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

E-mail us at kbrb@sscg.net

   

 

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

* Gary E. Ammon, 71, of Phoenix, Ariz., 10 a.m. July 1

* Victor L. Mangelsen, 84, of Ainsworth 2 p.m. June 28

* Gary R. Assarsson, 79, of Long Pine 2 p.m. June 28

* Janice I. Pennington, 79, of Ainsworth 10:30 a.m. June 28

* Jerry Lyne DeBolt, 50, of Bassett 10:30 a.m. June 27

* Meeting reports located below for:

June 21 Brown County Commissioners

June 14 Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education

June 8 Ainsworth City Council

June 7 Brown County Commissioners

June 6 Ainsworth/Brown County Care Center Board

* Ricketts touts property tax relief, improvement of state services during Friday town hall

(Posted 4:45 p.m. June 24)

Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts told more than 30 area residents during a Friday town hall gathering in the Ainsworth Conference Center his continued mission is to grow the state and create employment opportunities by having state government provide better customer service and work more efficiently.

Ricketts said his focus during the 2015-16 sessions of the Nebraska Legislature was on controlling the state’s budget, providing property tax relief, passing the Transportation and Innovation Act, and stopping the expansion of Medicaid.

The governor touted the 45 percent increase in direct property tax relief provided by the state, with $408 million allocated in direct relief during the two-year budget biennium, in addition to cutting the growth in state spending from an annual average increase of 6 percent to 3.6 percent for the first two years of his administration.

Ricketts conceded changes were needed to the state’s school aid funding formula, but it would take compromise to get urban senators to agree to overhaul the formula.

“We absolutely need to look at the TEEOSA formula,” the governor said. “Senators never anticipated what would happen with ag values when that formula was created. But, if you look at changing the formula, it is challenging because there are only 11 to 14 rural senators. They will need to find ways to get urban senators involved.”

Ricketts said schools also need to control their spending or there will be no tax relief.

“If we put more money into the formula, it just gets spent and property taxes don’t decrease.”

He said property tax relief would continue to be a step-by-step process.

The governor answered numerous questions from the audience, ranging from the way the state values agricultural property the recent issues within the Department of Corrections.

Following the town hall session, Ricketts visited with KBRB’s Graig Kinzie. To hear that conversation, click on the audio link below.
 

audio clips/Gov Pete Ricketts 6-24 Town Hall.mp3

* Ainsworth boy hospitalized following incident at Dawson County church camp

(Posted 9:30 a.m. June 23)

As reported by the Lexington Clipper-Herald, the Dawson County Sheriff’s Department reported a 12-year-old Ainsworth boy nearly drowned at a rural Lexington Church Camp on Tuesday.

However, according to the sheriff’s department, the quick actions of church camp personnel, Lexington Rescue personnel, and the Lexington Regional Health Center emergency room staff saved the boy’s life.

He was subsequently flown to Children’s Hospital at Omaha.

The call came in to Dawson County Sheriff’s Office dispatch at 5:12 p.m. Tuesday. The call indicated the boy had been rescued from a swimming pool at church camp. The Lexington Volunteer Fire Department transported him to the Lexington Regional Health Center.

The incident remains under investigation by the Sheriff’s Office and Lexington Police Department.

On Thursday, the child was identified by family members as Isaiah Porter. There are some fund-raising efforts that have been started on social media to help the family with medical expenses.

* Lions Club work night scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Friday ahead of Alumni Banquet

(Posted 7 a.m. June 23)

During its recent meeting, the Ainsworth Lions Club finalized plans for serving the annual Ainsworth Alumni Banquet.

A work night is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Friday to help set up the serving area. All Lions Club members are asked to attend. With several members having other commitments Saturday, those who attend are asked to recruit spouses and others to assist with Saturday’s banquet.

The Lions Club agreed to assist the Tour de Nebraska bike riders by providing assistance and information at East City Park. Several Lions have agreed to assist bikers from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. as they arrive at East City Park.

In recognition of the Lions Club Centennial Community Legacy Project to enhance playground equipment in the city parks, a work session was held June 6 to spread crumb rubber under some of the playground equipment at East City Park. Four bags of crumb rubber remain to be spread out during a future work session.

Secretary Jerry Ehlers reported 17 members had paid their 2016-17 dues. Reminders will be sent to those who have not yet paid.

The Ainsworth Lions Club Family picnic will be held at 6:30 p.m. Monday, July 18, at East City Park. President Evan Evans will be in charge of arrangements, as his final act as president. New officers and directors will be installed.   

The Lion Club State Convention was held in Grand Island on June 3-5. Ehlers attended the District 38-I meeting held during the convention. He reported the 2017 convention will be held at Chadron, and the new District Governor is Dave Collins of Bartlett, who had scheduled a new cabinet meeting at Bartlett July 16. Ehlers will attend as zone chair. District 38-I dues will increase $1 per year for each of the next three years. The District Lions Club has delivered 183 pair of glasses and 1 hearing aid set.

Evans presented Larry Rice with the Lions International Club Silver Centennial Membership Award for the recruitment of new members to the club during the Centennial year.

* Commissioners approve motor grader purchase, replacing 1989 machine

(Posted 3 p.m. June 21)

With a vote to replace Brown County’s final pre-1990 model motor grader Tuesday, Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin told the County Commissioners they would likely be able to go several years before having to replace another machine.

The board unanimously approved the state bid for a 2016 Caterpillar motor grader from Nebraska Machinery of Norfolk at a cost of $260,000. Turpin said he was disappointed in the trade-in value offered for the county’s 1989 model Caterpillar. He said the county would be better off, and the Nebraska Machinery representative agreed, with selling the older motor grader on the Big Iron auction web site.

“They offered us $29,000 as a trade-in,” Turpin said of the 1989 machine. “I think we could get $35,000 to $40,000 if we use Big Iron.”

Turpin said, by purchasing the 2016 Caterpillar to replace the 1989 model, all of the county’s motor graders would be model year 2000 or newer.

“We probably won’t have to buy any for at least three or four years,” Turpin said. “That was our last old machine to replace, and we also get a $14,000 parts credit from Caterpillar.”

With the 2015-16 budget ending June 30, the board discussed with Turpin taking a large portion of the cost of the machine from the current budget year since the roads budget had plenty of money remaining in its current-year budget.

The board set a special meeting for 1 p.m. Tuesday, June 28, and will pay approximately $200,000 of the cost of the motor grader at that time to get the claim into the 2015-16 year. Turpin said the roads department had budgeted to replace the 1989 Caterpillar in the current year.

In another roads-related item Tuesday, the commissioners approved wage increases for roads department employees ranging from 30 cents per hour to more than 50 cents per hour based on performance evaluations.

The board also set a starting wage of $15 per hour for all county hourly employees, and adjusted current employees’ wages upward by $1 per hour to provide separation from the new starting wage.

Denny Bauer and Pat Jones from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension office presented the commissioners with the BKR Extension budget for 2016-17. The overall budget for 2016-17 of $72,450 is $1,000 higher than the 2015-16 budget.

Brown County is responsible for 42 percent of the Extension’s budget, which will be $30,429 for the 2016-17 year, a $420 increase from the current budget. Rock County is responsible for 33 percent of the Extension budget, and Keya Paha County pays for 25 percent. The University of Nebraska pays for the salaries and benefits of the Extension educators, with the counties responsible for the office assistant salary as well as office expenses such as postage and office supplies.

The commissioners approved a new three-year countywide law enforcement agreement. The agreement would result in a 2 percent annual increase to the city of Ainsworth’s costs for each of the three years of the contract.

The agreement will be voted on by the Ainsworth City Council during its July meeting.

In another budget-related item, the board approved a resolution removing the courthouse remodeling line item from the county’s budget and folding it into the building and grounds line item in the general fund budget.

Treasurer Deb Vonheeder said there was currently no money in the courthouse remodeling fund.

The board also approved a transfer of $9,600 from the county’s miscellaneous general fund, with $750 transferred to the county attorney fund, $2,050 to the institution fund and $6,800 to the finance administration fund.

The commissioners appointed Marvin Ohlrich to a five-year term on the Veterans Service Committee, and set valuation protest hearings for 8 a.m. July 12, 1 p.m. July 19 and 5:30 p.m. July 20.

Following the 1 p.m. June 28 special meeting, the next regular meeting for the Brown County Commissioners is scheduled for 8:15 a.m. July 5.

* NCDHD again conducted West Nile surveillance on dead birds

(Posted 2:15 p.m. June 21)

West Nile Virus season has arrived. The North Central District Health Department is once again providing surveillance throughout the nine county district that includes Antelope, Boyd, Brown, Cherry, Holt, Keya Paha, Knox, Pierce and Rock counties.
The health department is now accepting phone reports of dead birds and collecting corvid birds for West Nile Virus testing. Corvid birds include Black birds, Blue Jays, Magpies and Crows.  The health department is asking people who find any of those species dead to contact the health department at 877-336-2406.

* Highway 91 overlay work near Almeria scheduled to start this week

(Posted 6:45 a.m. June 21)

Weather permitting, work is scheduled to begin this week on Highway 91 in the Almeria area, 15 miles east of the Highway 7 junction between mileposts 30 and 39, according to the Nebraska Department of Roads.
Werner Construction of Hastings has the $2.6 million contract for the Highway 91 work between Brewster and Taylor. Work will include milling and asphaltic concrete overlay. Traffic will be maintained with flaggers and a pilot car. Work is anticipated to be completed in late September.
The Department of Roads’ project manager is Michael Rudnick of Ainsworth. Motorists are reminded to drive cautiously through highway construction zones and to remember that fines are doubled when workers are present.

* Sheriff's department participates in 'Click It or Ticket' enforcement campaign

(Posted 11:45 a.m. June 20)

Through funding provided by the Nebraska Office of Highway Safety, the Brown County Sheriff’s Department recently participated in the “Click it or Ticket” campaign in an effort to increase public awareness and make roadways safer by encouraging all motorists to comply with seatbelt laws.
The sheriff’s department used regular enforcement, saturation patrols and an enforcement zone to strongly enforce the state’s seatbelt laws. Three deputies worked a total of 33 hours of overtime during the enforcement period.
During the campaign, the sheriff’s department issued two speeding citations, one citation on a charge of possessing an open alcohol container in a vehicle, and one motorist was arrested on a charge of driving under the influence.
The sheriff’s department also issued 21 warnings during the two-week enforcement period.
Brown County Sheriff Bruce Papstein thanks everyone for doing their part to make roadways safer by always wearing a seat belt and making sure everyone in the vehicle is buckled up at all times.

* Traffic Accidents

(Posted 11:30 a.m. June 20)

The Brown County Sheriff’s Department investigated a pair of vehicle-deer accidents that occurred during the past week.

At 10:46 p.m. Tuesday, June 14, the sheriff’s department investigated a vehicle-deer accident on Highway 20 east of Ainsworth.

A 2016 Nissan sedan, driven by Ty Wieser, 30, of Lincoln, was traveling west on Highway 20 near the Highway 183 intersection east of Ainsworth when the vehicle struck a deer in the roadway.

No persons were injured during the accident. The Nissan, owned by Hertz Rental Car of Lincoln, was considered a total loss.

 

At 2 a.m. Saturday, June 18, on Highway 183 just north of the 879 Road intersection northeast of Ainsworth, a 2004 Subaru Forester, driven by William Ferwerda, 23, of Coon Rapids, Minn., was traveling north when the vehicle struck a deer in the roadway.

No persons were injured during the accident. The Subaru, owned by Todd Ferwerda of Coon Rapids, Minn., was considered a total loss.

* Ricketts to visit north central Nebraska Friday and Saturday

(Posted 9 a.m. June 20)

Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts will be in north central Nebraska Friday speaking with residents regarding progress being made at the state level in various areas. Ricketts on Saturday will participate in the Tour de Nebraska bike ride.
Ricketts is scheduled to speak with residents at 12:30 p.m. Friday in the Blarney Stone at O’Neill, and at 2:30 p.m. in the Ainsworth Conference Center to provide his thoughts on the recently completed session of the Nebraska Legislature and discuss his priorities for the future.
On Saturday, Ricketts will take part in the Tour de Nebraska bike ride from Valentine to Springview.

* Department of Roads schedules July regional meetings on capital improvement projects

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

The Nebraska Department of Roads  has scheduled eight regional meetings to continue discussions on its expanded project prioritization process for capital improvement projects. 

The capital improvement projects are those projects that most impact the state’s economy and allow Nebraska to grow. Examples include the addition of new lanes, building new interchanges or viaducts, and improvements to the expressway system or federally designated high priority corridors.

The regional meetings are a follow-up to those held in January where NDOR staff presented information on expanding the agency’s project prioritization process to better consider economic impacts and include more stakeholder input.

During the upcoming regional meetings, NDOR staff will share preliminary results of the project prioritization process and gather feedback through facilitated group discussions.

“So far, over 1,000 people have been engaged in this initiative to expand the prioritization process for capital improvement projects,” NDOR Director Kyle Schneweis said. “The meetings coming up in July are an opportunity for people from across the state to come out and see the progress we’ve made in analyzing projects and to share their feedback. Including more stakeholder input is a key component to our new project prioritization process and we look forward to hearing from everyone as we continue our efforts to Grow Nebraska.”

One of the meetings is scheduled from 3 until 5 p.m. Monday, July 18, in the Niobrara Lodge at Valentine.

After the July meetings, NDOR staff will begin the process of selecting the next round of capital improvement projects, taking into account the results of this new prioritization process as well as things like public support, geographic inclusion, corridor completion and opportunities for supplemental funding.

NDOR plans to announce the projects this fall. Information about the upcoming meetings is available online at www.roads.nebraska.gov/projects/grow-ne/.

The NDOR’s Innovation Task Force continues to focus on ways the public and private sectors can work together, explore innovative approaches and opportunities to advance transportation, and further examine how transportation investments can help grow Nebraska.

During its meeting last week, Task Force members discussed the concept of practical design, which could provide NDOR engineers flexibility in addressing transportation issues and the ability to tailor solutions that may not always meet the state’s minimum design standards.

Task Force members supported the idea of NDOR utilizing practical design. More conversations will be held ragarding how NDOR would implement it internally and externally.

NDOR Engineer Brandie Neemann provided an update on the project prioritization process, sharing that NDOR is currently analyzing economic performance for more than 200 candidate project options based on stakeholder feedback from January. Preliminary results of the project prioritization process will be presented at the July stakeholder meetings.

The Innovation Task Force will meet again this fall.

* Weekly summary from the Brown County Sheriff's Department

(Posted 6:15 a.m. June 20)

June 12

  • Issued a citation for driving under suspension West of Ainsworth.

  • Responded to a disturbance on North Oak St Ainsworth.

  • Performed a civil standby at East City Park, while an individual gathered personal property.

  • Assisted an individual with a report of a missing dog. The dog had been transported to the Ainsworth Veterinary Clinic.

  • Received a report of suspicious activity in Long Pine.

  • The Brown Co Ambulance transported a patient from Brown Co Hospital to St Francis in Grand Island.

  • The Johnstown & Ainsworth Firemen were paged for a storm passing through Brown Co.

  • Responded to a report of a bull out on North Wilson St Ainsworth.

  • Assisted an Ainsworth resident with a report of a missing or stolen flag.

  • Located a dog at the East City Park and transported a dog to the Ainsworth Veterinary Clinic.

     

    June 13

  • Received a report of a bull out on North Wilson St Ainsworth.

  • Responded to a report of a stray dog on East 2nd St Ainsworth. The dog was transported to the Ainsworth Veterinary Clinic.

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

  • Responded to a report of a dog that was shot in Long Pine.

  • Investigated a report of burglary at an Ainsworth business.

  • Assisted a Long Pine resident with a report of possible threats.

  • Received a report of suspicious juvenile activity in Ainsworth.

  • Responded to a disturbance in Long Pine.

  • Assisted an Ainsworth resident with a report of the possible violation of a protection order.

  • Responded to a report of a dog running at large near Park Homes, Ainsworth.

  • Arrested a subject for driving under revocation and booked them into the Brown Co Jail. The subject was released on bond.

  • Investigated a report of possible drug related items located along Long Pine Creek.

  • Received a report of a reckless driver in Long Pine.

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

  • Assisted an individual with a report of reckless drivers on Hwy 20 in Ainsworth.

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

  • Arrested a subject for, felon in possession of a weapon, and booked them into the Brown Co Jail.

     

    June 14

  • Investigated a report of possible animal neglect on Elm St, Ainsworth.

  • Booked a subject into the Brown Co Jail on a court ordered commitment for commit child abuse without injury.

  • The Brown County Ambulance transported an individual from East City Park to the Brown Co Hospital.

  • Investigated a vehicle / deer accident without injury on Hwy 20 East of Ainsworth.

  • Assisted a Brown Co resident with an attempt to locate a missing juvenile in the Ainsworth area.

  • The Brown Co Ambulance transported  a patient from the Brown Co Hospital to Faith Regional in Norfolk.

     

    June 15

  • Investigated a report of a burglary at an Ainsworth business.

  • Released two subjects from the Brown Co Jail on bond.

     

    June 16

  • Provided a welfare check, by request, on a Long Pine resident. The Brown Co Ambulance also responded. No one was transported at the time.

  • Arrested a subject for driving under the influence and booked them into the Brown Co Jail.

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

  • Assisted an Ainsworth resident with a report of an opossum in their yard.

  • Investigated a report of trespassing in rural Brown County.

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

  • Investigated a report of possible child abuse in Ainsworth.

  • Received 2 reports of possible child abuse or neglect in Ainsworth.

     

    June 17

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

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

     

    June 18

  • Investigated a report of a vehicle/ deer accident on Hwy 20 East of Ainsworth.

  • Assisted an individual with a barking dog complaint in Ainsworth.

  • Provided a welfare check on a rural Brown Co resident.

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

  • Assisted an Ainsworth resident with a report of threats.

  • Arrested a subject for driving under the influence & booked them into the Brown Co Jail.

     

    Weekly Summary

    0 - Fix-it tickets were issued.

    1 - Handgun permits applied for

    33 - Incidents Reports were taken.

    2 - Paper Service was served.

    187 - Phone calls were received

    14 - 911emergency calls received 

    3 - Titles were inspected.

    4 - Traffic Citations were issued.

    2 - Verbal & Written Warnings issued.

* Area students named to University of Nebraska-Lincoln Spring Dean's List

(Posted 7 a.m. June 16)

More than 4,100 University of Nebraska-Lincoln students have been named to the Deans' List/Explore Center List of Distinguished Students for the spring semester of the 2015-16 academic year.

From the area, Dean’s List students include:

 

Ainsworth

Devron Michael Crawford, senior, College of Engineering, construction management.

Shea Leigh Sinsel, freshman, Explore Center List of Distinguished Students, Explore Center, pre-health.

Maggie Elise Steinhauser, senior, College of Education and Human Sciences, speech-language pathologist.

 

Long Pine

Jessica Elizabeth Bartak, senior, College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, agribusiness.

 

Springview

Kara Nicole Bruns, sophomore, College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, agricultural education.

 

Bassett

Taylor RaDawn Hart, senior, College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, agricultural education.

 

Stuart

Dylan Christopher Laible, junior, College of Arts and Sciences, computer science.

Evan Patrick Laible, freshman, College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, horticulture.

 

Atkinson

Alex Jerome Fritz, sophomore, College of Engineering, electrical engineering.

Aaron Mark Johnson, sophomore, College of Engineering, computer engineering.

 

Brewster

Jacy Alexis Spencer, junior, College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, agricultural economics.

 

Valentine

Jordan Michelle Bussinger, senior, College of Arts and Sciences, biological sciences.

Jennifer Rae Schubauer, junior, College of Education and Human Sciences, child, youth and family studies.

James Kenneth Simmons, senior, College of Engineering, electrical engineering.

* Davis shares Father's Day message during weekly report

(Posted 4 p.m. June 15)

Nebraska 43rd District State Sen. Al Davis used his weekly report to pass along a message for Father's Day.
To hear the report, click on the audio link below.

audio clips/State Sen Al Davis 6-15-16.mp3

* Board of Education approves contract for special education services with ESU 17

(Posted 7 a.m. June 14)

The Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education approved a special education services contract with Educational Service Unit 17 during Monday’s meeting, and will see a 4 percent increase from the previous year to $687,151.

The contract covers speech therapy, resource teachers, occupational therapy, program supervision and evaluation, early childhood services, and a school nurse.

In addition, the contract includes $28,716 for health services provided for regular education, which is a 1 percent rise from the prior year.

The ESU 17 contract was the only action item on Monday’s agenda. The board held public hearings on the district’s student fee and parent involvement policies. No changes were recommended for either policy.

The board also reviewed, as it is required to do annually, its anti-bullying policy and the district’s bomb threat policy. No changes were recommended to either policy.

During his report, Superintendent Darrell Peterson said the school was ready to begin accepting local beef donations for the school lunch program.

“This program is catching on at schools across the state,” Peterson said. “We have worked through the details with Lunchtime Solutions. The idea is to get better tasting beef into the school lunch program.”

The superintendent said any beef producers interested in donating an animal to be made into hamburger may contact the school to be put on a list. The district will notify the producer when the animal is needed.

He said non-producers can also support the program by contributing to the cost of processing the beef. Approximately $600 per animal will be needed to cover the processing costs.

Board member Brad Wilkins asked if the district would receive credit from Lunchtime Solutions for supplying the beef needed for the school lunch program.

Peterson said Lunchtime Solutions will provide the school with credit for what it would have cost the company to purchase the same amount of beef that will be donated through the program.

The superintendent also reported the Nebraska Board of Education made changes to the statewide testing schedule for 2016-17. He said no statewide writing test would be administered due to technology problems experienced during the past few years.

He said the college entrance exam for all high school juniors approved by the Nebraska Legislature would now be implemented for the 2016-17 school year, which is a year ahead of the original schedule.

Peterson said student Emma Good won the Girls State scholarship from the more than 400 girls who attended Girls State. He said several students were elected to offices during both Girls State and Boys State.

The superintendent reported four college-credit classes are scheduled for the fall semester through Northeast Community College. He said Jeff Carr will teach an English composition class for college credit, and American history, college algebra and intro to psychology will be offered through distance learning with Northeast Community College staff.

He said 39 students took a college-credit class during the 2015-16 school year, which was a four-year high. Just six students took college-credit classes during the 2014-15 year.

Peterson said data provided by NECC showed fewer Ainsworth students needing placement in developmental education classes at the college level compared to the 20-county average served by Northeast.

He said 17 percent of Ainsworth students needed a developmental math class at the community college level compared to 42 percent of students in the 20-county area, with 13 percent of AHS graduates needing developmental writing compared to 27 percent of the region, and 9 percent needing developmental reading compared to 30 percent of the region’s graduates.

Elementary Principal Sarah Williams reported 27 students have enrolled in the 12-day summer program for kindergarten through sixth-grade students that begins in July. The program will be held from 9 a.m. until noon each day, with academics, physical activity and extended-learning activities.

“I am excited about this program,” Williams said. “We have great teachers and volunteers lined up.”

Williams said the school is offering, for the first time, a summer meal program. The summer lunch program begins July 11 and is served from Monday through Thursday for three weeks. Lunch is free for any child age 1 to 18, and adults are welcome to eat for $3.75. She said Broken Bow and O’Neill are also offering the free summer meal program.

Peterson said the district needs students to take advantage of the free meal program so Lunchtime Solutions can serve enough students to be reimbursed for the cost of having someone prepare the meal.

“We need about 50 people to eat for Lunchtime Solutions to break even,” the superintendent said.

The daily menu for the summer meal program is available online at www.ainsworthschools.org by clicking on the “Cafeteria Menus” on the right side of the web page.

During the public comment portion of Monday’s meeting, Karen Prewitt asked the board to address its dress code policy for graduation. Prewitt said a couple seniors showed up to graduation in jeans and were asked to change, while the board president handed out diplomas to students while dressed in jeans.

Audience member Heather Stec expressed concern over a staff member who she believed had been involved on a personal level with the Department of Health and Human Services Child Protection Services.

“This is someone we trust with our children daily,” Stec said. She asked the board to look into any allegations.

Prior to adjourning, the board held an executive session regarding personal information. No action was taken following the executive session.

The next meeting of the Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education is scheduled for 8 p.m. July 11.

* Sheriff's department seeking information on residential burglary in Ainsworth

(Posted 9:45 a.m. June 13)

The Brown County Sheriff’s Department is seeking information regarding a residential burglary that occurred in Ainsworth.
According to the sheriff’s department report, sometime prior to May 17, someone gained entry to a home in the 1000 block of East Third Street and stole a safe with an undisclosed amount of cash. No forced entry was found.
Anyone with information on who may be responsible for the residential burglary is encouraged to call 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 the burglary could result in a cash reward of up to $1,000. An additional $5,000 in reward money has been added for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of those responsible.

* Lightning strike sparks fire in southern Brown County, destroying old school house

(Posted 9 a.m. June 13)

Three area fire departments responded to a blaze Friday evening in southern Brown County that started in a tree grove and destroyed an old school house and a camper.
Tony Ruhter with the Raven Volunteer Fire Department said the fire started at 7 p.m. Friday 3 miles west of Highway 7 and 3 miles south of the West Calamus Road on property owned by Rich Einspahr and Ben Einspahr.
Ruhter said lightning struck a tree in a grove and started the fire. While burning less than 1 acre of ground, Ruhter said the fire ignited an old school house at the site that was being used for storage, and also burned an older camper. He said both the camper and the structure were destroyed.
Firefighters from the Raven, Calamus and Ainsworth volunteer departments responded. Ruhter said the Raven department remained on scene until 3 a.m. Saturday mopping up hot spots and ensuring the fire did not flare up.

* Metula wins Ribfest cook-off Saturday hosted by the Ainsworth Fire Department

(Posted 9 a.m. June 13)

Terri Metula of Wagner, S.D., was the winner Saturday of the annual Ribfest cook-off hosted by the Ainsworth Volunteer Fire Department.
Nate Rau finished second in the judging, and Brad Fiala placed third. Fiala reported strong attendance once again at the Ribfest, as just one roaster remained from the hundreds of pounds of spare ribs donated for the event by GJW.

* Weekly summary from the Brown County Sheriff's Department

(Posted 7 a.m. June 13)

June 5

  • Investigated a report of a possible assault near Ainsworth Schools.

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

  • Investigated a one-vehicle accident w/o injury South of Long Pine.

  • Investigated a report of the theft of a vehicle from an Ainsworth residence. The vehicle was recovered.

     

    June 6

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

  • Responded to a report of a disturbance on North Ash Ainsworth.

  • Booked a subject into the Brown Co Jail, on a court ordered commitment, for domestic violence.

  • Received a report of a vehicle tearing around the city streets of Ainsworth.

  • Assisted an Ainsworth resident with a report of possible shots, that had been fired, on Memorial Day in Ainsworth.

  • Arrested a subject on an arrest warrant for distribution of a controlled substance, marijuana. The subject was booked into the Brown Co Jail.

     

    June 7

  • Investigated a report suspicious activity at the Ainsworth Pool.

