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* Brown County Sheriff’s Department weekly summary

(Posted 10:30 a.m. July 31)

July 23

  • Issued two warnings and two citations for speeding.
  • Responded to a false security alarm at a bank in Ainsworth.
  • Issued a notice to correct for city ordinance violation of overgrown weeds.

July 24

  • Was notified of a report of littering involving packaged meats. The owner was located and picked up the trash before the end of the day.
  • Was notified of a pivot watering the roadway. Owner was contacted and resolved the issue.
  • Was notified of a down stop sign on 879th The county roads department was contacted and installed a new sign.
  • Issued a notice to correct for a property on Wilson Street for city ordinance violation of dangerous building.
  • Issued a notice to correct for a business on Main Street for overgrown weeds.
  • The Ainsworth Fire Department was paged to a struck gas meter in Ainsworth.
  • Received a report of a neighbor verbal disturbance.

July 25

  • The Ainsworth Fire Department was paged to assist with one bale on fire, on 432nd
  • Responded to a report of a verbal domestic dispute.
  • Issued a speeding citation to a Nebraska driver for 80mph in a 65mph zone.
  • Issued a citation for city ordinance violation for failure to remove debris and overgrown weeds.
  • Brown County Sheriff’s Office, Brown County Ambulance, and Ainsworth Fire Department all responded to a report of a vehicle accident at the intersection of Pine & 1st Two occupants were transported to the Brown County Hospital.  The vehicle was considered totaled and towed.  The driver struck a parked vehicle causing significant damage and it was towed as well.
  • Notified of a failure to pay for services involving the transportation of cornstalk bales. This is an ongoing investigation.
  • The Brown County Ambulance responded to a 911 call in Ainsworth. One patient was transported to the Brown County Hospital.  Later, they also picked up a flight crew at the airport to pick up a patient from the hospital.

July 26

  • Notified of a possible runaway juvenile that was suspected of travelling through Brown County. Juvenile found in South Dakota. 
  • The Long Pine Rural Fire Department was paged to a report of a gas leak near Pine Street.

July 27

  • The Brown County Ambulance provided a lift assist, and no transport was needed at this time.
  • Received a complaint involving obstruction of view of an intersection in Ainsworth.
  • Celebrated the retirement of K-9 Dutch.
  • Responded to a 911 call reporting a disturbance at a Main Street business.
  • Notified of a pivot watering 427th The owner was called and agreed to correct the issue.
  • Responded to a request for a welfare check in Ainsworth. Individuals were located and found safe at this time.

July 28

  • Issued two citations and two warnings for speeding on this day. One ticket was for 86mph in a 65mph zone.
  • Notified of two subjects that had been in a physical disturbance. Both subjects did not want to file criminal charges.

July 29

  • The Brown County Ambulance provided lift assistance, and no transport was needed at this time.
  • Responded to a report of animal neglect on Maple Street in Ainsworth. The dog was found to have adequate food and water with fans running to prevent overheating.
  • Two warnings for speeding and one citation for speeding were issued on this day.
  • Responded to a report of a male subject breaking and entering a locked home on 877th The male subject was issued a citation for criminal trespassing.
  • Notified county roads department of a down stop sign at 877th Road and 428th Ave intersection.

 Weekly summary
25 – Incident Reports Were Taken
164- Phone Calls Were Received
21- 911 Emergency Calls Received
2 – Titles Were Inspected
0- Handgun Permits Applied For
2 – Paper Services Were Served
2-Burn Permits
4-Inmates Currently Housed

(Weekly summaries from the sheriff’s department for the three previous weeks will not be available)

* Recent cases from Brown County Court

(Posted 11:15 a.m. July 27)

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

Michael E. Christoferson, age 21, of Broken Bow, charged with possession of marijuana more than 1 ounce and less than 1 pound, fined $1,000; also charged with attempting a Class 4 felony, $500.

Derrick N. Turrubiates, 26, of Fargo, N.D., possession of marijuana more than 1 ounce and less than 1 pound, $1,000; attempting a Class 4 felony, $500.

Moises Turrubiates, 21, of Fargo, N.D., possession of marijuana more than 1 ounce and less than 1 pound, $1,000; attempting a Class 4 felony, $500.

