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

* Darlene Jean Jauernig, 76, of Stuart 10:30 a.m. Jan. 20

* Harry K. Buoy, 91, of Bassett 1:30 p.m. Jan. 18

* Tom Osborne, 73, of Atkinson 10:30 a.m. Jan. 18

* Meeting reports located below for:

Jan. 14 Sandhills Care Center Board of Directors

Jan. 14 Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education

Jan. 9 Ainsworth City Council

* Apartment fire causes damage Tuesday in Ainsworth

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

Young children playing with lighter fluid and a lighter caused a fire Tuesday in an Ainsworth apartment complex.

According to Ainsworth Fire Chief Brad Fiala, firefighters received a call of a fire just prior to 11 a.m. in an apartment complex at 628 N. Main St. owned by Mick Goodrich.

Fiala said a fire started in the bedroom of one of the four units, and caused smoke damage throughout one of the four apartments. The apartment was being rented by Lisa Hensley.

Fiala said a 3-year-old and 2-year-old were playing with lighter fluid and a lighter. Hensley found the children with the items and took them away, but returned to the bedroom shortly after and saw smoke.

The family, which also included an infant, was able to safely evacuate the apartment, and the Ainsworth Volunteer Fire Department had residents of the other apartments who were home also evacuate while they extinguished the fire.

Fiala said the Nebraska Public Power District cut power to the complex while the firefighters extinguished the flames. The fire department was also assisted by the Brown County Sheriff’s Department and Brown County Ambulance Association. The Nebraska State Fire Marshal’s office also investigated the fire.

Fiala said the apartment sustained fire damage in the bedroom and smoke damage throughout.

Fiala reminds residents to make sure to install smoke detectors in their home, and to check and replace batteries frequently in smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors.

Firefighters returned to the Ainsworth Fire Hall around noon Tuesday.

* Care Center Board discusses long-range planning for facility improvements

(Posted 12:15 p.m. Jan. 15)

The Sandhills Care Center Board of Directors discussed long-range plans for facility improvements during Monday’s meeting.

Administrator Stephanie Kinzie prepared a five-year plan of proposed improvements to the facility. In addition to replacing the window coverings, which the board has already approved, the one-year plan calls for replacing the facility’s generator as well as heating and air units in the kitchen and other main areas.

Kinzie said numerous businesses in the area had been contacted about supplying the care center with a quote to replace the kitchen heating and air-conditioning unit, and none have responded.

“We have not been able to get anyone to give us an estimate,” Kinzie said. “Matt (Moody) has been contacting businesses in Ainsworth, Bassett, Valentine, Springview and Atkinson, and can't get any response.”

Business manager Drew Klatt said Nelson’s Furniture planned to begin replacing the window coverings this week, and would be in the facility three to four days.

The second year of the plan includes replacing the facility’s aging boiler, along with replacing ceiling fans, bedding and privacy curtains.

Kinzie said she presented some of the same information after receiving a request from the Brown County Foundation. The foundation previously committed $50,000 over a five-year period to support a new facility, but that funding was not provided since a new facility was deemed not to be feasible when the care center was first reopened.

Board Chairman Phil Fuchs said the generator and the boiler were the two items that could shut the facility down if they failed.

“If we can get estimates and work with the foundation on those projects, then we can pay for some of these other improvements as we can,” Fuchs said.

Board member Leanne Maxwell, who also serves on the Brown County Foundation Board, said the foundation was receptive to the idea of assisting the care center.

“We need to set priorities on what we are going to fund and what we would like the foundation to assist us with,” Maxwell said.

Fuchs asked Kinzie to work on obtaining bids to replace the facility's generator and boiler, and the board could begin to formulate a plan.

During December, the Sandhills Care Center generated $167,731 in revenue, with expenses of $151,443 for a net operating margin for the month of $16,287.

Kinzie said the facility paid close to $17,000 in December for agency nursing, which is lower than it had been. She reported two part-time night nurses have been hired, so the facility would no longer have to use an agency for coverage there.

The administrator said the only other agency employee being utilized was a Certified Nursing Assistant. With 23 current residents, she said the facility should also be able to cut that agency position as well.

“If we go back up to 25 or 26 residents, we will need to have another CNA available,” Kinzie said.

She reported the facility has a dietary aide position open, but she has received applications for that position and will conduct interviews this week.

The next meeting of the Sandhills Care Center Board is scheduled for 4 p.m. Feb. 10.

* School Board hears report on condition of facility, recommendations for upgrades

(Posted 7 a.m. Jan. 14)

A representative from Trane provided the Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education Monday with a preliminary assessment of the areas where the district’s facilities will need addressed in the future.

Brent Jackson told the board the district’s facilities were in better overall shape than most, and with a few needed updates the facilities will be in excellent shape for years to come.

Trane provides free preliminary facilities assessments to school districts and assists those schools in creating a strategic plan for improvements.

Jackson said the biggest issue the district needs to address is water getting into the building.

“You need to stop any intrusion of moisture into your buildings,” Jackson said. “Water is getting in through the roof, windows and siding. That causes problems. The roof and some windows in the 1922 building are in bad shape and need to be addressed.”

Jackson said the district’s top facilities priority moving forward should be replacing the roof and creating a roof maintenance plan, replacing siding that is leaking, and replacing metal-framed windows that are leaking.

“Overall, I think your facility is 75 to 80 percent of the way there,” Jackson said. “Most schools we visit are only about 50 percent. If you fix the leaks and replace some concrete, you will be in good shape.”

Superintendent Dale Hafer said the district was under no obligation following the preliminary report, and could choose whether or not to plan for any of the recommended improvements.

“It is good that we don’t have an overwhelming number of things we wouldn’t be able to budget to repair,” Hafer said. “The things Trane is recommending can be addressed in a five- to seven-year plan.”

Hafer said the board has the choice throughout the process on how to proceed, and the plan can be adjusted as needed if other priorities arise.

In addition to the priority of fixing leaks, Jackson’s report indicated the district should consider updating the elementary building’s heating and air system, the heating and air system in the Learning Center, and eventually replace the boilers in the building.

Additional projects include replacing damaged concrete, replacing the gym floor in McAndrew Gymnasium, replace the elementary ceilings, and replace water-damaged drywall.

Jackson said he would put some numbers together on the proposed projects. He would begin working with the board’s building and grounds committee to identify priority projects and create a proposal.

In other business Monday, the board accepted the resignation of high school English teacher Mary Rau, who indicated she planned to retire at the end of the 2019-20 year after more than 30 years of teaching at Ainsworth Community Schools. Rau has also served as the school’s speech coach and Mock Trial coach.

The board approved a contract with Hafer to continue to serve as the district’s superintendent for the 2020-21 year.

The board also approved an early graduation request for Haley Hawkins. Hawkins, a current junior, requested to graduate early following the first semester of her senior year.

Principal Steven Dike told the board early graduation requests are assessed on a case by case basis.

“In this situation, I think early graduation is appropriate,” Dike said.

The board also adjourned for 2019 and elected officers for the 2020 year. Jim Arens was reelected as the board’s president, with Mark Johnson selected as vice president and Scott Erthum as the secretary-treasurer.

The board will continue to meet on the second Monday of each month in the district office, with meetings at 7 p.m. from November through March and 8 p.m. from April through October.

Board committees were filled, with Erthum, Jessica Pozehl and Frank Beel placed on the curriculum, Americanism and multicultural committee. Johnson, Brad Wilkins and Pozehl will serve on the transportation, building and grounds committee. Arens, Pozehl and Beel will comprise the board’s activities and athletics committee. Arens, Johnson and Wilkins will serve on the budget and finance committee. Wilkins, Erthum and Beel will sit on the district’s negotiations and personnel committee. Erthum, Johnson and Arens will comprise the policy committee.

Pozehl will represent the board on the North Central Development Center Board of Directors, and Wilkins will serve as the board’s government relations network representative.

During his report, Elementary Principal Curtis Childers praised the work of the elementary teachers during the first semester. He said 55 percent of elementary students met the DIBELS testing benchmarks during fall testing. During the winter test, Childers said almost 80 percent of the elementary students reached the benchmark.

“That is phenomenal growth,” Childers said. “The kindergarten through sixth-grade teachers have done a phenomenal job. A lot of that growth can be attributed to what our teachers are doing. They are working hard with strategic intervention plans.”

During his report, Dike provided the board with information on the high school students’ Monday trip to Rock County to listen to speaker Tony Hoffman, who went from a drug addict to an Olympic athlete and who now coaches Olympians. Hoffman’s presentation was sponsored by the North Central District Health Department and was made available to students from Ainsworth, Keya Paha County, Rock County and O’Neill.

During his report, Hafer told the board the transition to Conditioned Air Mechanical was going well. The company recommended some small repairs to the district’s heating and air system. He said the company plans to have the new chiller installed by April.

The next meeting of the Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education is scheduled for 7 p.m. Feb. 10.

* FEMA denies state's appeal for disaster declaration reconsideration

(Posted 12:15 p.m. Jan. 13)

Gov. Pete Ricketts was notified the Federal Emergency Management Agency denied the state’s appeal for disaster declarations from storms during the summer and fall.

The state appealed after the first decision to deny a federal disaster declaration for severe storms, tornados, straight-line winds, and flooding which impacted the state during the period of July 15 to September 17. Flooding in the north central part of the state in September was a part of the original request. The original declaration request identified 16 counties, including Brown County, seeking federal assistance for ongoing damage to public infrastructure and three counties that requested additional assistance for individuals. 

“While we wish the federal government was able to fulfill our request, there is a process in place to assist counties that meet a certain threshold when FEMA denies a request,” Ricketts said. “We are reviewing the assistance that can be provided to counties through that process at this time.”

The denial from FEMA cited the impact of the event was not of the severity and magnitude to warrant a major disaster declaration. 

Nebraska authorities identified an additional $2 million in weather-related costs in 16 counties. While the overall fiscal impact associated with storms during this period was relatively low, the on-going impact to local budgets and the need to repair damages were cited by Ricketts in his request for federal assistance. 

“Local jurisdictions may be able to qualify for assistance under the state emergency declaration issued for this event period,” Nebraska Emergency Management Agency Assistant Director Bryan Tuma said. “NEMA staff members have initiated a review of the data and will assess eligibility for reimbursement under the state program. The state program can reimburse eligible applicants with a 50 percent cost share for the amount of damages which exceed the designated threshold.”

The request for a disaster declaration to FEMA was originally directed to FEMA Administrator Pete Gaynor on October 23.  Following the initial denial, the request was subsequently appealed on December 4.

* Sheriff's department works overtime during "Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over) enforcement

(Posted 6:30 a.m. Jan. 10)

The Brown County Sheriff’s Department, through funding provided by the Nebraska Office of Highway Safety, participated in the national “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” holiday enforcement campaign that ran from Dec. 13 through Jan. 1.

Law enforcement nationwide joined in an effort to reduce the number of deaths and injuries on roadways during the holiday season by removing intoxicated drivers.

Two deputies worked a total of 23 hours of overtime during the campaign. The sheriff’s department arrested three motorists on charges of driving under the influence during the campaign. In addition, deputies issues nine citations, 14 warnings and five vehicle defect cards during the campaign.

One motorist was arrested on a felony probation violation and illegal firearms were seized. The sheriff’s department used regular enforcement, saturation patrols and an enforcement zone during the campaign.

The Brown County Sheriff’s Department thanks everyone for doing their part to make roads safer by always designating a sober driver.

* Area students named to UNK honor band and choir groups

(Posted 8 a.m. Jan. 9)

Students from 101 high schools in Nebraska and Kansas will participate in the annual Honor Band and Choral Clinic hosted by the University of Nebraska at Kearney’s Department of Music, Theatre and Dance.

The event, scheduled for Jan. 27, includes 760 high school music students who will work with UNK faculty and guest instructors before performing two public concerts at UNK’s Health and Sports Center. The 5:30 p.m. performance will feature the Festival Band and Honor Band, along with the UNK Wind Ensemble. The 7 p.m. concert will showcase the Festival Choir, Honor Choir, Women’s Choir and UNK Choraleers.

The UNK Honor Band and Choral Clinic includes high school sophomores, juniors and seniors selected through auditions.

This year’s participants include:

 

Festival Band

Ainsworth – Coy Carson and Josie Ganser

Valentine – Elliana Springer

 

Festival Choir

Valentine – Madison Brackeen

Sandhills – Jacob Furrow

 

Honor Band

Valentine – Sean Springer

 

Honor Choir

Sandhills – Miriam Ganoung

 

Women’s Choir

Valentine – Sarah Butler

Sandhills – Lindsay Cody

* City Council approves work to coincide with Highway 20 renovation

(Posted 7 a.m. Jan. 9)

The Ainsworth City Council voted Wednesday to move forward with infrastructure upgrades to coincide with the Nebraska Department of Transportation’s renovation of Highway 20.

Engineer Jess Hurlbert with Olsson Associates told the council the state’s bid letting for the Highway 20 renovation work in Ainsworth actually moved forward, and the city’s timeline to supply the NDOT with its plans has been moved up to the end of this month.

Originally scheduled to let bids for the project in August, the state is now moving forward with an April bid letting.

“We need to get a plan together and get it to the NDOT so they can incorporate it into their project,” Hurlbert said.

He recommended the city replace four old brick manholes that are in the Highway 20 right of way. He said there was a chance the NDOT would work on a cost share for the manholes if the city agreed to move them out of the state highway right of way.

“I don’t have an answer from them one way or the other on that,” Hurlbert said.

Each manhole replacement would cost approximately $6,400. City Administrator Lisa Schroedl said the manholes would likely not survive the work to tear out the current highway.

Hurlbert also proposed the city replace older water service lines and install additional valves while the highway is torn up. He said the city could also place casing for a new water main line under the highway while it is torn up that is in the city’s long-term plan. If the city, at a later point, decides to move forward with the new water main line for the north side of the city, it would then not have to bore under the highway because the casing would already be in place.

Hurlbert said the total estimated cost for all the projects in the proposal was $100,000.

“I know it is an expenditure, but these things have needed attention for several years and now is the time,” Hurlbert said.

Councilman Greg Soles said he believed the city needed to be proactive with these projects and get them done while the highway is torn up.

Councilwoman Deb Hurless agreed, saying the city could plan for the cost of the actual work in its next budget year.

The council unanimously approved submitting a plan to the Nebraska Department of Transportation that included all the recommended projects from Olsson Associates.

In another Highway 20 renovation project Wednesday, the council agreed to pay for the cost of having the 57 new light poles that will be installed along the highway as part of the renovation project outfitted with festoon outlets, flag brackets and banner brackets.

Having the light poles built with the outlets allows the city to continue to place Christmas lights on each light pole during the holiday season. The banner brackets would allow the city to put decorative banners on each light pole.

Schroedl said the cost for each outlet is $250, while the cost for the banner brackets would be between $5,000 and $10,000 total and the cost for all the flag brackets is $926. She said the city had already budgeted $10,000 for light pole improvements.

The council agreed to submit an application to the Ainsworth Betterment Committee to cover the remainder of the cost. The council also opted to have the light poles colored bronze instead of the standard galvanized steel color.

In another infrastructure item, the council was told the city hit a snag in the planned wastewater improvement project that is delaying the bid letting process.

Hurlbert said the city and USDA Rural Development have to get the issue figured out before the project can go out for bids.

Hurlbert said the issue relates to the amount of cured in place pipe the city included in the project. He said the city provided the USDA with an estimate for the amount of cured in place pipe that would be installed with the project. However, the actual survey showed the amount of pipe needed was 2,800 feet longer than what was included in the initial estimate.

“Rural Development has a hang-up with that difference,” Hurlbert said. “We are going back and forth with them now.”

Hurlbert said Rural Development wants the city to decide which portion of the pipe project would be of lower priority to the city since the 2,800-foot difference in the estimate and the actual survey amounted to numerous blocks, while he said he is proposing seeing how the bids for the project come in first and then adjusting the project if the bids are higher than the amount approved by the USDA.

He said another option might be to exclude the two generators that are included in the project and allow those funds to cover the discrepancy in the cured in place pipe portion of the project.

“It is kind of a backwards system,” Hurlbert said. “They award the project based off the estimate, not on the surveyed footage. The estimate submitted beforehand did not match the numbers from our survey, which showed the exact footage.”

Audience member Graig Kinzie asked Hurlbert, who has worked on numerous USDA wastewater projects for other communities, if he had ever encountered this large a difference between the estimated footage and the actual surveyed distance. Hurlbert said he did not recall any instance where the difference was that pronounced.

Hurlbert said his goal is still to get Rural Development to agree to let the project go out for bidding, then adjust if those bids are higher than the $2.2 million awarded in grants and loans for the work.