  • Assisted Ainsworth residents with information on possible mail tampering.

  • The Ainsworth Firemen responded to a report of a gas meter leaking on Zero St. The meter was struck while mowing.

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

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

     

    June 8

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

  • Assisted Ainsworth residents with a civil matter over property lines.

  • Responded to a report of a missing child in Ainsworth. The child was located and returned to family members.

  • Released a subject from the Brown Co Jail, as their sentence was complete.

     

    June 9

  • Assisted individuals in Ainsworth with a report of possible threats.

  • Received a report of dogs tearing up flower beds in Ainsworth.

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

     

    June 10

  • The Brown Co Ambulance transported a patient & air lift crew , from the Ainsworth Airport to the Brown Co Hospital.

  • The Raven, Calamus, & Ainsworth Firemen responded to a report of fire in trees, in rural Brown Co.

     

    June 11

  • An Ainsworth resident brought a dog to the Sheriff’s Office. The dog was transported to the Ainsworth Veterinary Clinic.

  • Booked a subject into the Brown Co Jail, on a Keith Co Warrant, for issuing bad checks.

  • Provided a civil standby for Ainsworth residents, while they gathered personal property.

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

  • Investigated a 2 vehicle accident without injury in the Shopko parking area.

  • Responded to a report of a custody dispute in Johnstown.

  • Arrested a subject and booked them into the Brown Co Jail for driving under the influence.

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

     

    Weekly Summary

    0 - Fix-it tickets were issued.

    1 - Handgun permits applied for

    22 - Incidents Reports were taken.

    7 - Paper Service was served.

    145 - Phone calls were received

    9 - 911emergency calls received 

    3 - Titles were inspected.

    1 - Traffic Citations were issued.

    1 - Verbal & Written Warnings issued.

* Position open on Northeast Community College Board of Governors

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

The Northeast Community College Board of Governors is seeking qualified applicants to fill an unexpired term on the board.

Larry Poessnecker of Atkinson, who represented District II of the Northeast Community College 20-county service area since 1989, resigned June 1. District II includes Keya Paha, Brown, Rock, Boyd, Holt, and Knox counties. 

Any qualified voter in these counties is eligible to fill Poessnecker’s term that ends in December 2018. To be eligible, the candidate must be a registered voter, a resident of one of the above named counties for at least six months, and cannot be a member of another board relating to education or another high elective office.

A committee of the Northeast Board will evaluate applications, select and conduct interviews, and make a recommendation to the entire board to fill the position. 

Anyone interested in applying for the position may obtain information from the Northeast Community College website at www.northeast.edu. Completed application forms must be submitted to, and received by Diane Reikofski, board recording secretary, by the end of the day on Friday, July 22. Forms may be submitted online, or applicants may print out the form, complete it and mail it to Reikofski at 801 East Benjamin Avenue, P.O. Box 469, Norfolk, NE 68702. 

The Northeast Board of Governors consists of 11 members. Two members represent each of five districts in the service area with one at-large member. Each member serves for a term of four years.

Persons with questions related to this process are asked to contact a current member of the Board of Governors or the Northeast administrative offices at (402) 844-7055.

* Council adopts ordinance allowing accessory buildings as sole structure on adjacent property

(Posted 7 a.m. June 9)

During a light agenda Wednesday, the Ainsworth City Council adopted an ordinance that allows a property owner to construct an accessory building on a lot as the only structure on the lot as long as the property owner also owns a home on an adjacent lot.

The ordinance change was requested by the Board of Adjustment. Prior to the ordinance change, any homeowner who purchased an adjacent lot had to go through the Board of Adjustment for a permit to construct a garage or other form of accessory building, as city code did not allow an accessory building to be the only structure on a lot.

With many lot sizes in the city not large enough to accommodate a home and an accessory building, many homeowners have purchased adjacent lots for garages or other accessory buildings.

The code amendment will save property owners time instead of having to go through the Board of Adjustment for a permit.

The council waived the three readings of the ordinance and passed it by a 3-0 vote Wednesday, with Councilman Chuck Osborn absent.

In other business Wednesday, the council approved an agreement with the Nebraska Public Power District for the development and maintenance of a city web site.

City Administrator Lisa Schroedl said there was no charge to the city for NPPD to create and host the web site. The only charge was an annual $35 fee to register the web site’s domain.

Councilwoman Deb Hurless recommended working with NPPD on a city web site.

“We work with NPPD on facts books for our area communities,” Hurless said. “They are excellent to work with.”

The council discussed the countywide law enforcement service agreement with Brown County. The three-year contract expires July 1. City Attorney Rod Palmer said he shared with County Attorney Dave Streich the city’s concerns regarding not being notified on whether annual equipment purchases had been made by the sheriff’s department.

In the agreement, if the sheriff’s department does not purchase major equipment, such as a new patrol vehicle, the city receives credit from the county.

Palmer said Streich indicated he planned to draft an amended agreement that does away with the equipment purchase stipulation and cleans things up.

There was no action taken, with the agreement placed on the July agenda for council action.

During her report, Schroedl said 100 properties will be inspected for nuisance violations in 2016. With grant funding at an end, the city will inspect about half the number of properties as it did during the past two years.

Properties located between Elm Street and Maple Street between Highway 20 and First Street in the center of the city will be inspected for nuisance violations. The inspections include properties on the west side of Elm Street, all of Oak Street, and the east side of Maple Street.

Schroedl discussed the city’s insurance coverage on playground equipment and other structures at the city’s parks. She said discussion on insurance began after the E&L baseball program asked if the city would consider insuring the new scoreboard at Legion Field.

“As we looked, the shelter by the horseshoe pits, the concession stand, and the restrooms are covered,” Schroedl said. “But, there are some gaps. None of the playground equipment is insured, and neither is the crow’s nest or the bleachers.

Mayor Larry Rice said there was typically a $5,000 deductible through the city’s insurance before any damage would be covered.

Schroedl said some pieces of playground equipment would cost $20,000 to $30,000 to replace if they were damaged in a storm.

Schroedl said she would look further into what is covered and what is not and would report back to the council.

The council discussed purchasing water meters that can be read electronically. Schroedl said it currently takes a city employee at least a week to read water meters. With the city recently short-handed, a part-time employee was tasked with reading the meters, and was bitten by a dog.

Rice said he checked with a company, and the cost to replace the meters was between $200 and $250 per meter.

Schroedl said some communities budget for replacing a few meters each year and gradually change over to meters that transmit the data electronically.

She reported there were a few minor issues with the opening of the swimming pool for the season, with the boiler having trouble starting and the chlorine levels fluctuating. She said those problems have been corrected and the pool was open during regular hours.

Ainsworth High School student Luke Peters visited with the council about an Eagle Scout project. He said the Boy Scouts did not approve his initial plan to place a large flag in the community due to the cost and the time frame Peters had to complete the project.

He discussed with the council the possibility of putting foul ball return stations at a few of the city’s baseball and softball fields.

“I would like to get them installed by the time we host state baseball,” Peters said.

Rice advised Peters to check with the E&L baseball and softball program and report back to the council.

The consent agenda approved Wednesday included approval of Ainsworth Betterment Committee recommendations to award ABC funding in the amount of $1,536 to cover half the cost to place rubber tire mulch at city playground equipment, and $6,825 to make improvements to the Legion baseball field in preparation for Ainsworth hosting the 2016 Class C Senior Legion State Baseball Tournament.

Councilman Kent Taylor asked if the city was still providing annual funding for baseball field improvement. Schroedl said the city had agreed to provide $5,000 annually for baseball and softball field improvement for a five-year period. That five-year period, however, had expired, and no money was allocated in the current budget for baseball or softball field improvements.

The next meeting of the Ainsworth City Council is scheduled for 7 p.m. July 13.

DELIMONT IS KBRB ATHLETE OF YEAR - Ainsworth graduate
Brady Delimont was voted the 2015-16 KBRB Athlete of the Year by
the school's varsity coaches. Delimont (right) will have his name added
to the Athlete of the Year plaque and received a scholarship check
from KBRB owner Graig Kinzie (left). Delimont plans to play basketball
and pursue a business degree from the University of South Dakota.

* Delimont named 2015-16 KBRB Athlete of the Year by vote of AHS coaches

(Posted 2:30 p.m. June 8)

Based on a vote of Ainsworth varsity coaches, Brady Delimont is the 2015-16 KBRB Athlete of the Year.

Delimont, a three-sport standout for the Bulldogs, set the Nebraska all-class record for 3-point baskets made in a career with 320, including 52 during his freshman year, 74 as a sophomore, 96 as a junior and 98 as a senior. His final two years are among the top 15 single seasons for 3-point baskets. Delimont finished his career with 1,888 points, second in school history. He set the single-season scoring record for Ainsworth with 655 points during his senior season, averaging 27.3 points per game. He was named All-State in Class C-2 as a senior, helping the team qualify for the State Basketball Tournament for the second time in three years.

Delimont also starred in track and field for the Bulldogs, setting modern-era school records in career team points earned during the State Track and Field Championships and a single-season school record 28 team points in 2015, including Class C state titles in the 3200 meters and 3200-meter relay.

Delimont ended his high school career with 11 medals from the Nebraska Track and Field Championships.

He also competed on two Class D state runner-up cross country teams in 2012 and 2014. Delimont finished third in the Class D state cross country race as a junior.

He receives a scholarship from KBRB Radio to the University of South Dakota, where he plans to pursue a degree in business and play basketball.

The KBRB Athlete of the Year is awarded annually to a senior class member at Ainsworth High School who lettered in at least two varsity sports for at least two years, and epitomizes character and leadership on and off the field or court.

Varsity coaches in football, girls and boys golf, cross country, volleyball, girls and boys basketball, wrestling and track and field vote for the KBRB Athlete of the Year annually.

* Tour de Nebraska to bring 430 cyclists to the area

(Posted 9:30 a.m. June 8)

An expected 430 cyclists are scheduled to participate in the Tour de Nebraska bicycle adventure June 22-26. The tour begins at Springview on Wednesday, June 22, and travels to Bassett, Ainsworth and Valentine in north central Nebraska, according to Susan Larson Rodenburg, co-founder of the annual event.

With a record number of cyclists on this year’s Tour de Nebraska, Rodenburg said it is even more critical for motorists and cyclists to use extra caution on the road.

“Our number one goal is to keep everyone safe,” she said. “We provide information about proper safety rules and laws to all of our cyclists. They must wear helmets and we strongly suggest lights and mirrors to improve visibility and awareness. We can all get along. We just need to be courteous whether we’re in a vehicle or we’re a cyclist,” she said.

Nebraska law requires that the driver of a vehicle overtaking a bicycle proceeding in the same direction to exercise due care, which includes leaving a safe distance of no less than three feet clearance when passing a bicycle and maintain clearance until safely past the overtaken bicycle.

Rodenburg said most motorists want to do the right thing around cyclists, but may be uncertain about what to do.

“Give us more than 3 feet if you can because the extra space allows cyclists the additional space in case they have to avoid a pothole, glass or other obstacles,” Rodenburg said. “Passing too closely can also create drag from your car that can pull a cyclist off balance and lose control.”

Rodenburg said Tour de Nebraska coordinates with the Nebraska State Patrol, county sheriff’s departments, and the Nebraska Agency for Emergency Management.

The noncompetitive circle tour will start and end in Springview. It will proceed to overnights at Bassett Wednesday, June 22, Ainsworth Thursday, June 23, and Valentine Friday and Saturday, June 24-25, before traveling back to Springview on Sunday, June 26.

Cyclists of all ages are participating from 24 states, including Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Colorado, Iowa, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, Nevada, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Washington, Wisconsin Wyoming and Canada.

The Rodenburgs created Tour de Nebraska 29 years ago. Tour de Nebraska arranges meals, rest stops, daily maps, itineraries, luggage/gear transfers, emergency support on the highway, daily fruit and water. Riders camp at city parks or near high schools. There are also indoor camping options.

The favorite rest stop and overnight host towns chosen by the riders receive cash awards. This year, the Rodenburgs created the Tour de Nebraska Give Back Program, which offers a $500 grant to the overnight host communities.

“It’s a small token of thanks for their efforts,” Rodenburg said.

For more information about Tour de Nebraska, visit the web at www.TourdeNebraska.com

* County saves $471,984 by refinancing remaining hospital bonds

(Posted 7 a.m. June 8)

Brown County Hospital Administrator Shannon Sorensen told the Brown County Commissioners Tuesday the county saved $471,984 by refinancing the remaining 10 years on the hospital addition bond.

Refinancing the remaining bond at an interest rate of 1.86 percent coupled with a $92,000 contribution from the hospital allowed the county to remove one full year of the remaining bonded debt. The bond will be paid in nine years instead of 10.

Commissioner Reagan Wiebelhaus said he appreciated the hospital contributing the $92,000 to help pay down the bond on the addition.

Sorensen provided the commissioners with a quarterly report of hospital finances. The facility has $4.2 million cash on hand, which equates to 175 days of operations. She said the hospital was running a little shy on the revenue side from what it budgeted, but revenue was still ahead of the previous year.

Through the first nine months of the fiscal year, the hospital has a net profit of $277,894.

She said Dr. Russ Tourtsev will finish his residency at the end of the month, and will begin practicing in the Brown County Hospital in August.

Sorensen thanked the Brown County Hospital Auxiliary for its continued efforts to assist the facility. She told the commissioners the Auxiliary recently donated a new podiatry chair to the hospital at a cost of approximately $10,000.

“The Auxiliary has contributed about $607,000 since they formed,” Sorensen said. “They are a great organization.”

In other business during Tuesday’s meeting, the commissioners met with Lesa Dillon, the owner of the Sandhills Lounge, regarding the potential to place additional safeguards at the Country Barn east of Ainsworth.

Dillon holds a conditional-use permit for events at the facility on the south side of Highway 20 east of the Highway 20 and Highway 183 junction.

Wiebelhaus said he would like to see extra lighting placed near the entrance to the facility.

“My hope is that additional lighting is something the new property owner would agree to,” Wiebelhaus said. “I don’t want to take away the permit, I would just like to see some additional safety measures out there.”

Dillon said the new property owner was unable to make Tuesday’s meeting. She said she would talk to the property owner and find a date that worked to meet with the board.

In action items, the board directed Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin to move forward with information on replacing a 1989 motor grader. Turpin said, after replacing the 1989 motor grader, the county’s oldest machine would be a 2000 model so the county would likely be able to go a few years without having to purchase another grader.

He said if the county moves forward with purchasing a motor grader before the end of July, there is a $14,000 parts credit available through Caterpillar.

The board voted to switch the county’s vision insurance from Ameritas to a vision plan offered by the Nebraska Association of County Officials. County Attorney Dave Streich said there was no cost to the county for the insurance, as it is optional for employees and they pay the premium. He said the NACO plan offered the same benefits for about a 15 percent smaller premium.

The commissioners approved replacing the fax machine in the county clerk’s office at a cost of approximately $600.

The board named Wiebelhaus as an alternate representative to Commissioner Buddy Small on the Ainsworth/Brown County Care Center Board, and named Cheryl Graff as an alternate to Jim Walz on the Care Center Board.

Small said having an alternate representative was important since, as a board of four, if two board members could not attend a meeting there could be no quorum and the Care Center Board has been scheduling meetings with people who drive to Ainsworth from several hours away.

The commissioners approved getting quotes for repairing the enclosed walkway between the courthouse and the courtroom. Small said he would work with Streich to prepare specifications, since an informal quote for the repair work came in just above the $20,000 threshold that requires the county to bid a project.

Veterans Service Officer Judy Walters discussed the possibility of placing a Brown County Veterans Memorial on the courthouse grounds. The board discussed possible sites on the courthouse grounds for the memorial.

The next meeting of the Brown County Commissioners is scheduled for 8:15 a.m. June 21.

* Ainsworth City Council agenda

(Posted 6:30 a.m. June 8)

Ainsworth City Council meeting
7 p.m. Wednesday, June 8
Ainsworth Conference Center

1.                  Roll Call

 

2.                  *Approval of consent agenda

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

 

3.                  *Minutes of the previous meetings: 05/11/2016; 06/02/2016

 

4.                  *Treasurer’s report

 

5.                  *Department Head Reports

 

6.                  *Claims

 

7.                  *Ainsworth Betterment Committee’s (ABC) recommendation to approve a request from the NCDC in the amount of $1,536.00 for rubber tire mulch for the City playgrounds and from the Ainsworth American Legion Post #79 in the amount of $6,825.33 for improvements to the Legion baseball field in preparation for the 2016 Class C State Senior Legion Baseball Tournament

 

8.                  Hearing to review the LB 840 Citizen Advisory Review Committee's six month report

 

9.                  Discuss request by NCDC of the mini park lot in regard to the Royal Theatre – Kristin Olson

 

10.              NCDC update report – Kristin Olson

 

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

 

12.              Ordinance #1535 - Consider the recommendation by the Board of Adjustment from their meeting on April 29, 2016 regarding the amending of the Ainsworth Municipal Code Section 10-1207

 

13.              Consider entering into an agreement with NPPD for the development and maintenance of a City website

 

14.              Discussion of insured property at East City Park

 

15.              Discuss and consider the terms of the countywide law enforcement service agreement

 

16.              Report from City Administrator/Clerk/Treasurer Schroedl

 

17.              Mayor’s report

* 36-vote margin triggers recount in District 5 Republican Public Service Commission race

(Posted 1:15 p.m. June 7)

One recount will be conducted in the wake of the May 10 primary election, according to Secretary of State John Gale.

Gale and the other members of the Nebraska Board of Canvassers ordered a recount for Public Service Commission District 5 involving Republican candidates Jerry Vap and Mary Ridder. Thirty-six votes separated the candidates, with Ridder holding the lead by the less than 1 percent margin.

Gale said the recount would be conducted starting Wednesday morning. Results will be presented to the Nebraska Board of Canvassers during its next scheduled meeting at 3:30 p.m. Monday, June 13, in the Governor’s Hearing Room. That meeting is open to the public.

Vap had 21,877 votes and Ridder received 21,913 in the primary. State statute allows for an automatic recount if the margin of votes between candidates is less than one percent of the total votes received by the top vote-getter.

The board also considered a potential recount involving the Board of Regents race in District 6. That race was left off all ballots in Webster County, affecting 715 voters. The board voted to accept an email notification from candidate Mary George, waiving her right to a recount.

Gale said normally, his office would have preferred to receive a signed letter from the candidate, but acknowledged that George was out of town at the time.

“After discussion, the board felt it was sufficient in this one circumstance to accept the email confirmation of her intent,” Gale said.

The board then took up the issue of advancing all three candidates to the general election in that race.

“While George did waive her right to a recount, they recognized that such a waiver did not preclude the board from weighing whether all three candidates should advance in the general election,” Gale said. “It was important to balance that decision with her right as a candidate if the probability was high that she was adversely affected in the primary election due to an error.”

Noting the margin of votes garnered by the candidates in each county did not indicate a high probability that the error in Webster County adversely impacted the final outcome in that race; as well as the decision by George to refuse a recount, the board voted to certify the results of that race as submitted. As a result, Marsha Fangmeyer and Paul Kenney will appear on the ballot in November.

All other races, with the exception of the recount ordered for Public Service Commission District 5, were also certified by the board.

* Transaction complete, community owns former Ainsworth Care Center property

(Posted 8:30 a.m. June 7)

The community officially owns a nursing home, as North Central Development Center Executive Director Kristin Olson told the Ainsworth-Brown County Care Center Board Monday the paperwork has been completed and the former Ainsworth Care Center property is now owned by the NCDC.

“We do, as a community, officially own a nursing home,” Olson said. “We have the paperwork ready to get the building transferred to the interlocal board. Our board meets Wednesday and plans to authorize the execution of the documents.”

While RP Midwest donated the building to the North Central Development Center, Olson said the NCDC did incur legal expenses in acquiring the facility and asked the interlocal board to cover those expenses as part of the transfer of ownership.

By a 3-0 vote with board member Leanne Maxwell absent, the Care Center Board approved a resolution accepting the building and the tangible personal property from the North Central Development Center and signing the memorandum of understanding that allows the NCDC to recoup its legal expenses as part of the transfer of the property.

Board member Buddy Small, who had previously voted against acquiring the former facility, said, “I still have reservations about the old building, but it is pointless for me to continue to resist it.”

In other business during a packed agenda Monday, Ron Ross with Rural Health Development announced Stephanie Rucker of Gordon has been hired as the administrator for the Sandhills Care Center.

“Stephanie will bring enthusiasm and energy to the position,” Ross said. “The board and I felt she would bring a lot to the community. This will be her first administrative position, but she has worked in one of our facilities.”

Board Chairman Kent Taylor said he was appreciative of having a say in the hiring process for the administrator.

“We had three good candidates,” Taylor said. “Stephanie was very enthusiastic in her interview.”

Rucker and Rural Health Development will now be charged with hiring staff as the interlocal board begins the process of readying the facility to accept residents.

Mike Harris with RHD said the company has already received 11 employment applications through the Sandhills Care Center web site at www.sandhillscarecenter.com.

Ross reported the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services has agreed Ainsworth meets the certificate of need exemption.

“That is good news,” Ross said. “We will not have to go through the certificate of need process. We are now able to apply for a license.”

Ross said the board will need a certificate of occupancy from the State Fire Marshal’s office.

“Once licensed, we will need to get certified into the Medicare and Medicaid program,” Ross said. “We will request a survey once we get licensed so that we can become certified and accept Medicare and Medicaid residents.”

Ross said the facility could be ready to admit its first residents in 60 to 90 days, as it will take a little time to get the former care center facility back up and ready to go.

“We will not admit a lot of people until we get certified, but we will have to admit a couple private-pay residents so the state can come in and survey,” Ross said. “I think we can have that building up to code quickly.”

The board discussed renovation plans for the former facility. Board member Jim Walz said he believed renovation committee chair Dick Schipporeit should coordinate the renovation efforts, working in conjunction with RHD and the board.

Ross said RHD would need the renovation committee to guide the efforts of getting the building up to code.

The board approved a continuing management agreement with RHD at a monthly cost of $12,000. RHD handled Phase I management services for the board as it worked through the process of getting a facility reopened. The action Monday allows Rural Health Development to continue to manage the facility once it opens.

RHD will employ the care center administrator as part of the management agreement.

Capital campaign committee chair Roland Paddock said $11,100 had been donated to the project in the past month, bringing the total donations and pledges to $222,622.

“We sent mailings to 400 alumni,” Paddock said. “That has netted us $3,100 thus far.”

Jacob Sertich and Joanell Staab with Wilkins Architectural Design Firm of Kearney presented the board with a design of a proposed new 46-bed facility at a site east of the Brown County Hospital.

Sertich said the architectural firm has been working with the board’s building committee, looking at comparative facilities and designing a building based on the community’s needs.

“We are now working on the schematic design, which includes room sizes, nursing stations and offices,” Sertich said.

Staab said the Department of Health and Human Services has guidelines about residential rooms and dining rooms.

“We will try and maximize the efficiency of the floor plan to maximize the staff’s ability,” Staab said. “We want this facility to be a showcase for the community, and give it a home look instead of an institutional look.”

Walz, who serves on the building committee, said the facility will be functional and will look nice, but it will not be elegant.

“We are striving to make sure a new facility will cash flow,” Walz said. “We have gained a lot of ground, and we are trimming some more things to make sure we can get close to the initial estimates in our feasibility study.”

To begin Monday’s meeting, the board met with Bert Mues with USDA Rural Development’s Kearney office.

Mues discussed options for the community in utilizing either a loan guarantee or a direct loan through USDA Rural Development.

Should the community apply and be approved for a direct loan, she said the current interest rate on the 40-year note is 2.78 percent.

“The interest rate can never go up,” Mues said. “The direct loan is for 40 years. Most commercial lenders don’t want to extend a loan for more than 20 years.”

She said every project is unique, and sometimes the USDA utilizes a combination of a direct loan and a loan guarantee.

The loan guarantee requires the community to obtain a loan from a commercial lender, with the USDA guaranteeing 90 percent of the loan value.

“The guarantee allows the lender to provide a good rate and make a loan they might not otherwise make,” Mues said. “The only time Rural Development would get involved on a guaranteed loan is if there is a loss.”

Should the community choose to move forward with an application to the USDA program, she said the board would need to meet with Rural Development’s architect and program specialist from Lincoln.

The board, by a 3-0 vote, approved beginning the process of applying for a USDA Rural Development loan, and set a 2 p.m. meeting Wednesday, July 6, in the Ainsworth Conference Center to meet with the Rural Development representatives.

Mues said the community would need a feasibility study with five-year projections, and a market study showing a need for a facility in the community.

The board approved having Rural Health Development work with USDA to find a company to complete a market study, and the board approved having RHD submit a letter to see if USDA would allow RHD to conduct the feasibility study even though it is not an independent third party since RHD has already conducted a feasibility study for the project.

Prior to adjourning, Taylor presented a financial snapshot of the board’s activity thus far. Expenses total $76,918, with Brown County and the city of Ainsworth each supplying $150,000 in funding thus far in addition to the $92,362 in donated cash that has been received for the care center project.

The next meeting of the Ainsworth-Brown County Care Center Board was moved from the first Monday of the month due to the Fourth of July holiday and will be held at 2 p.m. Wednesday, July 6, in the Ainsworth Conference Center.

* Traffic Accident

(Posted 6:45 a.m. June 6)

The Brown County Sheriff’s Department investigated a one-vehicle accident that occurred Sunday, June 5, south of Long Pine.
According to the sheriff’s department report, at 9:25 a.m. Sunday on South Pine Avenue approximately 5 miles south of Long Pine, a 2011 Ford sedan, driven by Bradyn Hansaker, 22, of Ainsworth, was traveling north when the driver reported he swerved to miss a deer. The Ford left the roadway, entered the west ditch and struck a fence before coming to rest.
No injuries were reported. Damage to the Ford was estimated at $10,000. The fence, owned by Ryan Welke of rural Long Pine, sustained approximately $350 damage.

* Weekly summary from the Brown County Sheriff's Department

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

May 29

  • Investigated an accident without injury and arrested a subject for driving under the influence. The subject was booked into the Brown Co Jail.

  • Received a report of possible child abuse in Ainsworth.

  • Investigated a report of a possible theft of personal property from rural Brown Co.

  • The Brown Co Ambulance transported an individual from 1st & Maple to the Brown Co Hospital.

  • Assisted a business in Ainsworth, with the removal of an unwanted subject.

  • Provided a welfare check on an Ainsworth resident.

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

     

    May 30

  • Assisted an Ainsworth resident with a civil matter.

  • Received a report of an elderly Brown Co resident, possibly needing adult protective services.

     

    May 31

  • Investigated a report of possible domestic abuse that occurred in Ainsworth.

     

    June 1

  • Received a report of the theft of a gas can from an Ainsworth residence.

  • Investigated a report of possible forgery in Brown Co.

  • Booked a subject into the Brown Co Jail on a court ordered commitment.

  • Assisted a mentally ill individual with services that were needed.

