clifton said having a wage scale was good practice, and she wanted to make sure employees are compensated fairly.
“We need to be competitive with the shortage of nurses,” Clifton said.
The next meeting of the Sandhills Care Center Board of Directors is scheduled for 4 p.m. Oct. 12.
* All Ainsworth students will receive free breakfast and lunch through Dec. 31
(Posted 9:30 a.m. Sept. 15)
All Ainsworth Community Schools students will receive free breakfasts and lunches through Dec. 31 as part of the extended Summer Food Service Program provided by the Nebraska Department of Education through the National School Lunch and Breakfast Program.
All students enrolled at Ainsworth Community Schools will receive free breakfast and lunch daily through Dec. 31, or until the federal funding supporting the National School Lunch Program is exhausted.
After the extended Summer Food Service Program ends, the district will move back to operating its breakfast and lunch programs at normal pricing.
Any families who have paid for meals since Sept. 1 will have those charges credited to their accounts, as the active period for the extended Summer Food Service Program runs from Sept. 1 through Dec. 31.
Anyone with questions may contact the district office at 402-387-2333.
* School Board asks for same amount of property tax as 2019-20 to support budget
(Posted 7 a.m. Sept. 15)
Following a public hearing Monday, the Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education approved a $13.3 million budget for the 2020-21 school year that calls for $6.67 million in property tax.
The amount of tax requested from property owners in Brown County is the same as what the district collected for the 2019-20 budget year. However, with the overall valuation in the county decreasing by $23 million from $836 million to $813 million, the property tax requested results in a levy of 82 cents per $100 in property value. That is up from a levy of 79.8 cents for the 2019-20 year.
Superintendent Dale Hafer said the board’s goal was to avoid a see-saw approach with the budget and to try and keep it level.
“I think we are in good shape budget-wise as we head in to 2020-21,” Hafer said.
Board member Brad Wilkins said he felt the board took a conservative approach when preparing the 2020-21 budget.
“To have zero inflation is a good thing,” Wilkins said.
Though the board approved a $13.3 million budget, the actual amount spent will likely be somewhere around 70 percent of that total.
Hafer said the district spent 69 percent of its budget for the 2019-20 year, mainly due to lower expenses in the spring semester. He said the district typically spends around 72 percent to 75 percent of its budget.
“Spending less allowed us to operate with the same tax request as last year,” Hafer said. “We capitalized on the savings we had.”
Of the property tax requested for the 2020-21 year, $6.2 million will go to support the general fund budget, while $469,657 will go to the special building fund to pay for the agriculture and industrial technology building addition project. The general fund represents 76.3 cents of the district’s levy, with the special building fund accounting for 5.7 cents in levy.
The board unanimously approved the 2020-21 budget and property tax request following the public hearing. No one from the public spoke during the hearing regarding the budget.
In other business Monday, counselor Lisa Schlueter reported she had applied for and received a four-year college access grant at $5,000 per year for a total of $20,000.
Schlueter said the goal of the grant is to increase the percentage of Ainsworth Community Schools students going on to some form of college following their graduation from high school.
Schlueter said 71 percent of the district’s seniors from the 2018 graduating class went on to college. Schlueter said the goal of the grant is to increase the rate to 83 percent over the four-year grant period.
She said the grant funds can be used to assist students with college visits, FAFSA applications, scholarship searches and holding a career fair. She said the grant will also allow all high school students to take a career strengths survey to help them potentially identify a career to pursue.
Elementary Principal Curtis Childers and Secondary Principal Steve Dike discussed early assessment data with the board.
Childers said test numbers were a little lower to start the year, but that was expected due to kids losing a few skills over the summer coupled with the district having to go to remote learning for the fourth quarter.
Dike said the goal was to get the data into the teachers’ hands early, which would make them much more effective.
In action items Monday, the board approved the first reading of policy revisions related to Title IX requirements as recommended by the Nebraska Association of School Boards.
Hafer said the new Title IX requirements went into effect Aug. 14. With the new requirements, districts must demonstrate that each Title IX position has received training.
The board also approved three option enrollment requests, allowing Emberly Zwiebel, Colby Grupe and Haley Stanley to option out of the Ainsworth district and into the Rock County Public Schools district.
The next meeting of the Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education is scheduled for 8 p.m. Oct. 12.
* Additional 21 COVID-19 cases reported Monday in the district
(Posted 6:30 a.m. Sept. 15)
The North Central District Health Department was made aware of 21 additional COVID-19 cases in the district Monday.
Two additional cases were reported in Brown County Monday, bringing the total to 12. There were also two additional cases reported Monday in Rock County, bringing the total to 36 in the county.
Holt County had six additional cases confirmed, all of which were deemed to be due to community spread. Holt County has now had 45 total cases. Cherry County picked up an additional case, bringing its total to 57.
Fifteen of the 21 cases in the district Monday were determined to be due to community spread, with six cases deemed to be the result of having close contact with another confirmed COVID-19 case.
There have now been 411 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the nine counties covered by the North Central District Health Department. Of those 178 people have recovered and 14 have died. The NCDHD will report Tuesday on additional recoveries during the past week.
* Grand Theater to reopen Sept. 25 with limited seating
(Posted 3:30 p.m. Sept. 14)
The Ainsworth Grand Theater will reopen on the weekend
of Sept. 25. The first movie will be the locally produced “Oceans of Grass: Life
on a Nebraska Sandhills Ranch.” Showtimes are 7 p.m. Sept. 25 and Sept. 26, with
a 4 p.m. matinee Sept. 27.
* Nine more COVID cases confirmed in Rock County, 1 death reported in Brown County
(Posted 6:15 a.m. Sept. 14)
The North Central District Health Department was made aware of 28 additional COVID-19 cases in the district Friday, and received notice that a Brown County resident, a woman in her 90s, died from the virus.
Twelve of the 28 new cases in the district have been determined to be due from community spread. That includes two cases in Cherry County, and one case each in Brown, Rock and Holt counties.
Sixteen cases were determined to be due to having close contact with another positive case. Among those were eight cases in Rock County and three in Holt County.
With nine new cases reported Friday, there have now been 34 cases confirmed in Rock County, with seven people being deemed to have recovered. Brown County has now had 10 confirmed cases, with five recoveries and the county’s first death.
Cherry County has had 56 confirmed COVID-19 cases, with 17 recoveries and four deaths. There have been 39 confirmed cases in Holt County with the four additional cases Friday. Twenty Holt County residents have recovered.
As of Friday afternoon, there have been 390 total cases in the nine counties covered by the North Central District Health Department. Of those, 178 people have recovered, 14 have died and there are 198 active cases in the district.
* Secretary of State provides information on upcoming election
(Posted 10 a.m. Sept. 11)
Nebraska Secretary of State Robert Evnen appeared on KBRB
Friday to preview the upcoming Nov. 3 General Election. Evnen discussed the
ballot initiatives that will appear, as well as the process for casting a ballot
* Five new COVID-19 cases reported in Rock County Wednesday
(Posted 7 a.m. Sept. 10)
The North Central District Health Department was made aware of 14 additional COVID-19 cases in the district Wednesday.
Seven cases in the district, through case investigations, have been determined to be due from community spread, while six were determined to be due to close contact with another positive case.
Five new cases were reported in Rock County, three due to close contact and two due to community spread. Two additional community spread cases were reported in Holt County, with a third case in Holt County still under investigation.
The remaining cases Wednesday were reported in Antelope, Knox and Pierce counties.
The health department received word that four people died in the district due to COVID-19 complications. Two deaths occurred in Cherry County – a man in his 80s and a woman in her 80s. Two deaths occurred in Pierce County, both women in their 80s.
There have now been 13 deaths reported in the nine counties covered by the North Central District Health Department.
As of Wednesday, there have been 362 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 178 people recovering and 171 active cases.
With the five additional cases Wednesday, there have now been 25 cases in Rock County, with seven people recovering and 18 active cases. With the three reported Wednesday, there have now been 35 cases in Holt County, with 20 people recovering and 15 active cases.
Four Cherry County residents have now succumbed to the virus, with 54 total cases, 17 recoveries and 33 active cases.
* Ainsworth High School homecoming royalty to be crowned Friday
(Posted 1:45 p.m. Sept. 9)
Ainsworth High School will crown the homecoming queen and king Friday following the Bulldog football game against Arcadia-Loup City.
This year’s homecoming queen candidates are Madison Welch and Josie Ganser, representing the senior class; Ellie Welke, representing fine arts; Katrina Beel, representing A Club; Mila Pozehl, representing fall sports; and Elizabeth Smith, representing vocational clubs.
Homecoming king candidates area Kaleab Zorkowski, representing the senior class; Brandt Murphy, representing fine arts; Logan Hafer, representing fall sports; and Tristan Bowen, representing vocational clubs.
* Sheriff's department makes 4 DUI arrests during enforcement period
(Posted 1:15 p.m. Sept. 9)
The Brown County Sheriff’s Department participated in the national “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” enforcement effort that ran from Aug. 19 through Sept. 7. The campaign is a national program to increase public awareness and make roadways safer. The sheriff’s department received a grant from the Nebraska Office of Highway Safety to have four deputies work a total of 61.5 hours of overtime.
Law enforcement across Nebraska joined in the effort to reduce the number of deaths and injuries on roadways during the Labor Day holiday period.
During the enforcement period, the Brown County Sheriff’s Department made four arrests on charges of driving under the influence. One motorist was arrested on an outstanding warrant. The department arrested 10 motorists on charges of possession of controlled substances, and one arrest was made on a charge of willful reckless driving. The sheriff’s department issued a total of 27 citations and 69 warnings during the enforcement period.
The sheriff’s department used regular enforcement, saturation patrols and an enforcement zone during the campaign, and K-9 unit Dutch was utilized multiple times during the crackdown.
Brown County Sheriff Bruce Papstein urges drivers to do their part to make roadways safer by always designating a sober driver if planning to drink, and to buckle up at all times.
* Additional COVID-19 cases reported in area counties Tuesday
(Posted 6:45 a.m. Sept. 9)
The North Central District Health Department was made aware of 28 additional COVID-19 cases in the district since last reporting on Friday.
Twelve of the 28 cases were determined to be due to close contact with other confirmed COVID-19 cases, with 13 cases deemed to be the result of community spread and three cases in Knox County remain under investigation.
There were two additional cases in Brown County, three in Rock County, two in Holt County and five in Cherry County.
As of Tuesday afternoon, there have been 348 total cases of COVID-19 in the nine counties served by the North Central District Health Department. Of those, 178 people have now recovered and there have been nine deaths as a result of the virus. There remain 161 active cases in the district.
The NCDHD also reported 47 people in the district recovered during the past week from COVID-19. There were five recoveries in Cherry County, four in Holt County, three in Rock County, and one recovery in Brown County, Keya Paha County and Boyd County.
Cherry County has had 54 confirmed cases, with 17 recoveries and two deaths. Holt County has had 32 cases, with 20 recoveries. Rock County has had 20 cases, with seven recoveries. There have been 10 cases in Boyd County, with all 10 people recovering. Brown County has had nine cases, with five recoveries. There has been one case in Keya Paha County, with the person being deemed to have recovered.
* KBRB Football Contest for Week 2 ends in a deadlock
(Posted 2:45 p.m. Sept. 8)
It was another difficult week of picking high school game winners on the KBRB Football Contest card.
Of all the contestants who entered, the best cards each had three incorrect picks. Bill Carr, Kurt Johnson and Darrin Kremer all of Ainsworth, and Crystal Stout and Kurtis Mizner of Springview each missed three games on the Week 2 card, which sent us to the tie-breaker – the total number of touchdowns scored by both teams in the Ainsworth vs. Burwell game. There were a combined 15 touchdowns scored between the Bulldogs and Longhorns Friday.
Two contestants, Kremer and Stout, each picked a combined 14 touchdowns to miss the total by one. With the two contestants still tied, that sent us to the second tie-breaker – the card to be submitted earliest. Both cards carried the same postmark, leaving the Week 2 KBRB Football Contest in a deadlock.
Sharing the first and second-place certificates this week are Darrin Kremer of Ainsworth and Crystal Stout of Bassett. Each will receive $25 gift certificates to one of the Football Contest sponsors. Winners may pick up certificates from the KBRB Studios.
Week 3 cards are available and may be picked up from Buckles Automotive, AKRS Equipment and Speedee Mart of Ainsworth, Circle B Livestock in Bassett, the West Plains Bank in Springview, from the Tri County Bank in Stuart, or from the TCB Atkinson branch or Speedee Mart in Atkinson.
Cards must be submitted to the KBRB Studios by 4 p.m. Thursday or carry a Thursday postmark to be eligible.
* Ainsworth Community Schools provides guidance for those attending events this week
(Posted 2 p.m. Sept. 8)
Ainsworth Community Schools released guidance for those
planning to attend events this week the school is hosting.
* Five additional COVID-19 cases reported in Cherry County Friday
(Posted 6:45 a.m. Sept. 8)
The North Central District Health Department was made aware of 10 additional COVID-19 cases in the district Friday.
One case in Holt County, five cases in Cherry County, two cases in Pierce County, one case in Knox County and one case in Antelope County, through case investigations, were determined to be due to having close contact with other confirmed COVID-19 positive cases.
With the five additional cases Friday, there have now been 49 cases confirmed in Cherry County, with 12 of those people being deemed to have recovered. Two people in Cherry County have died as a result of COVID-19.
Holt County has had 29 confirmed cases, with 16 of those people recovering. Rock County has had 19 confirmed cases, with four recoveries. Boyd County has had 10 cases with nine recoveries. Brown County has seven confirmed cases, with four people recovering. Keya Paha County has just one confirmed case.
The NCDHD will provide another report Tuesday, which will include its weekly list of those recovering from the virus.
Statewide, there have been 35,975 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 404 Nebraskans dying as a result of the virus.
* Hafer provides update for Ainsworth Community Schools
(Posted 7 a.m. Sept. 3)
Ainsworth Community Schools Superintendent Dale Hafer authored a letter Wednesday that was placed on the district's website to update parents and students on the district's mask recommendations.
* Six additional COVID-19 cases confirmed in Rock County Wednesday
(Posted 6:45 a.m. Sept. 3)
The North Central District Health Department was made aware of 11 additional COVID-19 cases in the district Wednesday.
Six of the 11 cases were reported in Rock County, with four of those determined to be due to close contact with another positive case and two deemed to be a result of community spread.
Cherry County recorded two additional cases, one of which was deemed to be due to community spread. A single case in Holt County Wednesday was due to close contact with another confirmed case. Two cases were reported in Antelope County.
The NCDHD also received information that 23 additional cases were reported from the Santee Sioux Nation. Those cases have been added to the Knox County case counts.
The North Central District Health Department has placed the area in the yellow category of its risk dial, which is slightly elevated from last week.
The nine-county district surpassed the 300-case mark Wednesday with 301 confirmed cases. Of those, 131 people have recovered and seven died. There are 163 active cases in the district.
With the six additional cases Wednesday, there have now been 18 confirmed in Rock County. Cherry County has 42 confirmed cases, followed by Holt County with 26 cases, Boyd County with 10, Brown County with seven and Keya Paha County with one. Knox County has had 104 of the 301 cases in the district.
* Commissioners approve livestock permit moratorium by 2-1 vote
(Posted 7 a.m. Sept. 2)
Following a public hearing Tuesday, the Brown County Commissioners approved placing a moratorium on the issuance of any special-use permits for livestock facilities.
The moratorium, which was approved by a 2-1 vote with Commissioners Buddy Small and Reagan Wiebelhaus in favor and Commissioner Denny Bauer against, will be in place for nine months or until the county’s comprehensive plan and zoning regulations are updated.
Zoning Administrator Tom Jones told the commissioners the Planning Commission is close to sending its recommended comprehensive plan updates to the Lincoln company hired to assist the county to have them drafted into a new document.
“I don’t see why it wouldn’t get done before the end of the year,” Jones told the board.
During the hearing, both Jack King Sr. and Heather Painter spoke in favor of the moratorium. King said the moratorium was a must, as he said he believed people would try to sneak permits in before the new zoning regulations were approved.
Painter said the moratorium was necessary until the county passes more strict and direct guidelines. She said the current regulations can be interpreted differently.
Wiebelhaus said he believed there was vagueness with the current zoning regulations.
“It depends on who sits on this board on what is detrimental to neighboring property,” Wiebelhaus said. “I would like to see the regulations better defined.”
Bauer said the county does have regulations in place currently, and that is the plan the county should go by until any new regulations are approved by the board.
“The new plan will also be open to interpretation,” Bauer said. “If you approve a 1-1/2 mile setback on all feed yards, you are going to kill the livestock industry in Brown County. What if our existing feedlots want to add 10,000 head in addition to their existing operations?”
Bauer said the county can’t just pass regulations for swine operations, all livestock would be included.
“We would have no development north of Ainsworth in the future, and we are an agricultural county,” Bauer said. “If you have a 1-1/2 mile setback, there won’t be any future livestock expansion for our existing operators.”
Small said he realized Brown County was an agricultural county.
“We are getting ahead of ourselves,” Small said. “Tonight’s hearing is only about a moratorium. I don’t want to hamstring agriculture in this county. I just don’t want to see neighbors being turned against each other.”
With Bauer against, the board approved the nine-month moratorium on special-use livestock facility permits. The moratorium would be lifted as soon as the board approves updated zoning regulations.
In other business Tuesday, Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin said the roads department finished installing 84-inch culverts on Bone Creek near Worden’s, and hauled more than 3,000 cubic yards of dirt to the site. He said the roads department also completed the drainage project on Road 878 near Jochem’s.
“Three driveway culverts and two cross culverts were installed there,” Turpin said.
Turpin reported the county has received $263,434 in FEMA funds to reimburse the county for the cost of damage from the March 2019 floods. He said FEMA also approved an additional $169,274 in reimbursement.
Turpin said he planned to file for an extension with FEMA for five remaining projects.
“We weren’t able to get those done because we can’t get the materials yet,” the highway superintendent said. “Everything has been ordered.”
After a short executive session, the board approved a $1.60 per hour raise for Nakoa Fletcher in the roads department. Small said Fletcher was a talented mechanic, and has saved the county substantially on repair bills by doing work in-house.
The commissioners approved providing a letter of support to the Middle Niobrara Natural Resources District for Long Pine Creek watershed improvements.
The board also approved providing the city of Ainsworth with a quitclaim deed for 3.73 acres on the south side of East City Park east of the Brown County Hospital.
County Attorney Andy Taylor said the county sold the ground to the city in 2004 for a dollar, but did put a stipulation that the area must be used for the construction of baseball or softball fields or the county could reclaim the property.
Taylor said the city planned to use the parcel to construct a solar array, but first needed the county to agree to waive the stipulation about the property being used for ball fields. Taylor said he worked with City Attorney Rod Palmer to prepare a quitclaim deed removing the restriction.
Taylor also reported he had been working with attorneys for the Nebraska Public Power District on an agreement for the use of a county road to construct a transmission line. Taylor said the issue with the agreement was a hold harmless clause, which he believed would be amended.
“We should have an updated contract drawn up by the next meeting,” Taylor said.
The Board approved a resolution allowing Brown County Treasurer Deb Vonheeder to hold a tax sale on property taxes that have not been paid for three years.
Wiebelhaus said delinquent taxes amounted to $12,155 on 85 parcels in the county that would be placed on the tax sale.
The next meeting of the Brown County Commissioners is scheduled for 5:15 p.m. Sept. 15. That meeting will include a public hearing for the county’s 2020-21 fiscal year budget.
* Seventh confirmed COVID-19 case reported in Brown County Tuesday
(Posted 6:30 a.m. Sept. 2)
The North Central District Health Department was made aware of 14 additional COVID-19 cases in the district Tuesday, including the seventh case in Brown County.
The Brown County case was determined to be the result of community spread, as were single cases in Rock, Cherry and Knox counties. One case in Cherry County, one case in Holt County and five in Knox County were deemed to be due to close contact with another confirmed COVID-19 case.
Three cases in Pierce County remain under investigation.
The NCDHD reported 24 recoveries across the district, with four of the seven people confirmed to have COVID-19 in Brown County now being deemed to have recovered. There were seven reported recoveries in Cherry County, six in Knox County, two in Boyd County and Antelope County, and single recoveries in Rock County, Holt County and Pierce County.
The seventh death resulting from COVID-19 was also reported to the health department Tuesday, a man in his 70s from Pierce County.
As of Tuesday afternoon, there have been 267 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the nine-county district. Nearly half of those infected, 131, have now recovered. There are 129 active cases.
* Richeys sweep top spots during KBRB Football Contest opening week
(Posted 11:15 a.m. Sept. 1)
Jacque Richey of Springview missed just two games to capture the top spot during the first week of the KBRB Football Contest.
With the contest featuring all high school games this year, Richey missed only Arcadia-Loup City’s two-point home win over Elm Creek and Anselmo-Merna’s 40-28 victory at home against Ansley-Litchfield.
For being the only card with two games missed, Richey earns the $40 first-place certificate. Second place went to a tiebreaker, as two contestants missed three games. Russ Richey of Springview and Tiff Naprstak of Johnstown each missed three games. Richey guess 11 combined touchdowns would be scored in the Ainsworth and Pleasanton game, while Naprstak guessed 10 combined TDs. In Plainview’s 58-32 win over the Bulldogs, the teams combined for 12 touchdowns, giving Richey the second place, $10 certificate. Winners can pick up certificates from the KBRB Studios.
Thanks to everyone who filled out a card. Week 2 cards are available from Buckles Automotive, Speedee Mart and AKRS Equipment in Ainsworth. In Bassett, cards can be picked up from Circle B Livestock. In Springview, pick up cards in the West Plains Bank. Head to the Tri County Bank in Stuart to pick up a contest card, or to the TCB Atkinson branch or Speedee Mart in Atkinson.
Week 2 cards are due to the KBRB Studios by 4 p.m. Thursday or they must carry a Thursday postmark to be eligible.
* DHHS continues to accept applications for expanded Medicaid coverage
(Posted 11 a.m. Sept. 1)
Heritage Health Adult Medicaid Expansion has signed up 5,218 Nebraskans to-date.
The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services continues to process applications, with a turn-around time of about 7 days, which is over a month faster than required by federal law. Additional DHHS teammates have been hired and trained to be able to help answer callers’ questions and process applications.
Jeremy Brunssen, the interim director of Nebraska Medicaid, said he appreciates the hard work these teammates are providing to their fellow Nebraskans.
“Our Medicaid teams have helped the thousands of Nebraskans become eligible for Medicaid Expansion and other programs by processing thousands of applications and assisting folks in person and over the phone,” Brunssen said. “Great work has been accomplished by all during the continued COVID-19 pandemic, which has often impacted our own teammates personally and professionally. I am proud of the people we have on our teams fulfilling our mission to help people live better lives.”
Heritage Health Adult expands Medicaid to lower income adults of working age (19-64 years old). Lower income means earning up to 138% of the federal poverty level. For a single person, this is an income of approximately $17,609 per year, and for a family of four this is an income of approximately $36,156 per year.
All participating Nebraskans will receive a robust and comprehensive services package of physical health, behavioral health, and prescription drugs. Nebraskans who are 19-20 years old, pregnant, or medically frail will also receive dental and vision services, in addition to over-the-counter medications. All those who are determined to be eligible for HHA will receive benefits starting October 1.
To apply, individuals can go online to www.ACCESSNebraska.ne.gov, call toll free at (855) 632-7633, or visit any DHHS office.
Additional information about Medicaid Expansion is available at www.dhhs.ne.gov/MedicaidExpansion.
* Ainsworth Community Schools posts guidelines for fall activities
(Posted 9:45 a.m. Sept. 1)
Ainsworth Community Schools released guidelines for those planning to attend and participate in fall activities. View the guidelines by clicking on the document below.
* Additional COVID-19 cases reported in Rock, Cherry and Holt counties Monday
(Posted 6:45 a.m. Sept. 1)
The North Central District Health Department was made aware of 13 additional COVID-19 cases in the district Monday.
Three cases were confirmed in Rock County, two of which were determined to be due to community spread and one due to close contact with another positive case.
After having 10 COVID-19 cases during the prior report, an additional five cases were confirmed in Cherry County residents Monday. Four of those were deemed to be due to close contact with another positive case, with one due to community spread.
Two additional cases in Holt County were deemed to be due to community spread.
The other three cases were reported in Knox County.
Cherry County has now had 38 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 24 in Holt County and 11 in Rock County. Brown County has had six cases, there have been 10 in Boyd County, and a single case in Keya Paha County.
Of the 253 total cases in the nine-county area served by the North Central District Health Department, 107 people have recovered and six have died, leaving 140 active cases in the district. The NCDHD will provide an update on additional recoveries Tuesday.
Photo by Graig Kinzie, KBRB
FUNNEL CLOUD - A funnel cloud drops down Sunday evening
* Ten additional COVID-19 cases reported in Cherry County
(Posted 7 a.m. Aug. 31)
The North Central District Health Department was made aware of 13 additional cases of COVID-19 in the district.
Nine cases in Cherry County and one case in Knox County, through case investigation, have been determined to be from close contact with other positive cases. One case in Cherry County is currently under investigation.
With the 10 additional cases reported, Cherry County now has 33 confirmed COVID-19 cases.
Two cases in Knox County, through case investigation, have been determined to be from community spread.
Test Nebraska testing clinics will be held this week in the NCDHD area. Visit www.testnebraska.com and click Start Now to sign up for a testing time and location. Test Nebraska will conduct tests for the next three weeks on the following weekly schedule:
Monday - Bassett at the Rock County Fairgrounds from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m.
