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

E-mail us at kbrb@sscg.net

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

* Meeting reports located below for:

July 14 Sandhills Care Center Board of Directors

July 14 Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education

July 9 Ainsworth City Council

July 8 Brown County Commissioners

July 2 Brown County Planning Commission public hearing

June 29 Ainsworth City Council emergency meeting

* Olson discusses reopening of Nebraska Business Stabilization Grant program

(Posted 3:15 p.m. July 15)

North Central Development Center Executive Director Kristin Olson provided information regarding the reopening of the $12,000 Business Stabilization Grant program available through the state of Nebraska.
Employment eligibility has been expanded, and businesses employing between one and 75 employees are now eligible to apply for funding.
Olson also provided updates regarding the federal PPP and EIDL programs that remain available.
The NCDC Board has set up an email address at ncdcboard75@gmail.com and is asking people who received assistance from the NCDC to provide an email to the board. The email does not need to include any financial information, simply a message that indicates which program the NCDC was able to provide assistance with through the application process. That information will be valuable as the board provides information on the impact of the office to its contributing partners.
To hear the conversation with Olson, click on the audio link below.

audio clips/NCDC July 15 Update.mp3

* State provides new corona virus information web site

(Posted 2:30 p.m. July 15)

Gov. Pete Ricketts unveiled a new website dedicated to providing updates about the state’s response to coronavirus.  The website features information about the state’s plans for coronavirus relief funding as well as links to key public health and virus testing information.
The public can find the website at www.coronavirus.nebraska.gov. Updates will be made to the website on a regular basis as the state continues to disburse virus response funds.

* Middle Niobrara NRD receives grant for watershed plan

(Posted 3:30 p.m. July 14)

The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service provided more than $4.5 million in funding to five of Nebraska’s Natural Resources Districts for Watershed Flood Prevention and Operations.
The Middle Niobrara NRD received funding to complete a watershed and flood prevention operations plan for watersheds in Cherry County. The grant will fund the cost of completing the plans. The first step of the two-year planning phase is to develop environmental assessments for each watershed. The Cherry County Watersheds will cover nearly 570,000 acres.
“Nebraska’s NRDs continue to make investments and commitments to protect lives and property throughout the state,” said Jim Eschliman, Nebraska Association of Resources Districts president. “We remain uniquely positioned to provide local solutions for our watersheds in partnership with state and federal agencies.”
Nebraska State Conservationist Craig Derickson said, “We look forward to working with these Natural Resources Districts on these new watershed projects. We saw how established watershed projects sprang into action last spring following the bomb cyclone reducing flood damage and protecting natural resources. These new projects plan to provide more benefits to more areas across Nebraska.”

* Care Center employees all test negative for COVID-19

(Posted 3:15 p.m. July 14)

Sandhills Care Center Administrator Stephanie Clifton told the board Monday all the baseline testing of employees has been completed, and no employees tested positive for COVID-19.

The employee testing was one step that had to be completed prior to the care center entering Phase III of reopening, which would allow for limited family visitation.

“As we get ready to move into Phase III, we are discussing if we want to go with outside visits or use the sun room,” Clifton said. “All visitation will be by appointment only, and we will need staff there to ensure PPE is used and 6 feet of distance.”

Clifton said the care center was moving carefully toward the implementation of Phase III. In the current Phase II, the facility can hold more group activities with residents and have more communal dining.

“We are seeing how this goes, then we will ease into Phase III,” Clifton said. “We will work with the health department if we would start to see positive cases in the community. Communication will be key. The residents have not been able to have visitors since March 13.”

Clifton said keeping COVID-19 out of the facility has to remain the care center’s top priority.

“If COVID gets into the facility, it could force us to close,” she said. “We know people being confined to their rooms is not good for their mindset. But we are also trying to protect their lives.”

During Monday’s meeting, the Care Center Board approved the 2020-21 fiscal year budget, which projects 21 residents in the facility, income of $1.58 million and expenses of $1.7 million for an operating loss of $116,944.

Fuchs said the resident population can fluctuate quickly, but the board based its budget off the average census for the current year. Any gain or loss of a resident adds or subtracts approximately $6,000 per month from the care center’s income.

“We used 21 residents for our budget, since that was our average during the past year,” Fuchs said. “As far as expenses, we didn’t have many changes for this year. We reduced the agency nursing line item and increased the RN and CNA lines.”

Fuchs said, if the facility can keep a population of between 20 and 25 residents for the fiscal year, it should be able to operate without any funding assistance from the city and county.

“We have $264,000 in reserve at this time,” Fuchs said. “I don’t believe we will need to request any funding from the city or the county. Our reserves are primarily from a DHHS grant and the intergovernmental transfer we received.”

The board approved the budget as presented. Fuchs will present the care center budget to both the Ainsworth City Council and the Brown County Commissioners. Though he said he would tell both entities that the care center does not plan to ask for any support, he will still ask both the city and the county to include the final year of the pledged $80,000 in the budget in case revenue falls well short of projections.

During June, the care center totaled $129,320 in revenue and $134,123 in expenses for an operating loss of $4,803.

Board member Buddy Small questioned reimbursements being made to care center employees, and said he would prefer that the facility obtain a credit card for purchases instead of having employees pay for items personally and then getting reimbursed by check.

“I don’t think the employees should have to pay for something first and then get reimbursed,” Small said. “That is not good when an accountant looks at it.”

Clifton said it was not ideal, and she would work on trying to obtain a credit card for the care center. She said many credit card companies were not processing applications due to the pandemic.

In other business Monday, the board reappointed Fuchs as chairman, Henry Beel as vice chair, and Leanne Maxwell as the board’s secretary. The board also appointed Travee Hobbs as its recording secretary.

Clifton said there were 21 residents in the care center as of Monday, and they planned to add another resident Tuesday.

“We also have two more referrals,” Clifton said. “We have averaged about one resident admission per week.”

Clifton reported they are in the process of repainting the interior of the care center, and would purchase matching bedspreads from funding provided by the Brown County Community Foundation when the painting is complete.

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

* KBRB and KVSH to host 43rd District Legislature candidates on air Wednesday

(Posted 11 a.m. July 14)

KBRB Radio and KVSH Radio in Valentine are teaming to host a live candidate forum Wednesday morning featuring the two candidates for 43rd District Seat on the Nebraska Legislature.

Beginning at 10:05 a.m. Wednesday, incumbent State Sen. Tom Brewer and challenger Tanya Storer will answer questions from moderators Graig Kinzie of KBRB and Mike Burge of KVSH. The forum will air live on KBRB AM 1400 and FM 106.3, as well as online at www.kbrbradio.com. The forum will also air live on KVSH AM 940 in Valentine.

Residents may call KBRB or KVSH with questions they would like the candidates to answer. A few of the questions will be selected and asked during the forum.

Tune in at 10:05 a.m. Wednesday to hear the positions of the candidates running for the Nebraska Legislature’s 43rd District seat.

* Ainsworth Community Schools plans to have students in the classroom to begin year

(Posted 7:15 a.m. July 14)

Unless conditions change, Ainsworth Community Schools plans to open the year with students in the classroom next month.

Superintendent Dale Hafer told the Board of Education Monday he has assembled a district re-entry team, which is working on variables that may arise.

“Barring something crazy, we plan to start as normal as possible,” Hafer said. “We appreciate everyone being patient with us.”

Hafer said the decision on what to do to start the school year has been weighing on administration since the 2019-20 year wrapped up in May.

“It is a good sign that things haven’t changed much since June,” the superintendent said. “Parents, students and teachers all want to know what we plan to do.”

Hafer said the re-entry team would continue to work with the Nebraska Department of Education and the North Central District Health Department. He said the health district provided the school with 10 touchless temperature scanners, which will likely be used to scan the temperature of each student before they are admitted to the building.

He said the group will have plans in place should the prevalence of COVID-19 increase in the community.

In other business Monday, the board approved altering its daily bus route for the 2020-21 year. The only pickup points will be in Long Pine and Johnstown, and intersections on Highway 20 between Ainsworth and those two communities.

The bus will no longer pick up students on Moon Lake Avenue and the Southwest Road as it has done in the past. Board member Jessica Pozehl said she didn’t think the routes for Long Pine and Johnstown should be different.

“Why is there only one pickup point in Long Pine while there are several stops outside Johnstown?” Pozehl asked.

Board member Mark Johnson said Johnstown used to run its own route, and that route remained in place when the Ainsworth district took it over.

Board member Brad Wilkins said it made sense to have stops in Long Pine and Johnstown, and then stop along the highway between those communities if the district receives requests.

The school district has to pay families mileage to the nearest pickup point. Hafer said the additional mileage cost paid to families would be about $5,000 for the year if the stops outside Johnstown are eliminated. He said the savings in fuel, wages and wear and tear on the bus would offset the additional mileage paid to those families to bring their students to the Johnstown pickup point.

The board, with President Jim Arens absent, approved bus stops at Long Pine and Johnstown, and along Highway 20 between those two communities.

The board approved a contract for Julie Micheel to teach fourth grade for the 2020-21 year. Hafer said the district was fortunate to have two high-quality candidates late in the hiring process following the retirement of Susan Scholtes.

“Julie brings 25 years of experience and is skilled in student data and school improvement work,” Hafer said. He said Micheel will also coach the boys golf team and serve as an assistant girls basketball coach.

“We feel really good about the hires we have made this year, and there have been quite a few,” the superintendent said. “I am looking forward to the contributions they will make.”

The board approved the activities and athletics handbook for the 2020-21 year, and also approved the second reading and final adoption of a new district policy manual as prepared by the Nebraska Association of School Boards.

The board approved a request from Shawna Dodds to option her daughter Cora Barta to Rock County Public Schools. Hafer said the family moved to the district recently and has ties to Rock County.

The board also approved a request from Leslie Carpenter to allow her daughters Amaraa and Sarah to opt into the district from Keya Paha County. Hafer said the girls will be in the 10th and seventh grades.

College students Jacy Hafer and Ben Arens made a presentation of results they compiled through a survey of high school students for the Brown County Community Foundation. The two students received summer internships through the Nebraska Community Foundation, and held the survey in place of the community strategic planning session that was postponed due to the pandemic.

The interns reported 45 percent of the 94 students who were surveyed indicated they would prefer to live and work in a small community, with an additional 41 percent saying they would prefer living in a medium-size community.

Arens reported 33 percent of students surveyed reported they were somewhat or extremely likely to return to the Ainsworth area to live, with the leading reason being it was a good place to raise a family. For students who indicated they did not plan to return, the leading reason was the lack of career opportunities.

Hafer and Arens produced a community video. They showed the video to the board Monday, and the public can view it on Facebook.

During his report, Elementary Principal Curtis Childers said an average of 44 kindergarten through sixth-grade students per day attended summer school.

“It goes to show how much school is needed socially and emotionally as well as academically,” Childers said.

Childers said he has been discussing a possible slide in progress due to students not being in the classroom for the final two months of the 2019-20 year. He said Kelli Gibson performed some DIBELS benchmark testing with students who attended summer school, and many students actually showed improvement on the DIBELS scores and reading fluency.

“I am optimistic about what August will look like, but we need to be realistic that there may be some gaps,” Childers said.

Wilkins asked if the school planned to perform testing on students early in the year to see if those gaps presented themselves, or if teachers planned to start normally and then wait to see what develops.

Childers said he planned to have MAPS testing done within the first two weeks of students returning to the classroom.

“That is a necessity,” he said.

Secondary Principal Steve Dike said prom went well Saturday, and the district was planning graduation ceremonies for 5 p.m. Saturday, July 18, in McAndrew Gymnasium.

Those with last names beginning with A through J are asked to enter the gym Saturday through the Big A west doors, while those with last names beginning with K through Z are asked to enter through the northwest elementary school doors.

Those attending graduation will have their temperatures checked prior to admittance, and each group will be socially distanced during the ceremony.

The next meeting of the Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education is scheduled for 8 p.m. Aug. 10.

 

* Nebraska small business stabilization grants reopen

 

(Posted 7:15 a.m. July 14)

 

Starting now, the Nebraska Department of Economic Development is accepting new applicants under the Small Business Stabilization grant program.

Due to receiving fewer applications than projected during the first round, DED estimates it can award up to 14,000 more grants of $12,000 apiece. The grants — which will be awarded on a first come, first served basis until funds are expended — are available to businesses that have not previously applied under the SBS program. Businesses that have already applied are expected to be notified of their award status this week; the expanded criteria announced today will apply to all previously submitted applications.

Under this new application round, the types of businesses that are eligible to apply has expanded.

“Previously, small businesses were required to have between five and 49 employees to be eligible for Small Business Stabilization grants,” said DED Director Anthony L. Goins. “Now, businesses with 1-75 employees are eligible, so long as the business withholds income taxes for at least one employee and has suffered employment or revenue losses as a result of COVID-19.”

The new eligibility requirements mean that 1099 contractors and the self-employed who withhold state income taxes for their employees on a Nebraska Form 941N are now eligible for funds. 

“The express goal of this program is to help our small businesses make it through this difficult period so they can eventually return to profitability,” Goins said. “We are glad to be able to expand the program to a wider pool of applicants.”

Applications will be accepted as of the current announcement. The new deadline to apply is July 17 at 4 p.m.

Funding for the SBS program is made possible by a $392 million allocation of Coronavirus Relief funding from the Federal Government — part of the more than $1 billion Nebraska has received thus far. Of this amount, $330 million has been set aside for small businesses and livestock producers; $16 million will be used to retrain displaced workers in partnership with the community college system;  $40 million will help expand the state’s broadband access to enable work-from-home and telehealth/education opportunities; and $1 million will finance Gallup-based leadership training for Nebraska business leaders.

Because applications to the SBS program for livestock producers exceeded projections, that program will not be reopened, DED reports. All applicants to the Livestock Producer program that met qualifications will receive a grant award. 

Potential SBS grant applicants must certify their eligibility by visiting https://getnebraskagrowing.nebraska.gov/nebraska-small-business-stabilization-grant/. If deemed eligible, applicants will be notified via email and sent a confirmation number and link to complete a full application. All interested businesses are strongly encouraged to view this user guide and this step-by-step instructional video for pertinent information.

For questions or technical difficulties, contact the Get Nebraska Growing hotline at 855-264-6858.

* Six additional COVID-19 cases confirmed in eastern end of NCDHD area

(Posted 6:30 a.m. July 14)

The North Central District Health Department was made aware of a six additional COVID-19 cases Monday.
Four cases were confirmed in Antelope County, and are all the result of direct contacts with other positive cases. All direct contacts have been contacted and asked to quarantine. All people are at home in isolation.
One case was confirmed in Antelope County and was deemed to be due to community spread, which has been present in the county. The person is in isolation at home. All direct contacts have been contacted and asked to quarantine.
One case confirmed in Knox county is the result of community spread. The person is currently at home in isolation and the investigation on this case is ongoing.
NCDHD reported three additional recoveries – one in Rock County and two in Knox County.
As of Monday afternoon, there have been 67 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the nine counties covered by the North Central District Health Department. Fifty-six of the 67 have occurred in Knox, Antelope and Pierce counties on the eastern end of the district. There have been no confirmed cases in Brown or Keya Paha counties. Of the 67 cases, 47 have been deemed to have recovered.

* Be cautious of roadway striping in the area

(Posted 8:15 a.m. July 13)

Roadway paint striping continues in District 8 in Brown, Keya Paha, Boyd, Rock, and Blaine counties, according to the Nebraska Department of Transportation.
Vogel Traffic Services of Orange City, Iowa, has the $722,654 contract for district-wide striping.
The anticipated completion is July. Motorists are asked to drive cautiously in and near construction zones, to expect delays and to buckle up.

* Fifth Holt County resident tests positive for COVID-19

(Posted 4 p.m. July 11)

The North Central District Health Department was made aware of an additional COVID-19 positive case in Holt County. The person is the fifth in Holt County to test positive, and the second in a week. The person contracted the virus through direct contact with another confirmed case and is currently in isolation at home.

NCDHD reported two additional recoveries in Knox County.

The health department reminds district residents to wear a mask while in public settings, especially where social distancing can be difficult. As case numbers increase in the NCDHD area and throughout Nebraska, consider the impact your actions could have on others and be considerate of your neighbor during these times.

Enjoy events that will be happening this summer but limit your potential exposures by limiting your attendance at several events in a short time frame. Small considerations will make a big difference.

* Fourth Holt County resident tests positive for COVID-19

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

The North Central District Health Department was made aware of three additional COVID-19 cases in the district Thursday. One case was confirmed in Holt County and two cases were confirmed in Antelope County.
The Holt County case is still under investigation and the person is currently in isolation at home. In Antelope County, the first person contracted the illness through out-of-state travel and is currently in isolation at home. All close contacts have been identified and have been asked to quarantine. The second case is due to community spread which has been actively present in Antelope County. The person is currently in isolation at home and all close contacts are being identified and will be asked to quarantine.
As of Thursday, there have been 57 cases of COVID-19 in the nine counties covered by the North Central District Health Department, with 42 people deemed to have recovered. There has been one death, with 14 cases active.
There have now been four cases in Holt County, three in Cherry County, two in Rock County and one in Boyd County. There have been no confirmed cases in Brown or Keya Paha counties.