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

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

     

    June 2

  • The Brown Co Ambulance transported an individual from a Johnstown residence to the Brown Co Hospital.

  • The Brown Co Ambulance transported an individual from an Ainsworth residence to the Brown Co Hospital.

  • The Brown Co Ambulance transported an individual from an Ainsworth residence to the Brown Co Hospital.

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

     

    June 3

  • Investigated a report of a dog bite in Ainsworth.

  • Assisted an Ainsworth resident with a report of trespassing.

     

    June 4

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

  • Assisted an Ainsworth resident with information on civil standbys.

  • Investigated a report of shoplifting at an Ainsworth business.

  • Responded to a report of a domestic disturbance on Hwy 20 near Long Pine. A subject was arrested & booked into the Brown Co Jail for 3rd Degree Domestic Assault. 

     

    Weekly Summary

    0 - Fix-it tickets were issued.

    0 - Handgun permits applied for

    18 - Incidents Reports were taken.

    3 - Paper Service was served.

    208- Phone calls were received

    19 - 911emergency calls received 

    5 - Titles were inspected.

    2 - Traffic Citations were issued.

    6 - Verbal & Written Warnings issued.

     

    May Summary

    8 - Arrests

    97 - Calls for Service 

    8 - Citations were issued

    1 - Crime Stopper call received

    4 - Defect Cards issued

    7 - Handgun permits issued

    27 - Paper Service served

    732 - Phone calls were received

    57 - 911 emergency calls received

    26 - Titles inspected

    27 - Verbal & Written Warnings issued

* Sheriff's department seeking information on stolen vehicle

(Posted 11:45 a.m. June 5)

The Brown County Sheriff's Department is seeking information regarding a vehicle stolen in Ainsworth sometime between 11:45 p.m. Saturday and 1 a.m. Sunday.
Someone stole a tan 1995 Lincoln Town Car from Seventh Avenue on the east side of Ainsworth. The Lincoln has license plates 75-B321.
While the sheriff's department is actively searching for the vehicle, anyone who may have seen a vehicle fitting this description or who may have information on who is responsible for the vehicle theft is asked to call the Brown County Sheriff's Department at 402-387-1440.

UPDATE - The sheriff's department reported the vehicle was located and recovered Sunday afternoon.

* Ainsworth competes in Destination Imagination Global Finals

(Posted 11:30 a.m. June 5)

The Ainsworth High School Destination Imagination team recently competed in the Global Finals competition at Knoxville, Tenn., finishing 42nd among 70 teams in the central challenge and 47th in the instant challenge for an overall 44th-place finish. Team members are Abbey Doyle, Sydney Fling, Tara Taylor, Brittani Beegle, Brittany Cole and Jaycee Dillon.  The Team Manager is Rachel Williams.

* Busy agenda for Monday's Ainsworth/Brown County Care Center Board meeting

(Posted 10 a.m. June 3)

Ainsworth/Brown County Care Center Board of Directors Agenda
4 p.m. Monday, June 6
Ainsworth Conference Center
 

1.       Reminder of the Open Meetings Act

2.       Roll Call

3.       Approval of Minutes from 5-2-16 and 5-14-16

4.       Approval of Claims/Review of Claims Report for the past 12 months

5.       Report on the USDA Direct Loan Program from Bert Mues: Programs Specialist—Rural Development-USDA

6.       Report from David Streich on Tax Exempt Letter from the IRS

7.       Resolution for the acquisition of the Ainsworth Care Center from NCDC, and approval of related claim(s)

8.       Report from RHD-

-Update on Preparation to Open Existing Facility

-Announcement of new administrator

9.       Approval of Management Contract with RHD

10.   Insurance Coverage

11.   Approval of Employee Handbook/Policies & Procedures

12.   Committee Reports

a.       Renovation

b.      Capital

c.       Building Design

                                                              i.      Update on Site Plans/June 6th Meeting with architect

13.   Discussion/Establishment of a Finance Committee

14.   Comments from the public

15.   Agenda Topics/Meeting Date(s) for the next meeting(s)

16.   Adjourn

* School Board approves 1-year teaching contract for Laurie Goodloe during special meeting

(Posted 8 a.m. June 3)

During a brief special meeting of the Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education Friday, the board approved a one-year contract for Laurie Goodloe to teach social studies.

Superintendent Darrell Peterson said the district interviewed several candidates for the position, and had a few turn down the position.

“Laurie did a lot of subbing in that class this spring, and she did a nice job,” Peterson said. “She is only interested in teaching for the 2016-17 year.”

The superintendent said Goodloe was in the process of obtaining a Nebraska teaching certificate, as her previous teaching certificate was for the state of Kansas.

With board member Erin Rathe absent, Goodloe’s contract for the 2016-17 year was approved.

The board then accepted Goodloe’s resignation following the completion of the 2016-17 school year.

In other action items, the board approved two option enrollment requests. Becky Kraft requested her three daughters attend Rock County Public Schools for the 2016-17 year. The family moved to Long Pine recently from North Dakota.

Loren Sherman and Amber Polen requested their two children attend Rock County Public Schools for the 2016-17 year.

The board approved both requests.

The Board of Education will meet in regular session at 8 p.m. June 13 in the district office.

* Recent cases from Brown County Court

(Posted 7 a.m. June 3)

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

Kaleb C. Lauer, age 18, of Ainsworth, charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor, sentenced to 30 days in jail; also charged with possession of less than 1 ounce of marijuana, fined $300; and charged with procuring alcohol to a minor, sentenced to 30 days in jail.

Mary Temperly, 32, of Long Pine, domestic assault, sentenced to 30 days in jail with credit for five days served.

Andrew J. Fairhead, 30, of Fremont, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Patricia Naylor-Knox, 52, of Rosebud, S.D., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Alexander J. Coleman, 21, of Montezuma, Iowa, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Brandon K. Rolin, 43, of Bakersfield, Calif., reciprocity plates overweight, $500; exceeding width limits, $100; exceeding height limits, $25; exceeding length limits, $535; overweight on an axle or group of axles, $2,500.

Terrence P. McGill, 55, of Ainsworth, first offense reckless driving, $500, also sentenced to six months of probation.

Nicholas A. Bower, 20, of Gering, possession of marijuana less than 1 ounce, $300; possession of drug paraphernalia, $100; false reporting, sentenced to seven days in jail.

Jordon M. Hunke, 25, of Fremont, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Liam M. Stec, 18, of Ainsworth, first offense reckless driving, $250.

Henry F. Whited, 19, of Ainsworth, first offense reckless driving, $250.

Devin R. Larabee, 20, of Ainsworth, possession of marijuana less than 1 ounce, $300.

Jordan S. Hatfield, 24, of Ainsworth, possession of drug paraphernalia, $100.

Brett A. Johnson, 36, of Hayes, Kan., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Omar J. Acosta, 31, of York, speeding 16-20 mph over the limit, $125.

Lee R. Swindler, 50, of Nassau Bay, Texas, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Jesus Delgado Dominguez, 43, of Ainsworth, no operator’s license, $75.

John M. Roe, 49, of Lincoln, speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.

Zachary W. Frazier, 22, of Ainsworth, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

* Davis promotes Alzheimer's Awareness Month

(Posted 2 p.m. June 2)

Nebraska 43rd District State Sen. Al Davis promoted June as Alzheimer's Awareness Month. To hear the report, click on the audio link below.

audio clips/State Sen Al Davis 6-2-16.mp3

* May first month since August with below normal temps; rainfall totals more than 4 inches

(Posted 1:15 p.m. June 2)

Ainsworth Weather Observer Gerry Osborn reported May was the first month since August 2015 that experienced below-average overall temperatures.
May also saw more than 4 inches of rainfall, which pushed the 2016 total to 12.05 inches, nearly 4 inches above average through the year's first five months.
To hear the complete May weather report, click on the audio link below.

audio clips/Gerry Osborne May Weather Summary.mp3

* NCDHD has first confirmed mumps case following outbreak at Midland University

(Posted 10:30 a.m. June 1)

There are now 21 confirmed cases of mumps related to the outbreak at Midland University in Fremont.

The North Central District Health Department received its first confirmed case Wednesday, June 1.

Most students have traveled home for the summer and some have become symptomatic after returning to their hometowns, which may result in further spread of mumps throughout the state.

Mumps is a viral illness that causes swelling of glands in the face and neck. Symptoms may include earache, jaw pain, testicular pain, fever, fatigue and muscle aches. The virus is spread through saliva or mucus from the mouth, nose or throat, according to the CDC. This means mumps can be spread through coughing, sneezing, talking and sharing cups or utensils.

The North Central District Health Department encourages anyone with similar symptoms to abstain from activities outside of the home and to be assessed by a physician so treatment measures can be taken.

People with the virus are considered the most contagious during the three days before and the five days after the onset of symptoms, according to the Health Alert Network Advisory.

Per the advisory, infections occur among persons of all ages. Individuals who previously had mumps are considered immune to the virus. However, those who have been vaccinated for mumps, although much less likely to contract the virus, can still be infected. Pregnant women and those who have a compromised immune system are at higher risk.

Contact the North Central District Health Department at 402-336-2406 or a primary care provider for more information.

Additional information on mumps is available at www.cdc.gov/mumps/

* Murphy provides details on Middle Niobrara NRD Long Pine Creek Watershed Plan

(Posted 2:45 p.m. May 31)

Middle Niobrara Natural Resources District Manager Mike Murphy provided details on the informational session for area residents and property owners planned for 6 p.m. Thursday, June 2, in the Ainsworth Conference.
The session is scheduled to allow the NRD to discuss the Long Pine Creek Watershed Integrated Management Plan. The NRD is working with area stakeholders with funding provided by the Department of Environmental Quality and the Environmental Trust to address the water quality issues in the Long Pine Creek watershed, and erosion control structures for Sand Draw Creek.
To hear the report, click on the audio link below.

audio clips/Middle Niobrara NRD Manager Mike Murphy.mp3

* Sunday tractor fire northeast of Ainsworth prompts fire department response

(Posted 8:30 p.m. May 29)

The Ainsworth Volunteer Fire Department was called Sunday morning to a tractor on fire northeast of Ainsworth.
According to Fire Chief Brad Fiala, at 11 a.m. Sunday approximately 5 miles north and 3 miles east of Ainsworth, a tractor operated by Richard Sisson shorted near the fuel tank, and sparks from the short ignited the fuel and started a fire on the tractor.
Fiala said the fire was contained to the tractor, and, while engine wiring was burned, he believed the machine would be salvageable.
Firefighters returned to the fire hall by 11:30 a.m. Sunday.

* Traffic Accidents

(Posted 8:15 p.m. May 29)

The Brown County Sheriff’s Department investigated a pair of recent motor vehicle accidents during the Memorial Day weekend.

At 3:43 p.m. Friday, May 27, on Highway 20 northwest of Long Pine, a 2015 pickup, driven by Cory Roll, 22, of Lincoln, was traveling west when the driver stated a newer black Ford F-150 pulled onto the highway in front of him at the 437th Avenue intersection.

The driver swerved to avoid the vehicle pulling onto the highway in front of him, left the roadway and entered the north ditch.

No injuries were reported. Damage to the pickup, owned by Rex Roll and Joyce Roll of Omaha, was estimated at $3,500. The black Ford pickup left the scene and has not yet been located.

At 12:48 a.m. Sunday, May 29, on East Third Street in Ainsworth near the Richardson Drive intersection, a 1993 Dodge minivan, driven by Philip Zwiebel, 57, of Ainsworth, was traveling east when the vehicle struck a parked 2006 Chrysler van, owned by Platte County Pizza Hut.

No injuries were reported. Damage to the Dodge was estimated at $500. The Chrysler sustained approximately $1,000 damage.

* Weekly summary from the Brown County Sheriff's Department

(Posted 8 p.m. May 29)

May 22

  • Investigated a report of missing or stolen signs from Hidden Paradise.

  • Responded to a report of a calf in a yard in Ainsworth.

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

  • Responded to a report of a gas drive off, from an Ainsworth service station.

  • Investigated a report of a reckless driver on Hwy 7 South of Ainsworth.

  • Responded to a report of a vehicle traveling at a high rate of speed on Hwy 7 South of Ainsworth.

  • Investigated a report of possible sexual harassment in Ainsworth.

  • Assisted a Long Pine resident with a report of suspicious activity in Long Pine.

     

    May 23

  • Investigated a vehicle/deer accident without injury East of Ainsworth on Hwy 20.

  • Received a report of a reckless driver on Hwy 20 in the Long Pine Hills. NE State Patrol assisted with this report.

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

  • Responded to a report of a reckless driver on Hwy 20 East of Ainsworth.

     

    May 24

  • Investigated a report of the theft of a sign from a Hidden Paradise resident.

  • The Johnstown Fire Dept issued a burn permit for property on Rauscher Rd.

  • Provided a welfare check on a rural Ainsworth resident.

  • The Ainsworth Fire Dept issued a burn permit to the KBR Solid Waste Station, East & North of Ainsworth.

     

    May 25

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

  • Assisted an individual with a report of suspicious activity at the Courthouse Park, Ainsworth.

  • Responded to a report of a reckless driver on 2nd St Ainsworth.

  • The Brown Co Ambulance responded to an emergency call on North Harrington St Ainsworth. No one was transported from the scene.

  • Responded to a report of a speeding vehicle on Cedar St Ainsworth.

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

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

     

    May 26

  • Investigated a report of a residential burglary in Ainsworth.

  • The Brown Co Ambulance transported a fixed wing crew from the Ainsworth Airport to the Brown Co Hospital. They also transported the crew & patient back to the Airport, for flight to another facility.

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

  • Investigated a report of a dog bite in Ainsworth.

  • Received a report of a vehicle racing up & down West 2nd St Ainsworth.

  • Assisted an individual with a report of an intoxicated driver in Ainsworth.

     

    May 27

  • Investigated a report of a one-vehicle accident, East of Ainsworth, on Hwy 20.

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

  • Assisted an Ainsworth resident with a report of suspicious activity.

  • Assisted an individual with a report of a wildlife concern. This report was turned over to the NE Games & Parks.

     

    May 28

  • Responded to a report of a transient at an Ainsworth business.

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

  • Responded to a security alarm going off at a Main St business. The NE State Patrol assisted.

  • Responded to a report of a possible intoxicated driver, South of Ainsworth on Hwy 7.

  • Investigated a report of possible vandalism to a building in rural Ainsworth area.

  • Responded to a domestic disturbance on South Hall St Ainsworth.

     

    Weekly Summary

    2 - Fix-it tickets were issued.

    2 - Handgun permits applied for

    31 - Incidents Reports were taken.

    8 - Paper Service was served.

    184 - Phone calls were received

    13 - 911emergency calls received 

    3 - Titles were inspected.

    1 - Traffic Citations were issued.

    12 - Verbal & Written Warnings issued.

* Striping work to begin in June on area highways

(Posted 11 a.m. May 27)

Weather permitting, roadway paint striping is scheduled to begin the week of June 6 in Holt, Boyd and Wheeler counties, according to the Nebraska Department of Roads.
Vogel Traffic Services of Orange City, Iowa, has the $645,736 contract for district-wide striping. After striping is completed in the three counties, work will progress west through Rock, Keya Paha, Garfield, Loup, Blaine, Brown and Cherry counties.  The anticipated completion date is July 1.
The Department of Roads’ manager for the striping project is Carl Hart of Ainsworth.  Motorists are advised to use caution when encountering construction vehicles on the roadway.

* Davis highlights importance of interim Innovation Task Force

(Posted 2 p.m. May 26)

Nebraska 43rd District State Sen. Al Davis said the first meeting of the Nebraska Legislature's Innovation Task Force is scheduled for June 2.
Davis discussed the goals of the interim committee during his weekly report.
To hear the report, click on the audio link below.

audio clips/State Sen Al Davis 5-26-16.mp3

* Sheriff's department seeks information on Hidden Paradise sign theft

(Posted 7:45 a.m. May 26)

The Brown County Sheriff's Department is seeking information regarding the theft of numerous signs from Hidden Paradise.
According to the sheriff's department, sometime between 9 p.m. Saturday, May 21, and 9 a.m. Sunday, May 22, several signs and sign posts were stolen. Two of the signs were "Slow, Children at Play" signs yellow in color.
Anyone with information on who is responsible for the theft is asked to contact the Brown County Sheriff's Department at 402-387-1440 or call Crime Stoppers at 402-382-3121.
All callers remain anonymous, and information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for this crime, or any crime, could result in a cash reward of up to $1,000.

* Meeting scheduled June 2 for Long Pine Creek Watershed restoration plan

(Posted 7 a.m. May 25)

The Middle Niobrara Natural Resources District is kicking off its work to begin improving water quality and stream erosion in the Long Pine Creek Watershed and its tributaries.

Planned components of the initiative include stream restoration on Sand Draw Creek, cost-sharing best management practices with willing landowners, and public education and outreach.

Working with various area partners on the initiative, the Middle Niobrara NRD invites the public to learn more during an informational kick-off meeting at 6 p.m. Thursday, June 2, in the Ainsworth Conference Center. Attendees will hear about the planned improvements and find out how they may be able to participate.

This initiative, among others, was identified by the Long Pine Creek Watershed Restoration Plan, which was guided by input from local stakeholders, public agencies, and the general public. The restoration plan received approval from the Environmental Protection Agency in March, marking the initiative the first step of implementation.

The Middle Niobrara NRD has secured grant funding from the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality and the Nebraska Environmental Trust. JEO Consulting Group, who worked with the NRD on the comprehensive restoration plan, will also be involved in this project.

Additional information can be found on the NRD’s website at http://www.mnnrd.org, and additional questions may be directed to Mike Murphy, Middle Niobrara NRD General Manager, at 402-376-3241.

* Brown, Keya Paha taxable sales slide in February while Rock County sees sharp rise

(Posted 7 a.m. May 25)

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

County
or City

2016
Net Taxable
Sales

2015
Net Taxable
Sales

Percent
Change

2016
Sales Tax
5.5%

2015
Sales Tax
5.5%

Boyd

766,689

674,947

13.6

42,168.00

37,122.18

Brown

2,209,751

2,364,972

(6.6)

121,536.50

130,073.66

Ainsworth

2,120,156

2,311,243

(8.3)

116,608.77

127,118.55

Cherry

4,622,008

4,641,580

(0.4)

254,210.81

255,287.33

Valentine

4,471,991

4,470,861

0

245,959.82

245,897.69

Custer

6,803,449

6,803,987

0

374,190.18

374,219.72

Broken Bow

5,440,792

5,587,841

(2.6)

299,243.86

307,331.49

Holt

7,437,485

7,464,886

(0.4)

409,062.27

410,569.34

Atkinson

1,346,449

1,221,501

10.2

74,054.84

67,182.72

O'Neill

5,300,872

5,392,484

(1.7)

291,548.22

296,586.95

Keya Paha

123,333

144,205

(14.5)

6,783.34

7,931.30

Rock

522,719

453,859

15.2

28,749.58

24,962.30

Valley

2,805,222

2,765,796

1.4

154,287.45

152,118.99

Ord

2,532,635

2,476,959

2.2

139,295.11

136,232.91

State Total

$2,079,111,804

$2,023,436,588

2.8

$114,836,497.06

$111,802,346.88

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

County
or City

2016
Net Taxable
Sales

2015
Net Taxable
Sales

Percent
Change

2016
Sales Tax
5.5%

2015
Sales Tax
5.5%

Blaine

218,340

111,195

96.4

11,978.46

6,062.12

Boyd

562,566

572,390

(1.7)

30,997.74

31,520.98

Brown

525,689

1,028,222

(48.9)

29,114.75

56,825.32

Cherry

1,330,821

1,573,335

(15.4)

73,547.03

86,945.15

Custer

$2,051,562

$2,265,219

(9.4)

$113,481.86

$125,290.21

Holt

2,643,891

2,466,928

7.2

146,273.81

136,415.03

Keya Paha

281,733

317,144

(11.2)

15,471.79

17,453.70

Rock

414,424

452,273

(8.4)

22,832.78

24,933.92

Valley

956,236

1,162,908

(17.8)

52,934.03

64,196.65

State Total

$299,020,574

$298,824,145

0.1

$16,600,438.37

$16,577,402.89

* Northeast Community College names President's, Dean's List students for spring semester

(Posted 9:45 a.m. May 24)

Officials at Northeast Community College in Norfolk have released the President’s Honor List and Deans’ Honor List for both full and part-time students for the Spring 2016 Semester.

To be named to the President’s Honor List, students must earn a perfect grade point average of 4.0 and be enrolled for at least 12 credit hours. Students named to the Deans’ Honor List must have earned a grade point average of 3.75 or above and be enrolled for at least 12 credit hours.

Students named to the President’s Part-Time list attained a 4.0 grade point average while taking at least six credit hours, and students named to the Deans’ Part-Time list earned a grade point average of 3.75 or above while taking at least six credit hours.

President’s Honor List for full-time students

Atkinson - Cody Davis, Danial Frickel, Jonathan Schulte and Linda Shaw.

Bassett - Hollie Morton.

Deans’ Honor List for full-time students

Atkinson - Bo Jensen, Cheye Shaw, Shaely Thiele and Sierra Welsh.

Valentine - Brooks Coleman.

President’s Honor List for part-time students

Ainsworth - Sara Salzman.

Bassett - Kenady Stanton and Kelsey Venenga.

Stuart - Doris Estes.

Valentine - Lindse Painter.

Deans’ Honor List for part-time students

Atkinson - Cheyenne Akes and Rachael Osborne.

* Construction work on Highway 91 from Brewster east scheduled to begin this week

(Posted 8:30 a.m. May 24)

Weather permitting, work is scheduled to begin this week in the Brewster area from east of the Highway 91 and Highway 7 junction between mileposts 15 and 31, according to the Nebraska Department of Roads.
Werner Construction Inc., of Hastings has the $2.08 million contract for milling and asphaltic concrete overlay. Traffic will be maintained with flaggers and a pilot car. Work is anticipated to be completed in late July.
The Department of Roads’ project manager is Michael Rudnick of Ainsworth. Motorists are reminded to drive cautiously through highway construction zones and remember that fines are doubled when workers are present.

* Weekly summary from the Brown County Sheriff's Department

(Posted 8 p.m. May 22)

May 15

  1. Provided traffic control for cattle crossing Hwy 20 West of Johnstown.

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

     

    May 16

  3. Investigated information on possible drug activity in Brown County.

  4. Investigated a report of a possible burglary at a residence in Ainsworth.

     

    May 17

  5. Served a search warrant on an Ainsworth residence, where the following occurred: The arrest of 3 subjects for Distribution of Marijuana. Issued citations to 2 other subjects for Possession of Marijuana less than 1oz. Further charges are pending against 5 subjects for contributing to the delinquency of minors.

  6. The Brown Co Ambulance transported an individual from Court St to the Brown Co Hospital.

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

  8. A subject was issued a verbal warning for violation of a Provisional Operator’s Permit and Curfew violation.

     

    May 18

  9. Assisted an Ainsworth resident with information of a possible livestock concern. This report was turned over to the NE Games & Parks.

  10. Investigated a report of possible animal abuse in rural Ainsworth.

  11. Assisted an Ainsworth resident with a report of vehicles tearing around Ainsworth.

  12. Responded to a report of a stray dog at a residence on East 1st St. Ainsworth. The dog was transported to the Ainsworth Veterinary Clinic.

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

  14. The Johnstown Fire Dept issued a burn permit for property located West of Johnstown.

     

    May 19

  15. The Brown Co Ambulance responded to an emergency call on East 4th St.  No one was transported from the residence.

  16. The Brown Co Ambulance transported a resident from East 2nd St to the Brown Co Hospital.

     

    May 20

  17. Provided public assistance with a custody exchange.

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

     

    May 21

    1.         Investigated a report of vandalism to a vehicle parked on North Main St Ainsworth.

     

    Weekly Summary

    0 - Fix-it tickets were issued.

    3 - Handgun permits applied for

    10 - Incidents Reports were taken.

    11 - Paper Service was served.

    164 - Phone calls were received

    5 - 911emergency calls received 

    6 - Titles were inspected.

    0 - Traffic Citations were issued.

    2 - Verbal & Written Warnings issued.

* Davis provides weekly update

(Posted 7:45 a.m. May 20)

Nebraska 43rd District State Sen. Al Davis provided his weekly information update. To hear the report, click on the audio link below.

audio clips/State Sen Al Davis 5-20-16.mp3

* Brian Williams elected Lions Club president for 2016-17

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

Following a vote of the membership, the Ainsworth Lions Club seated Brian Williams as the club’s president for the 2016-17 year. Evan Evans will serve as past president, with Nick Hite the first vice president and Roland Paddock the second vice president.

Jerry Ehlers will continue as the club’s secretary, Phil Fuchs as the treasurer, Dwain Grunke the tail twister and David Spann as the lion tamer.

The club hosted the Ainsworth High School All-Sports Tailgate Party April 26. The club donated the $300 in profit from the event to the Ainsworth Teammates Program. Since tickets this year were only available at the door, the process will be reviewed prior to next year’s Tailgate Party.  The club thanked Brian Williams for providing the hamburgers for the event and thanked David Spann for serving as chair of the event. While the general attendance was down from previous years, it was reported that the student/athlete participation was excellent.

The Lions Club presented trees to the members of the Ainsworth Elementary fourth-grade class April 29.  Sarah Williams introduced the Lions Club members and informed the students about the Lions Club’s involvement in the Fourth Grade Forester Project to help celebrate Arbor Day. 

The club conducted a roadside clean-up project April 24 along Highway 20 east of Ainsworth.  Eleven bags of trash were collected.  The club thanked project chair Shannon Sorenson. 

Alumni banquet chair Todd Mundhenke provided an update on the preparation for the serving the banquet. A bicycle touring group (estimated 500-700 bikers) will be in Ainsworth the evening of Thursday, June 23, camping at East City Park.  The Lions Club will provide assistance at the gate to the park. Kristin Olson asked the club to assist with cleaning out the Rusty Petal building, recently purchased by the North Central Development Center on behalf of the Theater Committee.  A work session will be scheduled in the near future. 

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

As a cooperative venture involving the Lions Club, Ainsworth Park Board and the city of Ainsworth, a Legacy Project has been initiated to enhance playground equipment in the city parks. A work session was held on May 13 to spread crumb rubber mulch under the playground equipment located at the Courthouse Park. Ten members of the Ainsworth High School FFA Chapter, as part of the FFA community clean-up project, provided assistance to the club with the project. The evenings of June 6-7 were designated as “work evenings” to spread crumb rubber under the playground equipment at East City Park. 

The next meeting of the Ainsworth Lions Club is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. June 20 in the Pizza Hut.

* NSAA names Spring Academic All-State Award winners

(Posted 6:45 a.m. May 19)

The Nebraska School Activities Association announced the recipients of Spring 2016

Nebraska Chiropractic Physicians Association Academic All-State Awards. Since 2006, the NSAA program has recognized students who meet the criteria for nomination by their school in the season of their activity.