Tuesday - O’Neill at the NCDHD office from 8:30 until 10:30 a.m.
Plainview at CHI Health from 7:30 until 9:30 a.m.
Valentine at the Cherry County Hospital from 8:30 until 11:30 a.m.
Wednesday - Niobrara from 10:30 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. at the Niobrara Trading Post
Plainview at CHI Health from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m.
Another 1,810 Nebraskans tested positive for COVID-19 during the past week, an average of 259 cases per day. That daily average is up from 234 per day last week. A total of 33,436 Nebraskans have now tested positive for the virus, with 392 deaths and 25,282 recoveries. There were 16 new COVID-19 deaths during the past week.
The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, Gov. Pete Ricketts, local health department leaders and medical experts across the state continue to stress the importance of masks and ask Nebraskans to wear them along with taking other preventive actions, such as keeping 6 feet of social distance, frequently washing hands and staying home if not feeling well.
Test Nebraska lab capacity continues to expand and more appointments and locations have been added as testing scales up at hospitals and community centers. Expanded testing is being used to help long-term care facilities, schools and communities identify COVID-19 cases and respond to slow virus spread.
Those concerned they may have been exposed to COVID-19 or who are experiencing symptoms can receive a free test through Test Nebraska. Symptoms can include a fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, tiredness, muscle aches, headaches, loss of taste or smell, sore throat, runny nose, nausea or vomiting, and diarrhea.
To reserve a test, complete an online assessment at www.testnebraska.com and schedule a visit at one of more than 50 locations across the state.
Nebraskans with general questions about testing or need help completing the online assessment can call the Test Nebraska hotline at (402) 207-9377.
* Norden Avenue in Keya Paha County to close Monday for culvert installation
(Posted 3:45 p.m. Aug. 28)
Norden Avenue south of the Keya Paha County Fairgrounds will be closed Monday beginning at 10 a.m. to allow the Keya Paha County Roads Department to install a culvert. Commissioner Mike Tuerk said the roads department hoped to have the work completed and Norden Avenue reopened to traffic by the end of the day Monday.
* Additional COVID-19 cases reported in Cherry, Rock and Holt counties Thursday
(Posted 7 a.m. Aug. 28)
The North Central District Health Department was made aware of eight additional COVID-19 cases in the district Thursday.
Three cases in Cherry County were determined to be due from close contact with positive cases, while another case in Cherry County was deemed to be due to community spread.
One case in Rock County, one in Holt County and two in Knox County were all deemed to be due to community spread. All close contacts have been identified and asked to quarantine.
As of Thursday afternoon, there have been 227 COVID-19 cases in the nine counties covered by the North Central District Health Department. Of those 107 people have recovered, six have died, and there are 121 active cases.
There have been 23 cases in Cherry County, 22 in Holt County, 10 in Boyd County, eight in Rock County, six in Brown County and one in Keya Paha County.
* Second round of COVID-19 testing negative at Sandhills Care Center
(Posted 3:30 p.m. Aug. 27)
Care Center Administrator Stephanie Clifton reported Thursday the second round
of resident and staff COVID-19 testing came back negative. With two consecutive
negative tests among all residents and staff, Clifton said the care center will
return to the “Green Zone,” meaning group activities can be held and residents
can dine together. Social distancing in the center will remain in practice, as
will cloth face masks.
* Replacement of Niobrara River bridge between Stuart and Naper to begin this fall
(Posted 3:15 p.m. Aug. 27)
Holt County and the Nebraska Department of Transportation announced the first local permanent repair project from the flooding events was let Aug. 20. The project is located on 470th Avenue, approximately 7 miles south of the village of Naper in Boyd County and approximately 18 miles north of the village of Stuart in Holt County.
During the flood event in March of 2019, an ice jam caused the destruction of the Stuart to Naper bridge over the Niobrara River in Holt County, the existing bridge was carried approximately 2,000 feet downstream.
Highway Superintendent Gary Connot said, “The two engineering firms did a great job working together to deliver the project in a very timely manner and they certainly recognized how important it was to the locals to get the bridge restored. Everyone involved has worked tirelessly to move the project forward as quickly as possible. The design team from Speece Lewis Engineers and environmental service consultant from Felsburg Holt & Ullevig sprang into action to accelerate plans and move the project forward.
United Contractors, Inc., of Johnston, Iowa, has the $6.6 million contract. Work will include grading, concrete pavement, seeding, bridge replacement, and guardrail. The project is expected to begin construction this fall. This road is on a Federal-Aid Route and the replacement is being funded by Emergency Relief Funds.
* Recent cases from Brown County Court
(Posted 3 p.m. Aug. 27)
In addition to fines, each case carries $50 in court costs
Nicole T. Frick, age 25, of Denver, Colo., charged with speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, fined $75.
Rosangelica Estevez, 26, of Denver, Colo., speeding 16-20 mph over the limit, $125.
Rachel J. Ringstad, 26, of Denver, Colo., attempt of a Class 4 felony, $1,000; also charged with possession of marijuana less than 1 ounce, $300; possession of drug paraphernalia, $100.
Casey T. Norton, 32, of Grand Forks, N.D., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.
Gene F. Denman, 68, of Long Pine, possession or discharge of illegal fireworks, $100; possession of marijuana less than 1 ounce, $300; possession of drug paraphernalia, $100.
Paul S. Janey, 41, of Glenwood Springs, Colo., speeding 11-15 mph over the limit $75.
Levi A. Seidel, 23, of Moorhead, Minn., attempt of a Class 4 felony, $1,000.
Cameron D. Nicholl, 26, of Lakewood, Colo., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.
Dylan B. Tiemeyer, 24, of Cozad, speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.
Gazmen Sulejmani, 22, of Fargo, N.D., no operator’s license, $75.
Michael R. Spotted Bear, 20, of Ainsworth, procuring or selling alcohol to a minor, sentenced to six months of probation; minor in possession of alcohol, sentenced to six months of probation.
Erwin H. Perez, 34, of Ainsworth, no park entry permit, $25.
Chloe M. Cozad, 20, of Long Pine, first offense driving under the influence, $500, also sentenced to six months of probation, driver’s license revoked for 60 days, and ordered to install an ignition interlock device.
Gabriel R. Fuentes, 32, of Sioux Falls, S.D., first offense driving under the influence, $500, also sentenced to six months of probation and driver’s license revoked for 60 days.
Evelyn L. Ajin, 23, of Ainsworth, leaving the scene of an accident or failing to furnish information, $300; violation of a stop or yield sign, $75.
Levi Gum, 26, of Long Pine, criminal mischief less than $500, ordered to pay $67 in restitution.
Allen R. Privett, 28, of Ainsworth, violation of a stop or yield sign, $75.
Mariah S. Weidner, 22, of Fargo, N.D., attempt of a Class 4 felony, $1,000; possession of marijuana less than 1 ounce, $300.
Sylas Stender, 31, of Bassett, first degree criminal trespassing, sentenced to 10 days in jail with credit for two days served and one year of probation; criminal mischief less than $500, sentenced to one year of probation and ordered to pay $1,871 in restitution; third-degree assault, sentenced to one year of probation.
Brian R. Chrisman, 44, of Aberdeen, S.D., no operator’s license, $75.
Stephen N. Connolly, 70, of Lafayette, Colo., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.
Craig A. Morris, 54, of Elkhorn, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.
Ricky R. Fuss, 58, of Denver, Colo., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.
Alicia Mingo Rubio, 29, of Ainsworth, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25; no proof of insurance, $100; no driver’s license on person, $50.
Deann Clennin, 60, of Long Pine, unnecessary noise, $50.
Hector E. Vega Maldonado, 23, of Provo, Utah, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.
Charles D. Davis, 56, of Ainsworth, no valid registration, $25; failure to use a seat belt, $25.
Courtney B. Tanguma, 42, of Castle Rock, Colo., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.
Troy A. Childress, 23, of Bassett, first offense driving under the influence, $500, also sentenced to six months of probation, driver’s license revoked for 60 days and ordered to install an ignition interlock device; improper or defective vehicle light, $25.
Jorden J. Hollenbeck, 26, of Bassett, first offense reckless driving, $500; speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.
Patrick F. Bordeaux, 25, of Vermillion, S.D., possession of marijuana less than 1 ounce, $300.
Cassidy Brouse, 21, of Lower Brule, S.D., attempt of a Class 4 felony, $1,500; possession of marijuana more than 1 ounce but less than 1 pound, $500.
Cole Brouse, 27, of Lower Brule, S.D., attempt of a Class 4 felony, $1,500; possession of marijuana more than 1 ounce but less than 1 pound, $500.
Joseph N. Gullickson, 21, of Lower Brule, S.D., attempt of a Class 4 felony, $1,500; possession of marijuana more than 1 ounce but less than 1 pound, $500.
Jada L. Stone, 22, of Fargo, N.D., attempt of a Class 4 felony, $300; possession of marijuana less than 1 ounce, $100.
Jamar R. Thompson, 28, of Fargo, N.D., attempt of a Class 4 felony, $1,000; possession of marijuana less than 1 ounce, $300.
Courtney J. Alspaugh, 31, of Ainsworth, assault by mutual consent, $100.
Jonathan Nelson, 40, of Ainsworth, assault by mutual consent, $100.
Justin Q. Curry, 24, of Storm Lake, Iowa, attempt of a Class 4 felony, $1,000; possession of marijuana more than 1 ounce but less than 1 pound, $500; first offense reckless driving, $500 and sentenced to seven days in jail with credit for seven days served.
Cassius Russell, 27, of Ainsworth, violation of open burning ban, $50.
* Keya Paha County records its first COVID-19 case Wednesday
(Posted 3:30 p.m. Aug. 26)
The North Central District Health Department was made aware of 12 additional positive COVID-19 cases in the district Wednesday.
The first case of COVID-19 in a Keya Paha County resident was confirmed and determined to be the result of community spread. Community spread is listed when the person who contracted the virus did not travel and did not have contact with someone known to have the virus.
Three additional cases in Cherry County were deemed to be due to having close contact to another confirmed case, and one case in Cherry County was due to community spread. The four additional cases in Cherry County Wednesday bring the total in that county to 19 confirmed cases.
An additional positive case in Holt County Wednesday remains under investigation. Holt County has now had 21 confirmed cases. The other cases Wednesday were in Knox and Pierce counties.
Two more people died as a result of the virus, both Pierce County residents in their 90s.
* May taxable sales mixed as COVID-19 restrictions eased
(Posted 2 p.m. Aug. 26)
of May 2020 and May 2019
of May 2020 and May 2019
* Three River landlines experiencing incoming call issues
(Posted 9 a.m. Aug. 26)
Brian Delimont with Three River Communications said
there are currently issues with calls coming in to Three River numbers. The
issue is not affecting outgoing calls, only calls coming in to Three River
* First local Teammates chapter graduate receives scholarship
(Posted 7 a.m. Aug. 26)
The Ainsworth Teammates Mentoring Program chapter awarded its first high school graduate with a scholarship.
Cady Crist became a Teammates mentee in December 2014 as a sixth-grade student, with Deb Hurless serving as her mentor.
Crist graduated from Ainsworth High School in 2020. As the chapter’s first graduate, Crist received a $250 scholarship from the local Teammates chapter. Crist is enrolled at Northeast Community College.
The Ainsworth Teammates chapter was initiated in the summer of 2014. The chapter is in need of new mentors, as there are mentees waiting to be matched with a mentor.
Anyone interested in becoming a Teammates mentor can find more information at www.teammates.org or by contacting program coordinator Lisa Schlueter at Ainsworth Community Schools. People may also visit with any of the chapter’s board members, who are Lisa Chohon, Scott Steinhauser, Connie Lentz, Kathy Klammer and Anissa Julius.
* Sixth COVID-19 case reported in Brown County Tuesday
(Posted 3:30 p.m. Aug. 25)
The North Central District Health Department was made aware of 13 additional positive COVID-19 cases in the district Tuesday. Five cases, through case investigations have been deemed to be from community spread, including one case in Brown County, three cases in Cherry County and one case in Holt County. Four cases have been deemed to be from close contact to another confirmed positive case, with two cases in Pierce County and two cases in Knox County. Four cases are currently under investigation in Knox County.
NCDHD reported seven people infected with COVID-19 across the district have recovered from the virus, including two in Boyd County, one in Holt County, three in Pierce County and one in Knox County.
There have now been 207 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the nine counties served by the North Central District Health Department, with 107 of those people recovering. There have been four deaths, and there are 96 active cases in the district.
The case Tuesday
was the sixth in Brown County and the first in more than a week. Cherry County
is up to 15 confirmed cases with the three reported Tuesday. Holt County has 20
confirmed cases. There have been seven cases in Rock County and 10 in Boyd
* KBRB Football Contest returns this week
(Posted 7 a.m. Aug. 25)
It’s back, well sort of. The annual KBRB Football
Contest begins this week. Cards are available in Ainsworth from Buckles
Automotive, Speedee Mart and AKRS Equipment. In Bassett, cards can be picked up
from Circle B Livestock. In Springview, pick up cards in the West Plains Bank.
Head to the Tri County Bank in Stuart to pick up a contest card, or to the TCB
Atkinson branch or Speedee Mart in Atkinson.
* Some Tuesday classes at Stuart cancelled due to positive COVID-19 case
(Posted 6:45 a.m. Aug. 25)
Stuart Public School Superintendent Robert Hanzlik said the district was notified by the North Central District Health Department that a person at the high school tested positive for COVID-19 Monday.
The individual who tested positive has been asked to self-isolate, and their family and other close contacts are also being asked to self-quarantine. Individuals who have been identified as close contacts, within 6 feet for more than 15 minutes, with the person who contracted the virus have been notified by NCDHD and are asked to self-quarantine.
Stuart Public School will not have school Tuesday for the second, fourth, fifth, and sixth grades, as well as seventh grade through senior classes.
Preschool students, kindergarten, first- and third-grade students will have school at the regular time on Tuesday. Lunch will be provided in the St. Boniface School building for those students. School will resume for all classes at Stuart Public School on Wednesday.
Hanzlik said the Stuart Public School building will be deep cleaned Tuesday. All teachers and staff are to report to school at 8 a.m. Tuesday. For those currently teaching at St. Boniface, the day will remain the same.
Picture Day has been postponed and will be announced at a later date.
Anyone with questions on the Stuart Public School response to the positive case may contact Hanzlik.
* Rock, Cherry and Holt counties report additional COVID-19 cases Monday
(Posted 4 p.m. Aug. 24)
The North Central District Health Department was made aware Monday of 17 additional positive COVID-19 cases in the district. Of those, 13 cases are due to direct exposures with positive cases and four cases were deemed to be due to community spread.
There was a new case reported in Rock County and in Cherry County, with both being deemed to be the result of close contact with another positive case. Holt County reported three cases Monday, with one deemed to be the result of close contact with another positive case and the other two deemed to be a result of community spread.
There were nine additional cases in Knox County, two in Antelope County and one in Pierce County.
Community spread is present in several counties in the district, and as a district, residents should assume it is present in their community. The NCDHD urges people to wear a mask in public when social distancing is difficult and practice good handwashing and social distancing.
As of Monday afternoon, there have been 194 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the nine counties served by the North Central District Health Department. Of those, 100 people have recovered, four have died and there are 90 active cases.
Holt County now has 19 confirmed cases, with 12 in Cherry County, 10 in Boyd County, seven in Rock County and five in Brown County. Keya Paha County has yet to report a positive case of the virus.
* Care Center COVID-19 tests negative, Test Nebraska at Rock County Fairgrounds
(Posted 6:45 a.m. Aug. 24)
Sandhills Care Center Administrator Stephanie Clifton reported the facility received the results of having all residents and staff members tested for COVID-19, and all tests came back negative.
Clifton said the care center had all staff members and residents tested after one staff member previously tested positive for the virus.
Clifton said all staff and residents would be tested once more to confirm the virus is not present in the facility.
The North Central District Health Department has contracted with Test Nebraska to provide COVID-19 testing clinics throughout the nine-county district. NCDHD will hold clinics at Bassett today (Monday) from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m. at the Rock County Fairgrounds, and in O’Neill Tuesday from 8:30 until 10:30 a.m. in the NCDHD office. The Cherry County Hospital has established a testing site as well. Visit testnebraska.com to sign up for a testing time and location for a date or location that works best for you.
The North Central District Health Department was made aware of seven additional positive COVID-19 Cases in the district Friday, four in Pierce County and three in Knox County.
NCDHD received notification of the fourth confirmed death in the district. The resident was from Pierce County.
Statewide, 1,638 Nebraskans tested positive for COVID-19 during the past week, bringing the statewide total to 31,626. The daily average during the past week was 234 cases, down from 269 daily the prior week.
Another 15 Nebraskans died, bringing the total since the outbreak started to 376. Of the 31,626 people who have tested positive for COVID-19, 23,608 have recovered.
“We recognize the many Nebraskans who are following prevention measures to slow the spread of COVID-19 and encourage them to keep it up,” said Dr. Gary Anthone, Chief Medical Officer and Director of Public Health for DHHS. “With greater movement happening in communities as schools are back in session and colleges reconvene, these actions help protect everyone and preserve our hospital capacity. Parents of students are asked to pay particular attention to possible signs of COVID-19 and keep their children home if they are running a fever or displaying other symptoms. Parents should contact their health care provider for an assessment and consider scheduling a test.”
Signs of COVID-19 can include a fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, tiredness, muscle aches, headaches, loss of taste or smell, sore throat, runny nose, nausea or vomiting, and diarrhea.
Masks matter in the fight against COVID-19. Gov. Pete Ricketts, local health department leaders and medical experts across the state continue to stress the importance of masks and ask Nebraskans to wear them along with taking other preventive actions, such as keeping proper distance, washing hands frequently, and staying home if not feeling well.
The Test Nebraska lab capacity continues to expand and more appointments and locations have been added as testing scales up. More testing is intended to help long-term care facilities, schools and communities identify COVID-19 cases and respond to slow virus spread. Testing services offered through Test Nebraska are free.
If Nebraskans are concerned they may have been exposed to COVID-19 or are experiencing symptoms, they can receive a test through Test Nebraska.
To reserve a test, complete an online assessment at TestNebraska.com and schedule a visit at one of more than 50 locations across the state.
Residents who have general questions about testing or need help completing the online assessment can call the Test Nebraska hotline at (402) 207-9377.
* Booster Club raises more than $6,000 during "Bulldog Pride" event
(Posted 12:30 p.m. Aug. 21)
Booster Club took over KBRB Radio Friday for a virtual "Bulldog Pride" event.
Typically held in person, the event this year went online and on the air. The
Booster Club raised more than $6,000 during the two-hour event thanks to the
generosity of those calling in as well as the businesses and individuals who
donated items to be auctioned.
First Class Auto and Husker Meats – A 50-quart Yeti Cooler on wheels, stocked with 12 burger patties, 12 pork chops, 12 New York Strips, brats, fish and seasonings - Winning bidder was Curtis Childers for $760.
Central Valley Ag – A Weber Spirit II E-210 Gas Grill - Winning bidder was Connie Bennett for $330
NTL Trucking – Two separate cattle loads or grain loads hauled within 100 miles - Winning bidder was Sherm Goochey for $350.
Girls Basketball Team – Custom Ainsworth Cornhole Boards with red LED lights - Winning bidder was Jason Good for $1,000.
Community Schools – Four reserved parking spots at East City Park for the four
home football games
2nd Winning Bidder - Joey Finley, $250, selected parking spot 1.
3rd Winning Bidder - Tyler Johnson, $275, selected parking spot 3.
4th Winning Bidder - Clint Painter, $300, parking spot 4.
Ainsworth Dental Clinic – An Oral B Electric Toothbrush, with a free dental cleaning and X-ray -
Winning bidder was Denny Bauer for $200
Union Bank & Trust – Husker items in a box, includes Nebraska-based food products, Scooters Coffee, Eileen’s cookies, chocolates and popcorn - Winning bidder was Jerry Paulsen for $50
Sandhills Blue Photography – A 20-minute mini photo session - Winning bidder was Sheila Pyle for $120.
Lori Buoy – A Husker flower planter – rubber tire planter painted red with a Nebraska “N” - Winning bidder was Devyn France for $25.
Salzman Ranch & Brett and Caren Fernau – 20 pounds of hamburger and a $100 beef draft - Winning bidder was Sheila Pyle for $180.
The (402) Bar – A Husker table and a Husker-themed basket - Winning bidder was Sherm Goochey for $135.
Devine Healthcare – A micro-needling session - Winning bidder was Lisa Pinney for $100.
Ainsworth Boys Golf Team – An autographed Tommie Frazier Football - Winning bidder was Jim Welke for $150.
Sally Jackson and Body Works Massage Therapy Laura Priest - A Nail Dash gift basket with Senegence Lip Sense items, and a gift certificate for a 30-minute massage - Winning bidder was Kim Smith for $100.
The Mundhenke Agency – A Dewalt 20-volt tire inflator with battery - Winning bidder was Dawn Cook for $160.
RK Cattle Company – 50 pounds of hamburger - Winning bidder was Sheila Pyle for $165.
Ainsworth Football Team – A game-day experience for child, will receive exclusive access to the locker room and pre-game warm-up, and will lead the team onto the field - Winning bidder was John Pierce for $275
Wil and Rachel Williams family – A Pioneer Woman gift basket and $25 gift card to Palmer’s Custom Embroidery - Winning bidder was Kristen Johnson for $90.
Ainsworth Wrestling Team – Irrigation pipe pickup, the team will load up all irrigation pipe out of a field following the growing season - Winning Bidder was Sherm Goochey for $700.
Bonnie Finley – Cinnamon Rolls or a Pie every month for a year - Winning bidder was Rod Worrell for $325.
Pozehl Construction – Five bags of Traeger Pellets - Winning bidder was Jan Buoy for $110.
Daniels Manufacturing and Gross Seed – A Daniels sprinkler up to 60 inches, plus a bag of grass seed - Winning bidder was Nathan Johnson for $100.
* Rock, Holt and Boyd counties have positive COVID-19 cases Thursday
(Posted 7:15 a.m. Aug. 21)
The North Central District Health Department was made
aware Thursday of six additional positive COVID-19 cases in the district.
* All registered voters will be mailed an early ballot request form
(Posted 7 a.m. Aug. 21)
Nebraska Secretary of State Bob Evnen has decided to mail an early ballot application to every registered voter whose county did not already do so. The effect will be every registered voter in Nebraska will receive an early ballot request application in the mail.
“For voters who have concerns about voting at the polls in November, an early ballot request for a mail-in ballot is a good option,” Evnen said. “Anyone who wishes to vote early should request their ballot as soon as possible.”
The first ballots will be mailed out September 28.
The deadline to request an early ballot to be mailed is October 23.
USPS recommendation for returning early ballot by mail is October 27.
The deadline for early voting in person in the County Clerk/Election Commissioner’s office is November 2.
Voters who requested early ballots must return them to the County Clerk/Election Commissioner’s office by the close of the polls November 3.
Voters also have the option of going to the polls to vote. The polls will be open for the General Election, November 3. County officials and the Secretary of State are taking precautions to protect the safety of voters and poll workers.
For information regarding early voting, visit the Secretary of State website at
* Rock County Public Schools experiences first COVID-19 case in building
(Posted 9 a.m. Aug. 19)
Rock County Public Schools received notice from the North
Central District Health Department Wednesday that someone who tested positive
for COVID-19 had been in the school building.
* Commissioners approve constructing bridge at Meadville Avenue Sand Draw site
(Posted 7 a.m. Aug. 19)
The Brown County Commissioners on Tuesday approved moving forward with the construction of a bridge on Meadville Avenue over the Sand Draw Creek.
The site has been closed since last year due to the box culvert on the Sand Draw Creek washed out, forcing Meadville Avenue to be detoured.
Engineer Gary Steele with Miller & Associates told the commissioners he studied the construction of a single 9-foot by 10-foot concrete box culvert at the site, a triple box culvert, and a bridge.
Steele said a single box culvert would only be able to handle a 25-year to 50-year rain event, while the triple box culvert set up would handle a 100-year event. A single-span bridge, which was his recommendation for the site, would handle all rain events.
Commissioner Denny Bauer said a triple box culvert would only handle a 100-year rain event if the culverts did not get plugged up by cedar trees or other debris during a flood. Steele agreed his study only looked at how the triple box culvert would perform if operating at full capacity.
“The study does not take into account any trees or debris that might get in the way,” Steele said. “A single-span bridge will be a little more expensive initially, but it will handle all events.”
Steele estimated the cost of a triple barrel box culvert at $600,000, with a bridge costing a total of $850,000.
Steele said the Nebraska Department of Transportation indicated, if it was a state highway, a bridge would be the NDOT’s preferred option. With the county’s share of the cost, a bridge would cost the county an additional $50,000.
Commissioner Reagan Wiebelhaus said he received a call from Michael Kelly, who owns property upstream from the site. Wiebelhaus said Kelly indicated he believed protecting the creek was more important than the road, and a bridge would ruin good ground upstream of the site.
“In my opinion, based on the engineer’s recommendation, a bridge is the way to go,” Wiebelhaus said.
Commissioner Buddy Small said he agreed with that assessment, and he was also willing to discuss additional stream protection projects with the Middle Niobrara Natural Resources District.
By phone, Middle Niobrara NRD Manager Mike Murphy asked if there were grade stabilization projects that could be conducted at the site at the same time of the bridge construction. He said it would be a cost savings to work on a stabilization project with the contractor while the heavy equipment to build the bridge was already mobilized at the site.
“If the county is interested in doing something to stabilize the creek, we can work with the landowners on a project to go in at the same time,” Murphy said.