* Recent cases from Brown County Court

(Posted 2:15 p.m. July 9)

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

Janice K. Sparr, age 73, of Tilden, charged with disturbing the peace, fined $100.

Phillip T. McDonnell, 37, of Elkhorn, speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.

Christopher J. Piper, 28, of Elkhorn, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Darby M. Cook, 49, of Johnstown, commit child abuse negligently, sentenced to six months of probation.

Seth R. Sorensen, 44, of Parker, Colo., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Tyler E. Halling, 29, of Huron, S.D., attempting a Class 4 felony, sentenced to 30 days in jail with credit for 22 days served; also charged with possession of marijuana more than 1 ounce but less than 1 pound, 30 days in jail; possession of drug paraphernalia, sentenced to 30 days in jail.

Tara M. Houska, 36, of Minneapolis, Minn., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Loren J. Sherman, 39, of Ainsworth, third offense driving under the influence, $1,000, also sentenced to 30 days in jail with credit for two days served, 18 months of probation, driver’s license revoked for two years, and ordered to install an ignition interlock device.

Julio C. Moran, 22, of Denver, Colo., no operator’s license, $75.

Kayla Johnston, 32, of Sibley, Iowa, attempting a Class 4 felony, sentenced to one year of probation.

Larry A. Lunnin, 38, of Omaha, violating traffic regulations within a park, $25.

Jesus D. Barcenasbarcenas, 35, of Ainsworth, no park permit, $25.

Craig Bernbeck, 50, of Long Pine, unregistered vehicle, $50.

Gary R. Wolfe, 67, of Ainsworth, overweight on an axle or group of axles, $325.

Emmanuelle A. Barcenas, 39, of Ainsworth, taking possession of fish without a permit, $100.

Whitney L. Lyons Jr., 23, of Ord, improper or defective vehicle light, $25.

Jeffrey Q. Keezer, 49, of Neligh, two counts of assault by threatening another in a menacing manner, fined $250 on each count.

Jessica F. Lange, 19, of Crofton, speeding 16-20 mph over the limit, $125.

Donald D. Jensen Jr., 31, of St. Paul, no valid registration, $25; speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Cecelia Wynde, 22, of Waubay, S.D., speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.

Zachary W. Frazier, 26, of Ainsworth, attempting a Class 4 felony, sentenced to 15 days in jail.

Anthony D. Mares, 52, of Castle Rock, Colo., speeding 21-35 mph over the limit, $200.

Harley J. Lee, 83, of Greeley, Colo., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Amanda D. McKinney, 24, of Ainsworth, misuse of a learner’s permit, $100.

* Sewer line and water meter replacement work progressing in Ainsworth

(Posted 7:30 a.m. July 9)

The replacement of water meters in Ainsworth and the upgrade of sewer lines with cure-in-place pipe is progressing, and the City Council Wednesday approved nearly a half million dollars in payments for the work completed.

Jess Hurlbert with city engineering firm Olsson Associates said the cure-in-place sewer line portion of the project is nearly complete.

“They have done a good job,” Hurlbert said. “The lift station work will start in August.”

Hurlbert reported 130 water meters in the city have been replaced. The council approved a more than $148,000 payment for the water meter replacement work completed to this point, and approved payment of $327,425 for sewer line work completed to date.

City Administrator Lisa Schroedl said she requested a $1 million draw from the bond company the city is working with to gap finance the project. Once completed, the city has received loan and grant money from the USDA which will be awarded upon the project’s completion.

In other business Wednesday, the council approved having Miller & Associates perform a study of the city’s swimming pool and East City Park.

Larry Steele with Miller & Associates said the company would evaluate the current swimming pool and bath house and make recommendations for improvements, or, for an additional fee, the company would come up with a design for a new swimming pool.

For East City Park, Steele said the company would evaluate the facilities and the playground equipment and make suggestions on how the city could improve the park.

“We will develop a survey to find out what the community wants to see, and will present a report to the council,” Steele said.

The cost for the study is $6,000. Schroedl said the city received a grant to cover half the cost of the study.

Councilman Brad Fiala said, after work on Highway 20 is complete and a sidewalk is built on the north side of the park, he would like to see a walking path around the park that connects to the Cowboy Trail.

“We have the space out there,” Fiala said. “There should be more opportunities at the park. It is not getting utilized near enough.”

Councilman Joel Klammer asked Steele to collaborate with the city’s Park Committee, which has already been working on potential additions to the park.

The council approved two recommendations from the Ainsworth Betterment Committee, adding $30,000 in ABC funding to a sinking fund for a new swimming pool and providing $1,574 to the Ainsworth Women’s Club to upgrade an electrical panel at the Courthouse Park for use during the club’s annual Christmas display.

With the $30,000 toward a new swimming pool, that fund has built to $457,824. Schroedl said that fund would serve as matching funds if the city would eventually qualify for a grant to help build a new swimming pool.

Cammie Waits, representing the Ainsworth Women’s Club, said Ainsworth Electric had identified upgrades that were needed to sustain the Christmas light displays at the park. She said the women’s club was contributing $1,100 toward the cost of the work.

North Central Development Center Executive Director Kristin Olson gave the council an update on the work done to help community businesses, workers and agricultural producers utilize the federal and state pandemic programs. She said she had assisted hundreds of people with applications for unemployment, the Payroll Protection Program, the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program and the state Business and Agricultural Stabilization Grant program.

Olson said the purpose of the programs was to get money on the street as quickly as possible as businesses and agricultural producers suffered the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

NCDC Board President Kim Buckley submitted a letter asking the council to allow a 30-day extension for the NCDC to provide its annual report on the LB 840 program, due to all the work the office has undertaken assisting people with the federal and state program applications. He said the work of the NCDC office has helped bring 10s of millions of dollars to the area.

Olson said there are three LB 840 applications she will have ready to submit to the city by Thursday. She said four other applications have been sent out and she is waiting for some additional information to be returned before those applications can be submitted.

The council approved the extension for the NCDC’s official LB 840 report.

The council also approved vacating a platted street in eastern Ainsworth that had never been turned into a street. Schroedl said a one-block stretch of Park Street between East Third Street and East Plainsman Drive is on the city’s plat map, but a street was never constructed. The site runs through four properties, each of which would have 15-feet added to the lots if the council vacated the street.

Councilman Tonny Beck said the city has managed to survive the past 100 years without a street there, so he believed the city could probably survive another 100 years by vacating the street.

Schroedl said any cost to resurvey adjacent properties to account for the additional 15 feet would be done at the property owner’s expense.

Following a public hearing, the council approved recommending the Nebraska Liquor Control Commission approve a Class B liquor license application for Central Valley Ag to operate the Ampride Convenience Store.

The council also approved a three-year renewal with the League Association of Risk Management for the city’s liability and workman’s compensation insurance. By approving a three-year agreement, the city received a 5 percent discount on the upcoming year’s premium. The premium dropped from $84,594 to $80,365 by approving a three-year contract. Schroedl said LARM has always been professional and helpful anytime the city has a claim.

The council approved appointments to several boards as recommended by Mayor Greg Soles. Jason Good was appointed to the Ainsworth Airport Authority to replace Jeremiah Sullivan, who resigned. Good will serve through December 2022.

Jerry Allen and Jim Wagner were reappointed to the Ainsworth Housing Committee, and Alane Lentz, Todd Flynn and Traci Alberts were reappointed to the Ainsworth Library Board with terms ending in April 2024.

During her report, Schroedl said Tri State Paving has completed several asphalt paving projects in the city, and also armor coated an additional 30 blocks. She said the city continues to patch holes created by the March 2019 flooding.

Soles asked, with the time remaining before FEMA’s September deadline to make flood repairs, would the city be able to buy enough product to get the remaining work finished in time.

Schroedl said, unless all the stars align, the city would likely have to wait until spring to armor coat the remaining streets that were damaged. She said the holes have to be patched before the armor coating can be completed. She said she filed for an extension with FEMA to give the city more time to complete the work and be reimbursed.

Beck said hot and dry weather is the best time to fix streets, and he recommended Schroedl ask the city streets crews if they are willing to work overtime to get the streets patched during the summer. FEMA assists with the cost of the labor required to fix streets, so the overtime costs would be partially covered. Schroedl said she would visit with the streets crew to see if they were willing to work overtime.

Schroedl reported Miller and Associates has distributed the low-to-moderate income survey, and the city has had 65 of the 124 surveys returned. She said Miller and Associates would send a second round of surveys to residents who have not yet responded. Schroedl encouraged all residents who receive a survey to respond, as a non-response would count against the city.

The next meeting of the Ainsworth City Council is scheduled for 7 p.m. Aug. 12.

* Commissioners vote to move ahead with public hearing on swine facility

(Posted 7 a.m. July 8)

After debating whether to wait until a report from the Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy was completed, the Brown County Commissioners on Tuesday, by a 2-1 vote, opted to proceed with a public hearing on a special-use permit application for a swine finishing facility in western Brown County.

The public hearing will be held at 6 p.m. Aug. 4 in the Ainsworth Conference Center if the facility is able to host the hearing. Commissioners Buddy Small and Reagan Wiebelhaus were in favor of moving forward with the hearing, while Commissioner Denny Bauer argued the board should wait until the report from the NDEE was complete.

Bauer asked John Gross, who applied for the permit, if he knew when the NDEE would have its report on the application complete.

Gross said the process had been delayed by the pandemic, and the earliest he would receive a response was Aug. 18.

Wiebelhaus questioned whether what the NDEE had to say regarding the permit mattered.

“We have a Planning Commission for a reason,” Wiebelhaus said. “In my 10 years on the board, we have never deviated from their recommendation.”

Following a public hearing July 1, the Planning Commission voted to recommend the board deny the permit due to it being detrimental to neighboring property and not being compatible with the intended use of the district.

Bauer said he would like to get the NDEE’s opinion on whether the project is acceptable by their standards.

“I don’t think we should have a hearing until that report comes back,” Bauer said. “If they say no, then we don’t even need to have a hearing. I think we also need to talk to the county attorney on whether the two reasons stated by the Planning Commission will hold up legally.”

Wiebelhaus said he believed the NDEE report is no more than a rubber stamp.

“The NDEE report was not even a consideration for the Planning Commission,” Wiebelhaus said. “The primary people I am going to listen to are the members of the Planning Commission.”

Small said he was reluctant to go against a recommendation made by the Planning Commission.

“They put in a lot of hours with no compensation,” Small said.

With the Planning Commission in the midst of updating the county’s comprehensive plan and zoning regulations, Small asked Zoning Administrator Tom Jones if the new regulations would have affected this application. Jones said the Planning Commission had not discussed that portion of the plan specifically yet, but there will likely be setback requirements for livestock facilities in the new plan when it is completed.

Bauer said he was skeptical of the two reasons stated by the Planning Commission for recommending the board deny the permit.

“Saying it will be detrimental to neighboring property is a difference of opinion,” Bauer said. “I think the argument that it is not an intended use of the district is iffy. A hog confinement is agriculture. This is agriculture country. We are an agricultural community.”

Wiebelhaus said if the facility would adversely impact neighboring property, it should be denied.

“To suggest a hog facility a half-mile away won’t have an adverse effect is not correct,” Wiebelhaus said.

Bauer said the commissioners are tasked with making decisions that are in the best interests of the county as a whole.

Small suggested the commissioners could move forward with the required public hearing but could hold off on making a decision.

“We don’t have to take a vote on it right away,” Small said. “It comes down to agriculture is good for the county, but people don’t want it near their house.”

Gross questioned why the commissioners would hold a hearing without taking a vote, and without having the report from the NDEE in hand.

“You are nullifying a government agency,” Gross said. “So we didn’t even need to go through with all the engineering and even go to the state?”

Gross said he had been advised the reasons given by the Planning Commission were dubious, especially about the project not being an intended use of the district.

“Ag is ag,” Gross said.

By a 2-1 vote with Bauer against, the board voted to set the public hearing for 6 p.m. Aug. 4.

Also by a 2-1 vote Tuesday with Bauer against, the commissioners approved having the Planning Commission consider placing a six-month moratorium on future special-use permits for livestock facilities, or until the new comprehensive plan is adopted.

Wiebelhaus initially moved to place the six-month moratorium on livestock facilities, but Jones said the item would have to go through the Planning Commission, which would hold a hearing and make a recommendation to the board. Wiebelhaus pulled that motion and moved to have the Planning Commission consider the moratorium.

“This wouldn’t affect the Gross application,” Wiebelhaus said. “I think we should hold off on additional applications until we get more concrete regulations in place.”

Bauer said he believed placing a moratorium on the construction of livestock facilities would set a bad precedent for the county.

“I am not in favor of that,” Bauer said.

Small said, if the county was not already in the midst of updating its comprehensive plan, he wasn’t sure a moratorium would be a good idea either.

Jones said the Planning Commission needed at least one more meeting to review the proposed changes to the comprehensive plan, and would then schedule a public hearing on the changes before recommending the changes to the commissioners.

“We should be able to get it to you in 90 days,” Jones said.

With Bauer against, the board voted to have the Planning Commission consider a moratorium on livestock facility permit applications.

In another zoning item Tuesday, the board appointed Brad Wilkins to the Planning Commission after accepting the resignation of member Roby Woods.

The board approved transferring $100,000 from the county’s inheritance tax fund to the disaster recovery fund. Small said the inheritance tax fund has allowed the county to repair flood damage without having to go back to the taxpayers for additional funds. Small said the county’s plan was to replenish at $50,000 annually the money that has been taken from the inheritance tax fund.

The commissioners approved declaring a 1998 Chevy 1500 pickup from the roads department as surplus equipment to be sold.

Tanya Storer, a candidate for the 43rd District seat to the Nebraska Legislature, introduced herself to the commissioners and discussed her reasons for running for the Legislature.

The next meeting of the Brown County Commissioners is scheduled for 5:15 p.m. July 21.

* Agenda for Ainsworth City Council meeting Wednesday

(Posted 5 p.m. July 7)

Ainsworth City Council
Meeting 5 p.m. Wednesday, July 7
Ainsworth Conference Center

 

I.                    ROUTINE BUSINESS

a.       Announcement of Open Meetings Act

b.       Roll Call

c.       Pledge of Allegiance

  

II.                  CONSENT AGENDA – All items approved with the passage of one motion.

a.       Approve minutes from the June 10, 2020 regular meeting and June 29, 2020 Emergency Meeting

b.       Approval of Claims

c.       Treasurer’s Report

d.       Department Head Reports

 

III.                MAYOR’S APPOINTMENTS AND REPORT

a.       Mayor’s Report

b.       Mayor’s Appointments

 

IV.                PUBLIC HEARINGS

a.       Hearing on application of Central Valley Ag Coop for a Class B Liquor License

 

V.                  REGULAR AGENDA

a.      Discuss and consider the agreement with Miller & Associates for the park and pool study – Larry Steele, Miller & Associates

b.      Discuss and consider pay application #1 for bid section A and bid section B of the wastewater improvement project – Jess Hurlbert, Olsson

c.       Discuss and consider Resolution #20-04 League Association of Risk Management (LARM) 2020-21 Coverage renewal

d.      Report from the North Central Development Center regarding work completed under the contract for services for the economic development fund (LB840)

e.      Consider the request to vacate Park Street, the section between East 3rd Street and East Plainsman Drive

f.        Consider the recommendation by the Ainsworth Betterment Committee to authorize:

                                                            i.      $30,000 from the ABC fund to the new pool fund

                                                           ii.      $1,574.57 to the Ainsworth Women’s Club for electrical panel upgrades for the Christmas lights in the Courthouse Park

g.      City Administrator/Clerk/Treasurer Report

* Foundation awards several scholarships, extends deadline on one

(Posted 6:30 a.m. July 7)

The Brown County Community Foundation Fund awarded several scholarships to students currently enrolled in college.  

The Jan O'Hare Memorial $500 scholarship was awarded to Vanessa Taylor.

Two Upperclass $1,000 scholarships were awarded to Vanessa Taylor and Ben Arens.

A Teacher Education $1,000 scholarship was also awarded to Vanessa Taylor.

The Scholarship Committee has extended the deadline for Non-Traditional Scholarship applications. Qualifications for the scholarship include:

The student must “physically” live full-time in Brown County and is not currently enrolled in high school. The student must have successfully completed his/her first year of college at a vocational school, community college, college, or university. The student must be pursuing an undergraduate degree or a career change.

The extended due date is July 27. Applications may be found on the Nebraska Community Foundation’s website at www.nebcommfound.org or from one of our many Brown County Community Foundation Fund members.