Raul Turrubiates, 22, of Fargo, N.D., possession of marijuana more than 1 ounce and less than 1 pound, $1,000; attempting a Class 4 felony, $500.

Joseph P. O’Neill, 31, of Denver, Colo., speeding 16-20 mph over the limit, $125.

Jacob J. Fernau, 24, of Ainsworth, speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.

Courtney W. Sears, 75, of Valentine, speeding 16-20 mph over the limit, $125.

Ashley M. Johnson, 31, of Ainsworth, failure to license a dog or cat, $25.

Kolton Lurz, 26, of Ainsworth, dogs running at large, $25.

Annette M. Hubbell, 70, of Colorado Springs, Colo., speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.

Jamie M. Barajas, 38, of Bellevue, speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.

Emily E. North, 23, of Colorado Springs, Colo., speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.

Randy M. Jackson, 61, of Papillion, speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.

Jesson R. Delfs, 21, of Hardwick, Minn., speeding 21-35 mph over the limit, $200.

Donald A. Stickel, 70, of Chillicothe, Ill., speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.

Jackson G. Irwin, 17, of Phillipsburg, Kan., speeding 1-5 mph over the limit, $10.

John F. Paul, 53, of Faith, S.D., speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.

Crystal D. Martinez, 54, of Ainsworth, first offense willful reckless driving, sentenced to six months of probation.

Michael A. Douglas, 20, of Ainsworth, two counts of discharging a firearm from a highway, fined $100 on each count.

Colten Orton, 18, of Ainsworth, three counts of discharging a firearm from a highway, fined $100 on each count.

Kirby Johnson, 38, of Ainsworth assault – threatening another in a menacing manner, sentenced to two years of probation.

Sarah Lackey, 22, of Bristow, Okla., speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.

Derek R. Kenner, 36, of Wood Lake, speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.

Barela Y. Martinez, 40, of Lakewood, Colo., no valid registration, $25.

Charlie Korth, 27, of Humphrey, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Brandon P. Sears, 43, of Springview, no valid registration, $25.

* Tuesday accident injures two in Ainsworth

(Posted 6:45 a.m. July 27)

A two-vehicle accident Tuesday in Ainsworth injured two motorists and prompted the response of the Ainsworth Volunteer Fire Department to utilize its extrication equipment.

According to the Brown County Sheriff’s Department, at 3:14 p.m. Tuesday on Pine Street north of the First Street intersection, a 2004 Ford Escape, driven by Judith Baxter, 82, of Ainsworth, was traveling south when the vehicle struck a parked 2015 Ford Escape, owned by Molly Salzman, 20, of Ainsworth.

The collision caused the Baxter vehicle to overturn, coming to rest on its top on Pine Street. The Ainsworth Volunteer Fire Department was called to extricate Baxter and a passenger from the vehicle. They were transported by the Brown County Ambulance Association to the Brown County Hospital for treatment of injuries suffered during the accident.

Both vehicles were considered a total loss.

The sheriff’s department investigated two additional accidents recently. At 2:05 p.m. July 7 at the intersection of Second and Fullerton streets, a collision occurred between a 2015 Jeep Cherokee, driven by McKenna Wietzki, 18, of Bassett, and a 2004 Lincoln Town Car, driven by Dorothy Peters, 85, of Ainsworth.

No injuries were reported in that accident. Damage to both vehicles was estimated at $1,500.

The sheriff’s department also investigated a two-vehicle accident that occurred July 18 on Highway 183. At 6:12 p.m. July 18 near milepost 199, a collision occurred between a northbound 2016 Freightliner semi, driven by Sadaq Ahmed Mohamud, 31, of Bloomington, Minn., and a northbound 2005 Dodge Ram, driven by Zoe Poling, 25, of Bassett.

No injuries were reported. Damage to the Freightliner was estimated at $3,000. The Dodge sustained approximately $5,000 damage.

* Lightning causes hay bale fire Tuesday

(Posted 1:15 p.m. July 26)

A lightning strike from a thunderstorm early Tuesday morning resulted in a hay bale fire southeast of Ainsworth.