Bauer said he would not be opposed to trying to assist, but the county was limited on how it could spend taxpayer money on private property.
“If we could design something there, we could potentially see if the contractor would also bid on that project since the equipment will already be there,” Bauer said.
Steele said he would be willing to assist with any design aspects on a creek stabilization project at the site.
Wiebelhaus said the commissioners have been talking about this project for a year, and needed to make a decision to move forward and get the road open.
“I am willing to discuss other projects and help where the county legally can, but that is for a different day,” Wiebelhaus said.
The board unanimously approved proceeding with the construction of a bridge at the site. Steele said he would have design plans completed by this winter, with the project ready to go out for bids in the spring for potential summer 2021 construction.
In other business Tuesday, the commissioners opted to reopen the courthouse beginning at 8 a.m. Wednesday after closing the courthouse Friday following five confirmed COVID-19 cases in Brown County.
Treasurer Deb Vonheeder said the timing of the closure was horrible for her office with the second half of property taxes due by Sept. 1.
“You have no idea what closing the courthouse does to my office,” Vonheeder said.
Clerk Travee Hobbs said she was also in favor of the courthouse being open.
Wiebelhaus said he thought closing the courthouse was a good idea at the time with five positive cases reported in a week, but if the county did not see additional cases this week, then he believed the courthouse could open.
Bauer said he believed the courthouse should be open, with visitors encouraged to keep the proper distance.
Small said his concern was the safety of the public and the courthouse staff.
Audience member Rod Worrell asked if the county had installed any protective barriers in the offices like numerous other businesses had done.
Small said the county dropped the ball on that matter, and the protective barriers had been approved but never ordered. Wiebelhaus said the commissioners thought the department heads were proceeding with ordering the barriers for their offices, and the department heads thought the commissioners were handling the purchase. He said the barriers would be installed soon.
The commissioners gave the go-ahead to open the courthouse beginning Wednesday, Aug. 19.
Prior to the county’s budget hearing in September, the board Tuesday set the levies for the Brown County Agricultural Society and the Brown County Rural Fire Protection District.
The Agricultural Society requested $55,000 to operate the fairgrounds, and an additional $20,000 to a sinking fund to repay money borrowed from the Inheritance Tax Fund. After discussion with Ag society member Dave Sherman, the board approved $40,000 to the ag society for operations and $20,000 to repay the Inheritance Tax Fund.
The commissioners approved a 2.5-cent levy for the Brown County Rural Fire Protection District. The fire district received 3 cents in levy during the previous year, which was the first year of a three-year agreement with the city of Ainsworth to receive MFO funding.
Bauer said he wished both the agricultural society and the rural fire district would present the commissioners with their budgets and let the board know how they planned to spend the funding.
“In the Extension office, we would never come asking for money without presenting you with our budget and how we planned to spend it,” Bauer said. “We sent a letter out requesting people leave their budgets the same.”
The commissioners also approved a $3,000 request for funding from the Brown County Historical Society. Brian Johnson said the historical society appreciated the contribution the county made last year, and requested a similar amount for the upcoming budget.
The board also received the proposed 2020-21 Sandhills Care Center budget, and agreed to place $80,000 in the county budget for the care center if the funds are needed. This is the fifth year of the county’s agreement with the city to provide $80,000 in funding to support the care center, which is jointly owned by the city of Ainsworth and Brown County.
Addressing two recommendations from the Brown County Planning Commission, the board voted to extend a current moratorium on special-use permits for the construction of commercial wind turbines for an additional nine months. The Planning Commission previously recommended the county place an 18-month moratorium on special-use permits for wind tower construction. The board previously approved a nine-month moratorium. The board approved extending the moratorium for an additional nine months, or until the updated zoning regulations are completed.
The board opted to schedule a public hearing for 6 p.m. Sept. 1 regarding a recommendation from the Planning Commission to place a nine-month moratorium on special-use permits for livestock facilities, or until the county’s zoning regulations are updated.
Small said the Planning Commission indicated it might have the zoning regulations updated and a recommendation to the commissioners in three to four months.
In other action items Tuesday, the commissioners approved inventory lists for the 17 different departments in the county, and acknowledged the annual jail standards report, which showed the jail passed all inspections. The board also voted to transfer $100,000 from the county’s Inheritance Tax Fund to the Disaster Recovery Fund, with the county paying back the money into the Inheritance Tax Fund during future budgets.
During his report, Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin said the roads department has been hauling trees from Road 876 to Meadville Avenue to use as riprap.
He said one culvert has been installed on Road 880, and the department has another to install this week.
“We have done cold mix patching on the Elsmere Road, getting the east half ready for armor coating,” Turpin said. “We put asphalt millings on Meadville Avenue where culverts washed out, and put millings on Wilson Street.”
Bauer said the asphalt millings on the spots where Old Highway 7 washed out worked well.
“They are nice and smooth,” Bauer said.
The next meeting of the Brown County Commissioners is scheduled for 5:15 p.m. Sept. 1.
* Additional COVID-19 case in Rock County among 4 reported Tuesday in district
(Posted 6:30 a.m. Aug. 19)
The North Central District Health Department was made aware Tuesday of four additional COVID-19 cases in the district.
One case in Rock County and one case in Pierce County, through case investigation, have been deemed to be due to community spread.
One case in Pierce County and one case in Knox County were deemed to be due to close contact with a positive case. All close contacts with all cases have been contacted and asked to quarantine.
Moving forward, NCDHD will report recoveries on Tuesdays. This week NCDHD reported 13 additional recoveries in the district, including five in Holt County, three in Boyd County and one in Cherry County.
NCDHD reported the third confirmed death in the district due to COVID-19. The resident was from Cherry County.
As of Tuesday afternoon, there have been 162 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the nine counties covered by the North Central District Health Department. Of those, 100 people have recovered from the virus, three have died, and there are 59 active cases.
* Lions Club finalizes plans for Brown County Fair concession stand
(Posted 7 a.m. Aug. 18)
During Monday’s meeting of the Ainsworth Lions Club, Jim Arens reported the work shifts for the Brown County Fair concession stand have been filled. Workers will be required to wear masks and gloves, and the board discussed using one of the two windows of the concession stand for paying and the other for distributing the order. Arens will provide workers with additional information if necessary.
Evan Evans reported the city of Ainsworth plans to place crumb rubber bundles at each of the city’s playgrounds sites, and the Lions Club plans to volunteer to spread out the crumb rubber mulch after the new borders are placed.
The club discussed the annual fall Highway 20 cleanup east of Ainsworth. Connie Lentz will contact the Nebraska Department of Transportation, but the board agreed the project could be completed this fall with social distancing.
The Lions Club will not participate in the annual school eye exams this year due to COVID-19 regulations.
Lions Club members are needed to take tickets during home Ainsworth High School football games Sept. 11, Oct. 2 and Oct. 16.
The next meeting of the Ainsworth Lions Club is scheduled for Sept. 21. The time and location for the meeting will be determined later.
* Four new COVID-19 cases confirmed in Cherry County Monday
(Posted 6:30 a.m. Aug. 18)
The North Central District Health Department was made aware of 17 additional positive COVID-19 cases in the district Monday, including four new cases in Cherry County. There were 11 new cases reported in Pierce County, and two cases in Knox County. All cases have been investigated and all close contacts have been identified and asked to quarantine.
Residents in these counties should assume COVID-19 is present in their community and continue to take precautions and follow guidance issued by NCDHD, schools, and the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services.
NCDHD has reported 50 new COVID-19 cases in the district since last Monday. NCDHD encourages all residents in the nine-county district to social distance, wear a mask in public when social distancing is difficult, continue to wash hands frequently and follow quarantine or isolation instructions if necessary.
There have been 158 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the district, with 88 people recovering from the virus. There have been two deaths, and there are 68 active cases.
With the four new cases Monday, there have been 10 confirmed in Cherry County. Holt County has 15 confirmed cases, Boyd County has had eight, Brown County five, Rock County four, and there have been no confirmed cases in Keya Paha County.
* City of Bassett to armor coat several streets, asks residents to move vehicles
(Posted 1 p.m. Aug. 17)
The city of Bassett will have streets armor coated beginning Thursday morning, Aug. 20. The city asks all vehicles parked on streets that will be armor coated to be moved off the street by 7 a.m. Thursday.
Streets to be armor coated are:
Augusta Street between Legnard and Buchanon streets
between Augusta and Clark streets
* Brown County Courthouse closed to the public due to COVID-19 cases
(Posted 7 a.m. Aug. 17)
Brown County Commissioner Buddy Small reported the Brown
County Courthouse is closed to the public until further notice due to the
confirmation of COVID-19 cases in the county.
* Sheriff's Department to participate in 'Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over' campaign
(Posted 6:45 a.m. Aug. 17)
The Brown County Sheriff’s Department will participate in the national “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” campaign that runs from Aug. 21 through Sept. 7.
Through a grant from the Nebraska Office of Highway Safety, the sheriff’s department will work overtime to keep roads safe from impaired drivers. Deputies will look for impaired drivers and enforce all traffic laws.
In 2018, one third of Nebraska’s fatal crashes involved an impaired driver, up from 30 percent in 2017. Drug impaired driving is also an increasing problem. Anyone who sees a suspected drunk driver is urged to contact law enforcement immediately. If you know someone who is about to drive while impaired, be a friend, take their keys and help them make other arrangements to get home. If you plan to drink, designate a sober driver first.
Research has shown high-visibility enforcement, such as the “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” campaign, reduces alcohol-impaired driving fatalities by as much as 20 percent. By joining the nationwide effort, the sheriff’s department is attempting to make roadways in Brown County safer during the Labor Day holiday period.
Violators face jail time, the loss of their driver’s license and steep financial consequences such as fines, higher insurance rates, attorney fees, court costs and lost time at work.
Driving impaired is simply not worth the risk, so don’t take the chance.
* Fifth COVID-19 case confirmed in Brown County Friday
(Posted 6:45 a.m. Aug. 17)
The North Central District Health Department was made
aware Friday of three additional positive COVID-19 cases in the district, one of
which was in Brown County.
* Sandhills Care Center experiences potential COVID-19 exposure
(Posted 2:30 p.m. Aug. 14)
Sandhills Care Center Administrator Stephanie Clifton said the care center was notified Wednesday a positive COVID-19 test had come from within the facility.
Clifton said the care center is working closely with the North Central District Health Department and the Nebraska Medicine-ICAP team to ensure infection control practices are in place.
“Heidi Hostert and her NCDHD team have been fantastic,” Clifton said. “They have worked quickly to help us secure additional Personal Protective Equipment, get testing supplies in order and available if we have any additional questions. Our Nebraska Medicine team is a group of infection control specialists who are able to guide us through this process to not only ensure we are working to keep our residents and team members safe, but to also ensure we meet state regulations with infection control.”
Clifton said, since there has been potential exposure to COVID-19, Sandhills Care Center residents are going back into quarantine to reduce the risk of further exposure.
“We will be testing all staff members who may have been exposed, as well as each of our residents,” Clifton said.
Testing will be conducted Sunday and Monday, with the kits sent to St. Elizabeth’s lab for testing. She said lab turn-around times have been approximately two to four days to receive results.
“When we receive these results, we will receive additional guidance from the health department and the Nebraska Medicine ICAP Team,” Clifton said. “We are also required to complete a second test for exposed staff and residents Aug. 23-24. This is to ensure we have two negatives before opening back up to previous operation.”
Clifton said, as difficult and as scary as a positive test may be, she wanted to ensure the Ainsworth and surrounding communities the care center is providing residents with the highest quality care possible.
“I am humbled and grateful to each of Sandhills Care Center’s team members,” the administrator said. “We are now wearing N95 masks, face shields or goggles at all times and gowns when providing care to our residents. If you have not had to wear an N95 mask for 8 to 12 hours, consider yourself lucky. We do this for our residents, we do this for our team, and we do this for you.”
* Two more COVID-19 cases in Brown County among 16 confirmed Thursday
(Posted 6:45 a.m. Aug. 14)
The North Central District Health Department was made aware Thursday of 16 additional positive COVID-19 cases in the district.
Two cases were reported in Brown County, one of which was determined to be due to having close contact with another positive case. The second case was deemed to be the result of community spread. Brown County has had four confirmed cases in the past week.
Rock County, Boyd County and Holt County each reported an additional positive COVID-19 case. There were six more cases in Pierce County, three cases in Knox County and two cases in Antelope County.
The North Central District Health Department also received confirmation of the second COVID-19 related death in the district. A man in his 70s from Pierce County who was reported to have underlying health conditions died from the virus.
NCDHD has reported 29 new positive COVID-19 cases, nine recoveries, and one death in the district since Monday. There have now been 138 confirmed cases in the nine counties covered by the NCDHD, with 88 people recovering, two deaths and 48 active cases.
Brown County and Rock County each have four cases. There have been six in Cherry County, eight in Boyd County and 15 confirmed cases in Holt County. Keya Paha County is the only county in the district without a confirmed case.
* Two Springview residents injured when vehicle plunges into Niobrara River
(Posted 2:45 p.m. Aug. 13)
Two Springview residents were hospitalized early Saturday morning after their vehicle drove off Carns Avenue and into the Niobrara River.
According to Rock County Sheriff’s Department Deputy Ben Shelbourn, between midnight and 1 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 8, a 2005 Buick Enclave, driven by Amber Krueger, 35, of Springview, was traveling south on Carns Avenue in Keya Paha County when the vehicle plunged into the Niobrara River at the Carns Bridge site. The bridge had been washed away during flooding in 2019.
Krueger and a passenger in the Buick, Clayton Larsen, 23, of Springview, were transported by Springview Rescue to the Rock County Hospital for injuries suffered during the accident. The Buick was considered a total loss.
Keya Paha County Commissioner Mike Tuerk said there were signs on Carns Avenue to indicate the road was closed at the location due to the bridge washout.
* City Council declares 15 properties in violation of health codes
(Posted 10:30 a.m. Aug. 13)
Following recommendations from the Board of Health, the Ainsworth City Council Wednesday declared 15 properties as dangerous buildings and in violation of city code.
Mayor Greg Soles said the Board of Health, chief of police and the city’s building inspector performed drive-by inspections and noted the violations of city code with the structures as well as other violations of nuisance ordinances.
City Administrator Lisa Schroedl said most of the Board of Health violations related to roof damage, and broken windows and doors. She said, if the council declared the properties in violation of city code, the property owners will be issued notice to correct the violations within 30 days. She said the sheriff would also issue nuisance violation notices to the property owners.
Audience member Garry Denny said he would be interested in assisting the city with demolition and removal of the buildings if it came to that. Audience member Graig Kinzie said the North Central Development Center is helping facilitate the creation of a housing development corporation in an effort to restart the previous housing program, and donating the properties to the NCDC could be an option for some of the property owners if they were not inclined to fix the violations.
Councilman Tonny Beck said the process for addressing the violations is long and drawn-out, but at least the action taken by the Board of Health gets the process started.
The following are the 15 properties declared unanimously in each instance by the council to be in violation of city code and the violations that were discussed by Schroedl and the council Wednesday:
318 W. Dawes St. – Holes in the roof and broken windows.
117 N. Cedar St. – Parts of the roof missing and caved in.
324 W. Dawes St. and 328 W. Dawes St. – Several buildings, all overgrown with broken doors and windows.
320 E. Second St. – Mainly the garage roof and front porch. Schroedl said the owner contacted her after hearing the property included on the agenda and indicated they are going to tear the garage down soon.
352 N. Wilson St. – Holes in roof, broken doors and windows.
214 S. Woodward St. – Windows missing, doors open and fire damage.
528 N. Walnut St. – Roof on garage falling in.
186 N. Ash St. – Garage roof falling in and no door.
520 N. Main St. – Roof falling in, foundation damage.
506 N. Main St. – Broken windows and open doors.
367 N. Wilson St. – Holes in roof, broken windows.
243 S. Woodward St. – Half of the building is caved in or missing.
103 W. Dawes St. – House and garage both have roof and window damage, not fit for habitation.
108 W. Seventh St. – Holes in the barn roof and garage damage.
After the council voted to declare the 15 properties were in violation of city code, Soles said the sheriff will now post notice of the violation and issue notice to the property owner. After 30 days, if not addressed, the violation can go to District Court, where a fine would be issued and further action could be taken to address the violations.
In other business Wednesday, Terry Flick of J&J Sanitation provided the council with a proposal to have the company handle sanitation service in the city.
Flick said J&J Sanitation would bring a new truck into the city and new totes for each residence and commercial business, would hire an employee to run the route, and would assume all liability for the route and the employee.
Garbage pickup would be curbside only and no longer picked up from any alleys, and the company was willing to assist any senior citizens or those with disabilities not able to get the tote provided by the company out to the curb.
Flick quoted the city a price of $13,983 per month, which included a cost of $11 per residential pickup, $27.30 per month for light commercial pickup, and $54.60 for heavy commercial and dumpster pickup.
Flick said his proposal did not include tipping fees, as his company would take the trash to the KBR Solid Waste Transfer Station and dump it there instead of hauling it to their site, which would increase the cost.
Schroedl said, under the proposal, the city would still be responsible for the $123,000 annual tipping fees, which would potentially add another $11.50 to $12.50 to each customer’s bill. For residential service, the bill would be between $22.50 and $23.50 per month, up from the current $14.30 per month.
Schroedl said the city’s garbage truck needs to be replaced, so she wanted to provide this option to the council in addition to a quote for a new truck and the resulting increase in rates that purchase would require. She said the cost to customers would be similar if the city had to purchase a new truck as it would if the city signed a contract with J&J Sanitation.
Councilman Brad Fiala said the city would compare the contract and tipping fee costs with J&J Sanitation to the cost of the city having to purchase a truck to continue providing the service in-house.
Audience member Rod Worrell asked, if the city went with a contract for pickup and separated the tipping fee costs, could residents opt out of having their trash picked up and simply take it to the transfer station themselves.
Soles said the structure of how the contract would work would have to be determined when the council makes a decision on which option to pursue.
Sandhills Care Center Board Chairman Phil Fuchs presented the council with the facility’s 2020-21 budget. Fuchs said the care center estimated a monthly population of 21 residents when creating the budget.
The budget projects a loss of $117,000 for the year. Fuchs said the budget was conservative, and the board hoped to be able to continue to operate self-sufficiently after not having to request the $80,000 from the council and $80,000 from the Brown County Commissioners to support the current budget year.
“Right now, it looks like we will have enough to operate for the year without needing money from the city and county,” Fuchs said. “We have $264,236 in reserve, with the bulk of that coming from a grant received from DHHS. With COVID, there are just so many uncertainties. I would ask that you go ahead and budget the $80,000, and we will only request it if we need it.”
The city and county, when entering into a joint agreement to own and operate the Sandhills Care Center, each initially agreed to contribute $80,000 annually for five years. The 2020-21 budget would be the fifth year of that commitment.
Beck said he was concerned about a long-term strategic funding plan for the care center going forward.
“I am not negative on the nursing home,” Beck said. “I think it is a valuable asset to the community. I do have a problem if the plan is just to keep coming back to the city and county to make up shortfalls without asking the public if they are ok with that.”
Beck encouraged Fuchs to have the care center board come up with a long-term funding structure if more money was needed than what could be generated annually through operational revenue.
Fuchs said the board’s duty is to manage the nursing home to the best of its ability. He believed decisions on handling any future funding shortfalls would need to be decided by the City Council and the Brown County Commissioners.
“Our board has not discussed trying to go out for a bond,” Fuchs said. “Our goal is to be self-sufficient.”
After a request was made to the city by a group hoping to create a daycare business in the city, the council approved declaring a vacant lot owned by the city at 255 N. Oak St. as surplus property and advertising for bids for its sale.
Karen O’Hare said a group of seven women in need of childcare are working on establishing a daycare facility in the community.
“We have created a 501c3 non-profit,” O’Hare said. “There were no other properties we thought we could fix up and make work, so we need to build, and this is an ideal location. We are trying to move fast. Three daycare centers have closed here recently.”
North Central Development Center Executive Director Kristin Olson said the group has an architect reviewing floor plans for the center.
“They are doing a great job and have worked very hard to move this along quickly,” Olson said. “They are doing their due diligence. There is a huge need for daycare for many of our employers. There is a lot of shuffling going on right now.”
Soles thanked the group for being proactive to address a need in the city, and the council unanimously approved declaring the property as surplus and advertising for bids.
Olson presented the council with a report on the work completed under the city’s contract with the NCDC for LB 840 program management. Olson said there was not much activity with LB 840 during the start of the contract because the policies, procedures and applications were still being ironed out with the LB 840 attorney.
When those procedures were put in place and the applications were approved, there had since been six applications submitted, with five in front of the council Wednesday for approval. She said she is also working with eight additional potential applicants.
She said the NCDC office, since March, has assisted 3,223 business entities and agricultural producers with applications for COVID-19 state and federal government programs.
She said 104 Payroll Protection Program applications were submitted for Ainsworth alone through July 2. Between PPP, Economic Injury Disaster Loans, unemployment program assistance and the state business and agriculture stabilization grant programs, the NCDC office had assisted in helping to bring in well over $38 million to the area.
She said that figure was likely a conservative estimate, as there was no way to track what each individual operation received after being assisted by the NCDC office.
Following the report, the council approved four façade grant applications from the LB 840 fund and approved one professional recruitment grant.
The façade applications submitted by Ainsworth businesses approved Wednesday after being recommended by the LB 840 Loan Committee included one grant for $10,000, another for $8,125, a third for $4,690, and a fourth for $3,253. Businesses can apply for funding to assist with half the cost of improving the façade of their building.
By a 3-1 vote with Beck against, the council also approved a recommendation from the LB 840 Loan Committee to provide a professional recruitment student loan reimbursement in the amount of $15,000 annually over a three-year period. The approval was contingent on the applicant using the funds for student loan repayment.
Schroedl also asked the council to approve amendments to both the LB 840 professional recruitment and demolition grant applications and guidelines.
She said the city and LB 840 attorney Heather Sikyta have been working with Brown County Hospital Administrator John Werner and hospital council Joel Peterson on a way to allow the Brown County Hospital access to LB 840 funds for professional recruitment.
Since the hospital does not itself qualify due to it being a government entity, Schroedl said the group has been working to allow a separate entity to apply for the funding as a qualifying business and then have an agreement in place with the hospital. She said the city wanted to make sure it had a way to track any professional recruitment funds awarded.
On the demolition side, she said the only change is an update to the letterhead, changing the application from a North Central Development Center document to city letterhead. She said the guidelines for the program are not changing.
By a 3-1 vote with Councilman Schyler Schenk against, the council approved the amendments.
The council approved a $135,401 payment to SAK Construction for cure-in-place sewer pipe replacement work. Schroedl said the company has completed its portion of the project, and the payment was the final invoice to SAK Construction. She said the water meter replacement project was progressing, with about half of the meters now replaced.
The council approved recommendations made by the mayor appointing Stacy Gilliland to a term on the Ainsworth Public Library Board, and appointing Audrey Wilson, Nichole Flynn and Les Waits to the Sellors-Barton Cabin Advisory Board.
The next meeting of the Ainsworth City Council is scheduled for Sept. 9.
* Planning Commission recommends moratorium on livestock facilities
(Posted 7 a.m. Aug. 13)
By Larry Rice
Following a public hearing Wednesday, the Brown County
Planning Commission, after listening to comments and suggestions from several
residents and commission members, voted 7-0 to recommend to the Brown County
Commissioners that the county place a nine-month moratorium on the issuance of
any special use permits on livestock facilities.
* Second confirmed COVID-19 case reported in Brown County Wednesday
(Posted 4:15 p.m. Aug. 12)
The North Central District Health Department was
made aware of seven additional positive COVID-19 cases in the district
Wednesday, including a case in Brown County. The positive case in Brown County
is the second in a week and, like the first, was determined to have occurred
from community spread.
* Six additional COVID-19 cases reported in Pierce County, 9 recover
(Posted 6:45 a.m. Aug. 12)
The North Central District Health Department was made
aware of six additional positive COVID-19 cases in Pierce County Tuesday. Each
case was due to close contact with a positive case. All close contacts related
with each case have been identified and asked to quarantine.
* Portion of Meadville Avenue to close Thursday
(Posted 4 p.m. Aug. 11)
Meadville Avenue will be closed beginning at 6:30 a.m.
Thursday between Road 879 and Road 881.
* Care Center again restricting visitation after positive Brown County COVID-19 case
(Posted 12:45 p.m. Aug. 11)
With the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in a Brown County resident, Sandhills Care Center Administrator Stephanie Clifton told the Board of Directors Monday the facility has once again restricted visitors to the facility.
Clifton told the
board Monday the care center had moved in to Phase III of its reopening plan,
which allowed for family members to visit residents by appointment.
Clifton said she would keep families and the public up to date on any future changes.
Clifton reported she had ordered 21 new bedspreads for the care center at a cost of $89.95 each.
Board members asked about the progress of obtaining a credit card for use by department heads instead of those department heads paying for items personally and then being reimbursed.
Clifton said she checked and is not able to apply for a credit card on behalf of the care center. She said it would have to be a board member who applied for the card. Board member Buddy Small said he had to apply for a credit card on behalf of Brown County so the sheriff’s department and roads department had a card to use.
Discussion turned to obtaining a bank debit card instead of a credit card, but Clifton said she was uncomfortable with a debit card being tied to the care center’s full operations account.
Board Chairman Phil Fuchs discussed creating a separate bank account with $2,000 and applying for a debit card the department heads could use.
“Then, it is not as big a risk, and people would not have to be reimbursed for expenses when a credit card was needed,” Fuchs said.