Each year, the NSAA and the NCPA recognize students during fall, winter and spring seasons who are nominated by their schools for their individual academic excellence, leadership and significant contributions in their NSAA activity.

Area academic all-state recipients are:

 

Ainsworth

Dominic Henry and Samuel Wilkins in boys golf, Lauren Allen and Hayes Chohon in music, and Hayes Chohon, Austin Harthoorn, Emma Good and Miranda Raymond in track and field.

 

Keya Paha County

Kevin Udd in track and field.

 

Rock County

Paige Bruns and Riley Bussinger in golf, Paige Bruns and Colin Erickson in music, and Jack Gale, Addie Shaw and Rachel Stewart in track and field.

 

Stuart

Makala Fahrenholz and Alison Stracke in music, and Conner Paxton and Monique Schafer in track and field.

 

West Holt

Eddie Fredrick and Seth Hytrek in boys golf, Chase Harrison and Anna Meyer in music, and  Riley Bilstein, Jake Judge, Bailey Kraus and Anna Meyer in track and field.

 

Valentine

Matison Harvey and Katelynn Jackson in music.

 

Sandhills

Sheven Rodocker in boys golf, Taylor Downing and Kyra Kennedy in music, and Thomas Peterson and Elizabeth Peterson in track and field. 

* Commissioners agree to provide land east of hospital for new care center facility

(Posted 1:30 p.m. May 17)

The Brown County Commissioners Tuesday agreed to work with the Sandhills Care Center Board to provide the acreage needed for the construction of a new nursing home east of the Brown County Hospital on ground owned by the county.

Sandhills Care Center Board Chairman Kent Taylor told the commissioners east of the hospital was the preferred site for the planned facility, as sites near Cottonwood Villa did not have adequate water line capacity to handle the facility’s requirements.

“The Hospital Board also expressed a preference of having the nursing home near the hospital for the continuity of care,” Taylor said. “We would just be able to extend Zero Street and have the nursing home next door. It is county land, so I am looking for your thoughts on the care center acquiring that land.”

Commissioner Buddy Small said he was in favor of gifting the county land for the care center.

“It shouldn’t even take half of the land we have out there,” Small said.

Commissioner Reagan Wiebelhaus expressed interest in taking fill material needed to build up the site of the facility from east of the site and creating a fishing pond, a project the county has been contemplating.

“That would let us kill two birds with one stone,” Wiebelhaus said.
He has advocated for the county creating a fishing pond close enough to Ainsworth youth could bike to it.

The commissioners agreed to gift the property needed for the new facility to the Sandhills Care Center Board.

Taylor gave the board an update on the progress of reopening the former care center facility. He said the application has been submitted to the state for the 46 licensed beds sold when the Ainsworth Care Center closed.

“We are the first community to use the Sullivan Amendment to regain the licensed beds our community lost,” Taylor said. “They had to create an application for us.”

He said the board was working with Rural Health Development on the extensive process of creating a policies and procedures manual.

“Our board met Saturday and interviewed three candidates for care center administrator,” Taylor said. “We did agree to make an offer to one candidate.”

He said a representative from USDA planned to attend the board’s June 6 meeting to discuss the potential for the community to utilize a USDA 40-year loan guarantee for the construction of a new nursing home.

In other business during Tuesday’s meeting, the board approved a certificate of payment to Simon Contractors for the Norden Bridge replacement project.

Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin said the bridge work is mostly complete, with the company returning in the next week or two to install guard rail.

“Our dirt work on the approach is complete,” Turpin said.

Turpin reported the fence along Paradise Valley Road was being torn out, with the county scheduled to renovate the road next week.

Royce Greder approached the board about silt washing into his dam near the Norden Road between Road 880 and Road 881.

“A lot of water is running down from 880 Road and is washing into my dam,” Greder said. “It really silts it in. There is no grass ditch anymore, so when we get a rain it all washes in.”

Small said the board planned to take a trip following Tuesday’s meeting to look at several roads items, and would include Greder’s site on their trip.

In other action items, the board approved an application renewal for the county’s Blue Cross/Blue Shield health and dental plan through the Nebraska Association of County Officials. The board also approved a $10,000 transfer from the county’s miscellaneous general fund to the judicial fund.

Small reported the Ainsworth Public Library had submitted a request for the 2016-17 budget for $11,000 in county support, a total equal to its request from the past several years.

He reported the Region 24 Emergency Management Agency Board had approved its 2016-17 budget, and requested $28,592 as Brown County’s share for the five-county region.

Cherry County will pay approximately $60,000, with Rock and Boyd counties each contributing $24,000 and Keya Paha County $13,000.

The next meeting of the Brown County Commissioners is scheduled for 8:15 a.m. June 7.

* City Council approves conditional-use permit for daycare facility on Osborne Street

(Posted 7:30 a.m. May 12)

Despite objections from three neighboring property owners, the Ainsworth City Council Wednesday, by a 3-1 vote, approved a conditional-use permit for Aaron and Teresa Lemunyan to construct a daycare facility on Osborne Street.

Teresa Lemunyan said there was a great need for daycare in the community, and the couple planned to construct a 72-by-46 foot pole barn building on the Osborne Street lot.

“We are building a 6-foot privacy fence, and we will have off-street parking,” she said. “Hours will be 7 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. We currently serve 22 kids in Long Pine. We have families on a list, and we have willing employees.”

Aaron Lemunyan said the building would fit in well aesthetically with the rest of the homes in the residential area.

“We want it to be as homey as possible,” he said. “No one wants to take a child to something that looks like a commercial building.”

City Administrator Lisa Schroedl said a daycare center is allowed in an R-2 zone under a conditional-use permit.

“The Planning Commission recommended approval for the permit,” Schroedl said. “There were no objections during its hearing.”

Three Osborne Street homeowners questioned the project, citing additional traffic and the aesthetics of a pole barn building in a residential block.

“We agree there is a need for daycare,” resident Wanda Raymond, who lives across the street from the proposed site, said. “We just don’t agree with the location. If it was a daycare in a home, we would be supportive.”

Teresa Lemunyan said the interior of the center would be constructed similar to a home, with five separate rooms, a kitchen and four bathrooms.

Residents asked why the facility couldn’t be constructed in an area already zoned for commercial use.

Teresa Lemunyan said finding a suitable property in the community had been difficult.

“We looked at numerous places,” she said. “None were feasible. We are trying to help the community and bring jobs.”

Aaron Lemunyan said he didn’t feel it would be safe for parents to have to drop their young children off and pick them up on a busy street like Main Street or Highway 20.

Prior to the proposed daycare facility, an unoccupied, dilapidated home had been situated on the lot.

Councilman Kent Taylor said he supported the project.

“It is zoned for daycare,” Taylor said. “They have applied for a permit, and, as a general rule, if the zoning committee recommends approval, we rarely go against it. Daycare is really needed in the community.”

The Osborne Street residents said they were not aware of the April 21 planning commission hearing on the matter. Schroedl said the hearing had been published in the Ainsworth Star-Journal and aired on KBRB Radio.

“In the future, we could look at placing signage on the property itself when a hearing is going to be held,” Schroedl said.

By a 3-1 vote, with Councilman Brian Williams against, the council approved the conditional-use permit for the daycare facility.

In other business Wednesday, the council discussed amending city code relating to the construction of accessory buildings.

Schroedl said the Board of Adjustment had set the precedent of approving variances to the code allowing property owners to construct accessory buildings on lots adjacent to their homes. Currently, city code states an accessory building shall not be constructed as the only structure on a lot. She recommended striking that line and allowing property owners to construct accessory buildings as the sole structure on a lot as long as the property owner had a residence on the adjacent lot.

Board of Adjustment member Jerry Ehlers said, if the council would rather the Board of Adjustment continued to meet on each case, that was fine.

“Otherwise, this seems like an unneeded delay,” Ehlers said. “We have never had anyone object to something like this.”

The council instructed City Attorney Rod Palmer to craft an adjustment to the ordinance to provide clarification that a property owner must have a residence on an adjacent lot for it to be allowable for the construction of an accessory building as the only structure on a lot.

Ainsworth High School student Luke Peters approached the council about constructing a 150-foot flag pole at East City Park to fly a 30-by-60 foot flag for his Eagle Scout project.

Peters said the flag would fly seasonally.

Mayor Larry Rice said he has seen the large flag that flies at Ord.

“It is very eye-catching,” Rice said. “We need to have an idea of the cost before moving forward.”

Rice asked if there was a deadline for Peters to complete the project.

Peters said he had to have the project done prior to his 18th birthday to meet Eagle Scout guidelines.

Rice told Peters to work with Schroedl on obtaining cost estimates for the project and bring those estimates back to the council.

Central Nebraska Economic Development District Executive Director Judy Peterson approached the council about providing certified administration services on the city’s Community Development Block Grant re-use loan fund.

Peterson said the city was required to have a certified administrator for the fund. She suggested any loans made from the re-use fund be paid back to a CNEDD non-profit that would then de-federalize the funds and remove the federal restrictions. She said those funds could then be re-loaned throughout the Central Nebraska Economic Development District.

Taylor said the council planned to use the re-use funds as a forgivable loan for operating the Sandhills Care Center.

Councilwoman Deb Hurless said the North Central Development Center already handles everything included in Peterson’s proposal, with the exception of the certified grant administration.

The council agreed to solicit bids for just that aspect, and Peterson said she would be willing to submit a bid only for the certified grant administration.

Chris Raymond, president of the Ainsworth Area Chamber of Commerce, asked the council to consider supplying liability insurance for the upcoming alumni parade.

Raymond said the chamber has sponsored the parade for numerous years, and has in the past provided liability insurance.

“Liability insurance is a problem for us right now,” he said. “The quote we received for special event insurance was $300 per event above and beyond standard liability insurance. We are hoping to put the alumni parade on the city’s liability insurance plan.”

Schroedl said parades are covered for the city through its LARM liability insurance policy without needing any special event coverage.

“The chamber would then have to serve as city volunteers to cover the parade,” the city administrator said. “This would be completely different than what the city has done in the past. Prior to this, the city closed streets and required groups to list the city as an additional insured party on its liability insurance.”

The council agreed to have the parade fall under the city’s liability insurance coverage, with chamber members serving as city volunteers to assist with the parade.

In a related item, the council approved a permit for the Ainsworth Alumni Board to hold the alumni parade June 25 and close Main Street from First to Third streets from 10 until 11:30 a.m. that day.

The council approved a wording change to its workers compensation policy, having the language in the policy for non-union employees match the language in the union contract. Schroedl said the city’s workers compensation policy pays employees two-thirds of the average wage for each position if they are injured on the job.

Schroedl said all the seasonal employees are lined up for the summer months, but the city was short-handed currently with three employees out due to injury or medical issues.

Prior to adjourning, Taylor announced he had purchased a home outside of the Ainsworth city limits and would no longer have a city voting address within the next month or two. Therefore, he will have to resign his seat on the City Council. Taylor said he filed for re-election prior to having the opportunity to purchase the rural home.

The next meeting of the Ainsworth City Council is scheduled for 7 p.m. June 8.

* Public Service Commission District 5 race may be too close to call

(Posted 7 a.m. May 11)

The vote may be too close to call for the District 5 seat on the Nebraska Public Service Commission following Tuesday's Primary Election.
Fewer than 60 votes separates Mary Ridder and incumbent Jerry Vap. Both Republicans, Ridder received 21,818 votes (50.07 percent) Tuesday to 21,761 (49.93 percent) for Vap. That 57-vote margin represents just a 0.14 percent difference between the two candidates and may trigger an automatic recount in the race.
As expected, Donald Trump easily carried the state of Nebraska during Tuesday’s Republican Party Presidential Primary.

Trump received 61.5 percent of the Republican vote statewide, with Ted Cruz finishing a distant second at 18.5 percent.

On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton received 53 percent of the statewide vote to 47 percent for Bernie Sanders. The vote was largely symbolic, however, as Sanders won 15 of the 25 Nebraska delegates during the Presidential Caucus that was held in March. Tuesday’s support for Clinton was a reversal of the Caucus results two months prior.

In the Second District Republican Congressional Primary, Don Bacon captured 66 percent of the vote to 34 percent for Chip Maxwell. Bacon will face Democratic incumbent Brad Ashford in the November General Election.

Jeff Fortenberry in District 1 and Adrian Smith in District 3 both ran unopposed. Fortenberry faces Daniel Wik from the Democratic Party in November to retain his seat. Smith does not face a challenger in November.

While both candidates advance to the November General Election, Tom Brewer made an early statement by garnering 54.3 percent of the vote in the Nebraska Legislature’s 43rd District race. Incumbent Al Davis received 45.7 percent of the vote.

Davis will find himself in a similar position as four years ago, when he trailed John Ravenscroft following the Primary Election but defeated Ravenscroft in the General Election.

Brewer received 5,204 votes to 4,380 votes cast for Davis.

Voter turnout statewide was just 26.5 percent Tuesday, with 309,079 votes cast from the 1,165,371 registered voters.

Cherry County voter turnout eclipsed 50 percent at 50.5 percent, with 2,134 ballots cast from the 4,219 registered voters.

Holt County turnout was above the state average at 33 percent, with 2,305 ballots cast from the 6,988 registered voters.

Blaine County turnout was 42.3 percent, as 162 of the 383 registered voters showed up at the polls Tuesday.

* Voter turnout just 39.5 percent in Brown County with few races on the ballot

(Posted 10 p.m. May 10)

With few contested races Tuesday, voter turnout in Brown County was its lowest in several election cycles. Just 825 voters, 39.5 percent of the 2,087 registered, cast ballots in the Primary Election.

There were 744 votes cast in the Republican Primary, 60 in the Democratic Primary, and 21 non-partisan ballots were cast.

By a narrow margin, 417-387, Brown County voters favored challenger Tom Brewer over incumbent 43rd District State Sen. Al Davis. Both Davis and Brewer advance to the November General Election.

Republican voters in Brown County cast 555 ballots for Donald Trump for President. Ted Cruz finished second with 79 votes, followed by 36 for Ben Carson, 33 for John Kasich an 18 for Marco Rubio.

Brown County also favored challenger Mary Ridder for the Public Service Commissioner District 5 seat over incumbent Jerry Vap by a 396-207 margin.

* Craven, Tuerk win contested commissioner races in Rock, Keya Paha counties

(Posted 9:30 p.m. May 10)

Rock County Republican voters chose Dustin Craven to be the next commissioner and Keya Paha County Republicans re-elected Mike Tuerk to the Board of Commissioners in the only two contested local races in the area.

Craven received 313 Republican votes during Tuesday’s Primary Election, to 170 for incumbent Ernie Hasch. There was no Democratic Party candidate, so Craven will run unopposed in November.

In Keya Paha County’s West District Commissioner race, Tuerk received 96 votes in his re-election bid to 44 for challenger Jim Ruther. Tuerk will not face opposition in November from the Democratic Party.

Rock County and Keya Paha County Republicans overwhelmingly selected Donald Trump as their candidate for President. Though all Republican challengers had suspended their campaigns, five candidates had previously filed paperwork to appear on the ballot.

Trump secured 308 Republican votes in Rock County and 203 in Keya Paha County. Ted Cruz finished second in both counties, with 74 votes in Rock County and 31 in Keya Paha County. John Kasich picked up 31 votes in Rock County and 15 in Keya Paha County. Ben Carson had 26 votes in Rock County and 20 in Keya Paha County, and Marco Rubio received 13 votes in Rock County and four in Keya Paha County.

In the race for the District 5 seat on the Public Service Commission, challenger Mary Ridder carried both Rock and Keya Paha counties over incumbent Jerry Vap. Ridder secured 217 votes in Rock County to 140 for Vap, and 124 votes in Keya Paha County to 67 for Vap.

Keya Paha County voters favored challenger Tom Brewer over incumbent Al Davis for the 43rd District seat on the Nebraska Legislature by a 168-132 margin.

Republican Third District Rep. Adrian Smith ran unopposed Tuesday, as did Bob Phares for re-election to the University of Nebraska Board of Regents.

Voter turnout was 52 percent in Keya Paha County despite the few contested races, with 320 of the 634 registered voters casting a ballot.
Turnout in Rock County was solid as well at 53.6 percent. A total of 540 of the 1,006 registered voters in Rock County cast a ballot Tuesday.

* School Board will again try and fill foreign language teaching position following resignation

(Posted 7 a.m. May 10)

Ainsworth Community Schools will again be in the position of having to look for a foreign language teacher, as the Board of Education Monday accepted the resignation of first-year Spanish teacher Emily Stoner.

Superintendent Darrell Peterson said Stoner had accepted an English teaching position with Valentine Community Schools, her hometown.

“It is very hard to fill a Spanish position,” Peterson said. “I don’t know what our options are going to be.”

The district hired Stoner after using an online program for foreign language. Stoner has been with Ainsworth Community Schools only for the second semester of the current school year after completing her education.

In other business Monday, the board heard presentations from three of the five students who qualified to participate in the National History Day contest at Washington, D.C.

Advisor Nichole Flynn said this was the 11th year Ainsworth students have participated in National History Day.

“We achieved a milestone this year,” Flynn said. “Four projects qualified for nationals. The most in any prior year was two. Vanessa Taylor qualified for the seventh year in a row.”

Flynn said Katrina Beel also qualified for the national contest for the second straight year by finishing in the top two in the state contest.

The board watched a video presentation from qualifier Grant Taylor on the Tuskegee Airmen, and listened to a presentation from qualifiers Maia Flynn and Summer Richardson on the Mother of Normandy, who decorated the graves of American soldiers killed during the liberation of France in World War II.

The board approved $100 for each of the five students who qualified to represent the school in the national contest.

In a final action item, the board approved an increase of 10 cents per lunch and a 5-cent increase for breakfast for the 2016-17 school year, as recommended by Lunchtime Solutions.

Peterson said the district did not have a choice on raising the price of lunch.

“We have to follow the federal formula,” the superintendent said.

Breakfast prices will increase from $1.40 to $1.45, with elementary lunches moving up a dime to $2.60, and middle and high school lunches increasing to $2.75.

Students who receive reduced-price lunches will continue to receive breakfast free of charge.

Again requesting to be on the agenda, Tom Bejot asked the board members if they had discussed the issue he brought forth during the board’s April meeting.

“I want to see if there will be set procedures followed regarding IEPs (individual education plans) so there is some transparency,” Bejot said. “My daughter will come back with an IEP, and I have to be sure it is going to be followed.”

Peterson said there are approximately 80 students in the district that have IEPs through the special education program.

“Very few have any issues,” the superintendent said. “We will make sure the communication is better.”

He said a committee also had a meeting on the reasons why some parents were choosing to home school their children, another request made by Bejot during the board’s April meeting.

Elementary Principal Sarah Williams presented information on the work done by the school improvement committee, a group consisting of teachers, administrators, parents and students.

“We have a very active group,” Williams said. “We have met nine times this school year. Our school goes above basic accreditation to advanced accreditation. Our standards go above the basic accreditation requirements.”

Williams said the committee has conducted several surveys, and use the results to come up with plans for school improvement.

“It was recommended to move parent-teacher conferences up from the end of the first quarter to the middle of the quarter,” Williams said. “Parents felt the end of the first quarter was too late to get things changed if there was a problem.”

Committee member Amanda Ganser said she loved the fact that students were given a voice on the committee.

“They give us a completely different perspective,” Ganser said.

Williams said the students are proud of their school and want to make it a better place.

Jessica Pozehl, a parent member of the committee, said there are things in every school that can change for the better.

“We are looking to improve the culture so there is a more positive outlook,” Pozehl said.

Board member Jim Arens, who serves on the committee, said there are several positive things the school is doing that are brought up in the committee meetings in addition to the areas where the committee believes improvements can be made.

During her report, Williams said May 17 is the final day of class for elementary students, with the annual awards ceremony and video in the Learning Center at 1:30 p.m.

She said plans are underway for a 12-day summer school for students finishing kindergarten through the sixth grade.

“We are planning a mini summer school with one hour of academics, a half hour of physical activity, and then an hour of an activity the kids don’t normally get a chance to try,” Williams said.

She said the session would be held Monday through Thursday for three consecutive weeks, and registrations would be taken on a first-come, first-served basis.

During his report, Secondary Principal Dirk Coon said meetings have been held with staff from the University of Nebraska at Kearney pertaining to the watershed project, which will begin this summer in conjunction with the school’s high school science classes.

Peterson said students and teachers will be paid during the summer to do some research for a water project UNK is undertaking.

“This is an exciting opportunity,” the superintendent said.

Peterson, during his report to the board, said the Southwest Conference had voted to increase ticket prices for conference events to $6 for adults and $5 for students.

“It sounds like most of the schools will increase their local prices also,” he said. “Fees for officials are going through the roof.”

Peterson reported one high school student who had previously opted to attend Rock County Public Schools has withdrawn that option enrollment application and will remain with Ainsworth Community Schools, and two additional high school students who had opted to Rock County Public Schools earlier this year who would be returning to Ainsworth Community Schools for the 2016-17 school year.

The next meeting of the Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education is scheduled for 8 p.m. June 13.

* Several from the area receive degrees from UN-L

(Posted 4 p.m. May 9)

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln granted 2,816 degrees during commencement exercises Friday and Saturday.

In his final event as UN-L chancellor, Harvey Perlman delivered the address at the undergraduate commencement Saturday in Pinnacle Bank Arena.

Area graduates include:

Ainsworth

Kellie Frances Sholes, College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, bachelor of science in animal science with high distinction.

Michael Lee Sholes, College of Law, juris doctor with high distinction.

Maggie Elise Steinhauser, College of Education and Human Sciences, bachelor of science in education and human sciences with high distinction.

Katherine Kay Wilkins, College of Arts and Sciences, bachelor of arts.

Bassett

Taylor RaDawn Hart, College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, bachelor of science in agricultural education.

Payton James Shankland, College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, bachelor of science in animal science.

Stuart

Cole Thomas Neibauer, College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, bachelor of science in fisheries and wildlife.

Travis Michael Wallinger, College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, bachelor of science in agronomy.

Atkinson

Kaitlyn Anne Butterfield, College of Architecture, bachelor of landscape architecture.

Valentine

Jordan Michelle Bussinger, College of Arts and Sciences, bachelor of science.

* Area eighth-grade students named Big Red Stars by UN-L

(Posted 10 a.m. May 9)

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln honored Nebraska eighth-graders for their academic excellence, leadership and perseverance April 28 in the Lied Center for Performing Arts.
The Big Red Stars program is designed to recognize outstanding eighth-grade students in Nebraska. These talented young people were nominated by school principals and guidance counselors for showcasing strong leadership skills and academic promise.  
Big Red Stars from the area are Lainey Paxton and Madison Stracke of Stuart, and Justice Osborne and Skyler Reagle of Valentine.

* Schlueter named 2016-17 Ainsworth FFA Chapter President

(Posted 10 a.m. May 9)

During the recent Ainsworth FFA banquet, Britley Schlueter was named the 2016-17 chapter president.

Sydney Graff will be the vice president, with Whittney Killion the secretary, Jack Arens the treasurer, Emma Good the reporter, Jacob Fernau the junior advisor, Jacce Beck the sentinel, Maria Harthoorn the parliamentarian and Shylo Paddock the chapter historian.

The FFA and Advisor Roger Lechtenberg presented Honorary Chapter Degrees to Mark Ewert, Darrell Peterson, Brad Wilkins, Jim Pinney and Mark Kovar.

Receiving State FFA Degrees, the highest degree the FFA awards, were Jayden Philben, Austin Harthoorn, Heather Martin, Lindse Painter, Matt Kovar and Sara Salzman.

Greenhand Degrees were awarded to Megan Appelt, Ben Arens, Michaela Arens, Henry Beel, Gage Delimont, Tate Fernau, Rhion Irwin, Shelby Jones, Chloe Korth, Kade Kral, James Polen, Hunter Reed, Trey Schlueter, Michael Spotted Bear, Rebecca Taylor, Sam Wilkins, Jenna Williams, Jody Allen, Megan Grupe, Courtney Lauer, Britney Lewis, Luke Peters, Moritz Schrammen, Sara Warnke, Kortney Kronhoffman, Tatum Hansen, Rebecca Jensen and Andrina Stadler.

Chapter Degrees were given to Jaycee Dillon, Carsten Ganser, Maria Harthoorn, Michaela Hobbs, Caeleb Irwin, Bo Painter, Ned Pozehl, Ty Richardson, Chaeley Ruegge, Elizabeth Salzman, Blake Schipporeit, Jacob Sinsel, Brianna DeBolt, Tess Mueller, Luke McLeod and Sydney Quinn.

Four FFA members earned Chapter Star Awards. They included Michaela Hobbs in Ag Production, Cole Sundquist in Ag Placement, Jacce Beck in Agri-science, and Jack Arens in Agribusiness.

Four FFA members earned Star Greenhand Awards. Sam Wilkins earned the Star Award in Ag Production, Kade Kral the Star Award in Ag Placement, Gage Delimont the Star Award in Agribusiness, and Henry Beel the Star Award in Agri-science.

Proficiency Award winners included: Rebecca Taylor in vegetable production, Britley Schlueter in diversified agricultural production, Jacce Beck in agricultural mechanics (district contest silver medal), Ned Pozehl in agricultural mechanics, Whittney Killion in environmental service systems and natural resources systems research, Sam Wilkins in diversified crop production (district bronze), Jacob Fernau in diversified crop production, Breanna Schwindt in beef production, Michaela Hobbs in beef production, Jayden Philben in turf grass management (district silver), Gage Delimont in agricultural processing, Jack Arens in agricultural services, Jacob Sinsel in forage production, Heather Martin in home and community development, Emma Good in agriculture education (district gold), Sydney Fling in agricultural sales, Brittany Cole in equine science (district bronze) and Shylo Paddock in equine science.

The FFA Senior Parliamentary Procedure team of Breanna Schwindt, Britley Schlueter, Emma Good, Sydney Graff, Whittney Killion and Shylo Paddock finished as the district runners-up and third in the state contest.

* Chohon sweeps major awards to win Fine Arts Student of the Year

(Posted 9 a.m. May 9)

Hayes Chohon was named the 2015-16 Ainsworth High School Fine Arts Student of the Year May 3.

Chohon swept the major awards during the Fine Arts Awards Night, winning the John Phillip Sousa Award in band, the National High School Choral Award, the Senior Oratory Award and the Jess Duden Memorial Speech Team Member of the Year in speech, and the Thespian of the Year Award.

Lauren Allen was the runner-up in the Fine Arts Student of the Year race, with Sara Salzman and Sabrina Hempel the other finalists for the award.

In other band awards, the Patrick S. Gilmore Award was presented to Sydney Fling. Jace Kremer was named the Outstanding Junior. Marley Murphy and Claire Steinhauser shared the Outstanding Sophomore Award, and Megan Appelt was the Outstanding Freshman.

Instructor Kim Bejot presented a Leadership by Diversity Award to Marley Murphy and Kade Kral for learning to play an additional instrument.