The Ainsworth Volunteer Fire Department was paged at 10:15 a.m. Tuesday to a report of a single hay bale on fire approximately 1 mile southeast of Ainsworth. The fire was contained to the single bale, owned by Pat Schumacher.

No other property was damaged.

* School playground renovation work underway

(Posted 10:45 a.m. July 26)

Ainsworth Community Schools reported Wednesday improvements are being made to the school playground equipment. The school is replacing borders around pieces of equipment. The playground remains open, but visitors are asked to use caution while the repair work is being completed. The work is expected to be completed by Aug. 2.

* Walz talks about her national breakaway title

(Posted 2:15 p.m. July 25)

KBR Rodeo Club member Kieley Walz visited with KBRB’s Cody Goochey to talk about the national breakaway roping title she won last week during the National High School Finals Rodeo at Gillette, Wyo.

To hear the conversation, click on the audio link below.

* Jobless rate increases for most area counties in June

(Posted 1 p.m. July 25)

Nebraska’s preliminary unemployment rate for June is 1.9 percent. The rate is unchanged from the May rate and is down 0.3 percentage points from the June 2022 rate of 2.2 percent. The rate is tied for the third lowest in the country.

New Hampshire and South Dakota share the lowest unemployment rate in the country at 1.8 percent, followed by Nebraska and Vermont at 1.9 percent. Maryland and North Dakota round out the top five for lowest June unemployment rates at 2 percent.

Nevada had the highest unemployment rate in the country in June at 5.4 percent. California at 4.6 percent, Delaware at 4.2 percent, Texas at 4.1 percent and Illinois at 4 percent round out the bottom five.

“This is the second consecutive month Nebraska reached a new high in nonfarm employment,” Commissioner of Labor John H. Albin said.  “The new high in June of 1,056,575 was due to a large over the month increase in the Omaha metro area, which also reached a new high in June of 514,707.”

Nonfarm employment, a count of filled jobs, was up 10,429 from May and up 27,157 from June 2022.  Private industries with the most growth month to month were leisure and hospitality (up 3,455 jobs), mining and construction (up 1,833 jobs), and trade, transportation and utilities (up 1,457 jobs). Private industries with the most over the year growth were private education and health services (up 6,899 jobs), leisure and hospitality service (up 6,021 jobs), and mining and construction (up 4,237 jobs).

June was the fourth straight month of record highs both in the total Nebraska labor force (1,062,783) and the number of employed workers in the labor force (1,042,325).

Brown County’s unemployment rate in June rose to 3 percent, well above the state average. Rock County had the lowest unemployment rate in the state in June at 1.6 percent. Holt County’s unemployment rate was equal to the statewide average at 2 percent. Cherry County’s rate increased to 2.1 percent in June, with Boyd County at 2.2. percent and Keya Paha County at 2.5 percent.

With the exception of Rock County, unemployment rates in the area increased from May to June. Blaine County had the highest unemployment rate in the state in June at 3.9 percent.

The national unemployment rate for June is 3.6 percent, down 0.1 percentage points from the May rate of 3.7 percent.  This rate is unchanged from the June 2022 rate of 3.6 percent.

* Lions Club installs new officers and directors

(Posted 12:30 p.m. July 20)

The Ainsworth Lions Club annual Family Picnic was held Monday with 17 members and 10 guests in attendance. 

Lion Past-President Dale Hafer conducted the installation ceremony for newly elected Officers and Directors:  Lion Tamer-Rita Paddock; Lion Tail Twister-Vance Heyer; Membership Director-Bill Lentz; Lions Directors-Roland Paddock, Roger Lechtenberg, Connie Lentz, Mike Schrad; Treasurer-Phil Fuchs; President-Steve Dike; Past-President-Dale Hafer.  The following positions remain open:  President-Elect, Secretary, and Recording Secretary.

A discussion was held regarding excess water pitchers and the sale of the popcorn machine, hotdog roller, and nacho cheese machine. Connie Lentz and Rita Paddock were authorized to proceed to dispose of the excess water pitchers. Roland Paddock and Jim Arens were authorized to negotiate the sale of the popcorn machine, hotdog roller, and nacho cheese machine to interested organizations.

