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* Nebraska jobless rate best in the nation

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

The Nebraska Department of Labor announced Nebraska’s preliminary unemployment rate for February is 2.1 percent, seasonally adjusted. The rate is down 0.1 percent from the January rate of 2.2 percent.
“The number of employed workers in Nebraska’s labor force reached an all-time high of 1,034,720 in February,” said commissioner of Labor John H. Albin. “Employment is up 20,747 from February 2021.”
The counts of employed and unemployed in the labor force are based on a survey conducted by the Census Bureau regarding employment status.
Nonfarm employment, a count of filled jobs, was 1,012,785 in February, up 13,395 over the month and up 28,858 over the year. Private industries with the most growth month to month were leisure and hospitality (up 2,123); professional and business services (up 1,901); and trade, transportation, and utilities (up 1,364).
The national seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for February 2022 is 3.8 percent, down 0.2 percentage points from the January 2022 rate of 4.0 percent. The national unemployment rate is down 2.4 percentage points from the February 2021 rate of 6.2 percent.

Brown County’s unemployment rate in February at 2.9 percent actually came in higher than the state average. Blaine County had the highest unemployment rate in the area at 3.4 percent in February.

Rock County, Keya Paha County and Cherry County each had rates of 1.6 percent unemployed in February, sharing the lowest rate in the area. Holt County’s rate was 1.7 percent in February, and Boyd County had an unemployment rate of 2.1 percent in February.

Throughout the pandemic, we slowed the spread of the virus while allowing people to lead a more normal life,” said Gov. Pete Ricketts.  “We avoided using the heavy hand of government to impose lockdowns, statewide mask mandates, or vaccine passports.  This gave businesses the freedom to stay open and serve their customers.  Recent labor numbers prove that this approach has worked.  There are now 12,000 more Nebraskans employed in our workforce than there were in January 2020—before the pandemic began.  Thanks to the hard work of Nebraskans, we’ve successfully grown our state despite facing the greatest public health emergency of the past century.”

Nebraska’s unemployment rate tied Utah for the lowest in the country in February. Nebraska’s labor force participation rate, with 69.7 percent of working-age adults currently employed, leads the nation.

* NCDHD confirms just 8 COVID cases during past week

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

The North Central District Health Department was made aware of just eight new COVID-19 cases in the nine-county district during the past week.

Any individual with immunocompromising conditions is eligible for a second COVID-19 booster dose three months after their first booster dose.

A vaccination clinic is scheduled from 2 until 4 p.m. today (Tuesday) in Mid-Plains Community College at Valentine, from 2 until 4 p.m. Wednesday in the Butte Community Center, and from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. Thursday in the NCDHD office at O’Neill.

The North Central District Health Department received accreditation from the Public Health Accreditation Board. The PHAB is the nonprofit organization that administers the national accreditation program, which aims to advance and transform public health practice by championing performance improvement, strong infrastructure, and innovation.

“We are so pleased to be recognized by PHAB for achieving the rigorous national standards that are set forth,” said Roger Wiese, NCDHD Director. “As a Nationally Accredited Public Health Department, NCDHD can reassure the community, partner organizations, and elected officials that the work and services provided are responsive to the needs of north central Nebraska.”

The national accreditation program, which receives support from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, sets standards against which the nation’s governmental public health departments can continuously improve the quality of their services and performance. Over 80 percent of the U.S. population is served by a health department that has undergone PHAB’s rigorous, multi-faceted, peer-reviewed assessment process to ensure it meets a set of quality standards and measures.  

Often called the “backbone” of the public health system, local public health departments are on the front lines of communities’ efforts to protect and promote health and prevent disease and injury. Across the nation, health departments provide services aimed at promoting healthy behaviors, preventing diseases and injuries, and preparing for and responding to public health emergencies.

* Brown County Sheriff’s Department weekly summary

(Posted 8:45 a.m. March 28)

March 20

  • The Brown County Ambulance Association was paged for response to a 911 call at an Ainsworth facility. One individual was transported to the Brown County Hospital.
  • Received a report of an unauthorized motor vehicle in Long Pine. The driver was reported to not be wearing a helmet, while also transporting a juvenile that was riding in front of the driver without head protection.  Deputies were unable to make contact with this vehicle.
  • During a traffic stop on Highway 20, near mile marker 238, a written warning was issued for speeding.

March 21

  • The Brown County Ambulance Association was paged for a 911 call at a Long Pine residence. One individual was transported to the Rock County Hospital.
  • The Long Pine Fire Department sent one truck for mutual aid assistance at the fire located near Page, NE.
  • During a traffic stop at the Highway 20 and Highway 183 junction a warning was issued for driving left of center

March 22

  • Received multiple reports of cattle on the Highway 20 and the 427th intersection. The owner was contacted and removed them from the roadway.
  • The Ainsworth, Johnstown, and Long Pine Fire Departments were paged for mutual aid assistance for Keya Paha County near Highway 12, West of Norden. Raven, Calamus, and South Pine Fire Departments were also paged for mutual aid assistance for Purdum Fire Department, South of Woodlake, near Goosecreek road. 
  • Received a report of suspected elder abuse or neglect of an Ainsworth resident. This is an ongoing investigation.

March 23

  • The Brown County Ambulance Association were paged to a 911 call at an Ainsworth residence. One individual was transported to the Brown County Hospital.
  • Participated in the Nebraska statewide tornado drill from the National Weather Service. All fire departments were paged and tornado sirens were blown as a test.
  • Received reports of a physical altercation that had taken place at the Ainsworth High School. This is an ongoing investigation.
  • Received a report that an arrest warrant issued from Brown County had been served by the Scottsbluff County Sheriff’s Office in Gering, NE. The individual was issued an arrest warrant for stalking, witness tampering, and violating a protection order.  The individual was released after posting bond.
  • Responded to a report of suspected vandalism to a vehicle parked at an Ainsworth business.  No criminal activity was found at this time.
  • The Brown County Ambulance Association were paged to an Ainsworth residence after receiving a 911 call from LifeAlert notifications. One individual was transported to the Brown County Hospital.
  • During a traffic stop on Highway 20, near mile marker 251, a written warning was issued for driving on shoulder of highway.

March 24

  • The Brown County Ambulance Association transported an air crew from the Airport to the Brown County Hospital to pick up a patient and transfer back to the Airport.
  • Received a report of illegal dumping occurring on 881st, 882nd, Rauscher and Norden Ave roads. This is an ongoing investigation.
  • Received a complaint regarding a city ordinance violation in Ainsworth. This is an ongoing investigation.

March 25

  • An arrest warrant was served that was issued from Brown County. The individual was booked into the Brown County Jail, and released on a personal recognizance bond.
  • Received a report of a civil dispute regarding ownership of a vehicle.
  • During a traffic stop near the Highway 20 and 183 junction, on a Minnesota plated vehicle, K9 Dutch indicated a positive alert. The driver and one passenger in the vehicle were both issued citations for possession of marjuana.
  • Responded to a report of a traffic complaint on Oak St in Ainsworth. The suspected vehicle was located and the driver was issued a citation for disturbing the peace.

March 26

  • Received a report of a domestic dispute in rural Brown County. Deputies provided civil standby for one individual to remove their belongings from the property.
  • Responded to a 911 call for a suspected burglary in Long Pine. The caller reported an unknown vehicle had driven by the property several times and someone had tried to gain access into the home.  Deputies were unable to locate a suspect at this time.
  • Received a report of vandalism at a main street business in Long Pine. Deputies did find property damage and this is an ongoing investigation.
  • Responded to a mental health incident in rural Brown County. The Brown County Ambulance Association was paged for standby but the individual refused transport.
  • Weekly Summary:

0– Burn Permit Issued (by all Brown Co Fire Depts)

        3– Handgun Permits Applied For

16– Incident Reports Were Taken

5– Paper Services Were Served

126– Phone Calls Were Received

7– 911 Emergency Calls Received

6– Titles Were Inspected

* Schroedl accepted to Kearney Health Opportunities Program

(Posted 8:15 a.m. March 25)

The University of Nebraska at Kearney recently accepted 46 high school seniors into the Kearney Health Opportunities Program.

Among those students is Ainsworth High School senior Haley Schroedl, who will enter KHOP in nursing.

A partnership between UNK and the University of Nebraska Medical Center, KHOP is a pipeline program designed to grow the state’s health care workforce by recruiting and training students from rural Nebraska who are committed to practicing in these areas after professional school.

Participants are awarded full-tuition scholarships to attend UNK and guaranteed admission to UNMC if all requirements are met.

They receive additional assistance, along with a $2,000 room waiver, through the KHOP Learning Community. A requirement for freshmen, the one-year residential learning community gives students a chance to explore various health care careers while receiving support and guidance as they transition to college. KHOP members also meet with health care providers and tour medical facilities in the Kearney area.

“We are very excited to welcome this highly talented and exceptional group of students into the KHOP program next fall,” said Peggy Abels, director of UNK Health Sciences. “It is great to see these future professionals dedicated to providing high-quality health care for rural Nebraska.”

* Area students named Academic All-State by NSAA

(Posted 7 a.m. March 25)

Each year since 2006, the Nebraska School Activities Association and the Nebraska Chiropractic Physicians Association recognize students who have been nominated by their schools, based on their individual academic excellence, leadership, and significant contributions made to their NSAA activity by recognizing them with the NCPA Academic All-State Award.

Area students named Academic All-State by the NSAA are:

Ainsworth
Caleb Allen and Ty Schlueter in boys basketball, Cameryn Goochey and Elizabeth Wilkins in girls basketball, and Alyssa Erthum and Benjamin Flynn in speech

Keya Paha County
Ryan Painter in boys basketball

Rock County
Dolan Pospichal in boys basketball, Brooklyn Buell and Allie Cosgrove in girls basketball, Hannah Keller and Carson Shaw in speech, and Branson Anderson and Ben Klemesrud in wrestling

Stuart
Anthony Heiser and Cameron Sattler in boys basketball, Taya Schmaderer and Lexi Schroder in girls basketball, and Grace Alder and Taya Schmaderer in speech

West Holt
Tyler Jelinek and Nate Wallinger in boys basketball, Landyn Mlady and Maci Nemetz in girls basketball, Caid McCart and Nate Wallinger in speech, Asher McCart and Isaac Pistulka in wrestling, and Madison Davis in girls basketball

Sandhills
Andrew Furrow in boys basketball, Taylor Weber in girls basketball, and Miriam Ganoung and Courtney Swisher in speech

Boyd County
Timothy Atkinson and Zander Kluckman in boys basketball, Bentley Adams and Natasha Zeisler in girls basketball, and Zoe Kaczor and McKenzie Snyder in speech

* Reduced speed zones on Highway 20 extended

(Posted 6:45 a.m. March 22)

Drivers on Highway 20 are asked to take notice that reduced speed limit signs east and west of Ainsworth have been extended farther from the city limits.

According to Carl Hart with the Nebraska Department of Transportation, extending both the 35 mph and 45 mph reduced speed zones east and west of the city are being done ahead of the Highway 20 rehabilitation project.

Hart said a turn lane will be extended east past the Bomgaar’s parking lot on the east side of the city, and west to Wilson Street in western Ainsworth as part of the rehabilitation project. With the turn lanes scheduled for extension, both the 35 mph and 45 mph reduced speed limit signs were extended farther east and west.

Hart said, while a definite start time for the construction project has not been determined, the Nebraska Department of Transportation anticipates work will start sometime in mid April. He said the start date will depend on when A&R Construction of Plainview, the contractor for the project, completes prior projects.

Hart said two lanes will remain open for traffic at all times. Portions of Highway 20 will be widened to accommodate the extended turn lanes. The contractor will begin by replacing the south lane. When that lane is complete, work will begin on the center turn lane with traffic split. The north lane will be the final portion of the project. Hart said work would begin on the west end of the city and move east.

Those businesses and property owners who will be directly affected by the construction work will be invited to a stakeholder meeting from 5 until 7 p.m. April 5. Representatives from the NDOT and A&R Construction will be present to answer questions.

* New COVID cases lowest since June 2020

(Posted 4:15 p.m. March 21)

The North Central District Health Department was made aware of just four new COVID-19 cases in the nine-county district during the past week, and there have been just 15 total cases confirmed in the past two weeks.

A vaccination clinic is scheduled from 2 until 5 p.m. Wednesday in the Ainsworth Conference Center, and from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. Thursday in the NCDHD office at O’Neill.

NCDHD offers scheduled COVID-19 Testing through TotalWellness on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays in the NCDHD office by appointment only.

Any individual with immunocompromising conditions is eligible for an additional COVID-19 booster dose three months after their first booster dose. Anyone with questions about eligibility or when to get a booster dose is encouraged to contact a medical provider or the NCDHD at 402-336-2406.

* Stuart wins Class D-2 State Speech Championship

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

The Stuart Broncos won the Class D-2 State Speech Championship Friday, picking up nine medals and scoring 146 points to win by 42 points over runner-up Potter-Dix. The Broncos landed finalists in six of the nine events, and had three events with two speakers in the medal round.

Will Paxton won the state title in entertainment speaking, earning the top rank from all three judges in the final round. Grace Alder made it two medals in the event, finishing fourth in entertainment speaking for the Broncos. Paxton also snagged a third-place medal in extemporaneous speaking Friday.

Taya Schmaderer landed the Broncos’ second gold medal, earning the first-place ranking and perfect scores of 50 from all three judges in persuasive speaking. Chiana Tubbs grabbed a third-place medal in persuasive speaking to give Stuart 36 team points in that event.

The Broncos also scored two medals in informative speaking, with Chiana Tubbs landing the silver medal and Emma Alder finishing fourth.

The Stuart oral interpretation of drama team of Katilynn Kaup, Taya Schmaderer, Abigail Tubbs and Sydney Estill picked up a fourth-place medal in Class D-2.

Estill took home fourth place in serious prose.

Competing for Sandhills High School, Becca Smith earned a sixth-place state medal in poetry.

Chambers and O’Neill St. Mary’s finished third and fourth respectively from the Niobrara Valley Conference Friday, giving the NVC three of the top four team spots in Class D-2.

Wausa ran away with the Class D-1 State Championship Friday, finishing with 202 points. Runner-up Humphrey was nearly 100 points back with 106.

Competing for Rock County in Class D-1, Hannah Keller finished with a silver medal in informative speaking.

* Brown County Sheriff’s Department weekly summary

(Posted 6:30 a.m. March 21)

March 13

  • Received a suspicious vehicle report from Wilson St. in Ainsworth. Upon arrival the vehicle had already left the area and no criminal activity was found.

March 14

  • Received a report that an Ainsworth business received an unsolicited and lewd phone call from an out of state number. This is an ongoing investigation.
  • Received a report of a loose dog at an Ainsworth business. The owner was contacted and picked up the dog.

March 15

  • K9 Handler Deputy Calder and K9 Dutch provided agency assistance for the Keya Paha Co Sheriff’s office.
  • Responded to a report of a counterfeit bill at an Ainsworth bank.

March 16

  • The Brown County Ambulance association was paged three times for 911 calls in Ainsworth. They also provided a transfer crew from Brown County Hospital to Kearney, NE.
  • Released an inmate from the Brown County jail.
  • Received a report of suspected child abuse/neglect. This is an ongoing investigation.
  • Responded to a report of a loose dog on Woodward St in Ainsworth. The dog was taken to the Ainsworth Vet Clinic.  With help from Live, Love, Wag the dog was reunited with its owner.
  • Received a motorist complaint of a speeding driver. Deputies were unable to make contact with the vehicle.
  • Responded to a 911 call for a two vehicle accident in rural Brown county, Northwest of Johnstown. No injuries were reported and an accident report was completed.

March 17

  • The Brown County Ambulance Association were paged for a 911 call to an Ainsworth home. One individual was transported to the Brown County Hospital.
  • Received a motorist complaint of a vehicle blocking the roadway on Meadville Ave. The vehicle was found to be pulled off to the side of the road with appropriate hazard lights in use. 
  • Received a purse that was left at an Ainsworth business. The owner was located and picked it up the following day.
  • Responded to a report of piles of hay left in the roadway near the intersection of 6th and Woodward St in Ainsworth. Deputies were able to remove it themselves.