Band letters were given to Sydney Fling, Courtney Lauer, Miranda Raymond, Jaycee Dillon, Marley Murphy, Megan Appelt, Mackenzie Kovar, Cassidy Gilliland, Lisa Ludemann, Hayes Chohon, Sara Salzman, Abby Masters, Tessa Lauer, Lauren Allen, Emma Good, Vanessa Taylor, Kade Kral, Jacob Jeffers, Jace Kremer and Claire Steinhauser.

Lisa Ludemann and Sara Salzman were four-year letter winners in band.

Sunshine Awards were presented to Jodi Maxwell, Sydney Fling, Jaycee Dillon, Payton Allen, Moritz Schrammen, Jacob Jeffers, Savana Christensen, Jenna Williams, Marley Murphy, Miranda Raymond, Hayes Chohon, Vanessa Taylor and Jace Kremer.

Most improved band members were Megan Appelt, Jon Barrow, Shania Johnson, Mackenzie Kovar, Kade Kral, Tessa Lauer, Braden Ludemann, Jodi Maxwell, Jenna Williams, Marley Murphy, Courtney Lauer, Jace Kremer, Brittani Beegle, Lisa Ludemann, Sydney Fling, Hayes Chohon and Jacob Jeffers.

Choir director Kayla Seefus presented Chohon with the National High School Choral Award. Seth Taylor was named the outstanding senior choir member. Britley Schlueter was the outstanding junior, Bo Painter the outstanding sophomore, and Trey Schlueter the outstanding freshman. Most improved choir members were Payton Allen, Jeremiah Finley, Jodi Maxwell and Kayla Witt.

Sunshine awards were given to McKenna Erthum, Marley Murphy, Britley Schlueter, Jacob Jeffers, Trey Schlueter, Kayla Witt and Amanda Pike.

Above and Beyond awards were given to Brittani Beegle, Hayes Chohon, Seth Taylor, Britley Schlueter, Kortney Kronhofman, Jeremiah Finley and Miranda Raymond.

In addition to the Senior Oratory Award and Jess Duden Memorial Speech Team Member of the Year awards given to Chohon, speech coach Mary Rau named Chohon the Outstanding Varsity Speaker. Henry Beel received the Outstanding Novice Award.

Thespian advisor Rachel Williams presented Chohon with the National Honor Thespian Award in addition to the Thespian of the Year Award.

Brittani Beegle, Emma Good, Marley Murphy, Sara Salzman and Tara Taylor were named Honor Thespians, and Payton Allen, Jeremiah Finley, Bo Painter, Luke Peters, Bradi Scott and Jacob Sinsel received Thespian Initiate awards.

Journalism instructor Juli Murphy presented Britley Schlueter and Marley Murphy with Volunteer Photographer Awards. Lauren Allen and Tara Taylor were co-editors of the school yearbook. Bulldog Beat editors were Abby Doyle, Lisa Ludemann, Sydney Fling, Breanna Schwindt, Jack Arens, Shylo Paddock, Sydney Graff, Vanessa Taylor and Moritz Schrammen.

* Election Day a week away; counties announce polling places

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Posted 7 p.m. May 2)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* Davis provides insights into 2016 legislative session to KBRB

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Posted 8 a.m. April 18)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Posted 7 a.m. Feb. 11)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Councilman Chuck Osborn agreed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

No official action was taken by the council.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Olson said the fund is not seeing as many loan applications as commercial loan rates may currently be more favorable with less paperwork than applying for a business loan through the LB 840 fund.

She said the housing projects and professional recruitment group were both continuing their work thanks to investments from the LB 840 fund.

Olson also provided a quarterly update of NCDC activities. She said an organizational meeting was scheduled for Feb. 18 to create three committees based off the priorities identified during the Jan. 20 town hall meeting.

She said the NCDC Board had approved an asset purchase agreement with the Sandhills Area Entertainment Corporation, which would allow the NCDC to take the lead on returning a theater to the community.

She said the council would see several business transitions shortly, and plans were underway to try and find a solution for reopening a steakhouse in the community.

“We also have several demolition projects in the works,” Olson said. “We have a house or two scheduled for controlled burn in April.”

She said the housing committee had a home on North Osborne Street listed for sale, and the committee had cleared a lot at 325 N. Osborne and had the lot available for someone who wanted to build a home.

She said work on the 15-unit senior housing complex on Zero Street continued, with work tentatively scheduled for completion in April.

“That project is now in the hands of the investors,” Olson said.

Myrna Jakob and Lori Ganser presented the council with information on plans to construct a no-kill pet shelter and boarding facility just southeast of Ainsworth.

Ganser said Barb Lamb had agreed to donate 2.4 acres for the construction of the shelter, and the Live, Love, Wag group had formed a 501c3 non-profit organization.

Kim Burge with the North Central RC&D told the council the group had $70,000 available from the sale of its building at Bassett to put toward projects in a six-county area of north central Nebraska.

She said the council could contact the RC&D if it had suggestions for projects. Council members mentioned the theater and nursing home projects for possible funding through the RC&D.

Rice welcomed Bryan Sisson to the community. Sisson, an Ainsworth High School graduate, began work in the city’s water and sewer department recently, and is in the process of relocating his family to Ainsworth from Broken Bow.

In other action items, the council:

* Approved a recommendation from the ABC Committee to award $530 in ABC sales tax funding to the Ainsworth Women’s Club for electrical work undertaken at the Courthouse Park Christmas display.

* Approved a $100 membership to the Ainsworth Area Chamber of Commerce.

* Approved a bid of $1.07 per square yard from Topkote for armor coating work.

* Approved the placement of a Goodwill trailer in the community. Rice said he had concerns regarding whether a Goodwill trailer would affect the Brown County Hospital Auxiliary Thrift Shop, but found the auxiliary was in favor of the trailer as it made trips to Goodwill with items the could not be sold through the thrift shop.

* Discussed the scope of professional services for the city’s wastewater system with Jess Hurlbert from engineering firm Olsson Associates. The study would be geared toward addressing issues with the city’s lift stations while also incorporating portions of the previous wastewater system study that was conducted several years ago.

* Approved the consent agenda, which included closing Main Street at 10 a.m. June 25 for the alumni parade, and a well application for Mark McNally.

The next meeting of the Ainsworth City Council is scheduled for 7 p.m. March 9.

* Turpin presents 1- and 6-year county roads plan during Tuesday hearing

(Posted 6:45 a.m. Feb. 3)

Six roads improvement projects were completed during 2015, and 25 improvement and maintenance projects were placed on the one-year plan by Brown County Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin.

Presenting the one- and six-year roads plan to the Brown County Commissioners Tuesday during a public hearing, Turpin said the one-year plan includes $1.5 million in projects. However, more than half of that $1.5 million total came as the $814,200 Norden Bridge replacement, and Turpin said state funds were paying for 90 percent of that project.

Among the projects completed in 2015 were 11 miles of armor coating on the Elsmere Road, the resurfacing of a curve on the Norden Road, regrading on 880th Road, regrading on 432nd Avenue south of Plains Equipment, replacing a wooden bridge with a culvert on 435th Avenue, and resurfacing and grading Cattlemen Road south of Long Pine.

Following is a list of projects on the Brown County one-year plan.

* Norden Bridge replacement, estimated cost $814,200.

* Paradise Valley Road, 1 mile of grading work, estimated cost $28,000.

* Elsmere Road, 11 miles of armor coating, $167,000.

* 428th Avenue, replacing canal bridge, $90,000.

* 429th Avenue, replacing canal bridge, $86,000.

* Norden Avenue, culvert replacement, $15,000.

* 430th Avenue, replace bridge with a culvert, $20,000.

* Richardson Road, grading and easement acquisition, $30,000.

* Norden Avenue 1,5 miles north of Johnstown, replace bridge with a culvert, $25,000.

* 423rd Avenue north of the airport, grading work, $45,000 (partially completed in 2015).

* 886th Road west of Keller Park, clay base work, $12,000.

* 889th Road north of Keller Park, grading work, $15,000.

* Cattle Drive Road south of Johnstown, grading work, $22,500.

* 422nd Avenue northeast of Johnstown, grading work, $45,000.

* 885th Road north of Ainsworth, grading change to improve site line, $8,000.

* 879th Road north of Ainsworth, raising road to alleviate snow drifting, $6,000.

* 888th Road northwest of Long Pine, grading and resurfacing, $18,000 (partially completed in 2015).

* Meadville Avenue north of Ainsworth, clay and gravel resurfacing, $18,800.

* Raven Road south of Ainsworth, grading and resurfacing, $12,000.

* 432nd Avenue south of Ainsworth, grading work, $7,500.

* 879th Road northwest of Ainsworth, raise road to alleviate snow drifting, $12,000.

* 880th Road west of Ainsworth, grading and drainage work, $1,600.

* Beel Lane southwest of Johnstown, grading and resurfacing, $18,000 (partially completed in 2015).

* 876th Road southwest of Ainsworth, grading and resurfacing, $8,500.

* 431st Avenue south of Ainsworth, grading and resurfacing, $9,000.

In addition to the 25 projects on the one-year plan with a total cost of $1.5 million, Turpin identified 25 additional projects for the longer-term six-year roads plan. Those projects carry an estimated total cost of $1.4 million and include:

* Raven Road, realignment of the road south of Hagen Lake, $40,000.

* Norden Avenue, realignment of the road 10 miles north of Johnstown, $20,000.

* Meadville Avenue, Sand Draw box culvert replacement, $640,000.

* East Calamus Road, grading and resurfacing, $54,000.

* Beel Lane southwest of Johnstown, grading and resurfacing, $54,000.

* 429th Avenue northwest of Ainsworth, cutting a slope, grading and resurfacing, $20,000.

* Meadville Avenue, replacing canal bridge just north of Ainsworth, $70,000.

* 432nd Avenue one-half mile east of Ainsworth, replace canal bridge, $72,000.

* 420th Avenue 2 miles east of Johnstown, canal bridge replacement, $80,000.

* 430th Avenue 2 miles north of Ainsworth, replace bridge with culverts, $25,000.

* South Pine Avenue, partial asphalt overlay and armor coat, $127,000.

* Moon Lake Avenue 16.5 miles south of Johnstown, resurfacing work, $10,000.

* Norden Avenue, regrading and resurfacing, $6,000.

* Norden Avenue, filling and repairing pot holes and armor coating, $19,000.

* 877th Road south of Ainsworth, regrading and resurfacing, $2,500.

* 430th Avenue near Rolling Stone Feed Yard, replacing bridge with culvert or box culvert, $100,000.

* 880th Road west of Johnstown, regrading and resurfacing, $10,000.

* Moon Lake Avenue near Willow Lake, replace damaged culvert, regrading and resurfacing, $10,000.

* Rauscher Avenue northeast of Johnstown, regrading and resurfacing, $1,000.

* Rauscher Avenue 4 miles east of Johnstown, regrade a ditch and install pipe to equalize water, $5,500.

* Canal Road just north of Ainsworth, placement of asphalt millings, $10,000.

The annual one- and six-year road plan is a requirement of the Nebraska Department of Roads, and is prepared annually by the highway superintendent in each of the state’s 93 counties.

Completion of items on the one-year plan is not required, it simply provides a guide to the items the roads department plans to address. Projects are completed as time and resources allow.

* Total property tax asking rises for all area counties, valuations continue big gains

(Posted 3 p.m. Jan. 19)

The Nebraska Department of Revenue, Property Assessment Division has received the 2015 Certificates of Taxes Levied Reports from every county assessor. The data indicates that total property taxes levied, statewide, increased 6.07% from 2014 to 2015, from $3.56 billion to $3.78 billion. Overall, governmental agencies that levy property taxes will collect an additional $216 million from the 2015 tax year from Nebraska property owners.
The total increase in taxes of $216 million, includes $24 million in voter-approved bonds, which is 11 percent of the total increase; and $41 million in property taxes from new construction, which is 19 percent of the increase. However, a vast majority of the rise in tax collections, $151 million or 69 percent, comes from tax increases on existing property.

Real property valuations are determined by county assessors. Property tax rates are set by local governments. Property taxes support schools, counties, cities, community colleges, natural resource districts, fire districts, and other local governmental subdivisions. Property taxes are payable to the county treasurer.

The impact of the property tax change on individual taxpayers varies depending on the budget needs of their local governmental subdivisions and voter-approved bonds. For example, Greeley County taxes levied decreased by 4.56%, while Nuckolls County taxes levied increased by 15.40%.

Brown County taxing entities had the highest increase in property tax asking in the KBRB listening area. The total sum asked from Brown County property owners for the 2015 tax year is $10.22 million, which is a 10.25 percent increase from the $9.27 million levied in 2014. That percentage increase is the 14th highest in the state.

Holt County had the 17th largest percentage tax increase among the state’s 93 counties, at 9.76 percent. Holt County tax entities asked property owners for $36.3 million in 2015, up from the $33.1 million collected during the 2014 tax year.

Cherry County’s tax increase of 6.92 percent ranked 43rd highest. Cherry County taxing entities will collect $21.8 million from the 2015 tax year, up from $20.4 million in 2014.

Rock County ranked 54th among the counties for the rate of increased tax. Rock County property owners will pay an additional 5.56 percent in the 2015 tax year, from $6.17 million to $6.52 million.

Blaine County had the 18th lowest increase in the state among the counties at 3.28 percent. Blaine County property owners will pay $2.76 million for the 2015 tax year to fund the entities that receive property tax, modestly above the $2.67 million collected from the 2014 tax year.

Keya Paha County had the distinction of having the smallest tax increase among area counties. Property owners will pay $3.47 million for the 2015 year, up just 2.76 percent from the $3.37 million collected in 2014.
The State of Nebraska offsets a portion of the real property taxes levied in 2015 with approximately $72 million in homestead exemptions for qualified individuals and $204 million from the property tax credit relief fund, which are shown as a credit on the tax statements.

The first half of all 2015 property taxes become delinquent May 1, and the second half of 2015 taxes become delinquent Sept. 1.

From a total property valuation standpoint, several area counties again saw their total property value increase by double digits.

Rock County’s overall valuation rocketed up 30.49 percent, the third largest jump in the state behind the 42.22 percent rise in Loup County and the 32.5 percent increase in Garfield County.

Rock County’s total valuation of $580 million for 2015 was up $136 million from the $444 million total valuation in 2014.

Holt County’s valuation was up 25.43 percent from a year ago, rising from $2.48 billion to $3.11 billion.

Brown County had a total valuation increase of 19.4 percent, jumping more than $100 million from $559 million in 2014 to $668 million in 2015.

Blaine County’s valuation in 2015 increased by 18.29 percent, from $210 million to $249 million.

Cherry County, the largest county by area in Nebraska, saw an overall 17.47 percent increase in property value, from $1.39 billion to $1.63 billion.

Keya Paha County had the lowest increase in total property value in the KBRB listening area, but it still jumped by 15.83 percent in 2015, from $361 million to $418 million, a gain in value of $57 million.

Increasing agricultural land valuations continue to account for the large property value increases in the area counties. Commercial and residential property values increased slightly, and new construction accounted for a small portion of the overall increase in the counties.

* 2015 temps above normal, moisture total near average

(Posted 1:30 p.m. Jan. 4)

Ainsworth Weather Observer Gerry Osborn recorded 22.89 inches of precipitation for 2015, which is right at the city's average total of 22.99 inches.
The largest single-moisture event was July 6, when 1.52 inches of rain was recorded. Six of the first seven months finished below their respective averages for moisture, but the final five months all recorded above-average moisture. December tallied .57 of moisture, .16 above average.
To hear the complete December and 2015 reports, click on the audio links below.

audio clips/Gerry Osborn December and 2015 weather.mp3

* Thank-you area firefighters for Second Street response

(Posted 10 a.m. Oct. 17)

I would like to thank the Ainsworth, Bassett and Brown County Rural Volunteer Fire departments for their amazing response Wednesday morning to the Royal Theater Fire on Second Street.
To save our business with a fire burning that hot was an unbelievable accomplishment, and is a testament to the countless hours of training exercises our firefighters have undergone to be able to respond to situations exactly like Wednesday morning’s fire. There is not a paid fire department anywhere that could have done a better job than our area volunteers.
To whoever noticed the flames coming out of the theater at that early hour, thank you. Your call likely saved an entire half block of businesses from burning to the ground.
Thanks to everyone for their well-wishes as we clean up from the smoke. Thanks to the KBRB staff for helping to keep us on the air and operating in these less-than-optimal working conditions, and to Larry Rice and Randy Brudigan for coming down in the middle of the night to rescue what they could while the fire was still burning next door.

Graig Kinzie
KBRB Radio

* Fire causes major damage to Royal Theater

(Posted 9 a.m. Oct. 15)

Ainsworth firemen, assisted by firemen and units from Long Pine, Raven and Bassett, were called out about 3 a.m. Wednesday after someone passing by on Second Street in Ainsworth noticed smoke coming from the Royal Theater.
The fire caused extensive damage to the front lobby area and projector room. The fire also burned through the upstairs portion into the roof. Flames were also coming out of the front of the building. The entire structure suffered smoke and water damage. The recently installed new theater seats were not destroyed but may or may not be able to be used again. In addition to the theater, heavy smoke damage was sustained in adjoining businesses including the offices and studios of KBRB Radio Station, Mundhenke Agency and Ainsworth Motors. The exact cause of the fire is being investigated by the State Fire Marshall and the theater's insurance company. The theater is operated by volunteers.

********************************

********************************

********************************

*******************************

********************************

 

 

 

 

Information from the 2012 Wildfires in the Niobrara River Valley

* Additional fire funding in Keya Paha County approved by wide margin

(Posted 7 a.m. Oct. 5, 2012)

Just like in Brown County, Keya Paha County voters Thursday overwhelmingly approved additional property tax dollars for the Keya Paha County Rural Fire District.
With just under 70 voters needed to make the town hall meeting official, more than double that amount cast a ballot Thursday in the Springview Grade School multipurpose room.
Ninety-one percent of the 155 voters supported the 8 cents in additional property tax levy for the rural fire district in response to the costs incurred in fighting the Region 24 Complex fires in July.
A total of 141 votes were counted in favor of the additional funding. Just 14 cast ballots against the measure.
By approving the additional 8-cent levy, voters allowed the Keya Paha County Rural Fire District to collect an additional $223,984 to help pay for the extensive costs incurred fighting wildfires during the summer and begin to repair or replace damaged equipment.
Had the additional levy not been approved, the fire district would have had a budget of $41,667 from the 1.5 cents in levy given by the Keya Paha County Commissioners as part of their 2012-13 fiscal year budget. County boards can award up to 4 cents in general levy to fire districts. Anything above that amount must be approved by county voters using either the town hall or special election format.
By using the town hall format Thursday, the additional 8 cents in property tax levy will be collected for one year only.
With the levy passing, residential and commercial property owners in Keya Paha County will pay an additional $80 in property taxes for every $100,000 worth of property value. Agricultural property owners will pay an additional $60 per $100,000 in value.
The 91 percent approval rating in Keya Paha County's town hall vote was even higher than the 85 percent approval rating for Brown County's town hall meeting Sept. 24.

* Incident Management Team transitioning out of the area Monday

(Posted 9 a.m. July 30, 2012)

According to the daily update from the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency on Sunday, fire crews made good progress on the Wentworth and Hall Fires. Both are now at 90 percent containment. The Fairfield Creek Fire is at 100 percent containment and remains in patrol status.
Hot and dry is the forecast for tomorrow and for the immediate future. Fuels will continue to be very receptive to fire and the potential for new starts remains elevated. Residents can expect to see smoke within the interior especially in the afternoon when temperatures are at their highest and relative humidity is at its lowest.
Operations have shifted to demobilizing resources.  On Monday, the Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team will transition the incident back to local authorities. The members of the incident management team thank the area communities and the amazing volunteers for their hospitality and cooperation.
No road closures are in place. However, expect heavy emergency vehicle traffic as engines and other resources are released from the fire in route to their home units. 

* Fire containment proceeding, crews heading out of the area

(Posted 8 a.m. July 30, 2012)

Many of the state and federal resources in the area to combat the Fairfield Creek, Wentworth and Hall fires began leaving the area during the weekend. While some of the federal officials remain to finish mop-up duties, many of the crews were headed out.
Thank you to everyone who has assisted in any way with the recent fires, from the firefighters on the front lines to the volunteers in the fire halls to the hundreds of people who have donated supplies or funds to assist the effort. North central Nebraska has represented its people well, as have the people who no longer reside here but who have ties to the area.
Those who donated coolers to the fire halls can pick those coolers up, and those who donated air mattresses or cots to the Red Cross for use at the community shelter can pick those items up from Ainsworth Community Schools.
Unfortunately, some people still don't realize the extreme danger of fire in the area. The Ainsworth Volunteer Fire Department was called out at 7:35 a.m. Monday to a report of a grass fire in the ditch south of Ainsworth on the Cemetery Road.
According to Fire Chief Brad Fiala, someone threw a lit cigarette from the window of a vehicle, igniting the ditch just north of the Ainsworth South Cemetery.
"If the wind would have been up, that fire would have probably gotten into a grove of trees before we could have got there to put it out," Fiala said.
Though he has not yet taken that step, Fiala said he has received permission from the Nebraska Fire Marshal's Office to ban smoking in Brown County. If a smoking ban is implemented, smoking will be restricted to inside the home and in a vehicle with the windows up.
Fiala encouraged people to be aware of the extreme dry conditions in the area. If fires continue to be sparked from smoking materials, he won't hesitate to issue the ban. If a ban on smoking materials is issued, anyone smoking outside of their homes or their enclosed vehicles can be issued a fine.
Fiala said he does not want to implement a ban, so he warned people not to throw lit cigarettes from their vehicle.
An open fire ban is already in place, yet the Brown County Sheriff's Department and volunteer firefighters have had to respond to several calls of campfires being started in the Long Pine State Park area. Fines can be issued for anyone who is caught with an open fire.

* Fischer commends responders and volunteers Saturday during stops in area

(Posted 4:45 p.m. July 28, 2012)

Seeing first-hand the effects of the fires in Keya Paha, Brown and Cherry counties on Saturday, 43rd District State Sen. Deb Fischer said it was a relief to see the progress that has been made on controlling the fires, and she is amazed at the response from the people in the area.
"You see the outpouring of support from all across Nebraska, but especially from the communities here who have been affected by this horrible event," Fischer told KBRB's Graig Kinzie Saturday afternoon.
Fischer said the 43rd District has experienced some major fires during her time in the Legislature, from the Valentine area in 2006 to the Thedford fire a couple years ago and now the fires in this area and in Dawes County, which is now also in the 43rd District.
"I am trying to see how we can get some additional state and private resources to the area to help meet the huge expenses you've incurred," Fischer, the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, said.
She said the stories she has heard regarding the volunteer effort and the sacrifices made by so many make her proud to be a Nebraskan.
"It's the fire departments, the ranchers, the volunteers, the wives of the firefighters," Fischer said. "Everyone comes together in a time like this."
To hear the complete report with State Sen. Deb Fischer from Saturday, click on the audio link below:

audio clips/Deb Fischer Saturday report.mp3

* Region 24 manager reporting containment efforts progressing

(Posted 4:30 p.m. July 28, 2012)

Region 24 Manager Doug Fox told KBRB Radio's Graig Kinzie Saturday afternoon substantial progress has been made on the Fairfield Creek, Wentworth and Hall fires in Keya Paha County despite south winds gusting to 25 mph.
Things are starting to look really good," Fox said.
Though there will still be some areas inside the fire lines burning and causing some smoke, work on the edges of the three fires has progressed substantially.
Fox said he took an aerial tour of the site with Springview Fire Chief Scott Hallock, and he anticipated many of the state and federal resources would be departing the area by Monday.
To hear the complete report with Region 24 Manager Doug Fox, click on the audio link below:

audio clips/Doug Fox Saturday Afternoon Update.mp3

* Nebraska Emergency Management Agency update on containment progress

(Posted 2:45 p.m. July 28, 2012)

On Friday, the Wentworth Fire remained in southeastern Keya Paha County remained active with medium to high rates of spread, group tree torching, crown runs and medium range spotting. Crews completed line around the largest of the three fires, the Fairfield Creek Fire, bringing it into 100 percent containment. Progress was made on both the Wentworth and Hall fire containment lines.

Friday night’s thunderstorm provided little moisture and several positive lightning strikes. There continues to be the potential for new starts, active burning and re-burning throughout the areas.

Fairfield Creek - Crews will continue to patrol and mop-up. 

Hall - Crews will hold and improve lines.

Wentworth – Crews will continue securing open line with line construction and firing out operations.  They will also continue to hold and improve line, mop-up and patrol. 

Structure protection will continue on all three fires.

No road closures are in place, however local authorities recommend using Highway 183 as an alternative to Highway 7 as it will have heavy emergency vehicle traffic.

No evacuations are in place at this time.

Fire stats at a glance:

Start Date: July 20, 2012

Containment: 73 percent , estimated full containment by Monday

Cause: Lightning

Acreage: 74,884 total (Fairfield 66,745; Wentworth, 5,757; Hall, 2,382)

Personnel: 423, plus approximately 40 Rural Fire Department personnel

Crews: 8 crews on the fire line

Aviation: Five heavy-lift helicopters, one medium, and one light

Engines: 27, plus 20 Rural Fire Department engines

Injuries: 3 (minor)

Structures destroyed: 14 residences, 17 associated outbuildings

Structures/outbuildings threatened: 152

* Firefighters continue work on Wentworth Fire; river valley picks up some rain

(Posted 7:45 a.m. July 28, 2012)

Area firefighters, with support from the National Guard and federal hot-shot crews, continued work into the night with the Wentworth Fire burning in southeastern Keya Paha County.
With the Fairfield Creek and Hall fires both under control, the Wentworth Fire has been the focus of the responders' attention since it broke through a fire line Thursday afternoon.
Reports indicate southeastern Keya Paha County picked up one-quarter of an inch of rain or so from a small line of thunderstorms that moved through the area early Saturday morning. Roger Wentworth in southeastern Keya Paha County reported .20 of an inch of rain from the overnight storm. Wentworth's property absorbed the lightning strike that officials believe started the middle of the three fires - thus the namesake.
There was some lightning with the line of storms, so responders will keep their fingers crossed that no new fires crop up from those strikes.
Ainsworth Fire Chief Brad Fiala asked area farmers and ranchers to keep all their stock tanks filled. Firefighters can fill their smaller tanks those water sources if necessary.
Preliminary reports indicate 98 different volunteer fire departments have assisted with the Niobrara River valley fires during some portion of the now nine-day response.
Officials are cautiously optimistic that they are in the home stretch of the major firefighting effort.
Preliminary reports show 14 residences have been lost, some of which were occupied full time while others were cabins, and a total of 47 other structures reportedly burned.
Monetary donations continue to be needed to help the fire departments deal with the monumental costs associated with nine days of fighting fire. Information on how to help is located at the top of this page.
Thank you to those who have already donated, as thousands of dollars are coming in to the relief fund to assist the fire departments and those who have lost homes. Additional support in the way of hay, fence posts and trucking have also been donated, not to mention the hundreds of hours of volunteered labor and equipment use from private contractors on the fire lines. There are so many stories of personal sacrifice and heroism, it is impossible to try and mention them individually. Just know all of the communities in this area are so appreciative of everything being done to assist them in this trying time.