Scott Steinhauser’s application to become a member of the Ainsworth Lions Club was approved.  President Dike presented the following membership awards for the 2022-23 year: Graig Kinzie-15 years; Doug Weiss-20 years; David Spann-45 years; Jerry Ehlers-50 years.  Treasurer Phil Fuchs announced the club won $75 in the District 38-I Individual Assistance Fund raffle, which will be deposited into the club’s Special Projects Account.

* Board opts against change to tree height on right of way 

(Posted 3:30 p.m. July 18)

After discussing during its past two meetings an increased height for trees to be trimmed from county road right of way, the Brown County Commissioners on Tuesday opted to leave the 8-foot height required by state statute in place and not pass a county ordinance that would increase that height.

Commissioner Buddy Small said, if there are trees over roadways that aren’t bothering anyone, he didn’t necessarily want to force them to be trimmed higher by passing an ordinance.

“If there are areas where they are causing problems, then we can remove them,” Small said.

County Attorney Andy Taylor said the ordinance could not be arbitrarily enforced.

“You either enforce it everywhere or you don’t enforce it,” Taylor said. “Enforcement has to be uniform.”

Small said the roads department has always responded to problem areas with the 8-foot height requirement.

“If people can’t get down the road with their equipment, we come take care of it,” Small said.

Commissioner Jeremiah Dailey said, if the county passed an ordinance that made the height for trimming trees higher, the county would then be responsible for cutting any trees that hang over the road right of way.

Taylor said the county would be responsible for trimming the trees, and could then try to recoup the cost of doing so from the landowner if the trees are located on private property.

Taylor suggested the board not move forward with increasing the height from what is required by state statute.

“Most people are pretty reasonable and are willing to work with us if there are issues,” Taylor said.

He said adopting an ordinance increasing the height would require publishing notice of the intended ordinance, passing three readings and holding a public hearing.

With Commissioner Dennis Bauer absent, the board opted not to move forward with an ordinance.

In other business Tuesday, the commissioners met with Sheriff Brent Deibler to discuss repairs he plans to make to the sheriff’s department building and jail. Discussion centered on which line item in the county’s 2023-24 budget the expenses would be included.

Deputy Clerk Becky Hardy said the county received a $6,900 bill from Nelson’s Furniture for flooring for the sheriff’s department and didn’t know which fund to use to pay the claim.

Dailey said he understood the repair costs would be included in the sheriff’s department budget.

“It would be clearer if it is in the jail budget,” Dailey said.

Hardy said, if the claims are paid from the jail budget, the commissioners and sheriff just needed to make sure there were enough funds in that line item included in the 2023-24 budget.

Deibler said it was his understanding American Rescue Plan Act funds would be used for at least some of the repair items. The sheriff said there were numerous items in the building that needed to be addressed, including a leaking foundation, flooring, windows, plumbing and HVAC.

“The building is falling apart,” Deibler said. “Nothing has been repaired in a long time. It all seems to be happening now. We don’t have a choice, it has to be fixed.”

Deibler said he has not yet even had estimates returned for some portions of the repairs as contractors are hesitant to provide a quote without knowing exactly how much work it will take to make the repairs.

Small encouraged Deibler to estimate the cost of repairs a little high so the money would be available in the budget. After discussion on each item that needed to be addressed, Deibler and the commissioners agreed that $125,000 would be included in the sheriff’s department budget for building repairs.

In another budget item, Hardy asked the commissioners if the county planned to make a $5,840 interest payment on the new ambulance for the Brown County Ambulance Association and request reimbursement from the association, or whether the bill should be paid directly by the ambulance association.

Taylor said the safest way to handle the claim would be to have the county make the payment from its ambulance line item and be reimbursed by the association.

“The ambulance association is paying for it, but there is nothing in writing on how the payments will work and whether the association will make the payments directly or if the money comes from the county and is reimbursed,” the county attorney said.

Small said he preferred that the ambulance association make the payments without the county being involved in the process.

Taylor said he would create a resolution to handle future payments for the board to approve during its next meeting.

The board also discussed a resolution regarding payments for the new ambulance barn building, as payments on the building are due prior to the board approving its 2023-24 fiscal year budget.