March 18

  • Received a report of an unauthorized motor vehicle operated by a juvenile in Long Pine. The unlicensed driver was also reported to be transferring another juvenile.  This is an ongoing investigation.
  • Provided traffic control for a cattle crossing at the intersection of Hwy 20 and 427th ave.
  • Received a request for a welfare check for an individual who lives in Keya Paha County. The Keya Paha County Sheriff’s office was informed of the request and reported the individual to be safe.
  • Deputies completed a traffic stop on a North Dakota plated vehicle for speeding on Highway 7, near mile marker 38. The driver of the vehicle was issued a citation for 11-15 mph over the posted speed limit.  The driver and all 3 passengers were also issued citations for possession of marijuana over 1 oz, and possession or use of drug paraphernalia.

March 19

  • Deputies completed a traffic stop on an Arizona plated vehicle for speeding on Hwy 7, near mile marker 40. The driver was issued a written warning for speeding 11-15 mph over the posted speed limit.
  • Received a report of a scam call from a Winner’s Circle Lottery. The scam caller claims the individual has won a large amount of money, but must first send a cashier’s check to an address before receiving their prize.  The individual was encouraged to report this to the Attorney General Fraud line.
  • Received a report of a protection order violation. A report was made and all information was forwarded to the Brown County Attorney’s office.

Weekly Summary:

0– Burn Permit Issued (by all Brown Co Fire Depts)

        5– Handgun Permits Applied For

15– Incident Reports Were Taken

9– Paper Services Were Served

123– Phone Calls Were Received

9– 911 Emergency Calls Received

7– Titles Were Inspected

* Bulldogs land 3 medals at Class C-1 State Speech

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

Ainsworth finished eighth Thursday in the Class C-1 State Speech Championships at Kearney, with the Bulldogs bringing home three medals from the state meet. David City scored 142 points to win the team title, with Malcolm finishing second with 124 points.

The Bulldog speakers landed two medals in persuasive speaking, with Elizabeth Wilkins finishing third in the state and Alyssa Erthum placing fifth. Wilkins landed a second medal, taking sixth place in extemporaneous speaking.

Also competing for the Bulldogs, Ben Flynn missed a trip to the finals by one spot, finishing seventh in entertainment speaking with the top six qualifying for finals.

Makenna Pierce was 11th overall in the preliminary rounds in informative speaking.

Competing for West Holt, Asher McCart and Caid McCart just missed finals in duet acting, placing seventh overall in the preliminary rounds. Caid McCart also narrowly missed the medals in humorous prose, finishing in seventh place overall.

Sidney Burkinshaw landed in the 12th spot in the preliminary round in informative speaking, and Violet Schwager was 12th in poetry. Maci Nemetz earned a 13th-place finish in persuasive speaking.

Abigail Olson competed in serious prose, finishing in 17th place, and Hannah Olson placed 18th in entertainment speaking in the preliminaries.

* Rock County Board approves drainage study

(Posted 10:30 a.m. March 17)                                                                                

During Tuesday’s meeting of the Rock County Commissioners, the board approved a proposal from JEO Engineering for an additional drainage study to address water going over Road 854 near the intersection of 444th Avenue.

The drainage study will look at moving culverts to provide a different avenue for the water that at times goes across Road 854 to cross in Sections 24 and 25, Township 26 North, Range 20 West.

The commissioners also discussed Twin Lakes Road and approved a resolution to make repairs from the county’s emergency relief program.

The board approved a quote from Hometown Repair to replace the engine in the county’s 2012 Dodge Ram pickup.

Weed Superintendent Mitch Dean requested the commissioners approved submitting a letter to the Nebraska Department of Agriculture in opposition to the use of non-native phragmites. A city in Nebraska planned to use non-native phragmites as part of an erosion control system for its wastewater treatment plant.

The commissioners approved a special designated liquor license request for Niobrara Valley Vineyards to serve wine during the Sandhills Ranch Expo June 15-16.

The board approved a subdivision requested by Scot Iverson to sub-divide 2 acres from a tract in Section 13, Township 30 North, Range 18 West.

Treasurer Mona Davis reported 20 parcels were sold during a request delinquent tax sale. The county raised $27,144 from the sale of delinquent 2020 taxes. Those purchasing the delinquent taxes either receive 14 percent interest when the property owner pays the delinquent tax, or a lien can be placed on the property.

The board met with several county employees regarding language in the employee handbook. The commissioners will contact Pam Bourne to schedule a teleconference further discuss the employee handbook during the board’s April 5 meeting.

Sheriff Jim Anderson met with the board regarding quotes to replace the windows recently broken in the jail by an inmate. No action was taken on the quotes.

The next meeting of the Rock County Commissioners is scheduled for 9 a.m. April 5.

* Commissioners approve permit for cellular tower

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

The Brown County Commissioners Tuesday approved a special-use permit for a cellular phone tower to be constructed in northeastern Brown County.

Rick Bailey, representing Industrial Tower West of Fort Morgan, Colo., said his company constructs towers primarily for Viaero, and the new tower would fill a coverage gap between Ainsworth and Springview.

The tower will be constructed approximately 9 miles northeast of Ainsworth, west of Highway 183 near Keller State Park.

Bailey said, while Viaero will be the primary cell carrier using the tower, it will be constructed to allow two additional carriers to utilize it if desired. Bailey said the company was purchasing the ground where the tower is planned.

The Brown County Planning Commission recommended the special-use permit be approved, and the board unanimously approved the permit following a public hearing.

In other business Tuesday, the board approved a bid from Walton Concrete to replace portions of sidewalk around the Brown County Courthouse. Commissioner Buddy Small said he spoke with three contractors about providing quotes, and two submitted bids for the project.

Walton Concrete submitted a bid of $11,021, and Benny Burdick provided a bid of $11,505. The commissioners approved the low bid for the sidewalk replacement.

The board approved a subdivision request submitted by Doug Weiss for property west of Ainsworth on the south side of Highway 20 located in a portion of Section 23, Township 30, Range 23. Weiss said he purchased 26-1/2 acres and wanted to split the parcel into 19-acre and 7-acre parcels because he planned to sell the smaller acreage that includes a house.

The commissioners approved the subdivision request as both sub-divided parcels would be above the county’s 5-acre minimum parcel size threshold.

During his report Tuesday, Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin said the roads department was getting close to completing the Richardson Road Project.

“We have some fencing, gravel and erosion control work to complete,” Turpin said.

He reported the roads department continued to try to blade and drag gravel roads to help with roughness, but the lack of moisture was an issue.

Turpin reported he received notice from FEMA that the county would receive a total of $160,695 in reimbursement for costs the roads department incurred repairing Hidden Paradise Road, Raven Road, Bar 25 Road and Beel Lane following the March 2019 flooding. Turpin said the roads department completed those repair projects without hiring a contractor.

The highway superintendent reported FEMA also will provide $56,190 in reimbursement to the county for the flood repair work the roads department completed on Road 877.

Turpin said he was appealing the reimbursement amounts the Nebraska Department of Transportation agreed to provide on South Pine Avenue and Moon Lake Avenue. NDOT indicated it would provide $24,650 in reimbursement for the flood damage repairs the county made on South Pine Avenue, but Turpin said the roads department had more than $240,000 in repairs to that road. The commissioners questioned if a digit was inadvertently left off by the NDOT.

Turpin reported NDOT offered $113,470 in reimbursement for flood repairs on Moon Lake Avenue. Turpin said the county spent $226,000 to repair that road.

“They are going to review both projects and get back to me,” Turpin said. “We repaired both those roads with our forces.”

In final action items Tuesday, the board designated Travee Hobbs as the county’s Designated Employer Representative. The designation is a requirement from the U.S. Department of Transportation. The board also approved a budgeted transfer of $250,000 from the miscellaneous general fund to the county highway fund.

The board tabled agenda items related to safety committee appointments, as County Attorney Andy Taylor said there were some federal regulations the county first needed to comply with before officially appointing safety committee members.

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

* Care Center Board discusses 2022-23 budget

(Posted 11:15 a.m. March 15)

Anticipating the Sandhills Care Center may potentially need funding support from the city of Ainsworth and Brown County to support its 2022-23 budget, the Care Center Board of Directors Monday asked the county commissioner and city council representatives on the board to check with their respective boards on a joint meeting to preview the upcoming year’s budget and discuss funding options.

Board Chairman Phil Fuchs said he was working with Administrator Penny Jacobs to identify the potential numbers for the next fiscal year budget, which begins in July.

“We can get through June or July with our current reserves, but we probably need to get our budget put together for next year and present it to the city and county and see what they may be willing to do,” Fuchs said. “I have had Penny work on a budget review with all the added expenses we are having with agency staffing. Those costs eat up our reserves pretty quickly.”

With the current resident census coupled with the costs of paying agency staffing, the projection for the remainder of the current fiscal year shows the care center continuing to operate at a loss, with a projected operating loss from March through June of $175,102.

In its only action item, the board Monday approved a transfer of $30,810 from its reserve account to its operating account to cover a shortfall from February. The care center has a reserve balance of approximately $204,000 after making the transfer.

Board member Buddy Small said, if things stay the same as they are currently, the $80,000 the city and county had each previously pledged to support the care center would not be enough.

“Again, it is the cost for agency help that jumps out,” Small said. “It may be considerably more if you approach the city and county for funds than it was previously.”

The care center had not asked for the $80,000 from each entity to support operations for the past two years.

Fuchs said, up until January, the care center had been able to operate without having to dip into its reserves. Revenue and COVID relief funds had allowed the facility to operate at a break-even point or better.

However, in the past few months, agency staffing costs have ballooned and the nursing home has been operating at a loss. During February, the care center generated $155,913 in revenue with expenses of $209,137 for a net loss for the month of $53,223. The care center spent $104,639 on agency staffing costs during February, with Jacobs reporting the care center is paying agencies for its director of nursing, two LPNs and additional CNAs.

Jacobs said staffing remains the biggest challenge, as the care center is in need of charge nurses, CNAs, and a director of nursing. She said staffing shortages are an industry-wide issue for nursing homes, with chronic shortages across the country.

She said the care center hired Dawn Pierce as its business office manager, and would have an LPN and CNA coming to the facility in April with additional potential employees when the nursing home at Mullen closes. The Mullen facility is closing its doors April 23.

Board member Dr. Mel Campbell said staffing shortages have been the driving force behind numerous recent nursing home closures in Nebraska, including at Valentine.

In addition to the potential for new employees, she said the care center is working on referrals for two residents currently residing in the Mullen facility. The care center was also working on another referral for a resident of an assisted living facility at Valentine.

However, Jacobs said the care center did receive resignations from four current CNAs. She said one was moving from the community, one was retiring, and two were leaving to open a daycare in the community.

The Sandhills Care Center has 20 current residents, down from 22 in January. Jacobs reported the care center did receive a $7,100 payment from Medicaid that covered an increase in reimbursement rates from January. The state approved a $20 per day per resident Medicaid rate increase for facilities operating in Nebraska, and backdated the increase to the beginning of 2022.

A $75 per day rate increase for residents paying privately takes effect moving forward, as that change was made to bring the private pay rate in line with the Medicaid reimbursement rate. Without the increase to private pay rates, the facility risked having its Medicaid reimbursement reduced.

Fuchs said the next step is to get cash flow projections put together for the 2022-23 fiscal year and see what the facility’s financial needs may be.

Small said, if the care center would likely not be able to support its operations moving forward, then residents of the county needed to make a decision on whether they want to continue supporting the nursing home operations with tax money.

Campbell said a ballot initiative, if approved by voters, could potentially establish a tax levy for the facility. When the city and county agreed to reopen the facility after its closure, each entity agreed to provide $80,000 in funding support annually for a period of five years from their respective general funds.

Clerk Travee Hobbs said an initiative could be included as a question on the General Election ballot in November, with voters choosing whether to support the facility’s operations with a general property tax levy.

Fuchs asked the board’s city and county representatives to work on a date that would work for the city council and the commissioners to hold a joint meeting to discuss the care center’s 2022-23 budget and potential funding needs.

The next meeting of the Sandhills Care Center Board of Directors is scheduled for 5 p.m. April 11.

* School Board approves 6 new staff members for 2022-23

(Posted 7 a.m. March 15)

The Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education approved six new staff members for the 2022-23 school year, filling all its anticipated certified openings.

During its meeting Monday, the board approved the resignation of fifth-grade teacher and MTSS coordinator Kelli Gibson, who submitted her resignation after 16 years to pursue an opportunity with Educational Service Unit 17, and the resignation of special education teacher Tasha Kruse, who accepted a position with O’Neill Public Schools.

The board approved contracts for Kelsey Riesen as the school’s elementary counselor and MTSS coordinator, Sara Salzman for an elementary special education opening, Britley Beck to fill a second grade teacher position, Wade Alberts for physical education, Hailey McBride for art, and Jennifer Beel as an elementary classroom and art teacher.

Most of the new hires are either Ainsworth High School graduates themselves or have ties to the area.

Superintendent Dale Hafer said the contracts approved Monday fill all the anticipated openings for 2022-23, though it would still be another month to know for sure whether there would be additional openings. He said the district will have one fewer certified staff member for the 2022-23 year, with 45 full-time certified staff hired compared to the 46 employed for the current year.

Hafer said the district would have one fewer position in the special education department, as the numbers of students utilizing special education services can be covered without an additional hire in that department.

In other business Monday, the board approved the purchase of 65 MacBook Pro computers for district staff members to replace models that are four years old.

Hafer said the district will use ESSR III federal funding for the laptop purchase, which was something the district would have needed to do anyway.

“We are trying to use the ESSR funds for expenses we would have anyway, and provide some relief to taxpayers on those purchases by using these ESSR funds,” Hafer said. “We knew this was something we needed to do, and it is an approved use for the ESSR funds.”

The 65 laptops and four years of Apple Care Plus cost $113,620, with the board using a portion of the $530,936 in federal ESSR III funding to pay for the purchase.

Science teacher Betty Bower provided the board with an update on a course she took and implemented into her classroom as a STEM Ambassador through the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Bower said she took a weather and climate course through the university, and implemented lessons into her earth science curriculum.

“The students did research and critical thinking,” Bower said. “This tries to get the kids to think critically, and makes the work interesting.”

Bower said the students were assigned a country and had a debate on ways that country could either adapt to changing climate or innovate.

Secondary Principal Steve Dike said it was exciting to see the science students develop those critical thinking skills, working as a team and critically analyzing information.

In other action items Monday, the board approved an option enrollment request for Savanna Stamp to allow her three children to continue to attend Rock County Public Schools after the family recently moved from that district into the Ainsworth district.

The board approved the second reading of policy updates as recommended by the Nebraska Association of School Boards, and approved the 2022-23 school calendar. Hafer said there were no recommended changes to the calendar from the version presented to the board during its February meeting.

During his report, Hafer told the board the district used the final $13,800 in ESSR II federal funding to pilot a few new smartboards and interactive televisions to see if that would be something the district would want to utilize in the future instead of overhead projectors.

Board President Jim Arens reported he has been working with Attorney Avery Gurnsey on transferring ownership of the three remaining 1-acre rural school parcels the district still owns.

Arens said two of the three parcels, including a parcel south of Ainsworth that has an old school building still on it, have language that calls for the parcels to revert back to the previous property owner when the school is no longer utilizing the property. He said two of the three parcels have no improvements.

Arens said he is keeping the county assessor updated on the progress of transferring the parcels.

Activities Director Jared Hansmeyer told the board the company plans to install the new video scoreboard in McAndrew Gymnasium March 23. The Ainsworth Booster Club purchased the video scoreboard, with the school board approving paying the cost for the wiring.

Prior to the regular meeting, the board was served a meal by Lunchtime Solutions and presented with information on the meal service being offered to students by the company.

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

* COVID cases continue downward trend

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

The North Central District Health Department was made aware of 11 new COVID-19 cases in the district during the past week, continuing the downward trend in cases. A total of 33 cases were confirmed during the past two weeks.

The NCDHD has a vaccination clinic scheduled from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. Thursday in the health department office at O’Neill, and the Ainsworth Conference Center will host a vaccination clinic next week from 2 until 5 p.m. March 23. 

Any individual with immunocompromising conditions is eligible for an additional COVID-19 booster dose three months after their third dose.

NCDHD continues to offer COVID-19 Testing through TotalWellness on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays by appointment only in the district office at O’Neill. The testing can be utilized by symptomatic/exposed individuals or for those in need of a COVID-19 test for travel.

* Brown County Sheriff’s Department weekly summary

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

March 6

  • Provided assistance to a stranded motorist on 435th ave in rural Brown County.
  • Responded to a complaint of a dog at large on 1st st in Ainsworth.