Schroedl said the city could also opt to fund the difference in the cost itself and still get all the work done instead of cutting out portions of the project.

The council did not take any official action.

The council did vote to amend the pool filter replacement project to include the installation of a sump pump to keep the pool basin dry during the offseason months.

Soles encouraged the city to install a screen over the top of the line to help keep leaves from collecting, freezing and blocking the entry to the pump.

Schroedl said if something like the addition of the sump pump could extend the life of the pool’s paint and caulking by even one additional year, it would save the city around $10,000.

Adding the sump pump raised the cost of the project by $1,408.

The council considered a request from Brown County to pay for half the cost of purchasing fertilizer for the Courthouse and Library parks.

Schroedl said the county purchased $1,200 in fertilizer to apply to the block, and is asking for the city to pay half.

She said there is an agreement between the city and county that has been in place since 2007 that states the county will take care of the grounds at both the Courthouse and Library parks, and in exchange, the city does not bill the county for water and sewer service at the courthouse.

Soles said the courthouse park has likely been fertilized previously since the agreement was put in place, and the city had never before been asked to share that cost.

Councilman Brad Fiala said it should be common courtesy that if the county wanted to bill the city for something it should contact the city first before proceeding.

“I don’t think we should pay it, and I would like to see us put a water meter there so we can see how much water is being used that the county is not being billed for,” Fiala said.

Schroedl said a meter would give the city and county an apples to apples comparison on what each entity is contributing as part of the agreement.

Soles said, since the city has not paid for fertilizer in the past, it should not pay in this case.

“If the county wants to change the contract, they need to visit with us before we would agree to take on any more obligations,” Soles said.

By a 3-1 vote with Fiala against, the council tabled taking any action on the claim.

The council accepted recommendations made by the LB 840 Citizen Advisory Review Committee during its six-month report to the city.

The CARC recommended the city consolidate its LB 840 applications for façade improvements and housing demolition into one generic application.

The committee also recommended the city create a file log with each project to allow for the CARC to sign off during its annual review and to allow for other notes with each project to be made.

The CARC also recommended the city obtain a new copy of insurance in March on the one active LB 840 loan to insure the city remains listed in a first position on the note.

In a final action item, the council approved the mayor’s recommended appointments of Dane Sears to the LB 840 Loan Committee, David Spann and Mary Ritter to the Ainsworth Betterment Committee, Gerry Osborn to the Cemetery Board, Harlin Welch to the City Planning Commission, and Carolyn Schipporeit to the Sellors-Barton Cabin Advisory Board all for three-year terms.

During her report, Schroedl said the Nebraska Department of Economic Development is asking cities to return all Community Development Block Grant funding previously awarded that is still possessed by the cities.

She said the city has two CDBG funding pools, including $26,000 in the re-use business loan program and $100,000 in the owner-occupied housing rehabilitation loan program.

Schroedl said most of the re-use business loan program funds were awarded as a forgivable loan to Lyons Payroll Service as part of the city’s contribution to the Sandhills Care Center.

She said the city could allocate the remaining $26,000 to a public safety improvement instead of sending it back to the state. She suggested replacing sidewalk near the school and installing additional speed signs to help slow Highway 20 traffic at the school crosswalks.

She said there were still 15 loans out for the owner-occupied housing rehabilitation program. She said that has been a successful program that has supplied people in the city with zero interest or low interest loans to make improvements on their homes.

She said all 15 loans were current, none had fallen behind on repaying the loans.

“We might be able to repurpose those CDBG funds so we can continue to use them,” Schroedl said. She said she would attend training that would answer questions on repurposing those CDBG funds.

Schroedl updated the council on continued work between the city and Brown County Hospital to try and find a solution that would allow the hospital to utilize LB 840 funding for professional recruitment.

Since the hospital is county-owned, the city’s LB 840 attorney has deemed the hospital cannot qualify for LB 840 professional recruitment funding.

By a 3-1 vote with Councilman Schuyler Schenk against, the council voted to write a letter to 43rd District State Sen. Tom Brewer to see if the LB 840 program guidelines can be amended through legislation to allow governmental entities like the Brown County Hospital and Sandhills Care Center to utilize LB 840 funds.

Schroedl said the Nebraska League of Municipalities was also working to see if the LB 840 guidelines can be amended through state legislation.

Schroedl also reported the city has been awarded $2.11 million from the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency to repair damage from the 2019 flooding. She said street improvement work would commence as soon as weather permitted.

Prior to entering into executive session to discuss personnel issues, Fiala thanked Steve Warneke for allowing him to tour the city’s wastewater treatment plant.

“People really need to go out there and view that place,” Fiala said.

Soles said he thought it would be a great idea to work with the school and have students tour the facility to see how clear the water is that exits the treatment facility.

The next meeting of the Ainsworth City Council is scheduled for 5 p.m. Feb. 12.

* Drone sightings reported Monday night in Brown, Rock and Keya Paha counties

(Posted 3:30 p.m. Jan. 7)

Add Brown, Rock and Keya Paha counties to the growing list of the Midwest where suspicious drones have been sighted. Area law enforcement agencies received more than a dozen calls between 8 and 10 p.m. Monday from residents reporting drone sightings.

Brown County Sheriff Bruce Papstein said calls came in from southern Brown County to east of Long Pine and into Keya Paha County near Burton, with area residents reporting drones flying overhead.

Papstein said some of the calls indicated groupings of 12 to 17 drones flying in a pattern from east of Long Pine north into Keya Paha County near Burton.

Papstein said a Nebraska State Patrolman confirmed a drone sighting in Springview late Monday evening.

The Rock County Sheriff’s Department received seven calls regarding drone sightings, with the first coming just prior to 8 p.m. and the final call coming in around 10 p.m. Those callers reported sightings west of Bassett, in Bassett, and southeast of Bassett.

Papstein said the sheriff’s department did not receive any reports of suspicious vehicles or persons who may have transported the drones and engaged in their operation.

He said the first call was reported in southern Brown County near Mule Deer Road, and the sightings continued north across Brown County and into Keya Paha County, where 12 to 17 were sighted flying in a pattern near Burton.

The suspicious sightings began in December in northeastern Colorado, and the sightings have since spread into Nebraska. Numerous sightings were reported Sunday in the Grand Island, Hastings and Kearney area, followed by the sightings Monday night in north central Nebraska.

Papstein urged any area resident, for the time being, to report to law enforcement all drone sightings as well as any vehicle that seems out of place for the area, especially vans or vehicles pulling trailers.

U.S. Sen. Deb Fischer, a member of the Senate Commerce Committee, which has jurisdiction over the Federal Aviation Administration, said Tuesday she spoke with FAA Administrator Steve Dickson regarding the recent sightings of unidentified unmanned aircraft systems, commonly known as drones, in Nebraska.

“Nebraskans are rightly concerned about the recent drone activity,” Fischer said. “This morning, I spoke with FAA Administrator Dickson directly who informed me that, as of now, there are still no answers about who is using these drones. Yesterday, the FAA, FBI, the Nebraska State Patrol, and local law enforcement officials from Nebraska and Colorado met to discuss how to address this problem.

"An investigation is underway and the best thing Nebraskans can do right now is continue to report any drone sightings to law enforcement. I will continue to share information with the public as it becomes available.”

* Brewer discusses upcoming Nebraska Legislature session

(Posted 7 a.m. Jan. 7)

Nebraska 43rd District State Sen. Tom Brewer visited with KBRB's Graig Kinzie to preview the upcoming session of the Nebraska Legislature.
In addition to discussing the bills he has in the works, Brewer also tackled potential solutions to ease the property tax burden in rural Nebraska, and several other topics.
To hear the conversation, click on the audio links below.

audio clips/State Sen Tom Brewer 1-6-20 bill introduction.mp3

audio clips/State Sen Tom Brewer 1-6-20 property tax bills.mp3

audio clips/State Sen Tom Brewer 1-6-20 Medicaid and red flag.mp3

* Motorists injured Saturday after striking cow on Highway 20 near Johnstown

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

Two motorists were injured Saturday after their vehicle struck a cow on Highway 20 east of Johnstown.

According to Brown County Sheriff Bruce Papstein, at 6:15 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 4, on Highway 20 approximately 1 mile east of Johnstown, a 2001 Buick Sentry, driven by Connie Mauch, 64, of Ainsworth, was traveling east when the vehicle struck a cow in the roadway. The cow, owned by Robert Brawner of Wood Lake, was among a herd that was being moved across Highway 20 at the Norden Avenue intersection.

Mauch and a passenger in the Buick, Walter Mauch, 64, of Ainsworth, were transported by the Brown County Ambulance Association to the Brown County Hospital for treatment of injuries suffered during the accident.

The Buick was considered a total loss. The cow was killed in the accident and had an estimated value of more than $1,000.

* Kitchen fire causes smoke damage to Ainsworth home Saturday

(Posted 9 a.m. Jan. 6)

A kitchen fire Saturday caused smoke damage to a home in Ainsworth.

According to Ainsworth Fire Chief Brad Fiala, at approximately 3:40 p.m. Saturday, firefighters were called to a report of a stove fire at 546 N. Walnut St.

The home’s residents were able to evacuate safely and called in the fire. Upon arrival, firefighters entered the smoke-filled house and used a fire extinguisher to stop the flames.

An infant in the home was examined by Brown County Ambulance Association personnel and tested for proper oxygen levels. No injuries were reported.

The home, owned by Kolton Lurz of Ainsworth, sustained smoke damage, and the oven was a complete loss.

Firefighters returned to the Ainsworth Fire Hall at approximately 4:45 p.m. Saturday.

* Hoop shoot winners crowned Saturday

(Posted 9 a.m. Jan. 6)

Six local shooters qualified for the District Hoop Shoot by winning their division Saturday during the annual Ainsworth Elks Hoop Shoot in McAndrew Gymnasium.

Shooters attempted 25 free throws, with the top finisher in each division qualifying for the District Hoop Shoot Jan. 12 at Cozad.

Witten Painter won the boys 12-13 age division, hitting 15 of 25 free throw attempts. Kelby Rice finished second, with Sam Titus third.

Cierra Linse won the girls 12-13 age division, hitting 17 of 25 attempts. Preselyn Goochey was second, and Emma Kennedy placed third.

Jaxon Rucker won the boys 10-11 age division, making 10 of 25 attempts. Gracyn Painter captured the girls 10-11 bracket, making 11 of 25 shots. Willa Flynn placed second.

Zaine Evans won the boys 8-9 division with five makes, and Payton Sears won the girls 8-9 age division by going 7 for 25 at the line. Tinley Buechele was second and Ava Graff third in the division.

Winners received a trophy and a basketball and the chance to compete Jan. 12 at the District Hoop Shoot for a chance to advance to the state finals.

* Traffic Accident

(Posted 11 a.m. Jan. 3)

The Brown County Sheriff’s Department investigated a two-vehicle accident that occurred Tuesday, Dec. 31, in Ainsworth.

According to the sheriff’s department report, at 10:05 a.m. Tuesday at the intersection of Main and Second streets, a collision occurred between a 2004 Chevy Impala, driven south on Main Street by Aliya Keezer, 17, of Ainsworth, and a northbound 2006 Chevy Equinox, driven by Madison Welch, 17, of Ainsworth.

The sheriff’s department report indicated the Impala attempted to turn east from Main Street onto Second Street when the collision occurred with the Equinox. Snow piled in the middle of Main Street obstructed the view of the northbound lane and contributed to the accident.

No injuries were reported. Damage to the Impala was estimated at $2,000. The Equinox sustained approximately $500 damage.

* Monday accident on Main Street injures 3 motorists

(Posted 3:15 p.m. Dec. 31)

A two-vehicle accident at the intersection of Third and Main streets in Ainsworth Monday injured three motorists.

At 2:40 p.m. Monday, a 2001 Ford F-150, driven by Jesse Marshall, 24, of Ainsworth, was traveling west on Third Street and crossing the Main Street intersection when a collision occurred with a 2008 Chevy Impala, driven southbound on Main Street by Aliya Keezer, 17, of Ainsworth.

With snow piled in the middle of Main Street, the lack of visibility at the intersection was a factor in the accident, according to Brown County Sheriff Bruce Papstein.

Both drivers and one passenger in the Ford were transported by the Brown County Ambulance Association to the Brown County Hospital for treatment of injuries suffered during the accident.

Damage to the Ford was estimated at $5,000. The Chevy was considered a total loss.
The accident prompted the civil defense siren to sound in Ainsworth. The Ainsworth Volunteer Fire Department responded to the accident call to support the Brown County Sheriff's Department and the Brown County Ambulance Association.

* Highway 20 between Ainsworth and Bassett closed due to jack-knifed semi

(Posted 7 a.m. Dec. 30)

Highway 20 between Ainsworth and Bassett is closed due to a semi getting stuck that is blocking both lanes of traffic. The Nebraska Department of Transportation is working to get the semi unstuck and the lanes cleared, but until further notice, Highway 20 is closed to traffic.
The Department of Transportation reports all other roads in the area are impassable, and will likely remain so until the wind subsides. Travel is not advised anywhere in the listening area until further notice.
Stay tuned to KBRB for additional updates.

* City asks residents not to park on streets to aid in snow removal

(Posted 4 p.m. Dec. 27)

The City of Ainsworth is asking residents to remove vehicles and trailers from street parking throughout the duration of the upcoming winter storm. 
Moving vehicles off streets will assist the streets department with snow removal efforts. 
Also a reminder, street parking is prohibited on emergency routes when there is snowfall. Emergency routes include: Third Street from Walnut to Woodward streets; Main Street from Highway 20 to South Street; Harrington Street from Highway 20 to Zero Street; First Street from Main to Pine streets; Pine Street from First to Zero streets; Zero Street from Pine to Harrington streets; Second Street from Harrington to Fullerton streets; and Second Street from Walnut to Woodward streets.
The city thanks everyone for their help and cooperation by keeping vehicles off city streets, and especially keeping the above emergency routes clear.

* Chamber of Commerce awards another $250 in Holiday Bucks to local shoppers

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

The Ainsworth Area Chamber of Commerce awarded another $250 in chamber gift certificates during its annual Holiday Bucks promotion. Those shopping in chamber member businesses during the holiday season may enter for a chance to win $50 in Holiday Bucks, redeemable in any chamber member business.
Week 4 Holiday Bucks winners were Tom Bower of Ainsworth, who made his winning purchase in J’s Keggers; Eric Goochey of Johnstown, whose winning purchase came from Plains Equipment; Clarabelle Kenner of Wood Lake, who made her winning purchase in The Book Peddler; Laura Priest of Ainsworth, whose winning purchase was made in the H&R Food Center; and Cameron Koch of Ainsworth, whose winning purchase came from Bomgaar’s.
Winners may pick up their certificates from the chamber office on Main Street.

* Recent cases from Brown County Court

(Posted 2:45 p.m. Dec. 26)

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

Michael W. Schultz, age 38, of St. Cloud, Minn., speeding 16-20 mph over the limit, fined $125.

Shawn M. Wingrove, 36, of Valentine, speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.

Kurtis W. Williams, 47, of Castle Rock, Colo., speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.

Austin S. Crane, 26, improper or defective vehicle light, $25.

Robert A. Sivertson, 22, of Watertown, S.D., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Allen R. Naprstek, 76, of Valparaiso, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Frank Collins of Long Pine, unregistered vehicle, $50.

Michael J. Stanislav, 58, of Elkhorn, violation of deer regulations, $100; failure to display hunter orange material, $25.

Cody R. Stanislav, 24, of Elkhorn, failure to display hunter orange material, $25.

Michael C. Stanislav, 29, of Elkhorn, failure to display hunter orange material, $25.

Glen D. Boschen, 81, of Ainsworth, hunting/fishing/trapping without permission, $200 and ordered to pay $1,000 in liquidation damage.

Steven L. Boschen, 68, of Broken Bow, hunting/fishing/trapping without permission, $200.

Patrick G. Short, 43, of Lakewood, Colo., speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.

Robert J. McLeod, 46, of Ainsworth, failure to license a dog or cat, $25 and ordered to pay $149 in restitution.

Monte S. Goshorn, 61, of Ainsworth, 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.

Lori A. Buoy, 54, of Long Pine, second offense driving under the influence, $500 and sentenced to 30 days in jail; improper or defective vehicle light, $25.

Jose R. Sanchez, 36, of Ainsworth, violation of a stop or yield sign, $75.

Adam C. Schwab, 30, of Sioux Falls, S.D., attempting a Class 1 misdemeanor, $1,000; also charged with possession of marijuana less than 1 ounce, $300; possession of drug paraphernalia, $100.