The board approved setting up a separate bank account with $2,000 and obtaining a debit card to be used for purchases when a card is required.
The Sandhills Care Center generated $145,385 in revenue during July, with expenses of $136,978 for an operating margin during the month of $8,406. Clifton reported the Waits family had also made a $2,080 donation from a memorial to the care center.
Clifton said there were currently 21 residents in the care center, with eight of those paying privately, 12 receiving Medicaid assistance and one receiving assistance from Medicare.
She said the care center was currently looking for a director of nursing and an MDS coordinator after Chelsea Hladky and Barb Beck resigned from those two positions.
Prior to adjourning, the board held an executive session to discuss workforce.
The next meeting of the Sandhills Care Center Board is scheduled for 4 p.m. Sept. 14.
* Recent cases from Brown County District Court
(Posted 12:15 p.m. Aug. 11)
During Brown County District Court Tuesday, Eric Daniel, age 22, of Ainsworth, appeared in court after County Attorney Andy Taylor moved to have Daniel’s probation revoked following a conviction on a charge of first degree sexual assault, a Class II felony.
Daniel admitted in court he had violated the terms of his probation. He now faces up to 50 years in prison, with sentencing scheduled for Oct. 13.
Daniel also appeared on a charge he violated the Sex Offender Registration Act, a Class IIIA felony. Daniel entered a guilty plea to the charge and will be sentenced Oct. 13. He faces an additional three years in prison on that felony charge.
Also in District Court Tuesday, Brenton Mann, 35, of Ainsworth, appeared in court after his probation was revoked following a Class IIIA felony conviction of attempted distribution of a controlled substance. Mann was sentenced Tuesday to 30 months in prison with nine months of post-release supervision.
Sean Burke, 36, of Ainsworth, pleaded not guilty Tuesday to several charges, including unlawful discharge of a firearm, use of a deadly weapon to commit a felony, assault by strangulation or suffocation, terroristic threats, and resisting arrest.
With the not guilty plea, a pre-trial conference was scheduled for Sept. 8 in District Court.
* Bejot retires from music teaching position
(Posted 7 a.m. Aug. 11)
The Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education Monday accepted the resignation of longtime band teacher Kim Bejot.
Bejot, who was serving part time with the district as the fifth and sixth grade music and band teacher, cited COVID-19 concerns for her health and the health of her husband as her reason for retiring from the position she has held with the school since the late 1980s. She thanked the board for the opportunity to build several music-related programs during her tenure as well as forming the Odyssey of the Mind/Destination Imagination program.
Superintendent Dale Hafer said the district was in a good position even with the late retirement, as Erin Rathe would be moved from part time to full time employment to teach the music classes her mother taught.
In other business Monday, the board approved the Student-Parent Handbook and the Teacher Handbook for the 2020-21 school year, and approved a resolution detailing the reopening of school after the district went to remote learning for the most of the fourth quarter of the previous semester. The resolution detailed that classes would be conducted in person, recognized that masks were encouraged for both students and staff but would not be required, and detailed staff attendance and leave policies for anyone deemed to be at higher risk for complications resulting from COVID-19. Hafer said the resolution clarifies the district’s position for the start of the school year.
The board approved a $55,000 payment to Trane to cover the cost of window replacement and plumbing work. Hafer said the total project approved was guaranteed to cost $70,000 or less, and he estimated there would be about $13,000 in invoices remaining for the work the board approved having Trane undertake.
The board approved a $150,000 transfer from the district’s general fund to its depreciation fund. Hafer said, at the end of each budget year, the district is allowed to make a one-time transfer from the general fund to the depreciation fund to cover expenses with facilities.
“We have spent a little over $300,000 from the depreciation fund this year,” the superintendent said. “This transfer would replenish some of what has been spent from the fund.”
Board President Jim Arens said the district does have some additional capital expenditures coming up. Hafer said the potential replacement of the gym floor and roofing repair work would be two areas where the funds could be allocated.
In final action items Monday, the board approved option enrollment requests allowing Jennifer Bartels to option her daughter to Keya Paha County Public Schools, and allowing Tara Gaskins to option her two children to Rock County Public Schools.
During his report, Hafer said he is working on the 2020-21 district budget. He said the district is in a good position, and the current draft of the budget has a levy of 78.3 cents for the 2020-21 fiscal year, which would be down slightly from the 80-cent levy the district has for the 2019-20 year. The board will hold a budget retreat in August to begin finalizing the budget, which will be approved during the September board meeting.
Hafer said the finalized budget could be anywhere from no increase to a 2 percent increase.
Hafer reported there has been a faulty sensor somewhere that has resulted in several false fire alarms recently. He said he is working with Nebraska Safety and Fire on a solution to the issue, and has notified Ainsworth Fire Chief Brad Fiala that the district is working to correct the problem.
Hafer said everyone is excited for the start of the school year Wednesday.
“There is a lot of stuff on teachers’ plates, but they are excited to get going,” the superintendent said.
He reported the district received $67,000 in Cares Act funding from the federal government. The board must identify how the funds will be used, and then has a year to spend the money.
During his report, Elementary Principal Curtis Childers said he has been working to schedule MAPS and DIBELS testing earlier this school year.
“Second- through eighth-grade math DIBELS tests will be held this week,” Childers said. “Reading DIBELS testing will be next week, with MAPS testing the week after. We anticipate having the data for the October board meeting. We should have it all done before parent-teacher conferences Sept. 21.”
During his report, Secondary Principal Steve Dike commended staff for their work getting ready for the start of the school year.
“We have squeezed a lot of material into the last three days, and they have put in quality work getting ready for the school year,” Dike said.
The next regular meeting of the Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education is scheduled for 8 p.m. Sept. 14.
* Ainsworth Public Library hosts exhibits on 19th Amendment
(Posted 6:30 a.m. Aug. 11)
The Ainsworth Public Library currently has two different displays on the centennial of the 19th Amendment that secured women’s voting rights in the United States.
American Democracy dramatically expanded in 1920, when the newly ratified 19th Amendment extended the right to vote to millions of women. Though a landmark voting rights victory, the document did not open the polls to all women. Millions remained unable to vote for reasons other than sex, as racism played a part all the way to the 1960s and illustrates the involvement of minority American women to secure their essential citizenship rights.
“Rightfully Hers: American Women and the Vote” from the National Archives is a 3,000 square foot “pop-up” exhibit showcasing more than 90 items including records, artifacts and photographs. Highlights include original World War I –Red Cross Uniforms, a National Woman’s Party banner, and a collection of political campaign buttons.
The “Votes for Women: A Portrait of Persistence” from the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service includes 10 full-color posters as well as a handbook. It explores the complexity of the women’s suffrage movement and the relevance of the movement to Americans’ lives today.
Both of the displays are in the meeting room and available to view. Coming soon to the Ainsworth Public Library will be several sets of books on the same subject from the American Library Association for different age groups.
* First COVID-19 case confirmed in Brown County Monday
(Posted 6:15 a.m. Aug. 11)
Brown County has its first confirmed case of COVID-19.
The North Central District Health Department reported the first confirmed case
of the virus in a Brown County resident Monday. The NCDHD reported the person
contracted the virus due to community spread. All close contacts have been
identified and asked to quarantine.
* Four COVID-19 cases confirmed in Boyd County Thursday
(Posted 6:45 a.m. Aug. 7)
The North Central District Health Department was made
aware Thursday of five additional positive COVID-19 cases in the district.
* Additional COVID-19 cases reported in Rock, Cherry and Holt counties
(Posted 6:45 a.m. Aug. 6)
The North Central District Health Department was made
aware of six additional positive COVID-19 cases in the district. One case in
Rock County is due to community spread and all close contacts have been
identified and asked to quarantine. One case in Cherry County is currently under
investigation. Two cases were reported in Holt County, one is deemed to be
travel related and the other is due to direct contact with a positive case. One
case in Knox County is due to community spread and all close contacts have been
identified and asked to quarantine. One case in Pierce County is due to
community spread and all close contacts have been notified and asked to
* By 2-1 vote, commissioners deny special-use permit application for swine facility
(Posted 6:45 a.m. Aug. 5)
By a 2-1 vote following a nearly three-hour public hearing, the Brown County Commissioners on Tuesday denied a special-use permit application for John Gross to construct a 7,000-head swine finishing facility in western Brown County.
The commissioners heard from more than two dozen people who chose to speak during the hearing, the majority of whom spoke in opposition to the facility’s construction citing concerns with the smell and potential water quality issues.
At the outset of the hearing, Brown County Attorney Andy Taylor said the commissioners must consider seven factors when looking at a special-use permit application, and if any of the factors are not met, the commissioners are to deny the application.
Those factors are: the project must be compatible with and similar to the use permitted in the district; not be a matter that would require rezoning of the property; not be detrimental to adjacent property; not tend to depreciate the value of surrounding structures and property; be compatible with the stated intended use of the district; not change the character of the district; and be in accordance with the comprehensive plan.
Steve Mossman, an attorney representing Gross, said the Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy issued notice that it intends to issue a permit for the project.
“The NDEE determined the application was in compliance with all regulations,” Mossman said. “The NDEE will not issue a permit if it would impact groundwater or surface water in Nebraska.”
Mossman said the NDEE report indicated there would be 15 feet of separation from the facility’s underground manure storage pit to the groundwater level. He said only 4 feet of separation is required.
Mossman argued the reasons stated by the Brown County Planning Commission for recommending the project be denied were not valid. He said the Planning Commission stated the project met all the county’s zoning regulations.
“The intended use of the district is agriculture,” Mossman said. “The Planning Commission stated the district was intended for cattle not swine. The regulations say agricultural use, and this project is clearly agricultural use.”
Gross said he wanted to invest the proceeds of the sale of his business into his agricultural operation.
“I am investing in my community,” Gross said. “I felt that was a positive move, but it turned into accusations that I am destroying my part of the county.”
Gross said he did not believe in leadership by moratoriums, and he was concerned about the way the county was headed with regard to personal property rights.
“If you take others’ personal property rights away, you lose your own,” Gross said.
Gross said the manure from the facility would be an organic way to boost the production value of his cropland, and the facility would consume virtually all the corn he could grow and reduce trucking expenses.
“This is a good investment for the county, and I ask that you not be swayed by wild accusations,” Gross said.
Al Stevens, an engineer with facility designer Settje Agriservices, said a 7,000-head swine facility equates to about a 2,800-head cattle feedlot.
“The facility is power ventilated, which helps keep the animals comfortable, helps maintain air quality and helps reduce odor,” Stevens said.
Stevens cited a tool from the University of Nebraska used to determine the odor impact on properties near a swine facility. He said Gross’s home was the closest to the facility. He said there were five occupied dwellings within a 3-mile radius of the facility. The next closest two homes, the closest located two-thirds of a mile away, could expect to be free from odor issues 97 percent of the time based on the university’s model. The other three residences could expect to be free from annoying odor levels 99 percent of the time.
Stevens said livestock production facilities have an economic multiplier effect in the areas they are constructed. He said the project would generate approximately $48,000 in additional property tax revenue and would provide more than $160,000 in labor income.
“We just presented a similar proposal in Madison County with unanimous approval from their commissioners,” Stevens said. “In fact, they thanked the applicant for making the investment in the county.”
Steve Martin, representing the Alliance for the Future of Agriculture in Nebraska, said the project will support local businesses and agricultural producers, and he encouraged the board to approve it.
“We strongly believe this application and site is responsible livestock growth,” Martin said. “John’s application is going to meet all state and local regulations. His house is the closest to the facility. He would be the first one impacted by any odor.”
Martin said studies show organic fertilizer like livestock manure binds with sandy soil and reduces the chances of it leeching into surface water.
“Anhydrous has a much greater opportunity for leeching,” Martin said. “We don’t believe this project will impact neighboring properties negatively.”
The hearing was then opened to the members of the public in attendance.
Jack King Jr. presented aerial photos of the King Ranch and its proximity to the proposed facility.
“Our house is right across the highway,” King said. “I don’t believe trees are going to stop the odor or the dust.”
King said one of the pivots where the manure will be applied sits 30 yards from Cedar Creek, and another of the pivots where manure will be applied is currently flooded.
“With an inch of rain, it would flow right on us,” King said.
Jack King Sr. said several families’ lives would be ruined if the project were approved.
“This will do more damage than good,” he said. “Look what it has already done to the neighbors.”
He said four generations of the King family have lived and worked on the ranch.
“We don’t live for money,” King Sr. said. “We live for a decent way of life with clean water where you can open your windows and hang your laundry.”
He said anyone who claims the project would not devalue neighboring land is silly.
“No rancher in his right mind would want a pig farm across the road,” King Sr. said.
Hannah Schmitz told the commissioners the facility is sited too close to the King family’s ranch.
“This is certainly detrimental to neighboring property,” Schmitz said. “If it was several miles away, it would be different. You can’t claim stink and water contamination doesn’t affect neighboring land.”
Marsha King said she and her family pay more than $37,000 in property tax, and her four children all live and pay taxes in Brown County.
“We will become prisoners in our own home,” she said. “None of us deserve to work this hard and have our lives affected like this. Please listen to the Planning Commission and vote no.”
Dave Sherman said the Planning Commission was unanimous in its recommendation to deny the permit.
“With those seven rules they have to follow for approval, there are two for sure that do not comply,” Sherman said. “We are here to protect the Sandhills and the environment for future generations.”
Sherman asked, when manure gets applied to the ground near the facility and there is a substantial rain, where is that manure going to go?
“This will be a hazard to all of us,” Sherman said. “Trees are not a buffer. Just drive north or south of Ainsworth. It is not nice to try and do this to your neighbors.”
Kelsi Gross said she grew up on the land where the facility is proposed, and she stood with the King family in opposition to the project.
“Groundwater contamination is difficult to monitor,” she said.
She cited studies in Iowa that showed higher nitrate levels in groundwater levels near hog facilities over a 20-year period.
“I thought this area wanted people to move back, not drive them away,” Gross said.
Ronda Sherman said she feared the construction of the facility may force her family to move from the land that has been in her husband’s family for 100 years.
“It would be really hard to see someone else living there,” she said. “Plum Creek is a Class A cold water stream, and it is protected. There are two creeks near this site that run into Evergreen Creek, which runs into Plum Creek.”
Troy Peters said there were certainly people who were both for and against the project.
“If you support it because it is not being built near your house, shame on you,” Peters said. “For the people here in opposition, Brown County is their home. It is sad to see that this is tearing apart the area. I am not against animal agriculture, but there is a limit.”
Peters said the Sandhills is a beautiful place, and everyone’s goal should be to leave the land better than they found it for their children.
Heather Painter said she deals daily with the stench from a swine facility.
“We live near the first facility,” Painter said. “Our property value has definitely decreased. We raised similar concerns before the first facility was approved and built 3 miles from our home. We have the smell every day.”
Painter said the county should have put stricter zoning regulations in place before any of the facilities were built.
John Werner said the decision was a tough one for the commissioners.
“Good or bad, right or wrong, this decision won’t just be judged by those in this room,” Werner said. “People looking to invest in this county will be watching.”
Werner said people must understand the demographics of the county.
“We are all getting older,” Werner said. “Our high quality of life is also dependent on people being here, paying taxes and buying products. It is scary to think about change, but change is constant. It is a challenge to get comfortable with being uncomfortable.”
Werner said, regardless of the outcome, he hoped the people can get back to being a community.
Danny Bennett said the entire issue, in his opinion, boiled down to one thing.
“To enrich one man at the great expense of numerous individuals is immoral,” Bennett said. “I urge you to consider compassion and do the right thing.”
Attorney Jessica Piskorski, representing the King family, said the county has the authority over the permit, not the Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy.
“Those seven factors all must be met before you can grant a special-use permit,” Piskorski said. “The special-use exception is 14 times more stringent than your zoning regulations.”
She said the Planning Commission unanimously agreed that at least two of the seven factors were not met.
“You have heard from a lot of people who live near other facilities who have told you about how these facilities have negatively impacted their lives,” Piskorski said. “Mr. Gross has not proven that this project won’t harm his neighbors. Agriculture that injures neighboring property owners does not meet your requirements.”
Piskorski said acting in the best interests of the county does not mean negatively affecting many families for the gain of one.
“The applicant has to prove to you that all seven of your requirements are met,” she said. “Economic factors are not among those considerations. The State Supreme Court has ruled local boards have the right to regulate.”
Piskorski said almost everyone who testified said the project would be detrimental to their lives, and she encouraged the board to deny the application.
Responding to the statements made to the commissioners, Mossman asked the board to consider the scientific evidence that was presented.
“Thank you for the way this meeting was run,” Mossman said. “It was much better than the way the Planning Commission meeting was run, and that is a testament to you.”
He said much of the testimony against the project was about its potential impact to water. He said the NDEE review should address that.
“The structure has to be designed not to impact groundwater,” Mossman said.
He said 2019 was the greatest natural disaster to hit the state, and he didn’t believe citing water patterns from 2019 was a fair factor when debating the project.
“You can’t compare other facilities to what John Gross is proposing,” Mossman said. “Other facilities have open lagoons. This does not.”
Mossman said the NDEE must approve a continuing nutrient management plan, and monitors how that plan is implemented.
“Special-use permits can be conditioned to require that the manure is knifed in, which we would welcome,” Mossman said. “The manure is not going to be applied through pivots.”
At the hearing’s close, Commissioner Buddy Small asked for a show of hands from those in attendance on who was in favor of the project, and who opposed it. The majority of hands in the air were in opposition. He then asked if the county attorney had a recommendation for the board. Taylor said he had no opinion on the project, and it was the board’s decision on whether or not to approve the application.
“No matter what we do, we are going to be rats,” Small said. “This is a no-win situation.”
Commissioner Reagan Wiebelhaus said the board has seven factors it must consider.
“That’s it,” Wiebelhaus said. “Economic factors are not something we can consider.”
He said he did believe the Planning Commission was wrong about one aspect of the permit in its recommendation to deny, that it would change the intended use of the district. He said he did not believe that to be correct, because the intended use of the district was agriculture.
“I do agree with the Zoning Board that it will have a detrimental effect on neighboring property owners,” Wiebelhaus said. “Our factors don’t consider how many days it is detrimental.”
Wiebelhaus said he has been a part of the decision on two other swine facility projects.
“I look at the close proximity of the creeks here,” he said. “I don’t believe all the nitrates will be absorbed into the soil.”
Wiebelhaus said he did not believe the footprint studies provided hold true to reality.
“If it was all corn fields around, it wouldn’t be an issue,” he said. “Six-tenths of a mile from a home, this will be detrimental to that home.”
Based on the project negatively affecting neighboring adjacent property and depreciating the value of surrounding structures, two of the conditions the commissioners must consider, Wiebelhaus moved to deny the application.
Small seconded the motion. Both Small and Wiebelhaus voted to deny the application. Commissioner Dennis Bauer voted against the motion to deny.
In regular business prior to Tuesday’s hearing, Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin said the roads department has been hauling trees to Moon Lake Avenue to try and keep the road from washing out. He said the department has been mixing 400 tons of cold mix asphalt to patch oiled roads in the county.
Small asked how much of the more than $1 million the county has spent on repairing damage from 2019 flooding has been reimbursed thus far. Turpin said the county has so far received $146,000 from FEMA, but has not received anything from the state. He said the county is on its third FEMA program manager.
“The Camp Witness and Fairfield bridges are still pending approval, as is the Athey bridge,” Turpin said.
Tim Iverson said there is an ongoing washout problem on Meadowlark Road he would like the roads department to address.
“It is not an emergency, but it has been an ongoing problem,” Iverson said.
Turpin indicated he would work on a solution to the cutting issues.
Iverson also said noxious weed issues in county road ditches were not being addressed.
Small asked anyone who sees noxious weeds in county right of way to contact the weed superintendent.
“I don’t expect he will be able to see them all himself,” Small said. “Or, people can call me and I will report it to him.”
Regarding an offered donation of land to the county by Pat Showalter, Bauer said he looked at the property and believed it would be fine for the county to accept it.
“We might be able to use some fill material from there,” Bauer said.
He told Taylor to proceed. Taylor said he would craft a warranty deed for the property for the board to consider.
Dave Sherman told the board the Brown County Agricultural Society was forging ahead with the Brown County Fair on Labor Day weekend.
“We will have musical entertainment in the arena instead of in here,” Sherman said of the community building at the fairgrounds where Tuesday’s meeting was held. “We will have markings on the grandstands for distancing. We are working with the health department.”
Ronda Sherman said the Agricultural Society was in desperate need of additional volunteers.
“We need people to step up and volunteer if they want this to continue,” she said. “We need help.”
The next meeting of the Brown County Commissioners is scheduled for 5:15 p.m. Aug. 18.
* DHHS accepting applications for Medicaid expansion
(Posted 2:45 p.m. Aug. 4)
The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services has started to accept applications for Medicaid expansion, also known as Heritage Health Adult. Benefits begin October 1.
Heritage Health Adult expands Medicaid to lower income adults of working age (19-64 years old). Lower income means earning up to 138% of the federal poverty level. For a single person, the limit is an annual income of $17,609. For a family of four, the income limit is $36,156. It is estimated that 90,000 additional Nebraskans will be eligible though Medicaid expansion.
All participating Nebraskans will receive a robust and comprehensive services package of physical health, behavioral health, and prescription drugs.
This is similar to insurance that some Nebraskans may receive through their workplace. Nebraskans who are 19-20 years old, pregnant, or medically frail will also receive dental and vision services, as well as over-the-counter medications.
Through Monday, 1,135 Medicaid applications had already been received. There were 1,550 phone calls answered by Medicaid call centers from Saturday to Monday.
To apply, individuals can go online to www.ACCESSNebraska.ne.gov or call toll free (855) 632-7633; TDD (402) 471-7256, or go to any DHHS office.
* Monday accident injures 2 Ainsworth teens
(Posted 2 p.m. Aug. 4)
A one-vehicle rollover accident Monday afternoon in southwestern Brown County injured two Ainsworth teens.
According to Brown County Sheriff Bruce Papstein, at 4:35 p.m. Monday, Aug. 3, a 1994 Ford Ranger, driven by Rylan Hobbs, 17, of Ainsworth, was traveling north on Moon Lake Avenue approximately 7 miles south of the Highway 20 intersection when the vehicle left the roadway and rolled in the east ditch.
Hobbs and a
passenger, Cash Dailey, 16, of Ainsworth, were injured in the accident and were
transported by the Brown County Ambulance Association to the Brown County
Hospital for treatment.
* Duff Road to close in Rock County Thursday morning for culvert installation
(Posted 2 p.m. Aug. 4)
The Rock County Roads Department will close a portion of
the Duff Road, Road 854, on Thursday morning while a culvert is installed.
* Hafer discusses school reopening policy for first day of class Aug. 12
(Posted 10:45 a.m. Aug. 4)
Ainsworth Community Schools Superintendent Dale Hafer
presented the district's policies for the beginning of fall semester classes
* Additional COVID-19 case reported in Holt County Monday
(Posted 10:30 a.m. Aug. 4)
The North Central District Health Department was made aware of five additional positive COVID-19 cases Monday in the nine-county district, one of which occurred in Holt County.
Through case investigations, it was determined the Holt County resident contracted the virus through community spread.
Holt County has now had 11 confirmed cases of the virus, with six of those residents deemed to have recovered and five cases active.
Three positive cases were confirmed in Knox County Monday, with an additional positive case in Antelope County.
There have now been 89 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the nine-county NCDHD coverage area. Of those, 70 people have recovered from the virus, with 18 cases active in the district and one death.
There have been no confirmed cases in Brown or Keya Paha counties, and both Rock County residents who tested positive have been deemed to have recovered.
* Ricketts, education commissioner discuss back-to-school plans
(Posted 3 p.m. Aug. 3)
Gov. Pete Ricketts and Nebraska Department of Education Commissioner Matthew Blomstedt discussed plans Monday for K-12 students to head back to the classroom this fall.
“There are many reasons why it’s important for schools to be open this fall,” Ricketts said. “Remote learning can be less effective, and it’s important that we provide the highest quality education possible. Not every parent is able to devote individual time and attention to oversee remote learning indefinitely.
“Social isolation isn’t good for the well-being of kids. They need interaction with their friends and the mentorship teachers provide. Education promotes physical activity and a healthy lifestyle. Kids battling food insecurity have better access to good nutrition when they’re in school.”
Ricketts said getting kids back into the classroom is critical to their well-being. CDC Director Robert Redfield recently reported his agency is seeing more suicides and drug overdose deaths, among the high school population, than fatalities from coronavirus. Redfield also highlighted the extremely low risk of the virus to school-age children. In fact, the CDC said coronavirus is five to 10 times less deadly than the flu for school-age kids.
Blomstedt said, “We’ve been doing thoughtful work at the Department of Education with schools, health officials, and other partners to ensure the best and safest environments possible.
We value equity, and it’s important to maintain access to high-quality teaching for all students in Nebraska.”
He said, while pursuing flexibility and innovation, the Department of Education does not ever want to sacrifice quality.
“We’re working with schools to ensure that they can manage the safety of students and staff, while keeping their educational system moving forward,” Blomstedt said. “Gauging and understanding the level of risk has been a key part of our back-to-school planning. We’ve asked schools to thoughtfully analyze risk in conjunction with local and state health officials. We’re also asking schools to identify and tailor their protocols in light of conditions in their community.
We’re then supporting schools as they engage staff, students, and parents to communicate their plan for a safe return.”
He said, in addition to assessing risks at each school, the Department of Education also has to weigh the costs of not having students in the classroom.