March 7

  • Received a report of a coyote in distress in the roadway on Highway 20 near mile marker 267. This information was forwarded to the Rock Co Sheriff’s Office and the Nebraska Game & Parks.
  • The Brown County Ambulance Association picked up an aircrew at the airport and transferred them to the Brown County Hospital to pick up a patient and return them back to the airport.
  • Received a request for a welfare check at an Ainsworth address. The individual was located and reported safe.
  • Responded to a one vehicle accident near Main St and 2nd St intersection in Ainsworth. Airbags did deploy but no injuries were reported.

March 8

  • Received a traffic complaint regarding a semi not stopping at an intersection at 883rd and Meadville Ave. Deputies were unable to locate the vehicle.
  • Provided traffic control for a cattle crossing at the intersection of Highway 20 and 432nd Ave.

March 9

  • No reportable news

March 10

  • Responded to a suspicious activity report on 6th St in Long Pine. Deputies were unable to locate the reported subjects.
  • Received multiple reports of a scam call regarding Publisher’s Clearing House advising individuals they had won a large amount of money and will be awarded this after sending in a money card. Subjects were advised these were scam calls and to report it to the Attorney General Fraud line.
  • Responded to a report of cattle on the roadway at 430th Ave, North of Ainsworth. The owner’s were contacted and removed them from the roadway. 
  • Received a request for a welfare check at a Long Pine address. The individual was located and reported safe.
  • Responded to a traffic complaint of a vehicle driving in excess speeds and in a reckless manner. The driver of the vehicle was located and issued a verbal warning.

March 11

  • Booked a subject into the Brown County Jail for a court commitment.
  • Received a report of a gas drive off at an Ainsworth self serve station. The individual was located and returned to the station to resolve the issue.
  • Provided assistance for an individual to help catch their dog that had escaped. The dog was caught and returned to their owner.
  • Responded to a request for dispatching a deer that had been struck by a motorist. No damage occurred to the vehicle.
  • The Brown County Ambulance were paged to a 911 call at an Ainsworth residence. One individual was transported to the Brown County Hospital.

March 12

  • Provided traffic control for a cattle crossing near Highway 20 and 423rd Ave intersection.
  • Raven Fire Department carried out a controlled burn near Paradise Valley Rd, South of Ainsworth. The Ainsworth Fire department also assisted.

Weekly Summary:

2– Burn Permit Issued (by all Brown Co Fire Depts)

        2– Handgun Permits Applied For

7– Incident Reports Were Taken

3– Paper Services Were Served

123– Phone Calls Were Received

6– 911 Emergency Calls Received

9– Titles Were Inspected

* Council approves ballot initiative for LB 840 renewal

(Posted 7 a.m. March 10)

Following a public hearing Wednesday, the Ainsworth City Council unanimously approved a resolution to set in motion the renewal of the city’s LB 840 program, with a special election to renew the economic development program Aug. 9.

Members of the LB 840 Citizen Advisory Review Committee discussed the updates that were made to the plan to account for changes at the state level.

CARC member Marcus Fairhead said the committee reviewed the current plan and made a few updates, which were reviewed and approved by the city’s LB 840 attorney Heather Sikyta.

“There are some things in small communities that are difficult for commercial lenders to help out with,” Fairhead said. “This program is very beneficial to help keep businesses local.”

CARC member Roger Lechtenberg said he had no idea how many areas the LB 840 program could help in the community until he became a member of the Citizen Advisory Review Committee.

“I think it is in the community’s interest to use this program to be competitive,” Lechtenberg said.

Outgoing CARC member Kathy Worrell echoed that sentiment.

“We need to keep the program going,” Worrell said. “A lot of money has been spent to benefit the community.”

City Administrator Lisa Schroedl said there would not be many changes to the program in terms of functionality.

“It looks pretty much the same,” Schroedl said. “It will now include workforce housing as a qualifying activity. Otherwise, it is very similar to what we have been doing. It would continue the one-half cent sales tax.”

Schroedl said the public hearing and resolution were the first steps in the process. If the resolution is approved by the council, a special election will be organized by the county clerk. She said the city has budgeted for the cost of the special election knowing it was coming up for renewal.

Mayor Joel Klammer thanked the members of the committee and others who are working on the program’s renewal.

Following the hearing, the council read the resolution into the record and approved its passage. The special election ballot will include two propositions that read: 1. Shall the city of Ainsworth renew the Economic Development Program as described by appropriating annually from a one-half percent local option sales tax approved by voters for a period of 15 years? 2. Shall the city of Ainsworth continue to impose a sales and use tax of one-half percent for a period of 15 years upon transactions within the city which are subject to state sales tax, to be utilized for the Economic Development Program activities as described in Proposition 1?

Schroedl said both measures have to pass for the program to continue.

The LB 840 program was approved by voters in 2008 for a 15-year period. That period ends in March 2023. The council’s unanimous passage Wednesday sets up the Aug. 9 special election that, if approved, will continue the LB 840 program for another 15 years beginning in April 2023.

In a related item Wednesday, the council approved a recommendation from the Ainsworth Area Chamber of Commerce to appoint Jennifer Schuett to a four-year term on the LB 840 Citizen Advisory Review Committee. The chamber recommends the appointments of two CARC representatives. The terms of Kathy Worrell and Colleen Lentz are ending. Klammer said the chamber will recommend another appointment to the CARC in addition to Schuett.

The council approved a portion of a façade improvement grant from the LB 840 program in the amount of $2,042 after denying the full $10,000 application by a 3-2 vote after determining a portion of the work had already been completed.

Schroedl said the application was for the renovation of a downtown business, with door and window replacement, painting and a sign.

“This was tabled by the loan committee a couple times,” Schroedl said. “The doors and windows had already been installed. The applicant discussed with the committee the availability of materials and labor on why they had proceeded.”

The loan committee recommended the application be approved with an exception to the program guidelines that state work cannot have been completed prior to the application being approved.

Klammer said the application was received in late November 2021, and the windows were installed a week after that. Klammer and Schroedl said the program guidelines clearly state work is not eligible for the program if it has already been completed.

Councilman Shawn Fernau said he agreed with the committee’s recommendation. As a contractor, Fernau said he was sympathetic because he knows how difficult it is currently to obtain materials and a contractor to install.

Councilman Schyler Schenk said supply chain issues could be viewed as an extenuating circumstance in this case.

“The gun was jumped a little bit, but I think it should be an exception,” Schenk said.

Councilman Vance Heyer said he understood the supply chain issues, but the façade program is a government program and there are guidelines that need to be followed.

“It is a good project,” Heyer said. “Part of it just doesn’t qualify because the work is already done.”

Councilman Brad Fiala agreed, saying, “It is a great project, but our job is to make sure we stick to the rules.”

Fiala said the city has the guidelines in place because an exception was made in the past that opened up a can of worms and led to the council allowing applications for work that had already been completed.

The council set a hard deadline of December 31, 2020, for those exceptions to be approved.

“We would need to go back and discuss amending the plan before we could approve this,” Fiala said.

Greg Nahrstedt told the council the reason the windows were installed was because the contractor could not make it back to Ainsworth for several months and there would be no guarantee that the materials would be available at that time.

Dawn Nahrstedt said no one knows how long supply chain issues are going to persist.

“We ordered a back door, and it still isn’t here,” she said. “I would request you change the rules until the supply chain issues change. It could impact a business’s decision to buy a building and invest in improving the community.”

Fernau moved to approve the loan committee’s recommendation to approve the full $10,000 grant application, which would cover half the cost of all the façade improvement work.

By a 2-2 vote with Fernau and Schenk in favor and Heyer and Fiala against, the issue was decided by the mayor, who voted to deny the full application.

Schroedl said not all of the façade work had been completed, and there were parts of the application that would still qualify for the grant funds.

By a unanimous vote, the council then approved awarding the façade grant in the amount of $2,042 to cover 50 percent of the cost of the work that has not yet been completed.

In other business, the council approved declaring 45 pieces of metal siding measuring 3 feet by 30 feet, 30 pieces measuring 3 feet by 16 feet, and ridge caps and gutters as surplus equipment and offering the metal for sale by sealed bid.

The surplus metal came after the city streets shop was redone following the initial expansion work.

Following an executive session, the council approved directing City Attorney Rod Palmer to contact the original contractor on the street shop addition project to recover the cost of the repairs that were made.

In a final action item Wednesday, the council selected engineering firm Olsson Associates to perform design engineering for the city on the upcoming Main Street/Highway 7 renovation project.

Klammer said Olsson Associates was the only company to submit a proposal following the city’s request for qualifications. He said the city has worked closely with Olsson Associates on numerous projects, including the recently completed wastewater improvement project.

Schroedl said the council will hold a special meeting at noon March 16 to approve a contract with the company now that the city has selected Olsson Associates for the project.

She said the Nebraska Department of Transportation has tentatively scheduled the project for 2024, with a bidding date of August 2023.

During her report, Schroedl said Buckley Steel has completed all the building repairs to the city street shop addition. She reported an employee resigned Feb. 25, so the city is advertising for a full-time position as a wastewater treatment plant assistant and is also advertising for part-time help in sanitation. She said the city will also advertise soon for part-time seasonal help.

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

* Brown County District Court proceedings

(Posted 6 a.m. March 10)

During Brown County District Court proceedings Tuesday, Amber R. Christ, age 48, of Garden City, Kan., entered a guilty plea to a Class IV felony charge of possession of a controlled substance – methamphetamine. Christ was fined $1,000 plus court costs.

Gregory C. Irwin, 40, of Ainsworth, entered a plea of guilty to a Class IV felony charge of attempted assault by strangulation. Irwin was sentenced to 90 days in the Brown County Jail.

Robert Barkwill, 30, of Ainsworth, appeared for sentencing Tuesday after previously entering guilty pleas to charges of possession of a controlled substance, a Class IV felony; possession of drug paraphernalia, an infraction; and possession of marijuana less than 1 ounce, an infraction. Barkwill was fined a total of $1,400 on the three counts in addition to court costs.

* Graff elected as NARD vice president

(Posted 10 a.m. March 9)

The voting members of the Nebraska Association of Resources Districts Board of Directors elected new officers during their board meeting March 7.

The NARD Board consists of representation from each of the Nebraska’s 23 Natural Resources Districts. The board meets five times throughout the year and helps guide the association and NRDs in decision making that protects lives, property and the future of Nebraska’s natural resources.

The NARD Board elected Dr. Orval Gigstad from the Nemaha NRD as president. Gigstad has served on the Nemaha NRD Board since 1993 and the NARD Board since 1996.

Marty Graff of the Middle Niobrara NRD was elected as vice president of the NARD Board. Graff has served on the Middle Niobrara NRD Board 27 years and on the NARD boards since 2018.

Joel Hansen of the Lower Elkhorn NRD was elected secretary-treasurer of the NARD Board. Hansen brings a unique perspective to the board as the Street & Planning Director for the City of Wayne where he has worked for more than 27 years. He has served on the Lower Elkhorn NRD board 15 years.

* Sixth-grade students qualify for State National History Day

(Posted 9 a.m. March 8)

Six Ainsworth Middle School students submitted projects to the district level of the National History Day contest, and winners were announced during a virtual awards ceremony Wednesday, March 2.

All three projects received first, second, or third place during the district contest, qualifying them for the state competition.

Landon Stephen earned the top spot in the district for his junior individual exhibit titled “Containing Communism: The Truman Doctrine.”

Bear Rea and Jaxon Rucker earned second place for their junior group documentary titled “Buffalo Bill: Icon of the American West.”

Mickal Crisman, Easton McMillin and Carson Koch received third place for their junior group exhibit titled “Homesteading in Nebraska.”

Sponsor Nichole Flynn said, “I’m so proud of these sixth-grade students for putting in the extra time and effort that it takes to compete in National History Day.”

Over the next few weeks, the six students will work to submit their projects to the state contest, which will take place April 9 at Lincoln.

* Stuart wins Class D2-3 District Speech championship

(Posted 7 a.m. March 8)

Class D2-3 District Speech
Stuart High School
Team Sweepstakes
1. Stuart, 302; 2. Wynot, 194; 3. Sandhills, 88; 4. Verdigre, 58; 6. Niobrara, 54; 6. Tie between Wheeler Central and Allen, 30; 8. Keya Paha County, 10.

Stuart (302)
Persuasive Speaking – Taya Schmaderer – District Champion
Entertainment Speaking – William Paxton – District Champion
Serious Prose – Sydney Estill – District Champion
Extemporaneous Speaking – William Paxton – District Champion
Informative Speaking – Chiana Tubbs – District Champion
Oral Interpretation of Drama – Abigail Tubbs, Katilynn Kaup, Sydney Estill and Taya Schmaderer – Second place
Duet Acting – Benjamin Paxton and Elly Steinhauser – Second place
Persuasive Speaking – Chiana Tubbs – Second place
Informative Speaking – Emma Alder – Second place
Extemporaneous Speaking – Dawson Heiser – Second place
Poetry – Lacey Paxton – Third place
Humorous Prose – Abigail Tubbs – Third place
Serious Prose – Katilynn Kaup – Third place
Entertainment Speaking – Grace Alder – Third Place
Oral Interpretation of Drama – Benjamin Paxton, Elly Steinhauser, Gracie Kaup and Hunter Tubbs – Fourth place
Humorous Prose – Lacey Paxton – Fourth place
Duet Acting – Addisyn Ketteler and MaKayla Menke – Sixth place
Poetry – Ashlyn Kaup – Sixth place

Keya Paha County (10)
Humorous Prose – Emily Hespe – Sixth place

* Keller qualifies for state speech for Rock County

(Posted 7 a.m. March 8)

Class D1-3 District Speech
Wausa High School
Team Sweepstakes
1. Wausa, 336; 2. Bloomfield, 132; 3. Holy Family, 108; 4. Boyd County, 68; 5. Lyons Decatur, 66; 6. Emerson-Hubbard, 36; 7. Rock County, 32.

Rock County (32)
Informative Speaking – Hannah Keller – Second place
Persuasive speaking – Kyra Anthony – Fourth place

Boyd County (68)
Oral Interpretation of Drama – Brooklyn Eckert, Brynn Almgren, Elizabeth Kersch, McKenzie Snyder and Zoe Kaczor – Fourth place
Entertainment Speaking – Brynn Almgren – Fifth place
Serious Prose – Amelia Hakl – Fifth place
Duet Acting – Elizabeth Kersch and Zoe Kaczor – Sixth place
Informative Speaking – McKenzie Snyder – Sixth place
Serious Prose – Elizabeth Kersch – Sixth place

* Ainsworth places second in district speech Saturday

(Posted 6:45 a.m. March 8)

Class C1-6 District Speech
Ainsworth High School
Team Sweepstakes
1. Boone Central, 236; 2. Ainsworth, 148; 3. Sutherland, 136; 4. Bridgeport, 130; 5. Gordon-Rushville, 58; 6. Mitchell, 48; 7. Valentine, 28; 8. Chase County, 26.

Ainsworth (148)
Extemporaneous Speaking – Elizabeth Wilkins – District Champion
Persuasive Speaking – Alyssa Erthum – District Champion
Informative Speaking – Makenna Pierce – Second place
Entertainment Speaking – Ben Flynn – Third place
Serious Prose – Taylor Allen – Fourth place
Extemporaneous Speaking – Alyssa Erthum – Fifth place
Oral Interpretation of Drama – Ben Flynn, Dakota Stutzman, Eden Raymond and Maren Arens – Fifth place
Duet Acting – Cameryn Goochey and Cole Bodeman – Sixth place
Humorous Prose – Maia Flynn – Sixth place

* West Holt takes second in district speech meet

(Posted 6:45 a.m. March 8)

Class C1-4 District Speech
Battle Creek High School
Team Sweepstakes
1. Crofton, 206; 2. West Holt, 166; 3. Laurel-Concord-Coleridge, 152; 4. Battle Creek, 140; 5. Elkhorn Valley, 62; 6. Norfolk Catholic, 48; 7. Ord, 36.