* Springview fire chief said work continues on Wentworth Fire Friday

(Posted 2:35 p.m. July 27, 2012)

Springview Fire Chief Scott Hallock told KBRB just after noon on Friday work continues to solidify the fire line after a breakout of the Wentworth Fire on Thursday afternoon.
Hallock said substantial progress was made overnight and this morning after firefighters were able to stop the breakout before it jumped the Niobrara River into Rock County approximately 2-1/2 miles west of the Carnes Bridge.
According to Deputy Commander Mark Hatcher with the Rocky Mountain Incident Management Bravo Team, Thursday's breakout of the Wentworth Fire burned an additional 2,500 acres in southeastern Keya Paha County.
To hear the complete report with Springview Fire Chief Scott Hallock, click on the audio link below:

audio clips/Scott Hallock Friday Noon Report.mp3

UPDATE: The Springview Volunteer Fire Department requested mutual aid assistance from the Ainsworth, Long Pine and Bassett departments to fight another small break-out of the Wentworth Fire Friday afternoon and to help with back-burns.
Brown County Sheriff's Department Dispatcher Judy Cole said the civil defense siren did sound in Long Pine for the mutual aid call, but not in Ainsworth as a truck was dispatched by Ainsworth Fire Chief Brad Fiala immediately. Cole said five trucks responded to the mutual aid call, including two from Bassett, two from Long Pine and one from Ainsworth.


(Photo Courtesy of Win Mills)

These photos were taken Monday from the vantage point of Nancy Reinhardt's ranch southwest of Springview, south of Highway 12 in Keya Paha County. Though the date on the photo says Sunday, the photos were taken Monday as the Fairfield Creek fire broke out to the north, fueled by a gusting south wind and temperatures that topped 105 degrees. Fire lines worked tirelessly to keep the fire contained to the Niobrara River canyons, but it did break the Highway 12 containment line Monday before being pushed back by firefighters. As of Friday, the Fairfield Creek Fire had burned close to 100,000 acres but was close to being declared closed by fire officials.


(Photo Courtesy of Win Mills)

A C-130 tanker drops flame retardant on the north end of the Niobrara River valley Monday in an effort to keep the fire from proceeding north. The C-130 planes were based out of South Dakota.


(Photo Courtesy of Win Mills)

Fire rages out of a Niobrara River canyon southwest of Springview as firefighters attempt to stop the flames at the canyon. The charred ground and the sod mound in the foreground show firefighters' attempts to create back burns and fire breaks to keep the fire from moving north and racing on flat ground.


(Photo Courtesy of Win Mills)

Flames shoot more than 100 feet in the air on Monday as the Fairfield Creek Fire consumed pine and cedar trees on the north edge of the Niobrara River Valley southwest of Springview.

* Fire officials provide updates on firefighting effort on KBRB's Open Line

(Posted noon July 27, 2012)

Appearing on KBRB's Open Line program Friday morning, Rocky Mountain Incident Management Response Team Bravo Deputy Commander Mark Hatcher, Nebraska Emergency Management Agency representative Mike White, Region 24 Emergency Management Agency Director Doug Fox and Ainsworth Fire Chief Brad Fiala discussed the continued fire response effort, the toll fighting the fires has taken on firefighters and volunteers, the major assistance provided by landowners and volunteer contractors helping to save property in the river valley, and the work that still needs to be done to help the departments pay for the monumental expenses associated with eight straight days of fighting the wildfires in the Niobrara River valley.
Media outlets, there is a bundle of information from these responders on the following audio links from the 40-minute live program. Feel free to use any of the information to help your newscasts. Please credit KBRB Radio as the source of the information.
Thank you to everyone who has played a role in assisting the firefighting effort and helping to spread the word about the serious needs of the area fire departments and those who have lost homes and property in these fires. Information on how to make donations to support the area fire departments and those who have lost homes and property can be found at the top of this page.
Click on the following four links for the complete audio of KBRB's Friday morning Open Line report with the fire officials.

audio clips/Friday Open Line w Fire Officials Pt 1.mp3

audio clips/Friday Open Line w Fire Officials Pt 2.mp3

audio clips/Friday Open Line w Fire Officials Pt 3.mp3

audio clips/Friday Open Line w Fire Officials Pt 4.mp3

* Gov. Heineman shares stories of the volunteers in weekly column

(Posted Noon July 27, 2012)

Fighting Fires

By Gov. Dave Heineman

July 27, 2012

 

Dear Fellow Nebraskans:

 

This week, we are monitoring the status of the drought-related fires throughout the state. While the magnitude of the fires and the drought impacts weigh heavy on Nebraskans and the economy of our state, I have been reminded the past few days of the strong resolve and resiliency of our state’s citizens.

Since the fires broke in north-central Nebraska, I have been to the affected communities twice and monitored the damage firsthand. While seeing 72,000 acres of scorched Earth is striking, what I saw in our people is inspiring. In every community, brave volunteer firefighters were on the frontlines, facing temperatures of 120 degrees. At the command posts, responders worked tirelessly to update and coordinate efforts to contain the massive fires, and anticipate the fire’s next moves through behavior modeling. In the communities, family-members and friends of the community provided aid and comfort, gathering donations of food, ice, water, ibuprofen, eye wash, and other necessities.

When meeting with volunteers, firefighters and responders, I heard story after story of the truly remarkable generosity and thoughtfulness of Nebraskans and caring strangers throughout our nation. At the Ainsworth Fire Hall, I spoke with local firefighter Ann Fiala who told me they have received much needed donations from throughout the state and as far away as Maine. Ann said they have had people walk into the Fire Hall and hand them checks for as much as $500 and $1000.

In Norden, volunteer Cathy Fauren, told me she had been volunteering for days on end. Her husband and son were in the fires, and that a simple phone call from them was all she needed to know they were ok. A volunteer in Springview, Linda Sheehan, told me about the Springview Nebraska Community Facebook page, which is covered with photos and encouraging messages.

While driving the recent fire paths in the Niobrara River Valley, the ground was still smoking and smoldering in many spots. As we drove down a dirt road, surrounded by burnt trees on both sides, we stopped to talk with a father and son from Grand Island who were driving the roads, putting out the residual fires in order to prevent a second round of immense burns.

These stories are examples of what makes Nebraska a wonderful place to live. Nebraskans are generous. We care about one another. We are always willing to help others.

At the incident command center in Ainsworth, I was briefed on current efforts. More than 32 volunteer fire departments have helped.  Low humidity, high temperatures, extreme drought, and dry lightning in the weather forecast continue to be major concerns.

This week, we activated the State Emergency Operations Plan in response to the fire emergency in Cherry, Brown and Keya Paha Counties. I declared a State of Emergency in early July, which activated parts of the State Emergency Operations Plan and allowed us additional options for use of state resources. Resources from the State Patrol, the Department of Roads, the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency and the State Fire Marshal’s Office are also responding to the emergency.

The Nebraska National Guard continues to mobilize available resources as the response grows. This included the mobilization of three Nebraska Army National Guard UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters equipped with “Bambi buckets” and approximately 28 personnel to provide support to local firefighters. I also want to acknowledge and thank the Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team for their continued efforts on site.

As I write this column, we are close to having the fires contained – thanks to everyone’s hard work and support. We are very proud of you.

* July could join June as one of driest in history

(Posted 7:15 a.m. July 27, 2012)

Through the first 26 days of July, the KBRB rain gauge has picked up a total of .32 of an inch of moisture. That .32 total in July follows the third driest June in Ainsworth's history. Just .73 of an inch fell in June, more than 2.5 inches below the average for the month.
July's average rainfall in Ainsworth is 3.95 inches, according to Ainsworth Weather Observer Gerry Osborne.
Through 26 days of July, the temperature has climbed above the century mark 12 times, including a high of 109 degrees on Saturday, July 21, one of the worst days firefighters had trying to fight the Fairfield Creek Fire.
An additional 10 days in July have been above 90 degrees, including three readings of 99 degrees. That is 15 of the 26 days in July with temperatures of 99 degrees or above, with what could be the least amount of precipitation for July in Ainsworth's history.
Anyone with step by step directions on a tried and true rain dance, feel free to pass them along to KBRB and we will hold a community training session.

* Niobrara River opening to Rock Barn today for float trips

(Posted 6:45 a.m. July 27, 2012)

The Niobrara River is for float trips beginning today from the launch are at Fort Niobrara to Rock Barn. Before today, the river had been closed east of Smith Falls State Park.
Firefighters continue to use River Road to access the fire line and continue mop-up operations on the Fairfield Creek Fire. Visitors and those traveling in the fire area are urged to use extreme caution as emergency vehicles and firefighters will continue to be working in the River Road area.
The public is also reminded that there are still hazards to be cautious of in the fire area. Smoke may continue to be visible during the next few days as unburned fuels and smoldering logs located inside the perimeter continue to burn. Also, trees that may have been weakened by the fire could fall without warning. Please use caution near the fire area, and while traveling on roads adjacent to the fire area.

* New concerns as the Wentworth fire flares up and heads toward Carnes

(Posted 5:30 p.m. July 26, 2012)

Just when it looked like progress was being made, winds picked up out of the northwest this afternoon in Keya Paha County and the Wentworth Fire jumped a fire line sending flames toward the Carnes Bridge area between Keya Paha and Rock counties. Region 24 Emergency Manager Doug Fox told KBRB fire officials are trying to get as many units into that area as possible. He said they have fire crews from Bassett, Naper, Tripp County, S.D., in addition to the federal firemen. The Ainsworth Volunteer Fire Department was also sending trucks to the area. Fox said the south moving fire line was near Walker Creek, which is just a half-mile west of Carnes. 

8:30 p.m. July 26 UPDATE: Doug Fox reports that the fire crews working on the Wentworth Fire flare-up in southeast Keya Paha County Thursday afternoon and evening were able to stop the fire before it reached the Niobrara River and the Carnes Bridge area. Listen for more complete information when fire officials appear on the KBRB Open Line program Friday morning.

* Updated NEMA map shows progress made on all 3 Niobrara Valley fires

(Posted 3:30 p.m. July 26, 2012)
 images/20120726_Region24Complex_NE_NES_120791_PIOThreeFire_MapCompressed_11x17.JPG
(Image courtesy of the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency)

Instead of producing a smaller version of the map on the site, please click on the above link for the full-scale version. Areas in black indicate fire lines that are secure. Areas in red show boundaries of the fires that have not yet been completely contained. Thank you to the hundreds of folks who responded to our offer to email the full-scale version of the map we placed on our Web site on Tuesday. We tried to get the full-scale version emailed as quickly as time allowed, but we hope this method of delivery works a little better! This is the largest version of the map we have to view. The map may be available in an even larger form on the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency's site, but not confirming that.

* Bob Kerrey tours area, visits with fire officials and volunteers

(Posted 3 p.m. July 26, 2012)

Former Gov. and U.S. Sen. Bob Kerrey visited Ainsworth and Springview Thursday afternoon, touring the command center in the Ainsworth Conference Center and visiting with firefighters and volunteers in the fire halls on the front lines of the response.
"You start with the volunteer effort," Kerrey said. "The federal communications officer said she has been working on fires for 25 years and she has never seen a better community response."
He said he heard story after story of individual heroism while talking with firefighters.
"There are some great, heroic stories coming out of these fires," Kerrey said. "You have stories of firefighters turning at once, holding the line together and stopping the flames. They did it. They stopped the fire. It didn't have to be that way."
Kerrey said the main assistance that can be provided at the federal level is passing a Farm Bill and allowing the president to have the authority to declare these areas a federal disaster and unlock funding assistance.
Kerrey is the Democratic Party candidate for U.S. Senate. His Republican opponent in the General Election race, 43rd District State Sen. Deb Fischer, has said she plans to be in Ainsworth on Saturday.
To hear the complete report from former Gov. and U.S. Sen. Bob Kerrey, click on the audio link below:

audio clips/Bob Kerrey Thursday visit.mp3

* Springview fire chief reports substantial progress, mounting expenses

(Posted 1:30 p.m. July 26, 2012)

Springview Fire Chief Scott Hallock said the Hall fire in southeastern Keya Paha County has been contained, and crews are finishing fire lines on the south end of the Wentworth Fire in southeastern Keya Paha County today.
The Wentworth Fire started Saturday from a lightning strike, a day after the Fairfield Creek Fire, the largest of the three fires, ignited from a lightning strike in northwestern Brown County. The Hall Fire sparked up on Monday.
Hallock said weary area firefighters are finally starting to get a break, as federal hot-shot crews are working on the fire lines and removing hotspots.
The Springview fire chief said the current fuel bill for the department is more than $60,000, which is equal to or above the department's entire annual budget.
In addition to the North Central Development Center fund that has been established to assist the fire departments and those who lost homes and livelihoods, an additional fund has been created for the Springview department.
Donations can be made to the Springview Fire Hall at PO Box 204, Springview, NE 68778, or to West Plains Bank at PO Box 189, Springview, NE 68778. Write "fire relief" in the check's memo line.
To hear the complete report from early Thursday afternoon with Springview Fire Chief Scott Hallock, click on the audio link below:

audio clips/Scott Hallock Thursday Noon Report.mp3

* NEMA reports Meadville evacuation lifted, Highway 12 reopened to traffic

(Posted noon July 26, 2012)

The Nebraska Emergency Management Agency reports the evacuation notice for Meadville has been lifted, and Highway 12 west of Springview has reopened to traffic.  Crews on Thursday are focusing on improving fire lines, mopping up hot spots, patrolling the fires' perimeters and protecting any structures still at risk.
State and federal officials estimated full containment of all three fires by Sunday.

The weather is forecasted to be warmer and drier through the weekend with possibility of afternoon thunderstorms along with accompanying lightning.  Fuels are still very receptive to fire and the possibility for new starts remains elevated.

“We currently have sufficient fire resources on the incident," Region 24 Emergency Manager Doug Fox said. "If additional resources are needed, local fire chiefs will put out a call for assistance."

While Highway 12 is open to traffic, the Nebraska State Patrol recommends motorists use caution when traveling in the area.

Volunteer evacuations have been lifted for Meadville and Norden.

The Niobrara River between County Line and Brewer bridge remains closed but is scheduled to reopen on Friday.

Fire stats at a glance:

Start Date: July 20, 2012

Containment: 50 percent, estimate containment by July 29

Cause: Lightning

Acreage: 72,405 total (Fairfield 66,745; Wentworth, 3,278; Hall, 2,382)

Personnel: 480, plus approximately 80 Rural Fire Department personnel

Crews: 7 crews on the fire line

Aviation : Four heavy-lift helicopters, one medium, and one light.

Engines: 38, plus 40 Rural Fire Department engines

Injuries: 3 (minor)

Structures destroyed: 10 and associated outbuildings

Structures/outbuildings threatened: 152

* Fox says paying for cost of fighting fire will be a massive effort

(Posted 10 a.m. July 26, 2012)

Region 24 Emergency Manager Doug Fox said fuel costs for the Springview Fire Department have surpassed $60,000, and fuel costs alone for the Ainsworth Fire Department are estimated at $150,000. Both of those totals surpass the entire annual budget for both departments.
Fox told KBRB's Grag Kinzie Thursday funds will be needed to pay for the costs associated with fighting the Fairfield Creek, Wentworth and Hall fires, as those bills will be due long before any state or federal grant funds are received.
The Region 24 emergency manager said the Fairfield Creek Fire is contained, while work continues on the Wentworth Fire in southeastern Keya Paha County.
"There will be more air drops there today," Fox said. "Hot shot crews are being sent into the fire's perimeter to down trees and create fire lines within the hot areas of the fire.
"The members of those crews are from all over the country," Fox said. "They have done a lot of work taking down trees inside the fire areas. Those guys have been a great asset."
Fox said, within the next couple days, he hopes to report that all three fires are completely contained.
To hear the complete report with Region 24 Emergency Manager Doug Fox from Thursday morning, click on the audio link below:

audio clips/Doug Fox Thursday AM Update.mp3

* Heineman says entire state focused on north central Nebraska efforts

(Posted 9 a.m. July 26, 2012)

Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman joined KBRB's Graig Kinzie Thursday morning to discuss the effort statewide to support the firefighters and volunteers in the area.
To hear the complete report with Gov. Heineman, click on the audio link below:

audio clips/Gov Dave Heineman Thursday Report.mp3

* UN-L Extension taking donations to help cattle producers affected by fires

(Posted 6:50 a.m. July 26, 2012)

North central Nebraska livestock producers have been hit with a one-two punch -- drought and now fire. The extremely dry conditions, coupled with a fire that is burning tens of thousands of acres of pasture land, have caused a disaster of major proportions.
The fire has consumed hundreds of miles of permanent fence, along with what little summer grass was left for several thousand cows and calves to feed on. The fences that have been destroyed will have to be rebuilt before grazing can resume next year, if weather conditions permit a good growing season.
The North Central Development Center in Ainsworth has set up a fund to take monetary donations to help with the cost of the fire. Tax-deductible donations can be mailed to the North Central Development Center at 335 N. Main St., Ainsworth, NE 69210.
Donations of wire and post may be delivered to the Farmers and Ranchers Co-op in Ainsworth, 224 S. Main St. The contact person is Plant Manager Rocky Sheehan at 402-387-2810.
Individuals who want to specify their donations to help with fencing materials and hay may send checks to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension office in Ainsworth. The mailing address is BKR Extension Office, 148 W. Fourth St., Ainsworth, NE 69210. Donations will be deposited into the NCDC Fire Relief Fund.
All funds collected will go to help those who have been affected by the fire. All needs will be taken from the fund, whether it is fencing, hay, feed for animals, personal needs of those impacted by the fire and help for fire departments that have responded to the distress.
For more information, contact the UN-L Extension Office in Ainsworth 1-800-634-8951 or e-mail dbauer1@unl.edu. The NCDC can be contacted at 402-387-2740 for more information.

* Red Cross has delivered more than 4,000 meals to firefighters, volunteers

(Posted 6:45 a.m. July 26, 2012)

Additional volunteers are supporting the relief efforts in north central Nebraska. A total of 21 Red Cross volunteers and staff have been supporting residents and the fire departments who are responding, including four additional volunteers who deployed late Tuesday from northeast Nebraska. Three emergency response vehicles have been on scene providing mobile feeding.
As responders continue to battle the blaze, the Red Cross is reaching out to those whose homes were affected. Case work volunteers are meeting with affected residents to provide food, shelter, comfort and care as needed. Residents affected by the wildfires are urged to call (888) 382-3790 to talk with one of the trained Red Cross volunteers.
Red Cross volunteers will continue to deliver prepared meals to seven fixed sites where responders can escape the intensity of the sun and flames to rehydrate and refuel. There are cots and volunteers there to assist those who are working to contain the fires. So far the Red Cross has served more than 4,000 meals and snacks both in the shelter and to the emergency responders on the front lines.
The Red Cross shelter remains open in the Ainsworth Community Schools facility at 520 E. Second St. in Ainsworth. More than 70 residents, responders and volunteers have stayed at the shelter where they find comfort and care from trained Red Cross Volunteers. Disaster workers in emergency response vehicles are circulating in and near affected areas, delivering water and food, supplies and comfort items.  The Red Cross is working with community partners to provide support.
You can help people affected by disasters such as floods, tornadoes, fires and hurricanes, as well as countless crises at home and around the world, by making a donation to support American Red Cross Disaster Relief. To make a donation, visit www.redcross.org or call 1-800-REDCROSS (1-800-733-2767); people can also text the word “REDCROSS” to 90999 to make a $10 donation.

* Ainsworth fire chief close to declaring Fairfield Creek Fire contained

(Posted 7:15 p.m. July 25, 2012)

Ainsworth Fire Chief Brad Fiala, after six straight days of battling wildfires, told KBRB's Graig Kinzie Wednesday evening he was close to declaring the nearly 100,000-acre Fairfield Creek Fire contained.
"Everything on the south side of the Fairfield Creek Fire has been cold for more than 24 hours, so that is good," Fiala said. "We still have some hot spots west of Norden, but the Valentine crews are doing an excellent job getting that area mopped up."
Fiala said, even if fire officials declare the Fairfield Creek Fire closed soon, there will still be some hot spots along the entire corridor for days to come.
"Don't be too alarmed if you see some smoke for a few days," the Ainsworth fire chief said. "Even if something starts back up, it shouldn't go far. We are still going to be monitoring the area, so if you do see flames let us know."
Fiala said there was an all-out aerial assault today on the Wentworth and Hall fires in southeastern Keya Paha County.
"When I went out and visited the Wentworth Fire today, I didn't see any smoke to the east with the Hall Fire," Fiala said. "They really knocked that one down today."
Fiala said, after six straight days of fighting fire on little rest in demanding weather conditions and terrain, the volunteers are looking forward to getting back to their regular jobs.
"This is our sixth day, and it is still kind of a blur to me," the Plains Equipment employee said. "We need to get back to work and get back to our jobs. It will be nice to get back to our jobs just to get our mind on something different."
He said the costs incurred battling the fires by the area departments are going to be staggering.
"When you get 70, 80, 90 trucks going full bore all day and all night long, that fuel bill is going to be tremendous," Fiala said.
Fuel costs alone could reach the neighborhood of $150,000, and the fire chief said that might be a low estimate. He said the support from the communities, the entire state of Nebraska, and nationwide, is unbelievable, and the volunteers have a hard time putting it into words.
"We have said for years, this is why we live in the place we do," the Ainsworth fire chief said of the area's response. "The overwhelming support we have received has been remarkable."
The North Central Development Center has set up a fund to assist all the area fire departments fighting the Niobrara River valley fires and to assist those who have lost their homes. Checks can be mailed to the North Central Development Center at 335 N. Main St., Ainsworth, NE 69210. Mention the fire relief effort in the check's memo line. Donations will go to all of the area fire departments. All donations are tax deductible, as the North Central Development Center is a 501c3 non-profit organization.
To hear the complete Wednesday evening report with Ainsworth Fire Chief Brad Fiala, click on the audio link below:

audio clips/Fire Chief Brad Fiala Wednesday Evening.mp3

* Communications infrastructure one of the key elements of firefighting efforts

(Posted 7 p.m. July 25, 2012)

With the massive effort of more than 40 local fire departments, state of Nebraska resources, the Nebraska Army National Guard and federal officials in the area combating the Fairfield Creek, Wentworth and Hall fires, communications infrastructure was just one of the vital pieces needed to coordinate the response.
Brian Delimont with Three River Communications discusses with KBRB's Graig Kinzie the communications needs of the various agencies. Click on the audio link below to hear the complete report:

audio clips/Communications Report w Brian Delimont.mp3


(Photo courtesy of Cody Croghan)

Fire burns above the Niobrara River canyon on Monday as the Wentworth Fire in southeastern Keya Paha County jumped out of the river valley. Firefighters pushed the fire back into the canyon Monday night, then spent Tuesday combating a change in wind direction that sent the Wentworth Fire south toward the Niobrara River.


(Photo courtesy of Cody Croghan)

A Blackhawk helicopter hovers near a raging portion of the Wentworth Fire Monday afternoon in Keya Paha County. As of Wednesday evening, the Wentworth Fire had been contained to the canyons on the north side of the Niobrara River valley in southeastern Keya Paha County.

* KBRB's Larry Rice begins putting voices to the volunteer effort

(Posted 4:30 p.m. July 25, 2012)

With the KBRB one-man news team chasing down the latest information on the progress being made to combat the Fairfield Creek, Wentworth and Hall fires burning in Keya Paha, Brown and Cherry counties, former one-man news team Larry Rice is beginning a series highlighting just a few of the stories from the thousands of volunteers who have had an impact on the fire-fighting effort. The following audio report with a 7-year-old Pender boy is the first of that series.

audio clips/Larry Rice Report on Volunteer Effort.mp3

* Fire halls appreciative of donations, cash for fuel bills needed at this point

(Posted noon July 25, 2012)

The Ainsworth, Springview and Bassett Fire halls are reporting they have a substantial supply of water, food and sports drinks. With the area departments racking up extremely expensive fuel bills, cash donations are needed to help the area departments pay for those massive fuel costs. Fuel bills for each department are in the tens of thousands of dollars. At last report, the Springview Fire Department's fuel bill alone was more than $60,000.
Cash donations can be made to the fire halls in Brown, Rock, Keya Paha and Cherry counties. The North Central Development Center has set up a fund to assist all the area fire departments fighting the Niobrara River valley fires and to assist those who have lost their homes.
Checks can be mailed to the North Central Development Center at 335 N. Main St., Ainsworth, NE 69210. Mention the fire relief effort in the check's memo line. Donations will go to all of the area fire departments. All donations are cash deductible, as the North Central Development Center is a 501c3 non-profit organization.
The volunteers working in all of the area fire halls thank all those who have made a donation and volunteered to help. The support has been phenomenal. From the firefighters on the front lines to the volunteers in the fire halls and those helping the Red Cross purchase and prepare meals, thank you to everyone who has helped provide support.
Your help will continue to be needed when the fires are extinguished, as the costs to these small departments will otherwise be monumental.

* Nebraska Emergency Management Agency Update

(Posted 11:30 a.m. July 25, 2012)

Effective at 6 a.m. Wednesday the Fairfield Creek, Wentworth and Hall fires were combined and renamed the Region 24 Complex. The incident will continue to be managed by local units with the Rocky Mountain Type 2 Incident Management Team B providing assistance and coordination.

On Tuesday, Gov. Dave Heineman visited the fire and affected communities.  “I’m very impressed with the interagency coordination,” he said. “I’d like to express my personal gratitude to the firefighters and especially all the volunteers working the incident.”

In spite of the extreme fire weather yesterday, good progress was made on all three fires. Crews were successful in constructing and securing line along several sections of the fires. 

With the projected cooler temperatures and higher relative humidity expected today Todd Pechota, the commander for the Rocky Mountain team, said he is optimistic that they might have turned the corner on this incident.  “However, it’s not over yet - one shift of the wind and we could be off to the races again,” Pechota said. 

According to Doug Fox, Region 24 Emergency Management Director, “We currently have sufficient resources on the incident. If additional resources are needed local fire chiefs will put out a call for assistance.”

A cold front moved through the area last night bringing cooler temperatures and higher relative humidity. Combined with winds out of the north-northwest, this will help moderate fire behavior. 

Additional air resources are expected on the fire today.  They include six heavy-lift helicopters (three Black Hawks, a K-max, a Sky Crane, and a Boeing Vertol) for a total of eight helicopters.  Another K-Max is en route to the complex today.  Break-out by division:

  • Division A (Fairfield Fire): Continue to improve and hold fire line.

  • Division C (Fairfield Fire): Continue to hold and improve line.  Provide structure protection.

  • Division E (Fairfield Fire): Continue to hold and improve line.  Provide structure protection.

  • Division H (Fairfield Fire): Continue to hold and improve line.  Provide structure protection.

  • Division O (Wentworth Fire): Secure line and provide structure protection.

  • Division M (Wentworth Fire): Construct and improve line along Hwy 7.  Provide structure protection.