“These costs are significant, and we don’t take them lightly,” Blomstedt said. “We’ve sought counsel from medical experts, both nationally and here in Nebraska, but decisions about schools ultimately rest with policymakers. We anticipate the need to be flexible, and we’re committed to working alongside school districts as they welcome students back this fall.”
All of the state’s back-to-school guidance is available online at www.launchne.com.
* Weekly cases of COVID-19 rising in Nebraska
(Posted 6:30 a.m. Aug. 3)
An additional 2,037 Nebraskans tested positive for COVID-19 during the past week, bringing the statewide total to 26,211. Sixteen Nebraskans died from COVID-19 during the week, and 332 have died since the virus arrived in the state. A total of 19,172 Nebraskans have recovered from confirmed COVID-19 infections.
The Department of Health and Human Services asks every Nebraskan to do their part to protect themselves and others from COVID-19.
While confirmed cases continue to remain manageable for the state’s health care system, the daily average of positive cases has been increasing. For July 25-31, the average daily case count was 291, up from 259 the prior week, and 226 two weeks ago.
Test Nebraska is expanding its daily COVID-19 testing capacity from 3,600 to 7,000 tests a day in the coming weeks. More test appointments are being added as lab capacity expands. More testing capacity is intended to help long-term care facilities, schools and communities identify COVID-19 cases and respond to slow the spread of the virus.
To reserve a testing slot, complete an online assessment at TestNebraska.com and schedule a visit to the nearest Test Nebraska site.
Two new regions serving a total of 18 counties have moved to Phase 4 of the state’s reopening plan established by a series of Directed Health Measures.
The North Central District Health Department and Southwest Public Health Department joined the Loup Basin district already in Phase 4, totaling 27 counties.
Phase 4 guidelines remove capacity restrictions on restaurants, bars, churches, child care centers, and other businesses, and allow outdoor venues to operate at full capacity. Arenas and event centers may operate at 75 percent capacity, though organizers of events of 500 or more people must still receive local health department approval prior to reopening.
While restrictions are fewer, recommendations remain to continue social distancing, as well as using face coverings, hand washing, and staying home when sick to help limit virus transmission. Anyone with close contact to someone testing positive for COVID-19 is encouraged to isolate and get tested.
Nebraskans seeking information or help with general questions can call the DHHS COVID-19 information hotline toll-free (833) 998-2275. The COVID-19 hotline is open 8 a.m. until 8 p.m. seven days a week.
* Ainsworth Community Schools release fall school re-entry plan
(Posted 1 p.m. July 31)
Ainsworth Community Schools on Friday released its plan for the reopening of the school for the fall semester. The plan lays out procedures that will be put in place based on different COVID-19 thresholds. To view the plan, click on the link below.
* Another COVID-19 case reported in Holt County Thursday
(Posted 6:30 a.m. July 31)
Another case of COVID-19 in Holt County was reported to the North Central District Health Department Thursday.
Through case investigation, it was determined the person contracted the illness through travel. All close contacts have been contacted and asked to quarantine. Holt County has now had 10 positive cases, with five recoveries and five active cases.
The health department was also made aware of an additional positive COVID-19 case in Knox County. Through case investigation, it was determined the case contracted the illness through community spread. The investigation is currently ongoing, and close contacts will be contacted and asked to quarantine.
The NCDHD reported an additional recovery in Cherry County.
North Central District Health Department district counties will move into Phase IV of Directed Health Measures Saturday, Aug. 1.
As of Thursday afternoon, 84 people in the nine counties served by the NCDHD have tested positive for COVID-19. Of those, 68 people have recovered and one person died.
Both Rock County residents who contracted the virus have recovered, as has the lone person in Boyd County to contract COVID-19. There have been four cases with two recoveries in Cherry County. Brown and Keya Paha counties have not yet had a confirmed case of the virus.
* USDA urges people not to plant seeds received in mail unsolicited
(Posted 6:30 a.m. July 29)
Unmarked seed packets are arriving in mailboxes around the United States with no explanation or reason, and with a return address in China. The package bears the name "China Post" and may be labeled as jewelry, small electronics, or some other item.
The United States Department of Agriculture strongly encourages recipients to not plant the seeds, but to instead save them, along with the packaging and mailing label, in a plastic bag, and contact their state plant regulatory official or Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service state plant health director. Experts also advise washing hands if accidentally handling the seeds, as a precaution. Recipients should hold on to the seeds, and the original packaging, until someone from the state department of agriculture or APHIS makes contact. Under no circumstances should anyone plant the seeds.
APHIS is working closely with the Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection and state departments of agriculture to prevent the unlawful entry of prohibited seeds and protect U.S. agriculture from invasive pests and noxious weeds. Sources at the U.S. Postal Inspector Services said they are also looking into the situation.
BBB recommends the following tips if one of these packets arrive in the mail:
Check your personal information. The package may be a sign that your personal information has been compromised. Keep a close eye on your credit report, bank accounts and credit card bills. Looking up your own name and address using a search engine can, in some cases, reveal how public your information has become.
Do not open the seed packet and avoid opening outer packaging or mailing materials, if possible.
Do not plant the seeds or discard them in trash that will be landfilled.
Limit contact with the seed package until further guidance on handling, disposal, or collection is available from the USDA.
BBB recently reported on an increase in brushing scams affecting consumers. It is not known if this is a brushing scam. Questions regarding shipments of unsolicited merchandise should be directed to your local BBB at 800-649-6814, or visit BBB.org.
* April taxable sales decline for most area counties
(Posted noon July 28)
of April 2020 and April 2019
of April 2020 and April 2019
* Ninth Holt County COVID-19 case reported to NCDHD Monday
(Posted 4 p.m. July 27)
The North Central District Health Department was made aware of additional positive COVID-19 cases in Holt County and Knox County Monday.
Through case investigation it has been determined there has been a high number of exposures from the two cases. As investigations continue, close contacts are being identified and asked to quarantine.
NCDHD encourages residents and visitors to Holt and Knox counties to exercise caution while in public. It is important that to practice good hand hygiene, wear a mask when in public and stay home when not feeling well.
NCDHD was also made aware of COVID-19 cases in Pierce and Antelope counties. The Pierce County case investigation is currently ongoing. The Antelope County case investigation is also ongoing, however close contacts have been contacted and asked to quarantine.
NCDHD reported six additional recoveries from the virus Monday, one in Antelope County and five in Pierce County.
There have now been 82 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the nine counties covered by the North Central District Health Department. Holt County has now had nine confirmed cases, with five of those people being deemed to have recovered. There have been four confirmed cases in Cherry County.
Of the 82 cases, 66 have been confirmed in residents of Knox, Antelope and Pierce counties. Both confirmed cases in Rock County have been deemed to have recovered, as has the lone case in Boyd County. Brown and Keya Paha counties still have no confirmed cases.
* Area students scheduled to graduate from UNK Friday
(Posted 8 a.m. July 27)
Graduate and undergraduate degrees will be conferred for 216 summer graduates at University of Nebraska at Kearney commencement exercises at 10 a.m. Friday on Foster Field at UNK’s Cope Stadium.
The event, held outdoors on campus for the first time since May 1990, includes a combination of spring and summer graduates after May commencement was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Area students graduating from UNK include:
Reagan Fairhead, a Master’s degree in special education
Amanda Wirth, a Master’s degree in special education advanced practitioner – behavior intervention specialist
Taylor Rhoades, a Bachelor of Science degree in family science
Emily Medley, a Bachelor of Science degree in applied health science
* Additional COVID-19 case confirmed in Holt County
(Posted 6:30 a.m. July 27)
The North Central District Health Department was made
aware of an additional positive COVID-19 case in Holt County. Through case
investigation it has been determined the person acquired the virus from close
contact with another positive case. The person is currently in isolation.
* NCDHD to move to Phase 4 reopening Aug. 1
(Posted 7:15 p.m. July 25)
Based on monitoring trends in COVID -19 data, the North Central District Health Department jurisdiction will move to Phase 4 of the Directed Health Measures starting August 1. The North Central District Health Department’s jurisdiction includes Antelope, Boyd, Brown, Cherry, Holt, Keya Paha, Knox, Pierce and Rock counties.
NCDHD Executive Director Roger Wiese said, “North Central District Health Department will continue to monitor the spread of this virus in our district and will actively work to provide the most up to date information for our communities in the health district. We continue to use science and data to make these determinations. Science and the collection of data is what will guide this office as we are dealing with this novel virus and its novel means of transmission. Transitioning from the Phase 3 of the DHMs to Phase 4 does not mean that personal responsibility for reducing virus transmission is to be ignored. I strongly encourage all citizens that may be feeling ill with COVID-19 symptoms and/or those that have been in close sustained contact with someone who is ill to take precautions and keep appropriate social distance. With everyone working together and being good neighbors to one another, we can continue to manage any aggressive spread of this virus and protect the residents, especially those who are vulnerable, in our nine counties by maintaining good social distancing, wearing of face barrier when appropriate and incorporating other preventative measures.”
An additional 1,813 Nebraskans tested positive for COVID-19 during the past week, bringing the total number of cases in the state to 24,174. The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services data also continues to show an increase in positive cases being reported this week over last week. There were 15 new COVID-19-related deaths in the state, for a total of 316. In addition, 17,999 Nebraskans diagnosed with COVID-19 have since recovered.
DHHS asks each and every Nebraskan to do their part so cases don’t continue to climb. Limiting the potential for COVID-19 spread is essential now and as the state looks ahead to fall.
TestNebraska, which is currently the number one source of testing in the state of Nebraska, reached a milestone having tested more than 100,000 Nebraska residents since the program launched in April.
TestNebraska plans to expand its daily COVID-19 lab capacity from 3,600 to 7,000 tests a day in the coming weeks. More test appointments will be added as lab capacity expands. Expanded test capacity is intended to help long-term care facilities, schools and communities identify COVID-19 cases and respond to slow the spread of the virus.
To reserve a
testing slot, complete an online assessment at
and schedule a visit to the nearest TestNebraska site. Locations, dates and
times for the coming weeks are listed on the site.
Phase 4 guidelines remove capacity restrictions on restaurants, bars, churches, child care centers, and other businesses, and allow outdoor venues to operate at full capacity. Arenas and event centers can operate at 75 percent capacity, though organizers of events of 500 or more people must receive local health department approval prior to reopening.
Recommendations remain in place for social distancing, the use of face coverings and other prevention measures to limit opportunities for virus transmission. Loup Basin Public Health Department includes Blaine, Custer, Garfield, Greeley, Howard, Loup, Sherman, Valley, and Wheeler counties.
* Rural Elgin man dies in ATV accident Wednesday
(Posted 7 a.m. July 24)
A 55-year-old rural Elgin man died Wednesday following
an all-terrain vehicle accident.
* Two additional COVID-19 cases in Holt County, one in Cherry County
(Posted 3:45 p.m. July 23)
The North Central District Health Department was made aware Thursday of five positive COVID-19 cases in the nine-county district.
Two cases were confirmed in Holt County. The first was determined to be a result of community acquired transmission. The second case was determined to have been contracted through travel. Both people are currently in isolation. Case investigation remains on going for one case, while all close contacts have been identified and are in quarantine for the other.
case was confirmed in Cherry County. The person contracted the illness through
close contact with another positive case. All additional close contacts with
that case have been identified and are in quarantine and the person with the
virus is currently in isolation.
NCDHD reported two additional recoveries in Antelope County.
The North Central District Health Department reminds residents, as restrictions loosen, it is still important to practice good hand hygiene, mask wearing when social distancing can be difficult, and to stay home when ill.
There have now been 77 cases of COVID-19 in the nine counties covered by the North Central District Health Department. Holt County now has seven cases, with four in Cherry County. There have been two cases in Rock County, who both recovered, and one case in Boyd County, who also recovered. There have been no confirmed cases in Brown or Keya Paha counties.
Sixty of the 77 people who have contracted the virus have been deemed to have recovered. There are 16 active cases, and one death attributed to the virus.
* Lions Club welcomes Hafers and Schrads as new members
(Posted 1 p.m. July 23)
Dale and Christi Hafer, and Mike and Dianah Schrad were initiated as new members to the Ainsworth Lions Club during the club's annual picnic at East City Park Monday.
The Lions Club recognizes members at every five-year interval for service to the club. Tim Sinsel was recognized for 25 years and Pat Jones for 10 years as a Lion.
President Vance Heyer thanked the officers and directors who served during the past year, and Past President Roland Paddock installed the new officers and directors for the 2020-21 year: Immediate Past-President Vergil Heyer; President Vance Heyer; Vice-President Bob Beatty; Recording Secretary Kim Bejot; Secretary Jerry Ehlers; Treasurer Phil Fuchs; Directors-Evan Evans, Roger Lechtenberg, Rita Paddock and Larry Rice; Membership chair Bill Lentz; Tail Twister Dwain Grunke; and Lion Tamer Steve Salzman.
Jim Arens, chair for the concessions stand project at the Brown County Fair, discussed safety issues that will need to be addressed to operate the concession stand. Arens said he is working on the schedule for the fair to be held September 5-7. Some of the work sessions will likely require additional help. Additional information will become available once the final program of events for the fair are announced.
David Spann advised the club the plaque recognizing former member Scott Ritter, which was affixed to the playground equipment near the library, has disappeared. An effort will be made to have another plaque prepared and installed.
The Nebraska Lions Club District 38 announced the Ainsworth Lions Club has been recognized for meeting the district’s Campaign 100 membership challenge. In recognition of meeting the challenge, the district will provide a “Lion of the Year” plaque to be awarded to a club member for outstanding contribution to the Ainsworth Lions Club. The Lions Club approved a plan to have members nominate a club member for the “Lion of the Year” award, with the Lions Club Board of Directors making the final decision. Nominations are to be sent to Vance Heyer by Aug. 1.
* Commissioners debate bridge or box culvert at Meadville Avenue site
(Posted 7:15 a.m. July 22)
The Brown County Commissioners discussed during Tuesday's meeting whether to construct a bridge or a box culvert at the Sand Draw Creek site on Meadville Avenue. An engineer from the Nebraska Department of Transportation recommended a bridge at the site, while landowners upstream of Meadville Avenue told the commissioners only a box culvert would help stop the head cutting that is occurring on the creek.
Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin provided correspondence from NDOT bridge engineer Kirk Harvey that indicated a bridge at the site would be appropriate. Harvey indicated, if the project were to be located on a state highway, the NDOT would construct a bridge at the site as opposed to a box culvert due to flooding events and the amount of water that is carried through that site.
Commissioner Reagan Wiebelhaus said he believed the county would save money by constructing a bridge, and Commissioner Denny Bauer said he also didn’t support building a box culvert at the site.
Audience member Mike Kelly asked the commissioners what they planned to do about the head cutting on the Sand Draw Creek. Prior to the box culvert washing out during flooding in September, the head cutting on the creek had been contained to east of Meadville Avenue.
“If you don’t stabilize the creek, you are going to ruin the land above it,” Kelly said.
Audience member Marty Painter said he would prefer to see the county construct a 14x14 foot box culvert to help slow the head cutting.
“Otherwise, maybe the land that is going to get ruined needs to be taken off the tax rolls,” Painter said. “A lot of the head cutting in the past six months has happened with the box culvert out. With a bridge, that will just keep going."
Bauer said a box culvert alone won’t stop the creek from cutting.
“The engineers favor a bridge,” Bauer said.
Bauer said he would also be in favor of assisting the Middle Niobrara Natural Resources District with projects to help reduce the head cutting.
The NRD has performed a study on the watershed and has plans to build structures to slow the speed of the water on the Sand Draw Creek to help mitigate the head cutting. West of the Meadville Avenue box culvert, the Sand Draw Creek is a gentle stream with the water level near the bank. East of Meadville Avenue the creek has cut away, leaving a drop of numerous feet from the bank to the stream level.
Commissioner Buddy Small said he concurred with Bauer’s assessment.
“Flooding in September created head cutting in numerous streams in Brown County,” Small said. “We are not going to make a decision today, but we wanted people to know where we are headed.”
Wiebelhaus said he deferred to the experts, who are telling the county a bridge would be a better structure for the site.
Turpin said the NDOT estimated that if the county built a box culvert at the site, there would continue to be 5 to 8 feet of head cutting each year, and the county could potentially be right back in the same situation years from now.
“I don’t want to be back here in 20 years because this has washed out again,” Turpin said.
Bauer said he would like the NDOT to provide information on what would need to be done to put a box culvert at the site, or if the project would have to be completely re-engineered.
“We need to make a decision and move on,” Bauer said.
Wiebelhaus said the county has been talking about how to replace the failed box culvert for almost a year.
“The longer we put this off, the longer it is going to be before it gets fixed and the more expensive it will be,” Wiebelhaus said.
The board will make a decision on a structure during its Aug. 18 meeting.
In other business Tuesday, the commissioners notified the public there is an application from GJW to alter the lagoon at its livestock production facility south of Ainsworth. Wiebelhaus said, anytime an application is made relating to a facility, he has it placed on the agenda so the public is aware and said the county can submit comments on the public’s behalf to the Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy.
Small said GJW plans to reduce the footprint of its lagoon at the south facility, investing in making the lagoon deeper to reduce the surface area and putting in a thicker liner.
“This application has nothing to do with adding anything,” Small said.
Bauer said GJW is spending money to improve the lagoon to try and help minimize odors.
In another livestock facility item, the board approved sending a letter to the Cherry County Planning Commission notifying it of the Aug. 4 public hearing regarding the application for a livestock facility in western Brown County submitted by John Gross. Since the project is within 3 miles of the Cherry County line, County Attorney Andy Taylor said the county was required by statute to notify the Cherry County Planning Commission of the hearing.
Taylor also discussed a proposed agreement between the county and the Nebraska Public Power District for use of a county roadway during an NPPD construction project.
Taylor said NPPD agreed to pay for any damage to the county road that occurs during the construction project. However, Taylor said the concern is the hold harmless clause NPPD has included in the agreement.
“The contract says NPPD would not be responsible for any accidents or injuries that occur,” Taylor said.
He said the county was being asked to hold NPPD harmless if the road is damaged and someone gets injured before it is repaired.
“I can pursue that with them and see if that can be taken out or modified,” Taylor said.
The board acknowledged budget requests of $32,005 from the Region 24 Emergency Management Agency, $75,000 from the Brown County Agricultural Society, and a levy request of 2.5 cents per $100 in valuation from the Brown County Rural Fire Protection District.
North Central Development Center Board President Kim Buckley asked the commissioners to again support the NCDC in the county’s 2020-21 budget.
“This year has shown what that office can do,” Buckley said.
Buckley said the NCDC office has assisted hundreds of residents with applications for the various COVID-19 government programs that were implemented, resulting in tens of millions of dollars coming into the county. Buckley said the county needed to look at its contribution to the NCDC as an investment, with the NCDC providing much more of a return than what the county puts in.
NCDC Board member Graig Kinzie said he realized the commissioners were trying to hold down expenses for the upcoming budget, but he encouraged the board to increase its support to the organization so it could better serve the residents, agricultural producers and businesses in the county. He said the four houses and one business built by the NCDC’s housing committee added $2.275 million in valuation to the county, which directly resulted in almost $8,000 of additional property tax revenue for the county and more than $21,000 in additional tax revenue for Ainsworth Community Schools.
The board will take action on all budget requests when it finalizes its 2020-21 budget in September.
The commissioners approved a subdivision request from Kirk Kunze to purchase 1.94 acres of ground from Christine Murphy in Section 20, Township 30 North, Range 20.
Kunze said the subdivision request basically gets the properties in line with where the current fences are located.
The board approved a Highway 20 reconstruction temporary easement to the Nebraska Department of Transportation for a portion of county property south of the courthouse. NDOT will pay the county $910 for the temporary easement.
Karen Fay approached the commissioners about waiving a $78 trash fee she received for her father’s property in southern Brown County.
“He died last August and no one is out there,” Fay said. “Any time we are there, we take our trash with us.”
Wiebelhaus said trash fees used to be incorporated into people’s property taxes each year. The county set it up so the billing for trash is more uniform and some people weren’t paying a much higher amount.
Treasurer Deb Vonheeder said the property was only being billed at half the standard rate, similarly to how the county bills vacation properties.
The board did not waive the fee.
The commissioners discussed an offer from Pat Showalter to donate 1.31 acres of ground to the county west of Long Pine. Taylor said the only concern for the county would be if there was any liability with the land or anything that needed to be fixed.
Bauer asked what the county would do with the land if it accepted the donation. The board agreed to view the site before taking any action on the offer.
During his report Tuesday, Turpin said the roads department finished resurfacing South Pine Avenue, but now a portion of the road 3 miles north of the T intersection has a 50-yard stretch with 6 inches of water running across it.
“We are tearing up that road hauling material in,” Turpin said. “There are a lot of holes. It is hard to build roads in the sand.”
He said the roads department was placing riprap around bridges and culverts that washed out last year, and will need to put additional sheet piling on Pine Creek at Hidden Paradise. He said the original sheet piling was undermined and needed to be replaced or the road at Hidden Paradise would just wash out again.
The next meeting of the Brown County Commissioners is scheduled for 5:15 p.m. Aug. 4.
* Portion of South Pine Avenue closed due to water over roadway
(Posted 8:30 a.m. July 21)
Brown County Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin
reported South Pine Avenue south of Long Pine is closed.
* NSAA plans to hold fall sports as scheduled
(Posted 7 a.m. July 21)
The NSAA is preparing to begin the 2020 fall sports season as currently scheduled. First practices for football, volleyball, cross country, girls golf, boys tennis, and softball are set to begin Aug. 10.
The health and safety of student participants, coaches, and officials is the NSAA’s priority as it works to provide activities for member schools. Modifications may have to be made. The NSAA asks people to be understanding and flexible as it continues to try to navigate through the pandemic.
To be able to start activities on time, schools must implement best practices. It is a recommendation of the NSAA that schools should: keep all activities, practices, and scrimmages in-house to avoid interaction with other teams; wear masks when not in competition; keep groups small and attendance recorded; wash hands regularly; disinfect equipment regularly; stay home if you don’t feel well; and stay home if someone in your household tests positive for COVID-19.
The NSAA’s goal is to return to school to have a full, productive, healthy season and create a great experience for students.
* Two COVID-19 cases reported Monday in Pierce County
(Posted 6:30 a.m. July 21)
The North Central District Health Department was made
aware of two new positive COVID-19 cases in Pierce County Monday. Through case
investigations, it was determined that the people contracted the illness through
direct contact with other positive cases. The two people are in quarantine.
* Traffic Accident
(Posted 2:30 p.m. July 20)
The Brown County Sheriff’s Department investigated a collision on Highway 20 Friday afternoon involving three vehicles.
According to the sheriff’s department report, at 4:30 p.m. Friday on Highway 20 on the east edge of Ainsworth, a 2014 Ford Fusion, driven by Gage Delimont, 19, of Ainsworth, was traveling east and collided with an eastbound 2001 Ford Explorer, driven by David J. Anderson, 51, of Ainsworth, that was attempting to turn left. The collision caused the Explorer to cross the center line, where a second collision occurred with a westbound 2007 Cadillac Escalade, driven by Cindy Buckles, 69, of Ainsworth.
No injuries were reported. Both the Fusion and the Explorer were considered total losses. Damage to the Cadillac was estimated at more than $4,000.
The accident forced Highway 20 to close for a short period of time before the vehicles were moved to the shoulder and traffic allowed to proceed.
The Ainsworth Volunteer Fire Department and Brown County Ambulance Association assisted the Brown County Sheriff’s Department at the scene.
* Schroedl asks residents to complete income survey if it arrives by mail
(Posted 3 p.m. July 17)
Ainsworth City Administrator Lisa Schroedl appeared on
KBRB's Open Line program Friday to discuss an income survey the city has
developed in an attempt to qualify for Community Development Block Grant
* 43rd District candidates appear on KBRB for forum
(Posted 9 a.m. July 16)
Candidates for the Nebraska Legislature's 43rd District
seat appeared on KBRB for a forum Wednesday. Hosted by KBRB's Graig Kinzie,
incumbent State Sen. Tom Brewer and challenger Tanya Storer answered questions
regarding issues facing the 43rd District.
* Olson discusses reopening of Nebraska Business Stabilization Grant program
(Posted 3:15 p.m. July 15)
North Central Development Center Executive Director Kristin
Olson provided information regarding the reopening of the $12,000 Business
Stabilization Grant program available through the state of Nebraska.
* State provides new corona virus information web site
(Posted 2:30 p.m. July 15)
Gov. Pete Ricketts unveiled a new website dedicated to
providing updates about the state’s response to coronavirus. The website
features information about the state’s plans for coronavirus relief funding as
well as links to key public health and virus testing information.
* Middle Niobrara NRD receives grant for watershed plan
(Posted 3:30 p.m. July 14)
The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service provided
more than $4.5 million in funding to five of Nebraska’s Natural Resources
Districts for Watershed Flood Prevention and Operations.
* Care Center employees all test negative for COVID-19
(Posted 3:15 p.m. July 14)
Sandhills Care Center Administrator Stephanie Clifton told the board Monday all the baseline testing of employees has been completed, and no employees tested positive for COVID-19.
The employee testing was one step that had to be completed prior to the care center entering Phase III of reopening, which would allow for limited family visitation.
“As we get ready to move into Phase III, we are discussing if we want to go with outside visits or use the sun room,” Clifton said. “All visitation will be by appointment only, and we will need staff there to ensure PPE is used and 6 feet of distance.”
Clifton said the care center was moving carefully toward the implementation of Phase III. In the current Phase II, the facility can hold more group activities with residents and have more communal dining.
“We are seeing how this goes, then we will ease into Phase III,” Clifton said. “We will work with the health department if we would start to see positive cases in the community. Communication will be key. The residents have not been able to have visitors since March 13.”