Shalie D. Anderson, 26, of Sioux Falls, S.D., attempting a Class 4 felony, $1,000; possession of marijuana less than 1 ounce, $300; possession of drug paraphernalia, $100.

* Area students graduate from the University of Nebraska-Kearney

(Posted 7:30 a.m. Dec. 24)

Undergraduate and graduate degrees for 381 students were conferred during commencement exercises Friday at the University of Nebraska at Kearney.

Area students graduating from the University of Nebraska-Kearney included:

Ainsworth

Hailey McBride, a Bachelor of Arts degree in art education. McBride graduated with honorable mention recognition.

Brewster

Keesah Albrecht, a Bachelor of Arts degree in English writing. Albrecht graduated Magna Cum Laude.

Tyler Guggenmos, a Bachelor of Science degree in exercise science.

Butte

Mitchell Atkinson, a Bachelor of Arts degree in elementary education.

Valentine

Cameron Bancroft, a Bachelor of Arts degree in business administration.

Madison Kelber, a Bachelor of Arts degree in business administration. Kelber graduated with honorable mention recognition.

Cameron Perrett, a Bachelor of Science degree in recreation management.

* Area students receive degrees from UN-L Saturday

(Posted 7 a.m. Dec. 23)

Kwame Dawes told the University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s December graduates to ask big questions, be engaged and continually try in the face of a complex, ever-changing world.

Dawes, award-winning poet and writer, Chancellor’s Professor of English and Glenna Luschei Editor of Prairie Schooner, delivered the undergraduate commencement address, “Only the Trying,” Saturday in Pinnacle Bank Arena.

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln conferred 1,428 degrees during its winter commencement exercises. The 1,404 graduates are from 49 countries, 35 states and more than 150 Nebraska communities.

Area graduates from UN-L include:

 

Bassett

Katherine Elizabeth Nolles, College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, Bachelor of Science in Agricultural Education.
 

Springview

Paige Morgan Bruns, College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, Bachelor of Arts in Hospitality, Restaurant and Tourism Management.

 

Stuart

Mason William Dexter, College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, Bachelor of Science in Agribusiness.

 

Atkinson

Alex Jerome Fritz, College of Engineering, Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering.

 

Valentine

Macey Miriam-Katherine Mathis, College of Education and Human Sciences, Bachelor of Science in Education and Human Sciences with distinction.

 

Spencer

Matthew Lee Reiser, College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, Bachelor of Science in Agronomy.

 

Dawes opened the speech with a passage from T.S. Eliot’s epic poem “The Four Quarters.” The phrase he wanted the graduates to reflect upon is: “For us, there is only the trying. The rest is not our business.”

A few years ago, Dawes set out to better understand the history of the American presidency. He started with George Washington and made his way through about two dozen presidents, reading biographies and autobiographies.

“It was something else,” he said. “Even then, politics were raw, complicated, and the actions and decisions of our leaders had a massive impact on the daily lives of people. Much of it seemed remarkably familiar.”

Dawes said despite how “ugly, brutal and sometimes despicable” the stories he discovered, he found comfort in what he read. For every indication of brute acceptance of bigotry and the demeaning of other people, whether Native people or African-Americans, there existed those who wrestled with it, spoke out against it, asked questions and tried to offer alternate views.

“When major issues of conscience and morality were being discussed around the country, and when unconscionable ideas prevailed, there were people who felt differently and who understood that to be a part of their Americanness,” he said. “They tried.”

Dawes said he began to realize that the emotional and moral compass of a society could be tracked by what will always be found in letters, poems, songs, stories, newspaper articles, sermons and essays, and, in modern times, emails, blogs, social media posts and text messages.

“By this I mean, there is a moral compass to a society that can be preserved in ordinary people being willing to ask questions, to resist the easy answers and to try to do the right thing and act in the right way,” he said.

Dawes reminded the graduates that they will shape society and leave a legacy among their peers and especially family members who follow them.

* Chamber awards $250 to Week 3 Holiday Bucks winners

(Posted 3:30 p.m. Dec. 20)

The Ainsworth Area Chamber of Commerce continued its Holiday Bucks promotion with the awarding of $250 in Chamber Bucks to those shopping in chamber member businesses during the holiday season.
Those making a purchase in a chamber member business during the holiday season are eligible to win $50 in Chamber Bucks, which can be redeemed in any member business.
Week 3 winners are Judy Walters of Ainsworth, who made her winning purchase in J’s Keggers; Mary Rau of Ainsworth, whose winning purchase was made in The Book Peddler; Lacey Friedrich of Bassett, who made her winning purchase in Bomgaar’s; and Eileen Sylvester and Mary Jo McCall, who both made their winning purchases in the H&R Food Center.
Winners may pick up their $50 in Chamber Bucks from the chamber office on Main Street.

* Area students named Academic All-State by the NSAA

(Posted 2 p.m. Dec. 20)

Each year the Nebraska School Activities Association and the Nebraska Chiropractic Physicians Association recognize students with Academic All-State Awards who have been nominated by their schools, based on their individual academic excellence, leadership and significant contributions made to their NSAA activity.

There were 2,554 students named Academic All-State during the fall seasons.

Area athletes who received Academic All-State recognition from the NSAA are:

 

Ainsworth

Ben Flynn and Ty Schlueter in boys cross country, CeeAnna Beel and Rylee Rice in girls cross country, Caleb Allen and Sloan Raymond in football, Allison Arens and Allison Taylor in girls golf, Brandt Murphy and Rylee Rice in play production, and Madelyn Goochey and Summer Richardson in volleyball.

 

Keya Paha County

Daisy Frick in girls cross country, and Adyson Linse and Sidney Linse in volleyball.

 

Rock County

Brendan Bussinger and Tommy Klemesrud in boys cross country, Mariah Ost in girls cross country, Wyatt Olson and Dolan Pospichal in football, and Brooklyn Buell and Carson Shaw in play production.

 

Stuart

Katilynn Kaup in girls cross country, Wade Paxton and Cameron Sattler in football, Colton Kaup and Lainey Paxton in play production, and Reaghan Engel and Madison Stracke in volleyball.

 

West Holt

Jackson Butterfield and Aaron Kraus in boys cross country, Sophie Laeber and Brianna Rentschler in girls cross country, Javin Klabenes and Joseph Seger in football, Jordyn Laible and Lydia Stenka in girls golf, Haley Peek and Martin Wentworth in play production, and Ellie Burkinshaw and Lindsey Jelinek in volleyball.

 

Sandhills

Dylan Lister and Bryan Zutavern in football, and Madison Marten in volleyball.

 

Boyd County

Brayden Almgren in boys cross country, and Andrea Hipke in girls cross country.

 

Valentine

Brayden Kieborz and Cody Miller in boys cross country, MaKenzie Long in girls cross country, Jon Keller and Christopher Williams in football, Shauna Radant and Ramsey Ravenscroft in girls golf, Timothy Egelhoff and Elliana Springer in play production, and Haley Hesse and Allison Hitchcock in volleyball.

* September taxable sales rise almost 50 percent in Brown County

(Posted 7 a.m. Dec. 19)

Comparison of September 2019 and September 2018 Net Taxable Sales for Nebraska Counties and Selected Cities

County
or City

2019
Net Taxable
Sales

2018
Net Taxable
Sales

Percent
Change

2019
Sales Tax
5.5%

2018
Sales Tax
5.5%

Blaine

55,297

52,027

6.3

3,041.36

2,861.50

Boyd

997,676

1,195,048

(16.5)

54,872.33

65,727.80

Brown

4,078,584

2,740,380

48.8

224,322.39

150,721.16

Ainsworth

3,834,225

2,529,245

51.6

210,882.62

139,108.70

Cherry

6,287,513

6,819,155

(7.8)

358,126.25

375,053.99

Valentine

5,888,031

6,487,452

(9.2)

323,842.08

356,810.23

Holt

8,842,611

9,340,497

(5.3)

486,344.46

513,728.15

Atkinson

1,415,982

1,601,410

(11.6)

77,879.22

88,077.72

O'Neill

6,141,276

6,081,630

1

337,770.60

334,489.94

Keya Paha

238,386

220,166

8.3

13,111.27

12,109.16

Rock

632,455

542,828

16.5

34,785.14

29,855.60

State Total

$2,842,486,761

$2,581,701,239

10.1

$156,457,721.54

$142,066,491.47

 

Comparison of September 2019 and September 2018 Motor Vehicle Sales Tax Collections by County

County
or City

2019
Net Taxable
Sales

2018
Net Taxable
Sales

Percent
Change

2019
Sales Tax
5.5%

2018
Sales Tax
5.5%

Blaine

120,434

70,075

71.9

6,603.39

3,799.73

Boyd

451,284

287,174

57.1

24,852.78

15,771.66

Brown

872,425

772,660

12.9

48,199.12

42,713.85

Cherry

1,267,622

908,532

39.5

70,171.69

50,215.09

Holt

2,103,845

2,461,875

(14.5)

116,506.86

136,082.85

Keya Paha

421,330

248,830

69.3

23,366.14

13,698.62

Rock

528,503

212,547

148.7

29,126.51

11,670.43

State Total

$394,208,129

$337,858,917

16.7

$21,868,461.34

$18,729,466.71

 * Ainsworth Fire Department among those recognized Tuesday for flood rescue efforts

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

During a ceremony Tuesday in the State Capitol Rotunda, Gov. Pete Ricketts and First Lady Susanne Shore recognized several dozen heroes who helped save lives during the 2019 flooding. 

Among the recipients was the Ainsworth Volunteer Fire Department, which was credited with performing a life-saving rescue during September’s flooding.

Among the additional fire departments recognized were the O’Neill, Spencer and Lynch volunteer departments.

“As Susanne and I traveled the state in the aftermath of the most widespread natural disaster in our history, we heard heartwarming stories of ordinary Nebraskans doing extraordinary work,” Ricketts said. “Nebraskans showed their strength, grit, and compassion in countless ways.  They rescued stranded neighbors and animals, sandbagged wells, donated hay and supplies, delivered hot meals, and raised funds for those who lost everything.  This State Capitol ceremony is the first of several ways we plan to honor heroes from the floods over the course of the next year.”

In June, the governor and first lady asked Nebraskans to submit nominations for the Flood Heroes honor.  Hundreds of nominations were received, detailing Nebraskans’ extraordinary compassion and bravery in service of their communities.  Among the state’s many Flood Heroes, those who took direct action to save the lives of others received their official honor at the Capitol.  

“During the floods, Nebraskans rose to the challenge to protect their families and assist their neighbors,” Shore said.  “Many worked overtime, risked their personal safety, and generously contributed their time and money to give aid to their communities.  We have been inspired by the stories of these heroes in our midst.  I am grateful for the opportunity to give them official recognition for their service to our state.”

In March, blizzards and floods caused the most widespread natural disaster in Nebraska’s history.  The disaster claimed lives and caused billions of dollars in damages across the state.  Thousands of homes and businesses were lost.  Disaster declarations were issued in 84 counties, 104 cities and villages, and 5 tribes.

While many Nebraskans suffered losses from the flood, many more stepped up to help families and neighbors.  Across the state, Nebraskans immediately took action and displayed great courage, in some cases risking their own lives to save others.  An army of individuals volunteered to feed flood victims, rebuild homes, and help put lives back together. 

James Wilke, a farmer from Columbus, was the first Flood Hero recognized during Tuesday’s ceremony. Wilke sacrificed his life while volunteering to save a stranded motorist.  When driving his tractor to aid a rescue attempt, the bridge he traveled over could not withstand the powerful water.  The bridge collapsed, and Wilke perished. His mother Jan, wife Rachel, and children Julianne, Colton, and Addie accepted the award on his behalf.

The Governor and First Lady also presented an award to air crewmen and coordinators with the Nebraska National Guard.  From March 13 to April 13, the Guard rescued 112 people (66 by hoist rescues) and saved 13 pets.  Many of these rescues took place in severe weather.  Pilots reported that the poor flying conditions during the Nebraska floods were worse than some of the experiences they had conducting missions in Iraq and Afghanistan.

A group of brave men from the Fremont area were also recognized for their heroism.  On Thursday, March 14, these first responders sprang into action after receiving urgent calls for help from a stranded family with a two-year-old girl living along the Elkhorn River.  With Highway 30 blocked by floodwaters, the seven rescuers volunteered for a waterborne rescue—using two of their own airboats.  Wind gusts of 40-50 miles per hour resulted in massive whitecaps, and the huge waves capsized the first boat.  The second boat also overturned as its crew tried to provide assistance.

With their boats sunk, the men contacted Fremont’s Fire Chief as they struggled to stay afloat in the freezing water and choppy waves.  In turn, he initiated a chain of communication that resulted in the Nebraska Army National Guard sending a Black Hawk helicopter from Columbus.  The chopper airlifted the men to Fremont Municipal Airport.  Upon landing, they were rushed to Methodist Fremont Health hospital to receive medical attention.  Their body temperatures were dangerously low from having been submerged in the icy water.  Thankfully, all seven men fully recovered, and—in true Nebraska fashion—they were soon back out performing more rescue missions.  Fremont’s Fire Chief nicknamed them “The Magnificent Seven” for their heroism. The family they had initially tried to rescue was eventually transported to safety by a Nebraska Game and Parks airboat.

* Portion of Cowboy Trail closed east of Valentine

(Posted 1:45 p.m. Dec. 16)

The Cowboy Trail between the Niobrara River and the Highway 20 parking lot outside of Valentine is closed until further notice due to user safety concerns. Significant hillside erosion has occurred near the trail and will require repair.
The bridge over the Niobrara River is accessible from any trail access point in Valentine but will no longer be accessible by the Highway 20 parking lot.

* Teachers recognized for impact on UN-L students

(Posted 9:15 a.m. Dec. 16)

Impacts made by high school teachers were recently celebrated by the University of Nebraska–Lincoln.

A call for nominations by first-year students resulted in more than 900 teachers being honored for their work in positively shaping the Huskers’ high school experiences and preparing them for college. Each nominated teacher received a letter from Chancellor Ronnie Green.

“Your influence helped (the students) earn acceptance to a Big Ten university where they’ll discover and stretch their strengths, work one-on-one with peers and faculty and prepare for a great career or advanced study,” Green said. “We are grateful for the investment you make in your students, and I know your impact will continue to resonate with them.”

Of the 900 teachers recognized, 600 are working across Nebraska. Among them were Ainsworth High School agricultural education teacher Roger Lechtenberg and Valentine High School teacher Ronelle Kilmer.

The project was intended to recognize the investment teachers make with their students, helping them earn a diploma and strive to attend college. The honor also reflects a University of Nebraska belief that the path through college is just as important as the journey that brought students to campus.

“While it’s imperative for students to think about their future - choosing a major, building relationships and developing skills for success - we also think it’s important for students to reflect on the path that brought them to Nebraska,” said Amber Williams, UN-L assistant vice chancellor.

* Area students slated to graduate Friday from UNK

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

Undergraduate and graduate degrees for 381 students will be conferred during commencement exercises at 10 a.m. Friday at the University of Nebraska at Kearney.

Barbara Hancock Snyder is the featured speaker. Vice president of student affairs emeritus from the University of Utah, Snyder served as vice chancellor for student affairs at UNK from 1988-99 and held various positions at Iowa State University from 1975-88.

Area students scheduled to graduate Friday from UNK include:

Ainsworth – Hailey McBride, a bachelor’s degree in art education.

Brewster – Keesha Albrecht, a bachelor’s degree in English writing; and Tyler Guggenmos, a bachelor of science degree in exercise science.

Butte – Mitchell Atkinson, a bachelor’s degree in elementary education.

Valentine – Cameron Bancroft, a bachelor’s degree in business administration; Madison Kelber, a bachelor’s degree in business administration; and Cameron Perrett, a bachelor’s degree in recreation management.

* Chamber draws Week 2 winners in Holiday Bucks promotion

(Posted 2:45 p.m. Dec. 13)

The Ainsworth Area Chamber of Commerce drew the second week of winners during its annual Holiday Bucks promotion. Winners receive $50 in Chamber Bucks, which can be redeemed in any chamber member business.

Week 2 winners were Dale Hafer, Wendy Platt and Melissa Freudenberg, who all made their winning purchases in Red & White Market; and Beth Kietzman and Hannah Schmitz, who made their purchases in the H&R Food Center.

Winners may pick up their Holiday Bucks from the chamber office on Main Street. Continue shopping in chamber member businesses during the holiday season for a chance to win.