West Holt (166)
Humorous Prose – Caid McCart – District Champion
Duet Acting – Asher McCart and Caid McCart – Second place
Entertainment Speaking – Hannah Olson – Third place
Poetry – Violet Schwager – Third place
Serious Prose – Abigail Thiele – Third place
Persuasive Speaking – Maci Nemetz – Third place
Informative Speaking – Sidney Burkinshaw – Third place
Entertainment Speaking – Madeline Rentschler – Fourth place
Extemporaneous Speaking – Nate Wallinger – Fifth place
Informative Speaking – Aubrei Clouse – Sixth place

* COVID cases remain low in NCDHD area

(Posted 6:45 a.m. March 8)

The North Central District Health Department was made aware of 22 new COVID-19 cases in the district during the past week, as cases continue to be low in the nine counties served by the NCDHD. No deaths from the virus were reported in the past week, with 140 people deemed to have recovered from the virus. There have been 56 total confirmed cases in the past two weeks.

Any individual with immunocompromising conditions is eligible for an additioanl COVID-19 booster dose three months after their third dose. Contact your medical provider or NCDHD at 402-336-2406 for more information.

NCDHD is offering scheduled COVID-19 testing through Total Wellness on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. PCR and Rapid tests are available in the NCDHD office by appointment only. Testing can be utilized by symptomatic/exposed individuals or for those in need of a COVID-19 test for travel. To register, visit https://login.registermytime.com/tw/ncdhd or call the NCDHD office at 402-336-2406.

A vaccination clinic is scheduled from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. Thursday in the NCDHD office at O’Neill.

* Brown County Sheriff’s Department weekly summary

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

February 27

  • Released an inmate from the Brown County Jail for a 15 day court commitment of time served.
  • Ainsworth Fire Department responded to a grass fire of a flare up of tree piles that were ignited previously for a burn permit.
  • Responded to a report of harassment in Ainsworth.

February 28

  • Provided traffic control for a cattle crossing on Hwy 183 near Keller Park and also on Hwy 20 and Norden Ave intersection.
  • The Brown County Ambulance Association responded to two 911 calls for service on this day; both requiring transport to the Brown County Hospital.
  • The Ainsworth Fire and Long Pine Fire Departments were paged to a grass fire 7 miles North on Highway 183 and 1 mile West for a flare up from a previous days issued burn permit of some tree piles.

March 1

  • Responded to a report of cattle out on Highway 183 near mile marker 200. Deputies were able to remove the cows from the roadway and the owner was contacted for further assistance.
  • Received several reports of an abandoned vehicle in an alley between Woodward and Main Street. The owner was contacted and removed the vehicle.
  • Received reports of unauthorized motor vehicles driving on city streets in Ainsworth.

March 2

  • The Brown County Ambulance Association were paged to an Ainsworth facility and transported one individual to the Brown County Hospital.
  • Received multiple reports of smoke sightings Southwest of Ainsworth. It was determined to be a controlled burn in Cherry County.

March 3

  • Responded to an abandoned one vehicle accident near the South entrance to Hidden Paradise where the car had struck a power pole. After determining who was the driver/owner of the vehicle the driver was issued a citation for driving during revocation, no valid registration, failure to properly report an accident, possession of marijuana 1 oz or less, and possession or use of drug paraphernalia.
  • Received a scam report from an Ainsworth resident.
  • Provided civil standby for a tenant and landlord in Ainsworth.
  • Responded to a domestic dispute in a rural Brown County home.
  • Responded to a vehicle deer collision on Hwy 20 near mile marker 247. No injuries were reported and the vehicle was towed.
  • Responded to reports of harassment on an Ainsworth resident. One subject was contacted and issued a verbal warning.

March 4

  • The Brown County Ambulance association was paged for a lift assist in Long Pine. No transfer was needed. They also responded to a 911 call for an Ainsworth address and transported the individual to the Brown County hospital.
  • Provided civil standby for a tenant to remove belongings.
  • Responded to an employee dispute near Highway 20/183 Junction.
  • The Long Pine and Ainsworth Fire Departments were paged to a 911 call reporting a structure fire. Rock County Fire Department were also requested after the location was determined to be in Rock Co.  Upon arrival it was determined to be a grass fire.
  • Provided assistance for a motorist on Highway 20.

March 5

  • Received a gas drive off report from an Ainsworth gas station.
  • Received a report of a dog bite that had occurred in Arnold, NE.
  • Responded to a suspicious vehicle report in Ainsworth. Deputies made contact with the vehicle and reported no criminal intent.
  • Received a report of a motorist that had driven off the roadway on Highway 20 West of Ainsworth. No injuries were reported and the vehicle was not damaged.

Weekly Summary:

1– Burn Permit Issued (by all Brown Co Fire Depts)

        6– Handgun Permits Applied For

10– Incident Reports Were Taken

1– Paper Services Were Served

136– Phone Calls Were Received

11– 911 Emergency Calls Received

4– Titles Were Inspected

February Monthly Summary

7 – Accidents

2 – Arrests

52– Calls for Service

13– Citations were issued

2 – Defect Cards issued

11– Handgun permits issued

18 – Paper Service served

480 – Phone calls were received

25 – 911 emergency calls received

        16– Titles inspected

        9– Verbal & Written Warnings issued

* Sandhills Care Center receives five-star rating from CMS

(Posted 8:15 a.m. March 7)

The Sandhills Care Center has received an overall five-star rating from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, according to the latest reports published by the federal agency.

Created “to help consumers, their families, and caregivers compare nursing homes more easily and to help identify areas about which [they] may want to ask questions,” the CMS rating system publishes reports on the nursing home compare page at medicare.gov.  The most recent ratings incorporate data reported through December 31, 2021.

The nursing home compare web site features a quality rating system that gives each nursing home a rating of between one and five stars. Nursing homes with five stars are considered to have much above average quality and nursing homes with one star are considered to have much below average quality.

Created by CMS in 2008, the rating system uses information from health care surveys, quality measures, and staffing.  Today, the five-star rating system has expanded beyond consumer use.  Non-consumers, such as state regulators, health care insurers, lenders and investors, use five-star ratings to determine incentive payments, referral networks, and financial loans.

The Sandhills Care Center is one of the 51 nursing homes in Nebraska to currently be rated as a five-star facility of the 195 facilities operating in the state.

* Long Pine firefighters respond to Friday grass fire

(Posted 8 a.m. March 7)

Originally paged Friday to responders as a structure fire, the Long Pine Volunteer Fire Department responded to what was actually a small grass fire in Rock County.

According to Long Pine Rural Volunteer Fire Department Chief Matt Pozehl, at approximately 2:30 p.m. Friday, firefighters responded to a location 2 miles south of RK Feeders in Rock County to a burn pit that had gotten away from a property owner and spread toward a grove of cedar trees.

Pozehl said the property owner had the fire mostly extinguished by the time firefighters arrived on scene. No damage was reported, and firefighters were on scene less than an hour.

* Brown County Commissioners approve letter of opposition

(Posted 3 p.m. March 3)

During a brief meeting Tuesday, the Brown County Commissioners approved sending a letter of opposition regarding the use of invasive phragmites. The letter was recommended by Weed Superintendent Scott Erthum.

Budget preparer Caleb Johnson discussed LB 644 and LB 1250 in the Nebraska Legislature that may affect timelines regarding budgets and tax asking.

Emergency Management Director Traci Booth recommended herself, Kenny Turpin, Dennis Bauer, Bruce Papstein and BJ Nilson to the Brown County Safety Committee. The board will act on the recommendation with a resolution during its March 15 meeting, which begins at 5:15 p.m.

* Rock County Commissioners approve construction project

(Posted 2:45 p.m. March 3)

The Rock County Commissioners on Tuesday approved a $2,685 quote from JT Construction to build a support for the upstairs storage area of the county roads shop. The board also received an update on the Carns Bridge project, which is scheduled for construction in 2023. Rock County will be responsible for 10 percent of the cost of the bridge, with Keya Paha County responsible for 10 percent of the cost and federal and state disaster funding covering the remainder.

In other business Tuesday, the commissioners approved having Alexandria Grant process Nebraska Intergovernmental Risk Management Association claims on behalf of the county. NIRMA required an official appointment to handle claims, as the board discussed with Sheriff Jim Anderson and Deputy Sheriff Ben Shelbourn the estimated cost to replace windows of the Rock County Jail damaged recently by an inmate. Due to the estimated cost of replacing the three windows, the board will be required to obtain three bids for the window replacement.

Gene DeBolt met with the commissioners regarding section line issues between Sections 11 and 14 and between Sections 12 and 13 both in Township 30 North, Range 18 West.

The county has a minimum maintenance road in that area, and fencing creates a potential access issue. The item was tabled until more information was obtained. The board had previously approved having county surveyor Lloyd Smith locate the section line markers in the area.

Budget preparer Caleb Johnson met with the board to discuss Rock County’s 2022-23 budget. Johnson provided the commissioners with an update on LB 644 in the Nebraska Legislature that could have an impact on the county’s budget preparation. The E911 Fund and Emergency Management funds will be removed from the county’s line-item budget for the 2022-23 fiscal year.

The next meeting of the Rock County Commissioners is scheduled for 9 a.m. March 15.

* Recent cases from Brown County Court

(Posted 2:30 p.m. March 3)

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

Logan M. Gleason, age 18, of Lake Forest, Ill., charged with speeding 21-35 mph over the limit, fined $200.

Amanda Galasso, 32, of Fergus Falls, Minn., speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.

Amber D. Hollenbeck, 27, of Bassett, no habitat or aquatic stamp, $50.

Gregory Irwin, 40, of Ainsworth, possession of an open alcohol container in a vehicle, $50.

Richard E. Wingard III, 33, of Sauk Rapids, Minn., speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75; attempting a Class 4 felony, $1,000; possession of marijuana more than 1 ounce but less than 1 pound, $500; possession of drug paraphernalia, $100.

Amanda M. Jacobs, 36, of Sauk Rapids, Minn., attempting a Class 4 felony, $1,000; possession of marijuana more than 1 ounce but less than 1 pound, $500; possession of drug paraphernalia, $100.

Cara J. Unruh, 35, of Ainsworth, speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.

Isaiah K. Adams, 18, of Pierce, speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.

Shane L. Lewis, 24, of Ainsworth, abandon or cruelly neglect an animal, $1,000.

Haley R. Stanley, 18, of Ainsworth, minor in possession, sentenced to two days in jail.

Samuel Dalager, 20, of Becker, Minn., attempting a Class 4 felony, $1,000; possession of marijuana less than 1 ounce, $300; possession of drug paraphernalia, $100.

Eric I. Rivera Sanchez, 23, of Montevideo, Minn., attempting a Class 4 felony, $1,000; possession of marijuana more than 1 ounce but less than 1 pound, $500.

Cortney A. Wendel, 19, of Pennock, Minn., attempting a Class 4 felony, $1,000; possession of marijuana more than 1 ounce but less than 1 pound, $500.

Charles E. Dickau, 78, of Brewster, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Jose A. Cano Gomez, 39, of O’Neill, violating or stop or yield sign, $75; no operator’s license, $75.

Brandon E. Kelley, 33, of Longmont, Colo., possession of marijuana less than 1 ounce, $300; possession of drug paraphernalia, $100.

Derreck J. Dodd, 23, of Norfolk, speeding 16-20 mph over the limit, $125.

Matthew L. Hulst, 40, of Denver, Colo., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Rylan A. Hobbs, 18, of Ainsworth, violating a stop or yield sign, $75.

Elizabeth A. Pike, 61, of Long Pine, possession of an open alcohol container in a vehicle, $50.

* Erthum wins conference title Monday

(Posted 6:45 a.m. March 2)

The Ainsworth speech team participated in the Southwest Conference Meet Monday at Broken Bow. Alyssa Erthum is the Southwest Conference champion in persuasive speaking. Other medalists Monday for the Bulldogs were:

Libby Wilkins – 5th in Extemporaneous

Dakota Stutzman – 6th in Serious Prose

Ben Flynn – 6th in Entertainment 

Taylor Allen – 7th in Serious Prose

Alyssa Erthum – 7th in Extemporaneous

Ainsworth hosts district competition Saturday, March 5, in the high school. The event is open to the public.

* Area facilities participate in free colorectal screening

(Posted 9:45 a.m. March 1)

The survival rate for colon cancer is 90 percent when it is caught in the early stages. Unfortunately, only 40 percent of cases are being diagnosed during that early window. CHI Health Good Samaritan and several area health care facilities have joined forces during Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month to increase screening.

March 14-25, men and women ages 45 to 75 are encouraged to call 800-658-5169 weekdays from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. to request a free colorectal cancer screening test kit.

Participants will be mailed an at-home Fecal Occult Blood Test kit with easy-to-follow instructions requiring three consecutive samples. Good Samaritan will then analyze completed tests for microscopic signs of blood, a potential sign of colorectal cancer, and inform participants and their primary care physicians of the results.

Participating facilities include the Brown County Hospital and Ainsworth Family Clinic, the Rock County Hospital and West Holt Medical Services of Atkinson.

Colorectal cancer is the third most frequently diagnosed cancer in both men and women and the third leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States. If everyone age 45 or older had regular screening tests, at least 60 percent of those deaths could be avoided.

If you have a history of polyps and/or colon cancer in your family, talk with your doctor about earlier and more frequent screening. Recommended screening options include: home screening test every year, a flexible sigmoidoscopy every 5 years and a colonoscopy every 10 years. A colonoscopy is still the most effective way to detect colon cancer. People who are in good health with life expectancy of more than 10 years should continue regular colorectal cancer screening through the age of 75. People ages 76 through 85 should make a decision with their medical provider about whether to be screened, based on their overall health and prior screening history. People over 85 should no longer get colorectal cancer screening.

* Graff advances in ‘The American’ competition

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

Ainsworth graduate Sydney Graff is competing in The American, an annual rodeo held each year at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. The American has the richest single-day payout in all of western sports.

Competing in breakaway roping, Graff finished 29th in the opening round among 506 qualifying riders. She advances to the semifinals and will compete at 8 p.m. Thursday.

Over the course of qualifier events across the country, competitors battle for what could be the biggest single-day paycheck of their careers. Owned by Teton Ridge, *The American* is a true open competition. The event brings together top professional rodeo athletes in a winner-take-all showdown.

The top 10 contestants in the world receive invitations. Hopeful contestants can also pay an entry fee to compete in qualifying events throughout the year. In past years, nearly 4,000 entries competed at 70 qualifying events to make The American.

The semifinals are held at Cowtown Coliseum in the Historic Fort Worth Stockyards. Approximately 700 contestants compete over four days for the chance to advance and compete for the $2 million side pot.

* COVID cases continue downward trend

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

The North Central District Health Department was made aware of 34 new COVID-19 cases confirmed in the district during the past week, as cases district-wide continue to fall. There have been 125 confirmed cases in the past two weeks. During the past week, 153 people were deemed to have recovered from COVID-19, and no additional deaths were attributed to the virus.

Any individual with immunocompromising conditions is eligible for an additional COVID-19 booster dose three months after their third dose.

The CDC has updated guidance that it is no longer necessary to delay COVID-19 vaccination following receipt of monoclonal antibodies or convalescent plasma.

NCDHD is offering scheduled COVID-19 testing through TotalWellness on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. PCR and Rapid tests are available in the district office at O’Neill by appointment only. The testing can be utilized by symptomatic/exposed individuals or for those in need of a COVID-19 test for travel. To register, visit https://login.registermytime.com/tw/ncdhd. For technical assistance, call the NCDHD office at 402-336-2406.

A vaccination clinic is scheduled from 1 until 4 p.m. today (Tuesday) in Mid-Plains Community College at Valentine, from 2 until 4:30 p.m. Wednesday in the Butte Community Center, and from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. Thursday in the NCDHD office at O’Neill.

* Brown County Sheriff’s Department weekly summary

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

February 20

  • Provided civil standby for a residence in Long Pine.
  • Responded to a civil dispute between neighbors in Ainsworth.
  • Responded to a 911 call advising of a reckless driver, northbound on Highway 7 near mile marker 11. Deputies were able to make contact with this vehicle near mile marker 41.  Canine Dutch was deployed and indicated on the vehicle a positive alert.  After deputies searched the vehicle, one male subject was issued a citation for possession of a controlled substance, possession of drug paraphernalia, possession of marijuana 1 oz or less, driving left of center, and improper or defective vehicle lighting.

February 21

  • Received a report of a one vehicle deer collision near the junction of Highway 183 and 20. The vehicle was towed from the scene and no injuries were reported.
  • Responded to a report of suspicious activity near a Long Pine residence.
  • Provided a welfare check on an Ainsworth resident. The individual was located and reported safe.
  • Received a theft report from an Ainsworth business.
  • Received a report of two loose dogs attacking and biting another small dog that resides on the 600 block of 2nd st. This is an ongoing investigation.
  • Received a stolen vehicle report. This was found to be a civil matter and information was transferred to the Brown County Attorney’s office.