  • Division X (Hall Fire): Hold and and improve line.  Provide structure protection.

  • Division Z (Hall Fire): Hold and improve line.

Volunteer evacuations are still in place for Meadville.

Niobrara River is closed for recreational use between County Line and Brewer bridges.

Fire stats at a glance:

Start Date: July 20, 2012

Containment: 25 percent

Cause: Lightning

Acreage: 72,405 total (Fairfield 66,745; Wentworth, 3,278; Hall, 2,382)

Personnel: 321, plus approximately 80 Rural Fire Department personnel

Aviation : Six Heavy-lift helicopters, one medium, and one light.

Engines: 30, plus 40 Rural Fire Department engines

Injuries: 3 (minor)

Structures destroyed: 10 and associated outbuildings

Structures/outbuildings threatened: 128

* Firefighters making progress in difficult terrain

(Posted 10:45 a.m. July 25, 2012)

Anyone who claims Nebraska is nothing but flat land needs to spend a day in the shoes of the firefighters who have been fighting raging wildfires in the Niobrara River Valley since Friday.
The steep, wooded terrain in the canyons on both sides of the Niobrara River have proved to be a difficult opponent for the fire crews. Heavy equipment from the Nebraska Department of Roads and private contractors who have volunteered to assist the effort have been working to knock down trees and clear paths into areas otherwise not accessible. That equipment is also being used to create the fire lines, which have helped stall the fires' progress in several areas.
Ainsworth Firefighter Nate Rau said he has been working west end of Fairfield Creek and west of Norden, an area where on Tuesday fire officials concentrated their efforts to keep the Fairfield Creek Fire from breaking a fire line and burning unabated to the west.
"We have been doing our best to make sure it doesn't get any farther west," Rau told KBRB Radio's Graig Kinzie Wednesday morning at the Ainsworth Fire Hall while awaiting orders on where he would be deployed. "It is rough. There is no way to get two-wheel trucks in there."
Rau said, though not working frequently in areas where aerial drops have been made, he has seen their impact.
"They have been helping," Rau said. "We had one Saturday morning drop about right on me, and that cooled me off quite a bit."
To hear the complete report with Ainsworth Firefighter Nate Rau, click on the audio link below:

audio clips/Firefighter Nate Rau.mp3

* Wednesday efforts to focus on Wentworth, Hall fires

(Posted 10 a.m. July 25, 2012)

Region 24 Emergency Manager Doug Fox said progress continues to be made in containing the Fairfield Creek Fire burning in southwest Keya Paha, northwestern Brown and eastern Cherry counties.
Fire officials are focusing their efforts Wednesday on the Wentworth and Hall fires burning in southeastern Keya Paha County.
"Additional ground units are being moved east to assist with the Hall and Wentworth fires," Fox told KBRB Radio's Graig Kinzie Wednesday morning. "There is a concern that both of those fires could jump the Niobrara River to the south, but the federal officials are confident the aerial drops can keep the fire contained to north of the river."
Springview Fire Chief Scott Hallock said firefighters on the front lines of the Wentworth and Hall fires had another exhausting night, first keeping the fire from jumping out of the canyons to the north, then watching as the wind shifted to the north and fires began blazing a new path to the south.
"There is just no way for the ground forces to get in front of it to the south," Hallock said. "The Wentworth Fire is in some very deep canyons. We don't have a way to contain it after the wind shifted."
Hallock said the Niobrara River will be used as the southern containment line for the fires, and additional crews are massing to create fire breaks to try and keep the fires from moving east and threatening additional homes.
Fox said at least nine aircraft will be focused on dropping water and fire retardant on the Hall and Wentworth fires.
As for the Fairfield Creek Fire, Fox reported containment continues to progress, and firefighters made significant progress on the fire's southwest, northwest and southeast boundaries.
"With the resources going to the east today, I am fairly optimistic that in the next few days we can get these fires to the point of being mop-up situations and we can get the job finished," Fox said.
To hear the complete Wednesday morning reports with Region 24 Emergency Manager Doug Fox and Springview Fire Chief Scott Hallock, click on the audio links below:

audio clips/Doug Fox Wednesday AM Report.mp3

audio clips/Springview Chief Scott Hallock Wednesday.mp3


(Photo courtesy of Emily Estes of Stuart)

A C-130 tanker drops flame retardant on a fire burning Tuesday afternoon in the Niobrara River canyon. Firefighters pushed the flames back into the canyon in an attempt to protect Greg Bammerlin's home in southeastern Keya Paha County threatened by the Hall Fire.


(Photo courtesy of Emily Estes of Stuart)

Firefighters from Keya Paha County and several other assisting departments work to save Greg Bammerlin's home in southeastern Keya Paha County Tuesday afternoon as the Hall Fire moves north out of the Niobrara River canyons.


(Aerial photos of the Fairfield Creek Fire courtesy of Jeff Biermann, Omaha-World Herald)

The Fairfield Creek fire burns the bluffs on the north side of the Niobrara River in Keya Paha County on Monday.


(Jeff Biermann, Omaha-World Herald)

The Fairfield Creek fire, which jumped Nebraska Highway 12 Monday and moved north into the grasslands of Keya Paha County. Firefighters stopped the fire.


(Jeff Biermann, Omaha-World Herald)

Sgt. Richard Shearer of the Nebraska National Guard watches for their target for their bucket of water as the Blackhawk helicopter fights the Fairfield Creek fire.


(Jeff Biermann, Omaha-World Herald)

The Fairfield Creek fire north of Nebraska Highway 12 on Monday. Firefighters stopped the fire from continuing north, but 150 acres burned and a home was lost north of Highway 12.

To view Biermann's photo gallery taken from a Blackhawk helicopter above the Fairfield Creek Fire, click on the following link:
http://odc.omaha.com/index.php?u_page=5002&p=3787

* Fiala reports major progress Tuesday on Fairfield Creek Fire

(Posted 9 p.m. July 24, 2012)

Sounding optimistic for the first time since the Fairfield Creek Fire ignited Friday morning, Ainsworth Fire Chief Brad Fiala reported major progress was made on all fronts Tuesday despite another day of extreme heat and south winds.
Fiala said substantial progress was made on the south side of the Niobrara River in the Plum Creek and Meadville areas.
"A large effort was focused on knocking down the flames there because of concerns with the wind possible shifting to the north later tonight," Fiala told KBRB's Graig Kinzie Tuesday evening.
The fire chief said there are still several hotspots north of Norden, southeast of the community of Sparks. On Monday night, fire officials were concerned that Sparks could be in the path of the fire if it continued to progress to the northwest Tuesday.
"We had some large flare-ups there, but we had two Blackhawk helicopters and one Huey dumping from the air," Fiala said. "We made a lot of progress in that area today."
Fiala said, with the number of volunteer crews who have responded to the area to help with the three fires burning in the Niobrara River valley, the Ainsworth crew was going to be pulled off the fire for a night of rest and to allow the department's equipment to be checked and serviced if needed.
"Some other departments have had some equipment problems, so we are pulling everyone off the fire tonight and giving them a night of rest," Fiala said. "We'll get our trucks checked out and hit it hard again tomorrow.
To hear the complete report Tuesday evening with Ainsworth Fire Chief Brad Fiala, click on the audio link below:

audio clips/Brad Fiala Tuesday Night Report.mp3

* Heineman hopeful containment of the fires is progressing

(Posted 7 p.m. July 24, 2012)

After visiting Ainsworth, Springview and Norden Tuesday and hearing a briefing from Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team officials, Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman said he is hopeful meaningful progress is being made in combating the three major fires burning in Brown, Keya Paha and Cherry counties.
"My sense is we are on the verge of making some significant progress to contain the fires, and that would certainly be very good news for all of us," Heineman told KBRB's Graig Kinzie Tuesday evening. "I am pleased to see all the federal, state and local forces working together."
Heineman said the volunteer spirit and effort being displayed in north central Nebraska makes him proud.
"We are in a much stronger position today trying to contain the fires," Heineman said. "I can see we are making progress, but the weather still makes you nervous."
Heineman said the state's focus will remain on assisting the volunteer fire departments in the area until the fires are completely under control.
To hear the complete report with Gov. Dave Heineman from his Tuesday evening conversation with KBRB, click on the audio link below:

audio clips/Gov Heineman Tuesday Evening Report.mp3

* North central Nebraska not the only area dealing with fires

(Posted 6 p.m. July 24, 2012)

Hot, dry weather and stronger western winds helped Ash Creek Fire jump a line and grow to approximately 1,000 acres and 20 percent containment, compared to this morning’s 300 acres and 25 percent containment.

Steve Lenzo, deputy forest supervisor, said, “We ordered a Type 2 Incident Management Team that is expected to arrive tomorrow by mid-afternoon.  At this time there have been no evacuations or structures lost. There was one injury.”

Most of the fire growth is attributed to weather, especially shifting western winds. Additionally, fire crews’ efforts are hindered by steep ravines and rugged terrain.

The Ash Creek fire started from a Saturday late night lightning storm in the Pine Ridge National Recreation Area approximately 20 miles southwest of Chadron.

* Hallock reports Wentworth, Hall fires flaring, but firefighters keeping up

(Posted 5:30 p.m. July 24, 2012)

Springview Fire Chief Scott Hallock told KBRB Radio late Tuesday afternoon the Wentworth and Hall fires burning in southeastern Keya Paha County are again trying to climb out of the Niobrara River Canyons, jump fire lines and move north, but firefighters have been able to get the fires put out before they gain much steam north of the fire lines that have been built.
Hallock said additional manpower and equipment is on scene at the Wentworth and Hall fires today, helping to keep both fires from gaining momentum.
Federal officials are anticipating a wind change Tuesday night, with winds expected to move from southerly to northerly. While Hallock said crews are prepared to combat them if the flames move south, having the fire move back onto ground that has already burned may help firefighters gain even more grounds.
For the complete report from 5 p.m. Tuesday with Springview Fire Chief Scott Hallock, click on the audio link below:

audio clips/Scott Hallock Tuesday 5 PM update.mp3

* Nebraska Emergency Management Agency provides map of fires

(Posted 4:45 p.m. July 24, 2012)


Map provided by the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency

(A larger copy of the map can be emailed by providing a return email address to kbrb@sscg.net, but will be forwarded only as staff time allows)
With the Niobrara River dissecting it, the large orange area on the left is the Fairfield Creek Fire, which is burning in Brown, Keya Paha and Cherry counties on both sides of the Niobrara River. That fire started Friday morning in northern Brown County from a lightning strike. The western edge of the fire is the prime concern for firefighters today, as they are trying to keep the fire east of the fire breaks that have been created along the river valley.
The area jutting to the northern end of the fire area represents the ground that was burned Monday evening after the fire broke the containment line north of Highway 12 approximately 3 miles west of Cub Creek. A home was destroyed when the fire broke north of Highway 12 before firefighters could get it stopped. Approximately 150 acres burned north of Highway 12.
The center orange area represents the scope of the Wentworth Fire in southeastern Keya Paha County. After starting from a lightning strike Saturday, the fire raced to the north Monday afternoon before being pushed back by firefighters into the Niobrara River canyons Monday night.
The far right orange area is the Hall Fire burning in southeastern Keya Paha County. That fire started on Monday and moved quickly to the north, fueled by south winds gusting to 25 mph. Firefighters were able to halt the progress of the Wentworth and Hall fires before any homes were lost.

* Red Cross serving 1,800 meals per day to firefighters, volunteers; donations of cash, bananas, snack mixes and beef jerky sought

(Posted 4:30 p.m. July 24, 2012)

Mindy Mangus, the disaster services manager with the Central Plains Chapter of the American Red Cross, said volunteers with the Red Cross are cooking and serving as many as 1,800 meals daily to assist the firefighters and volunteers working in Brown, Keya Paha and Cherry counties.
Mangus told KBRB's Graig Kinzie Tuesday the Red Cross is delivering meals to 10 staging areas near the front line of the fires, and volunteers are preparing as many as 600 meals per meal from their location at Ainsworth Community Schools.
Mangus said the communities have been very welcoming and appreciative of the Red Cross, and the volunteer support has been tremendous.
She said, in addition to cash donations to help support the 100 percent volunteer effort, the Red Cross can use bananas, Chex Mix, peanuts, and snack items such as beef jerky that are sent out with the prepared meals. Those items can be delivered to Ainsworth Community Schools.
The work of the Red Cross is completely voluntary, and free of charge for those receiving its services. Red Cross operations are paid for through the generosity of the American public.
For the complete report with Mindy Mangus, click on the audio report below:

audio clips/Mindy Mangus w the Red Cross.mp3

The Red Cross has mobilized to support area residents and the more than 30 fire fighting departments who are responding to the Fairfield Creek Wildfire in north central Nebraska with urgently needed hydration, meals and a shelter to comfort those in need. 
So far, the Red Cross has served 2,583 meals and snacks both in the shelter and to the emergency responders at the front lines. The organization has also provided cots and other relief items to firefighters in multiple staging areas set up in the field.
The Red Cross shelter remains open in the Ainsworth Community Schools facility at 520 E. Second St. in Ainsworth.
Displaced residents and responders can find comfort and care from trained Red Cross Volunteers. Disaster workers in emergency response vehicles are circulating in and near affected areas, delivering water and food, supplies and comfort items. The Red Cross is working with community partners to provide support.
The easiest way to help is to make a financial donation. Financial donations are the best option to support those in need because they offer agencies, like the Red Cross, the most flexibility in obtaining the most-needed resources. Donations of goods require helping agencies to redirect valuable resources away from providing relief services to sort, transport, warehouse and distribute items that may not meet the needs of those affected by the disaster.
You can help people affected by disasters such as floods, tornadoes, fires and hurricanes, as well as countless crises at home and around the world, by making a donation to support AmericanRed Cross Disaster Relief. To make a donation, visit www.redcross.org or call 1-800-REDCROSS (1-800-733-2767).  Contributions may also be sent to a local American Red Cross chapter or to the American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, DC 20013.

* Southern Baptist Disaster Relief Team volunteers preparing 1,800 meals daily

(Posted 4:30 p.m. July 24, 2012)

Andrew Lee of North Platte is one of the 17 volunteers from the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief Team assisting the American Red Cross by cooking meals at Ainsworth Community Schools for the firefighters battling the fires burning in the area and the volunteers working to help support the firefighting effort.
Lee said the Southern Baptist team volunteers have been welcomed warmly to the area, and are working hard to provide the firefighters and volunteers with the energy they need to sustain their effort.
For the complete report with Andrew Lee from the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief Team, click on the audio link below:

audio clips/Southern Baptist Disaster Relief Team Report.mp3

* Johanns says he will pursue additional federal resources if needed

(Posted 2:45 p.m. July 24, 2012)

U.S. Sen. Mike Johanns said on Tuesday he is monitoring the fires burning in the Niobrara River Valley, and will pursue additional federal resources for the area if needed.
“This summer’s drought has adversely affected nearly every Nebraskan and is now exacerbating the wildfires in the Niobrara River Valley,” Johanns said. “My thoughts are with those who have been displaced, who have lost homes, or whose livelihoods are being threatened. I also want to join every Nebraskan in thanking the firefighters, National Guard and other emergency responders for their dedicated, tireless service as they work to extinguish this blaze.
“I am closely monitoring the situation and in contact with the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency and county officials. If additional federal assistance is required, I’m ready to ensure that aid is delivered quickly and efficiently.”

* Officials provide Gov. Heineman with an update on fire progress

(Posted 2:30 p.m. July 24, 2012)

Officials with the Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team provided Gov. Dave Heineman and Nebraska Emergency Management Agency officials with an update on the three fires burning in Brown, Keya Paha and Cherry counties.
Officials said the priority for fire officials today is the western lines of the Fairfield Creek Fire. A substantial effort is being made to stop the western progress of the fire, which has entered Cherry County west of the Rocky Ford area.
With fire crews launching a massive effort to create fire breaks in that area, if the fire jumps those breaks and continues west, it will be extremely difficult to contain.
Heineman said any state resources needed will be available to combat the three fires burning in the Niobrara River valley.
"We don't want these fires going on for another two or three weeks," Heineman said. "With the conditions we have across the state, we could see more and more fires spring up."
Heineman asked about a realistic estimate for having the fires brought under control.
"I know that is hard a question to answer at this point, but do you have any sense on when you can say it is contained?" Heineman asked.
The Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team officials indicated, unless the fires erupted again Tuesday afternoon and evening and broke out past the fire lines, that the fires could be contained in approximately three days, though they said there are still several factors that could alter that timeline.
Officials estimated the containment of the Fairfield Creek Fire at 15 percent on Tuesday, though they said they hoped that percentage would go up by nightfall.
Region 24 Emergency Manager Doug Fox said there are an additional 22 to 24 pieces of fire equipment moving into the area today from surrounding volunteer departments.
"That is going to allow some of these departments that have been up here for a while to rotate back out," Fox said.
Though costs of the federal and state resources used in the fire-fighting effort were briefly discussed, Heineman said the first priority was getting the fires controlled.
Following the briefing, Heineman toured the Norden area to see first-hand the damage caused by the Fairfield Creek Fire as it moved through that community on Friday night.
Following a tour of the area today, Heineman will appear on KBRB to talk about the firefighting efforts and the state and federal response.

* Nebraska Emergency Management Agency Tuesday fire report, statistics

(Posted 12:50 p.m. July 24, 2012)

“We will coordinate and integrate efforts with local, state and federal resources to be effective as possible,said Incident Commander Todd Pechota at this morning’s briefing. “The Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team 2B is interagency, comprised of state and local resources, as well as federal. Our role is to assist and coordinate state and local fire management.”

Hot, dry conditions are expected for another day at the Fairfield Creek, Wentworth fire and Hall fires in north central Nebraska close to the Niobrara River. A total of approximately 65,580 acres have burned.

The Fairfield fire is approximately 58,560 acres and straddles the river. The Wentworth fire is 20 miles east of the Fairfield Creek fire and 3 miles north of the river. It is estimated at 2,595 acres.

A new fire started yesterday approximately 6 miles east of the current Wentworth fire and 3 miles north of the river.  It has been labeled the Hall Fire and was estimated at 1,425 in size. Both the Wentworth and Hall fires are east of Springview.

For most of Tuesday hot and dry weather is expected.  A heat advisory is in effect until 9 p.m. on Tuesday and a Red Flag Warning is in effect for winds and low relative humidity. Late afternoon severe weather with high winds is forecast with the potential to affect fire behavior.

Work continues on the four divisions of the Fairfield Creek fire:

Division A (southwest) Cherry County Fire District—continue to establish and hold line.

Division C (northwest): Springview Fire District, Keya Paha County--hold line and burn-out where possible to bring defensible line down to the river.

Division E (northeast): Springview Fire District, Keya Paha County—anchor line at the river, hold, improve and secure spot that crossed Highway 12.

Division H (southeast): Ainsworth Fire District, Brown County—construct a direct hand line toward the southwest.

Air Operations

Four Helicopters and Two Air Tactical Platforms will continue to assist ground crews in achieving containment goals. 

Fire retardant drops may be available.

Road Closures

Road blocks will be in place on Highway 12.  Motorists are asked to find alternate travel routes. The Meadville Avenue and Norden Road are also closed to traffic.

Evacuations: 

Volunteer evacuations are still in place for Meadville.

Niobrara River is closed for recreational use between County Line and Brewer bridges.

Fire stats at a glance:

Start Date: July 20, 2012

Containment: 15%

Cause: Lightning

Acreage: 65,580 total

Personnel: 239

Aviation : (3) Type (1) National Guard Black Hawks, and 1 Type 2

Engines: 30

Injuries: 3 (minor)

Structures destroyed: 10 and associated outbuildings

Structures/outbuildings threatened: 80

* North Central Development Center has established a Pay Pal account for funds to support fire departments

(Posted 11:30 a.m. July 24, 2012)

The North Central Development Center has established an online Pay Pal account that allows those who would like to donate funds to support the firefighters fighting the Fairfield Creek, Wentworth and Hall fires.
Go to Facebook and like the North Central Development Center. A link to the Pay Pal account can be found on the NCDC Facebook page.
For those not on Facebook, make checks payable to the North Central Development Center, 335 N. Main St., Ainsworth, NE 69210. Write fire relief on the check.
All donations are tax deductible, and 100 percent of the money donated will be used to support the firefighting efforts and support the victims who have lost their homes.

* Springview fire chief says Wentworth, Hall fires pushed back into Niobrara River canyons, 1 home lost west of Springview when fire jumped Highway 12

(Posted 11:15 a.m. July 24, 2012)

Springview Fire Chief Scott Hallock said crews worked through the night to push back the Wentworth and Hall fires southeast of Springview that raced north Monday afternoon fueled by the heat and strong south winds.
"We have both those fires contained to the canyons, but they could flare up again today with the wind," Hallock reported at 11 a.m. Tuesday from the Springview Fire Hall.
Hallock said the Wentworth and Hall fires were kept clear of homes in southeastern Keya Paha County, but one home west of Springview was damaged Monday evening when the Fairfield Creek fire jumped the northern containment at Highway 12 approximately 3 miles west of Cub Creek, 6 miles west of Springview.
Hallock praised the volunteers working in the Springview Fire Hall to keep the front lines supplied with water and food.
"They were making food and water runs out to the guys at 3 and 4 a.m. this morning," Hallock said.
He reported federal forces were assisting with the Hall and Wentworth fires, and fire lines would continue to be created with some back-burning to try and keep the fires from moving north rapidly if they again move up out of the river canyons.
To hear the complete report with the Springview fire chief, click on the audio link below:

audio clips/Scott Hallock Tuesday 11AM Fire Report.mp3

* Susan Ford with the Rocky Mountain Incident Management team checks in with an update on the fire response efforts

(Posted 10:45 a.m. July 24)

audio clips/Susan Ford incident management Tuesday report.mp3

* Firefighters describe conditions at the front line of the fires

(Posted 9:30 a.m. July 24, 2012)

Ainsworth Volunteer Firefighter Brandon Evans said he has never seen anything like the fire burning in the Niobrara River valley.
It is unbelievable," Evans told KBRB's Graig Kinzie Tuesday morning as his crew was getting its marching orders and preparing to head back out for another day on the fire lines. "I never imagined something like this could happen. I hope we never see anything like it again."
Evans said the crews are basically trying to surround the Niobrara River valley and put out fires as they jump out of the canyons.
"We have seen fire moving at more than 60 mph," Evans said.
Ainsworth Firefighter Jeff Keezer said his crew was out 32 hours straight from the time the Fairfield Creek Fire ignited Friday morning north of Johnstown until they grabbed a break Saturday morning.
"After we got a little break, we went back out for another 24 hours," Keezer said.
Keezer said trying to get ahead of the flames when they break out of the canyons is not an easy task for the crews on the front line.
"When it breaks out, you are moving fast and driving hard over some very rough terrain," Keezer said.
To hear the complete report with the firefighters, click on the audio link below:

audio clips/Report w firefighters Evans & Keezer.mp3

* Region 24 manager says crews made progress overnight, another tough day ahead

(Posted 9:15 a.m. July 24, 2012)

Region 24 Emergency Manager Doug Fox told KBRB Tuesday morning progress was made overnight to push the numerous fires burning in Brown, Keya Paha and Cherry counties back into the Niobrara River basin after gusting south winds Monday caused the fire to break out at several locations.
Fox said the Wentworth Fire exploded Monday, but crews there pushed it back south into the canyons and are now working on fire lines in anticipation of strong south winds again today.
Fires continue to burn in several locations. He said the western edge of the Fairfield Creek fire was still burning west of Norden in the Rocky Ford area, and fires were still burning on both the north and south sides of the Niobrara River.
The hear the complete report Tuesday with the Region 24 emergency manager, click on the audio link below:

audio clips/Doug Fox Tuesday AM report.mp3

* Ainsworth fire chief says ground units struggling to keep up with fires; asks Sparks residents to be on alert in case fire continues west

(Posted 9:15 p.m. July 23, 2012)

Ainsworth Fire Chief Brad Fiala says the 300 to 400 fire personnel are doing their best to knock down fires that are flaring to the north out of the Niobrara River valley at numerous locations, pushed by gusting south winds and extreme heat on Monday.
Fiala said the Fairfield Creek Fire's western edge is burning rapidly, and the small community of Sparks should be on notice that an evacuation may be necessary on Tuesday if the fire continues on its current path.
"Today, the aerial units were giving the ground forces their only chance to keep up," Fiala said. "If we can keep the wind down on Tuesday, we might be able to get on top of it a little."
During the late afternoon hours Monday, a portion of the Fairfield Creek Fire broke the northern containment line on Highway 12 approximately 3 miles west of Cub Creek.
"It burned about 150 acres north of Highway 12, but the fire resources in that area got it knocked down," Fiala said. "It would have been a huge fire in that terrain if had kept burning north, and there would have been no place to stop it."
Fiala also commended the work of the crews that battled the Wentworth and Hall fires in southeastern Keya Paha County on Monday afternoon.
"The Wentworth Fire blew up in the early afternoon hours," the Ainsworth fire chief said. "Those guys were working really hard to slow that fire down."
For the complete Monday night report with Ainsworth Fire Chief Brad Fiala, click on the audio link below.

audio clips/Fire Chief Brad Fiala Monday Night.mp3

* Fairfield Creek Fire reportedly crosses Highway 12 west of Springview

(Posted 5:45 p.m. July 23, 2012)

KBRB has received reports that a portion of the Fairfield Creek Fire has moved across Highway 12 west of Springview, which had been the northern boundary of the fire that has been burning since Friday morning.
The fire reportedly jumped the highway approximately three miles west of Cub Creek.
Firefighters are continuing to battle extreme weather conditions in addition to the fires, and are working to try and keep the flames from breaking free to the north of the river valley in several areas.
KBRB will try and bring listeners an evening update on the status of the Fairfield Creek, Wentworth and Hall fires.