Since 1996, the Brown County Community Foundation Fund has awarded over $20,000 in scholarships.

* Five additional COVID-19 cases confirmed in NCDHD area Monday, 4 in Knox County

(Posted 4 p.m. July 6)

The North Central District Health Department confirmed five additional COVID-19 cases Monday in the nine-county district. Four confirmed cases are in Knox County. Through case investigations it was determined that all four people were exposed to COVID-19 outside of the NCDHD district.

One additional case was confirmed in Pierce County. Through case investigation it was determined the person contracted the illness through direct exposure to a positive case. All five people are currently in isolation and all close contacts have been asked to quarantine.

NCDHD reported four additional recoveries within the district, with two people recovering in Knox County, and one each in Holt and Rock counties.

As of Monday afternoon, there have been 54 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the district, with 39 of those having deemed to have recovered and one death linked to the virus.

Half of the cases are in Knox County, with nine each in Pierce and Antelope counties. There have been no confirmed cases in Brown or Keya Paha counties.

* Medicaid expansion applications accepted beginning Aug. 1

(Posted 2:30 p.m. July 6)

Nate Watson with the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services visited with KBRB's Graig Kinzie Monday to provide information regarding the rollout of the voter-approved expansion of Medicaid through the Affordable Care Act.
Applications for the expansion for those who income-qualify begin Aug. 1. To hear the conversation, click on the audio link below.

audio clips/DHHS Medicaid Expansion.mp3

* NCDHD urges people to avoid groups during holiday

(Posted 3 p.m. July 2)

As people enjoy Fourth of July weekend celebrations, a time to celebrate and acknowledge freedoms that have been provided by many, the North Central District Health Department urges everyone to maintain personal accountability to keep communities safe and keep Covid-19 from spreading rapidly.

North central Nebraska has kept cases low while other states are seeing serious spikes in positive cases. The NCDHD asks people to:

Avoid close contact with those outside the nuclear circle of family and friends.

Avoid confined spaces with others outside of the close daily contact groups.

Avoid close contact in large crowds.

Whenever possible, wear a face barrier when around large groups or around others who are outside of normal daily contact.

Anyone feeling ill in any way is asked to stay home, isolate, monitor symptoms and contact a health provider if needed.

If under quarantine orders, respect those orders for the health and safety of others.

* School district asks parents and teachers to complete reopening survey

(Posted 2 p.m. July 2)

Ainsworth Community Schools parents and teachers are asked to complete a short survey to help the district begin to finalize plans for reentry into school in August.

The links to the surveys are available on the school district website and Facebook pages. All input is appreciated, and the surveys may be completed between now and July 8.

Below are the links to the survey.

 

Parent

https://nasb.sjc1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_etH7ZCnCXWz4kFn

 

Teacher

https://nasb.sjc1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_1zCGzlY5n11ZKIZ

 * Second COVID-19 case confirmed Wednesday in Rock County

(Posted 8 a.m. July 2)

The North Central District Health Department received notification of a positive COVID-19 case in Rock County.
Through case investigations it was determined that the person contracted the virus through direct contact with another positive case in the district. The person is currently in quarantine.
As of Wednesday afternoon, there have been 49 cases of COVID-19 in the nine-county area covered by the North Central District Health Department. Wednesday’s case was the second confirmed in Rock County.

* Planning Commission recommends swine facility permit application be denied

(Posted 7 a.m. July 2)

Following a nearly two-hour public hearing Wednesday in which approximately 20 people voiced their opinion and several additional letters were read, the Brown County Planning Commission unanimously voted to recommend the Brown County Commissioners not approve a special-use permit for John Gross to construct a 7,000-head swine finishing facility in western Brown County.

At the outset of Wednesday’s meeting, Zoning Administrator Tom Jones told the large crowd in the Brown County Fairgrounds Community Hall at Johnstown the members of the Planning Commission are volunteers and can only recommend a course of action to the county commissioners based on the county’s comprehensive plan and zoning regulations.

“This is a tough job,” Jones said of the role the Planning Commission members play. “Please respect them.”

Lincoln attorney Steve Mossman, representing John and Peg Gross, who filed the application, said the finishing facility would hold 7,000-head of swine, which would put it in a similar scope as a 2,800-head cattle feedlot. Mossman said the application for the facility would meet all county zoning regulations and had been submitted to the Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy for review.

Gross told the Planning Commission he remembered how controversial the Ainsworth Irrigation District project was when it was initially proposed, and how much that project has added to the tax base in the county.

Gross said his intention with the project was not to cause controversy with his neighbors, but to increase the productivity of his farm ground and diversify his operation.

“I am not buying any additional ground,” Gross said. “This is all going to be located on ground I own. I will be the closest resident to the facility.”

Gross said ground similar to his was recently put up for sale in the same building as Wednesday’s hearing and did not generate a single bid.

“Increased fertility on our sandy farm ground was a need,” Gross said. “All the manure generated will be stored under the building and will be injected into the soil once per year.”

Gross said he was undertaking the project at his personal financial risk, and he hoped to be able to increase the farm ground on his property by having access to the increased fertility the manure would provide.

Al Stevens with Settje Agriservices of Raymond, who designed the facility, said the company has engineered more than 1,400 livestock facility projects in the Midwest. Stevens said the facility would have an 8-foot deep manure storage pit underneath it to store the manure generated by the animals. The pit minimizes residual dust, which is the source of most of the odor a facility produces.

“We designed the drainage, road access and utilities to the site to minimize the impact on the environment,” Stevens said.

He said the facility would be sited 2,800 feet south of Highway 20 on Gross’s property. Other than Gross, the next closest resident lives 3,525 feet north of the facility, approximately two-thirds of a mile. He said there were seven residences located within a 3-mile radius.

“In addition to the direct economic impact, the facility should generate $650,000 in economic activity,” Stevens said.

Following the proposal being explained, the hearing was opened up to those in attendance.

Speaking in support of the project, John Halbersleben said he had been involved in community banking in Ainsworth for 28 years before retiring and was Gross’s banker for more than 20 years.

“Agriculture has progressed substantially in my years here,” Halbersleben said. “I took a lot of pride in helping family farmers, but the acres required to survive now keep growing. I don’t see this trend changing. Additional pressure will continue to be brought to bear on small towns, and we need to do everything we can to support the growth of farm and ranch operations.”

Halbersleben said, as a member of the Ainsworth City Council, he voted to allow the expansion of the feed lot north of town, which was not a popular decision at the time.

“I also know what it was like economically when that feedlot closed for a time,” he said.

Jones also read letters supporting the project from the Middle Niobrara Natural Resources District, the Alliance for the Future of Agriculture in Nebraska, and from residents Randy and Cherie Priest, Chris Raymond, Rick Irwin and Matt Pozehl.

The letter submitted by Mike Murphy of the Middle Niobrara NRD said the facility meets its requirements, and Gross had been a steward of his property for many years. Murphy wrote supporting agriculture is vital for rural areas.

The letter from AFAN said the project would have an economic multiplier effect on the economy and increase the local tax base. William Keys wrote the project was a great opportunity for Brown County, as expanding livestock production in an area that produces an abundant amount of grain makes perfect sense.

Jake Ruth with Heartland Builders said he has seen the benefits similar projects have brought to their areas. He promoted the innovation that would be utilized in the construction of the facility to enhance water safety and minimize the odor generated.

“We will provide a high-quality facility,” Ruth said. “Our workers will frequent local hotels, restaurants and stores during construction. The concrete will be purchased locally. This facility will provide better value for grain producers when their crops are utilized locally, and it will generate additional property tax for the county.”

Numerous residents who live near the proposed site, as well as residents who live near previously constructed swine confinement operations, expressed their opposition to the permit application.

Several members of the King family, who live north of Highway 20 and are the nearest families to the site with the exception of Gross, urged the Planning Commission to recommend the application be denied.

Marsha King said their ranch has been in the King family for more than 50 years, and two of their children and four grandchildren also live on the ranch.

“I never thought with two creeks and a pond close by that this could ever happen here,” King said. “We have worked all our lives for our place, and none of us deserve to have our air and our water compromised.”

She said the King ranch pays more than $37,000 in property taxes annually to Brown County.

Jack King Sr. said the project would affect the quality of life for the three families that live on the ranch.

“I think this whole thing is ridiculous,” he said as he provided aerial photos showing how close the facility would be to the three families who live on the King ranch.

Reena King said four generations of the King family have put their blood, sweat and tears into the land to make the ranch a good, clean working ranch.

“It is plain to see our quality of life will be thrown away if this project proceeds,” Reena King said. “It will devalue our land, and the scenery would be devastated.”

Jack King Jr. said most pits like the one proposed eventually allow seepage into the groundwater.

“When extraordinary amounts of manure are applied to the ground, the excess runs off into the creeks,” he said. “That will lead to a dead zone in those waterways. The odors will create health problems for the neighbors.”

Dave Sherman said he has lived on Plum Creek his entire life.

“I get we need agriculture in the county, but we also need clean air and clean water for our community to survive,” Sherman said.

Sherman said he had leased Gross’s farm ground for numerous years, and he believed it would serve as a poor site for a facility.

“How will the manure be knifed in when the conditions the last two years have a stream going through those pivots?” Sherman asked. “Is it worth modifying people’s lives for an extra 15,000 bushels of corn?”

Sherman said he wants to see the Sandhills kept clean and healthy, and he didn’t believe the project was a smart idea.

Rhonda Sherman said they have grazed cattle on Gross’s land for 25 years. She said it took 25 years for the grass to grow and the hills to repair themselves after the ground was torn up years ago for pivots that didn’t work.

Through tears, Sherman said she already experiences issues with air contaminants, which sometimes force her to drive four hours for treatment.

“This facility would mean we may have to move,” she said. “The ranch has been in Dave’s family for 100 years. Leaving it would be very painful.”

Heather Painter said her family lives near the first swine facility that was constructed south of Ainsworth.

“We raised similar concerns,” Painter said. “That facility was approved and expanded. We now deal daily with the stench from that facility. I have taken my children and myself to the doctor more times than I ever thought I would. You should be seriously concerned about how this waste could impact the creeks and the groundwater. The neighbors, especially those with young children, should be your primary concern.”

Painter also read a letter she said was submitted by Kelsey Gross, standing with the Kings in opposition to the project.

Kim Snyder, who lives 2 miles from a facility constructed in northern Brown County, said she now struggles with headaches and nausea that were not present before that facility was built.

“I stand with the Kings and their neighbors,” Snyder said. “There were restrictions placed on the facility near us when it was approved, but there has been no enforcement of those conditions.”

Snyder said families work their entire lives to raise their kids and improve their property, but then a project like this comes in and changes your entire life.

“We always thought we would build a new home on our property, but that dream is now gone,” Snyder said.

Jessica Piskorski, an attorney representing the King family, said the proposed project would benefit one family and harm many. She said 76 people signed a letter to Gross asking him to reconsider his decision to try and build a facility at that site.

“This type of facility would not be allowed in Cherry County,” Piskorski said. “It would have to be 2 miles away from neighboring homes. It would not be allowed in Rock County, it would have to be 1-1/2 miles away from homes. Why doesn’t Brown County have similar setbacks in its regulations?”

Piskorski said the project would be detrimental to neighboring property values, and would change the character of the area.

Craig Andreeson said a project like this looks good on paper, but it is not going to be built on paper but in the fragile Sandhills next to families who have been there for 100 years.

“Everybody has a right to do what they want to do on their property, until it impacts the quality of life of neighboring property owners,” Andreeson said. “The impact this will have on so many people has to be taken into account.”

Danny Bennett said he and his wife live 1 mile south of the facility built in northern Brown County.

“There are about 25 days each year when we absolutely can’t go outside,” Bennett said. “If we lived a mile north, I can’t imagine what it would be like.”

Bennett said there are entire regions of Iowa that are now uninhabitable due to the number of livestock confinement facilities that were built.

“We have two or three now,” Bennett said. “Will we have 10 or 15 several years from now?”

He said, despite what is argued, trees and shelter belts do not stop the odor from a swine facility.

Troy Peters told the Planning Commission he was not against animal agriculture in Brown County, but he felt bad for the families that have lived in that area their entire lives and would have to smell that facility for the rest of their lives.

Peters said he would like to see the commission reject this project and put a moratorium on future hog facilities.

Providing neutral testimony, Superintendent of the Niobrara National Scenic River Steve Theide said his concern was ultimately the water quality in the Niobrara River.

“If it is built and operated properly, it should not affect the water quality of the river,” Theide said.

He said, as proposed, the facility would be built within 300 to 500 feet of Cedar Creek. He requested the facility be located as far as possible from Cedar Creek to help mitigate any accidental spills.

Also providing neutral testimony, Tonny Beck with Beck’s Well and Irrigation said the geology in the area of this proposed facility was much different than the facility built in northern Brown County not tied to Gross’s project.

“The facility south of Ainsworth is more similar to what John is looking to do, but the pivots there as not as close to a stream,” Beck said. “If it is going to have an 8-foot pit, it will then be about an additional 6 feet to reach the static water level. If something does go wrong, there is not much distance to Cedar Creek, and distance is your friend if there is ever a problem.”

Beck said he had a great deal of experience with manure management associated with these types of facilities. If manure is applied through the pivot, the odor is extreme. With direct injection, the odor is much better but there is more potential for the product to leech below the root zone.

“There is no confining zone below this facility to the aquifer,” Beck said. “My hope was to see it up in the hills farther from the creek and at a higher elevation.”

Mark Miles told the commission he had no opinion for or against the project, but he said the hog industry has been euthanizing hogs due to the lack of ability to get them harvested.

“The long-term value of this facility is something I would like to see answered,” Miles said. “From an economic standpoint, I am curious how it benefits the community other than the tax base and a little bit of grain base.”

Responding to the concerns raised, Mossman said it is the job of the Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy to evaluate the permit application and determine any impact on groundwater and surface water.

“The application won’t be approved by the NDEE if it impacts the water,” Mossman said.

Planning Commissioner Pat Schumacher asked about the current status of the application. Mossman said the application had been submitted and was now in the review process. Notice of a permit or a denial is issued after 120 days, followed by a public comment period.

Stevens said the permit was about 70 days into that 120-day process.

Planning Commissioner Wilber Saner said the facility only being 300 feet from a creek bothered him.

Gross said the facility could be sited farther west, away from Cedar Creek.

“It was put where it was to utilize the existing shelter belts and help with the smell,” Gross said.

Schumacher said the Planning Commission relies on the Department of Environmental Quality to determine the impact a facility will have on the water.

“We don’t have that expertise on this board,” Schumacher said. “We just try to make things work for Brown County.”

Schumacher said the Planning Commission went through this permitting process recently for another facility. He said the board members in the last couple years have felt the county’s current zoning regulations were not clear enough and were not applicable to all situations.

“We have worked on this for a number of years,” Schumacher said. “The purpose of zoning is to benefit as many people as possible and keep bad projects from happening.”

He said the commission is in the process of revamping its zoning regulations, but the pandemic has slowed the process by limiting when and how the group could meet.

“As it stands under our current regulations, this type of facility is permitted in Brown County,” Schumacher said. “We did the original regulations ourselves because the commissioners at the time did not want to spend the $20,000 or $30,000 on professional regulations.”

Schumacher said he would have a hard time voting against the project because Gross had followed all the rules the county currently has in place.

“I hear all your concerns, but we are working under the regulations we have,” he said.

Planning Commissioner Steve Bejot said he had a few concerns, and believed facilities like this should be at least 2 miles from the nearest neighbor.

“I am concerned about the water table,” Bejot said. “One of our rules says a project should not change the character of the district.”

Saner said the commission was caught between a rock and a hard place with the way the county’s current regulations are written.

“I would like to see it moved away from the creek,” Saner said.

Planning Commissioner Linda O’Hare said the Planning Commission’s job is to listen to everyone and collect information.

“We make a recommendation to the commissioners,” O’Hare said. “This hearing is the first step. The commissioners cannot take action until receiving the final report from the Zoning Board. This is tough.”

Planning Commissioner Jim Carley said all the board members are from the area.

“We are not here to destroy what has been around here for hundreds of years,” Carley said. “This is where we were raised. This is where we will die. We have to preserve what we have.”

Following the hearing’s closure, Bejot moved to recommend the Brown County Commissioners not approve the special-use application submitted by John Gross for a swine finishing facility.

“I am sure this will go to court, so we have to list the reasons why,” Bejot said.

He stated the project would be detrimental to adjacent property and is not compatible with the intended use of the district. Carley seconded the motion and, by a 5-0 vote, the Planning Commission approved recommending the commissioners deny the permit.

The matter now moves to the Brown County Commissioners for final action.