February 22

  • Responded to a parking complaint on 1st St in Ainsworth. Deputies were able to make contact with the owner and the vehicle was removed.
  • The Brown County Ambulance was paged for a 911 call to an Ainsworth facility. One individual was transported to the Brown County Hospital.
  • Received a gas drive off report from an Ainsworth gas station. Deputies were unable to locate this vehicle.

February 23

  • Responded to a request for a welfare check in Ainsworth. The individual was located and reported safe.
  • Canine Dutch was deployed to provide agency assistance at Cody/Kilgore High School.

February 24

  • Issued a citation for careless driving in Ainsworth.
  • Served an arrest warrant in Ainsworth on a Long Pine resident for failure to appear. This subject was booked into the Brown County Jail and awaiting a court date.
  • The Brown County Ambulance Association was paged to assist with lifting an individual. No transport was made.
  • During a traffic stop on Hwy 7, a citation was issued for speeding 16-20 mph over the posted speed limit.

February 25

  • The Brown County Ambulance Association was paged for lift assistance but no transport was made.
  • Provided assistance to Cass County Sheriff’s office after they served a Brown County Arrest warrant on a subject in Plattsmouth, NE. This subject was booked into the Cass County Jail and released on a $1000 personal recognizance bond.
  • The Brown County Ambulance and the Ainsworth Fire Department were paged for a 911 call to an Ainsworth residence. The individual was assisted and no transport was needed.
  • During a traffic stop on Hwy 7 near mile marker 35, a citation was issued to one male Brown County resident for possession of marijuana 1 oz or less. Also issued a Brown County female resident a citation for possession of marijuana over 1 oz to 1 lb, possession of a controlled substance, possession of drug paraphernalia, and littering.

February 26

  • Responded to a request for a welfare check on a rural Brown County resident. Deputies were able to locate the individual on the E Calamus rd.  The subject was involved in a motor vehicle accident and the Brown County Ambulance association was paged for transporting the individual to the Brown County Hospital.
  • Booked a subject into the Brown County Jail for a weekend court commitment.
  • The Brown County Ambulance crew were paged to transfer an individual from the Brown County Hospital to a Hospital in Kearney; a 911 call for one Ainsworth resident who was transferred to the Brown County Hospital; and provided transportation for a flight crew from the Airport to the Brown County Hospital to pick up a patient and transferred them back to the Airport.
  • Received a report of a suspected hit and run that occurred on an Ainsworth resident’s vehicle. This is an ongoing investigation.
  • Received a report of harassment on a rural Brown County individual.

Weekly Summary:

10– Burn Permit Issued (by all Brown Co Fire Depts)

          4 – Handgun Permits Applied For

17 – Incident Reports Were Taken

2– Paper Services Were Served

145– Phone Calls Were Received

5– 911 Emergency Calls Received

3– Titles Were Inspected

* Area entities receive recycling grants from NDEE

(Posted 6:45 a.m. Feb. 24)

Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy Director Jim Macy announced the award of $6.68 million in grants to support 155 projects across the state. The grants will help fund litter and waste reduction projects, recycling programs, and pay costs for scrap tire cleanups and collections for household hazardous waste, electronic waste, and pharmaceuticals.

The KBR Solid Waste Committee received a $30,852 grant to conduct a 200-ton scrap tire cleanup in Brown County.

The North Central District Health Department received two scrap tire cleanup grants, both for 300-ton cleanups in the amounts of $41,128 and $48,028 respectively.

The North Central RC&D received an $11,098 grant to fund three household hazardous waste cleanup events at Stuart, Spencer and O’Neill.

The village of Spencer was awarded a $49,761 grant to clean up 325 tons of scrap tires.

“There were many outstanding applications submitted to NDEE this year,” Macy said. “These grants will assist many important local efforts to promote litter and waste reduction and help handle the costs of proper disposal of many materials, such as household hazardous waste and scrap tires.”

Waste Reduction and Recycling Incentive funds are generated by a fee on solid waste disposed of in landfills, an annual retail business sales fee, and a fee assessed on the sale of new tires. Grants are provided to local integrated waste management projects, and can include recycling systems, household hazardous waste collections, and composting. For 2022, 27 projects totaling $2.17 million were funded under the Business Fee and Disposal Fee categories.

Also included in the Waste Reduction and Recycling Incentive program are Scrap Tire funds, which are generated from a $1 fee on new tires purchased in Nebraska. In 2022, 77 grants totaling $2.3 million were awarded. These grants will fund 33 scrap tire cleanup events across Nebraska. Enough funding was awarded to clean up 8,695 tons of scrap tires. Funds will also be used to partially reimburse the cost of many products made from recycled scrap tires, such as artificial turf football, soccer, baseball, and softball fields, athletic running tracks, and playground surfacing.

Litter Reduction and Recycling funds are generated from a fee charged to certain manufacturers, wholesalers, and retailers of products that commonly contribute to litter. The program has provided grants annually since 1979. This year, 51 litter grants totaling $2.18 million were awarded in the public education, cleanup, and recycling categories. Public education programs educate citizens on litter reduction and recycling through a variety of school and community activities.

Cleanup grants provide funding for Nebraska organizations with volunteers who pick up litter and debris along Nebraska’s roadways, waterways, recreation lands, urban areas, and other public use areas within the state. Not only are the public areas improved through the removal of litter, but also much of the material collected is recycled. Recycling programs provide an alternative to the disposal of solid waste in Nebraska’s landfills. Priority is given to programs that promote markets for recycled materials or purchasing products made from recycled materials.

* Ainsworth, Atkinson libraries receive grant funding

(Posted 3:30 p.m. Feb. 23)

The Nebraska Library Commission awarded Youth Grants for Excellence for innovative projects for children and young adults in public libraries in Nebraska through a competitive grant process. The program is designed to encourage creative thinking, risk-taking, and new approaches to address problems and needs of children and young adults. The 2022 funding was provided from the American Rescue Plan Act, the federal stimulus bill passed by Congress, as administered by the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

The Ainsworth Public Library received a $1,100 grant for a Lighting up a passion for STEM program, and the Atkinson Public Library received a $962 grant for Makerspace items for youth.

* COVID cases continue downward trend in area

(Posted 7 a.m. Feb. 23)

The North Central District Health Department was made aware of 91 new COVID-19 cases confirmed in the nine-county district during the past week, as new cases continue a downward trend.

Three deaths were attributed to the virus in the past week, with 606 people deemed to have recovered during that time.

 The CDC has updated guidance that it is no longer necessary to delay COVID-19 vaccination following receipt of monoclonal antibodies or convalescent plasma.

The NCDHD is offering scheduled COVID-19 testing through TotalWellness on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. PCR and Rapid tests are available in the district office at O’Neill. Walk-ins are not accepted. Testing can be utilized by symptomatic/exposed individuals or for those in need of a COVID-19 test for travel. To register, visit https://login.registermytime.com/tw/ncdhd or call the NCDHD for assistance at 402-336-2406.

A vaccination clinic is scheduled from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. Thursday in the NCDHD office at O’Neill. Next week, clinics are scheduled from 1 until 4 p.m. March 1 in Mid-Plains Community College at Valentine, and from 2 until 4:30 p.m. March 2 in the Butte Community Center.

* Candidates continue to file for area office, deadline March 1

(Posted 1:15 p.m. Feb. 22)

The deadline has passed for incumbent candidates to re-file for office, and the deadline for non-incumbent candidates to file for office is approaching on March 1.
In addition to races for commissioner, city council, school board and others, the non-presidential election years see county offices such as clerk, treasurer, assessor and sheriff on the ballot.
Candidates in area counties who have filed for office include:

Brown County

Assessor – Terri Van Houten (incumbent)

Attorney – Andy Taylor (inc)

Clerk – Travis Hobbs (inc)

Sheriff – Zach Welch and Brent Deibler

Treasurer – Jeanie Norton, Amber Happold and Bruce Mitchell

Commissioner (two seats) – Dennis Bauer, (inc), Bruce Papstein, Thomas Bejot and Rick Irwin

Airport Authority – Jason Good (inc) and Drake Fiala

Ainsworth Mayor – Joel Klammer (inc)

City Council (two seats) – Schyler Schenk (inc), Bradley Fiala (inc), Dustin Barthel and John Mead

Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education (three seats) – Frank Beel (inc), Jessica Pozehl (inc), Robby France, John Pierce and Bryan Doke

Long Pine Mayor – Ed Brown (inc)

Long Pine City Council (two seats) – Kelsey Carroll, Mike Collatos and Linda Alberts

Johnstown Village Board – Pamela Clay

Keya Paha County

Sheriff – Jeff Kirsch (inc)

Clerk/Assessor – Suzy Wentworth (inc)

Treasurer – AnneJeanette Painter
Center District Commissioner – Corey Nilson (inc)

East District Commissioner – Bruce Ritterbush (inc)

Keya Paha County Public Schools Board of Education (three seats) – Darcy Wiebelhaus (inc) and Todd Painter (inc)

Rock County

Clerk – Daunitta Buoy (inc)

Treasurer – Mona Davis (inc)

Assessor – TJ Ellermeier (inc)

Sheriff – Benjamin Shelbourn, Joshua Severin and Matthew McHale

Commissioner (two seats) – Glen May (inc), John Arrowsmith and J.W. Ogier

Bassett City Council (two seats) – Mike LeZotte (inc), Reno Gordon (inc) and Monte Andrews

Rock County Airport Authority – Bernie Hart (inc)

Rock County Public Schools Board of Education (three seats) – Tanya Larson (inc) and Kristine Beard (inc)

Statewide Offices

3rd District U.S. House of Representatives – Republican Adrian Smith (inc) and Democrat David Else

Governor – Republicans Michael Connely, Brett Lindstrom, Donna Nicole Carpenter, Lela McNinch, Theresa Thibodeau and Jim Pillen, Democrat Carol Blood and Libertarian Scott Zimmerman
Secretary of State – Republicans Bob Evnen (inc) and Rex Schroder

State Treasurer – Republican John Murante (inc)

Attorney General – Republicans Jennifer Hicks and Mike Hilgers, and Legal Marijuana Now Party Larry Bolinger

Auditor of Public Accounts – Republicans Mike Foley and Larry Anderson

Nebraska State Board of Education District 7 – Robin Stevens (inc), Pat Moore and Elizabeth Tegtmeier

University of Nebraska Board of Regents District 7 – Matt Williams and Mike Groene

Public Service Commission District 5 – Republicans Kevin Stocker and Mary Ridder (inc)

Middle Niobrara Natural Resources District Subdistrict 6 – Martin Graff (inc)

Middle Niobrara NRD At-Large – Dean Jochem (inc)

* Ainsworth speech team wins home invitational Saturday

(Posted 9:45 a.m. Feb. 21)

The Ainsworth speech team hosted its annual invitational Saturday, winning the team sweepstakes.

Individual medalists for Ainsworth were:

Duet

Haley Schroedl and Maia Flynn – 3rd

Entertainment 

Ben Flynn – 1st

Allison Taylor – 2nd

Extemporaneous

Alyssa Erthum – 1st

Libby Wilkins – 2nd

Emma Kennedy – 1st (JV)

Humorous Prose

Maia Flynn – 2nd

Informative

Ben Flynn – 1st

Maren Arens – 2nd 

Makenna Pierce – 3rd

Hannah Beel – 5th

Levi Goshorn – 2nd (JV)

OID

Maren Arens, Ben Flynn, Dakota Stutzman, and Eden Raymond – 1st

Persuasive

Alyssa Erthum – 1st

Libby Wilkins – 2nd

Poetry

Alyssa Erthum – 1st

Taylor Allen – 4th

Serious

Dakota Stutzman – 2nd

Taylor Allen – 4th

The Ainsworth team will travel to Broken Bow for the Southwest Conference Speech Meet Monday, Feb. 28, and will host district competition Saturday, March 5.

* Brown County Sheriff’s Department weekly summary

(Posted 6:30 a.m. Feb. 21)

February 13

  • Released an individual from the Brown County Jail after serving 2 days of the weekend court commitment.

February 14

  • Received a report of overflowing, blowing trash being strung about on Elm St in Ainsworth that had been picked up several times by neighbors.
  • Responded to a two vehicle accident at the Ainsworth High School parking lot. Both vehicles were driveable and no injuries occurred.
  • Responded to a report of a suspicious vehicle on Walnut St in Ainsworth. Deputies made contact with the vehicle and reported no criminal activity.
  • Deputies issued a warning for improper or defective vehicle lighting and speeding 6-10mph over the posted speed limit.

February 15

  • Served an arrest warrant for domestic assault. The subject was booked into the Brown County Jail and released after posting bond.
  • Received a report of a suspicious vehicle camping on a rural Brown County property. Deputies were unable to make contact with this vehicle on this day.

February 16

  • The Brown County Ambulance Association transferred a flight crew to the Brown County Hospital to pick up a patient and return to the airport.
  • The Brown County Ambulance Association was paged to a 911 call for an Ainsworth resident. One individual was transferred to the Brown County Hospital.
  • Responded to a one vehicle deer collision accident near 437th ave and Hwy 20. The vehicle was towed and no injuries occurred.
  • The Ainsworth Fire Department was paged for a dryer fire in a rural Brown County residence.

February 17

  • Received a report of an attempted vehicle theft on 4th St in Ainsworth.
  • The Brown County Ambulance were paged for a 911 call to an Ainsworth residence. One individual was transported to the Brown County Hospital.
  • Assisted a US Immigration and Customs agent on an investigation.
  • Received a report of a possible sick or injured deer. Deputies were able to locate it but it did not appear to be injured, in poor health, and was able to run away from them.  The Nebraska Game & Parks were notified of the deer location and condition.
  • Deputies issued a citation for speeding 16-20 mph over the posted speed limit.
  • Booked a subject into the Brown County Jail to serve a 2 day weekend court commitment.
  • Released an individual from the Brown County Jail after serving 37 days for a court commitment.

February 18

  • Provided assistance for an individual who was stuck. A tow truck was called to assist the motorist.
  • The Brown County Ambulance Association was paged for a lift assist at an Ainsworth residence.
  • Booked an individual into the Brown County Jail to serve 2 days for a weekend court commitment.
  • Deputies issued one warning for speeding and one citation for speeding 16-20 over the posted speed limit.

February 19

  • Received reports of suspicious activity near the intersection of 872nd rd and 438th ave, South of Long Pine. The Brown County Sheriff’s office also received a report of a stolen vehicle.  While responding to the suspicious activity location, a one vehicle rollover abandoned accident was located near the intersection of Richardson Rd and 438th Ave that matched the description of the stolen vehicle.  Deputies were able to later locate the driver of the vehicle and called for transport by the Brown County Ambulance Association to the Brown County Hospital for treatment.
  • Deputies issued warnings for speeding, failure to use a turn signal, and no valid registration. Also issued one citation for speeding 21-35 mph over the posted speed limit.

Weekly Summary:

1 – Burn Permit Issued (by all Brown Co Fire Depts)

          3 – Handgun Permits Applied For

13 – Incident Reports Were Taken

5– Paper Services Were Served

133– Phone Calls Were Received

5– 911 Emergency Calls Received

4– Titles Were Inspected

* Valentine meeting planned to discuss Highway 83 project

(Posted 7:15 a.m. Feb. 18)

The Nebraska Department of Transportation will hold a pre-construction public information meeting regarding the upcoming reconstruction of U.S. Highway 83 in downtown Valentine.

The purpose of the meeting is to discuss construction phasing, traffic impacts, and schedule. The meeting will be held from 5 until 7 p.m. Thursday, March 3, at the Cherry County Fairgrounds. A brief presentation will begin at 5:15 p.m., with an open house to follow until 7 p.m.

The project will reconstruct 0.64 miles of Highway 83 beginning at the junction of Highway 20 and moving north through downtown Valentine to the junction of Highway 12, then west along Fourth Street for a short stretch.

Cherry Street will be utilized as the main detour route for Highway 83 traffic. Construction is anticipated to begin mid-March with completion anticipated by the winter of 2023.