* Ainsworth finishes with 1-2 record at Nebraska State Mock Trial Championships

(Posted 2:30 p.m. Dec. 13)

Ainsworth High School placed 10th in the recent Nebraska Mock Trial Championships held at Lincoln on Dec. 9-10. Omaha Duchesne Academy defeated Omaha Creighton Prep in the championship trial. Duchesne advances to the National Championships in May.

During the two days of competition, Ainsworth had trials with Columbus Scotus, Grand Island Northwest, and York.  The team defeated GINW but was bested by the teams from Scotus and York.

“I am very proud of how the team performed,” Aunsworth coach Mary Rau said. “Our team is still relatively inexperienced, and many of the finer points of Mock Trial come through years of competition. Next year will be even better than this year. It’s all about building that initial foundation of knowledge. These students have great potential.”

Winning awards for best performances were as follows: 

v. Scotus—Attorney Alyssa Erthum and Witness Coy Carson

v. GINW—Attorney Alyssa Erthum and Witness Brandt Murphy

v. York—Attorney Coy Carson and Witness Brandt Murphy

Members of the Blue Team include seniors Coy Carson and Raven Stewart; juniors Cody Kronhofman, Brandt Murphy, Molly Salzman and Elizabeth Smith; and sophomore Alyssa Erthum.

* Highway 11 bridge south of Butte reopens to traffic

(Posted 2:30 p.m. Dec. 13)

The Nebraska Department of Transportation announced Friday the Highway 11 bridge south of Butte is now open to traffic.

The bridge had been closed since March 13 when it was severely damaged by ice and flooding.

The repair work included replacing the concrete deck, repairing and/or replacing damaged girders, and shifting the bridge back into the correct position.  Kiewit Infrastructure Company of Omaha was the contractor for the repairs, estimated at $8 million, and began work on June 24.

While other work continues at the site, traffic may be reduced to one-lane and controlled by flaggers.

Motorists are advised to use caution while driving through construction zones and always wear a seat belt.

NDOT thanked all its partners for their tireless work to open these critical corridors for the people of Nebraska. Work continues to restore normal operations in other areas of the state.  The NDOT will continue to update the public as it completes projects and normal traffic operations resume.

* NPPD customers will see a rebate and no rate increase in 2020

(Posted 6:30 a.m. Dec. 13)

Nebraska Public Power District customers will not only have no base increases in their power rates for 2020, but customers will receive a credit on their account after action taken by the NPPD Board of Directors.

For NPPD retail customers the approval of no rate increase for 2020 marks the seventh year in a  row with no increase, while wholesale customers (public power districts and municipalities) that purchase electricity from NPPD will see a third consecutive year with no base rate increase.

“No increase in our electric rates is good for the economy of Nebraska and the people who live and work here. It’s especially good for the agriculture economy of the state which has had some tough times recently,” said NPPD President and CEO Pat Pope. “Cost control has been important to NPPD and we have seen increased efficiencies and are operating very well. But at no time have we impacted service, reliability, or jeopardized the safety of our employees and customers.”

On the wholesale side, rural public power districts and municipalities will see a production cost adjustment credit averaging 6.2% on their monthly bill for the next year. NPPD’s Board voted to return $46.1 million in rate stabilization funds back to its wholesale customers, 46 municipalities and 24 rural public power districts and rural cooperatives, through the PCA which will run from February 2020 to January 2021.

NPPD will enter a seventh year without a base rate increase for its retail customers which includes residential, commercial and industrial customers in 79 communities in NPPD’s service territory. Those NPPD retail customers who receive a bill directly from NPPD will see a PCA credit on their monthly bill between February 2020 through January 2021, ranging from 2% to 4% depending on the customer class and electrical usage.

“Our wholesale electric rates continue to be very competitive when compared to more than 800 other power suppliers we benchmark against,” Pope said. “On the retail side, NPPD has kept its electric rates stable for end-use customers for six years straight and 2020 will make it seven years.”

NPPD benchmarks its wholesale rate with the National Rural Utilities Cooperative Finance Corporation’s wholesale power cost.  Several years ago, NPPD established a goal of being in CFC’s lowest quartile (below the 25 percentile mark) and was at the 26.9-percentile mark in the most recent benchmarking conducted in 2018.

* City Council discusses snow removal following complaints

(Posted 6:45 a.m. Dec. 12)

Though no official action was taken, snow removal was again a major topic of discussion during Wednesday’s Ainsworth City Council meeting.

Councilwoman Deb Hurless said she believes the city needs to work on its removal plan.

“We have had four people stuck in front of our house on the street,” Hurless said. “It is not just on our street, either. I think the guys know the problem areas, and they should move the snow when it is still soft. It is not good to have to have four-wheel drive on city streets.”

Audience member Rich Hurless said there had to be at least an 8-inch drop from the hard-pack snow on East First Street down into a dip, and then back up to more snow.

“It was like that for a week and a half,” he said. “Some cars even got high-centered. And that isn’t the only place where there was a problem.”

Rich Hurless said the city can issue him a ticket if he doesn’t remove snow from his sidewalk in a timely manner.

“I can’t write the city a ticket for not getting the snow off the street,” he said.

Mayor Jeremiah Sullivan said he understood snow removal issues have also been brought up in the past.

“The city crews are out there working,” Sullivan said. “If we are informed there are situations out there like that, we can address it. This happens on the north side of town too.”

Councilman Greg Soles said the weather did not cooperate with this storm, as it warmed up enough to turn the snow into slush, then froze hard and made it difficult if not impossible to get the ice off the streets.

“We have been talking about this issue before this snow,” Soles said. “We are trying to be proactive.”

Soles said vehicles parked on Main Street and on emergency routes continue to be an issue when the city tries to remove snow. He said people aren’t going to be happy, but there is going to be some enforcement when people leave vehicles parked on designated snow removal routes.

In other business Wednesday, the council heard a report from Ainsworth Golf Course Board member Chris Osterman.

Osterman said it was a difficult weather year, but the course was surviving.

“We appreciate the city’s contributions,” Osterman said. “We are looking at ways to pull in some additional revenue. We are hosting some Christmas parties and trying to pull in some winter revenue.”

Osterman said the course was also considering amending its liquor license to allow for off-sale.

“We thought we might try that, but we will have to come back to the council for approval on that,” Osterman said.

Osterman reported he believed the course’s clubhouse manager would return for 2020, but he didn’t believe the groundskeeper would be back for the next year.

Audience member Rod Worrell said it would be great if the course superintendent could somehow get onto the city’s health insurance plan. He said it would help the course tremendously in finding and keeping a course superintendent if he or she could get onto the city’s plan.

Soles asked if the course had to pay rent to the Ainsworth Airport each year.

Osterman said the course paid about $1,800 annually to lease the ground from the airport.

Soles said the city actually owns the ground, and is helping to support the course.

“I don’t understand why we are having to pay rent on ground we own,” Soles said.

Hurless said that didn’t make sense to her either.

City Attorney Rod Palmer said the city gave the rights to the ground to the airport authority, which is an entity to itself.

“It would be their decision,” Palmer said.

Councilman Brad Fiala asked if the course sustained damage from the 2019 flooding.

Osterman said the course lost a couple large trees during the September flooding, and had some bridge damage as well as other minor problems due to all the water.

In another action item, the council approved additional amendments to the city’s economic development program policy and procedure manual as recommended by the Citizen Advisory Review Committee.

City Administrator Lisa Schroedl said there were some additional typos found that needed to be cleaned up.

The vote to approve the recommended amendments was 3-0, with Councilman Schyler Schenk absent Wednesday.

The council also discussed installing a sump pump at the Ainsworth Swimming Pool to remove standing water from the pool basin in the off-season. Schroedl said the sump pump would add $1,408 to the filter replacement project currently underway at the pool.

“The sump pump would keep water from sitting in the pool basin all winter,” Schroedl said. “It might help us get another year or two out of the caulking and painting.”

Schroedl said it cost the city about $28,000 every time it had to repaint and caulk the swimming pool.

“This would be an easy change order to add while they are here doing the larger project,” she said. “It is an auto pump, so it doesn’t have to be turned on manually.”

Worrell said the sump pumps installed at the Shopko loading dock didn’t work, and only lasted a month before they froze up.

Soles shared the same concern, and said he would be in favor of installing a pump if there were no issues with it freezing.

“If it isn’t going to work, I don’t want to spend the money,” Soles said.

The council tabled the item to seek additional information.

In old business, Schroedl updated the council on garbage service options as the city explores whether to provide in-house garbage removal service or whether it will contract for the service with a private company in the future.

Schroedl said she has a meeting next week with a sales representative to look at the cost to purchase a new or used garbage truck.

“I will try and put a price tag together if we choose to keep the service in-house,” she said.

Rich Hurless questioned the city potentially going with a service that required residents to use a large container for garbage pickup.

“People have a hard time finding their trash cans now when the wind blows,” Hurless said. “They sometimes get blown several blocks away.”

Sullivan said the containers provided by the private service would be much heavier than standard garbage cans, and would be harder for the wind to blow them away.

Soles said the injury factor to employees was the biggest risk to the city in continuing to provide the service.

“That is something we have to consider,” Soles said. “No decision has been made yet.”

During her report, Schroedl said the North Central Development Center did provide a check to the city in the amount of $73,123 from its housing demolition funds as requested during November’s meeting by the council. The council requested the NCDC return $72,997 previously awarded in general funds and ABC funds for housing demolition.

She reported the street shop building project is now about 80 percent complete, with the steel building erected. She said the overhead doors were scheduled to be installed this week, followed by the electrical work.

Worrell expressed disappointment in how the city handled the repair of Herrington Street following the spring flood damage.

“It is now nine months after the street broke up,” Worrell said. “Now it is frozen. As soon as it starts thawing, that street will be impassable. It is a travesty nothing was done. The ambulance will have to avoid that street.”

Fiala said he hit rough spots on the street with the ambulance recently, and it was rough.

“It needs to be fixed properly,” Fiala said.

Schroedl said the plan is to have a contractor come in next spring and fix Herrington Street and others damaged by the March flooding.

“We were trying to get mitigation dollars to put concrete in,” Schroedl said.

She said the city’s request for mitigation dollars to change the damaged streets from asphalt to concrete was denied.

Worrell said it was a pipe dream to think the city would receive funding to put in concrete streets.

Schroedl reported she continues to work with Scottsbluff attorney Rick Ediger and Brown County Hospital CEO John Werner on a solution for professional recruitment funding through the city’s LB 840 program. She said there were a few options the group was considering to meet the legal requirements of the LB 840 plan.

She said she was also working on a vacant housing ordinance to allow the city to potentially fine property owners for having vacant property in city limits with no plans to sell or rent the vacant property. She said that bill was passed by the Nebraska Legislature, and could help the city with some of the housing and commercial property issues it is facing.

The next meeting of the Ainsworth City Council is scheduled for 5 p.m. Jan. 13.

* Braun's IGA of Atkinson receives grant for freezer replacement

(Posted 3:30 p.m. Dec. 11)

USDA Rural Development Nebraska State Director Karl Elmshaeuser announced nearly $925,000 will be utilized for energy efficiencies and renewable energy that will help a total of 14 ag producers and rural-based businesses.

 “Saving energy dollars through energy efficiency improvements means an increase in bottom-line revenue and supports economic growth,” Elmshaeuser said. “USDA’s Rural Energy for America Program has assisted 37 ag producers and rural small businesses in Fiscal Year 2019 through $1,128,108 which makes Rural Development a key funding source to help rural Nebraska prosper.”

 Nebraska recipients include Braun's IGA Inc. of Atkinson, which is receiving $2,421 for the purchase and installation of a new 34 door Zero-Zone freezer system. The project will realize $6,910 per year in energy savings and will save 81,658 kilowatts of electricity per year (55%), enough to power seven homes.

Recipients can use REAP funding for energy audits, and to increase energy efficiency by making improvements to heating, ventilation and cooling systems; insulation; and lighting and refrigeration. Funding may also be used to install renewable energy systems such as biomass, geothermal, hydropower and solar.

* Several sentenced Tuesday in Brown County District Court

(Posted 7:30 a.m. Dec. 11)

During Brown County District Court proceedings Tuesday, Andrew Roepke, age 20, of North Platte, was sentenced to 18 months of prison in the Nebraska Department of Corrections and 18 months of post-release supervision after pleading guilty to a charge of attempted theft by unlawful taking, a Class IIIA felony. 

Tiffany Bennett, 31, of Kansas, was sentenced to 270 days in jail and one year of post-release supervision after pleading guilty to a charge of attempted theft by unlawful taking, a Class IIIA felony.

Cassius Russell, 26, of Kansas, was sentenced to 270 days incarceration with one year of post-release supervision after pleading guilty to attempted theft by unlawful taking, a Class IIIA felony.

George Peterson, 32, of Bassett, was sentenced to 30 months of probation, seven days in jail and $700 in fines after pleading guilty to charges of making terroristic threats, a Class IIIA felony; resisting arrest, a Class I misdemeanor; and second offense driving under the influence, a Class W misdemeanor.

Eric Daniel, 22, of Valentine, entered a plea of guilty to a charge of first degree sexual assault of a minor, a Class II felony. Daniel was sentenced to 90 days in jail and one year of probation.

Wayne Paulson, 41, of Ainsworth, pleaded guilty to a charge of attempted distribution of a controlled substance, a Class IIIA felony. Paulsen will be sentenced in District Court Feb. 11. 

Phillip Gutierrez, 43, of Ainsworth, entered guilty pleas to charges of assaulting an officer, a Class IIIA felony; and attempted domestic assault, a Class II misdemeanor. Gutierrez will be sentenced Feb. 11 in District Court.

* Care Center Board approves bid from Nelson's Furniture to install window coverings

(Posted 1 p.m. Dec. 10)

The Sandhills Care Center Board on Monday approved a bid from Nelson’s Furniture of Valentine for the purchase and installation of new window coverings in the facility.

Administrator Stephanie Kinzie told the board she inquired with several companies about providing bids. She said several declined to bid.

In addition to a bid she presented to the board during November’s meeting from an Iowa company, she said Nelson’s Furniture had provided a quote.

“Dave gave us a discount, and also is providing financing at zero interest for 12 months if we would like,” Kinzie told the board.

She recommended the board approve the bid from Nelson’s Furniture since the company would also install the window coverings, while the care center’s maintenance employee would have had to handle the installation if the board chose the other bid.

“They are local and would be available if something ever went wrong,” Kinzie said. “If we approve the bid, they said they would have them installed within three weeks.”

The board unanimously approved the $14,762 quote from Nelson’s Furniture to supply new window coverings for the entire facility.

In other business Monday, Kinzie told the board the care center was hosting a family appreciation night at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 10. She said the meal was a thank you to those families for entrusting the care of their loved ones to the Sandhills Care Center.

Kinzie reported the facility generated $156,991 in revenue during November, with expenses of $131,356 for an operating margin of $25,634 for the month. She said the care center admitted three residents in November, while two residents passed away. There are currently 25 residents in the Sandhills Care Center.

Kinzie reported two additional part-time registered nurses had recently been hired for night shifts, which should further reduce the facility’s use of agency nursing. She reported the workman’s compensation audit had been recently completed, and the care center would receive a rebate of $6,800 from its insurance policy.

The next meeting of the Sandhills Care Center Board of Directors is scheduled for 4 p.m. Jan. 13.

* Elsmere Road to close again Wednesday for culvert installation

(Posted 7:30 a.m. Dec. 10)

Brown County Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin reported the Elsmere Road will again be closed Wednesday starting at 8:30 a.m. to allow the roads department to finish culvert installation work in areas where water went across the road in 2019.
Turpin said the county installed one culvert Friday, and has two additional culverts to install Wednesday. The roads department will begin work Wednesday between Moon Lake Avenue and West Calamus Road.

* McAndrew Gymnasium roof project completed

(Posted 7 a.m. Dec. 10)

During Monday’s meeting, Ainsworth Community Schools Superintendent Dale Hafer told the Board of Education the gym roof replacement project has been completed.

Hafer said the total cost of $82,521 was $3,100 more than the original bid due to drain issues that were discovered after the old roof was removed.

Hafer also reported the district’s audit report was completed and forwarded to the Nebraska Department of Education. The superintendent said the district ran up against the deadline for submission due to the school’s auditor at Dana F Cole having health issues that caused a delay in the completion of the audit.

“We ran into some deadlines that were beyond our control, but the NDE was not sympathetic,” Hafer said. “Even though we had done our part, it is the NDE’s position that it is our responsibility the auditor get the work completed on time.”

Board member Brad Wilkins asked if the district needed to include assurances when it gets quotes for future audits that someone will take over and handle the district’s audit were this type of situation to arise again.

“Dana F Cole is a big enough firm,” Wilkins said.

Hafer said he was inclined to include something along those lines in the next contract.