* AHS students urged to check school email for prom details

(Posted 5 a.m. July 2)

Ainsworth High School students planning to attend prom are asked to check their school email for details. The Junior Class sponsors have limited ways to get in touch with students, so information has been emailed regarding the July 11 event.
The banquet July 11 begins at 6 p.m. in the school cafeteria. Temperatures will be taken. Photos will be taken in the commons for photos at 6:45 p.m. The grand march begins at 7:30 p.m. in the gym. Each student will be able to have four guests, and must provide those names to the school.
There will be no prom dance this year, but post prom begins at 9 p.m. in the Learning Center, cafeteria and gym.

* Third COVID-19 case reported in Cherry County Tuesday

(Posted 6:45 a.m. July 1)

The North Central District Health Department received notification Tuesday of another positive COVID-19 case in Cherry County. The person contracted the illness through direct contact with another positive case.
NCDHD conducted a case investigation and all close contacts have been identified. The person who contracted the virus has previously been in quarantine due to travel and is currently remaining in quarantine. NCDHD also reported four additional recoveries Tuesday in Knox County.
As of Tuesday afternoon, there have been 48 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the nine counties covered by the North Central District Health Department. The case in Cherry County was the third in that county. Of the 48 cases, 35 have been deemed to have recovered. One person in the district has died from the virus, and 12 cases are still active.
Brown and Keya Paha counties have still not had any confirmed cases of COVID-19. Statewide, there were 135 new cases reported Tuesday, down from 143 cases Monday. Cases have been trending downward in Nebraska, one of only a handful of states to see cases on the decline. Nebraska has had 19,177 confirmed cases from the 180,826 tests that have been conducted, with 274 deaths statewide.

* Traffic Accident

(Posted 3 p.m. June 30)

The Brown County Sheriff’s Department investigated a two-vehicle accident that occurred Monday on Highway 20 west of Ainsworth.
According to the sheriff’s department report, at 11:16 a.m. on Highway 20 approximately 3 miles west of Ainsworth, a 2004 Dodge Ram, driven by Jaci Swanson, 43, of rural Ainsworth, was pulling a baler and attempted to turn south onto 428th Avenue. A collision occurred with a westbound cement truck, driven by Wayne Paulson, 42, of Ainsworth. The collision caused the cement truck to enter the south ditch.
No injuries were reported. Damage to the Dodge was estimated at $4,000. The cement truck, owned by Ainsworth Ready Mix, sustained minimal damage.
The accident prompted the civil defense siren to sound in Ainsworth. The Brown County Ambulance Association and Ainsworth Volunteer Fire Department also responded to the scene.

* Highway 20 to be designated Friday as Medal of Honor Highway

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

Weather permitting, at 10 a.m. Friday, the first of two signs will be unveiled for placing by the Nebraska Department of Transportation designating U.S. Highway 20 as the “Nebraska Medal of Honor Highway.”

The event, sponsored by the Nebraska Medal of Honor Foundation, will take place at Siouxland Freedom Park in South Sioux City, with their half-scale Vietnam War Memorial as the backdrop.

Gov. Pete Ricketts approved the naming in January, making Nebraska the fifth state to formally

adopt the Medal of Honor name for Highway 20, which stretches from Newport, Ore., to Boston, Mass.

The Nebraska Medal of Honor Highway is the longest named state highway in Nebraska and is crossed by the VFW Memorial Highway and the American Legion Memorial Highway.

* Second COVID-19 case reported in Cherry County

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

The North Central District Health Department received notification Monday of two additional positive COVID-19 cases in the district.

The first case is in Cherry County. Through case investigation it was determined that the person contracted the illness during travel outside of the district. The person is currently in quarantine.

The second case is in Pierce County. Through case investigations it was determined that the person contracted the illness through community spread that is present in the area and is currently in quarantine.

As the Fourth of July holiday approaches, many may be thinking of a nice weekend getaway. Camping and outdoor activities are usually on the priority list during the summer months. NCDHD wants to make sure that you are planning and preparing for your travels with safety and COVID-19 in mind. Stay aware of case trends in areas where you may plan to travel. Practice good hand hygiene and wear a mask when social distancing can be difficult. Visit the North Central District Health Department Facebook page and website for information on how to travel smart this summer.

 As of Monday afternoon, there have been 47 COVID-19 cases in the nine-county area covered by the NCDHD. Of those 31 people have recovered, one died, and 15 cases are active.

Brown and Keya Paha counties do not have any COVID-19 cases that have been confirmed. Rock and Boyd counties have had one case, Cherry County two and Holt County three.

* City Council endorses Three River for fiber optic Internet build-out

(Posted 1:15 p.m. June 29)

During an emergency meeting Monday, the Ainsworth City Council unanimously voted to endorse having Three River Communications build a fiber Internet network in the city.

Four companies initially expressed interest in bringing a fiber optic network into Ainsworth after the city was earmarked for more than $1 million in grant funding. Since that time, the city was removed from grant consideration due to the level of Internet service already provided in Ainsworth.

City Administrator Lisa Schroedl said the council called the emergency meeting due to the grant application being due to the state by July 2.

Since the grant application changed and Ainsworth was excluded from consideration for funding, Schroedl said Three River was the only company that agreed to continue to move forward with building the fiber optic network.

She said the state originally would have provided a grant equal to $1,500 per household in the city.

“The city would have initially been able to apply for $1.3 million or $1.4 million, which would have been about half the cost,” Schroedl said. “Originally, the city would have to select a provider for the installation and apply for the grant. Now, the provider has to apply.”

She said cities would only be eligible for grant funding if their current Internet speeds are below a certain threshold. She said the state’s broadband map showed Ainsworth receiving faster current speed than the threshold, leaving the city ineligible for the grant opportunity through the federal CARES Act.

Mayor Greg Soles said USA Communications of Kearney, Stealth Broadband of Norfolk and Allo Communications of Imperial indicated initial interest along with Three River Communications when the potential grant funding was announced.

“Three River is not anticipating receiving any financial assistance to build the fiber network, but they are still willing to move forward,” Soles said. “Their previous schedule for broadband has changed, and they have made Ainsworth a priority.”

Schroedl said Three River still plans to apply to the state to reconsider grant funding for Ainsworth and plans to indicate to the state that Internet speeds in Ainsworth are not consistently above the threshold that disqualifies the city from receiving funding.

Soles said the availability of obtaining the fiber itself, as well as a company to handle the installation, would impact the timeline for the project. Soles said Three River anticipated it might take six to eight months to complete the network build, but if a company could be contracted and the fiber was available, the timeline could be between three to six months.

Councilman Brad Fiala said Three River already has an established local presence in Ainsworth, with four employees living in the Ainsworth area and another in Long Pine.

“Three River was also the only company that was going to bury the fiber line to the houses,” Fiala said. “The others were going to go with overhead lines.”

Councilman Tonny Beck said Three River already had broadband build-out in Ainsworth in its five-year plan, but the current situation has caused the company to move its timeline forward.

The council unanimously agreed to endorse having Three River provide broadband service to Ainsworth. Three River will complete the application to submit to the state prior to the July 2 deadline.

* Area students named to Deans' List for spring semester at UN-L

(Posted 7:15 a.m. June 29)

Nearly 7,500 University of Nebraska–Lincoln students have been named to the Deans' List for the spring semester of the 2019-20 academic year.

Area students named to the Deans’ List for the spring semester at UN-L are:

 

Ainsworth

Jack Arens, senior, College of Engineering, computer engineering.

Colin Dike, senior, College of Education and Human Sciences, special education (7-12) and speech (7-12).

Austin Harthoorn, senior, College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, agricultural economics.

Rebecca Taylor, sophomore, College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, environmental restoration science.

Samuel Wilkins, sophomore, College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, agricultural economics; College of Engineering, agricultural engineering.

 

Long Pine

Jacy Hafer, sophomore, College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, agricultural education.

 

Stuart

Peyton Alder, junior, College of Arts and Sciences, biological sciences and psychology.

Harlee Fischer, junior, College of Education and Human Sciences, nutrition and health sciences.

Alison Stracke, senior, College of Arts and Sciences, biochemistry.

 

Atkinson

Brandon Jelinek, junior, College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, grassland ecology and management.

Jake Judge, junior, College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, mechanized systems management.

Jenae Osborne, junior, College of Journalism and Mass Communications, advertising and public relations.

 

Wood Lake

Mariah Hogenson, senior, College of Education and Human Sciences, elementary education.

 

Valentine

Alvin Miller, sophomore, College of Arts and Sciences, psychology.

Reaghan Shelbourn, freshman, College of Arts and Sciences, political science.

Chance Tankersley, sophomore, College of Business, marketing.

* Red Cross will test donor blood for coronavirus antibodies

(Posted 6:45 a.m. June 29)

The American Red Cross is testing all blood, platelet and plasma donations for COVID-19 antibodies, providing donors insight into whether they have been exposed to the coronavirus. At the same time, there continues to be an urgent need for blood donations as hospitals resume surgeries and treatments that require blood products.

The Ainsworth FFA is hosting a blood drive from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. Tuesday, July 7, in the St. Pius X Catholic Church. All donors are required to wear a mask, and the Red Cross will provide a mask if a donor does not have one available. To schedule an appointment, call or text Shaley at 402-760-1749.

All presenting donors will receive a free t-shirt from the American Red Cross.

Antibody testing will indicate if the donor’s immune system has produced antibodies to the coronavirus, regardless of whether they developed symptoms. Donations will be tested using samples pulled at the time of donation and sent to a testing laboratory where they will also undergo routine infectious disease testing. A positive antibody test result does not confirm infection or immunity.

COVID-19 antibody test results will be available within 7-10 days of the donation in the Red Cross Blood Donor App or donor portal at RedCrossBlood.org. The test has been authorized for emergency use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

“As an organization dedicated to helping others, the Red Cross is pleased to provide more information about COVID-19 to our valued donors,” said Dr. Erin Goodhue, executive medical director of direct patient care with the Red Cross Biomedical Services. “If you are feeling healthy and well, please schedule an appointment to not only help saves lives but also learn about your potential exposure to COVID-19.”

The Red Cross is not testing donors to diagnose illness, referred to as a diagnostic test.

To protect the health and safety of Red Cross staff and donors, individuals who do not feel well or who believe they may be ill with COVID-19 should postpone their donation.

Each Red Cross blood drive and donation center follows the highest standards of safety and infection control, and additional precautions – including temperature checks, social distancing and face coverings for donors and staff – have been implemented to help protect the health of all those in attendance.

All blood types are needed to ensure a reliable supply for patients. A blood donor card or driver’s license or two other forms of identification are required at check-in. Individuals who are 17 years of age in most states, weigh at least 110 pounds and are in generally good health may be eligible to donate blood. High school students and other donors 18 years of age and younger also have to meet certain height and weight requirements.

* Several area Wildlife Management Areas closed due to road conditions

(Posted 6:45 a.m. June 29)

Roads on several state wildlife management areas remain closed, partially closed or are intermittently closed because of poor conditions. County roads leading to the areas also may be closed.
The closures are due to damage from the flood of 2019 along with continued high water table in some areas and local rainfall making roads impassable. The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission continues to work to get vehicle access open to these areas.
The impacted WMAs include South Pine WMA in Brown County, Twin Lakes in Rock County; Goose Lake in Holt County; Cottonwood/Steverson and Big Alkali in Cherry County, the Parshall Bridge in Boyd County and the Spencer Dam in Holt County.

* Applications for state business stabilization grants due Friday

(Posted 7 a.m. June 26)

The Nebraska Department of Economic Development reminds those applying for grants under the Small Business Stabilization and Livestock Producer Stabilization programs there are two steps to complete an application.

After filling out an online eligibility form, those who are eligible will receive a confirmation email containing a confirmation number and a link to the full application. The application is not finished by receiving a confirmation number. Businesses and livestock producers must use the link to then complete a full application. Those who do not complete a full application will not receive a grant.

There is still time to apply for each of the grant programs, which are intended to provide support and assistance to Nebraskans negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Visit https://getnebraskagrowing.nebraska.gov for more information or to begin the eligibility confirmation and application process. Call the Get Nebraska Growing hotline at 855-264-6858 for more information.

The Small Business Stabilization Grant Program provides grants to small businesses of 5-49 employees impacted by the coronavirus that meet certain eligibility requirements. Applications are due by 5 p.m. Friday, June 26.

The Livestock Producer Stabilization Grant Program provides grants to eligible livestock producers of 1-10 employees who have endured revenue or employment losses due to the pandemic. Grants for both programs can be used to cover business operating expenses. Applications are due by 5 p.m. July 1.

The Workforce Retraining Initiative will provide funds to all of the state’s community colleges for scholarships and workforce training enhancements. In turn, the community colleges will award scholarships to individuals who are unemployed or underemployed due to the coronavirus, in order to prepare them for employment in high-demand career fields. Prospective students will be able to apply for the scholarships online through Nebraska community college websites starting in July.

The Rural Broadband Remote Access Grant Program will result in new internet connectivity in communities where work-from-home, tele-education and telehealth opportunities have been limited due to inadequate or non-existent high-speed internet service. Broadband providers, with the support of local community officials, can apply for the grants through July 2.

The Gallup Back to Business Learning Journey will fund admission to a Gallup-led leadership training course for a total of 75-100 leaders from eligible small businesses. The course promotes skills that will help businesses refocus and thrive following the pandemic. Businesses can apply through July 2.

* Five additional COVID-19 cases reported by NCDHD Wednesday with first death

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

The North Central District Health Department was made aware of five additional COVID-19 cases Wednesday, and also reported one recovery.
Four of the five cases were reported in Knox County. Two were a result of direct contact with positive cases and two cases were a result of community spread. All close contacts have been identified and contacted. Community spread means the source of the spread of the illness is unknown. Community spread is present throughout the district and residents are encouraged to continue to practice social distancing, wear a mask when social distancing may be difficult, and practice good hand hygiene. NCDHD was also made aware of one additional recovery for Knox County.
The fifth case reported Wednesday to the North Central District Health Department also resulted in the first death in the district from COVID-19. The man in his 70s was from Antelope County and was reported to have underlying health conditions. 
As of Wednesday afternoon, there have been 45 COVID-19 cases in the nine counties covered by the NCDHD. Of those, 30 people are deemed to have recovered. Fourteen cases are still active. Knox County has had more than half of the cases in the district with 23. There have been no confirmed cases in Brown or Keya Paha counties, with one case in Cherry and Rock counties and three in Holt County.

* Ember from burning tree pile ignites hay bale Tuesday

(Posted 11:15 a.m. June 24)

The Ainsworth Volunteer Fire Department was called to a report of a hay bale that caught fire near the site of a controlled burn Tuesday east of Ainsworth.

According to Ainsworth Fire Chief Brad Fiala, at approximately 5:55 p.m. Tuesday, firefighters were called to property 3 miles east of Ainsworth owned by John Werner.

Fiala said an ember from the controlled burning of a tree pile ignited a hay bale near the site. Fiala said firefighters pushed the bale into the burn pile, and the additional fire was limited to the single bale. The bale was owned by Jason Appelt.

Firefighters returned to the Ainsworth Fire Hall by 6:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Fiala cautioned those igniting fireworks to be safe as the Independence Day holiday nears, and don’t light fireworks in areas that are susceptible to igniting a fire.

* Area March taxable sales mixed amid onset of COVID-19 restrictions

(Posted 10 a.m. June 24)

Comparison of March 2020 and March 2019 Net Taxable Sales for Nebraska Counties and Selected Cities

County
or City

2020
Net Taxable
Sales

2019
Net Taxable
Sales

Percent
Change

2020
Sales Tax
5.5%

2019
Sales Tax
5.5%

Blaine

41,454

40,511

2.3

2,280.00

2,228.11

Boyd

1,051,407

988,731

6.3

57,827.52

54,380.34

Brown

2,403,112

2,495,056

(3.7)

132,171.38

137,228.27

Ainsworth

2,266,092

2,393,612

(5.3)

124,635.26

131,648.84

Cherry

4,474,732

4,505,945

(0.7)

246,110.60

247,827.33

Valentine

4,170,688

4,262,382

(2.2)

229,388.13

234,431.32

Holt

7,920,311

8,138,828

(2.7)

435,617.75

447,636.31

Atkinson

1,435,571

1,190,507

20.6

78,956.57

65,478.06

O'Neill

5,287,513

5,886,771

(10.2)

290,813.53

323,772.77

Keya Paha

187,191

171,019

9.5

10,295.55

9,406.07

Rock

596,819

472,215

26.4

32,825.13

25,971.87

State Total

$2,660,981,967

$2,631,841,184

1.1

$146,611,380.51

$144,737,240.46

Comparison of March 2020 and March 2019 Motor Vehicle Sales Tax Collections by County

County
or City

2020
Net Taxable
Sales

2019
Net Taxable
Sales

Percent
Change

2020
Sales Tax
5.5%

2019
Sales Tax
5.5%

Blaine

65,195

77,278

(15.6)

3,525.22

4,199.80

Boyd

309,516

205,995

50.3

16,940.63

11,332.42

Brown

831,431

702,849

18.3

45,741.19

38,934.60

Cherry

982,653

692,571

41.9

54,106.35

38,311.21

Holt

2,230,350

2,333,535

(4.4)

122,755.69

129,462.43

Keya Paha

232,600

156,189

48.9

12,808.57

8,573.45

Rock

272,468

294,253

(7.4)

14,981.58

16,182.89

State Total

$304,512,082

$339,718,661

(10.4)

$16,803,061.48

$18,858,966.00

* $10,000 grant available for project in Brown County through Kick It Forward

(Posted 12:15 p.m. June 23)

Kick It Forward has expanded its reach with a recent board decision to create a scholarship and community building program for students who are able to identify and address needs within their communities for greater social, economic, cultural and racial justice and understanding.