Taylor said the resolution the board needed to approve was standard and allows the restriction of expenditures in the ambulance building line item to be exceeded.

“The money will be budgeted for approval in September when the budget it adopted,” Taylor said.

The commissioners approved the resolution as presented.

The board will not proceed with replacing the Wagoner Bridge across Pine Creek in northeastern Brown County that was destroyed during the 2019 floods.

Taylor said Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin could not find any record that the bridge had ever been on the county’s inventory or that the county had ever maintained the bridge.

“It is not the county’s responsibility,” Taylor said.

Dailey said, after the research that had been done, he was confident the bridge that was destroyed was not a county bridge.

Taylor said he would contact the landowner who had discussed the bridge replacement with the board and let the landowner know the commissioners would not be taking any action to replace the bridge.

Small said he received a request from Greg Jochem for the county to consider purchasing fuel from his local business.

Small said Central Valley Ag was currently withholding the 18.4-cent per gallon federal tax on fuel that the county was not responsible for paying. Small said Jochem indicated it would not be an issue for his business to also refrain from adding the federal tax to the county’s bill.

The board approved creating an account with Yogi’s Place for fuel for the roads department pickups using the department’s credit card. Fuel would then be charged and a receipt would be forwarded.

Dailey said he wanted the person getting the fuel to sign the receipt and indicate which county vehicle was being fueled.

In final action items Tuesday, the board approved a service agreement with Appeara and declined to become a member of the North Central RC&D.

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

* Air quality alert issues for today, Tuesday

(Posted 1 p.m. July 17)

Smoke associated with wildfires in Canada may affect the air quality in Nebraska. Visibility impacts may occur in areas with heavier smoke impacts.

An advisory of possible Moderate to Unhealthy AQI impacts may occur in central and eastern Nebraska Monday and Tuesday.

Among the counties included in the smoke advisory are Blaine, Boyd, Brown, Cherry, Holt, Keya Paha and Rock counites.

States monitor smoke levels and weather conditions to determine when impacts to air quality are anticipated. Advisories are based on data from the National Weather Service, smoke plume and air quality modeling.

* Traffic Accident

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

The Brown County Sheriff’s Department investigated a vehicle-deer accident that occurred July 6 on Moon Lake Avenue.

According to the sheriff’s department report, at 9:36 p.m. July 6, a 2016 Lincoln MKX, driven by Derek Martinsen, 27, of Ainsworth was traveling south on Moon Lake Avenue when the vehicle struck a deer in the roadway.

No persons were injured during the accident. The Lincoln was considered a total loss.

* Smoke advisory issues for north central Nebraska

(Posted 2:45 p.m. July 14)

Smoke associated with wildfires in Canada may affect the air quality in Nebraska. Visibility impacts may occur in areas with heavier smoke impacts.

An advisory of possible Moderate to Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups impacts may occur in north central, northeast, and eastern Nebraska. Among the counties potentially affected are Boyd, Brown, Cherry, Holt, Keya Paha, and Rock from Saturday, July 15, through Sunday, July 16.

Advisories are issued for areas of anticipated impact by notifying the media and local health departments and posting information on the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services and the Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy’s webpages and social media sites. These advisories provide information to the public on the anticipated impacts and air quality and health resources to help citizens protect their health and minimize exposure to smoke.

States monitor smoke levels and weather conditions to determine when impacts to air quality are anticipated. Advisories are based on data from the National Weather Service, smoke plume, and air quality modeling, and from ambient air quality monitors located in Omaha, Bellevue, Blair, Lincoln, Beatrice, Grand Island, and Scottsbluff.

* Atkinson named Leadership Certified Community

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

The City of Atkinson earned state recognition for leading partnerships to grow businesses, build housing and invest in downtown infrastructure.

This week, the Department of Economic Development announced the city’s requalification for membership in Nebraska’s Leadership Certified Community program. DED’s Field Operations Director Sheryl Hiatt recognized local leaders during Atkinson’s City Council meeting Monday. 