Clifton said keeping COVID-19 out of the facility has to remain the care center’s top priority.
“If COVID gets into the facility, it could force us to close,” she said. “We know people being confined to their rooms is not good for their mindset. But we are also trying to protect their lives.”
During Monday’s meeting, the Care Center Board approved the 2020-21 fiscal year budget, which projects 21 residents in the facility, income of $1.58 million and expenses of $1.7 million for an operating loss of $116,944.
Fuchs said the resident population can fluctuate quickly, but the board based its budget off the average census for the current year. Any gain or loss of a resident adds or subtracts approximately $6,000 per month from the care center’s income.
“We used 21 residents for our budget, since that was our average during the past year,” Fuchs said. “As far as expenses, we didn’t have many changes for this year. We reduced the agency nursing line item and increased the RN and CNA lines.”
Fuchs said, if the facility can keep a population of between 20 and 25 residents for the fiscal year, it should be able to operate without any funding assistance from the city and county.
“We have $264,000 in reserve at this time,” Fuchs said. “I don’t believe we will need to request any funding from the city or the county. Our reserves are primarily from a DHHS grant and the intergovernmental transfer we received.”
The board approved the budget as presented. Fuchs will present the care center budget to both the Ainsworth City Council and the Brown County Commissioners. Though he said he would tell both entities that the care center does not plan to ask for any support, he will still ask both the city and the county to include the final year of the pledged $80,000 in the budget in case revenue falls well short of projections.
During June, the care center totaled $129,320 in revenue and $134,123 in expenses for an operating loss of $4,803.
Board member Buddy Small questioned reimbursements being made to care center employees, and said he would prefer that the facility obtain a credit card for purchases instead of having employees pay for items personally and then getting reimbursed by check.
“I don’t think the employees should have to pay for something first and then get reimbursed,” Small said. “That is not good when an accountant looks at it.”
Clifton said it was not ideal, and she would work on trying to obtain a credit card for the care center. She said many credit card companies were not processing applications due to the pandemic.
In other business Monday, the board reappointed Fuchs as chairman, Henry Beel as vice chair, and Leanne Maxwell as the board’s secretary. The board also appointed Travee Hobbs as its recording secretary.
Clifton said there were 21 residents in the care center as of Monday, and they planned to add another resident Tuesday.
“We also have two more referrals,” Clifton said. “We have averaged about one resident admission per week.”
Clifton reported they are in the process of repainting the interior of the care center, and would purchase matching bedspreads from funding provided by the Brown County Community Foundation when the painting is complete.
The next meeting of the Sandhills Care Center Board of Directors is scheduled for 4 p.m. Aug. 10.
* Ainsworth Community Schools plans to have students in the classroom to begin year
(Posted 7:15 a.m. July 14)
Unless conditions change, Ainsworth Community Schools plans to open the year with students in the classroom next month.
Superintendent Dale Hafer told the Board of Education Monday he has assembled a district re-entry team, which is working on variables that may arise.
“Barring something crazy, we plan to start as normal as possible,” Hafer said. “We appreciate everyone being patient with us.”
Hafer said the decision on what to do to start the school year has been weighing on administration since the 2019-20 year wrapped up in May.
“It is a good sign that things haven’t changed much since June,” the superintendent said. “Parents, students and teachers all want to know what we plan to do.”
Hafer said the re-entry team would continue to work with the Nebraska Department of Education and the North Central District Health Department. He said the health district provided the school with 10 touchless temperature scanners, which will likely be used to scan the temperature of each student before they are admitted to the building.
He said the group will have plans in place should the prevalence of COVID-19 increase in the community.
In other business Monday, the board approved altering its daily bus route for the 2020-21 year. The only pickup points will be in Long Pine and Johnstown, and intersections on Highway 20 between Ainsworth and those two communities.
The bus will no longer pick up students on Moon Lake Avenue and the Southwest Road as it has done in the past. Board member Jessica Pozehl said she didn’t think the routes for Long Pine and Johnstown should be different.
“Why is there only one pickup point in Long Pine while there are several stops outside Johnstown?” Pozehl asked.
Board member Mark Johnson said Johnstown used to run its own route, and that route remained in place when the Ainsworth district took it over.
Board member Brad Wilkins said it made sense to have stops in Long Pine and Johnstown, and then stop along the highway between those communities if the district receives requests.
The school district has to pay families mileage to the nearest pickup point. Hafer said the additional mileage cost paid to families would be about $5,000 for the year if the stops outside Johnstown are eliminated. He said the savings in fuel, wages and wear and tear on the bus would offset the additional mileage paid to those families to bring their students to the Johnstown pickup point.
The board, with President Jim Arens absent, approved bus stops at Long Pine and Johnstown, and along Highway 20 between those two communities.
The board approved a contract for Julie Micheel to teach fourth grade for the 2020-21 year. Hafer said the district was fortunate to have two high-quality candidates late in the hiring process following the retirement of Susan Scholtes.
“Julie brings 25 years of experience and is skilled in student data and school improvement work,” Hafer said. He said Micheel will also coach the boys golf team and serve as an assistant girls basketball coach.
“We feel really good about the hires we have made this year, and there have been quite a few,” the superintendent said. “I am looking forward to the contributions they will make.”
The board approved the activities and athletics handbook for the 2020-21 year, and also approved the second reading and final adoption of a new district policy manual as prepared by the Nebraska Association of School Boards.
The board approved a request from Shawna Dodds to option her daughter Cora Barta to Rock County Public Schools. Hafer said the family moved to the district recently and has ties to Rock County.
The board also approved a request from Leslie Carpenter to allow her daughters Amaraa and Sarah to opt into the district from Keya Paha County. Hafer said the girls will be in the 10th and seventh grades.
College students Jacy Hafer and Ben Arens made a presentation of results they compiled through a survey of high school students for the Brown County Community Foundation. The two students received summer internships through the Nebraska Community Foundation, and held the survey in place of the community strategic planning session that was postponed due to the pandemic.
The interns reported 45 percent of the 94 students who were surveyed indicated they would prefer to live and work in a small community, with an additional 41 percent saying they would prefer living in a medium-size community.
Arens reported 33 percent of students surveyed reported they were somewhat or extremely likely to return to the Ainsworth area to live, with the leading reason being it was a good place to raise a family. For students who indicated they did not plan to return, the leading reason was the lack of career opportunities.
Hafer and Arens produced a community video. They showed the video to the board Monday, and the public can view it on Facebook.
During his report, Elementary Principal Curtis Childers said an average of 44 kindergarten through sixth-grade students per day attended summer school.
“It goes to show how much school is needed socially and emotionally as well as academically,” Childers said.
Childers said he has been discussing a possible slide in progress due to students not being in the classroom for the final two months of the 2019-20 year. He said Kelli Gibson performed some DIBELS benchmark testing with students who attended summer school, and many students actually showed improvement on the DIBELS scores and reading fluency.
“I am optimistic about what August will look like, but we need to be realistic that there may be some gaps,” Childers said.
Wilkins asked if the school planned to perform testing on students early in the year to see if those gaps presented themselves, or if teachers planned to start normally and then wait to see what develops.
Childers said he planned to have MAPS testing done within the first two weeks of students returning to the classroom.
“That is a necessity,” he said.
Secondary Principal Steve Dike said prom went well Saturday, and the district was planning graduation ceremonies for 5 p.m. Saturday, July 18, in McAndrew Gymnasium.
Those with last names beginning with A through J are asked to enter the gym Saturday through the Big A west doors, while those with last names beginning with K through Z are asked to enter through the northwest elementary school doors.
Those attending graduation will have their temperatures checked prior to admittance, and each group will be socially distanced during the ceremony.
The next meeting of the Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education is scheduled for 8 p.m. Aug. 10.
* Nebraska small business stabilization grants reopen
(Posted 7:15 a.m. July 14)
Starting now, the Nebraska Department of Economic Development is accepting new applicants under the Small Business Stabilization grant program.
Due to receiving fewer applications than projected during the first round, DED estimates it can award up to 14,000 more grants of $12,000 apiece. The grants — which will be awarded on a first come, first served basis until funds are expended — are available to businesses that have not previously applied under the SBS program. Businesses that have already applied are expected to be notified of their award status this week; the expanded criteria announced today will apply to all previously submitted applications.
Under this new application round, the types of businesses that are eligible to apply has expanded.
“Previously, small businesses were required to have between five and 49 employees to be eligible for Small Business Stabilization grants,” said DED Director Anthony L. Goins. “Now, businesses with 1-75 employees are eligible, so long as the business withholds income taxes for at least one employee and has suffered employment or revenue losses as a result of COVID-19.”
The new eligibility requirements mean that 1099 contractors and the self-employed who withhold state income taxes for their employees on a Nebraska Form 941N are now eligible for funds.
“The express goal of this program is to help our small businesses make it through this difficult period so they can eventually return to profitability,” Goins said. “We are glad to be able to expand the program to a wider pool of applicants.”
Applications will be accepted as of the current announcement. The new deadline to apply is July 17 at 4 p.m.
Funding for the SBS program is made possible by a $392 million allocation of Coronavirus Relief funding from the Federal Government — part of the more than $1 billion Nebraska has received thus far. Of this amount, $330 million has been set aside for small businesses and livestock producers; $16 million will be used to retrain displaced workers in partnership with the community college system; $40 million will help expand the state’s broadband access to enable work-from-home and telehealth/education opportunities; and $1 million will finance Gallup-based leadership training for Nebraska business leaders.
Because applications to the SBS program for livestock producers exceeded projections, that program will not be reopened, DED reports. All applicants to the Livestock Producer program that met qualifications will receive a grant award.
Potential SBS grant applicants must certify their eligibility by visiting https://getnebraskagrowing.nebraska.gov/nebraska-small-business-stabilization-grant/. If deemed eligible, applicants will be notified via email and sent a confirmation number and link to complete a full application. All interested businesses are strongly encouraged to view this user guide and this step-by-step instructional video for pertinent information.
For questions or technical difficulties, contact the Get Nebraska Growing hotline at 855-264-6858.
* Six additional COVID-19 cases confirmed in eastern end of NCDHD area
(Posted 6:30 a.m. July 14)
The North Central District Health Department was made
aware of a six additional COVID-19 cases Monday.
* Be cautious of roadway striping in the area
(Posted 8:15 a.m. July 13)
Roadway paint striping continues in District 8 in Brown,
Keya Paha, Boyd, Rock, and Blaine counties, according to the Nebraska Department
* Fifth Holt County resident tests positive for COVID-19
(Posted 4 p.m. July 11)
The North Central District Health Department was made aware of an additional COVID-19 positive case in Holt County. The person is the fifth in Holt County to test positive, and the second in a week. The person contracted the virus through direct contact with another confirmed case and is currently in isolation at home.
NCDHD reported two additional recoveries in Knox County.
The health department reminds district residents to wear a mask while in public settings, especially where social distancing can be difficult. As case numbers increase in the NCDHD area and throughout Nebraska, consider the impact your actions could have on others and be considerate of your neighbor during these times.
Enjoy events that will be happening this summer but limit your potential exposures by limiting your attendance at several events in a short time frame. Small considerations will make a big difference.
* Fourth Holt County resident tests positive for COVID-19
(Posted 6:45 a.m. July 10)
The North Central District Health Department was made
aware of three additional COVID-19 cases in the district Thursday. One case was
confirmed in Holt County and two cases were confirmed in Antelope County.
* Sewer line and water meter replacement work progressing in Ainsworth
(Posted 7:30 a.m. July 9)
The replacement of water meters in Ainsworth and the upgrade of sewer lines with cure-in-place pipe is progressing, and the City Council Wednesday approved nearly a half million dollars in payments for the work completed.
Jess Hurlbert with city engineering firm Olsson Associates said the cure-in-place sewer line portion of the project is nearly complete.
“They have done a good job,” Hurlbert said. “The lift station work will start in August.”
Hurlbert reported 130 water meters in the city have been replaced. The council approved a more than $148,000 payment for the water meter replacement work completed to this point, and approved payment of $327,425 for sewer line work completed to date.
City Administrator Lisa Schroedl said she requested a $1 million draw from the bond company the city is working with to gap finance the project. Once completed, the city has received loan and grant money from the USDA which will be awarded upon the project’s completion.
In other business Wednesday, the council approved having Miller & Associates perform a study of the city’s swimming pool and East City Park.
Larry Steele with Miller & Associates said the company would evaluate the current swimming pool and bath house and make recommendations for improvements, or, for an additional fee, the company would come up with a design for a new swimming pool.
For East City Park, Steele said the company would evaluate the facilities and the playground equipment and make suggestions on how the city could improve the park.
“We will develop a survey to find out what the community wants to see, and will present a report to the council,” Steele said.
The cost for the study is $6,000. Schroedl said the city received a grant to cover half the cost of the study.
Councilman Brad Fiala said, after work on Highway 20 is complete and a sidewalk is built on the north side of the park, he would like to see a walking path around the park that connects to the Cowboy Trail.
“We have the space out there,” Fiala said. “There should be more opportunities at the park. It is not getting utilized near enough.”
Councilman Joel Klammer asked Steele to collaborate with the city’s Park Committee, which has already been working on potential additions to the park.
The council approved two recommendations from the Ainsworth Betterment Committee, adding $30,000 in ABC funding to a sinking fund for a new swimming pool and providing $1,574 to the Ainsworth Women’s Club to upgrade an electrical panel at the Courthouse Park for use during the club’s annual Christmas display.
With the $30,000 toward a new swimming pool, that fund has built to $457,824. Schroedl said that fund would serve as matching funds if the city would eventually qualify for a grant to help build a new swimming pool.
Cammie Waits, representing the Ainsworth Women’s Club, said Ainsworth Electric had identified upgrades that were needed to sustain the Christmas light displays at the park. She said the women’s club was contributing $1,100 toward the cost of the work.
North Central Development Center Executive Director Kristin Olson gave the council an update on the work done to help community businesses, workers and agricultural producers utilize the federal and state pandemic programs. She said she had assisted hundreds of people with applications for unemployment, the Payroll Protection Program, the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program and the state Business and Agricultural Stabilization Grant program.
Olson said the purpose of the programs was to get money on the street as quickly as possible as businesses and agricultural producers suffered the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
NCDC Board President Kim Buckley submitted a letter asking the council to allow a 30-day extension for the NCDC to provide its annual report on the LB 840 program, due to all the work the office has undertaken assisting people with the federal and state program applications. He said the work of the NCDC office has helped bring 10s of millions of dollars to the area.
Olson said there are three LB 840 applications she will have ready to submit to the city by Thursday. She said four other applications have been sent out and she is waiting for some additional information to be returned before those applications can be submitted.
The council approved the extension for the NCDC’s official LB 840 report.
The council also approved vacating a platted street in eastern Ainsworth that had never been turned into a street. Schroedl said a one-block stretch of Park Street between East Third Street and East Plainsman Drive is on the city’s plat map, but a street was never constructed. The site runs through four properties, each of which would have 15-feet added to the lots if the council vacated the street.
Councilman Tonny Beck said the city has managed to survive the past 100 years without a street there, so he believed the city could probably survive another 100 years by vacating the street.
Schroedl said any cost to resurvey adjacent properties to account for the additional 15 feet would be done at the property owner’s expense.
Following a public hearing, the council approved recommending the Nebraska Liquor Control Commission approve a Class B liquor license application for Central Valley Ag to operate the Ampride Convenience Store.
The council also approved a three-year renewal with the League Association of Risk Management for the city’s liability and workman’s compensation insurance. By approving a three-year agreement, the city received a 5 percent discount on the upcoming year’s premium. The premium dropped from $84,594 to $80,365 by approving a three-year contract. Schroedl said LARM has always been professional and helpful anytime the city has a claim.
The council approved appointments to several boards as recommended by Mayor Greg Soles. Jason Good was appointed to the Ainsworth Airport Authority to replace Jeremiah Sullivan, who resigned. Good will serve through December 2022.
Jerry Allen and Jim Wagner were reappointed to the Ainsworth Housing Committee, and Alane Lentz, Todd Flynn and Traci Alberts were reappointed to the Ainsworth Library Board with terms ending in April 2024.
During her report, Schroedl said Tri State Paving has completed several asphalt paving projects in the city, and also armor coated an additional 30 blocks. She said the city continues to patch holes created by the March 2019 flooding.
Soles asked, with the time remaining before FEMA’s September deadline to make flood repairs, would the city be able to buy enough product to get the remaining work finished in time.
Schroedl said, unless all the stars align, the city would likely have to wait until spring to armor coat the remaining streets that were damaged. She said the holes have to be patched before the armor coating can be completed. She said she filed for an extension with FEMA to give the city more time to complete the work and be reimbursed.
Beck said hot and dry weather is the best time to fix streets, and he recommended Schroedl ask the city streets crews if they are willing to work overtime to get the streets patched during the summer. FEMA assists with the cost of the labor required to fix streets, so the overtime costs would be partially covered. Schroedl said she would visit with the streets crew to see if they were willing to work overtime.
Schroedl reported Miller and Associates has distributed the low-to-moderate income survey, and the city has had 65 of the 124 surveys returned. She said Miller and Associates would send a second round of surveys to residents who have not yet responded. Schroedl encouraged all residents who receive a survey to respond, as a non-response would count against the city.
The next meeting of the Ainsworth City Council is scheduled for 7 p.m. Aug. 12.
* Commissioners vote to move ahead with public hearing on swine facility
(Posted 7 a.m. July 8)
After debating whether to wait until a report from the Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy was completed, the Brown County Commissioners on Tuesday, by a 2-1 vote, opted to proceed with a public hearing on a special-use permit application for a swine finishing facility in western Brown County.
The public hearing will be held at 6 p.m. Aug. 4 in the Ainsworth Conference Center if the facility is able to host the hearing. Commissioners Buddy Small and Reagan Wiebelhaus were in favor of moving forward with the hearing, while Commissioner Denny Bauer argued the board should wait until the report from the NDEE was complete.
Bauer asked John Gross, who applied for the permit, if he knew when the NDEE would have its report on the application complete.
Gross said the process had been delayed by the pandemic, and the earliest he would receive a response was Aug. 18.
Wiebelhaus questioned whether what the NDEE had to say regarding the permit mattered.
“We have a Planning Commission for a reason,” Wiebelhaus said. “In my 10 years on the board, we have never deviated from their recommendation.”
Following a public hearing July 1, the Planning Commission voted to recommend the board deny the permit due to it being detrimental to neighboring property and not being compatible with the intended use of the district.
Bauer said he would like to get the NDEE’s opinion on whether the project is acceptable by their standards.
“I don’t think we should have a hearing until that report comes back,” Bauer said. “If they say no, then we don’t even need to have a hearing. I think we also need to talk to the county attorney on whether the two reasons stated by the Planning Commission will hold up legally.”
Wiebelhaus said he believed the NDEE report is no more than a rubber stamp.
“The NDEE report was not even a consideration for the Planning Commission,” Wiebelhaus said. “The primary people I am going to listen to are the members of the Planning Commission.”
Small said he was reluctant to go against a recommendation made by the Planning Commission.
“They put in a lot of hours with no compensation,” Small said.
With the Planning Commission in the midst of updating the county’s comprehensive plan and zoning regulations, Small asked Zoning Administrator Tom Jones if the new regulations would have affected this application. Jones said the Planning Commission had not discussed that portion of the plan specifically yet, but there will likely be setback requirements for livestock facilities in the new plan when it is completed.
Bauer said he was skeptical of the two reasons stated by the Planning Commission for recommending the board deny the permit.
“Saying it will be detrimental to neighboring property is a difference of opinion,” Bauer said. “I think the argument that it is not an intended use of the district is iffy. A hog confinement is agriculture. This is agriculture country. We are an agricultural community.”
Wiebelhaus said if the facility would adversely impact neighboring property, it should be denied.
“To suggest a hog facility a half-mile away won’t have an adverse effect is not correct,” Wiebelhaus said.
Bauer said the commissioners are tasked with making decisions that are in the best interests of the county as a whole.
Small suggested the commissioners could move forward with the required public hearing but could hold off on making a decision.
“We don’t have to take a vote on it right away,” Small said. “It comes down to agriculture is good for the county, but people don’t want it near their house.”
Gross questioned why the commissioners would hold a hearing without taking a vote, and without having the report from the NDEE in hand.
“You are nullifying a government agency,” Gross said. “So we didn’t even need to go through with all the engineering and even go to the state?”
Gross said he had been advised the reasons given by the Planning Commission were dubious, especially about the project not being an intended use of the district.
“Ag is ag,” Gross said.
By a 2-1 vote with Bauer against, the board voted to set the public hearing for 6 p.m. Aug. 4.
Also by a 2-1 vote Tuesday with Bauer against, the commissioners approved having the Planning Commission consider placing a six-month moratorium on future special-use permits for livestock facilities, or until the new comprehensive plan is adopted.
Wiebelhaus initially moved to place the six-month moratorium on livestock facilities, but Jones said the item would have to go through the Planning Commission, which would hold a hearing and make a recommendation to the board. Wiebelhaus pulled that motion and moved to have the Planning Commission consider the moratorium.
“This wouldn’t affect the Gross application,” Wiebelhaus said. “I think we should hold off on additional applications until we get more concrete regulations in place.”
Bauer said he believed placing a moratorium on the construction of livestock facilities would set a bad precedent for the county.
“I am not in favor of that,” Bauer said.
Small said, if the county was not already in the midst of updating its comprehensive plan, he wasn’t sure a moratorium would be a good idea either.
Jones said the Planning Commission needed at least one more meeting to review the proposed changes to the comprehensive plan, and would then schedule a public hearing on the changes before recommending the changes to the commissioners.
“We should be able to get it to you in 90 days,” Jones said.
With Bauer against, the board voted to have the Planning Commission consider a moratorium on livestock facility permit applications.
In another zoning item Tuesday, the board appointed Brad Wilkins to the Planning Commission after accepting the resignation of member Roby Woods.
The board approved transferring $100,000 from the county’s inheritance tax fund to the disaster recovery fund. Small said the inheritance tax fund has allowed the county to repair flood damage without having to go back to the taxpayers for additional funds. Small said the county’s plan was to replenish at $50,000 annually the money that has been taken from the inheritance tax fund.
The commissioners approved declaring a 1998 Chevy 1500 pickup from the roads department as surplus equipment to be sold.
Tanya Storer, a candidate for the 43rd District seat to the Nebraska Legislature, introduced herself to the commissioners and discussed her reasons for running for the Legislature.
The next meeting of the Brown County Commissioners is scheduled for 5:15 p.m. July 21.
* Foundation awards several scholarships, extends deadline on one
(Posted 6:30 a.m. July 7)
The Brown County Community Foundation Fund awarded several scholarships to students currently enrolled in college.
The Jan O'Hare Memorial $500 scholarship was awarded to Vanessa Taylor.
Two Upperclass $1,000 scholarships were awarded to Vanessa Taylor and Ben Arens.
A Teacher Education $1,000 scholarship was also awarded to Vanessa Taylor.
The Scholarship Committee has extended the deadline for Non-Traditional Scholarship applications. Qualifications for the scholarship include:
The student must “physically” live full-time in Brown County and is not currently enrolled in high school. The student must have successfully completed his/her first year of college at a vocational school, community college, college, or university. The student must be pursuing an undergraduate degree or a career change.
The extended due date is July 27. Applications may be found on the Nebraska Community Foundation’s website at www.nebcommfound.org or from one of our many Brown County Community Foundation Fund members.
Since 1996, the Brown County Community Foundation Fund has awarded over $20,000 in scholarships.
* Five additional COVID-19 cases confirmed in NCDHD area Monday, 4 in Knox County
(Posted 4 p.m. July 6)
The North Central District Health Department confirmed five additional COVID-19 cases Monday in the nine-county district. Four confirmed cases are in Knox County. Through case investigations it was determined that all four people were exposed to COVID-19 outside of the NCDHD district.
One additional case was confirmed in Pierce County. Through case investigation it was determined the person contracted the illness through direct exposure to a positive case. All five people are currently in isolation and all close contacts have been asked to quarantine.
NCDHD reported four additional recoveries within the district, with two people recovering in Knox County, and one each in Holt and Rock counties.
As of Monday afternoon, there have been 54 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the district, with 39 of those having deemed to have recovered and one death linked to the virus.
Half of the cases are in Knox County, with nine each in Pierce and Antelope counties. There have been no confirmed cases in Brown or Keya Paha counties.
* Medicaid expansion applications accepted beginning Aug. 1
(Posted 2:30 p.m. July 6)
Nate Watson with the Nebraska Department of Health and
Human Services visited with KBRB's Graig Kinzie Monday to provide information
regarding the rollout of the voter-approved expansion of Medicaid through the
Affordable Care Act.
* NCDHD urges people to avoid groups during holiday
(Posted 3 p.m. July 2)
As people enjoy Fourth of July weekend celebrations, a time to celebrate and acknowledge freedoms that have been provided by many, the North Central District Health Department urges everyone to maintain personal accountability to keep communities safe and keep Covid-19 from spreading rapidly.
North central Nebraska has kept cases low while other states are seeing serious spikes in positive cases. The NCDHD asks people to:
Avoid close contact with those outside the nuclear circle of family and friends.
Avoid confined spaces with others outside of the close daily contact groups.
Avoid close contact in large crowds.
Whenever possible, wear a face barrier when around large groups or around others who are outside of normal daily contact.
Anyone feeling ill in any way is asked to stay home, isolate, monitor symptoms and contact a health provider if needed.
If under quarantine orders, respect those orders for the health and safety of others.