“It is our obligation to have the audit done by the deadline,” Hafer said. “We need to make sure help is available in those instances.”

Board President Jim Arens asked what kind of ramifications the district could face if the audit was not completed by the deadline.

Hafer said the Nebraska Department of Education could put a hold on the district’s funding.

“This situation was beyond this person’s control, and we are certainly sympathetic,” Hafer said. “But, they are a big company. We ended up having to scramble the day the report was due to get it done.”

Hafer reported there were no deficient findings with the audit report other than the lack of segregation of duties over financial controls all smaller districts receive due to smaller staffing.

The superintendent also reported the district will make the transition to the new heating and air company Jan. 1. He said the district had a heating issue coming out of Thanksgiving break, and a motor on one of the boiler pumps had to be replaced.

In action items Monday, the board approved the resignation of fourth-grade teacher Jennifer Parr effective Dec. 20. Hafer said Parr was resigning for personal reasons.

He said the district has advertised for an anticipated opening.

“The intent would be to find a graduate who could come in for the second semester,” Hafer said. “If we find a good candidate, that is what we will do. Otherwise, we will utilize one of our long-term subs.”

The board also approved having Trane Climate Solutions perform a preliminary audit of the district’s facilities. Hafer said the district was only picking a company to help the school get started in creating a long-term plan and prioritize needs for the facility.

“This doesn’t commit us to anything,” Hafer said. “We are only picking someone to help us get started.”

The board approved opening a Nebraska Federal Investment Trust Account through Union Bank and Trust to handle the district’s meal program account. Hafer said the trust account serves as a checking account for the district’s meal program, and there was no major change from the former NPAIT account.

The next meeting of the Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education is scheduled for 7 p.m. Jan. 13.

* Chamber draws Week 1 winners in Holiday Bucks promotion

(Posted 2 p.m. Dec. 6)

The Ainsworth Area Chamber of Commerce drew its Week 1 Holiday Bucks winners Friday. Anyone shopping in a chamber member business during the holiday season can enter for a chance to win $50 in Holiday Bucks, which can be redeemed in any member business.
H&R Food Center was the hot spot for Week 1 winners, as four of the five names drawn made their purchases in H&R. Those winners are Kristen Johnson, Katie Winters, Kristy Beard and Julie Ruhter. Lori Voss made her winning purchase at Bomgaar’s.
Winners may pick up their $50 in Holiday Bucks from the chamber office on Main Street.

* Recent cases from Brown County Court

(Posted 2 p.m. Dec. 5)

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

Yamille Melgar, age 38, of Huron, S.D., charged with speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, fined $75.

Tyler W. Cress, 30, of Long Pine, second offense driving under the influence, $500, also sentenced to 10 days in jail with credit for one day served, six months of probation, driver’s license revoked for 18 months, and ordered to install an ignition interlock device.

Jakob E. Tech, 19, of Ainsworth, improper or defective vehicle light, $25.

Jose A. Saucedo, 25, of Aurora, Colo., speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.

Duane L. Reposa, 77, of McCook, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Jamie L. Shockley, 59, of Elk City, Okla., speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.

Bonnie L. Santistevan, 47, of Pueblo, Colo., speeding 16-20 mph over the limit, $125.

Brett S. Busskohl, 22, of Atwater, Minn., attempt of a Class 4 felony, $1,000; also charged with possession of marijuana less than 1 ounce, $300; possession of drug paraphernalia, $100.

Kirk D. Marriott, 49, of Longmont, Colo., speeding 16-20 mph over the limit, $125.

Allen R. Privett Jr., 21, of Ainsworth, first offense littering, $50.

Trevor J. Wilson, 49, of Ainsworth, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Justin B. Baier, 40, of Mount Vernon, Ind., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Joseph H. Spiro, 58, of Alma, Colo., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Lindsey Reyna, 37, of Ainsworth, issuing a no-account check, $50 and ordered to pay $247 in restitution.

Cody E. Jackson, 27, of Hastings, first offense driving under the influence, $500, sentenced to six months of probation, driver’s license revoked for 60 days, and ordered to install an ignition interlock device.

Ashley N. Ausborn, 29, of Huntington, Texas, speeding 21-35 mph over the limit, $200.

Thomas D. Troxel, 20, of Ainsworth, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25; also charged with having a barking dog, $50.

Blaine A. Brandon, 16, of Ainsworth, failure to yield the right of way to an emergency vehicle, $100.

Myron T. Nilson, 52, of Ainsworth, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Kenneth D. Voss, 73, of Long Pine, no valid registration; no proof of insurance, driving during revocation, bald or improper use of tires, unlawful or fictitious display of plates, sentenced to 51 days of jail with credit for 51 days served, and fined a total of $50.

Trinity J. Arpan, 23, of Ainsworth, possession of marijuana less than 1 ounce, $300; possession of drug paraphernalia, $100.

Jeffery L. Curry III, 18, of Mission, S.D., speeding 16-20 mph over the limit, $125.

Denise F. Beawers, 43, of Sterling, Colo., speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.

Leslie M. Petersek, 59, of Colome, S.D., speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.

John D. Lilley, 15, of Council Bluffs, Iowa, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Jeanine M. McKeone, 55, of Omaha, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Kerri E. Peterson, 27, of Denver, Colo., speeding 16-20 mph over the limit, $125.

Matthew J. Baker, 50, of Whispering Pines, N.C., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25; no operator’s license, $75.

Sara L. Kruse, 46, of Springfield, Mo., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Rachell M. Pitrucha, 43, of Sioux Falls, S.D., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Titiena E. Liben, 23, of Sioux Falls, S.D., attempt of a Class 4 felony, $1,000; possession of marijuana less than 1 ounce, $300; possession of drug paraphernalia, $100.

Wyatt A. Wall, 34, of Prairie Du Chien, Wis., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Taylor M. Plendl, 27, of Merrill, Iowa, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Eve N. Fraser, 43, of Colorado Springs, Colo., speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.

* Elsmere Road to close Friday for culvert installation

(Posted 8:45 a.m. Dec. 5)

The Brown County Roads Department will close the Elsmere Road Friday while culverts are installed in three areas where water has run over the road in 2019.
Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin said the roads department will begin the culvert work at 8:30 a.m. Friday and each of the three sites should take the crews between one and two hours to install the culverts.
The first site will be just west of the Highway 7 junction west of the Raven Fire Hall. The roads department will notify KBRB when the work is completed and the Elsmere Road is reopened to traffic.

* Sheriff's department seeks information in the killing of a dog in Ainsworth

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

The Brown County Sheriff’s Department is seeking information regarding the killing of a dog in Ainsworth Nov. 30.
According to the sheriff’s department, sometime between 4 and 6:30 p.m. on Nov. 30, someone used a shotgun to shoot and kill a dog that was in a kennel at 540 E. First St. while the dog’s owners were away.
Anyone with information on who may be responsible for shooting this dog is asked to contact the Brown County Sheriff’s Department at 402-387-1440 or call Crime Stoppers at 402-382-3121. All callers remain anonymous, and information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for this, or any, crime could result in a cash reward.

* Commissioners set Jan. 7 hearing date to vacate road and bridge in northeast Brown County

(Posted 6:45 a.m. Dec. 4)
 

The Brown County Commissioners on Tuesday set a public hearing for Jan. 7 to potentially vacate a road and bridge in northeastern Brown County.

Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin recommended to the board the bridge and road leading to it be vacated. The bridge was destroyed during the September flooding. The bridge served only one property owner, and the county plans to provide access to that person’s property from another direction.

County Attorney Andy Taylor said the public hearing would need to be published in advance for three consecutive weeks.

In another roads item Tuesday, the commissioners reviewed the county’s snow removal policy. Turpin said he was updating the policy to include that the county would plow gravel roads after 5 inches of snow was received instead of the previous 4 inches, while the threshold to plow asphalt roads in the county would remain at 2 inches of snow.

Turpin said plowing gravel roads led to gravel being removed from the road surface, so the roads department tried to avoid plowing snow on gravel unless absolutely necessary to allow for the roads to be navigable.

Turpin reported the roads department has been placing millings on the Elsmere Road, and would try to get that project wrapped up in the next few days. He said he hoped to get culverts installed on the Elsmere Road soon.

The highway superintendent said crews have been out plowing snow on two different occasions.

“There was nothing too bad, but some of the roads were blocked by drifts,” Turpin said.

Turpin told the commissioners it appeared the county would only receive 80 percent of the cost to raise the Elsmere Road following the flooding instead of receiving 100 percent reimbursement.

Commissioner Buddy Small said the county was delayed on the project by the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, and that delay was going to cost the county money.

“It took Sen. Fischer’s office to get things moving,” Small said.

Region 24 Emergency Manager Doug Fox told the commissioners FEMA denied the disaster declaration application submitted for the four area counties following the September flooding. Fox said the application did not meet the damage threshold required by FEMA for a disaster declaration, which unlocks federal funding to assist with repairing damage from a natural disaster.

Fox said Brown County experienced more damage from the September flooding than it did from the floods in March. He said the application was going to be amended with a request for FEMA to reconsider the application.

If the declaration is not approved, the county will not be eligible for any reimbursement on the cost to repair the bridge approaches washed out in September and other culvert and road damage the county sustained.

“I don’t know why the application was denied,” Fox said.

Fox told the commissioners he was planning to retire, and was training Glenn May to be his replacement as the emergency manager for Region 24, which includes, Brown, Rock, Keya Paha, Cherry and Boyd counties.

May told the board he had taken some of the classes necessary to be certified as an emergency manager, but he still had more classes to take.

The commissioners questioned whether the emergency manager position would need to be advertised before a replacement could be named.

Fox also reported the state would like to construct a communications tower in either southern Brown County or southern Rock County. He said the county where the tower is constructed would be responsible for one-third of the cost if it agreed to participate.

Commissioner Denny Bauer suggested a tower could be constructed on the University of Nebraska Barta Ranch in the southern portion of Brown and Rock counties. Fox said, if the tower were constructed on the county line, both Brown and Rock counties could split the cost.

Fox said one-third of the total cost would amount to about $55,000, which the two counties could potentially split. He said the counties would realize some savings by reducing fees for the 911 connectivity system, and the tower would provide better radio communications for the roads department and emergency responders in the southern portion of the two counties.

In other action items Tuesday, the commissioners approved a one-year contract with Paulsen Lawn Service for lawn care and tree trimming on the courthouse grounds at a cost of $7,500.

BKR Extension Educator Chandra Giles asked the board to appoint Gary Luther to the BKR Extension Board for a three-year term. Giles said Luther filled in the remaining term of Greg Jochem and was eligible to be appointed to a full term. He would join Brent Bartak and Rachel Williams as Brown County’s representatives on the BKR Board.

The commissioners agreed to create a resolution appointing Luther to the position.

The next meeting of the Brown County Commissioners is scheduled for 5:15 p.m. Dec. 17.

* Boyd County to receive $1 million FEMA grant for water line repair

(Posted 3:15 p.m. Dec. 2)

The Boyd County Rural Water District will receive $1 million in FEMA grant funding to repair a water line under the Niobrara River that was destroyed during the March floods.

The installation of the new water main was completed in September, nearly six months after the damage occurred. The damage to the water line under the Niobrara River affected water service to several portions of Boyd County, including the community of Spencer.
FEMA announced $2.2 million in disaster relief grants Monday, the other a $1.2 million grant award to the Loup Power District after the Loup Power Canal was breached between March 12-14.

The Loup Power District's Board President Neal Suess said the flooding caused significant damage to the St. Edward substation and transformer, and required a mobile substation to maintain power to the community of St. Edward. The board indicated the district was looking for a new substation site for use in the future.

Both grants cover 75 percent of the respective project costs.

U.S. Sen. Deb Fischer said, “In the wake of this year’s bomb cyclone and major flooding, I am pleased that FEMA is providing this assistance to Nebraskans. This funding will help repair critical utilities so that our communities can continue on the road to full recovery.”

* Area schools receive AQuESTT classification from Nebraska Department of Education

(Posted 7 a.m. Nov. 29)

The Nebraska Department of Education announced 50 Nebraska schools have improved their 2019 AQuESTT classification.

Accountability for a Quality Education System Today and Tomorrow, or AQuESTT, helps to ensure all students across backgrounds and circumstances have access and opportunities for success. AQuESTT annually classifies schools and districts as Excellent, Great, Good, or Needs Improvement.

AQuESTT values growth, improvement, and best practices in schools and districts – not just assessment scores. One of the ways the NDE recognizes broader educational experiences is through the Evidence-based Analysis. Eighty-four schools were eligible for an EBA review this year with the possibility of an upward adjustment to their AQuESTT classification. The EBA is a survey used to determine practices, policies, and procedures in place aligned to the six AQuESTT tenets of Positive Partnerships, Relationships, and Success; Transitions; Educational Opportunities and Access; College, Career, and Civic Readiness; Assessment; and Educator Effectiveness.

To be eligible for an EBA review, schools must have one of the top total EBA scores in their classification level. All eligible schools may submit evidence to a panel for review and determination. Sixty-four schools submitted evidence for review and fifty schools received the upward adjustment to their AQuESTT classification.

The final AQuESTT classifications included 135 schools (12 percent) classified as Excellent, 484 schools (44 percent) as Great, 371 schools (34 percent) as Good, and 116 schools (10 percent) are designated as Needs Improvement.

The Ainsworth Community Schools District was listed in the Good category, with the district scoring in the 74th percentile in science, the 48th percentile in English and the 44th percentile in math. Ainsworth has a 95 percent graduation rate, with 76 percent of graduates going on to college.

Keya Paha County Public Schools was classified in the Great category. Keya Paha County scored in the 47th percentile in science, the 27th percentile in English and the 24th percentile in math.

Rock County Public Schools was listed in the Good category. Rock County scored in the 74th percentile in science, the 46th percentile in English and the 41st percentile in math. Rock County has an 86 percent graduation rate, with 100 percent of those graduates going on to attend college.

Stuart Public School received a Great classification. Stuart students scored in the 79th percentile in science, the 60th percentile in English and the 67th percentile in math. Stuart enjoyed a graduation rate of 100 percent, with 82 percent of graduates attending college.

West Holt was among the 12 percent of schools statewide to receive the top rating of Excellent. West Holt scored in the 76th percentile in science testing, the 68th percentile in English and the 73rd percentile in math, all well above the state average. West Holt had a graduation rate of 79 percent, with 88 percent of those graduates going on to college.

Valentine Community Schools was listed in the Great category. Valentine scored in the 80th percentile in science, the 67th percentile in English, and the 62nd percentile in math, well above the state average in all three areas. Valentine graduated 85 percent of its students, with 76 percent of those graduates attending college.

Sandhills Public Schools received a classification of Great. Science data was withheld due to the number of students. Sandhills scored in the 45th percentile in English and 47th percentile in math.

None of the schools in the area were among the 10 percent in the state classified in the Needs Improvement category.

* One-vehicle accident on Highway 183 injures Ainsworth man

(Posted 1:45 p.m. Nov. 26)

The Brown County Sheriff’s Department and Ainsworth Volunteer Fire Department responded Monday afternoon to a report of a one-vehicle rollover accident on Highway 183 northeast of Ainsworth.

According to Brown County Sheriff Bruce Papstein, at 3:47 p.m. Monday on Highway 183 approximately 1-1/2 miles north of the Niobrara River bridge in Keya Paha County, a pickup driven by Bill Cole of Ainsworth was southbound pulling a trailer. The trailer left the roadway, causing the pickup to roll in the west ditch.

Cole was transported by the Brown County Ambulance Association to the Brown County Hospital for treatment of injuries suffered during the accident.

* Schipporeit discusses $6.5 million grant for Ainsworth Airport improvements

(Posted 7:45 a.m. Nov. 25)

Ainsworth Airport Manager Lance Schipporeit visited with Larry Rice Thursday after word was received that the Ainsworth Regional Airport was the recipient of a $6.5 million federal grant for runway rehabilitation.
To hear the report, click on the audio link below.

audio clips/Ainsworth Airport Grant - Lance Schipporeit.mp3

* Ehlers presented Melvin Jones Fellowship Award from Lions Club district governor

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

Lions Club District 38-I Gov. Wayne Hinerman from Hastings addressed the Ainsworth Lions Club during the board’s monthly meeting.

Last summer, the Ainsworth Lions Club decided to provide a contribution to the Lions Club International Foundation to establish a Melvin Jones Fellowship to be awarded to a member of the Ainsworth Lions Club. The Melvin Jones Fellowship is named for Melvin Jones, the founder of Lions Club International. It is largely due to the growth of the fellowship program that LCIF has been able to meet humanitarian needs in communities around the world.