* Commissioners reject lone bid for new semi Tuesday

(Posted 7 a.m. Feb. 18)

In addition to approving the one- and six-year roads improvement plan, the Brown County Commissioners on Tuesday rejected the lone bid the county received for a new semi. Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin had asked to have action on the bid tabled during the board’s previous meeting in order to research the specifications and talk to the employees who would primarily be driving the truck. Turpin recommended the board reject the bid submitted by RDO Truck Center.

The board did approve, with Commissioner Reagan Wiebelhaus absent Tuesday, the lone bid the county received for armor coating asphalt roads. Top Kote of Yankton, S.D., submitted a bid of $16,653 per mile for applying armor coat oil, with the county also responsible for the cost of the gravel.

The commissioners set a public hearing regarding a special use permit submitted for a new cell tower in a portion of the southwest corner of Section 3, Township 31 North, Range 21 West. Zoning Administrator Tom Jones said the Planning Commission held a hearing and recommended the county approve the special use permit. The board set the hearing for 5:30 p.m. March 15.

The board approved a memorandum of understanding between the county and the Nebraska Department of Veterans Affairs.

The commissioners approved forwarding a letter to Dawna Whitcomb, the vice president of the Nebraska Association of Emergency Management, nominating Traci Ganser for the Outstanding New Emergency Manager of the Year Award.

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

* Rock County Board denies perpetual easement request

(Posted 1:45 p.m. Feb. 17)

During Tuesday’s meeting of the Rock County Commissioners, the board denied a request for a conservation easement submitted by the Kansas Audubon.

In denying the conservation and wetland reserve easement request, the commissioners determined the perpetual conservation easement was inconsistent with the Rock County Comprehensive Plan. The board stated the comprehensive plan had been previously adopted and was in effect when the perpetual conservation easement request was submitted, and therefore unanimously denied the easement request on that basis.

In a related item, the commissioners reappointed Gary Buoy, Jeri Kuchera and Keith Ammon to the Rock County Planning and Zoning Commission for three-year terms.

In other business Tuesday, County Attorney Avery Gurnsey met with the board regarding landowners putting up fencing in the public road right of way between Section 11 and Section 14, and between Section 12 and Section 13 in Township 30 North, Range 18 West. The board instructed Gurnsey to contact County Surveyor Lloyd Smith to survey the right of way and mark the public road boundaries to help resolve the issue.

The commissioners received just one bid to conduct the county’s required annual audit, which came from the Nebraska State Auditor’s Office. The board approved the proposal, which is not to exceed $16,000 for 2022, 2023 and 2024 with the exception of an additional $2,000 payment if a single audit is required.

Roads Foreman Darrell Olson met with the board regarding the potential purchase of a $43,000 mulcher and a $19,900 mower for the roads department. The board tabled the requests to see if those purchases could be made using the county’s allocation of American Rescue Plan Act funding.

Board member Glen May reported the county has not received any additional funding reimbursement from FEMA following the 2019 flooding. May said the county is still expected to receive $2.8 million in FEMA funds from repairs the county was forced to make following the floods.

In a final roads item, the board approved having the county roads fund reflect the $7,947 in interest the county paid on its roads bonds.

Emergency Manager Traci Ganser discussed Orion & FirstNet programs with the board. FirstNet is a cell phone program that links emergency first responders together.

Ganser said Orion is a community resilience software program designed for damage assessment & hazard mitigation.  It will be paid for by Homeland Security through grant money. Ganser reported there will be no monthly cost to the county for the first three years to use the program. She said the program would be primarily used by the roads department.

Acting as the Board of Equalization, the commissioners on Tuesday approved permissive tax exemptions and a tax correction on one parcel as recommended by Assessor TJ Ellermeier.

The next meeting of the Rock County Commissioners is scheduled for 9 a.m. March 1.

* City Council approves garbage truck purchase

(Posted 7 a.m. Feb. 17)

Following months of discussion and a decision to keep offering garbage service in-house, the Ainsworth City Council Wednesday approved the purchase of a new garbage truck and 750 containers.

City Administrator Lisa Schroedl said, after the council discussed going out for bids on a new truck, she found there was no other company to offer a garbage truck that could load trash both from the rear of the truck or from the side using an automated arm.

“The bid we received from Macqueen was through Sourcewell, which is a similar concept to the state bid process,” Schroedl said.

City Attorney Rod Palmer said Sourcewell is a company governmental entities can use to get the most competitive bid.

“If there are no other comparable trucks, it would be futile to bid it out,” Palmer said.

The quote from Macqueen for the 2022 Heil multipack garbage truck is $413,914, with an additional $69,339 for 750 containers for a total cost of $483,253.

The truck will not likely be delivered until 2023. When it is, residents will each receive a container that must be used for their trash. Pickup will be strictly street side. Alleys will not be used for garbage pickup other than on either side of Main Street when the new truck begins operation.

Councilmen Brad Fiala and Vance Heyer said they both had concerns regarding whether the city would be able to hire staff to operate the truck.

“I hope we can find one person to staff it,” Fiala said.

While he said he was initially in favor of contracting for the service, Fiala said the majority of residents who spoke to him encouraged the city to keep the service in-house.

By a 3-0 vote with Councilman Schyler Schenk absent, the council approved the purchase.

In other business Wednesday, the council approved the city’s one- and six-year streets plan following a public hearing. Three projects were completed in 2021, including armor coating on several streets and the completion of flood damage repairs on Harrington Street and Third Street.

Schroedl said the plan has not changed much from the previous year.

“With the Highway 20 project scheduled to begin this spring, we felt maintenance was the proper way to go on the one-year plan,” the city administrator said. “We will do some armor coating this year. We do have $65,000 in the budget for that.”

So while there are no major projects on the one-year plan, the six-year plan includes several concrete paving projects in the city. Those include First Street from Main to Pine streets, Seventh Avenue, Harrington Street from First to Fourth streets, Eighth Street from Maple to Ash streets, Elm Street from First to Sixth streets, and Pine Street from First Street to Highway 20.

Fiala said he agreed to wait on any major projects until after the state completes the Highway 20 project, but he encouraged the council to consider a paving district in the near future.

“First Street from Main to Pine is going to get heavily used when Highway 20 is under construction,” Fiala said. “I do think we need to move forward on a study for a paving district.”

Heyer agreed the city should consider a paving district and try to get it done before the state renovates Main Street.

Schroedl said the city could study the areas it wants to tackle through a paving district.

In a paving district, residents pay for a portion of the cost of the project. However, if enough property owners opt out, the district fails. During the last major concrete paving project, enough property owners opted out on Elm Street, Maple Street, and portions of Oak Street and Woodward Street that those streets were removed from the paving district.

The council also discussed whether to continue to utilize a school zone with flashing yellow lights and a reduced 25 mph speed limit when Highway 20 is renovated.

Mayor Joel Klammer said the Nebraska Department of Transportation plans to put in cross walks with buttons that will set off a flashing light when someone is attempting to cross the highway.

“Do we still need the flashing lights we have now when we will have push-button lights for the cross walks?” Klammer asked.

Fiala said he would like to see the city utilize speed signs on both the east and west ends of the city to slow Highway 20 traffic down as it enters Ainsworth. He said the signs work to slow down traffic entering other communities that use them.

Schroedl said the city would not meet the NDOT standards to have a traffic light installed to actually stop Highway 20 traffic at one of the major crossing points.

“There won’t be a red light, just flashing lights that alert drivers that someone is trying to cross,” she said.

Schroedl said the NDOT needed a decision from the council as the current flashing yellow light near Oak Street is serviced by an electrical pole, which the NDOT would not replace if the city opted not to continue with the 25 mph speed zone.

Fiala and Heyer both indicated they were in favor of continuing to provide the flashing yellow light and the 25 mph school zone on the highway, and the council approved keeping the 25 mph zone and flashing yellow lights.

In another streets item Wednesday, the council approved a quote from Topkote Inc. from Yankton, S.D., to armor coat city streets. The quote of $1.36 per square yard increased from the $1.18 a year ago. Schroedl said the increase was due to higher prices for oil. She said the cost would likely continue to rise, but the council could lock in the rate now and have the armor coating work done in the fall.

“We budgeted about $65,000,” Schroedl said. “That is enough for about 15 to 20 blocks.”

The city is also responsible for procuring the gravel needed for the armor coating.

Brown County Ambulance Association representative Ann Fiala discussed options for a new ambulance barn with the council. Fiala said the association expects the new ambulance it ordered to arrive in April or May. The current barn will not be large enough for the association to house its fleet of vehicles when the new ambulance arrives, as it is longer than the ambulance being replaced.

Fiala said she received quotes from Green Gables for a 40×60 steel building at $317,000, and a quote of $436,000 for a 40×100 steel building. Both would tie in to the fire hall. No new plumbing would be required, Fiala said, as the ambulance barn would share the fire hall’s bathroom facilities.

“We are trying to keep it pretty basic,” she said.

The bids include the cost of tearing down the current 40×50 ambulance barn.

Fiala said she was working with both the North Central Development Center and Emergency Manager Traci Ganser on grant opportunities to help offset some of the cost of the new barn.

Fiala encouraged people to consider joining the ambulance association.

“We have personnel, but it is hard during the day to find enough people to respond to calls,” Fiala said.

She said the association is currently accepting applications for those interested in becoming EMTs as well as those willing to drive the ambulance. She said vaccine mandates created a crunch on ambulance services across the state, especially in rural areas.

“Springview and Blaine County have both been calling on us at times to handle calls,” Fiala said. “We have a dedicated crew, but we could use some help.”

Levi Lucht approached the council regarding sewer line issues he was experiencing. Lucht said his sewer line is a shared line with three other properties before it reaches a city main line. The line is plugging on the low end before it reaches the city main line. When the line plugs, his home is the lowest on the shared line and sewage has been backing up into his basement.

“I had the sewer line run Dec. 28,” Lucht said. “By Jan. 27 it was plugged again. Everyone on my block piggy backs on that line, so when it happens everything backs up into my place.”

Lucht said he could not simply run a new line for himself as there was no way to cross the existing line the other properties use and still keep the proper slope.

“What can we do to fix this?” Lucht asked. “I can’t afford to keep spending $200 to have the line run.”

Klammer said the line is a private shared line, not a city line.

“The city’s responsibility typically ends with the main lines,” Klammer said.

Lucht asked if the city could run an additional main line on Oak Street so residents could tie in there individually instead of having to continue to run a shared line to the nearest city main.

Schroedl said she had no idea why the line was originally designed that way in that block.

“We don’t allow lines to be done that way now,” Schroedl said.

Fiala suggested Lucht try to work with the neighbors who are on the same line and see if everyone would agree to putting in a new, larger PVC line.

Klammer said it would be more cost effective for the property owners to work together to have a new shared line installed than it would be for the city to build a new main line and all the property owners having to connect to that new line.

“Essentially you are asking the city to install a new main on Oak Street,” Klammer said. “We would need to research that and see what it would take. We would probably have to look at the whole system, so that might be a long-term issue. We will look into it.”

During her report Wednesday, Schroedl said the equipment the city auctioned through Big Iron raised $119,795, which greatly exceeded the city’s expectations.

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

* Commissioners approve 1- and 6-year roads plan Tuesday

(Posted 1:30 p.m. Feb. 16)

The Brown County Commissioners on Tuesday approved the one- and six-year road improvement plan as submitted by Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin.

The one-year plan includes 26 projects, including nearly $3 million in improvements to Meadville Avenue. Those improvements include a $1 million bridge project at Sand Draw Creek and a nearly $2 million milling and asphalt overlay project on the 7.5 miles of Meadville Avenue that are currently paved. The county approved issuing bonds to pay for the asphalt overlay, with federal and state disaster funding paying for 95 percent of the bridge project at Sand Draw Creek.

The one-year plan also includes armor coating 8 miles of South Pine Avenue asphalt at an estimated cost of $99,000, and $10,000 in armor coating on a less than 1 mile stretch of Ponderosa Road.

Bridge replacement projects on the one-year plan in addition to the Meadville Avenue bridge over Sand Draw Creek include an estimated $95,000 bridge project on 427th Avenue and a $25,000 project on 430th Avenue, which would replace a current bridge with culverts.

Many of the projects on the one-year plan are gravel resurfacing and grading projects. Among the larger of those projects is an estimated $54,000 grading and gravel resurfacing of 4.5 miles of the East Calamus Road.

Among the more expensive projects on the county’s six-year roads improvement plan is an estimated $200,000 bridge replacement on the Bar 25 Road. Additional bridge replacements are included in the six-year plan on 432nd Avenue and 426th Avenue.

Armor coating projects are included on the six-year plan for portions of Moon Lake Avenue and Norden Avenue.

The county completed six projects from its one-year plan in 2021.

* Stuart Public School bond issue approved by voters

(Posted 11 a.m. Feb. 16)

With 73 percent of eligible voters casting a ballot, the Stuart Public School bond issue passed by a more than 3 to 1 margin. A total of 322 votes were cast in favor of the $3.95 million bond request, while 100 voters opted against the project.

Stuart Public School Superintendent Robert Hanzlik said the school has saved almost $1.2 million to assist with the $5.1 addition and renovation project.

Hanzlik said the project includes a 17,675 square foot addition on the north end of the existing school building. The superintendent said the addition will include new music, art and ag classrooms, as well as additional classroom space and an enlarged shop for use by the agriculture and industrial technology classes.

In conjunction with the addition, Hanzlik said the project includes renovations to the current school building. The old shop, music room and library will be renovated into classroom space and a new media center. A portion of the south side of the school will be remodeled for administrative offices and a secure entrance.

With the voters of the district approving the bond request, Hanzlik said the next step will be to secure the bond funds while interest rates remain low, then go out for bids on the project.

“We are hoping to start this fall, and complete the project next fall,” Hanzlik said. “We have to get the addition completed before we can start remodeling the current building.”

* Agency staffing costs continue to hinder care center finances

(Posted 4 p.m. Feb. 15)

It was another month that saw the Sandhills Care Center forced to spend a large amount on agency staffing due to a shortage of nurses. The Care Center Board learned Monday the facility lost $44,125 during January despite adding four new residents to bring the census in the facility to 22.

A total of $85,761 was spent on agency staffing during January, roughly $50,000 more than would have been spent had the care center had enough nurses and CNAs of its own to fill shifts.

“It appears the only way we will be able to get nurses and CNAs is to offer what the agencies are offering them,” Board Chairman Phil Fuchs said. “I am not sure if there is a solution there.”

Administrator Penny Jacobs said there are a couple CNAs that will be coming back to work for the nursing home that would cut down on some of the agency costs there, but she said the facility’s charge nurse is gone during February on family medical leave so agency staffing would be needed to fill those hours.

“It’s a day by day struggle for staffing,” Jacobs said. “The director of nurses and one other RN are covering the required nursing hours now, so we have been able to fill in with LPNs.”

She did report the facility has hired an activities director and is now fully staffed in its dietary and housekeeping departments.

“The big needs are in nursing,” Jacobs said. “We need a director of nursing, charge nurses and CNAs.”

Jacobs said she did receive an application for the open business office manager and would interview that applicant soon.

Board member Dr. Mel Campbell said the available pool of nurses in the community is not adequate to fill the needed positions throughout the healthcare industry.

“This is a symptom of a very significant crisis in health care,” Campbell said. “Agency staffing is an issue nationwide.”

Board member Shawn Fernau said his wife has received some huge offers from agencies to go to work for them.

Jacobs said, “Agencies are offering from $30 to $33 per hour for CNAs. Our highest paid CNAs are $20 to $23 per hour. New CNAs start at $17. We end up having to pay the $33 plus the agency fees, so it makes it anywhere from $50 to $60 an hour for that agency CNA.”

Fuchs said the care center will still try and make ends meet.

“We are trying to grow the census but it still likely won’t be enough to break even,” Fuchs said.

Campbell said, as the facility’s census grows, it will require even more staffing.

Jacobs said the new private pay rate increase takes effect in March, and Medicaid has approved an additional $20 per resident per day increase that went into effect in January. Even with the additional revenue, costs will likely continue to outpace revenue if extensive agency staffing is required.

During January, the care center generated $139,048 in revenue with expenses of $183,174 for a net loss for the month of $44,125.

The board voted to transfer $63,132 from its interlocal account to the care center’s operating account. That leaves the board with a balance of approximately $235,000 in its interlocal account.

Jacobs reported four new residents were admitted in January, bringing the care center’s census to 22 residents. Of those, eight pay privately, 13 receive Medicaid assistance and one resident receives Medicare assistance. She reported three agency staff members are currently occupying the rental house the care center leased, so all the rooms are full.