* School district asks parents and teachers to complete reopening survey
(Posted 2 p.m. July 2)
Ainsworth Community Schools parents and teachers are asked to complete a short survey to help the district begin to finalize plans for reentry into school in August.
The links to the surveys are available on the school district website and Facebook pages. All input is appreciated, and the surveys may be completed between now and July 8.
Below are the links to the survey.
* Second COVID-19 case confirmed Wednesday in Rock County
(Posted 8 a.m. July 2)
The North Central District Health Department received
notification of a positive COVID-19 case in Rock County.
* Planning Commission recommends swine facility permit application be denied
(Posted 7 a.m. July 2)
Following a nearly two-hour public hearing Wednesday in which approximately 20 people voiced their opinion and several additional letters were read, the Brown County Planning Commission unanimously voted to recommend the Brown County Commissioners not approve a special-use permit for John Gross to construct a 7,000-head swine finishing facility in western Brown County.
At the outset of Wednesday’s meeting, Zoning Administrator Tom Jones told the large crowd in the Brown County Fairgrounds Community Hall at Johnstown the members of the Planning Commission are volunteers and can only recommend a course of action to the county commissioners based on the county’s comprehensive plan and zoning regulations.
“This is a tough job,” Jones said of the role the Planning Commission members play. “Please respect them.”
Lincoln attorney Steve Mossman, representing John and Peg Gross, who filed the application, said the finishing facility would hold 7,000-head of swine, which would put it in a similar scope as a 2,800-head cattle feedlot. Mossman said the application for the facility would meet all county zoning regulations and had been submitted to the Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy for review.
Gross told the Planning Commission he remembered how controversial the Ainsworth Irrigation District project was when it was initially proposed, and how much that project has added to the tax base in the county.
Gross said his intention with the project was not to cause controversy with his neighbors, but to increase the productivity of his farm ground and diversify his operation.
“I am not buying any additional ground,” Gross said. “This is all going to be located on ground I own. I will be the closest resident to the facility.”
Gross said ground similar to his was recently put up for sale in the same building as Wednesday’s hearing and did not generate a single bid.
“Increased fertility on our sandy farm ground was a need,” Gross said. “All the manure generated will be stored under the building and will be injected into the soil once per year.”
Gross said he was undertaking the project at his personal financial risk, and he hoped to be able to increase the farm ground on his property by having access to the increased fertility the manure would provide.
Al Stevens with Settje Agriservices of Raymond, who designed the facility, said the company has engineered more than 1,400 livestock facility projects in the Midwest. Stevens said the facility would have an 8-foot deep manure storage pit underneath it to store the manure generated by the animals. The pit minimizes residual dust, which is the source of most of the odor a facility produces.
“We designed the drainage, road access and utilities to the site to minimize the impact on the environment,” Stevens said.
He said the facility would be sited 2,800 feet south of Highway 20 on Gross’s property. Other than Gross, the next closest resident lives 3,525 feet north of the facility, approximately two-thirds of a mile. He said there were seven residences located within a 3-mile radius.
“In addition to the direct economic impact, the facility should generate $650,000 in economic activity,” Stevens said.
Following the proposal being explained, the hearing was opened up to those in attendance.
Speaking in support of the project, John Halbersleben said he had been involved in community banking in Ainsworth for 28 years before retiring and was Gross’s banker for more than 20 years.
“Agriculture has progressed substantially in my years here,” Halbersleben said. “I took a lot of pride in helping family farmers, but the acres required to survive now keep growing. I don’t see this trend changing. Additional pressure will continue to be brought to bear on small towns, and we need to do everything we can to support the growth of farm and ranch operations.”
Halbersleben said, as a member of the Ainsworth City Council, he voted to allow the expansion of the feed lot north of town, which was not a popular decision at the time.
“I also know what it was like economically when that feedlot closed for a time,” he said.
Jones also read letters supporting the project from the Middle Niobrara Natural Resources District, the Alliance for the Future of Agriculture in Nebraska, and from residents Randy and Cherie Priest, Chris Raymond, Rick Irwin and Matt Pozehl.
The letter submitted by Mike Murphy of the Middle Niobrara NRD said the facility meets its requirements, and Gross had been a steward of his property for many years. Murphy wrote supporting agriculture is vital for rural areas.
The letter from AFAN said the project would have an economic multiplier effect on the economy and increase the local tax base. William Keys wrote the project was a great opportunity for Brown County, as expanding livestock production in an area that produces an abundant amount of grain makes perfect sense.
Jake Ruth with Heartland Builders said he has seen the benefits similar projects have brought to their areas. He promoted the innovation that would be utilized in the construction of the facility to enhance water safety and minimize the odor generated.
“We will provide a high-quality facility,” Ruth said. “Our workers will frequent local hotels, restaurants and stores during construction. The concrete will be purchased locally. This facility will provide better value for grain producers when their crops are utilized locally, and it will generate additional property tax for the county.”
Numerous residents who live near the proposed site, as well as residents who live near previously constructed swine confinement operations, expressed their opposition to the permit application.
Several members of the King family, who live north of Highway 20 and are the nearest families to the site with the exception of Gross, urged the Planning Commission to recommend the application be denied.
Marsha King said their ranch has been in the King family for more than 50 years, and two of their children and four grandchildren also live on the ranch.
“I never thought with two creeks and a pond close by that this could ever happen here,” King said. “We have worked all our lives for our place, and none of us deserve to have our air and our water compromised.”
She said the King ranch pays more than $37,000 in property taxes annually to Brown County.
Jack King Sr. said the project would affect the quality of life for the three families that live on the ranch.
“I think this whole thing is ridiculous,” he said as he provided aerial photos showing how close the facility would be to the three families who live on the King ranch.
Reena King said four generations of the King family have put their blood, sweat and tears into the land to make the ranch a good, clean working ranch.
“It is plain to see our quality of life will be thrown away if this project proceeds,” Reena King said. “It will devalue our land, and the scenery would be devastated.”
Jack King Jr. said most pits like the one proposed eventually allow seepage into the groundwater.
“When extraordinary amounts of manure are applied to the ground, the excess runs off into the creeks,” he said. “That will lead to a dead zone in those waterways. The odors will create health problems for the neighbors.”
Dave Sherman said he has lived on Plum Creek his entire life.
“I get we need agriculture in the county, but we also need clean air and clean water for our community to survive,” Sherman said.
Sherman said he had leased Gross’s farm ground for numerous years, and he believed it would serve as a poor site for a facility.
“How will the manure be knifed in when the conditions the last two years have a stream going through those pivots?” Sherman asked. “Is it worth modifying people’s lives for an extra 15,000 bushels of corn?”
Sherman said he wants to see the Sandhills kept clean and healthy, and he didn’t believe the project was a smart idea.
Rhonda Sherman said they have grazed cattle on Gross’s land for 25 years. She said it took 25 years for the grass to grow and the hills to repair themselves after the ground was torn up years ago for pivots that didn’t work.
Through tears, Sherman said she already experiences issues with air contaminants, which sometimes force her to drive four hours for treatment.
“This facility would mean we may have to move,” she said. “The ranch has been in Dave’s family for 100 years. Leaving it would be very painful.”
Heather Painter said her family lives near the first swine facility that was constructed south of Ainsworth.
“We raised similar concerns,” Painter said. “That facility was approved and expanded. We now deal daily with the stench from that facility. I have taken my children and myself to the doctor more times than I ever thought I would. You should be seriously concerned about how this waste could impact the creeks and the groundwater. The neighbors, especially those with young children, should be your primary concern.”
Painter also read a letter she said was submitted by Kelsey Gross, standing with the Kings in opposition to the project.
Kim Snyder, who lives 2 miles from a facility constructed in northern Brown County, said she now struggles with headaches and nausea that were not present before that facility was built.
“I stand with the Kings and their neighbors,” Snyder said. “There were restrictions placed on the facility near us when it was approved, but there has been no enforcement of those conditions.”
Snyder said families work their entire lives to raise their kids and improve their property, but then a project like this comes in and changes your entire life.
“We always thought we would build a new home on our property, but that dream is now gone,” Snyder said.
Jessica Piskorski, an attorney representing the King family, said the proposed project would benefit one family and harm many. She said 76 people signed a letter to Gross asking him to reconsider his decision to try and build a facility at that site.
“This type of facility would not be allowed in Cherry County,” Piskorski said. “It would have to be 2 miles away from neighboring homes. It would not be allowed in Rock County, it would have to be 1-1/2 miles away from homes. Why doesn’t Brown County have similar setbacks in its regulations?”
Piskorski said the project would be detrimental to neighboring property values, and would change the character of the area.
Craig Andreeson said a project like this looks good on paper, but it is not going to be built on paper but in the fragile Sandhills next to families who have been there for 100 years.
“Everybody has a right to do what they want to do on their property, until it impacts the quality of life of neighboring property owners,” Andreeson said. “The impact this will have on so many people has to be taken into account.”
Danny Bennett said he and his wife live 1 mile south of the facility built in northern Brown County.
“There are about 25 days each year when we absolutely can’t go outside,” Bennett said. “If we lived a mile north, I can’t imagine what it would be like.”
Bennett said there are entire regions of Iowa that are now uninhabitable due to the number of livestock confinement facilities that were built.
“We have two or three now,” Bennett said. “Will we have 10 or 15 several years from now?”
He said, despite what is argued, trees and shelter belts do not stop the odor from a swine facility.
Troy Peters told the Planning Commission he was not against animal agriculture in Brown County, but he felt bad for the families that have lived in that area their entire lives and would have to smell that facility for the rest of their lives.
Peters said he would like to see the commission reject this project and put a moratorium on future hog facilities.
Providing neutral testimony, Superintendent of the Niobrara National Scenic River Steve Theide said his concern was ultimately the water quality in the Niobrara River.
“If it is built and operated properly, it should not affect the water quality of the river,” Theide said.
He said, as proposed, the facility would be built within 300 to 500 feet of Cedar Creek. He requested the facility be located as far as possible from Cedar Creek to help mitigate any accidental spills.
Also providing neutral testimony, Tonny Beck with Beck’s Well and Irrigation said the geology in the area of this proposed facility was much different than the facility built in northern Brown County not tied to Gross’s project.
“The facility south of Ainsworth is more similar to what John is looking to do, but the pivots there as not as close to a stream,” Beck said. “If it is going to have an 8-foot pit, it will then be about an additional 6 feet to reach the static water level. If something does go wrong, there is not much distance to Cedar Creek, and distance is your friend if there is ever a problem.”
Beck said he had a great deal of experience with manure management associated with these types of facilities. If manure is applied through the pivot, the odor is extreme. With direct injection, the odor is much better but there is more potential for the product to leech below the root zone.
“There is no confining zone below this facility to the aquifer,” Beck said. “My hope was to see it up in the hills farther from the creek and at a higher elevation.”
Mark Miles told the commission he had no opinion for or against the project, but he said the hog industry has been euthanizing hogs due to the lack of ability to get them harvested.
“The long-term value of this facility is something I would like to see answered,” Miles said. “From an economic standpoint, I am curious how it benefits the community other than the tax base and a little bit of grain base.”
Responding to the concerns raised, Mossman said it is the job of the Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy to evaluate the permit application and determine any impact on groundwater and surface water.
“The application won’t be approved by the NDEE if it impacts the water,” Mossman said.
Planning Commissioner Pat Schumacher asked about the current status of the application. Mossman said the application had been submitted and was now in the review process. Notice of a permit or a denial is issued after 120 days, followed by a public comment period.
Stevens said the permit was about 70 days into that 120-day process.
Planning Commissioner Wilber Saner said the facility only being 300 feet from a creek bothered him.
Gross said the facility could be sited farther west, away from Cedar Creek.
“It was put where it was to utilize the existing shelter belts and help with the smell,” Gross said.
Schumacher said the Planning Commission relies on the Department of Environmental Quality to determine the impact a facility will have on the water.
“We don’t have that expertise on this board,” Schumacher said. “We just try to make things work for Brown County.”
Schumacher said the Planning Commission went through this permitting process recently for another facility. He said the board members in the last couple years have felt the county’s current zoning regulations were not clear enough and were not applicable to all situations.
“We have worked on this for a number of years,” Schumacher said. “The purpose of zoning is to benefit as many people as possible and keep bad projects from happening.”
He said the commission is in the process of revamping its zoning regulations, but the pandemic has slowed the process by limiting when and how the group could meet.
“As it stands under our current regulations, this type of facility is permitted in Brown County,” Schumacher said. “We did the original regulations ourselves because the commissioners at the time did not want to spend the $20,000 or $30,000 on professional regulations.”
Schumacher said he would have a hard time voting against the project because Gross had followed all the rules the county currently has in place.
“I hear all your concerns, but we are working under the regulations we have,” he said.
Planning Commissioner Steve Bejot said he had a few concerns, and believed facilities like this should be at least 2 miles from the nearest neighbor.
“I am concerned about the water table,” Bejot said. “One of our rules says a project should not change the character of the district.”
Saner said the commission was caught between a rock and a hard place with the way the county’s current regulations are written.
“I would like to see it moved away from the creek,” Saner said.
Planning Commissioner Linda O’Hare said the Planning Commission’s job is to listen to everyone and collect information.
“We make a recommendation to the commissioners,” O’Hare said. “This hearing is the first step. The commissioners cannot take action until receiving the final report from the Zoning Board. This is tough.”
Planning Commissioner Jim Carley said all the board members are from the area.
“We are not here to destroy what has been around here for hundreds of years,” Carley said. “This is where we were raised. This is where we will die. We have to preserve what we have.”
Following the hearing’s closure, Bejot moved to recommend the Brown County Commissioners not approve the special-use application submitted by John Gross for a swine finishing facility.
“I am sure this will go to court, so we have to list the reasons why,” Bejot said.
He stated the project would be detrimental to adjacent property and is not compatible with the intended use of the district. Carley seconded the motion and, by a 5-0 vote, the Planning Commission approved recommending the commissioners deny the permit.
The matter now moves to the Brown County Commissioners for final action.
* AHS students urged to check school email for prom details
(Posted 5 a.m. July 2)
Ainsworth High School students planning to attend prom
are asked to check their school email for details. The Junior Class sponsors
have limited ways to get in touch with students, so information has been emailed
regarding the July 11 event.
* Third COVID-19 case reported in Cherry County Tuesday
(Posted 6:45 a.m. July 1)
The North Central District Health Department received
notification Tuesday of another positive COVID-19 case in Cherry County. The
person contracted the illness through direct contact with another positive case.
* City Council endorses Three River for fiber optic Internet build-out
(Posted 1:15 p.m. June 29)
During an emergency meeting Monday, the Ainsworth City Council unanimously voted to endorse having Three River Communications build a fiber Internet network in the city.
Four companies initially expressed interest in bringing a fiber optic network into Ainsworth after the city was earmarked for more than $1 million in grant funding. Since that time, the city was removed from grant consideration due to the level of Internet service already provided in Ainsworth.
City Administrator Lisa Schroedl said the council called the emergency meeting due to the grant application being due to the state by July 2.
Since the grant application changed and Ainsworth was excluded from consideration for funding, Schroedl said Three River was the only company that agreed to continue to move forward with building the fiber optic network.
She said the state originally would have provided a grant equal to $1,500 per household in the city.
“The city would have initially been able to apply for $1.3 million or $1.4 million, which would have been about half the cost,” Schroedl said. “Originally, the city would have to select a provider for the installation and apply for the grant. Now, the provider has to apply.”
She said cities would only be eligible for grant funding if their current Internet speeds are below a certain threshold. She said the state’s broadband map showed Ainsworth receiving faster current speed than the threshold, leaving the city ineligible for the grant opportunity through the federal CARES Act.
Mayor Greg Soles said USA Communications of Kearney, Stealth Broadband of Norfolk and Allo Communications of Imperial indicated initial interest along with Three River Communications when the potential grant funding was announced.
“Three River is not anticipating receiving any financial assistance to build the fiber network, but they are still willing to move forward,” Soles said. “Their previous schedule for broadband has changed, and they have made Ainsworth a priority.”
Schroedl said Three River still plans to apply to the state to reconsider grant funding for Ainsworth and plans to indicate to the state that Internet speeds in Ainsworth are not consistently above the threshold that disqualifies the city from receiving funding.
Soles said the availability of obtaining the fiber itself, as well as a company to handle the installation, would impact the timeline for the project. Soles said Three River anticipated it might take six to eight months to complete the network build, but if a company could be contracted and the fiber was available, the timeline could be between three to six months.
Councilman Brad Fiala said Three River already has an established local presence in Ainsworth, with four employees living in the Ainsworth area and another in Long Pine.
“Three River was also the only company that was going to bury the fiber line to the houses,” Fiala said. “The others were going to go with overhead lines.”
Councilman Tonny Beck said Three River already had broadband build-out in Ainsworth in its five-year plan, but the current situation has caused the company to move its timeline forward.
The council unanimously agreed to endorse having Three River provide broadband service to Ainsworth. Three River will complete the application to submit to the state prior to the July 2 deadline.
* City Council appoints Joel Klammer to vacant seat
(Posted 7 a.m. June 11)
Joel Klammer was appointed to the Ainsworth City Council Wednesday after being recommended to the position by Mayor Greg Soles.
Klammer will fill the remainder of Soles’ council term after Soles moved from the council president position to mayor following the resignation of former Mayor Jeremiah Sullivan.
After being appointed to the council, Klammer was then appointed as council president to replace Soles.
The council Wednesday approved a recommendation from the LB 840 Citizens Advisory Review Committee to simplify the grant application for façade improvements through LB 840.
CARC Committee member Chris Raymond said the committee discussed the requirements for façade grant applications and didn’t feel financial information from the applicant was needed with the program being a grant program.
The façade program provides a 50 percent grant up to $10,000 for façade improvements to commercial properties in the city. Previously, applicants to the program were required to provide their previous year’s tax return and financial statements.
City Administrator Lisa Schroedl said the committee has been trying to make the application process for the LB 840 program more straightforward and user friendly. She said the committee believed having to provide financial information is an obstacle to the façade grant program.
Schroedl said she asked the opinion of Heather Sikyta, the city’s LB 840 attorney, who indicated financial documents would not be as important with a grant application as they would with a loan application.
The council approved adjusting the façade application to remove the financial data requirement, and approved the CARC’s six-month report following a public hearing.
The council reappointed Leanne Maxwell and Phil Fuchs to one-year terms on the Sandhills Care Center Board of Directors. The council also appointed Dr. Mel Campbell to a one-year term on the care center board. Campbell replaces Chuck Osborn as one of the city representatives on the board.
Auditor Mandy McCoy provided the council with a review of the city’s audit of financial statements from Sept. 30, 2019. The audit report showed no major deficiencies, only the standard lack of segregation of duties over financial controls.
The council approved amending the city’s bank account signatories to add Soles and remove Sullivan. Schroedl said the city, in an effort to segregate duties for its financial processes, typically has the mayor serve as one of the two signatories on claims. The city employee who prepares the claims does not also sign the checks. Another city staff member and the mayor review and sign the claims, which are then approved by the council monthly.
During her report, Schroedl said the company replacing water meters is in town working and is replacing about 10 meters per day. She said they have installed a couple dozen or so thus far. She said another contractor is in town preparing the sewer lines for the installation of the cure-in-place pipe.
Councilman Brad Fiala asked if affected residents would be notified prior to the cure-in-place pipe installation commencing. Schroedl said she was working on getting a schedule from the company so residents can be notified ahead of the work. She said the lift stations included as part of the sewer improvement project won’t be replaced until August.
Schroedl reported the city offices would open to the public beginning at 8 a.m. Thursday, June 11. The Conference Center gym and walking track remain closed, as the gym floor was currently being refinished. The gym will remain closed through the end of July due to the refinishing work.
Schroedl said swimming lessons began Wednesday at the Ainsworth Swimming Pool. She said new directed health measures allow for 33 patrons to enter the pool, which represents 25 percent of the pool’s capacity. She said the city is currently leaving 30 minutes in between each swimming lesson session to allow for the pool to be sanitized. Based on how swimming lessons go with the cleaning, the city could open the pool to the public for part of the summer. In a typical year, she said the pool sees about 50 patrons daily, so having 33 would be manageable.
The city administrator reported Miller and Associates has the low to moderate income survey ready to distribute. The survey will be sent to 125 randomly selected households in the city. She encouraged residents who receive the survey to fill it out and return it to the city.
Schroedl said Tri State Paving has been repairing streets in the city damaged during the March 2019 flooding. She said the company agreed to handle 30 blocks of armor coating for the city, as the city’s longtime contractor for armor coating work would not be available this year.
Audience member Graig Kinzie asked what the city’s plan was to be able to capture the more than $2 million allocated by FEMA for street repairs following the flooding, since the contract with Tri State Paving was only a little over $250,000.
Schroedl said the armor coating work could also be included as part of the reimbursable expenses from FEMA, and she said the city’s expenses to patch damaged streets could also be submitted.
Even so, Kinzie said the work would likely fall well below the $2 million allocated by FEMA for reimbursement. Schroedl said the city tried to estimate the damage high, so it may not have to spend $2 million to repair the street damage.
Schroedl reported Bill Carr has agreed to serve as the city’s building inspector for the newly adopted vacant property ordinance.
She reported the city is eligible for funding to build fiber optic broadband Internet service infrastructure in the city. She said four companies had expressed interest in utilizing the grant funding to build a fiber network in the city. She recommended the council request proposals from the companies for the project and have those companies discuss their proposals during the council’s July meeting.
After a proposal is selected, the city would be the applicant for the grant funding.
She reported she is working with Brown County Attorney Andy Taylor to clean up the deed on the property identified for the solar array project approved by the council. It has been determined the parcel selected had a restriction on the deed when it was sold by Brown County to the city that the property could only be used for a ball field. She said she is working with the county to have that restriction removed so the solar array project can move forward.
Schroedl reported Bart Waits submitted his resignation after 16 years with the city streets department. Schroedl thanked Waits for his work and said the city would advertise to fill the vacancy.
The next meeting of the Ainsworth City Council is scheduled for 7 p.m. July 8.
* Care center receives almost $200,000 in supplemental funding
(Posted 1:45 p.m. June 9)
The Sandhills Care Center received almost $200,000 in additional funding from state and federal programs during May, helping to bolster the facility’s bottom line.
The facility received $165,000 in federal stimulus money from the CARES Act, and the care center also picked up $34,873 from Medicaid for its annual intergovernmental transfer from the program.
The Care Center Board of Directors Monday voted to transfer $225,000 from the facility’s operations account into its interlocal account to serve as a safety net should expenses outpace revenue in future months.
With the nearly $200,000 in stimulus and Medicaid funding, the care center finished May with $341,309 in revenue, with expenses for the month of $106,662.
Activities Director Amy Dike outlined her job duties to the board, including the work she is doing to keep the spirits of the residents up since visitors may still not enter the facility.
“We are going to more one-to-one activities instead of group activities due to COVID-19,” Dike said. “My goal is to interact with every resident every day. We do hallway exercise, and hallway Bingo. It is important for the residents to still have that social interaction.”
Dike said staff try to maintain a 6-foot distance when possible, and she helps residents hold phone calls, Facetime and Zoom calls with family members so they still get the chance to interact with their loved ones.
“We just put in a garden, and we are trying to keep residents involved with that to see something positive,” Dike said.
She said the facility planned to hold another drive-by parade at 3 p.m. June 16 for the family members of residents to drive by and wave at their loved ones. She said the facility also planned to hold a barbecue or fireworks show July 4.
Administrator Stephanie Clifton said the COVID-19 regulations are a challenge, but the facility is getting creative to keep residents engaged.
“It is of the utmost importance to keep COVID-19 out of our building,” Clifton said. “That has to remain our focus.”
She described the procedures staff members go through daily to comply with the COVID-19 guidelines for nursing homes.
Asked when the facility might again reopen to family members and other visitors, Clifton said the state was starting to prepare a three-phase plan for reopening.
“We have not yet been given guidance on Phase I,” Clifton said. “There will not be visitation allowed by the public until Phase III.”
In action items Monday, the board approved a contract with the Brown County Hospital to share maintenance staff. The care center will pay the hospital for 25 hours per week for the maintenance services of Matt Moody and Cory Schroedl. The contract with the hospital increased for the upcoming year from $27 per hour to $30 per hour.
The board approved having Clifton and board members Leanne Maxwell, Buddy Small and Phil Fuchs as signatories on the center’s bank accounts.
Maxwell reported the care center had received a $2,000 grant from the Brown County Foundation to help with the purchase of new bedspreads for the residents. Fuchs said the application with the USDA for funding assistance to replace the facility’s generator is still pending due to the pandemic.
Prior to entering into executive session, the board heard from Kathy Hatley, who manages the facility’s dietary department. She said the department has three cooks and three dietary aides who assist residents with their meals.
“Right now, we are just trying to keep residents fed well and happy,” Hatley said.
Clifton reported there are currently 20 residents in the Sandhills Care Center, with seven residents paying privately, 12 receiving Medicaid assistance with a 13th pending approval of a Medicaid application.
The next meeting of the Sandhills Care Center Board of Directors is scheduled for 4 p.m. July 13.
* School Board approves changes to graduation requirements
(Posted 7 a.m. June 9)
The Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education approved changes Monday to the school district’s graduation requirements beginning with the class of 2024.
As prepared by a group led by Secondary Principal Steve Dike, the new requirements take away some of the elective hours for students and instead require additional coursework. Superintendent Dale Hafer said the hope with the changes is to give students a more well-rounded educational experience.
While the total hours required to graduate will not change, the new requirements will have students take 40 credits of social studies, up from the previous 30, and adds a required five credits of communication, five credits of personal finance, 10 credits of fine arts and 10 vocational credits.