Kick It Forward also plans to help fund the implementation of these plans that the students create for their communities. The scholarships will vary in amounts, up to $10,000 for plans proposed and successfully implemented by the students.

Brown County is one of three counties that has been selected to receive funding.

“We are excited to help promote social justice initiatives that students design for their own communities,” Kick It Forward founder and president Matt Sahag said.

The Kick It Forward Board announced its first three target areas in which the program and scholarships will be offered. Each target area will have students competing for scholarships and plan funding within that individual target area only, so that each community will have a separate and distinct opportunity to receive scholarship funds for its students, as well as to have a social, economic, cultural or racial justice initiative implemented in their community.

Students who are currently enrolled in school in the target area, who graduated high school in the target area, who live in the target area, whose primary permanent residence is in the target area, or otherwise have significant connections to the target area are eligible to apply for the program. In addition to Brown County, two counties in Iowa were selected to apply for funding.

“We can’t wait to see the types of plans the students from these areas come up with,” Sahag said. “Our vision is for students to be able to drive social change and promote understanding in all of our communities.”

More information and the applications will be posted on the Kick It Forward website at www.kifsoccer.com.

The deadline for the application for all three target areas is July 31.

Founded in June 2012 by Matt Sahag as a way to provide training to youth soccer players who wanted to improve their soccer skills while also impacting the lives of others in a positive way, Kick It Forward has evolved into an organization attempting to grow the game of soccer in a grassroots way, while also helping youth impact their communities in a positive way. From building Mini-Pitch Systems for communities to funding various high school and college programs, Kick It Forward looks to continue promoting social justice and cooperation among communities. This latest program adds a new dimension to Kick It Forward’s vision.

 

KBRB's Graig Kinzie visited with Ainsworth High School graduate Angela Campbell, who sits on the Kick It Forward Board of Directors. She provided additional information about the grant and scholarship opportunities. To hear the conversation, click on the audio link below.

 

audio clips/Kick It Forward - Angela Campbell.mp3

* First COVID-19 cases reported in a Rock County resident

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

The first case of COVID-19 has been confirmed in a Rock County resident. The North Central District Health Department was made aware Monday of four additional cases of COVID-19 in the district. In addition to the first confirmed Rock County case, two new cases were reported in Holt County and one new case was confirmed in Knox County.
Through investigations, all four cases are deemed to be from community spread. All close contacts have been identified and contacted. Community spread means that the source from the spread of the illness is unknown. Community spread is present throughout the district and residents are encouraged to continue to practice social distancing, wear a mask when social distancing may be difficult, and practice good hand hygiene.
As of Monday afternoon, there have been 40 positive COVID-19 cases in the nine counties covered by the North Central District Health Department. Of those, 29 are deemed to have recovered and 11 are still active. There have been no reported deaths in the district.
Knox County has reported 19 cases, followed by Antelope County with eight, Pierce County with seven, Holt County with three, and one each for Boyd, Cherry and Rock counties. Brown and Keya Paha counties have not had any confirmed cases.

* Lions Club to install officers in July

(Posted 6:45 p.m. June 22)

The Ainsworth Lions Club will install new officers during its annual family picnic July 20 at East City Park. Lions Club members are reminded to pay their 2020-21 dues by July 1. Dues are $65, with an additional $40 for a spouse.

The club discussed the status of the Brown County Fair, as the Lions Club has traditionally run the concession stand during the fair.

Evan Evans reported he had not yet heard back from a company in Atkinson regarding the installation of cement curbs for play areas in the city parks. The curbs need to be completed before the crumb rubber can be distributed under the playground equipment. Evans said members should check out similar curbs installed at the library. A workday to remove and clean out the old edges around the playground equipment will need to be scheduled.

Virgil Heyer reported the Lions Club Mobile Screening Unit for sight and hearing will be able to do twice as many screenings as in previous years. The school is aware of the availability and the Lions Club District Governor would like to have every school in District 38-I involved.

* Random Ainsworth households to receive income survey

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

The city of Ainsworth will conduct a local survey this month to collect accurate information representative of the community’s needs.

The city asks residents who receive it by mail to complete the survey. Information collected from the public includes housing, family size, age and income. Answering all the questions will benefit the community as a whole, and the final results will be vital for planning future projects.

A private firm will conduct the survey tabulation and present results to the city at a future council meeting.  Anyone with questions may call City Administrator Lisa Schroedl, at 402-387-2494.

The survey is not related to the 2020 Census. It serves local purposes only. Not all households received a survey, as residences were selected randomly.

The city asks residents who receive the survey to complete it fully and return it as soon as possible either using the pre-stamped envelope or by dropping it off in the city office.

 

* Niobrara Scenic River to begin offering free Friday programs

 

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

The Niobrara National Scenic River and the Niobrara Council are offering opportunities for the public to participate in scientific research on Friday afternoons at 1 p.m. 
The free programs begin June 26 and continue each Friday through July in the Niobrara National Scenic River Visitor Center at Valentine. The topic for the first program is Creek Critters.
Due to social distancing best practices, each session is limited to nine participants. Call the scenic river visitor center at 402-376-1901 to reserve a spot. Multiple sessions will be provided if there is enough interest.
Activities weekly will introduce the participant to a topic and show how it connects to the Niobrara River. Instruction for an ongoing scientific research project will be provided.  The activities can be done anywhere. Many of them are connected to NASA, whose projects need millions of pieces of data to make them relevant. Citizen science is the collection and analysis of data relating to the natural world by members of the general public, typically as part of a collaborative project with professional scientists.

* Three additional COVID-19 cases reported in Knox County

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

The North Central District Health Department was made aware of three additional positive COVID-19 cases in Knox County Thursday. The cases are a result from direct contact with a positive case. Residents of Knox County should continue to practice social distancing, mask wearing when social distancing is difficult, and good hand hygiene as community spread is present in the county.
As of Thursday afternoon, there have been 36 COVID-19 cases in the nine counties served by the North Central District Health Department. Of those, 28 people have been deemed to have recovered. Eight cases are still active. There have been no deaths reported in the nine-county district.
Brown, Rock and Keya Paha counties have still not had a confirmed case of the virus. 

* Area farm, ranch families to receive Aksarben Awards

(Posted 3 p.m. June 17)

Each year, Aksarben recognizes Nebraskan families who have met the milestone of owning at least 40 acres of farmland within one family for 100 years and 150 years.
The Aksarben Foundation announced this year’s Aksarben Pioneer Farm Awards (100 years) and Aksarben Heritage Farm Awards (150 years).
Aksarben began awarding the Pioneer Award in 1956, and since that time, nearly 10,000 farm families have received the award statewide. The Heritage Award was established in 2014, and has been awarded to nearly 100 farm families.

To commemorate this milestone, each of these families will receive an engraved plaque and gatepost marker at the county fair in the county where their farm is located.

Area families being recognized by Aksarben include:

 

Rock County

Jim and Phyllis Frizzell – Frizzell Family Ranch, Established 1920

 

Holt County

Dan and Jean Roberts – Linza and Bertha Axtell Family Farm, Established 1919
Jerry and Elaine Tasler – Tasler Family Farm, Established 1919

 

Boyd County
Avery Acres, LLC – Clyde/Avery Family Farm, Established 1902

Aksarben Foundation President Sandra Reding said, “We’re proud to recognize these Nebraska farm families each year. The dedication and perseverance demonstrated by these families is a testament to the strong Nebraska values that set our state apart and have been making Aksarben proud, for over 120 years.”
Due to COVID-19, many county fairs are still questioning whether to have a fair this year. Instead of handing out the awards during county fairs, Aksarben is working with both Nebraska Farm Bureau and fair managers to get the awards to recipients across the state.
Nebraska Farm Bureau President Steve Nelson said, “Nebraska Farm Bureau will work with our regional managers, our county Farm Bureau leaders and county fair managers to set up times to deliver these prestigious honors. Nebraska Farm Bureau’s heritage and continuous mission is to serve Nebraska farm and ranch families, and these awards recognize the commitment to preserve and build Nebraska agriculture for future generations.”

* Olson provides information on small business and livestock grant opportunities

(Posted 6:45 a.m. June 17)

North Central Development Center Executive Director Kristin Olson provided information for small businesses and livestock producers who could be eligible for $12,000 grants from the state of Nebraska.
The state is utilizing $330 million in federal CARES Act funds to provide to businesses employing between five and 49 people, and livestock producers with between one and 10 employees.
To hear the conversation about the programs, as well as updates on the PPP and EIDL federal programs, click on the audio link below.

audio clips/NCDC - June 17 program update.mp3

* Additional COVID-19 case reported in Pierce County Tuesday

(Posted 6:45 a.m. June 17)

The North Central District Health Department was made aware of an additional positive COVID-19 case in Pierce County Tuesday. The person contracted the virus through direct contact with another positive case. Close contacts are being identified and will be asked to quarantine.  Residents of Pierce County should continue to practice social distancing, mask wearing when social distancing is difficult, and good hand hygiene as community spread is present in the county.

Test Nebraska will hold additional testing events in the district through the rest of the month. The next testing events will be June 19 and June 20 from 8 a.m. until noon in the Holt County Roads Department building near O’Neill.

Clinics will also take place in the Valentine Fire Hall June 21 from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. and June 22 from 8 a.m. until noon. Residents can sign up at www.testnebraska.com and complete the questionnaire.

NCDHD received confirmation that criteria for qualifying for testing has been lifted in areas outside of Lincoln and Omaha. NCDHD encourages district residents to sign up if they have previously tried and not met qualifications and would still like a test. Directions to the clinic site will be available based on the clinic selected. Save or print the QR code that is generated after scheduling and bring the code to the clinic.

As of Tuesday afternoon, there have been 33 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the NCDHD’s nine-county coverage area. Knox, Antelope and Pierce counties account for all but three of the positive cases. There have been no positive cases in Brown, Rock or Keya Paha counties. Of the 33 total cases in the district, 28 are deemed to have recovered with five cases still active. 

* Ricketts announces further easing of restrictions beginning Monday

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

Gov. Pete Ricketts on Monday announced the next steps in the state’s phased plan to loosen restrictions that have been in place during the coronavirus pandemic. The new directed health measures, easing restrictions on businesses and activities, will take effect June 22. 

Most counties in Nebraska (89 out of 93) will move to “Phase 3” of the reopening on June 22.  Dakota, Hall, Hamilton, and Merrick counties will move to “Phase 2.”

“We first implemented Directed Health Measures back in March to help slow the spread of the virus,” Ricketts said. “We’ve successfully slowed the spread. Now, we’re taking a step-by-step approach to loosen restrictions, while still making sure our healthcare system is stable.

On May 4, we began Phase 1 of our reopening plan in some counties. On June 1, most counties entered Phase 2. Today, we’re announcing that 89 of the state’s 93 counties will proceed to Phase 3 on June 22.”

Among the changes beginning Monday, restaurants and bars may return their seating areas to 100 percent capacity. Food may again be consumed at bar seating, and games such as pool and darts are now allowed. Outdoor venues can host events with 75 percent capacity, while large indoor venues can have 50 percent of capacity.

All restrictions regarding elective surgeries are removed beginning Monday.

Contact team sports may resume activities July 1.

Parades, carnivals, dances and beer gardens remain prohibited.

Felicia Quintana-Zinn, Deputy Director for the Division of Public Health of the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, overviewed the state’s plan, developed in conjunction with partner associations and local health departments, to help long-term care facilities safely move toward more normal operations.

“DHHS is working closely with long-term care facilities, local health departments, and their partners to provide safe and appropriate care for residents of long-term care facilities during the pandemic,” Quintana-Zinn said. “DHHS has developed a Long-Term Care Coronavirus Phasing Guidance for responsibly easing restrictions in facilities while coronavirus remains in communities across Nebraska. The guidance mirrors the Directed Health Measure phases to allow facilities a standardized tool to determine when they should ease restrictions based off of their community data.”

The LTC Phasing Guidance has three phases that include considerations such as visitation, communal dining, and group activities. 

All LTC facilities are currently considered to be in LTC Phase 1.

If their local health district is currently under DHM Phase 2, LTC facilities can move to LTC Phase 2 now if they meet the criteria under the LTC Phasing Guidance. 

In order to move to LTC Phase 3, a facility must be located in a local health district under DHM Phase 3, complete baseline testing of their staff, and meet other criteria under the guidance.

If a positive case of coronavirus is identified in a facility after progressing to another phase, the facility must work with the local health department to determine whether circumstances require the facility to return to Phase 1.

Test Nebraska resources are being offered by the state to help facilitate baseline testing of staff and residents at no charge to facilities for specimen collection materials, laboratory testing, and PPE. 

LTC facilities must register for testing online. The state will schedule facilities for testing and will distribute test kits and PPE to facilities through the local health departments. Facilities and the local health departments will receive reports of test results. 

Ricketts said, “We have been asking people not to visit long-term care facilities. This short-term solution has helped to protect lives and has kept the number of coronavirus cases down.

However, we know that this approach cannot last forever. Long-term care isolation is challenging for anyone and can have a significant impact on the mental health of our most vulnerable.”

Nebraska Department of Education Commissioner Matthew Blomstedt said NDE expects schools to resume instruction this fall with students in the classroom.

“Today is a significant day for us,” Blomstedt said. “We’ve said before that we hope schools can have in-person learning in the fall. Now, our expectation is that schools will have in-person learning this fall. NDE will continue to provide guidance for schools as they work on protocols to safely hold classes in the fall. Schools are built for students. We’ve always intended to get students back in buildings. We’ll work to provide a safe environment for them as we prepare for the fall.”

* Water system work in Long Pine to continue Tuesday

(Posted 4:15 p.m. June 15)

Water line repair work in Long Pine will not be completed Monday. The water for city water system customers will be turned back on at 5 p.m. and will be turned off again Tuesday morning to resume repair work.
Stay tuned to KBRB Tuesday for additional information on when water service is turned off and then later restored to customers.

* Two additional COVID-19 cases reported Monday in Knox County

(Posted 4:15 p.m. June 15)

The North Central District Health Department has been made aware of two additional positive COVID-19 cases Monday in Knox County. The first case, through contact investigations has been deemed to be from community spread. Close contacts have been identified and asked to quarantine. The second case is currently under investigation. Contacts in this case have been identified and asked to quarantine. Residents of Knox County should assume the illness is in their location, as community spread is present in the county.

NCDHD reminds residents Test Nebraska will hold additional testing events in the district through the rest of the month. The next testing events will be June 19 and 20 from 8 a.m. until noon in the Holt County Roads Department building near O’Neill. Clinics will also take place at the Valentine Fire Hall June 21 from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. and June 22 from 8 a.m. until noon. Residents can sign up at www.testnebraska.com. To sign up for a Test Nebraska event, visit the Test Nebraska website and complete the questionnaire.

NCDHD received confirmation that criteria for qualifying for testing has been lifted in areas outside of Lincoln and Omaha. NCDHD encourages district residents to sign up if they have previously tried and not met qualifications and would still like a test. Directions to the clinic site will be available based on the clinic selected. Save or print the QR code that is generated after scheduling and bring to the clinic.

As of Monday afternoon, there have been 32 positive cases of COVID-19 in the nine-county area served by the North Central District Health Department. Of those, 28 are deemed to have recovered, and there have been no deaths reported in the district.

There have been 15 cases in Knox County, eight in Antelope County, six in Pierce County, and one each in Boyd, Cherry and Holt counites. Brown, Rock and Keya Paha counties have still not had any confirmed COVID-19 cases.

* Area students named to Northeast Community College academic lists

(Posted 7 a.m. June 15)

Northeast Community College has named the President's Honor List and Deans' Honor List for both full-time and part-time students for the spring semester.

To be named to the President’s Honor List, students must earn a grade point average of 4.0 and be enrolled for at least 12 credit hours. Some 218 students made the President’s Full-time Honor List during the spring semester. 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. A total of 221 students were named to the Deans’ Honor List.

Another 280 students named to the President’s Part-Time list attained a 4.0 grade point average while taking at least six credit hours, and 88 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 - Full-Time, Spring 2020

Johnstown - Henry Beel.