The next meeting of the Sandhills Care Center Board is scheduled for 5 p.m. March 14.

* School Board approves elementary HVAC proposal

(Posted 7 a.m. Feb. 15)

The Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education Monday approved a proposal from Conditioned Air Mechanical to replace the heating and air conditioning system in McAndrew Elementary.

The $284,000 quote includes removing the existing coil system and installing eight furnaces and eight heat pumps, as well as a unit for the hallway and air exchange units to bring in fresh air to each room.

Superintendent Dale Hafer said the district had previously received a proposal for the project from Conditioned Air Mechanical of Grand Island, but advertised a request for proposals to follow bidding guidelines. He said Conditioned Air Mechanical was the only company to supply a proposal.

He said the next step if the board accepted the bid would be to have an engineer sign off on the design and specifications of the company’s proposal.

The board approved the proposal and plans to pay for the project using depreciation funds instead of federal COVID funding, which would require additional expense and reporting. Hafer said the ESSR III funding could be used in other areas, such as for math curriculum and replacing staff members’ older laptop computers.

In other business Monday, the board approved four resignations from current staff members. Three of those resignations were long-time staff members announcing their intention to retire upon the completion of the 2021-22 school year.

Tami Jacobsen, who taught third grade for five years and has spent the past 27 years as the elementary counselor, announced her plan to retire at the end of the school year.

Elementary physical education teacher Roudy Clapper plans to retire after 28 years in the Ainsworth Community Schools system.

Art teacher Denise Adcock announced her plan to retire after teaching in Ainsworth Community Schools for the past 18 years.

Second grade teacher Samantha Martin also submitted her resignation to the board after one year with the district, saying she and her family plan to move to Yankton, S.D., to be closer to her family.

The board accepted the four resignations, and has five open positions for the 2022-23 school year after second grade teacher Pam Peterson announced her retirement during the board’s January meeting.

In other business Monday, the board approved an $18,875 quote from Boardworks for education resources for teachers. Hafer said the suite of products from Boardworks include ready-made lesson plans teachers can provide students who may have to be gone from the classroom, or lessons substitute teachers can use if the teacher has to be gone from the classroom.

“The teachers, after seeing the demonstration, were unanimous in wanting to implement this,” Hafer said. “This is a perfect spot to use ESSR III funding.”

Principal Steve Dike said the suite of products all tie back to the district’s education standards.

“It is a nice set of resources for teachers,” Dike said. “It provides a healthy dose of curriculum. It is a nice tool to have in the tool box.”

Board member Scott Erthum asked if there was a way for the district to track how much the material was utilized by teachers.

“It would be good to see how well this is utilized,” Erthum said.

Hafer said it would not be difficult to track and report the usage of the material by classroom teachers.

In addition to the $18,875 initial cost, there is a $1,888 annual fee for updates to the material to align it with any changes to state standards.

After discussion Monday, the board approved allowing Hafer and Board President Jim Arens to negotiate the sale of three 1-acre parcels that were former dedicated sites for rural schools.

While most of the rural school property had previously been sold or returned to adjacent landowners, Hafer said the Brown County assessor provided him with the three parcels that were still under school ownership.

Hafer said attorney Todd Flynn helped the district in the past on these type of parcels, and would work with the school’s attorney to make sure the process for selling the properties is followed.

Arens said two of the three parcels have no improvements and are virtually worthless. One parcel does have a building and improvements such as a well, and could have some value.

Erthum said the district bid parcels for sale the last time the district sold off former rural school sites, and he encouraged Hafer and Arens to follow the same procedure for consistency purposes.

The board gave Arens and Hafer the authority to negotiate and sell the three one-acre parcels.

The board approved an option enrollment request to allow elementary student Kaedyn Rogers to continue to attend Ainsworth Elementary after the family moved into the Keya Paha County School District.

The board discussed the district’s plan should one or both of the Ainsworth basketball teams qualify for the state tournament. Due to Big 10 Wrestling being hosted by Nebraska in Pinnacle Bank Arena during the normal state girls basketball timeframe, both the girls and boys tournament will be played during the week of March 7-12 and games will be spaced throughout the week.

Both the Class C-1 girls and Class D-1 boys would play their opening round on Monday, March 7, with the semifinals on Wednesday, March 9, the consolation games March 10 and the championship games March 11.

Hafer said the district would have school on both Monday and Tuesday of that week. If one of the teams would qualify and then win a first-round game on Monday, the district would extend spring break one day and would bring the cheerleaders and band to Lincoln for the semifinals.

Activities Director Jared Hansmeyer provided the board with projected expenses for having one or both teams stay in Lincoln for the duration of the tournament.

The activities directors also reported the district has been chosen to host the Class C1-6 District speech meet March 5.

Several English teachers provided the board with information on the new Amplify Reading Series curriculum the district implemented.

Kelli Gibson said the new material fits the background knowledge, vocabulary and phonetic skills needed, and is user-friendly.

Testing from fall to winter shows the number of students who struggle with reading is decreasing.

Elementary Principal Ben Wright said the new reading series provides very good content.

“It builds at each grade level,” Wright said. “There is a little bit of a curve for kids who are older who did not have Amplify prior to this year.”

Dike said the tools and resources are there for the teachers, and the kids are being exposed to a complete reading program.

During his report, Hafer said after an increase in absences due to illness during the final two weeks of January, the number of students and staff members out of school since has decreased significantly.

In a final action item, the board approved the first reading of school policy updates as presented by the Nebraska Association of School Boards.

The next meeting of the Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education was moved up to 6:30 p.m. March 14 and will be held in the school cafeteria to allow the board to attend a meal presentation from Lunchtime Solutions.

* COVID cases continue decline after recent spike

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

The North Central District Health Department was made aware of 134 new COVID-19 cases confirmed in the district during the past week. The health department has confirmed 316 COVID cases during the past two weeks. There have been 517 people deemed to have recovered from the virus during the past week.

The NCDHD is offering scheduled COVID-19 Testing through Total Wellness on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays in the O’Neill office by appointment only. PCR and Rapid tests are available. The testing can be utilized by symptomatic/exposed individuals or for those in need of a COVID-19 test for travel. To register, visit https://login.registermytime.com/tw/ncdhd. For assistance, call the NCDHD office at 402-336-2406.

A vaccination clinic is scheduled from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. Thursday in the NCDHD office. The next area clinic is Feb. 22 in the Ainsworth Community Center.

* Lund picks perfect score to win KBRB Big Game Contest

(Posted 11 a.m. Feb. 14)

Another year of the KBRB Big Game Call-In Contest is in the books, and we had a perfect score called in for this year’s NFL Championship game that saw the L.A. Rams score a late touchdown to defeat the Cincinnati Bengals, 23-20.

Marilyn Lund of Bassett called in Friday morning with a prediction that the Rams would beat the Bengals by that exact 23-20 score. Lund is this year’s grand prize winner of the KBRB Call-In Contest, earning $200 in gift certificates to our Big Game sponsors.

Missing by just one point for the runner-up spot was Gene DeBolt of Newport, who picked a 24-20 final and is likely not happy with the Rams holder on a botched extra point attempt in the first half. DeBolt picks up $125 in prizes.

Missing the total by just two points to claim third was Kurt Johnson of Ainsworth. He picked a 25-20 final to win $100 in certificates.

Fourth place was Tiffani Naprstak of Johnstown, whose pick of 23-17 Rams missed the total by just three points and earned her $75 in certificates.

There was a three-way tie for fifth place missing the total by four points between Robert Magill of Ainsworth (27-20), Gerald Denny of Long Pine (24-17) and David Theis of Ainsworth (27-20). Each receive a $25 certificate.

Four callers tied for eighth place, missing the final by five points to earn $25 gift certificates. They include Merv Buoy of Bassett (27-21), Gabe Allen of Ainsworth (27-19), Jude Lutz of Bassett (21-17) and Alex McCleary of Bassett (27-21).

A total of 145 scores were called in for this year’s contest.

This year’s KBRB Big Game Call-In Contest was sponsored by:

Hali R. Beauty, Buckle Automotive, Nelson Furniture, the Elks Bar & Grill, Ainsworth Flowers & Gifts, Red & White Market, Palmer Embroidery and Boutique, The Grand Theater, The Whistle Stop, Needles N Pins, G&V’s Market, Shamrock Nursery, First Class Auto, Ward Plumbing and Heating, The Sandhills Lounge, Husker Meats, Bassett Lodge & Range Café, The 402 Bar, Circle B Livestock, Long Pine Lumber, The Silver Circle, AKRS Equipment, Century Lumber Center, H&R Food Center, J’s Keggers, Scott’s Place Conoco and Simple Solutions.

Winners may pick up certificates from the KBRB Studios or arrange to have the KBRB sports crew bring the certificates with them to a gym near you.

* Speech team takes third Saturday at North Platte

(Posted 10:45 a.m. Feb. 14)

The Ainsworth speech team captured third place among the 28 teams competing Saturday in the Blue and Gold Speech Invitational at North Platte. 

Varsity Results

Entertainment 

Ben Flynn – 3rd

Extemporaneous

Alyssa Erthum – 3rd

Libby Wilkins – 8th

Informative

Makenna Pierce – 8th

Maren Arens – 10th

OID

Maren Arens, Ben Flynn, Dakota Stutzman, and Eden Raymond – 7th

Persuasive 

Alyssa Erthum – 2nd

Libby Wilkins – 3rd

Serious Prose

Taylor Allen – 5th

Novice Results

Extemporaneous

Emma Kennedy – 5th

Informative

Hannah Beel – 1st

The team hosts the annual Ainsworth Speech Invitational Saturday, Feb. 19. The event is open to the public to view the speakers.

* Brown County Sheriff’s Department weekly summary

(Posted 6:45 a.m. Feb. 14)

February 6

  • Responded to a domestic disturbance in Long Pine.
  • Responded to a civil dispute on main st in Ainsworth.
  • Served a bench warrant to an Ainsworth resident for failure to license a pet. The individual received a personal recognizance bond for $1000.00 and a court date was set.

February 7

  • The Brown County Ambulance Association was paged, after receiving a 911 call, to a Long Pine residence and provided transfer for one individual to the Brown County Hospital.
  • Received a report for suspected child abuse/neglect. This is an ongoing investigation.
  • Received a report of a possible home security issue for a rural Brown County residence.
  • Received a 911 call for an erratic semi driving on Hwy 20 West of Ainsworth. Deputies were unable to make contact with this vehicle.
  • The Johnstown Fire Department and Ainsworth Fire Department responded to a vehicle fire with no occupants on Rauscher Ave.
  • Received a report of trash all over the road South of Ainsworth on Hwy 7. Subject was contacted and returned to remove the trash.
  • Received a complaint regarding a vehicle squealing tires, and throwing gravel in Long Pine. Deputies were unable to locate the vehicle at that time.

February 8

  • Received a 911 call for a Keya Paha Co address. All information was forwarded to Keya Paha dispatch.
  • Provided traffic control for a cattle crossing on Hwy 7 near 875th rd.

February 9

  • Received a report of loose horses on the roadway on Hwy 7 near 877th rd. Efforts were made to determine the owner.  A neighbor nearby housed the horses until the owner could come pick them up.
  • Booked a subject into the Brown County Jail. This inmate was extradited on an arrest warrant issued from Brown County for theft by unlawful taking.
  • Received a report of cattle out on 430th ave. When owners were contacted they were actively working to remove them from the roadway.
  • Responded to a complaint of barking dogs in Ainsworth near 3rd & Maple street. Owner’s were contacted and made an effort to resolve the issue.
  • Responded to a report of suspicious activity on 427th ave. Deputies made contact with the vehicle.  No suspicious activity was found at that time.
  • Responded to a vehicle complaint in the city of Long Pine. Deputies were able to make contact with this vehicle and issued a warning for no proof of insurance.

February 10

  • Transferred a loose dog from Wilson St in Ainsworth to the Ainsworth Vet Clinic until owner could claim.
  • The Brown County Ambulance association responded to a 911 call in rural Brown County. One individual was transported to the Brown County Hospital.

February 11

  • Booked an individual into the Brown County Jail for a weekend court commitment.
  • The Brown County Ambulance Association responded to a 911 call for a Long Pine residence. One individual was transported to the Brown County Hospital.
  • During a traffic stop a citation was issued for no registration.
  • Received a report of suspected adult neglect. This is an ongoing investigation.

February 12

  • During a traffic stop a citation was issued for speeding 6 to 10 mph over the posted speed limit.
  • Responded to a loud music complaint near Walnut and 4th st in Ainsworth. Deputies were unable to locate any noise at this time.
  • Responded to a civil dispute regarding ownership of loose horses that were on the roadway earlier in this week.
  • During a traffic stop a warning was issued for driving left of center, and no proof of insurance.

Weekly Summary:

1 – Burn Permit Issued (by all Brown Co Fire Depts)

          0 – Handgun Permits Applied For

10 – Incident Reports Were Taken

4– Paper Services Were Served

87 – Phone Calls Were Received

7– 911 Emergency Calls Received

3 – Titles Were Inspected

* Recent case from Brown County District Court

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

During Brown County District Court proceedings Tuesday, Skylar Gallegos, age 19, of Springview, pleaded guilty to five charges. Those charges were possession of a controlled substance (THC), a Class IV felony; no operator’s license, a Class III misdemeanor; driving on the shoulder, an infraction; possession of drug paraphernalia, an infraction; and possession of marijuana less than 1 ounce, an infraction.

Gallegos was sentenced by District Court Judge Mark Kozisek to a total of $1,525 in fines and an additional $137 in court costs.

* Area students named to UN-L Deans’ List

(Posted 7 a.m. Feb. 9)

More than 6,700 University of Nebraska–Lincoln students have been named to the Deans’ List for the fall semester of the 2021-22 academic year.

Area students named to the Deans’ List for the fall semester at UN-L include:

Ainsworth

  • Rebecca Anne Taylor, junior, College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, environmental science.
  • Samuel Duane Wilkins, junior, College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, agricultural economics; College of Engineering, agricultural engineering.

Long Pine

  • Logan Kenneth Hafer, freshman, College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, biochemistry.

Bassett

  • Brandie Rae Messersmith, sophomore, College of Arts and Sciences, classics and religious studies.
  • Jaya Nelson, freshman, College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, agricultural education.

Stuart

  • Peyton Alder, senior, College of Arts and Sciences, biological sciences and psychology.
  • Dani Leigh Laible, junior, College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, agricultural and environmental sciences communication.
  • Madison Stracke, sophomore, College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, agricultural education.
  • Morgan Wallinger, sophomore, College of Business, accounting and agribusiness.

Atkinson

  • Kooper James Jelinek, junior, College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, agricultural economics.
  • Lindsey Kate Jelinek, sophomore, College of Education and Human Sciences, elementary education.
  • Jenae Osborne, senior, College of Journalism and Mass Communications, advertising and public relations.

Wood Lake

  • Shyanne Dawn Urbin, sophomore, College of Engineering, biological systems engineering.

* Atkinson man injured in Thursday accident on Highway 20

(Posted 1:15 p.m. Feb. 8)

An Atkinson man was injured Thursday in a one-vehicle accident just west of Johnstown.

According to the Brown County Sheriff’s Department, at 11:05 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 3, on Highway 20 approximately six-tenths of a mile west of Johnstown, a 2018 Peterbilt semi, driven by David D. Butterfield, 62, of Atkinson, was traveling west and hauling a load of hay bales. The sheriff’s department report indicated the bales shifted due to a strong south wind and the semi navigating a curve, which caused the trailer to jackknife and the semi to roll onto its top in the north ditch.

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

The Ainsworth Volunteer Fire Department and Johnstown Volunteer Fire Department responded as a possible fire was reported in the semi’s engine compartment after the accident.

The Peterbilt, owned by MTB Trucking of Atkinson, was considered a total loss.

* Brewer provides update from the Legislature

(Posted 6:45 a.m. Feb. 8)

Nebraska 43rd District State Sen. Tom Brewer visited with KBRB’s Graig Kinzie on activity in the Legislature. Brewer discussed the bills he has introduced, the work of the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee that he chairs, and bills related to tax code changes, school aid formula changes and proposals to spend the $1 billion in federal American Recovery Act funds the state received.
The conversation is available on the links below.