The new requirements replace the previous 100 elective credits with 60 elective credits required to graduate. Students are required to take a total of 240 credit hours during high school to graduate. Students have the opportunity to take up to 320 credit hours during their four-year careers.
Dike said the five-credit communication course and five-credit personal finance course are designed to be taken during the student’s sophomore year, with one semester of each course. A full year of a class is worth 10 credits.
The new requirements keep the previous 40 mandatory hours of English, 30 credits of math, 30 credits of science and 10 credits of physical education.
After discussing the recommended changes during the previous two meetings, the board Monday approved the first reading of the new graduation requirements.
In other business Monday, the board approved the resignation of long-time elementary teacher Susan Scholtes. Scholtes informed the board she planned to retire after 40 years of teaching at Ainsworth Community Schools. The board thanked Scholtes for her many years of service to the school. Elementary Principal Curtis Childers said the school has two good applicants to interview for the fourth-grade teaching position.
Hafer said he felt fortunate the district had two experienced candidates apply for the position at this late stage. He said one of the applicants currently lives in Ainsworth, and the other was moving to the community soon.
Childers reported 45 students attended the first day of summer school classes. He said the district is following the many recommended guidelines to allow students to attend summer school in the building, which could serve as a good trial run for what the district may have to do to allow students in the building in August.
Hafer reported the district filled its technology coordinator position, hiring Bethany Alder. He said Alder was finishing degrees in information technology and business technology with Central Community College.
Hafer said the district would receive $67,692 in federal CARES Act funds to reimburse the district for COVID-19 related expenses.
The superintendent also reported the agreement has been signed with Trane for the work to the building, including window replacement, roof repairs and plumbing work. The cost for the work is $68,517, which came in below the quoted $70,000 guaranteed maximum cost Trane presented.
Hafer said the district is working through scenarios for the opening of school in August. He said the key for the district is waiting long enough to receive proper guidance from the Nebraska Department of Education and the North Central District Health Department.
“The level of planning has been ratcheted up,” Hafer said. “We are trying to go the extra mile to do what is best for the kids. Guidance from the Department of Education, the governor and the health department will play a big role in the plans we develop.”
During his report, Activities Director Scott Steinhauser said the first week of summer lifting went well, with more than 70 students participating in the program. He said the district worked with the NSAA and the health department to develop guidelines to ensure the safety of students and sponsors.
In action items Monday, the board approved submitting an affidavit of closure to the Nebraska Department of Education related to the spring closure of the school building due to the pandemic.
Hafer said the district completed 907 hours of education, short of the required 1,080 hours of in-person education. Though the district hit the 1,080 hours when remote learning was factored in, the district, and all schools in the state, would have to complete the form to submit to the Department of Education.
The board approved the first reading of a board policy manual as recently completed by the policy committee through guidance from the Nebraska Association of School Boards.
Board President Jim Arens said the committee concentrated on areas where there were differences between the district’s current policies and those proposed by the NASB.
“A bulk of the policies are similar,” Arens said. “The NASB policies are maybe more concise.”
Board member Scott Erthum said the new policies would be much more user friendly, as the new policy manual was better organized than the district’s previous policy manual.
The board approved an option enrollment request for Kay Lynn Collins to allow her son Ryan to attend kindergarten at Rock County Public Schools.
Prior to the regular meeting Monday, the board held public hearings on the district’s student fee policy, and its parent and family involvement policy. There were no comments made, and Hafer said there were no major changes to either policy.
The next meeting of the Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education is scheduled for 8 p.m. July 13.
* Commissioners vote to reopen Brown County Courthouse
(Posted 7 a.m. June 3)
The Brown County Commissioners on Tuesday opted to reopen the courthouse to the public beginning at 8 a.m. Wednesday. The courthouse has been closed to the public for more than a month due to the coronavirus pandemic.
County Treasurer Deb Vonheeder encouraged the board to reopen the courthouse, as driver’s licenses and CDL licenses are getting really backed up.
“I think we need to open,” Vonheeder said. “This has been a terrible inconvenience for people.”
She encouraged the public to be patient, as the driver’s license examiner is going to be extremely busy for a while and the state will still require people to wear a mask when visiting the driver’s license examiner.
Commissioner Buddy Small said he was inclined to open the courthouse as long as people were considerate and did not come in when they were sick. He encouraged people to wear a mask when visiting the courthouse.
Commissioner Denny Bauer asked people to maintain social distancing when visiting the courthouse. Vonheeder said she would likely ask people waiting in line for her office to wait outside. Vonheeder encouraged those who are renewing their vehicle registration to use the mail or the drop box instead of visiting the courthouse in person.
County Clerk Travee Hobbs also encouraged the board to reopen the courthouse. She said her office was ready to be open.
County Attorney Andy Taylor said the county would qualify for CARES Act assistance, but the courthouse had to be reopened to the public by June 15.
“The pandemic is not over,” Taylor said.
After discussing reopening the courthouse June 8, as the Rock County Commissioners Tuesday opted to do, the board, with Commissioner Reagan Wiebelhaus absent, opted to reopen the courthouse effective at 8 a.m. Wednesday.
A decision on whether the driver’s license examiner will be available Friday will be made soon.
In other business Tuesday, the commissioners reappointed Small, Henry Beel and Phil Fuchs to the Sandhills Care Center Board of Directors for one-year terms. Fuchs, who represents both the county and the city of Ainsworth, will also have to be approved for reappointment by the City Council.
Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin reported the scraper purchased by the county has arrived and is working well. Turpin said the roads department has been hauling gravel to the Elsmere Road ahead of the planned armor coating work there.
He said both Moon Lake Avenue and the Hidden Paradise road washed out again following rains on Memorial Day weekend. He said the department repaired both washouts, and was going to work on raising Moon Lake Avenue in spots.
Turpin said the Meadville Avenue hillside south of the Niobrara River would be addressed, as the road continues to settle. He said it is pretty rough in that area now, and the roads department would add millings to try and level out the road where it has settled.
The highway superintendent reported Big Iron was in the county looking at the scraper, pickup and yard tractor the county planned to list for sale, and also looked at a forklift KBR Solid Waste had listed as surplus equipment.
Bauer said Road 881 was becoming a safety hazard due to a washout near Greg Jochem’s home.
“It has cut about 3 or 4 feet of the road out,” Bauer said. “It is a safety hazard, especially at night if you meet someone.”
Turpin said the department might be able to fix the washed out area with a motor grader instead of an excavator, but the county could close the road until it is repaired as people have other routes they can take to access that area.
The board also discussed raising Road 878 for a one-mile stretch west of Ainsworth. Bauer said water continues to go over the road in that area and he would like to see the full mile of road built up sometime this summer.
Turpin said the county might have to take out some fence to dig out the ditches on that stretch, and there were power poles that might prevent the county from digging the ditch out too much or it would risk having the power poles fall over.
Taylor warned the county to make sure it did not violate any drainage statutes when making changes or improvements to the area.
Small said he was in favor of working on the road as long as the county didn’t cause any drainage issues.
The next meeting of the Brown County Commissioners is scheduled for 5:15 p.m. June 16.
* Commissioners erroneously state nature of hog confinement application
(Posted 7 a.m. May 21)
During Tuesday’s meeting of the Brown County Commissioners, the board provided information regarding an application that had been filed with the Department of Environmental Quality for the potential development of a hog confinement facility in western Brown County.
Commissioner Reagan Wiebelhaus said during the meeting the project was a joint venture between property owner John Gross and Greg Wilke, who owns and operates GJW and Sandhills Elite Genetics in Brown County.
Gross on Wednesday said there was no agreement in place with anyone for a facility, and disputed the information provided by the commissioners.
Board Chairman Buddy Small on Wednesday said he was contacted by Zoning Administrator Tom Jones, who said the information provided by the board during Tuesday’s meeting was incorrect.
* Commissioners discuss initial application for hog facility in western Brown County
(Posted 7 a.m. May 20)
The Brown County Commissioners Tuesday discussed the initial application submitted for the construction of a livestock confinement facility in western Brown County.
Commissioner Reagan Wiebelhaus said the county received a notice of application for a hog production facility that is proposed for western Brown County on property owned by John Gross. Wiebelhaus said the project was a joint venture between Gross and Greg Wilke.
“Last time, there were a lot of people saying they didn’t know about the project until the very end,” Wiebelhaus said. “This is early in the process. I just don’t want anyone to think we are hiding something from the public.”
Commissioner Denny Bauer said the Department of Environmental Quality will weigh in, then the Brown County Planning Commission will have a hearing and make a recommendation on the project to the commissioners.
Commissioner Buddy Small said the Planning Commission hearing will be on hold until it is determined that it is safe to have a number of people gathered.
In other business Tuesday, Small provided the board with an update on the Sand Draw Creek box culvert replacement project on Meadville Avenue.
Small said he spoke with Gary Steele of Miller and Associates, the engineering firm on the project. Steele indicated the paperwork has now all been filed for the Nebraska Department of Transportation to review.
“He expects a response from NDOT sometime in June,” Small said.
Small said the Nebraska Department of Transportation will recommend whether the project should be a bridge or a box culvert.
Small also reported FEMA has a deadline of Sept. 20 for counties to complete repair projects from the March 2019 flooding.
“Because of the thousands of dollars involved from FEMA, Kenny (Turpin) wants to get those projects done first,” Small said.
Small said the county could file an extension with FEMA if all the projects are not completed by Sept. 20.
In action items Tuesday, the commissioners approved renewing the county’s health insurance with Blue Cross/Blue Shield for 2020-21. Clerk Travee Hobbs reported there was no rate increase for the upcoming year, and the board opted to approve the plan and make no changes from the prior year relating to cash in lieu of insurance, employee contributions and employee deductibles.
The board opted to keep the Brown County Courthouse closed to the public for at least the next two weeks. Small said the county department heads collectively encouraged the board to be patient and wait until there is more direction from the state prior to opening.
Bauer said the board should consider buying safety equipment for courthouse employees prior to opening the courthouse to the public.
The commissioners approved declaring a 1998 Chevy 1500 pickup and a 2000 John Deere lawn tractor as surplus items to be sold. The board recently approved pickup and lawn tractor purchases to replace the two vehicles.
Small said Region 4 Behavioral Health had the opportunity to receive an $800,000 grant as part of the federal COVID-19 stimulus program. He said the grant required a match from the counties in the region, and Brown County’s share of the required match is $900. The board approved transferring $900 from the miscellaneous general fund to the institution budget to cover the county’s match.
The board also approved a budgeted transfer of $300,000 from the miscellaneous general fund to the county highway fund.
Bauer said he would like to try and hold the 2020-21 budget with little or no increase due to the county economy, and he asked the board to support a letter he planned to write to other taxing entities in the county urging them to be mindful of the local economy when preparing the next year’s budget.
Bauer will draft a letter to present to the other commissioners for their approval prior to sending.
The next meeting of the Brown County Commissioners is scheduled for 5:15 p.m. June 2.
* Sullivan resigns as mayor due to health concerns, Soles sworn in Wednesday
(Posted 7 a.m. May 14)
Leading off Wednesday’s meeting of the Ainsworth City Council, Mayor Jeremiah Sullivan announced his resignation effective immediately.
Sullivan said it had been his honor and privilege to serve as the city’s mayor, and he thanked the city’s employees and the council for their work to make Ainsworth a better place. He cited recent health concerns as his reason for stepping away from the position.
City Attorney Rod Palmer said city code calls for the council president to move into the role of mayor should the mayor’s position come open mid-term. Council President Greg Soles was then administered the oath of office as mayor.
With Soles moving to fill the mayor position, a vacancy on the council was created. Palmer said the council must provide public notice of the vacancy and can either fill the vacancy by appointment or hold a special election.
With Soles’ term scheduled to expire in December and a slate of candidates already filing to fill the seat in December, the council opted to vote on a recommendation from the mayor to appoint someone to the council to fill the final few months of the vacant council term.
Asked if Soles would serve as mayor through the completion of Sullivan’s term, which expires in December 2022, or if there would be a special election in November for mayor, Palmer said the city’s codes were not as clear on the mayoral position.
He said the code does reference that the council president would serve as mayor until the end of the term, but said the city should consult the Nebraska Secretary of State for guidance.
Soles said it was his intention to serve as mayor only through December, the end of what would have been his term on the council. Palmer said, if that is the case, whoever the council president is at that time would again be moved into the mayor position for the completion of the term.
The council will publish notice of the vacancy and appoint a new member during its June meeting.
In other business Wednesday, following a public hearing, the council voted to close its Community Development Block Grant revolving loan fund and transfer the remaining money into its CDBG housing rehabilitation fund.
City Administrator Lisa Schroedl said most of the money in the revolving loan fund was awarded to Lyons HR as part of the city’s contribution to the Sandhills Care Center. Lyons HR serves as the care center’s payroll service, and the majority of the CDBG funds were presented as a forgivable loan to the company to cover the care center’s payroll as part of the city’s initial contribution to reestablish the facility.
Schroedl said there was a balance of $27,691 in the fund, and the Department of Economic Development would require the city to return those funds if they were not allocated to another project.
The council approved rolling those remaining funds into the city’s other Community Development Block Grant program, which provides low-interest loans to income-qualified homeowners to make renovations.
The council approved one such loan application Wednesday, a $20,000 forgivable loan for housing rehabilitation. Schroedl said, of the 15 other housing loans the city has made, only one other loan qualified to be forgiven. The other loans charge low interest to homeowners to make renovations.
Schroedl said this applicant qualified to have the loan forgiven after a 10-year period because the applicant was income qualified and over the age of 65. Should the applicant stay in the home for the next 10 years, the loan would be forgiven. If the applicant moves or the home is sold during that time, the loan must be repaid.
Schroedl reported there was $102,050 in the fund, with the approval to move the revolving loan fund money into the account bringing the total to $129,741. That was prior to the council approving the $20,000 forgivable loan to Wednesday’s applicant.
She said a third-party company prioritizes the renovations on an application and works with the contractor on the renovation list until the funds awarded are spent.
In an item tabled from April, the council approved amendments to the city’s economic development program policy and procedure manual, application documents and loan and grant checklists.
Schroedl said new LB 840 attorney Heather Sikyta had reviewed the proposed amendments and had made a couple additions. The council approved the amended documents as presented.
The council approved interim financing for the upcoming street repair project with West Plains Bank. Soles said he approached Doug Weiss at West Plains Bank about interim financing for the project, as the city will have to pay the contractor for the repairs and then request reimbursement from FEMA for the $2.1 million awarded to the city for street damage from the 2019 flooding.
The interim financing can be used as needed as a line of credit for up to $2.1 million, with the city charged 2.15 percent interest. The principal and interest will be due Dec. 15. If FEMA has not yet reimbursed the city by that time, the line of credit can be converted into a single note for a two-year period and paid when FEMA funding is received.
Schroedl said the line of credit would essentially serve as a construction loan for the street repairs. She reported Tri State would begin work on the streets at the end of May.
The council approved an agreement with Brown County giving the city the right of first refusal to potentially purchase property east of the Brown County Hospital should the county ever decide to sell the property.
The ground is located adjacent to the site of the new solar array project. Should the county ever sell the ground west of the array site, the city would have the first chance to make the purchase.
Palmer said the agreement is good for 10 years and would automatically renew for another 10 years unless it is revoked by either of the two parties.
Schroedl said the Brown County Commissioners approved the agreement during its most recent meeting.
Schroedl reported the city would have to work through a recently discovered issue with the solar array site with the commissioners. She said, when the county initially sold the ground to the city where the solar array is planned, there was a requirement that the ground could only be used for the construction of a ball field.
“So, we will have to go back to the county and see if they will approve the solar array as an acceptable use of that property,” Schroedl said. “It shouldn’t be a problem.”
Schroedl reported the swimming pool would not be open to the public this summer, but the city did plan to fill the pool and potentially hold scheduled swimming lessons so it could control the number of people allowed in and maintain social distancing.
“The governor has not made a forced closure on pools,” Schroedl said. “The decision is being left up to the governing body, but we have to maintain social distancing and the 10-person limit.”
She said, by scheduling swimming lessons, the city could control the numbers allowed in at a given time and leave pool staff time for any required cleaning in between sessions.
Prior to entering into executive session to discuss the contract on the recently completed addition to the streets shop on First Street, the council approved special designated liquor license requests for the Ainsworth Elks Lodge to serve alcohol during events June 26 and July 18.
The next regular meeting of the Ainsworth City Council is scheduled for 7 p.m. June 8.
* Brewer sets tone for November with 61 percent of 43rd District vote Tuesday
(Posted 7 a.m. May 13)
Tanya Storer will have a large hill to climb between now and November, as 43rd District State Sen. Tom Brewer had a strong showing during Tuesday’s Primary Election.
In his bid for reelection to the Nebraska Legislature, Brewer garnered more than 61 percent of the vote in the 43rd District. Brewer picked up 8,027 votes to 5,093 for Storer, the Cherry County Commissioner challenging Brewer for the seat on the Legislature.
Brewer won every county in the 43rd District, including a two to one advantage in Cherry County. Both candidates advance to the November General Election, as the Primary Election only winnowed legislative races down to the top two candidates. Brewer and Storer were the only two candidates in the 43rd District race.
It was a big day for all the incumbents running for reelection to the Legislature. All advanced to the General Election, and only one, Andrew LaGrone in District 49, was not the leading vote-earner. Jen Day picked up 53 percent of the vote in District 49 compared to 47 percent for LaGrone.
There were no surprises on the federal ticket among Republicans. President Donald Trump carried 91.5 percent of the Republican vote Tuesday, with challenger Bill Weld receiving 8.5 percent.
On the Democratic ticket, Joe Biden picked up 77.5 percent of the vote for President, with Bernie Sanders receiving 14 percent, Elizabeth Warren 6 percent and Tulsi Gabbard just shy of 3 percent.
Ben Sasse, the state’s junior Republican U.S. Senator, beat back a Primary Election challenge from Matt Innis. Sasse captured 75 percent of the Republican vote Tuesday, though Innis did win eight counties, including several in the north central part of the state. Innis won Keya Paha, Cherry, Holt, Blaine, Boyd, Grant, Wheeler and Cheyenne counties.
In a U.S. Senate field that featured seven candidates, Chris Janicek emerged from the field by grabbing 30.6 percent of the Democratic Party votes. Janicek’s closed competitors were Angie Phillips and Alisha Shelton, who finished with 23 percent and 22 percent of the Democratic vote respectively.
Janicek and Sasse will square off in November for a six-year senate seat.
Incumbent 3rd District Rep. Adrian Smith brushed back four Republican challengers Tuesday, taking almost 83 percent of the vote. None of his challengers earned more than 5.5 percent.
Smith will face Democrat Mark Elworth Jr. in the General Election for the U.S. House of Representatives seat, as Elworth ran unopposed.
Incumbent Republicans Jeff Fortenberry and Don Bacon won the Primary handily Tuesday. Fortenberry will be challenged by State Sen. Kate Bolz of Lincoln in the General Election, as Bolz won the Democratic Party nomination with 78 percent of the vote against Babs Ramsey.
Bacon will see a rematch against Democrat Kara Eastman after Bacon edged Eastman for the District 2 House seat in 2018. Eastman earned 62 percent of the Democratic Party vote Tuesday, with Ann Ashford picking up 31.5 percent and Gladys Harrison 6.5 percent.
Voter turnout in Nebraska for the Primary Election was 38.7 percent, with 471,434 voters casting ballots among the 1.21 million registered voters in the state. Mail-in and early voting turnout set a record for the state.
* Small wins Republican race Tuesday for Brown County Commissioner
(Posted 9:45 p.m. May 12)
During Tuesday’s Primary Election, Republican Buddy Small held off three challengers in his bid for another term on the Board of Commissioners.
Small received 507 votes, representing 48.5 percent of the total votes cast. His closest challenger was Tim Iverson, who picked up 236 votes. Cherie Priest finished with 192 votes, and Dewey Jefferis garnered 111 votes from Brown County Republicans. There were no Democrats running for commissioner, so Small will earn another term on the board.
In the other local race of note, four of the five candidates vying for two seats on the Ainsworth City Council advanced to the General Election, where two will earn council seats.
Vance Heyer led the vote Tuesday with 402. He was followed by 194 votes for Shawn Fernau, 184 for Brett Duester and 133 for Anissa Julius. Those four advanced to the General Election. John Mead received 95 votes for council and does not advance.
A total of 1,218 votes were cast in Brown County among the 2,084 registered voters for a turnout of 58.5 percent.
Wade Hollenbeck won the race for Rock County Commissioner Tuesday on the Republican ticket. Hollenbeck received 421 votes, compared to 91 for Todd Stahl. No one from the Democratic Party ran for the seat. Hollenbeck will replace Dustin Craven on the Board of Commissioners after Craven did not seek re-election.
Rock County voters shot down a 2-cent levy for a new swimming pool, and Bassett city voters also declined to support a bond for a new pool.
There were 477 votes cast against the 2-cent countywide levy, with 182 voters in favor. The city bond issue for the pool failed with 143 against and 91 in favor.
Voter turnout in Rock County was 65 percent.
In Keya Paha County, Republican Mike Tuerk won a four-way race in his re-election bid to the Board of Commissioners. Tuerk received 72 votes, compared to 29 for challenger Randy Painter, 24 for Mike Vigoren and 21 for Anthony Tiefenthaler. There were no Democratic Party candidates for the West District Commissioner seat, so Tuerk will earn another four-year term.
Turnout in Keya Paha County was 64 percent.
While both candidates advance to the General Election, incumbent 43rd District State Sen. Tom Brewer had a strong showing in Brown County Tuesday. Brewer earned more than 60 percent of the votes cast with 707. Challenger Tanya Storer received 464 votes in Brown County. Brewer also had a strong showing in Keya Paha County, earning 293 votes compared to 98 for Storer. Those two will square off again in November.
In the 3rd District Congressional race, Brown County Republicans cast 862 votes for incumbent Adrian Smith. Mark Elworth scored 70 votes from Brown County Democrats. Rock County Republican voters also overwhelmingly favored Smith. Smith earned 501 votes in Rock County, compared to just 20, 19, nine and seven for his four challengers. Democrats cast 24 votes for Elworth. In Keya Paha County, Smith received 285 votes compared to 24 for Justin Moran of Atkinson, his nearest challenger. Elworth picked up 24 votes on the Democratic side.
Republican U.S. Senator Ben Sasse showed strong in Brown County Tuesday, with 682 ballots cast for his reelection compared to 367 for challenger Matt Innis. Chris Janicek edged Angie Phillips, 22 votes to 16, among Brown County Democrats. Republicans in Rock County also chose Sasse for reelection to the U.S. Senate in the Primary, though Innis had a strong showing. Sasse garnered 368 Rock County votes, compared to 205 for Innis. Janicek led the seven Democrats in the Senate field with nine votes. Alisha Shelton picked up seven. Innis was the choice for Keya Paha County Republicans in a competitive race. Innis won the county with 190 votes. Sasse received 169 votes. Janicek and Phillips led Keya Paha County Democrats with eight votes each.
Donald Trump was the choice for President in Brown County among Republicans, with 981 votes compared to 59 for challenger Bill Weld. Democrat Joe Biden picked up 57 votes in Brown County compared to 14 Bernie Sanders. Rock County Republicans favored the reelection of President Trump, casting 538 votes his way. Weld picked up 25 votes. On the Democratic side, Biden received 30 votes from Rock County Democrats, with Sanders and Elizabeth Warren each picking up five. Keya Paha County voters gave 342 votes to Trump, compared to just seven for Weld. Biden received 28 votes in Keya Paha County, with Tulsi Gabbard the next closest with three.
THE YEAR - Rylee Rice (right) was named the KBRB Athlete of the Year
* Rice named KBRB Athlete of the Year
(Posted 2:15 p.m. April 29)
Rylee Rice was named the KBRB Athlete of the Year following a vote of the Ainsworth Community Schools’ coaches, faculty and A Club.
Rice finished her Ainsworth career as one of the most decorated athletes in school history. She earned three individual cross country state titles and led the Bulldogs to three consecutive Class D team titles. She won the State Cross Country All-Class Gold as a sophomore, and is one of only 11 girls in state history to win three state titles. Rice was the first Class D girls runner to win the All-Class Gold.
She currently holds the course record at every site she ran a cross country race, and never lost a race until the state championships her senior year, where she finished as the runner up. She also holds the Class D State Meet Record, eclipsing the previous Class D record by more than 45 seconds.
She was a four-time Southwest Conference and District champion.
In basketball, Rice set the single season school record for steals with 103. She also holds the school record for career steals with 361, finished second in school history in career assists with 160, and third in school history in career rebounds with 521.
Rice was named to the Southwest Conference First Team in 2019-20, and to the SWC Second Team following both her sophomore and junior seasons.
She finished honorable mention All-State three times and was named Academic All-State twice.
Though losing her senior track and field season due to the coronavirus pandemic, Rice won five gold medals at the Nebraska State Track and Field Championships, including four during her freshman year. She holds Class C state meet records in both the 800 meters and 1,600 meters.
In all, she won nine state track and field medals, and scored 79 points at the state meet in three years, including 40 her freshman year to give the Bulldogs a Class C runner-up finish as a team.
She finished her career as an 11-time district champion and holds school records in the 100-meter hurdles, 300-meter hurdles, 800 meters, 1,600 meters and 3,200 meters.
For being named
the KBRB Athlete of the Year, Rice receives a $500 scholarship and has her name
placed on a plaque displayed in Ainsworth Community Schools.
Mon-Sat - 8 a.m. until 7 p.m.