Hinerman presented the Melvin Jones Fellowship Award to Lions Club Secretary Jerry Ehlers.  Previous Lions Club award recipients of the Melvin Jones Fellowship were Jerry Allen, Wayne Bower, Evert Copes, Warren Wolfe and Donovan Anderson.

Hinerman also presented membership awards to Harlan Welch for 20 years of membership; James Hoch, Vergil Heyer and Roger Lechtenberg for 30 years; and Gary Kinzie for 45 years of membership.

Hinerman talked to the club about the Lion Club Mobile Screening Unit, the Kidsight Camera, the District 38-I Individual Assistance Fund, the Nebraska Hearing Aid Bank, the Youth Leadership Camp, the  Lions Club Youth Golf Tournament, Youth Buddy Bags; and open District 38-I First and Second Vice-President positions.

Lions Club International Foundation representative John Stark presented information regarding the work of LCIF, which over the last 50 years has provided over $1 billion in emergency disaster aid world-wide.

LCIF did provide financial assistance to match the Ainsworth Lions Club’s effort to provide assistance to some of those impacted by the spring flooding.

Four new members were welcomed into the club:  Christi and Dale Hafer, and Dianah and Mike Schrad.  Dr. Christi Hafer is a practicing veterinarian and her husband, Dale, is the superintendent of Ainsworth Community Schools. Dianah and Mike Schrad own and operate State Farm Insurance Agency.

President Vergil Heyer informed the club plans continue for an informational meeting to be held in January with area medical personnel regarding financial assistance that is available through the Lions Club District 38-I Individual Assistance Fund for eligible area residents.

The January meeting has been changed to an evening meeting to accommodate the guests to be invited to the informational meeting. In recognition of the Christmas season, the club decided to provide a $300 Christmas donation to the Ainsworth Food Pantry, as it has done in previous years.

Jim Arens reviewed issues regarding the Brown County Fair Concessions Project. A discussion was held regarding the length of time (the longest time being 7.5 hours) for each Lions Club Member to serve in the concessions booth once during the weekend. A plan to provide for two 4-hour shifts as an option will be assessed. Twenty-two club members and non-member volunteers assisted with the concessions project this past September.

Arens said the club would consider providing a continental breakfast all three days of the fair next year, instead of just on Saturday.

The next meeting of the Ainsworth Lions Club is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Dec. 16 in Canyon Creek.

* Traffic Accident

(Posted 6:30 a.m. Nov. 25)

The Brown County Sheriff’s Department investigated a two-vehicle accident that occurred Nov. 16 south of Ainsworth.
According to the sheriff’s department report, at 2:23 p.m. Nov. 16 on Highway 7 approximately 2 miles south of Ainsworth, a collision occurred between a northbound 2005 Chevy Silverado, driven by Thomas Troxel, 20, of Ainsworth, and a northbound 1999 Peterbilt semi, driven by John Lemmon, 66, of Valentine.
No injuries were reported. Damage to the Chevy was estimated at $500. The Peterbilt, owned by Stec Farms of Valentine, sustained approximately $1,000 damage.

* AHS Mock Trial team advances to State Championships

(Posted 12:30 p.m. Nov. 22)

The Ainsworth Blue mock trial team prevailed over Valentine in a hard fought regional competition on Wednesday, November 20, at the Rock County Courthouse in Bassett.  The first trial had Valentine portraying the plaintiff and Ainsworth, the defense.  Valentine won that trial in a split decision by the judges.  In the afternoon, the teams switched sides, and Ainsworth won in a split decision by the judges.  Because Ainsworth had previously defeated Valentine, Ainsworth claimed the championship with a 3-1 record, and Valentine finished 2-2.  Selected as the Outstanding Attorney and Outstanding Witness in the first trial were Coy Carson and Alyssa Erthum, respectively.  Winning the awards for the second trial were Attorney Raven Stewart and Witness Coy Carson. The Blue team will represent Region 4 at the State Mock Trial Championships in Lincoln on December 9-10.  Members of the Blue team are Seniors Raven Stewart and Coy Carson; Juniors Cody Kronhofman, Brandt Murphy, Molly Salzman, and Elizabeth Smith; and Sophomore Alyssa Erthum.  The team is coached by Mary Rau.

* Ainsworth Airport to receive $6.5 Million in DOT grants for runway rehabilitation

(Posted 10 a.m. Nov. 21)

U.S. Sen. Deb Fischer released this statement after the U.S. Department of Transportation announced the Ainsworth Regional Airport will receive $6.5 million through the Federal Aviation Administration's Airport Improvement Program for runway and taxiway rehabilitation:
"Nebraska families and businesses rely on our state's regional airports every day to stay connected with the rest of the country," Fischer said. "This grant for runway rehabilitation at Ainsworth Regional Airport represents another important infrastructure investment in rural Nebraska."

* Commissioners vote to place 9-month moratorium on wind turbine applications

(Posted 8:30 p.m. Nov. 19)

Following a public hearing Tuesday, the Brown County Commissioners unanimously voted to place a nine-month moratorium on the issuance of special-use permits for erecting wind turbines generating more than 100 kilowatts in Brown County.

Zoning Administrator Tom Jones told the board the Planning Commission was working to update the county’s comprehensive plan, and wind turbines would be one of the areas that the commission planned to address in its update.

“We should have something to present to the public by the spring,” Jones said. “That should give us enough time.”

The only member of the public to speak during the hearing was Dave Hutchinson, who said he owned 2,200 acres in Brown County. He urged the commissioners not to allow any additional wind turbines to be built in the county.

He cited potential harm to bats, migratory birds and cattle among his reasons for opposing wind farms.

“The Sandhills is a fragile ecosystem,” Hutchinson said. “People want to come here to see the Sandhills, not wind turbines.”

He suggested dams for hydroelectric power production as an alternative to wind power, in addition to the flood control benefit constructing dams would provide.

Commissioner Dennis Bauer said the era of constructing dams was likely over due to environmental regulations.

“A lot of things get killed with coal powered plants as well,” Bauer said.

Commissioner Reagan Wiebelhaus said the county would likely not be able to implement a straight ban on wind power generation in its comprehensive plan, but the county could put guidelines in place in its plan that would make it difficult to construct wind towers.

“We rant into similar problems in the past with perpetual easements,” Wiebelhaus said. “The previous zoning administrator was against them, and we banned them in the comprehensive plan. The court ruled that was unreasonable. We need to do this the right way.”

Audience member Graig Kinzie asked if the commissioners knew of any potential wind power projects that have been proposed in the county since the original wind farm was built by the Nebraska Public Power District south of Ainsworth. The commissioners said, to their knowledge, there had been no planned developments in the years following the NPPD project.

Following the hearing, the board voted to place a nine-month moratorium on special-use permits for wind turbines to allow time for the county’s comprehensive plan to be updated with new guidelines.

In other business Tuesday, the commissioners voted to publish notice and conduct a public hearing at 6 p.m. Dec. 17 to vacate a bridge structure across Bone Creek in northeastern Brown County near property owned by Leon Bracker.

The bridge across the creek was damaged during the March flooding, and was destroyed during the flooding in September. The board discussed the alternative of creating a road coming from the north side of Bracker’s property to provide him access to his residence instead of replacing a bridge that could cost upward of $500,000.

Following a public hearing Dec. 17, the board would make a decision on whether to vacate the bridge.

The commissioners gave Board Chairman Buddy Small the go-ahead to transfer a previously approved $200,000 from the county’s inheritance tax fund to the disaster recovery fund. The board’s intention is to continue to use inheritance tax funding to make needed repairs to flood-damaged infrastructure and replenish the inheritance tax fund when either FEMA money is received or budget over time to replenish the fund through general fund budget contributions.

Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin reported the roads department has been hauling millings to the Elsmere Road to place in two locations where Perrett Construction had completed road elevation work.

Turpin said the Elsmere Road remains closed, as Perrett Construction was working to elevate the third area that has had standing water over the road. He said a 24-inch culvert was installed at one site, and a 36-inch culvert was placed at a second site after the road level was raised.

“As soon as they are done, we will haul millings in and get the road opened back up,” Turpin said.

He reported Road 877 west of Ainsworth south of Highway 20 remains closed, but the water level there is dropping. The only other roads that remain closed are due to bridges that are out.

In addition to the flood recovery work, Turpin said the roads department is blading roads that are getting rough due to harvest and heavy equipment using them.

The board approved the year-end certification to the Nebraska Department of Transportation affirming the county has an in-house highway superintendent to receive annual funding from the NDOT.

Small reported the county received $743 for the purchase of traffic cones, $351 to purchase a ladder, and $20 to assist in the purchase of safety boots from the NIRMA Assist program.

Treasurer Deb Vonheeder and Assessor Terri Van Houten told the board the courthouse computers would need updated since the Windows 7 operating system will no longer be supported.

Vonheeder said the offices thought they would have more time and could include the computer replacements in the next budget, but the support for Windows 7 expires in January, and it would be a security risk for the county’s computers and servers to operate on an unsupported system.

Van Houten said it would cost $1,058 to replace each computer. The board agreed to fund the replacements through the county’s miscellaneous general fund.

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

* Rock County Commissioners approve guidelines for culvert installations

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

During its meeting Tuesday, the Rock County Commissioners approved a resolution that all future culverts installed by the Rock County Roads Department or private contractors will conform to state code and standards unless it is not feasible due to ground level or drainage.

The county has been dealing with questions recently from property owners about where and how culverts are installed. Chandra Giles visited with the board Tuesday regarding a culvert issue and possible solutions.

In other business Tuesday, the commissioners approved a proposal from Norfolk Contracting in the amount of $328,763 to replace the bridge on Short Pine Creek in northwestern Rock County. The board declared the bridge replacement an emergency issue, waiving bidding requirements.

The commissioners approved an application submitted by the Nebraska Board of Educational Lands and Funds for a road crossing and parallel occupancy permit to bury 1-1/2 inch PVC electric line on county road right of way in Section 16, Township 31 North, Range 19.

Region 24 Emergency Manager Doug Fox discussed with the commissioners an invoice for a civil defense siren in the community of Kilgore.

Fox reported a grant had been written for the siren, but the siren would be initially paid from the emergency management fund. When the grant dollars are received, they would replenish the emergency management funds used initially.

The next meeting of the Rock County Commissioners is scheduled for 9 a.m. Dec. 3.

* Informational meeting Dec. 3 on Highway 20 bridge project near Long Pine

(Posted 9 a.m. Nov. 19)

The Nebraska Department of Transportation will hold a public information open house regarding proposed improvements to a Highway 20 bridge over Long Pine Creek in Brown County.

The meeting is scheduled from 4 until 6 p.m. Dec. 3 in the Long Pine Palace.

The proposed project would repair the Highway 20 bridge located near milepost 250 approximately 1.70 miles west of the Brown/Rock county line. The improvements would consist of reconstructing the bridge abutments and the abutment spread footings. A portion of the bridge deck on each end would be removed and replaced to accommodate the work. The bridge approach sections would be reconstructed, and the guardrail would also be replaced with surfacing underneath.

Construction is tentatively scheduled to begin as early as summer 2021 and could be completed by fall 2021. The proposed project would not be constructed under traffic and would require detouring Highway 20 traffic for the duration of the project to accommodate the proposed work. A designated detour would be provided and would utilize Highway 183 and Highway 7.

Personnel from the Nebraska Department of Transportation will be present Dec. 3 to answer questions and receive comments.

* Sunday collision west of Bassett injures one motorist

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

One motorist was injured Sunday in a two-vehicle accident on Highway 20 west of Bassett.

According to Rock County Sheriff James Anderson, at 3:57 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 17, on Highway 20 approximately 5 miles west of Bassett, a 2002 Chevy Trailblazer, driven by Caitlyn Soloman, 29, of Kearney, was traveling east on Highway 20. A 2012 Peterbilt semi, driven by Christopher Sease, 35, of Ainsworth, was crossing Highway 20 at the 442nd Avenue intersection. The Chevy and the Peterbilt collided at the intersection.

Soloman was transported by the Rock County Ambulance to the Rock County Hospital for injuries suffered during the accident.

Both the Chevy, owned by Evelyn Jones of Ainsworth, and the Peterbilt, owned by Daniel Hladky of Long Pine, were considered total losses.

The Bassett Volunteer Fire Department assisted the Rock County Sheriff’s Department at the scene. The accident forced the closure of Highway 20 for approximately 15 minutes.

* Greenwell selected for Nebraska Cattlemen Young Cattlemen's Conference

(Posted 2 p.m. Nov. 18)

Nebraska Cattlemen announced the 2020 class of the Young Cattlemen's Conference. Conference nominees were accepted from throughout the state and selected by a committee to participate in the two-year leadership program.
The Class of 2020 includes Hannah Greenwell of Bassett.
"We had another year of a truly outstanding group of applicants for the NE Cattlemen YCC class of 2020, Nebraska Cattlemen President-Elect Ken Herz said. “Nebraska Cattlemen leadership and staff is looking forward to meeting and interacting with the class, hopefully providing them with extensive industry knowledge and many networking opportunities. Our goal is to spark interest within the participants, giving them the desire to come back and serve as board members to our state and national organization."
The goal of the Young Cattlemen's Conference is to expose young and emerging leaders to a variety of areas of the beef industry and provide them with necessary leadership tools. During the two-year program, conference members are provided training on professional communication, given the opportunity to tour multiple Nebraska-based agriculture production facilities and learn to navigate state agencies and legislative processes.

* August taxable sales trend downward for area counties

(Posted 9:15 a.m. Nov. 18)

Comparison of August 2019 and August 2018 Net Taxable Sales
for Nebraska Counties and Selected Cities

County
or City

2019
Net Taxable
Sales

2018
Net Taxable
Sales

Percent
Change

2019
Sales Tax
5.5%

2018
Sales Tax
5.5%

Boyd

926,053

1,417,373

(34.7)

50,933.03

77,955.63

Brown

2,819,705

2,971,395

(5.1)

155,083.95

163,426.87

Ainsworth

2,668,908

2,787,284

(4.2)

146,790.10

153,300.76

Cherry

7,359,155

7,496,554

(1.8)

404,753.88

412,310.87

Valentine

6,904,931

6,939,776

(0.5)

379,771.50

381,688.02

Holt

8,504,751

9,112,253

(6.7)

467,761.86

501,174.46

Atkinson

1,462,911

1,676,914

(12.8)

80,460.31

92,230.41

O'Neill

6,048,403

6,223,082

(2.8)

332,662.40

342,269.78

Keya Paha

223,450

241,516

(7.5)

12,289.78

13,283.42

Rock

709,322

757,423

(6.4)

39,012.80

41,658.34

Valley

3,304,202

3,677,309

(10.1)

181,731.38

202,252.22

Ord

3,001,016

3,285,344

(8.7)

165,056.10

180,694.11

State Total

$2,842,974,852

$2,655,168,357

7.1

$155,902,255.96

$146,298,911.37

 

Comparison of August 2019 and August 2018
Motor Vehicle Sales Tax Collections by County

County
or City

2019
Net Taxable
Sales

2018
Net Taxable
Sales

Percent
Change

2019
Sales Tax
5.5%

2018
Sales Tax
5.5%

Blaine

258,653

63,010

310.5

14,175.04

3,437.24

Boyd

420,815

528,143

(20.3)

23,247.71

29,073.34

Brown

810,683

797,305

1.7

45,027.75

44,134.08

Cherry

1,279,124

1,524,788

(16.1)

70,784.14

84,349.82

Holt

2,536,940

2,661,052

(4.7)

140,497.54

147,475.49

Keya Paha

267,079

140,409

90.2

14,667.05

7,688.85

Rock

566,718

261,663

116.6

31,213.40

14,384.29

Valley

1,084,406

1,091,887

(0.7)

60,036.14

60,503.51

State Total

$442,559,396

$417,870,948

5.9

$24,554,940.56

$23,173,206.27

* Traffic Accident

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

The Brown County Sheriff’s Department investigated a vehicle-deer accident that occurred Nov. 8 on Highway 20.
According to the sheriff’s department report, at 6:20 p.m. Nov. 8 on Highway 20 approximately 3 miles west of Ainsworth, a 2012 Chevy Sonic, driven by Michael Harms, 29, of Monroe, was traveling west when the vehicle struck a deer in the roadway.
No persons were injured during the accident. Damage to the Chevy was estimated at more than $1,000.

* Dickau awarded New Century Workforce Pathway scholarship

(Posted 6:30 a.m. Nov. 18)

A graduate of Northeast Community College has been recognized nationally for his work in the classroom.