Bassett - Brodee Fleming.

Stuart - Kennison Kunz, Wyatt Paxton and Ethan Sattler.

Atkinson - Jeffrey Mathis.
Naper - Hannah Drueke and Austin Koenig.

 

DEANS’ HONOR LIST-Full-time, Spring 2020

Atkinson - Ashley Larby.

 

PRESIDENT’S HONOR LIST—Part-time, Spring 2020

Ainsworth - Tory Cole, Rylee Rice, Grant Stec, Raven Stewart and Miriam Werner.

Long Pine - Jamie Biltoft.

Springview - Morgan Heyden, Keely Munger, Hunter Wiebelhaus and Miah Wiebelhaus.

Bassett - Brendan Bussinger.

Newport - Kaylee Hinton.

Stuart - Jocelyn Hamilton and Jade Meusch.

Atkinson - Hannah Brotsky, Ellie Burkinshaw, Garrison Hansen, Brandi Heller, Geneva Pacha and Marissa Pacha.

Butte - Heather Atkinson, Kaesin Ellwanger, Colby Hansen and Makala Reiser.

 

DEAN’S HONOR LIST Part-Time, Spring 2020

Ainsworth - Kaitlin Bussinger, Natalie Saner and Sonya Shurter.

Atkinson - Nyah Kellner.

Butte - Cory Lechtenberg, Jodi Polacek and Mariah Smalley.

* Small businesses, livestock producers may apply for state grant

(Posted 6:30 a.m. June 15)

Applications open June 15 for Nebraska small businesses and livestock producers to receive $12,000 operating grants on a first-come, first-served basis.

Those eligible to apply are small businesses with five to 49 employees, and livestock producers with one to 10 employees.

The state of Nebraska established the program to provide financial assistance to Nebraska-owned small businesses and livestock producers impacted by COVID-19 related closures, occupancy restrictions and the overall loss of consumer traffic.

The funding is part of the CARES Act appropriation provided by the federal government. Applicants are required to provide a copy of their most recent W-4 form, and a listing of employees as of March 13.

To apply, go online to the Nebraska Department of Economic Development web site at www.opportunity.nebraska.gov and scroll down to the Get Nebraska Growing yellow tab and follow the prompts for the small business grant application or the livestock producer grant application.

Anyone with questions on the program may call 855-264-6858.

* Nebraska to offer grant programs to businesses, ag producers

(Posted 4:15 p.m. June 12)

Gov. Pete Ricketts and State officials provided information Friday on several new grant programs.

Combined, the programs will award $387 million in grants, using federal coronavirus relief dollars, to help get the Nebraska economy growing in the coming weeks and months.

“Our Get Nebraska Growing initiatives are part of $7.8 billion in federal assistance that has come to Nebraska to aid our coronavirus response,” Ricketts said. “These business, agriculture, and rural broadband grants will directly address the economic hardships that our state continues to face as we recover from the pandemic.”   

The new programs will be administered by the Nebraska Department of Economic Development in partnership with the Nebraska Departments of Labor and Department of Agriculture.  Each addresses a specific economic challenge or need created by the coronavirus pandemic.

The Small Business Stabilization Grant Program will provide grants to small businesses with five to 49 employees who were impacted by the coronavirus and meet certain eligibility requirements. 

The Livestock Producer Stabilization Grant Program will provide grants to eligible livestock producers with on to 10 employees who have endured revenue or employment loss due to the pandemic. Grants for both programs can be used to cover business operating expenses.  The application period for each program will open on June 15, with applications due on June 26. 

The Workforce Retraining Initiative will provide funds to all of the state’s community colleges for scholarships and workforce training enhancements.  In turn, the community colleges will award the scholarships to individuals who are unemployed or underemployed due to coronavirus to prepare them for employment in high-demand career fields.  

Prospective students can apply for the scholarships online, through Nebraska community college websites, starting on July 10.  Scholarship applications will remain open through the end of July.

The Nebraska Broadband Grant Program will result in new internet connectivity in communities where work-from-home, tele-education, and telehealth opportunities have been limited due to inadequate or non-existent high-speed internet service.  

Broadband providers, with the support of local community officials, can apply for the grants from June 22 to July 2.

The Gallup Back to Business Learning Journey will fund admission to a Gallup-led leadership training course for a total of 75 to 100 leaders from eligible small businesses.  The course promotes skills that will help businesses refocus and thrive following the pandemic.  Businesses can apply from June 22 to July 2.

A website has been created with information about the new grant programs, including eligibility requirements, how to apply, application deadlines, and frequently asked questions. The website is located at www.getnebraskagrowing.nebraska.gov.  Additional questions can be directed to DED’s Get Nebraska Growing information hotline at 855-264-6858.  

“The impact of coronavirus has resulted in dramatically lower market prices for our farmers and ranchers,” NDA Director Steve Wellman said. “As they fight through these tough economic times, I hope the stabilization grants will provide some much-needed assistance.  I appreciate Governor Ricketts for realizing the importance of the agricultural industry to our state and committing funds to help our producers.”

Commissioner of Labor John Albin said, “The Workforce Retraining program will help open up pathways to employment in high-demand careers and industries. This collaboration between NDOL, community colleges, and employers will allow workers to build new skillsets and employers to tap into new labor pools through Registered Apprenticeships, on-the-job training, and other programs.”

DED Director Anthony Goins said, “These grant programs will address critical areas to help the Nebraska economy get back to being one of the fastest-growing in the nation. We’re listening to the needs of people and communities whose livelihoods have been impacted or put on hold as a result of the pandemic, and we’re going to execute with a real sense of care and urgency to support and aid our fellow Nebraskans.”

* Test Nebraska events scheduled next week at Valentine and O'Neill

(Posted 3:30 p.m. June 12)

The North Central District Health Department was made aware Friday of an additional positive COVID-19 case in Knox County. Through contact investigations the case is deemed to be from community spread.

Residents of Knox County should assume the illness is in their community, as community spread is present in the county.

NCDHD reminds residents that Test Nebraska will hold additional testing events in the district through the rest of the month.

The next testing events will be June 19 and June 20 from 8 a.m. until noon in the Holt County Roads Department building near O’Neill.

Testing will also be conducted in the Valentine Fire Hall June 21 from 10 a.m. until 2 pm and June 22 from 8 a.m. until noon.

Residents can sign up online at www.testnebraska.com one week prior to the testing event. To sign up for a Test Nebraska event, visit the Test Nebraska website and complete the questionnaire. Based on the answers given, it will be determined if you qualify to be tested. If you qualify, you will need to schedule a test. Directions to the clinic site will be available based on the clinic you select. Save or print the QR code that is generated after scheduling and bring the code with you to the clinic.

As of Friday afternoon, there have been 30 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the NCDHD nine-county coverage area. All but four of those who tested positive have now been deemed to have recovered from the virus. There have been no deaths reported in the NCDHD area.

There have been 13 cases in Knox County, eight in Antelope County, six in Pierce County, and one each in Boyd, Cherry and Holt counties. There have been no reported cases in Brown, Rock or Keya Paha counties.

* Sewer service to be interrupted for parts of Ainsworth during pipe installation

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

SAK Construction is in Ainsworth installing cure-in-place sewer pipe. Residential and commercial sewer service will be interrupted in areas where the new pipe is installed. The liner blocks the connection from the residence or business to the sewer line. A remote-control device will reinstate service after the liner is installed.

SAK Construction asks residents and businesses to refrain from using water as much as possible while the company is working in each area. The company will notify affected residents and businesses one day prior to the work commencing.

Minimal restroom usage is acceptable, however, the company requests people avoid running dishwashers and washing machines, and refrain from bathing or showering. The work takes about eight to 10 hours to complete.

Anyone with questions may contact Josh Warren with SAK Construction at 816-738-9490 or visit www.sakcon.com/installinfo

* Ainsworth Public Library opens for limited use

(Posted 1 p.m. June 11)

The Ainsworth Public Library opened its doors Thursday after a three-month closing. The library will implement temporary operating guidelines as a start to its reopening process. 

“As much as we would like for the library to be back to normal, our reopening will take part in measured phases for the health and safety of staff and our community members,” Librarian Gail Irwin said. “The library reserves the right to modify these restrictions based on Health Care Directives from the North Central District Health Department. You are using the Ainsworth Public Library at your own risk. The library is not responsible if you contract any infectious disease, including coronavirus. We ask that you do not enter if you or anybody in your household has been sick or running a temperature within the last week. Please wait 10 days from symptom onset, plus 72 hours of being symptom free before visiting the library.”

The library will be open from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, and will be open from 1 until 5 p.m. on Wednesday and Saturday.

The library is opening with restrictions, including a mask being highly recommended, patrons use hand sanitizer at the front door, follow social distancing guidelines, a limit of 10 people in the building at one time, one person per household, those attending must be 16 years of age or older, an appointment is needed to use a computer with a 30-minute time limit, restrooms are for emergency use only, and all items be returned to the outside drop box.

Curbside service is still available for those who do not want to come inside the library.  Call 402-387-2032 or email aplibrary@threeriver.net

* City Council appoints Joel Klammer to vacant seat

(Posted 7 a.m. June 11)

Joel Klammer was appointed to the Ainsworth City Council Wednesday after being recommended to the position by Mayor Greg Soles.

Klammer will fill the remainder of Soles’ council term after Soles moved from the council president position to mayor following the resignation of former Mayor Jeremiah Sullivan.

After being appointed to the council, Klammer was then appointed as council president to replace Soles.

The council Wednesday approved a recommendation from the LB 840 Citizens Advisory Review Committee to simplify the grant application for fašade improvements through LB 840.

CARC Committee member Chris Raymond said the committee discussed the requirements for fašade grant applications and didn’t feel financial information from the applicant was needed with the program being a grant program.

The fašade program provides a 50 percent grant up to $10,000 for fašade improvements to commercial properties in the city. Previously, applicants to the program were required to provide their previous year’s tax return and financial statements.

City Administrator Lisa Schroedl said the committee has been trying to make the application process for the LB 840 program more straightforward and user friendly. She said the committee believed having to provide financial information is an obstacle to the fašade grant program.

Schroedl said she asked the opinion of Heather Sikyta, the city’s LB 840 attorney, who indicated financial documents would not be as important with a grant application as they would with a loan application.

The council approved adjusting the fašade application to remove the financial data requirement, and approved the CARC’s six-month report following a public hearing.

The council reappointed Leanne Maxwell and Phil Fuchs to one-year terms on the Sandhills Care Center Board of Directors. The council also appointed Dr. Mel Campbell to a one-year term on the care center board. Campbell replaces Chuck Osborn as one of the city representatives on the board.

Auditor Mandy McCoy provided the council with a review of the city’s audit of financial statements from Sept. 30, 2019. The audit report showed no major deficiencies, only the standard lack of segregation of duties over financial controls.

The council approved amending the city’s bank account signatories to add Soles and remove Sullivan. Schroedl said the city, in an effort to segregate duties for its financial processes, typically has the mayor serve as one of the two signatories on claims. The city employee who prepares the claims does not also sign the checks. Another city staff member and the mayor review and sign the claims, which are then approved by the council monthly.

During her report, Schroedl said the company replacing water meters is in town working and is replacing about 10 meters per day. She said they have installed a couple dozen or so thus far. She said another contractor is in town preparing the sewer lines for the installation of the cure-in-place pipe.

Councilman Brad Fiala asked if affected residents would be notified prior to the cure-in-place pipe installation commencing. Schroedl said she was working on getting a schedule from the company so residents can be notified ahead of the work. She said the lift stations included as part of the sewer improvement project won’t be replaced until August.

Schroedl reported the city offices would open to the public beginning at 8 a.m. Thursday, June 11. The Conference Center gym and walking track remain closed, as the gym floor was currently being refinished. The gym will remain closed through the end of July due to the refinishing work.

Schroedl said swimming lessons began Wednesday at the Ainsworth Swimming Pool. She said new directed health measures allow for 33 patrons to enter the pool, which represents 25 percent of the pool’s capacity. She said the city is currently leaving 30 minutes in between each swimming lesson session to allow for the pool to be sanitized. Based on how swimming lessons go with the cleaning, the city could open the pool to the public for part of the summer. In a typical year, she said the pool sees about 50 patrons daily, so having 33 would be manageable.

The city administrator reported Miller and Associates has the low to moderate income survey ready to distribute. The survey will be sent to 125 randomly selected households in the city. She encouraged residents who receive the survey to fill it out and return it to the city.

Schroedl said Tri State Paving has been repairing streets in the city damaged during the March 2019 flooding. She said the company agreed to handle 30 blocks of armor coating for the city, as the city’s longtime contractor for armor coating work would not be available this year.

Audience member Graig Kinzie asked what the city’s plan was to be able to capture the more than $2 million allocated by FEMA for street repairs following the flooding, since the contract with Tri State Paving was only a little over $250,000.

Schroedl said the armor coating work could also be included as part of the reimbursable expenses from FEMA, and she said the city’s expenses to patch damaged streets could also be submitted.

Even so, Kinzie said the work would likely fall well below the $2 million allocated by FEMA for reimbursement. Schroedl said the city tried to estimate the damage high, so it may not have to spend $2 million to repair the street damage.

Schroedl reported Bill Carr has agreed to serve as the city’s building inspector for the newly adopted vacant property ordinance.

She reported the city is eligible for funding to build fiber optic broadband Internet service infrastructure in the city. She said four companies had expressed interest in utilizing the grant funding to build a fiber network in the city. She recommended the council request proposals from the companies for the project and have those companies discuss their proposals during the council’s July meeting.

After a proposal is selected, the city would be the applicant for the grant funding.

She reported she is working with Brown County Attorney Andy Taylor to clean up the deed on the property identified for the solar array project approved by the council. It has been determined the parcel selected had a restriction on the deed when it was sold by Brown County to the city that the property could only be used for a ball field. She said she is working with the county to have that restriction removed so the solar array project can move forward.

Schroedl reported Bart Waits submitted his resignation after 16 years with the city streets department. Schroedl thanked Waits for his work and said the city would advertise to fill the vacancy.

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

 

* Area students named to Wayne State College Dean's List

 

(Posted 7 a.m. June 11)

 

Wayne State College included more than 1,200 students on the dean's list for exemplary academic achievement during the past semester. Students listed on the dean's list are full-time undergraduate students who have achieved a GPA of 3.5 or above on a 4.0 scale for the semester.

Area students named to the spring Dean’s List include:

 

Ainsworth

Benjamin Allen, Lauren Allen*, Payton Allen, Elizabeth Salzman* and Macey VonHeeder

 

Bassett

Abigail Swan

 

Newport

Jesse Cline

 

Stuart

Emma Krysl, Conner Paxton and Jaden Schafer*

 

Atkinson

Devon Dohrman, Seth Hytrek* and Payton Williams

 

Valentine

Reganne Schrunk

 

Butte

Kelsey Reiman* and Rhiannan Smalley*

* Denotes 4.0

* Recent cases from Brown County District Court

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

During Brown County District Court proceedings Tuesday, Jake Bringsthreewhitehorses, 29, of Sioux Falls, S.D., entered guilty pleas to charges of attempted possession of a controlled substance, a Class 3A felony; possession of methamphetamine, a Class 4 felony; and no drug tax stamp, a Class 4 felony.
Bringsthreewhitehorses will be sentenced Aug. 11 in District Court.

* Health department will review plans for any upcoming large events

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

North Central District Health Department will review plans for large events per the new Directed Health Measures issued on June 1. All locations/venues that hold 500 to 1,000 or more individuals will be required to submit a reopening plan for approval to their local health department.
The reopening plan must contain a planned number of guests, how the location or venue will follow current social distancing guidelines associated with Directed Health Measures, and sanitation guidelines. Those planning events in the nine counties NCDHD serves may submit plans on the health department web site at www.ncdhd.ne.gov under the large event planning section and complete the form.
NCDHD loan thermometers for screening attendees and will provide hand sanitizer to be used for sanitation for events.  The requests should be submitted by filling out the Personal Protective Equipment request form.
During COVID-19's emergence, many have fallen behind on their vaccinations. NCDHD will reopen for adult and child vaccinations by appointment starting June 15.  NCDHD provides vaccines for individuals with or without insurance.  To make an appointment, call the North Central District Health Department at 402-336-2406.

* Roadway striping begins Monday in Brown and Cherry counties

(Posted 2:30 p.m. June 9)

Weather permitting, roadway paint striping will begin June 15 in Cherry and Brown counties, according to the Nebraska Department of Transportation.
Vogel Traffic Services, Inc., of Orange City, Iowa, has the $722,654 contract for district-wide striping. Anticipated completion is July.
Motorists are reminded to drive cautiously in and near construction zones and to buckle up.

* Care center receives almost $200,000 in supplemental funding

(Posted 1:45 p.m. June 9)

The Sandhills Care Center received almost $200,000 in additional funding from state and federal programs during May, helping to bolster the facility’s bottom line.