* Area departments trying to head off fires in southeastern Keya Paha County

(Posted 5 p.m. July 23, 2012)

Springview Fire Chief Scott Hallock said crews in southeastern Keya Paha County are struggling to slow down the Wentworth Fire and the Hall Fire that have jumped out of the Niobrara River valley and are being pushed northwest by the wind.
Hallock said the Wentworth Fire is now eight miles southeast of Springview, moving to the northeast, and the Hall Fire is located farther east in southeastern Keya Paha County.
Hallock said getting enough water to the fire crews is a big issue at this point, as tankers are doing their best to keep up with demand. Firefighters on the ground are also trying to coordinate with one of the Blackhawk helicopters being used to drop water from the air.
For the complete report with Springview Fire Chief Scott Hallock, click on the audio link below:

audio clips/Scott Hallock update on southeastern KPC fires.mp3

* Firefighter and EMT Ann Fiala discusses the volunteer effort

(Posted 4:45 p.m. July 23, 2012)

Ann Fiala, a firefighter and Emergency Medical Technician who is helping to coordinate the volunteers assisting the front lines with food and water, told KBRB Monday afternoon she continues to be overwhelmed by the way the communities have come together to support the firefighting effort.
For the full report with Fiala, including how to assist the volunteer effort, click on the audio link below:

audio clips/Ann Fiala report on volunteer effort.mp3

* Fox reports 3 fires jumping out of Niobrara canyons fueled by dry, south winds

(Posted 4 p.m. July 23, 2012)

In addition to the Wentworth Fire in southeastern Keya Paha County that has jumped out of the Niobrara River basin and is moving northeast, Region 24 Emergency Manager Doug Fox said a new fire, being referred to as the Hall Fire, is now burning in southeastern Keya Paha County east of the Wentworth Fire, and a third fire has jumped out of the river canyons in western Keya Paha County. These flare-ups are in addition to the large Fairfield Creek Fire that continues to burn in the river canyons in northwestern Brown and southwestern Keya Paha counties.
To listen to the full report with Region 24 Emergency Manager Doug Fox, click on the audio link below:

audio clips/Doug Fox Monday Afternoon Report.mp3

* Wentworth Fire southeast of Springview breaks containment, heading northeast

(Posted 2:15 p.m. July 23, 2012)

During the late morning and early afternoon hours on Monday, the fire burning in southeastern Keya Paha County known as the Wentworth Fire broke containment in the Niobrara River basin canyon area and is now moving over open ground to the northeast.
Springview Fire Chief Scott Hallock said the fire is moving quickly, and personnel from several departments are en route to try and get ahead of the fire as it moves to the northeast.
Hallock said, if its present direction holds, the fire should miss Burton, but it could move close to that community if the departments cannot get it slowed down.
Residents potentially in the fire's path have been notified. Temperatures at 2 p.m. were already 104 degrees and climbing, with south winds at 16 gusting to 25 mph.
To hear the full report with Springview Fire Chief Scott Hallock, click on the audio link below:

audio clips/Scott Hallock - Wentworth Fire.mp3

* Federal team coordinating firefighting efforts from conference center

(Posted 11:30 a.m. July 23, 2012)

The Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team 2 Bravo has set up in the Ainsworth Conference Center to help coordinate firefighting efforts on the Fairfield Creek Fire. This is the third wildland fire to which the team has been deployed during 2012.
KBRB's Graig Kinzie spoke with Susan Ford, the team's public information officer, Monday in the conference center.
Ford said aerial infrared data shows the southwestern and southeastern edges of the Fairfield Creek Fire are continuing to burn at a very high temperature. She said their aerial surveillance of the fire showed it had burned approximately 50,000 acres. Estimates have ranged from 50,000 to 100,000 acres that have burned since the fire started Friday morning in the Fairfield Creek area.
To hear the complete report with Ford, click on the audio link below:

audio clips/Rocky Mountain Incident Management.mp3

* Meadville Avenue, Norden Road, Highway 12 remain closed

(Posted 10 a.m. July 23, 2012)

Brown County Sheriff Bruce Papstein reported Monday morning to KBRB that the Norden Road and Meadville Avenue in both Brown and Keya Paha counties, and Highway 12 in Keya Paha County remain closed to traffic.
Papstein said, with fire equipment traveling the narrow roads, other vehicle traffic is prohibited. He warned people to stay away from the area. Law enforcement officials have had to warn several motorists to turn around who were trying to make their way toward the Niobrara River for a closer look at the fire.
To hear the complete report with Sheriff Papstein, click on the audio link below:

audio clips/Sheriff Papstein Road Closure Report.mp3

* Fox reports another home lost Sunday night, 1 feared lost found still standing

(Posted 8:30 a.m. July 23, 2012)

Region 24 Emergency Manager Doug Fox said he plans to tour the area to assess the damage from the Fairfield Creek Fire, which has been burning since Friday morning in northwestern Brown County and southwestern Keya Paha County.
More than 100,000 acres have burned. Fox said six homes have been lost to the fire. One home feared lost in the Norden area was found still intact with only the outbuildings burned. That home was one of several in the Norden area that were saved from destruction, though others were lost.
However, Fox said the fire again jumped the Niobrara River to the south, where it destroyed a home in the Fairfield Creek area Sunday night. He said the fire is moving quickly west, and is now burning several miles west of Norden. Another finger of the fire is burning in the Rocky Ford area of Cherry County.
Fox said the wind will be the main factor on Monday, and could cause additional problems. He said the backfire efforts west of Meadville has stopped the fire for the time being from moving east. Those backfires were set approximately five miles west of Meadville to remove the dry vegetation on which the fire is feeding.
The fire is still burning in Brown County south of the Niobrara River, and is currently west of the old Plum Creek dam.
To hear the complete report from Monday morning with the Region 24 emergency manager, click on the audio link below:

audio clips/Doug Fox Monday Report.mp3

* Heineman reports state assets being brought to bear on Fairfield Creek Fire

(Posted 8:30 a.m. July 23, 2012)

Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman told KBRB Monday morning state and federal resources have been brought in to assist with the effort to contain the Fairfield Creek Fire.
Heineman said a federal incident management team has taken control of the coordination of the firefighting efforts. He said the federal team has extensive experience in fighting wildland fires.
To hear the full report with Gov. Heineman, click on the audio link below:

audio clips/Gov Heineman Monday Report.mp3

* Fairfield Creek Fire 50 percent contained, but tentative with Monday winds expected; 6 homes lost thus far

(Posted 8:30 p.m. July 22, 2012)

In a report with KBRB's Graig Kinzie Sunday evening, Region 24 Emergency Manager Doug Fox estimated the Fairfield Creek Fire was 50 percent contained, though that figure could easily change Monday as southwest winds are forecast at 10-20 and gusting to 30 mph.
Fox said six homes have been destroyed by the fire since it started Friday morning north of Johnstown from a lightning strike. The fire tore through the Norden area Friday, but Fox said some homes have been saved in that area.
As of Sunday evening, the western edge of the fire was the most aggressive, burning rapidly west of Norden and potentially endangering three homes. Fire breaks burned Sunday west of Meadville have helped slow the eastern movement of the fire and protect the Meadville area for another day. The northern edge of the zone remains at Highway 12, and the southern edge of the fire continues to jump south of the Niobrara River.
Fox said the fire that started in southeastern Keya Paha County Saturday evening due to a lightning strike has been contained to the river canyons. No homes have been lost in that fire.
For the complete report Sunday with Region 24 Manager Doug Fox, click on the link below:

audio clips/Doug Fox Sunday Evening Report.mp3

* Updated information from the American Red Cross

(Posted July 22, 2012)

KBRB's Graig Kinzie spoke with Red Cross volunteer Susan Epps Sunday on the activities of the organization, which has set up a shelter at Ainsworth Community Schools to aid firefighters and those who have been displaced by the Fairfield Creek Fire.
Also, Ainsworth Fire Hall volunteers reported they now have a sufficient number of coolers to transport water to the front lines of the fire. They again thank everyone who has made donations to the firefighting effort.
To hear the full report with Susan Epps of the Red Cross, click on the link below:

audio clips/Red Cross Sunday update.mp3

* NCDC setting up online avenue to assist firefighting effort

(Posted July 22, 2012)

The North Central Development Center is in the process of setting up an online shopping cart for all of the local departments and those who have been impacted by the fire.
All donations will be tax-deductible. Anyone who would like to help with the effort can go online to donate to the departments. As soon as everything is set up, more information will be posted. Items the departments have requested include an ice truck, supplies and items for the families who have lost their home. The North Central Development Center thanks everyone who is supporting the effort to control the Fairfield Creek Fire.

* Fiala reports fire still threatening Meadville area, impossible to control

(Posted July 22, 2012)

Ainsworth Fire Chief Brad Fiala said two Ainsworth firefighters were injured while working on the front lines of the Fairfield Creek Fire on Saturday. Both firefighters were injured while working on the fire lines. They were taken to the Cherry County Hospital, where they were treated and released.
Fiala said the difficult terrain and the high level of fuel in the Niobrara River valley are making the fire almost impossible to slow down. Fiala said a large amount of resources are being utilized to protect Meadville. He said C-130 tankers are being flown into the area dropping fire retardant, and three Blackhawk helicopters are taking water from area dams and dropping it in certain areas.
Fire lines are in the vicinity of the Coleman Creek canyon west of Norden on the fire's western front, west of Meadville on the eastern front, Highway 12 on its northern boundary, and just south of the Niobrara River on its southern boundary.
Winds are not expected to blow at more than 10 to 15 mph for the remainder of Sunday, and will generally be from the northwest. However, on Monday, winds are expected out of the south at 15-20 mph with gusts to 30 mph.
To hear the full report from Fire Chief Fiala, click on the link below:

audio clips/Brad Fiala Sunday Fire Report.mp3

* Heineman activates Emergency Operations Plan; 3 Blackhawk helicopters dropping water on Fairfield Creek Fire

(Posted July 22, 2012)

Gov. Dave Heineman has activated the State Emergency Operations Plan in response to the fire emergency in Brown and Keya Paha Counties. Saturday, Heineman surveyed firsthand the affected areas in north central Nebraska and met with local responders in Ainsworth, Long Pine and Norden.

“I am continually impressed with the hard work of Nebraskans in difficult situations,” Heineman said. “The local communities are working very hard and are supportive of the efforts of local responders and firefighters, including providing aid in the forms of food and water. We will continue to work closely together as we fight these fires.”

The Nebraska National Guard continues to mobilize available resources as the response grows. This includes the mobilization of three Nebraska Army National Guard UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters equipped with “Bambi buckets” and approximately 28 personnel to provide support to local firefighters fighting a wildfire in Keya Paha and Brown Counties at the request of the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency. The helicopters are equipped with “Bambi buckets” which can scoop water from local sources and place the water where needed by ground firefighters.

The Nebraska National Guard is also preparing to send up to 35 additional ground, red-card certified Nebraska National Guardsmen to support local firefighters if needed.

Resources from the Nebraska State Patrol, Nebraska Department of Roads, the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency and the State Fire Marshal’s Office are also responding to the emergency.

At the beginning of this month, Heineman authorized an emergency declaration for statewide drought and fires that allows state personnel and resources to assist with emergency situations and prevention, and allows maximum flexibility to the state to deploy Nebraska National Guard and Nebraska Emergency Management Agency assets and resources as needed.

The governor and the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency will continue to monitor the situation throughout the state, as the drought continues.

* Gov. Heineman reports additional state resources on the way to battle fire

(Posted July 21, 2012)

Calling in Saturday evening to KBRB, Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman said two additional Blackhawk helicopters and members of the Nebraska National Guard would be in the area Sunday to help combat the Fairfield Creek Fire, which as of Saturday evening had burned to within four miles west of Meadville.
Heineman said the state of Nebraska has declared a state of emergency to allow for the use of additional state and federal resources to combat wild fires in the state.
The complete audio report with Gov. Heineman can be accessed by clicking the link below.

audio clips/Gov Heineman Report Saturday.mp3

* Fairfield Creek Fire has now burned approximately 100,000 acres

(Posted July 21, 2012)

Region 24 Emergency Manager Doug Fox said the Fairfield Creek Fire was now burning out of control on Saturday evening. Despite massive efforts from fire departments representing almost one-third of Nebraska, the fire is burning faster than allows for fire lines to be established.
Fox said firefighters were beginning to experience major fatigue and heat-related problems, and a few firefighters have been injured in non-fire incidents relating to digging fire suppression lines.
The fire, at last report, was located four to five miles west of Meadville, which has been evacuated. The fire on Friday devastated the small community of Norden on the north side of the Niobrara River in Keya Paha County.
Additional fires have sparked southeast of Springview Saturday evening from another round of lightning strikes, and some of the firefighting resources from the Fairfield Creek Fire were moved to suppress those fires before they spread.
The complete report with Region 24 Manager Doug Fox is located below. Click on the link for the audio report.

audio clips/Doug Fox Saturday Update.mp3
 

* Brown County Ambulance Service requests towels, ice packs

(Posted July 21, 2012)

Anyone with towels and ice packs to spare, please drop them off at the Brown County Ambulance Service. The towels and ice packs will be used to help aid in cooling down firefighters battling the Fairfield Creek Fire.

Some area retailers are running low on water and ice. Deliveries are expected again tomorrow. Stay tuned to KBRB for reports on inventory supply.

* Report with Red Cross organizer Susan Epps

(Posted July 21, 2012)
(Click on the link below for the audio report)

audio clips/Red Cross Report.mp3

* Red Cross volunteers have arrived at Ainsworth Community Schools

(Posted July 21, 2012)

The American Red Cross has opened a shelter for people displaced by the Niobrara River Canyon Fire in north central Nebraska.  The shelter is located in the Ainsworth Community Schools facility at 520 E. Second St. Anyone displaced by the fire is urged to come to the shelter for a safe place to sleep, a meal, minor first aid, referrals and a shoulder to lean on. Volunteer teams will continue to provide food and hydration to the firefighters from 16 departments battling the wildfire.
As soon as conditions are deemed safe by local authorities, additional Red Cross volunteers will arrive to assess damage to area homes and conduct interviews with affected families. Food, clothing, shelter, comfort and care will be provided based on need. Snacks and drinks will be provided to area residents as well.

* Red Cross setting up emergency shelter at Ainsworth Community Schools

(Posted July 21, 2012)

Two teams of Red Cross volunteers from Grand Island and North Platte are setting up an emergency shelter at Ainsworth Community Schools for residents evacuated from the path of the Fairfield Creek Fire.
The Red Cross will also help provide meals and hydration to firefighters from the now more than 16 departments trying to battle the fire in the Niobrara River Valley.
More Red Cross volunteers are standing by. The Red Cross will work with local agencies and community organizations to ensure that the needs of first responders and those who have been evacuated are met.
To make a donation to the Red Cross Disaster Relief, call 1-800-REDCROSS or visit the web at www.redcross.org.

* Emergency personnel evacuating area east of the Norden Bridge to Highway 183

(Posted July 21, 2012)

Region 24 Emergency Manager Doug Fox has issued an evacuation notice for all residents of the Niobrara Valley from the Norden Bridge east to Highway 183. This evacuation notice includes Meadville and the surrounding area.
The Fairfield Creek Fire is moving quickly to the east today, and with the dry and hot conditions and the steep terrain.
Those people east of the Norden Bridge to Highway 183 need to evacuate to the south, not to the north. Those evacuees are asked to report to the Ainsworth Community Schools, where the Red Cross has set up a temporary shelter.
The Brown County Ambulance Service is asking for donations of ice packs and towels to help cool down firefighters who have been battling the fire since it started before 10 a.m. Friday.
Stay tuned to KBRB for the latest information on the Fairfield Creek Fire.

* Updated Fairfield Creek Fire Report with Region 24 Emergency Manager Fox

(Posted at 8 a.m. Saturday, 2012)

(click on the link below)

audio clips/Doug Fox Fire Update.mp3

Fox reported the fire has now burned more than 30,000 acres, with numerous structures destroyed. Firefighters are trying to contain the fire to a line south of Highway 12, and fire lines have been set up both east and west of Norden. Fox said the fire is still raging in the Norden area. While firefighters try and contain the fire from the east and the west, aerial support is being brought in from South Dakota and other areas. A Blackhawk helicopter is dropping water on the flames, and a tanker plane from Rapid City will be utilized to drop a slurry mixture on the flames.
Fox said any food, water and ice donations for the firefighters can be taken to the Ainsworth Fire Hall. Highway 12 west of Springview remains closed. No traffic is allowed anywhere near the Norden area, which has been completely evacuated.

* Audio report with Ainsworth Fire Chief Brad Fiala Friday evening

* Fox reports leading edge of Fairfield Creek Fire 6 to 7 miles wide

(Posted 8 p.m. July 20, 2012)

Region 24 Emergency Manager Doug Fox is reporting the leading edge of the Fairfield Creek Fire is between 6 and 7 miles wide as it moves through Keya Paha County north of Highway 12.
"The wind is starting to switch a little, so we may be able to start slowing this thing down," Fox said.
The fire has burned several thousand acres in northern Brown County and southern and central Keya Paha County, including extensive damage in the community of Norden. Numerous homes and structures in the Norden area have been damaged, though Fox said the exact number of homes damaged won't be known until the area can be surveyed.
Fox said more firefighting assets continue to move into the area, as units from the six-county North Platte Mutual Aid District are making their way to the area from as far south as Curtis. Fox said those firefighters will concentrate on mopping up hot spots Saturday in both Brown and Keya Paha counties.
A large air tanker from Rapid City, S.D. will also be in the area Saturday, as will a water-carrying helicopter from Lincoln.
No injuries have been reported from the fires, though Fox said some firefighters were being treated for symptoms relating to heat stress. A Long Pine Volunteer Fire Department truck was destroyed by the Fairfield Creek Fire, and a second truck belonging to the South Brown County Fire Department was damaged fighting a second fire south of Long Pine Friday afternoon, though Fox said that truck will be salvageable but will require new wiring.
Fox will again appear on KBRB Saturday morning to provide an update on the firefighting activities and the extent of the damage.

* Fire does severe damage to Norden area, jumps Highway 12 containment line

(Posted July 20 at 6:30 p.m., 2012)

The small community of Norden has been severely damaged by a fast-moving fire that began at 9:45 a.m. Friday north of Johnstown, jumped the Niobrara River and broke through a containment line on Highway 12 in Keya Paha County.
Recapping the events since the fire was first reported 13 to 14 miles north of Johnstown, the flames moved quickly through the Fairfield Creek area and jumped across the Niobrara River. The fire began moving north through Keya Paha County. Residents of Norden and the surrounding area were evacuated ahead of the fire reaching the community.
Region 24 Emergency Manager Doug Fox told KBRB Radio's Graig Kinzie Friday evening most of the Norden area has sustained extensive damage. No injuries have been reported due to the fire, but the Long Pine Rural Volunteer Fire Department did lose a fire truck to the blaze, and another truck belonging to the South Brown County Fire Department was damaged fighting another Friday afternoon fire south of Long Pine. Fox said that truck is salvageable with new wiring.
"We haven't had any injuries," Fox said. "People were evacuated ahead of time. Some of our firefighters are experiencing some symptoms of heat stress."
Temperatures Friday again soared to near 105 degrees, and south winds gusting to 25 mph led to the fire moving quickly through the area already dealing with severe drought.
As of 6 p.m. Friday, the fire had burned an area more than 10 miles long and reportedly up to four miles wide in some areas near Norden.
"The fire is moving faster than we can keep up with," Fox said after the blaze jumped a containment line set up on Highway 12 in Keya Paha County.
Some residents living north of Highway 12 in northern Keya Paha County and into southern Tripp County, S.D., are being evacuated. Highway 12 has been closed to traffic west of Springview.
Firefighters from the Ainsworth, Johnstown, Wood Lake, Long Pine, Bassett, Springview, Calamus, Raven and South Brown County departments battled what is being referred to as the Fairfield Creek Fire, while the Ainsworth, Long Pine, Bassett and Stuart fire departments fought the fire south of Long Pine. That fire was brought under control by 5 p.m. Friday. Damage from the fire south of Long Pine was limited to pasture ground and the loss of the South Brown County Fire Department truck.
Fox reported additional fires were burning north of Merriman in Cherry County on both sides of the Niobrara River, and east of the Spencer Dam in Boyd County. All of the fires in the area Thursday night and Friday morning were sparked by lightning from a storm that carried extensive lightning but little rain.
Aerial support was utilized, but Fox said the numerous buckets of water dropped from the plane were not effective in slowing down the fire in Keya Paha County.
The extent of the damage is not yet known, but thousands of acres and numerous structures, including homes, have now been burned by the Fairfield Creek Fire.
Brown County Board of Commissioners Chairman Buddy Small on Friday signed a declaration asking for disaster assistance for the county stemming from the wildfires burning in northern and southern Brown County.
Dozens of volunteers flooded the Ainsworth Fire Hall with bottled water, sports drinks, ice and coolers to send to the front lines of the fires. Organizer Heather Walnofer said the outpouring of support from the area has been overwhelming.
Stay tuned to KBRB for additional information.

* Fire crosses Niobrara River, Norden area evacuated

(Posted July 20 as of 4:50 p.m., 2012)

The fire burning north of Johnstown has crossed the Niobrara River, pushed by strong south winds. The Keya Paha County Sheriff's Department confirmed at 4:45 p.m. firefighters are attempting to contain the fire to an area south of Highway 12 in Keya Paha County.
Norden residents and those in Keya Paha County between the Niobrara River and Highway 12 in the Norden area have been evacuated from their residences.
Traffic is prohibited in the area until the fire has been contained.
The Keya Paha County Sheriff's Department is asking for anyone with a large disc to call the sheriff's department at 402-497-3201, as firefighters are trying to utilize that type of equipment to create a containment area and keep the fire from crossing Highway 12.
The Brown County Sheriff's Department reported just before 5 p.m. Friday the fire burning south of Long Pine had been brought under control by the Long Pine, Ainsworth, Stuart and Bassett departments. A Brown County Rural Fire Department truck was damaged fighting the fire south of Long Pine, though no injuries were reported.
No structure damage has been reported with either fire, though that could change as the fire moves its way from the Niobrara River north into the Norden area in Keya Paha County.
Brown County Board of Commissioners Chairman Buddy Small on Friday signed a declaration asking for disaster assistance for the county stemming from the wildfires burning in northern and southern Brown County. Aerial resources continue to be sought to battle the fire burning north of Johnstown that has now crossed into Keya Paha County.

* Another large fire burning south of Long Pine

(Posted July 20, 2012)

Area fire resources continue to be taxed to the limit as another large fire has been reported south of Long Pine.
According to Brown County Sheriff Bruce Papstein, just before 1 p.m. Friday a fire was reported 15 miles south of Long Pine on property owned by Glenna Abbott. Resources from the Ainsworth, Long Pine, Bassett and Stuart volunteer fire departments responded to fight that fire while numerous area departments continue to fight a large fire north of Johnstown.
According to Papstein, a South Brown County fire truck was damaged by the fire south of Long Pine, but no injuries have been reported.
Area residents continue to volunteer at the Ainsworth Fire Hall, filling coolers with donated water, sports drinks and ice to get to the firefighters as they work in the 100-plus degree heat. Dozens of volunteers were working in the fire hall early Friday afternoon to get coolers of cold drinks headed to the front lines of the fires.
Volunteer organizer Heather Walnofer thanked the community for its support in answering the call for supplies.
"The response has been overwhelming," Walnofer said.
Papstein said the fire north of Johnstown continues to be pushed north by strong south winds, and firefighters are having a difficult time containing the blaze.
"It is a real bear," Papstein said. "It is just really tough for them to keep up with it right now. Thankfully, there has not been any structure damage."
Papstein said the fire has approached the Niobrara River, and there have been conflicting reports on whether it had possibly jumped the river. There has, as of yet, been no confirmation of the fire burning north of the river.
Stay tuned to KBRB for more information throughout the day.

* Firefighters battling large fire north of Johnstown

(Posted July 20, 2012)

Numerous area fire departments are battling a 1,000-acre fire that started Friday morning north of Johnstown due to a lightning strike.
According to Brown County Sheriff Bruce Papstein, the fire was reported at approximately 9:45 a.m. 13 to 14 miles north of Johnstown.
Firefighters from the Ainsworth, Johnstown, Wood Lake, Long Pine, Bassett, Springview, Calamus, Raven and South Brown County departments are on the scene trying to keep the fire from spreading.
Papstein said a plane is also on its way to drop water on the fire. He said residents in the area have been contacted and provided information. He said one residence was in jeopardy from the fire, which he estimated at between 800 and 1,000 acres.
Papstein urged people to stay away from the area and let the fire departments have room to work and try and contain the fire.
Stay tuned to KBRB for additional updates.

* Lightning sparks 500-acre fire northwest of Ainsworth Thursday

(Posted July 20, 2012)

A lightning strike Thursday night sparked a fire northwest of Ainsworth that burned more than 500 acres and prompted the mutual aid response of four fire departments to get the blaze under control.

According to Ainsworth Fire Chief Brad Fiala, a lightning strike sparked the fire at 8:45 p.m. approximately 5 miles west and 4 miles north of Ainsworth on property owned by Pat Schumacher.

Fiala said winds with the thunderstorm pushed the fire to the southwest onto ground owned by Taylor Johnson.

He said the fire remained on pasture ground but did work its way into a tree grove.

“It burned through the tree grove fast enough that it didn’t do much damage,” Fiala said. “It only burned the bottom of the trees.”

Fiala said firefighters were able to get the fire under control by using a county road and two cornfields to help block its advance.

Fiala said the fire was under control by 11:30 p.m., and firefighters returned to the fire hall by 12:30 a.m. Friday.

The Johnstown, Long Pine and Wood Lake fire departments provided mutual aid to the Ainsworth Volunteer Fire Department.

“We are just waiting now to see if any more fires start up today from those lightning strikes last night,” the Ainsworth fire chief said.

* Brown County Sheriff’s Department 2014 year-end report

2014 Year End Totals

 

Accidents Investigated – 77                         Fire Calls Ainsworth

 

Ainsworth Calls Responded to – 723            Accidents with Injuries - 9

 

Animal Cases – 14                                       Accidents w/o Injuries - 4

 

Board Of Health –           0                                     Assist Tower Rescue - 1

 

Brown County Arrests – 70                         Attempt to Locate missing people - 2

 

Burglaries – 6                                               Building Fires: House/Garage/Royal Theater - 3

 

Citations – 190                                             Burn Permits Issued - 102        

 

Crime Stopper Calls – 28                             Canyon Fires - 1

 

County Calls Responded to – 358                Chimney Fires - 1

 

Court Commitments – 17                             Corn Field Fire - 1

 

Criminal Cases –   32                                   Gas Meters & Leaks -3

 

Dog Complaints – 139                                 Grass Fires - 5

 

Domestic Assault Cases – 14                       Hay Bales - 1

 

Drug Cases – 3                                            Possible Electrical Fire - 1

 

Fix it tickets – 55                                         Power Lines Down - 2                       

 

Handgun Permits – 110                                School Alarm - 3  

 

Incident Reports –          1,204                              Storm Spotting - 3

 

Incoming Phone Calls –   8,467                     Tractor/Mechanical Fires - 2

 

Information Files – 28                                  Vehicle Fires - 4

 

Inmates Housed in Brown County – 106                

 

Inmates Housed for other agencies – 3

 

Inmates Housed for NSP arrests – 12           Ambulance Calls

 

Inmates – Females – 27                                This is just a summary of the Ambulance

 

Inmates – Males – 79                                   calls for 2014

 

Johnstown Calls Responded to – 5               Local Calls for Service - 137

 

Juvenile Cases – 15                                      Transfers to other Facilities - 43

 

Long Pine Calls Responded to – 118           

 

Mental Health Cases – 16

 

MIP’s – 18

 

911 Calls – 404

 

Papers Served – 200

 

Sex Crimes – 1

 

Thefts – 23

 

Titles Inspected – 242

 

Total Traffic Stops – 688

 

Traffic cases – 62

 

Traffic Stops where no action was taken - 7

 

Vandalism Cases – 15

 

Verbal Warnings - 144

 

Written Warnings - 292

 
   

 

Hit Counter