Atkinson is one of 31 Nebraska communities to qualify for the statewide LCC program. DED created the program in 2011 to help local leaders adapt to ongoing changes and opportunities in economic development. Qualifying communities must demonstrate preparedness in strategic and community planning, display readiness in technological development and invest in new and existing businesses. Certified communities earn designation in the program for five years and are required to update and maintain their websites.

Local developers in Atkinson continue to capitalize on state and local programs and partnerships to encourage economic growth. Over the past five years, the city’s LB840 program has invested nearly $1 million in business loans and more than $340,000 in reimbursement grants. Atkinson voters enacted the LB840 program, also known as Nebraska’s Local Option Municipal Economic Development Act, to collect sales tax dollars specifically dedicated to economic development. Since its inception, the program has contributed to more than 150 projects in Atkinson.

In 2021, Atkinson Economic Development added a Property Improvement Program to assist businesses with signage and façade updates. The program also contributes to structural investments, such as sidewalk development or building demolitions.

“Nebraska’s LCC program encourages leaders to create incentives that are unique to each community’s needs,” said LCC Program Coordinator Kelly Gewecke. “Atkinson’s Property Improvement Program not only complements the work businesses are already doing to grow, but also helps build relationships between business owners and city officials that are so important in economic development.”

Atkinson leaders continue to focus on growing relationships with DED and Central Nebraska Economic Development District to improve housing opportunities. The city utilized funding from DED’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund to convert a dilapidated residential lot into two duplexes. The community received $295,000 in NAHTF assistance, as well as $111,000 in LB840 and municipal funding for a total project cost of $406,000.

City leaders partnered with the U.S. Department of Agriculture on an $88,950 project to install 15 solar lights in critical areas throughout the community. The USDA invested $29,000 in the project from its Community Facility Grant program, which included solar light installation for Atkinson’s maintenance shop, wastewater treatment plant, city well house and fire & rescue hall. Lights were also installed at West Holt Memorial Hospital, the Elkhorn Meadows housing development, Atkinson Mill Race Park & Campground and the Atkinson Community Center.

The solar project was completed in 2022, which will improve public safety and accessibility during electrical power outages.

“In today’s world, especially in rural areas, it is imperative for communities to demonstrate proactive leadership,” said Mayor Josh Erickson. “The citizens of our community must feel secure in the fact that their hometown is doing everything possible to remain viable and sustainable.”

The City of Atkinson utilized federal Community Development Block Grant funding, which was awarded by DED and administered by CNEDD, to update downtown sidewalks. The $287,000 project installed sidewalks that are now compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act to allow for wheelchair accessibility. The new sidewalks are located in front of vital businesses in Atkinson, including the grocery store, hair salon, lumber yard, fitness center, community thrift store and city offices.

City leaders launched a new website and apps for Apple and Android smartphones in the spring of 2022, with assistance from the Entrepreneurial Community Activation Process. The process, led by Nebraska Extension, created an opportunity for Atkinson residents to share their own community priorities through an online survey and a series of community conversations. The survey results showed citizens wanted to be more connected with the City of Atkinson, which led to the updated website and new apps.

“The City of Atkinson prides itself on being a very progressive community and has always managed to complete whatever it endeavors to do,” Erickson said. “Atkinson certainly lives up to its motto ‘Atkinson, Getting Things Done’.”

* Rentschler selected for UN-L Business Honors Academy

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

Forty high-achieving first-year students have been selected to join the Nebraska Business Honors Academy at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln this fall. Comprising the academy’s 11th cohort, the students hail from two countries, nine U.S. states and 12 Nebraska communities.

Among the students selected for the Business Honors Academy is Madeline Rentschler of Atkinson, who is majoring in business and law.

“Nebraska Business Honors Academy alumni have taken their talents to careers and graduate schools spanning 32 states and five countries, with 25% of alumni heading straight into a graduate or professional degree program,” said Kathy Farrell, James Jr. and Susan Stuart Endowed Dean of the College of Business. “The talented students in the 11th cohort will learn to challenge themselves in new and different ways from day one. They will stretch their strengths both in and out of the classroom and hone their academic, interpersonal and leadership skills as they prepare to lead the future of business.”

The new students will participate in leadership activities and student competitions across the country to enhance their professional communication. They will also participate in internships and study abroad experiences.