Preston Dickau of Atkinson, a 2019 New Century Workforce Pathway Scholar, has been awarded $1,250 in scholarship funding. He was recognized with other New Century scholars during the Association of Community College Trustees’ 50th Annual Congress at San Francisco.

The scholarship is the first of its kind to support students at associate degree-granting institutions who plan to enter the workforce upon the completion of a degree or certificate on a national scale. The program is sponsored by The Coca-Cola Foundation and Phi Theta Kappa.

Dickau graduated from Northeast in May with a degree in auto body repair technology. He is employed by Ernie’s Auto Body at Atkinson.

“Education helps ensure that young people can realize their full potential,” said Helen Smith Price, president of The Coca-Cola Foundation. “The Coca-Cola Foundation places a high priority on supporting education to help build strong communities.”

New Century Workforce Pathway Scholars were selected based on their academic accomplishments, leadership, activities, and how they extend their intellectual talents beyond the classroom. Over 2,000 students were nominated from more than 1,200 college campuses across the country. Only one New Century Workforce Pathway Scholar was selected from each state.

“Preston was a great student with an exceptional work ethic and a genuine desire to learn new things,” said Dave Beaduette, Northeast auto body technology instructor. “He is a true leader who presents himself well and always has a good attitude - making him a great addition to any business. I certainly enjoyed having him in the auto body program.”

* Traffic Accidents

(Posted 1:30 p.m. Nov. 15)

The Brown County Sheriff’s Department investigated a pair of motor vehicle accidents that occurred Nov. 7.

At 1:12 p.m. Nov. 7 at the Ainsworth Community Schools parking lot, an unknown vehicle struck a parked 2003 Ford pickup, owned by Britt Hollenbeck of Long Pine.

Damage to the Ford was estimated at more than $1,000. Anyone with information on who may have struck the vehicle is asked to contact the Brown County Sheriff’s Department.

At 6:39 p.m. Nov. 7 on Highway 20 one-half mile east of Long Pine, a 2018 Subaru Outback, driven by Brandi Weinrich, 48, of Pierce, was traveling east when the vehicle struck a deer in the roadway.

No persons were injured during the accident. Damage to the Subaru, owned by the Region 4 Behavioral Health System of Norfolk, was estimated at more than $1,000.

* Ainsworth Red mock trial team falls to Valentine Wednesday

(Posted 1:30 p.m. Nov. 15)

The Ainsworth Red Mock Trial team’s season came to an end with a loss to Valentine Wednesday in the Brown County Courtroom.

The Red team portrayed the defendant, Rabona Foods, and Valentine played the part of the plaintiff, Kelly Panenka.  The trial was judged by attorneys Jim Gotschall, Rodney Palmer, and Andy Hoffman.

Winning the award as Ainsworth’s outstanding witness was Tatum Nickless, and the outstanding attorney award on the Ainsworth team went to Dakota Stutzman.

“The Red team performed very well this year,” coach Mary Rau said. “I wish we had more teams in the area so the students could get more competitions. But, the JV team held their own against both the Ainsworth and Valentine varsity squads.”

The result of this trial pits Ainsworth Blue against Valentine for the regional championship. The final trial will be held in the Rock County Courthouse at Bassett Nov. 20, with the first trial beginning at 10 a.m. Since the Blue team has already defeated Valentine once, it will only have to defeat Valentine one more time to capture the state championship berth. If Valentine wins the first trial, the teams will flip sides and perform a tie-breaker trial at 1 p.m.

All trials are open to the public.

* Brown County Hospital receives deficiency-free state survey

(Posted 6:15 a.m. Nov. 15)

Surveyors from the state of Nebraska arrived last week to conduct a three-day, unannounced survey of the Brown County Hospital. The scope of review ensures the hospital is compliant with Medicare/Medicaid and State Licensure regulations, and occurs approximately once every three years.

The State Fire Marshall survey was also conducted at the same time. The surveyors focused on a broad range of regulatory requirements, including but not limited to, quality, safety, patient rights, HIPAA, and staff competencies.

Upon an exit interview, hospital leaders were informed that no deficiencies were discovered during the survey.

Brown County Hospital CEO John Werner said the results confirm the staff members are working diligently to live up to the facility’s mission, “Brown County Hospital is dedicated to provide our patients and communities with the highest quality of comprehensive and compassionate healthcare.”

“I want to thank the surveyors for their kind words and also applaud the consistent high quality of care our providers and staff produce 24 hours a day, 365 days a year,” Werner said. “We are passionate about what we do and who we do it for. Recognition isn’t what drives us, but having an outside agency validate our program is gratifying.”

* Sedlacek appointed to Northeast Community College Board

(Posted 6:15 a.m. Nov. 15)

An O’Neill woman is the newest member of the Northeast Community College Board of Governors. The board voted unanimously during its monthly meeting Thursday at Norfolk to appoint Nicole Sedlacek to an open District Two seat.

Sedlacek, an economic development consultant with the Nebraska Public Power District, succeeds Keith Harvey of Creighton, who resigned in September. District Two covers Boyd, Brown, Holt, Keya Paha, Knox and Rock counties in their entirety and a portion of Cedar County. 

Sedlacek said she applied for the board position because she believes in the mission of Northeast Community College as it continues to meet the needs of students and the region. She said, as an alumna and a longtime advocate of the institution, she wants to ensure it continues to be one of the top community colleges in Nebraska and the nation.

“My experience in economic development over the last 12-years has helped make me aware of what our strengths are as a region; what needs businesses and industries have; and how education, economic development and business and industry all need to be working together to solve some of the challenges we face in northeast Nebraska, such as workforce shortages and a declining population,” she said. “I believe it is important to demonstrate how Northeast Community College is providing outreach to the entire 20-county service area.”

Steve Anderson, chair of the board of governors, said he is pleased Sedlacek will be joining the board.

“Nicole Sedlacek has had a long association with Northeast Community College and has a great perspective on the needs of the college’s 20 county service area, with particular knowledge of the far western service area. She will make an excellent addition to our board.”

Sedlacek earned an associate of arts degree from Northeast Community College, a bachelor of science degree in management from Bellevue University and is a graduate of the University of Oklahoma Economic Development Institute.

Prior to her role with NPPD, she served as economic development director of the Holt County Economic Development Agency for nine years. She has assisted in previous Northeast Community College projects including the College of Nursing capital campaign in the O’Neill area and was co-chair of the College’s O’Neill Extended Campus fundraising campaign.

She has served as president of the Northeast Community College Foundation Board of Directors. In addition, Sedlacek was presented Northeast’s Distinguished Service Award in 2014.

Sedlacek, who has said she will run for the seat when it comes up for election in 2020, will be sworn in during the board’s December meeting.

The Northeast Community College Board of Governors is made up of 11 members, with two members representing each of five districts. There is one at-large member who represents the college’s entire 20-county service area.

* NDOT pumps water off Highway 83, and Highway 97 also reopens

(Posted 2 p.m. Nov. 14)

The Nebraska Department of Transportation on Thursday announced the return of normal two way traffic to Highway 83 between Thedford and Valentine.

The area of Highway 83 had been covered with water since May as the result of abnormally high rainfall. Traffic had been limited to one-way traffic, controlled by stoplights, for several months. 

The Department of Transportation was able to successfully pump enough water out of the
low-lying area to get the water off the road and remove the temporary surfacing, allowing traffic to return to normal.

In addition, NDOT announced the opening of Highway 97, which had been closed as the result of water over the road since the summer. There is still a small amount of water covering a portion of the northbound lane. Motorists should use caution while traveling through the area.

The NDOT installed a culvert at Alkali Pond, providing drainage to allow the roadway to
clear.

Next week, weather permitting, NDOT plans to raise a portion of the roadbed on Highway 61 between Hyannis and Merriman, which has had water over the road most of the summer.

NDOT thanks its partners for their tireless work to resume these critical corridors to the people of Nebraska.

Work continues to restore normal operations in other areas of the state.  The NDOT will continue to update the public as it completes projects and normal traffic operations resume.

* Deer season opens Saturday; hunters reminded of regulations

(Posted 9 a.m. Nov. 14)

Nebraska’s annual firearm deer season opens Saturday and runs through Nov. 24. Shooting hours are one-half hour before sunrise to one-half hour after sunset. Hunters are reminded to make sure they follow all requirements, including wearing orange clothing and checking in any harvested deer.

Deer must be checked in by 1 p.m. on Nov. 25. Check stations in this area include Speedee Mart in Ainsworth, the Turbine Mart in Springview, the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission office and the Rock County Sheriff’s Department in Bassett, O’Neill Tire Supply and Torpin’s Rodeo Market in O’Neill, the Valentine Fish Hatchery and Wright’s Bait in Valentine, and The Firehouse Café in Butte.

KBRB invites hunters to email photos from their hunt for inclusion in the annual KBRB Hunting Gallery, sponsored by Tall Tails Taxidermy. High resolution JPEG photos may be emailed to kbrb@sscg.net. KBRB requests the hunter appear in the photo with the harvested animal, and the information include the hunter’s name, the date and county where the animal was harvested, and any additional description including whitetail or mule deer, number of points or B&C score for bucks, and especially if it is a hunter’s first harvest.

Lymph node samples to be tested for chronic wasting disease will be collected from select harvested mule deer at check stations in the Pine Ridge and Plains management units, and from whitetails in the Missouri, Loup East, Calamus East and Elkhorn units. Learn more about CWD at OutdoorNebraska.gov/cwd.

Nebraskans who want to donate or receive harvested deer can participate in the Deer Exchange, which is designed to accommodate the additional harvest of deer. It brings together hunters who have a surplus of deer with recipients willing to accept the deer meat. To join, visit OutdoorNebraska.gov/deerexchangeprogram.

Hunters should keep safety the top priority in the field by always keeping their rifle muzzle pointed in a safe direction, with safety on, and finger off the trigger, until they are ready to fire. They also should identify their target and what lies beyond it before firing. In addition, all deer hunters are required to wear 400 square inches of blaze orange on their head, chest and back during the November firearm season, regardless if they are hunting with a firearm or archery tackle.

Hunters also are reminded that permission is required to hunt on private land. Those who have permission to hunt should show the landowner and land respect.

The 2019-20 Public Access Atlas identifies and consolidates the nearly 1 million acres of publicly accessible lands that benefit Nebraska’s hunters, trappers and anglers. Printed copies are available where permits are sold; it also is available online at OutdoorNebraska.org/PublicAccessAtlas

* Water service to be shut off for West Second Street residents Thursday morning

(Posted 8 a.m. Nov. 14)

The city of Ainsworth water department plans to shut off water service to customers on West Second Street between Ulrich Street and Bone Creek today. Water service will be interrupted beginning at 8 a.m. and lasting until noon at the latest while crews tie in a water line near Bone Creek that washed out during flooding in September.

* Council votes to request return of housing demolition funding from NCDC

(Posted 7 a.m. Nov. 14)

By a 2-1 vote Wednesday with one abstention, the Ainsworth City Council requested the return of $72,997 in housing demolition money previously provided to the North Central Development Center through Ainsworth Betterment Committee funds and city general funds.

The latest issue between the city and NCDC stemmed from a state auditor report that showed the NCDC potentially returned LB 840 funds the city had provided by using funding from its housing demolition account, which had also been money provided by the city.

City Attorney Rod Palmer said the state auditor’s office believed there was an attempt by the NCDC to hide how the LB 840 funds were repaid to the city.

City Administrator Lisa Schroedl said Scottsbluff Attorney Rick Ediger had reviewed the report and recommended the city terminate its agreement with the NCDC at the end of the current year subject to the NCDC assuring accountability.

Palmer said the information was forwarded to the Brown County Attorney’s office, but County Attorney Andy Taylor had recused himself from the case due to his wife receiving LB 840 funding. He said a special prosecutor would be appointed.

The only NCDC Board member in attendance Wednesday, Graig Kinzie, told the city he wasn’t sure where the auditor received its information. He said he could not speak for the entire board, but he had not been contacted by the auditor’s office to provide any information and there had been no discussion during recent NCDC board meetings that any board members were aware further issues existed. NCDC Executive Director Kristin Olson, also in attendance Wednesday, said she had not been contacted by the auditor’s office.

Kinzie said city representatives were in attendance during the NCDC meeting when the housing demolition funding was discussed. He said 25 percent of the housing demolition funds came from the LB 840 program, which the board voted to return to the city.

The remaining funding was placed into a separate housing demolition account, and is sitting in the West Plains Bank.

“There is a little more than $73,000 in that account,” Kinzie told the council. “You are welcome to it.”

Kinzie said he found the continued insinuation insulting that there was somehow money missing. He said the NCDC Board is a group of volunteers who work to help improve the community, and do so without any personal benefit.

Councilman Schyler Schenk made a motion for the city to recover all funding it had provided to the NCDC. That motion died for lack of a second.

Council members Deb Hurless and Brad Fiala both questioned why the NCDC had not been given a chance to respond to the state auditor’s office before the report was completed.

Mayor Jeremiah Sullivan said he wanted the NCDC and the city to move on.

“This has been a long fight,” Sullivan said.

Councilman Greg Soles made a motion for the city to recall $72,997 in ABC funds and city general funds previously given to the NCDC for its housing demolition program. That motion passed by a 2-1 vote, with Soles and Fiala in favor, Schenk against and Hurless abstaining.

Kinzie said the NCDC Board would likely have no issue voting to return those funds, which he said would be a little more than $73,000 after interest on the account had accrued.

In another development item Wednesday, the council unanimously approved amendments to the city’s economic development program policy and procedure manual as recommended by the LB 840 Citizen Advisory Review Committee.

CARC member Chris Raymond said the group had worked on the policies and procedures manual for the past 60 days, and the document was reviewed by Attorney Rick Ediger’s associate, who made suggestions for revisions that were incorporated into the final document.

Palmer questioned having a committee address any LB 840 loan defaults instead of that issue being handled by the City Council.

Raymond said that was one of the suggestions made by the attorney from Ediger’s office. He said, if you ask three attorneys about anything regarding LB 840, you seem to get three different answers.

Palmer said he would also like to see the checklist for applicants include supplying a certificate of good standing from the secretary of state’s office. That suggestion, along with a clarification that a city-appointed attorney as opposed to the city attorney would review all LB 840 loan applications, were incorporated as additional amendments Wednesday prior to the council unanimously voting to approve the policies and procedures manual.

In other business Wednesday, Terry Flick with J&J Sanitation presented the council with a proposal for the company to handle the city’s garbage pickup. Flick said J&J Sanitation had 31 municipal contracts, and would love to bring its service to Ainsworth.

Flick said J&J Sanitation would bill the city $11 monthly per residential household, $27 for light commercial, and $54 for heavy commercial. If the city wanted J&J Sanitation to also handle transporting the waste to a licensed landfill, the cost would increase to $21.84 monthly for residences, $35 for light commercial and $75 for heavy commercial.

He said those increases were due to J&J Sanitation having to haul the waste to its transfer facility at O’Neill before it is transported to a landfill near David City. He said the tipping fees J&J Sanitation paid to the landfill near David City were $61 per ton, which was substantially lower than the $72 per ton the city is charged by Lexington Area Solid Waste.

Schroedl said the city currently charges residents $14.30 per month, with light commercial charged $27.30 per month and heavy commercial $54.60 per month. In addition, those with dumpsters paid an additional $13 per month in rent.

She said those fees would likely have to increase by at least 10 percent for the city to stay in the black, which didn’t factor in potentially having to replace the city’s garbage truck.

Fiala asked if J&J Sanitation could use the KBR Solid Waste Transfer Station instead of having to go to O’Neill with the trash, which Flick said was a possibility.

The council agreed to have J&J Sanitation continue to research options, and meet with the KBR Solid Waste Committee regarding the use of the transfer station.

Following a public hearing Wednesday, the council unanimously approved recommending to the Nebraska Liquor Control Commission that a Class I license be approved for 1700 Ventures LLC doing business as The (402) Bar.

Graig and Stephanie Kinzie told the council they had purchased the former Silver Lining building on Main Street to open a sports bar.

Kinzie said the only issue the couple ran into was the distance between the building and the United Methodist Church, as a liquor license application requires a building to be either more than 150 feet away from a church or have the church provide a letter that it did not object to the license.

Kinzie said he had been in contact with church leaders to discuss the project. He said the Nebraska State Patrol employee in charge of liquor license applications for the area based out of North Platte visited the site Wednesday and measured the distance between the buildings at 171 feet.

There were no objections to the license application raised during the public hearing, and the council voted unanimously to recommend the application be approved.

In final action items Wednesday, the council approved a recommendation from Schroedl to ratify the election of members to the League Association of Risk Management Board of Directors. She said recent litigation regarding the makeup of the LARM Board, which handles the city’s liability insurance, had ended, and members of LARM were being asked to ratify the current board composition following the lawsuit’s completion.