The facility received $165,000 in federal stimulus money from the CARES Act, and the care center also picked up $34,873 from Medicaid for its annual intergovernmental transfer from the program.

The Care Center Board of Directors Monday voted to transfer $225,000 from the facility’s operations account into its interlocal account to serve as a safety net should expenses outpace revenue in future months.

With the nearly $200,000 in stimulus and Medicaid funding, the care center finished May with $341,309 in revenue, with expenses for the month of $106,662.

Activities Director Amy Dike outlined her job duties to the board, including the work she is doing to keep the spirits of the residents up since visitors may still not enter the facility.

“We are going to more one-to-one activities instead of group activities due to COVID-19,” Dike said. “My goal is to interact with every resident every day. We do hallway exercise, and hallway Bingo. It is important for the residents to still have that social interaction.”

Dike said staff try to maintain a 6-foot distance when possible, and she helps residents hold phone calls, Facetime and Zoom calls with family members so they still get the chance to interact with their loved ones.

“We just put in a garden, and we are trying to keep residents involved with that to see something positive,” Dike said.

She said the facility planned to hold another drive-by parade at 3 p.m. June 16 for the family members of residents to drive by and wave at their loved ones. She said the facility also planned to hold a barbecue or fireworks show July 4.

Administrator Stephanie Clifton said the COVID-19 regulations are a challenge, but the facility is getting creative to keep residents engaged.

“It is of the utmost importance to keep COVID-19 out of our building,” Clifton said. “That has to remain our focus.”

She described the procedures staff members go through daily to comply with the COVID-19 guidelines for nursing homes.

Asked when the facility might again reopen to family members and other visitors, Clifton said the state was starting to prepare a three-phase plan for reopening.

“We have not yet been given guidance on Phase I,” Clifton said. “There will not be visitation allowed by the public until Phase III.”

In action items Monday, the board approved a contract with the Brown County Hospital to share maintenance staff. The care center will pay the hospital for 25 hours per week for the maintenance services of Matt Moody and Cory Schroedl. The contract with the hospital increased for the upcoming year from $27 per hour to $30 per hour.

The board approved having Clifton and board members Leanne Maxwell, Buddy Small and Phil Fuchs as signatories on the center’s bank accounts.

Maxwell reported the care center had received a $2,000 grant from the Brown County Foundation to help with the purchase of new bedspreads for the residents. Fuchs said the application with the USDA for funding assistance to replace the facility’s generator is still pending due to the pandemic.

Prior to entering into executive session, the board heard from Kathy Hatley, who manages the facility’s dietary department. She said the department has three cooks and three dietary aides who assist residents with their meals.

“Right now, we are just trying to keep residents fed well and happy,” Hatley said.

Clifton reported there are currently 20 residents in the Sandhills Care Center, with seven residents paying privately, 12 receiving Medicaid assistance with a 13th pending approval of a Medicaid application.

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

* Moon Lake, South Pine avenues closed due to flooding

(Posted 12:45 p.m. June 9)

With the rainfall this week, the Brown County Roads Department reported a portion of Moon Lake Avenue is closed due to water flowing over the road.
Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin said South Pine Avenue is also closed from the T intersection at Cattleman Road north the Y. Water is over the road there making it impossible to travel.
Several stretches of Highway 183 north of Rose have water over the highway. Highway 183 remains open, and the Department of Transportation has placed signs near the areas where water has reached the driving lanes.

* School Board approves changes to graduation requirements

(Posted 7 a.m. June 9)

The Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education approved changes Monday to the school district’s graduation requirements beginning with the class of 2024.

As prepared by a group led by Secondary Principal Steve Dike, the new requirements take away some of the elective hours for students and instead require additional coursework. Superintendent Dale Hafer said the hope with the changes is to give students a more well-rounded educational experience.

While the total hours required to graduate will not change, the new requirements will have students take 40 credits of social studies, up from the previous 30, and adds a required five credits of communication, five credits of personal finance, 10 credits of fine arts and 10 vocational credits.

The new requirements replace the previous 100 elective credits with 60 elective credits required to graduate. Students are required to take a total of 240 credit hours during high school to graduate. Students have the opportunity to take up to 320 credit hours during their four-year careers.

Dike said the five-credit communication course and five-credit personal finance course are designed to be taken during the student’s sophomore year, with one semester of each course. A full year of a class is worth 10 credits.

The new requirements keep the previous 40 mandatory hours of English, 30 credits of math, 30 credits of science and 10 credits of physical education.

After discussing the recommended changes during the previous two meetings, the board Monday approved the first reading of the new graduation requirements.

In other business Monday, the board approved the resignation of long-time elementary teacher Susan Scholtes. Scholtes informed the board she planned to retire after 40 years of teaching at Ainsworth Community Schools. The board thanked Scholtes for her many years of service to the school. Elementary Principal Curtis Childers said the school has two good applicants to interview for the fourth-grade teaching position.

Hafer said he felt fortunate the district had two experienced candidates apply for the position at this late stage. He said one of the applicants currently lives in Ainsworth, and the other was moving to the community soon.

Childers reported 45 students attended the first day of summer school classes. He said the district is following the many recommended guidelines to allow students to attend summer school in the building, which could serve as a good trial run for what the district may have to do to allow students in the building in August.

Hafer reported the district filled its technology coordinator position, hiring Bethany Alder. He said Alder was finishing degrees in information technology and business technology with Central Community College.

Hafer said the district would receive $67,692 in federal CARES Act funds to reimburse the district for COVID-19 related expenses.

The superintendent also reported the agreement has been signed with Trane for the work to the building, including window replacement, roof repairs and plumbing work. The cost for the work is $68,517, which came in below the quoted $70,000 guaranteed maximum cost Trane presented.

Hafer said the district is working through scenarios for the opening of school in August. He said the key for the district is waiting long enough to receive proper guidance from the Nebraska Department of Education and the North Central District Health Department.

“The level of planning has been ratcheted up,” Hafer said. “We are trying to go the extra mile to do what is best for the kids. Guidance from the Department of Education, the governor and the health department will play a big role in the plans we develop.”

During his report, Activities Director Scott Steinhauser said the first week of summer lifting went well, with more than 70 students participating in the program. He said the district worked with the NSAA and the health department to develop guidelines to ensure the safety of students and sponsors.

In action items Monday, the board approved submitting an affidavit of closure to the Nebraska Department of Education related to the spring closure of the school building due to the pandemic.

Hafer said the district completed 907 hours of education, short of the required 1,080 hours of in-person education. Though the district hit the 1,080 hours when remote learning was factored in, the district, and all schools in the state, would have to complete the form to submit to the Department of Education.

The board approved the first reading of a board policy manual as recently completed by the policy committee through guidance from the Nebraska Association of School Boards.

Board President Jim Arens said the committee concentrated on areas where there were differences between the district’s current policies and those proposed by the NASB.

“A bulk of the policies are similar,” Arens said. “The NASB policies are maybe more concise.”

Board member Scott Erthum said the new policies would be much more user friendly, as the new policy manual was better organized than the district’s previous policy manual.

The board approved an option enrollment request for Kay Lynn Collins to allow her son Ryan to attend kindergarten at Rock County Public Schools.

Prior to the regular meeting Monday, the board held public hearings on the district’s student fee policy, and its parent and family involvement policy. There were no comments made, and Hafer said there were no major changes to either policy.

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

* Another COVID-19 case reported in Knox County

(Posted 6:30 a.m. June 9)

The North Central District Health Department was made aware of an additional positive COVID-19 case in Knox County Monday. Through case investigation and contact tracing the case is deemed to be due from community spread.
NCDHD reminds residents community spread is present in the area and people should assume COVID-19 is present in their communities. Continue to practice social distancing, good hand hygiene, and wear a mask in public settings were social distancing can be difficult. 
As of Monday, there have been 29 positive COVID-19 cases in the district, with 20 of those individuals being deemed to have recovered.
There have been 12 cases in Knox County, eight cases in Antelope County, six cases in Pierce County, and one case each in Boyd, Cherry and Holt counties. There have been no positive cases reported in Brown, Rock and Keya Paha counties.

* Health department asks residents to respond to survey

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

The North Central District Health Department is seeking community feedback on its COVID-19 response.

Feedback will offer the health department a chance to reflect on its current response and adapt to better serve north central Nebraska communities during future waves of COVID-19.

You can help by taking the survey at www.surveymonkey.com/r/NCDHDCOVID . The survey is 13 questions and takes 5 to 10 minutes to complete. Personal information is not collected and will not be tied to responses.

As of Friday, there were 28 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the nine-county NCDHD area. Of those, 22 have recovered and six are still active. There have been no reported deaths among residents of the health district.

There have been 11 cases in Knox County, eight in Antelope County, six in Pierce County, and one each in Cherry, Holt and Boyd counties. Brown, Rock and Keya Paha counties have not had any cases of COVID-19 confirmed. 

NCDHD reminds district residents Test Nebraska will be in the district throughout the month of June. To sign up for a Test Nebraska event, visit www.testnebraska.com. The questionnaire is available in English or Spanish.

Click the START NOW button at the top to begin and complete the questions. Based on the answers given, it will be determined if you qualify to be tested. If you qualify, you will need to schedule a test. Directions to the clinic site will be available based on the clinic you select. Please save or print the QR code that is generated after scheduling and bring it with you to the testing site.

* Area students selected for Agricultural Youth Institute

(Posted 7 a.m. June 5)

The Nebraska Department of Agriculture announced the student delegates selected to attend this year’s Nebraska Agricultural Youth Institute. In its 49th year, the institute challenges its delegates to learn more about the agricultural industry and careers available. To help slow the spread of COVID-19, this year’s Institute will be held virtually.
The institute is coordinated by NDA and the members of the Nebraska Agricultural Youth Council.
Area students selected to participate in the youth institute are Logan Hafer of Long Pine, Jillian Buell and Jaya Nelson of Bassett, Emily Martindale of Brewster, Madison Tunender of Atkinson, and Andrea Hipke and Kaci Mashino of Spencer,
“NAYI is the longest running program of its kind in the nation and is a popular event for our student delegates,” NDA Communications Director and NAYC Advisor Christin Kamm said. “While the COVID-19 situation has kept us from hosting an in-person event this year, we are pleased to be able to still offer all of the typical learning aspects that our delegates are accustom to. Moving to a virtual format has also allowed us to provide additional opportunities for learning that we have not previously been able to offer before. This year’s theme is ‘Building Your Brand’ and we intend to help our delegates do just that.”
Since its inception, the youth institute has helped educate more than 6,500 youth from around the state. This year’s virtual institute will be held July 6-10.
The institute and additional youth learning opportunities throughout the year are organized by the Nebraska Agricultural Youth Council. The 21 college students who serve on NAYC are chosen by NDA to share their passion and knowledge about agriculture with young people across Nebraska. Among the youth council members is Kelli Mashino of Spencer.

* Driver's license examiner to be in Ainsworth Thursday and Friday

(Posted noon June 3)

Driver's license exams will be given in the Brown County Courthouse from 8 a.m. until noon and from 1 until 4:45 p.m. both Thursday and Friday.
The examiner was scheduled to be in Rock County Thursday, but with that courthouse still closed until Monday and the Brown County Courthouse now open, the examiner will be in Ainsworth Thursday and Friday to try and start accommodating the anticipated demand for services.
Those who will take a driving test will be required to wear a mask. Be patient as there could be substantial wait times due to the courthouse being closed for the past month.

* Commissioners vote to reopen Brown County Courthouse

(Posted 7 a.m. June 3)

The Brown County Commissioners on Tuesday opted to reopen the courthouse to the public beginning at 8 a.m. Wednesday. The courthouse has been closed to the public for more than a month due to the coronavirus pandemic.

County Treasurer Deb Vonheeder encouraged the board to reopen the courthouse, as driver’s licenses and CDL licenses are getting really backed up.

“I think we need to open,” Vonheeder said. “This has been a terrible inconvenience for people.”

She encouraged the public to be patient, as the driver’s license examiner is going to be extremely busy for a while and the state will still require people to wear a mask when visiting the driver’s license examiner.

Commissioner Buddy Small said he was inclined to open the courthouse as long as people were considerate and did not come in when they were sick. He encouraged people to wear a mask when visiting the courthouse.

Commissioner Denny Bauer asked people to maintain social distancing when visiting the courthouse. Vonheeder said she would likely ask people waiting in line for her office to wait outside. Vonheeder encouraged those who are renewing their vehicle registration to use the mail or the drop box instead of visiting the courthouse in person.

County Clerk Travee Hobbs also encouraged the board to reopen the courthouse. She said her office was ready to be open.

County Attorney Andy Taylor said the county would qualify for CARES Act assistance, but the courthouse had to be reopened to the public by June 15.

“The pandemic is not over,” Taylor said.

After discussing reopening the courthouse June 8, as the Rock County Commissioners Tuesday opted to do, the board, with Commissioner Reagan Wiebelhaus absent, opted to reopen the courthouse effective at 8 a.m. Wednesday.

A decision on whether the driver’s license examiner will be available Friday will be made soon.

In other business Tuesday, the commissioners reappointed Small, Henry Beel and Phil Fuchs to the Sandhills Care Center Board of Directors for one-year terms. Fuchs, who represents both the county and the city of Ainsworth, will also have to be approved for reappointment by the City Council.

Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin reported the scraper purchased by the county has arrived and is working well. Turpin said the roads department has been hauling gravel to the Elsmere Road ahead of the planned armor coating work there.

He said both Moon Lake Avenue and the Hidden Paradise road washed out again following rains on Memorial Day weekend. He said the department repaired both washouts, and was going to work on raising Moon Lake Avenue in spots.

Turpin said the Meadville Avenue hillside south of the Niobrara River would be addressed, as the road continues to settle. He said it is pretty rough in that area now, and the roads department would add millings to try and level out the road where it has settled.

The highway superintendent reported Big Iron was in the county looking at the scraper, pickup and yard tractor the county planned to list for sale, and also looked at a forklift KBR Solid Waste had listed as surplus equipment.

Bauer said Road 881 was becoming a safety hazard due to a washout near Greg Jochem’s home.

“It has cut about 3 or 4 feet of the road out,” Bauer said. “It is a safety hazard, especially at night if you meet someone.”

Turpin said the department might be able to fix the washed out area with a motor grader instead of an excavator, but the county could close the road until it is repaired as people have other routes they can take to access that area.

The board also discussed raising Road 878 for a one-mile stretch west of Ainsworth. Bauer said water continues to go over the road in that area and he would like to see the full mile of road built up sometime this summer.

Turpin said the county might have to take out some fence to dig out the ditches on that stretch, and there were power poles that might prevent the county from digging the ditch out too much or it would risk having the power poles fall over.

Taylor warned the county to make sure it did not violate any drainage statutes when making changes or improvements to the area.

Small said he was in favor of working on the road as long as the county didn’t cause any drainage issues.

The next meeting of the Brown County Commissioners is scheduled for 5:15 p.m. June 16.

* Commissioners erroneously state nature of hog confinement application

(Posted 7 a.m. May 21)

During Tuesday’s meeting of the Brown County Commissioners, the board provided information regarding an application that had been filed with the Department of Environmental Quality for the potential development of a hog confinement facility in western Brown County.

Commissioner Reagan Wiebelhaus said during the meeting the project was a joint venture between property owner John Gross and Greg Wilke, who owns and operates GJW and Sandhills Elite Genetics in Brown County.

Gross on Wednesday said there was no agreement in place with anyone for a facility, and disputed the information provided by the commissioners.

Board Chairman Buddy Small on Wednesday said he was contacted by Zoning Administrator Tom Jones, who said the information provided by the board during Tuesday’s meeting was incorrect.

* Commissioners discuss initial application for hog facility in western Brown County

(Posted 7 a.m. May 20)

The Brown County Commissioners Tuesday discussed the initial application submitted for the construction of a livestock confinement facility in western Brown County.

Commissioner Reagan Wiebelhaus said the county received a notice of application for a hog production facility that is proposed for western Brown County on property owned by John Gross. Wiebelhaus said the project was a joint venture between Gross and Greg Wilke.

“Last time, there were a lot of people saying they didn’t know about the project until the very end,” Wiebelhaus said. “This is early in the process. I just don’t want anyone to think we are hiding something from the public.”

Commissioner Denny Bauer said the Department of Environmental Quality will weigh in, then the Brown County Planning Commission will have a hearing and make a recommendation on the project to the commissioners.

Commissioner Buddy Small said the Planning Commission hearing will be on hold until it is determined that it is safe to have a number of people gathered.

In other business Tuesday, Small provided the board with an update on the Sand Draw Creek box culvert replacement project on Meadville Avenue.

Small said he spoke with Gary Steele of Miller and Associates, the engineering firm on the project. Steele indicated the paperwork has now all been filed for the Nebraska Department of Transportation to review.