* COVID cases declining in the district

(Posted 6:45 a.m. Feb. 8)

The North Central District Health Department was made aware of 182 new COVID-19 cases in the district during the past week.

Cases during the past week are on the decline after several weeks of elevated numbers in the nine-county district. There have been 643 cases confirmed in the past 14 days. During the past week, 426 people were deemed to have recovered from the virus, and no deaths were attributed to the virus during that time. A total of 100 deaths in the nine-county district have been attributed to the virus since its arrival.

The NCDHD offers scheduled COVID-19 testing through TotalWellness on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. PCR and Rapid tests are available. The testing is offered at O’Neill by appointment only. Walk-ins are not accepted. The testing can be utilized by symptomatic or exposed individuals or for those in need of a COVID-19 test for travel. To register, visit https://login.registermytime.com/tw/ncdhd. For technical assistance, call the NCDHD office for assistance at 402-336-2406.

The Moderna COVID-19 vaccine has full U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval and will be marketed as Spikevax for the prevention of COVID-19 in individuals 18 and older. The Moderna COVID-19 vaccine has been available under Emergency Use Authorization, but has now met the FDA’s standards for safety, effectiveness, and manufacturing quality required of any vaccine approved for use in the United States. Now, two COVID-19 vaccination series are FDA approved: with the Moderna vaccine joining the Pfizer vaccine. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is approved only through emergency use authorization at this time.

Any individual who has immunocompromising conditions qualify for a fourth dose of the COVID-19 vaccine five months after their third dose.

This week, a vaccination clinic is scheduled from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. Thursday in the North Central District Health Department office at O’Neill. Vaccinations are also available through local medical providers. Contact your provider for more information.

* Ainsworth speech team finishes third Saturday

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

The Ainsworth Speech Team competed Saturday in the West Holt Invitational, finishing in third place among the eight teams. Ainsworth coach Heather Lutter said it was a great opportunity for the team to compete against some new speakers not yet seen this year.

Varsity Results:
Entertainment 
Ben Flynn – 3rd

Extemporaneous
Alyssa Erthum – 3rd
Libby Wilkins – 6th

Humorous Prose
Maia Flynn – 7th

Informative
Maren Arens – 7th

OID
Maren Arens, Ben Flynn, Dakota Stutzman, and Eden Raymond – 5th

Persuasive 
Alyssa Erthum – 1st

Poetry
Alyssa Erthum – 2nd

Serious Prose
Dakota Stutzman – 3rd

Novice Results:
Extemporaneous
Emma Kennedy – 5th

Informative
Hannah Beel – 6th

The Ainsworth speech team will compete Saturday in the North Platte Blue and Gold Invitational.

* Brown County Sheriff’s Department weekly summary

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

January 30

  • Ainsworth Fire Department provided Mutual Aid to a neighboring county.
  • Responded to Cow out on Hwy 183.
  • Responded to a report of an abandoned vehicle at an Ainsworth business. Owner was contacted and told not to park there in the future.
  • Received a report of a dirt bike near N Elm in Long Pine. Deputy was unable to make contact with this individual.
  • Received report of missing dog in Long Pine. Individual was advised we did not have a report of a lost dog but they might contact the local dog catcher to see if it had been picked up. Deputy was also unable to locate the dog.
  • Two dogs at large in Ainsworth were taken to the Ainsworth Vet Clinic and impounded.
  • Deputy made contact with a person of interest in a civil disturbance in Ainsworth. Person of interest stated they will avoid reporting party.
  • Received a report of Brown County residents involved in Hit & Run without injury in Merrick County. Subject was later arrested in Merrick County.
  • The Brown County Ambulance Association transferred an Ainsworth resident to the Brown County Hospital.
  • Received a report of an individual walking along Hwy 20 East of Ainsworth. Deputy made contact.
  • Deputy was dispatched to Brown County Hospital upon a report of a possible abuse case. This is an ongoing investigation.

January 31

  • Received report from Rock County Sheriff’s office to be on the lookout for suspects thought to be headed to Brown County. Passenger was reported to be a victim of Domestic assault. Upon further investigation it was determined the person(s) of interest were in Keya Paha County headed North towards South Dakota.
  • Deputies provided civil standby for Ainsworth resident gathering personal belongings.
  • Received a report of an unauthorized 5th wheel camper parked in Long Pine. This is an ongoing investigation.
  • Received multiple reports of a cow out on Hwy 183. Deputy was unable to locate the cow.
  • Received a report of pickup tearing around streets in Long Pine. This is an ongoing investigation.
  • Booked an inmate into Brown County Jail on an active Warrant.
  • The Assisted Cass County with a warrant issued by Brown County. The subject was brought to the Cass County jail, booked and released on bond.

February 1

  • Released a subject from the Brown County Jail on bond.
  • Assisted Valentine PD with a former Ainsworth resident who is requesting a Protection Order.
  • Responded to a report of cattle out in rural Brown County. Cattle were found to have crawled back into their pasture.
  • Several traffic stops were made and subjects released with warnings.

February 2

  • The Brown County Ambulance Association transferred an Ainsworth resident to the Brown County Hospital.
  • A local resident advised the cow is out again on Hwy 183. Advised they will capture the cow and transport her to the sale barn to have her brand inspected.
  • Responded to a request for assistance with cattle crossing Hwy 7 South of Ainsworth.
  • Booked an inmate into Brown County Jail on an active Warrant and released on bond.
  • Booked an inmate into Brown County Jail on court commitment.
  • Responded to a report of cattle out in rural Brown County. Deputy found the cattle to be back in their pasture.
  • Received from DHHS an intake report of child abuse/neglect. This is an ongoing investigation.
  • Received report of possible abuse by texting by local Ainsworth resident. This is an ongoing investigation.

February 3

  • Responded to a report of a semi rollover accident near Johnstown. The driver was transported to Brown County Hospital by the Brown County Ambulance Association with injuries. The Johnstown Fire Department & Ainsworth Fire Department both responded to a fire caused by the accident.

February 4

  • Responded to a welfare check on a rural Brown County resident. All was found to be fine.
  • Responded to request for assistance with cattle crossing Hwy 20.
  • Responded to a report of a dog biting another dog.
  • Responded to a report of a cow out along Hwy 20 East of Ainsworth.

February 5

  • Received a report of an unwelcome individual at a local Ainsworth business. Unwanted individual was already gone when the deputy could respond.
  • Received report of a speeding vehicle thought to be headed to Brown County. Deputy was unable to locate the speeder.
  • Released inmate at the end of their court commitment.
  • The Brown County Ambulance Association transported air crew to and from the airport for a patient from Brown County Hospital.
  • Responded to a welfare check on local Ainsworth residents. All was found to be okay.
  • Responded to a report of criminal mischief in Ainsworth. This is an ongoing investigation.

Weekly Summary:

000 – Burn Permit Issued (by all Brown Co Fire Depts)

          002 – Handgun Permits Applied For

012 – Incident Reports Were Taken

003 – Paper Services Were Served

132 – Phone Calls Were Received

005 – 911 Emergency Calls Received

003 – Titles Were Inspected

* Area candidates filing for elected office

(Posted 7 a.m. Feb. 4)

The deadline for incumbent candidates to re-file for office is approaching, with candidates currently in office having to file for re-election by Feb. 15. The deadline for non-incumbent candidates to file for office is March 1.
In addition to races for commissioner, city council, school board and others, the non-presidential election years see county offices such as clerk, treasurer, assessor and sheriff on the ballot.
Candidates in area counties who have filed for office include:

Brown County

Assessor – Terri Van Houten (incumbent)

Attorney – Andy Taylor (inc)

Clerk – Travis Hobbs (inc)

Sheriff – Zach Welch and Brent Deibler

Treasurer – Jeanie Norton, Amber Happold and Bruce Mitchell

Commissioner (two seats) – Dennis Bauer, (inc), Bruce Papstein, Thomas Bejot and Rick Irwin

Airport Authority – Jason Good (inc)

Ainsworth Mayor – Joel Klammer (inc)

City Council (two seats) – Schyler Schenk (inc) and Dustin Barthel

Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education (three seats) – Frank Beel (inc) and Jessica Pozehl (inc)

Long Pine City Council (two seats) – Kelsey Carroll

Keya Paha County

Sheriff – Jeff Kirsch (inc)

Clerk/Assessor – Suzy Wentworth (inc)

Treasurer – AnneJeanette Painter
Center District Commissioner – Corey Nilson (inc)

East District Commissioner – Bruce Ritterbush (inc)

Keya Paha County Public Schools Board of Education (three seats) – Darcy Wiebelhaus (inc)

Rock County

Clerk – Daunitta Buoy (inc)

Treasurer – Mona Davis (inc)

Assessor – TJ Ellermeier (inc)

Sheriff – Benjamin Shelbourn and Joshua Severin

Commissioner – Glen May (inc) and John Arrowsmith

City Council (two seats) – Mike LeZotte

* Rock County Board sells tract for community center

(Posted 2:45 p.m. Feb. 2)

During its meeting Tuesday, the Rock County Commissioners approved selling a tract of land to the city of Bassett to serve as the site of a community center.

The board approved selling a tract of land in Section 16, Township 30 North, Range 19 West to the city of Bassett, and approved providing a letter of support to Bassett Economic Development to apply for a grant for the community center project. A group has also been raising money privately for the construction of the community center.

In other business Tuesday, the commissioners approved a $7,415 quote from Office Products of Winner, S.D., for a new copy machine for the main floor of the Rock County Courthouse. The board opted to use inheritance tax funds for the initial purpose and then repay the inheritance fund from the general fund in the future.

To save late fees and a $3 monthly paper bill fee per account, the commissioners approved having online accounts created for all county phone lines. Similarly, the board was told it needed to register a Century Link account online so bills can be downloaded to avoid late fees. The board was told the latest Century Link bill was processed on Jan. 13 but was not received until Jan. 29. By the time the board approves paying the claim and the check is sent, late fees are incurred.

Following a public hearing Tuesday, the commissioners approved Rock County’s one- and six-year highway improvement plan as presented by Highway Superintendent Lloyd Smith with Niobrara Valley Consultants of Valentine.

Roads foreman Darrell Olson reviewed four quotes the county received for iron. With Commissioner Glen May abstaining, the board approved the low bid from May’s Repair of $24.08 per foot as recommended by Olson. The other bids received were $26.50 per foot from Stout Welding, $30 per foot from Four Star Fabrication and $33.82 per foot from Northern Plains.

The board received a quote of $2,445 from Rau Repair for three grill guards, with the company providing a county discount of $255 for a total of $2,190. The board approved the quote.

Bassett/Rock County Chamber of Commerce representative Stacey Knox met with the board about dumpsters for the annual Cleaning of the Rock event April 30. Knox said the chamber was requesting one dumpster for Newport, one for Rose, and half of the dumpsters for the city of Bassett. The board approved renting the dumpsters for the annual cleanup.

The county received one check from Big Iron for money generated by the county surplus & fire department surplus equipment auctions. County Attorney Avery Gurnsey advised the board to return the check and have Big Iron issue separate checks to the county and the fire department.

During its quarterly jail inspection, Sheriff Jim Anderson told the commissioners three windows at the jail were broken by an inmate. He reported estimates will be sought for the replacement of the windows. Chief Deputy Ben Shelbourn discussed laptop computers and Internet connections that will be needed for the sheriff’s department.

Acting as the Board of Equalization, the commissioners approved motor vehicle tax exemptions for both the St. Peter Lutheran Church and the Bassett Assembly of God Church.

The next meeting of the Rock County Commissioners is scheduled for 9 a.m. Feb. 15.

* Commissioners provide cost of living wage increases

(Posted 7 a.m. Feb. 2)

The Brown County Commissioners Tuesday approved cost of living wage increases to county employees under the direction of the board.

Commissioner Buddy Small said he was asked during the previous meeting to do some research on what other counties did to compensate employees for increases to the cost of living. He said Rock County gives one pay increase and cost of living increase at the beginning of its fiscal year.

“Rock County gave them a $1 raise this year,” Small said.

He said Cherry County provided a 2.5 percent cost of living increase and an additional increase to roads department employees of $2 per hour for those with a CDL license and $1 per hour for other roads department employees.

Small reported Keya Paha County had provided its roads department employees with a 7 percent cost of living increase.

Commissioner Reagan Wiebelhaus said he preferred to provide a set dollar figure for a cost of living wage increase instead of a percentage of the employee’s hourly rate.

“I don’t like percentages because some employees then get more than others and the pay gap widens,” Wiebelhaus said.

Commissioner Denny Bauer said not every organization provides a cost of living increase.

“I am ok with it,” Bauer said. “Costs are going up.”

The board approved a proposal from Wiebelhaus to provide the roads department, weed superintendent, zoning administrator, veterans services officer and emergency manager a $1.10 per hour cost of living wage increase. The commissioners removed the courthouse custodian from the group, then approved a $2.10 per hour increase for that employee.

In other business Tuesday, the commissioners opened one bid for a new truck tractor, with RDO Truck Sales of Omaha submitting a bid of $125,825 for a new Mack Truck. Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin said he budgeted $130,000 for the new truck, but he wanted a chance to read the specifications on the truck and talk to the roads crew before making a decision on the bid. The commissioners tabled action on the bid until its Feb. 15 meeting.

Turpin reported the roads department was hauling clay surfacing onto Richardson Road as it works to improve the road. He said the department tried something new, mixing the clay surfacing with magnesia to keep it from getting as slick when it gets wet.

Small reported the county made a $10,037 contribution to the Region 4 Behavioral Health Board as part of Region 4. As the county’s representative to the Region 4 Board, he provided the commissioners with data showing the county received $46,000 in services for its $10,037 contribution.

Region 4 Behavioral Health provides emergency protective custody intakes for the county and provides additional mental health services to residents who require assistance.

In action items Tuesday, the board appointed Small as the county’s representative to the Central Nebraska Economic Development District council of officials, approved the Nebraska Intergovernmental Risk Management Association underwriting questionnaire as presented, approved a Highway 20 interlocal law enforcement agreement allowing the sheriff’s department to provide mutual aid with other agencies on Highway 20, and approved a budgeted transfer of $250,000 from the miscellaneous general fund to the county highway fund.

Prior to adjourning, the commissioners entered into executive sessions to discuss possible imminent litigation and an employee’s job performance.

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

* COVID cases remain elevated in NCDHD area

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

The North Central District Health Department was made aware of 461 new COVID-19 cases in the district during the past week.

New cases remain elevated, with 992 confirmed in the past 14 days. In the past week, 177 people have recovered from the virus, and one death was attributed to COVID.

The NCDHD is offering scheduled COVID-19 testing through Total Wellness on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. PCR and Rapid tests are available. The testing is offered in the district office at O’Neill by appointment only. The testing can be utilized by symptomatic/exposed individuals or for those in need of a COVID-19 test for travel.

To register, visit https://login.registermytime.com/tw/ncdhd. If you need technical assistance or do not have internet, call the NCDHD office for assistance at 402-336-2406.

Any individual who has immunocompromising conditions qualifies for a fourth dose of the COVID-19 vaccine five months after their third dose.

Vaccination clinics are scheduled from 9 until 11:15 a.m. and from 1 until 4:15 p.m. today (Tuesday) in the Greater Sandhills Family Healthcare clinic at Atkinson, and from 1 until 5 p.m. today in Mid Plains Community College at Valentine. Clinics are also scheduled from 2 until 5 p.m. Wednesday in the Butte Community Center, and from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. Thursday in the North Central District Health Department office at O’Neill.

* Ainsworth speech team wins Gordon-Rushville Invitational

(Posted 9:15 a.m. Jan. 31)

The Ainsworth speech team was crowned both the Class C and D champion and the overall champion Saturday during the Gordon-Rushville Speech Invitational.

Individually for the Ainsworth team:

Entertainment
Ben Flynn – 2nd

Extemporaneous
Alyssa Erthum – 1st

Informative
Ben Flynn – 2nd
Makenna Pierce – 3rd
Maren Arens – 4th
Hannah Beel – 6th

OID
Maren Arens, Ben Flynn, Dakota Stutzman, and Eden Raymond – 4th

Poetry
Alyssa Erthum – 3rd

Serious Prose
Taylor Allen – 5th

Persuasive
Alyssa Erthum – 1st

The Ainsworth speech team will compete Saturday in the West Holt Invitational.

 

 

 

 

      Mon-Sat – 8 a.m. until 7 p.m.
     Sunday – 11 a.m. until 4 p.m.