Palmer said he did not see anything wrong with the council ratifying the election of the LARM Board members.

The council also approved a subdivision for a parcel of real estate west of Highway 7 and south of South Street into three parcels. Schroedl said, while the parcel was outside city limits, it was inside the city’s 1-mile zoning jurisdiction. That required a vote on the subdivision, which the council unanimously approved as presented by attorney Todd Flynn.

During her report, Schroedl said she continued to work with FEMA on disaster relief efforts. She reported she was working with the NCDC into the possibility of obtaining USDA grant funding to assist with paving work.

She reported the cement has been poured for the street shop expansion project. Fiala said the steel building was to be delivered to the site by Nov. 22.

Schroedl reported the NPPD solar power project continues, with NPPD receiving five proposals from developers. She said she hoped to have a presentation on the project during the December council meeting.

That meeting is scheduled for 5 p.m. Dec. 11.

* Traffic Accidents

(Posted 12:30 p.m. Nov. 13)

The Brown County Sheriff’s Department investigated a pair of motor vehicle accidents during the past week.

At 10:52 a.m. Friday, Nov. 8, at the Bomgaars parking lot, a 2005 Chevy Silverado, driven by Glenna Abbott, 92, of Long Pine, was turning into a parking stall and struck a parked 2009 Chevy Silverado, owned by Darian Jones of Ainsworth.

No injuries were reported. Damage to the Jones Chevy was estimated at more than $1,000. The Abbott Chevy did not sustain any damage.

At 5:45 a.m. Monday, Nov. 11, on Highway 7 approximately 5 miles south of Ainsworth, a 1999 Ford Explorer, driven by James Lind, 20, of Ainsworth, was traveling north when the vehicle slid due to icy conditions, left the roadway and turned onto its driver’s side in the east ditch.

No injuries were reported. Damage to the Ford was estimated at $1,000.

* Care Center Board approves establishing scholarship for volunteers

(Posted 7 a.m. Nov. 13)

The Sandhills Care Center Board of Directors Tuesday approved a scholarship program that encourages high school students to volunteer with the nursing home.

Activities Director Brianna Lawrenz presented the details to the board Tuesday, and said she will work with Ainsworth Community Schools to implement the program.

Students would agree to volunteer for 1-1/2 hours per month with the residents. Activities staff will educate the students before they enter the building on the different needs of residents.

Students will prepare a paper regarding their experience, and the things they learned by volunteering. Staff members will vote on the top volunteer, who will receive a $300 scholarship.

Lawrenz said it would be a great volunteer opportunity for students and would give them a new perspective.

Board member Leanne Maxwell asked if any student could volunteer or if the student needed to be planning to study a health care related field. Lawrenz said any student would be welcome to volunteer.

Board Chairman Phil Fuchs urged Lawrenz to work with the school and start the program in January.

“There is no reason we couldn’t change the parameters as we go if needed,” Fuchs said.

The board, with Buddy Small absent, voted to establish the $300 scholarship and begin the program in January.

In other business Tuesday, Administrator Stephanie Kinzie presented the board with a quote to replace the window coverings in the care center.

Kinzie said the window coverings in the building were outdated. She said she tried to procure three bids for the project, but two of the companies refused to send someone out to even measure the windows and provide the care center with a quote.

Provider Plus Inc. of Iowa submitted a bid for 66 window shades for resident rooms and four shades for the dining room. The company provided two quotes, one for its premium patterned fabric with blackout material, which the staff recommended, and a quote for standard pattern material with 1 percent openness. The quote for the premium fabric was $14,360, with the standard pattern quoted at $10,469.

Kinzie said Matt Moody could handle the installation of the window coverings.

Fuchs asked what additional updates to the building’s interior the board would also need to plan to modernize after the window coverings.

Kinzie said the next items would include bed spreads, wall hangings, bedside furniture, dining room furniture and flooring. She said families of some potential residents comment about the building’s interior being outdated when they initially visit the facility.

“I think this would add a lot to the facility to start, and then work on the bedding next,” Kinzie said.

Board member Henry Beel said he would like to see at least one other bid for the project before voting on it, and encouraged Kinzie to check with Stuart Furniture on the window coverings since Moody could handle the installation.

The item was tabled to the board’s December meeting.

Kinzie reported she recently received a bill from KBR Solid Waste for $1,100 related to dump fees for the shingling project that was completed during the spring. She said the quote from the contractor the board hired for the shingling project included the cost of disposing of the old shingles.

Fuchs said the disposal fees were part of the contract.

“He should have taken care of that,” Fuchs said. “That was part of the deal.”

Fuchs said he would contact the contractor about paying the disposal fees, since it was not the care center’s responsibility.

In a final action item Tuesday, the board approved removing former board member Kent Taylor from the Union Bank & Trust account signature card, and keeping board members Maxwell and Buddy Small on the card along with Kinzie.

During her report, Kinzie said the care center admitted four new residents during October, but also discharged four residents. She said three residents went back home after rehabilitating, and one moved to another facility closer to family.

The care center currently has 23 residents, with 11 paying privately, 11 receiving Medicaid assistance and one receiving Medicare assistance. She said she received an additional referral Tuesday for another potential resident, and she had a nurse apply for night shift work, so the facility may be able to cut back on some agency nursing hours.

She said she knew of people interested in taking a Certified Nursing Assistant class if one were to be offered in the area. Maxwell, who teaches the class through Northeast Community College, said she might be able to offer a CNA class in January or February.

The care center generated $174,586 in revenue during October, with expenses for $136,181 for a profit of $38,404.

Capital campaign committee chair Roland Paddock told the board, unless another major funding drive were needed, there was likely no longer a need to have the committee. He said the committee has not met for a couple years.

Paddock thanked the community for its generosity in support of the Sandhills Care Center. He said a total of $209,460 had been donated to the facility, including more than $10,000 to employees who worked without pay when the previous management company closed the facility.

Fuchs thanked the committee members for all their work.

The next meeting of the Sandhills Care Center Board is scheduled for 4 p.m. Dec. 9.

* Teammates chapter tells board it needs additional volunteer mentors

(Posted 7 a.m. Nov. 12)

Ainsworth Teammates Chapter board members provided an overview of the local mentoring program to the Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education Monday, telling the board they are in need of additional mentors.

Lisa Chohon told the board the local chapter has 28 current matches between mentors and students between grades five and 12.

“We have kids waiting,” Chohon said.

Mentors agree to visit with their mentee at least once per week. Meetings are conducted in the school, and typically occur either during lunch or prior to school. Meetings usually last 20 to 45 minutes.

Program coordinator Lisa Schlueter said students with a mentor displayed many positive changes, including 78 percent of students improving their grades and 65 percent improving school attendance. In addition, the students in the program had 96 percent fewer disciplinary referrals.

Teammates member Scott Steinhauser said parents or school staff members nominate students for mentors, and Teammates is not a needs-based program. Any student could potentially enter the program.

Teammates member Connie Lentz said the goal of the mentor is to build a relationship with the student through the one-on-one mentoring.

Schlueter said there are currently 10 students on the waiting list for mentors, and anyone willing to volunteer to serve as a mentor may either contact Schlueter at the school or go online to www.teammates.org

“The program’s goal is to increase students’ engagement in school, improve their well-being, and give them hope,” Schlueter said.

School Board members thanked the Teammates members for their work with the program.

In other business Monday, the board approved a recommendation from Activities Directors Jared Hansmeyer and Steinhauser to have Ainsworth remain a participant in eight-man football for the next two-year cycle.

Steinhauser said the school has been eligible for the playoffs the past two seasons due to enrollment numbers. While it appears the district will be above the current cut-off number, the school can opt to remain in Class D-1 and still be eligible for the playoffs for the next two years.

“Schools across the board are hurting for football numbers,” Steinhauser said. “It would be hard to play 11-man football with our current numbers.”

The board unanimously approved the recommendation to keep Ainsworth participating in eight-man football for the next two years.

The board approved the resignation of part-time English Language Learner teacher Mitzi Randall, who submitted a resignation letter to the board.

Superintendent Dale Hafer thanked Randall for her work with ELL students, and said the district would now work with Educational Service Unit 10 out of Kearney to provide service to those students.

“The ESU 10 coordinator is really good, and will be a wonderful resource for us,” Hafer said.

In other action items, the board approved allowing Hafer and the activities directors to identify and sell surplus equipment, ranging from old uniforms to rubber mats that were recently removed from the school playground.

Hafer said some people had already expressed interest in the rubber mats, and he said the district just needed to go through some things that are piled in corners of the building and see if anyone wants them. If not, some things needed to be thrown away.

The board also approved using an evaluation tool provided free of charge by the Nebraska Association of School Boards to perform Hafer’s six-month evaluation.

Board President Jim Arens said, while the two evaluation tools the board considered are similar, the NASB tool allows board members to fill out their initial evaluation online, and the results are compiled and organized for the full board’s review.

The board will complete the individual evaluation, and will go through the results with Hafer during the board’s December meeting.

During his report, Hafer said the replacement of the McAndrew Gymnasium roof is nearing completion. Metal flashing around the edge of the roof should be installed within the next week. He said there were a few rotten boards that needed to be replaced in addition to some drain work that would add between $2,500 and $3,500 to the total cost.

The superintendent also reported Rasmussen is completing some minor repair work to the school’s heating and air system. He said, after that work is completed, the district will make the transition to Conditioned Air Mechanical, whose bid to replace and maintain the district’s chiller was approved during October’s board meeting.

Hafer told the board the rubber mats under school playground equipment had been removed, and have been replaced with new borders and gravel. The Brown County Community Foundation provided the school with a $5,000 grant for the playground improvement work, and Hafer thanked Joey Finley, Todd Pollock and his students, and other community volunteers for their work to help remove the old rubber mats.

The next meeting of the Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education is scheduled for 7 p.m. Dec. 9.

* Sunday evening accident injures 4 motorists south of Ainsworth

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

Icy conditions played a factor in a Sunday evening one-vehicle accident south of Ainsworth that injured four motorists.

According to the Brown County Sheriff’s Department, at 7:11 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 10, a Dodge Ram pickup, driven by Emily Seidel, 34, of rural Ainsworth, was traveling south on Highway 7 approximately 12 miles south of Ainsworth when the vehicle encountered black ice on the highway.

The Ram slid into the east ditch, where it rolled. Seidel and three passengers in the Dodge, all children, were transported by the Brown County Ambulance Association to the Brown County Hospital for treatment of injuries suffered during the accident.

The Dodge was considered a total loss. The Ainsworth Volunteer Fire Department assisted with the call Sunday.

* Brown County Hospital receives performance award

(Posted 6:30 a.m. Nov. 11)

Brown County Hospital has been recognized by The Chartis Center of Rural Health and the National Organization of State Offices of Rural Health for overall excellence in Performance Leadership. Based on the results of the Hospital Strength INDEX from iVantage Health Analytics, the Performance Leadership Award reflects top quartile performance among all rural hospitals in the United States in quality, outcomes or patient perspective.

The Hospital Strength INDEX is the industry’s most comprehensive and objective assessment of rural hospital performance.

John Werner, CEO of Brown County Hospital, said, “As a community, we have much to be thankful for. Being recognized by the Chartis Center for Rural Health for Performance Leadership reflects well on the work our staff, providers and board are engaged in. It also speaks well of the support we receive from the community.”

Teryl Eisinger, Chief Executive Officer of the National Organization of State Offices of Rural Health, said, “National Rural Health Day has come to symbolize not just the vital role healthcare providers play in rural communities, but the dedication and hard work that goes into overcoming the unique healthcare challenges that exist across rural America. We are proud of the work of the State Offices of Rural Health, their partners and rural hospitals do to improve care across the nation.”

Michael Topchik, national leader of The Chartis Center for Rural Health, said, “Each year, National Rural Health Day serves as a terrific backdrop for celebrating the power of rural and recognizing rural providers who continue to demonstrate an unwavering commitment to delivering quality care within their communities. We are delighted to be recognizing these top quartile performers.”

* Blue defeats Red in Ainsworth Mock Trial showdown

(Posted 3:30 p.m. Nov. 7)

The second round of Region 4 Mock Trial competition took place in the Rock County Courthouse at Bassett Wednesday, with the Ainsworth Blue team defeating the Ainsworth Red team in a unanimous decision.

The Blue team portrayed the defense in the trial and the Red team the plaintiff.  Judges for the round were attorneys Forrest Peetz, Rodney Smith and Avery Gurnsey.

Gavin Olinger and Mila Pozehl were selected as Outstanding Witness and Outstanding Attorney for the Red team. Winning the awards for the Blue team were Witness Alyssa Erthum and Attorney Coy Carson.

The next Mock Trial competition will take place at 9 a.m. Wednesday, Nov. 13, in the Brown County Courtroom. Valentine will portray the plaintiff and Ainsworth Red, the defendant.  The winner of that trial will advance to compete against undefeated Ainsworth Blue Nov. 20 for a chance to compete in the state championships at Lincoln Dec. 9-10.

* Commissioners cancel upcoming hearing on Camp Witness bridge abandonment

(Posted 12:30 p.m. Nov. 7)

The Brown County Commissioners Tuesday cancelled an upcoming public hearing Nov. 19 relating to the abandonment of a road and bridge at Camp Witness.

The bridge was destroyed during flooding in March, and Camp Witness representatives had previously urged the board not to abandon the road and bridge until the county could determine if it could first receive disaster funding to replace the bridge.

The board had scheduled a hearing for Nov. 19, but cancelled the hearing during Tuesday’s meeting.

Don Fling met with the commissioners regarding a drainage issue east of Ainsworth affecting property he owned, along with property owned by the Ainsworth Evangelical Free Church and the city of Ainsworth.

The commissioners requested Brown County Attorney Andy Taylor look into statutes to determine the best way to proceed with addressing the drainage issues.

Property owner Leon Bracker also visited with the commissioners regarding a bridge leading to his property that was damaged during this year’s flooding. No action was taken following the discussion.

BKR Extension beef systems educator Hannah Greenwell introduced herself to the board as the newest University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension educator for the area. She provided the commissioners with a description of her job responsibilities as she joins the BKR staff.

The commissioners approved a resolution for a food service contract between the county and Big John’s Restaurant to provide daily noon and evening meals to Brown County Jail inmates. The board previously approved the bid submitted by Big John’s, as it was the only bid the county received to provide the meal service.

Clerk Travee Hobbs discussed information regarding cybersecurity for the courthouse she learned by attending a recent meeting. Hobbs discussed potential vulnerabilities to the county’s computer networks and possible preventive action that could be taken. No action was taken.

Hobbs also discussed a payment the clerk’s office recently made to the Nebraska State Treasurer’s Unclaimed Property Division.

Brown County Weed Superintendent Scott Erthum requested the county implement a government employee cell phone plan through Verizon for his official phone. The county was previously paying Erthum $50 to partially reimburse costs for using his cell phone for county weed department business. By going with a government employee plan, the county will only have a cost of $39 per month.

Nebraska Association of County Officials Blue Cross Blue Shield representative Judd Allen provided the commissioners with an update on the county’s current wellness and insurance programs.

The next meeting of the Brown County Commissioners is scheduled for 5:15 p.m. Nov. 19.

* Rock County Commissioners approve engineering study for Road 854

(Posted 7 a.m. Nov. 7)

The Rock County Commissioners Tuesday met with a landowner regarding a culvert the county installed on Road 854 that drained additional water onto his property.

Frank Taylor and Ben Andrews representing the Spring Valley Ranch requested the county dig out the ditches on Road 854 and the culverts to allow the excess water to drain naturally to Bloody Creek.

Rock County Attorney Avery Gurnsey discussed with the board conducting an engineering study for Road 854 and the surrounding area, which includes Sections 22, 25 and 36 of Township 26 North, Range 20, and Sections 19, 30 and 31 of Township 26 North, Range 19.

Following the discussion, the commissioners approved a contract with JEO Engineering to conduct a study of Road 854 and those accompanying sections.

In other business Tuesday, the commissioners approved a license renewal application request from Rock County Hospital Administrator Stacey Knox for the hospital and long term care. The board reviewed the final reports from both the hospital audit and the county audit. Those audit reports are on file in the clerk’s office and available for public inspection.

New University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension beef specialist for the BKR office Hannah Greenwell introduced herself to the commissioners.

Ed Hall and Les Hall visited with the commissioners about progress on replacing the Carnes Bridge across the Niobrara River that was damaged during the March flooding.

The next meeting of the Rock County Commissioners is scheduled for 9 a.m. Nov. 19.

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Sunday - 11 a.m. until 4 p.m.

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