“He expects a response from NDOT sometime in June,” Small said.

Small said the Nebraska Department of Transportation will recommend whether the project should be a bridge or a box culvert.

Small also reported FEMA has a deadline of Sept. 20 for counties to complete repair projects from the March 2019 flooding.

“Because of the thousands of dollars involved from FEMA, Kenny (Turpin) wants to get those projects done first,” Small said.

Small said the county could file an extension with FEMA if all the projects are not completed by Sept. 20.

In action items Tuesday, the commissioners approved renewing the county’s health insurance with Blue Cross/Blue Shield for 2020-21. Clerk Travee Hobbs reported there was no rate increase for the upcoming year, and the board opted to approve the plan and make no changes from the prior year relating to cash in lieu of insurance, employee contributions and employee deductibles.

The board opted to keep the Brown County Courthouse closed to the public for at least the next two weeks. Small said the county department heads collectively encouraged the board to be patient and wait until there is more direction from the state prior to opening.

Bauer said the board should consider buying safety equipment for courthouse employees prior to opening the courthouse to the public.

The commissioners approved declaring a 1998 Chevy 1500 pickup and a 2000 John Deere lawn tractor as surplus items to be sold. The board recently approved pickup and lawn tractor purchases to replace the two vehicles.

Small said Region 4 Behavioral Health had the opportunity to receive an $800,000 grant as part of the federal COVID-19 stimulus program. He said the grant required a match from the counties in the region, and Brown County’s share of the required match is $900. The board approved transferring $900 from the miscellaneous general fund to the institution budget to cover the county’s match.

The board also approved a budgeted transfer of $300,000 from the miscellaneous general fund to the county highway fund.

Bauer said he would like to try and hold the 2020-21 budget with little or no increase due to the county economy, and he asked the board to support a letter he planned to write to other taxing entities in the county urging them to be mindful of the local economy when preparing the next year’s budget.

Bauer will draft a letter to present to the other commissioners for their approval prior to sending.

The next meeting of the Brown County Commissioners is scheduled for 5:15 p.m. June 2.

* Sullivan resigns as mayor due to health concerns, Soles sworn in Wednesday

(Posted 7 a.m. May 14)

Leading off Wednesday’s meeting of the Ainsworth City Council, Mayor Jeremiah Sullivan announced his resignation effective immediately.

Sullivan said it had been his honor and privilege to serve as the city’s mayor, and he thanked the city’s employees and the council for their work to make Ainsworth a better place. He cited recent health concerns as his reason for stepping away from the position.

City Attorney Rod Palmer said city code calls for the council president to move into the role of mayor should the mayor’s position come open mid-term. Council President Greg Soles was then administered the oath of office as mayor.

With Soles moving to fill the mayor position, a vacancy on the council was created. Palmer said the council must provide public notice of the vacancy and can either fill the vacancy by appointment or hold a special election.

With Soles’ term scheduled to expire in December and a slate of candidates already filing to fill the seat in December, the council opted to vote on a recommendation from the mayor to appoint someone to the council to fill the final few months of the vacant council term.

Asked if Soles would serve as mayor through the completion of Sullivan’s term, which expires in December 2022, or if there would be a special election in November for mayor, Palmer said the city’s codes were not as clear on the mayoral position.

He said the code does reference that the council president would serve as mayor until the end of the term, but said the city should consult the Nebraska Secretary of State for guidance.

Soles said it was his intention to serve as mayor only through December, the end of what would have been his term on the council. Palmer said, if that is the case, whoever the council president is at that time would again be moved into the mayor position for the completion of the term.

The council will publish notice of the vacancy and appoint a new member during its June meeting.

In other business Wednesday, following a public hearing, the council voted to close its Community Development Block Grant revolving loan fund and transfer the remaining money into its CDBG housing rehabilitation fund.

City Administrator Lisa Schroedl said most of the money in the revolving loan fund was awarded to Lyons HR as part of the city’s contribution to the Sandhills Care Center. Lyons HR serves as the care center’s payroll service, and the majority of the CDBG funds were presented as a forgivable loan to the company to cover the care center’s payroll as part of the city’s initial contribution to reestablish the facility.

Schroedl said there was a balance of $27,691 in the fund, and the Department of Economic Development would require the city to return those funds if they were not allocated to another project.

The council approved rolling those remaining funds into the city’s other Community Development Block Grant program, which provides low-interest loans to income-qualified homeowners to make renovations.

The council approved one such loan application Wednesday, a $20,000 forgivable loan for housing rehabilitation. Schroedl said, of the 15 other housing loans the city has made, only one other loan qualified to be forgiven. The other loans charge low interest to homeowners to make renovations.

Schroedl said this applicant qualified to have the loan forgiven after a 10-year period because the applicant was income qualified and over the age of 65. Should the applicant stay in the home for the next 10 years, the loan would be forgiven. If the applicant moves or the home is sold during that time, the loan must be repaid.

Schroedl reported there was $102,050 in the fund, with the approval to move the revolving loan fund money into the account bringing the total to $129,741. That was prior to the council approving the $20,000 forgivable loan to Wednesday’s applicant.

She said a third-party company prioritizes the renovations on an application and works with the contractor on the renovation list until the funds awarded are spent.

In an item tabled from April, the council approved amendments to the city’s economic development program policy and procedure manual, application documents and loan and grant checklists.

Schroedl said new LB 840 attorney Heather Sikyta had reviewed the proposed amendments and had made a couple additions. The council approved the amended documents as presented.

The council approved interim financing for the upcoming street repair project with West Plains Bank. Soles said he approached Doug Weiss at West Plains Bank about interim financing for the project, as the city will have to pay the contractor for the repairs and then request reimbursement from FEMA for the $2.1 million awarded to the city for street damage from the 2019 flooding.

The interim financing can be used as needed as a line of credit for up to $2.1 million, with the city charged 2.15 percent interest. The principal and interest will be due Dec. 15. If FEMA has not yet reimbursed the city by that time, the line of credit can be converted into a single note for a two-year period and paid when FEMA funding is received.

Schroedl said the line of credit would essentially serve as a construction loan for the street repairs. She reported Tri State would begin work on the streets at the end of May.

The council approved an agreement with Brown County giving the city the right of first refusal to potentially purchase property east of the Brown County Hospital should the county ever decide to sell the property.

The ground is located adjacent to the site of the new solar array project. Should the county ever sell the ground west of the array site, the city would have the first chance to make the purchase.

Palmer said the agreement is good for 10 years and would automatically renew for another 10 years unless it is revoked by either of the two parties.

Schroedl said the Brown County Commissioners approved the agreement during its most recent meeting.

Schroedl reported the city would have to work through a recently discovered issue with the solar array site with the commissioners. She said, when the county initially sold the ground to the city where the solar array is planned, there was a requirement that the ground could only be used for the construction of a ball field.

“So, we will have to go back to the county and see if they will approve the solar array as an acceptable use of that property,” Schroedl said. “It shouldn’t be a problem.”

Schroedl reported the swimming pool would not be open to the public this summer, but the city did plan to fill the pool and potentially hold scheduled swimming lessons so it could control the number of people allowed in and maintain social distancing.

“The governor has not made a forced closure on pools,” Schroedl said. “The decision is being left up to the governing body, but we have to maintain social distancing and the 10-person limit.”

She said, by scheduling swimming lessons, the city could control the numbers allowed in at a given time and leave pool staff time for any required cleaning in between sessions.

Prior to entering into executive session to discuss the contract on the recently completed addition to the streets shop on First Street, the council approved special designated liquor license requests for the Ainsworth Elks Lodge to serve alcohol during events June 26 and July 18.

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

* Brewer sets tone for November with 61 percent of 43rd District vote Tuesday

(Posted 7 a.m. May 13)

Tanya Storer will have a large hill to climb between now and November, as 43rd District State Sen. Tom Brewer had a strong showing during Tuesday’s Primary Election.

In his bid for reelection to the Nebraska Legislature, Brewer garnered more than 61 percent of the vote in the 43rd District. Brewer picked up 8,027 votes to 5,093 for Storer, the Cherry County Commissioner challenging Brewer for the seat on the Legislature.

Brewer won every county in the 43rd District, including a two to one advantage in Cherry County. Both candidates advance to the November General Election, as the Primary Election only winnowed legislative races down to the top two candidates. Brewer and Storer were the only two candidates in the 43rd District race.

It was a big day for all the incumbents running for reelection to the Legislature. All advanced to the General Election, and only one, Andrew LaGrone in District 49, was not the leading vote-earner. Jen Day picked up 53 percent of the vote in District 49 compared to 47 percent for LaGrone.

There were no surprises on the federal ticket among Republicans. President Donald Trump carried 91.5 percent of the Republican vote Tuesday, with challenger Bill Weld receiving 8.5 percent.

On the Democratic ticket, Joe Biden picked up 77.5 percent of the vote for President, with Bernie Sanders receiving 14 percent, Elizabeth Warren 6 percent and Tulsi Gabbard just shy of 3 percent.

Ben Sasse, the state’s junior Republican U.S. Senator, beat back a Primary Election challenge from Matt Innis. Sasse captured 75 percent of the Republican vote Tuesday, though Innis did win eight counties, including several in the north central part of the state. Innis won Keya Paha, Cherry, Holt, Blaine, Boyd, Grant, Wheeler and Cheyenne counties.

In a U.S. Senate field that featured seven candidates, Chris Janicek emerged from the field by grabbing 30.6 percent of the Democratic Party votes. Janicek’s closed competitors were Angie Phillips and Alisha Shelton, who finished with 23 percent and 22 percent of the Democratic vote respectively.

Janicek and Sasse will square off in November for a six-year senate seat.

Incumbent 3rd District Rep. Adrian Smith brushed back four Republican challengers Tuesday, taking almost 83 percent of the vote. None of his challengers earned more than 5.5 percent.

Smith will face Democrat Mark Elworth Jr. in the General Election for the U.S. House of Representatives seat, as Elworth ran unopposed.

Incumbent Republicans Jeff Fortenberry and Don Bacon won the Primary handily Tuesday. Fortenberry will be challenged by State Sen. Kate Bolz of Lincoln in the General Election, as Bolz won the Democratic Party nomination with 78 percent of the vote against Babs Ramsey.

Bacon will see a rematch against Democrat Kara Eastman after Bacon edged Eastman for the District 2 House seat in 2018. Eastman earned 62 percent of the Democratic Party vote Tuesday, with Ann Ashford picking up 31.5 percent and Gladys Harrison 6.5 percent.

Voter turnout in Nebraska for the Primary Election was 38.7 percent, with 471,434 voters casting ballots among the 1.21 million registered voters in the state. Mail-in and early voting turnout set a record for the state.

* Small wins Republican race Tuesday for Brown County Commissioner

(Posted 9:45 p.m. May 12)

During Tuesday’s Primary Election, Republican Buddy Small held off three challengers in his bid for another term on the Board of Commissioners.

Small received 507 votes, representing 48.5 percent of the total votes cast. His closest challenger was Tim Iverson, who picked up 236 votes. Cherie Priest finished with 192 votes, and Dewey Jefferis garnered 111 votes from Brown County Republicans. There were no Democrats running for commissioner, so Small will earn another term on the board.

In the other local race of note, four of the five candidates vying for two seats on the Ainsworth City Council advanced to the General Election, where two will earn council seats.

Vance Heyer led the vote Tuesday with 402. He was followed by 194 votes for Shawn Fernau, 184 for Brett Duester and 133 for Anissa Julius. Those four advanced to the General Election. John Mead received 95 votes for council and does not advance.

A total of 1,218 votes were cast in Brown County among the 2,084 registered voters for a turnout of 58.5 percent.

Wade Hollenbeck won the race for Rock County Commissioner Tuesday on the Republican ticket. Hollenbeck received 421 votes, compared to 91 for Todd Stahl. No one from the Democratic Party ran for the seat. Hollenbeck will replace Dustin Craven on the Board of Commissioners after Craven did not seek re-election.

Rock County voters shot down a 2-cent levy for a new swimming pool, and Bassett city voters also declined to support a bond for a new pool.

There were 477 votes cast against the 2-cent countywide levy, with 182 voters in favor. The city bond issue for the pool failed with 143 against and 91 in favor.

Voter turnout in Rock County was 65 percent.

In Keya Paha County, Republican Mike Tuerk won a four-way race in his re-election bid to the Board of Commissioners. Tuerk received 72 votes, compared to 29 for challenger Randy Painter, 24 for Mike Vigoren and 21 for Anthony Tiefenthaler. There were no Democratic Party candidates for the West District Commissioner seat, so Tuerk will earn another four-year term.

Turnout in Keya Paha County was 64 percent.

While both candidates advance to the General Election, incumbent 43rd District State Sen. Tom Brewer had a strong showing in Brown County Tuesday. Brewer earned more than 60 percent of the votes cast with 707. Challenger Tanya Storer received 464 votes in Brown County. Brewer also had a strong showing in Keya Paha County, earning 293 votes compared to 98 for Storer. Those two will square off again in November.

In the 3rd District Congressional race, Brown County Republicans cast 862 votes for incumbent Adrian Smith. Mark Elworth scored 70 votes from Brown County Democrats. Rock County Republican voters also overwhelmingly favored Smith. Smith earned 501 votes in Rock County, compared to just 20, 19, nine and seven for his four challengers. Democrats cast 24 votes for Elworth. In Keya Paha County, Smith received 285 votes compared to 24 for Justin Moran of Atkinson, his nearest challenger. Elworth picked up 24 votes on the Democratic side.

Republican U.S. Senator Ben Sasse showed strong in Brown County Tuesday, with 682 ballots cast for his reelection compared to 367 for challenger Matt Innis. Chris Janicek edged Angie Phillips, 22 votes to 16, among Brown County Democrats. Republicans in Rock County also chose Sasse for reelection to the U.S. Senate in the Primary, though Innis had a strong showing. Sasse garnered 368 Rock County votes, compared to 205 for Innis. Janicek led the seven Democrats in the Senate field with nine votes. Alisha Shelton picked up seven. Innis was the choice for Keya Paha County Republicans in a competitive race. Innis won the county with 190 votes. Sasse received 169 votes. Janicek and Phillips led Keya Paha County Democrats with eight votes each.

Donald Trump was the choice for President in Brown County among Republicans, with 981 votes compared to 59 for challenger Bill Weld. Democrat Joe Biden picked up 57 votes in Brown County compared to 14 Bernie Sanders. Rock County Republicans favored the reelection of President Trump, casting 538 votes his way. Weld picked up 25 votes. On the Democratic side, Biden received 30 votes from Rock County Democrats, with Sanders and Elizabeth Warren each picking up five. Keya Paha County voters gave 342 votes to Trump, compared to just seven for Weld. Biden received 28 votes in Keya Paha County, with Tulsi Gabbard the next closest with three.

ATHLETE OF THE YEAR - Rylee Rice (right) was named the KBRB Athlete of the Year
 by a vote of the Ainsworth head coaches and faculty members. Rice is presented the plaque
 by KBRB's Graig Kinzie along with a $500 scholarship.

* Rice named KBRB Athlete of the Year

(Posted 2:15 p.m. April 29)

Rylee Rice was named the KBRB Athlete of the Year following a vote of the Ainsworth Community Schools’ coaches, faculty and A Club.

Rice finished her Ainsworth career as one of the most decorated athletes in school history. She earned three individual cross country state titles and led the Bulldogs to three consecutive Class D team titles. She won the State Cross Country All-Class Gold as a sophomore, and is one of only 11 girls in state history to win three state titles. Rice was the first Class D girls runner to win the All-Class Gold.

She currently holds the course record at every site she ran a cross country race, and never lost a race until the state championships her senior year, where she finished as the runner up. She also holds the Class D State Meet Record, eclipsing the previous Class D record by more than 45 seconds.

She was a four-time Southwest Conference and District champion.

In basketball, Rice set the single season school record for steals with 103. She also holds the school record for career steals with 361, finished second in school history in career assists with 160, and third in school history in career rebounds with 521.

Rice was named to the Southwest Conference First Team in 2019-20, and to the SWC Second Team following both her sophomore and junior seasons.

She finished honorable mention All-State three times and was named Academic All-State twice.

Though losing her senior track and field season due to the coronavirus pandemic, Rice won five gold medals at the Nebraska State Track and Field Championships, including four during her freshman year. She holds Class C state meet records in both the 800 meters and 1,600 meters.

In all, she won nine state track and field medals, and scored 79 points at the state meet in three years, including 40 her freshman year to give the Bulldogs a Class C runner-up finish as a team.

She finished her career as an 11-time district champion and holds school records in the 100-meter hurdles, 300-meter hurdles, 800 meters, 1,600 meters and 3,200 meters.

For being named the KBRB Athlete of the Year, Rice receives a $500 scholarship and has her name placed on a plaque displayed in Ainsworth Community Schools.
Rice plans to attend Doane University, where she will compete athletically in track and field.

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