“We’re incredibly excited to welcome the next cohort to the Nebraska Business Honors Academy,” said Erin Burnette, the academy’s director. “Throughout the selection process, it was clear they each were eager to challenge themselves and find ways to positively impact the community at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. We on the academy team are honored to be able to have a front-row seat as we help them learn, grow and realize their potential as they progress through their college career.”

Academy students are involved in more than 150 student organizations on campus, serving in a variety of leadership roles. This summer, more than 60% of the students participated in paid internships across 14 states and two countries. Since January, 23% of the students have studied abroad in eight countries.

* Golf course discusses new clubhouse with City Council

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

In June, representatives from the Ainsworth Golf Course visited with the City Council about potentially repairing the west portion of the clubhouse. On Wednesday, golf course representatives told the council they had received feedback and were instead looking at the option of building a new clubhouse instead of repairing the old building.

Todd Kicken told the council a Nebraska Game and Parks Commission grant could fund half the cost of the building if the course applied and was awarded by tying the project into the Cowboy Trail.

“The current clubhouse is 2,550 square feet,” Kicken said. “If we went back with the same size it would be $573,000 estimating at $225 per square foot. A 50 by 60 building would be $675,000. Those estimates should be on the high side.”

Kicken said he wanted to inform the council of the change and see if the city was supportive of the project, because the course would not begin working toward the new clubhouse plan if the council was not in favor of it.

North Central Development Center Executive Director Kristin Olson said the city would need to be the entity applying for the Game and Parks Commission grant.

“There are other projects the city is also looking at for this grant,” Olson said. “You may need to get together, set priorities and go for one big application that includes all the projects. If you have a multitude of things that you would apply to fund, you would probably get more buy-in.”

The grant program available from the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission would cover 50 percent of the project costs up to $750,000 if awarded.

Olson said the proximity to the Ainsworth Regional Airport would potentially be another selling point for the clubhouse project, as the airport has issues currently with people using the airport having a place to get food.

Mayor Joel Klammer said all of the parks projects and the clubhouse combined would probably not hit the grant threshold.

Councilman Brad Fiala said he believed it was a good idea to move forward and determine the needs for both the golf course and the park.

“I think we should look at the complete project and tie them together to the Cowboy Trail,” Fiala said.

Councilmen Shawn Fernau and Dustin Barthel both agreed that having the park board and the golf course work together on one application would be the best way to move forward.

Councilman Vance Heyer said a new clubhouse would likely be more utilized by the public than the current clubhouse.

Olson said it was likely not realistic to get a grant application put together by this year’s Sept. 4 deadline as there is a lot of work that must be completed prior to applying, including environmental reviews and raising the 50 percent cash match.

“You are probably not going to be able to pull it off for this year,” Olson said. “It is a big application.”

Olson encouraged the groups to keep moving on finalizing priorities and begin planning to have the application ready to submit next year.

Klammer said it appeared there was support from the council for the groups to move forward with a combined grant application for the park and golf course. The council took no official action on the item.

In other business Wednesday, the council held a public hearing for the LB 840 Citizen Advisory Review Committee’s six-month report on the LB 840 program. CARC Chair Marcus Fairhead told the council all LB 840 loans are current, and he encouraged the council to be aware that three members of the LB 840 Loan Committee have terms expiring in November. He said those three expiring terms would either need reappointments or new appointments made.

“Things are moving along, and we are putting some money to use,” Fairhead said.

City Administrator Lisa Schroedl said there have been several loans approved recently, which was nice to see.

“The funds keep revolving,” Schroedl said. “We have had a lot of requests.”

The council accepted the six-month report as presented.

Chuck Osborn requested the city waive water utility connection fees for a property located at 246 N. Wilson St. Osborn said he decided to add water to his shop at that location.

He said the city located the curb stop, but water service did not work when it was turned on. Osborn said a new water main was placed in the area several years ago, and the contractors did not hook up the line to that parcel when the new line was installed. The line was still connected to the old main, which was taken out of service after the new main was installed.

Fernau said, if the line had been in place at the time the new main was installed, it should have been hooked up.

Schroedl said there were numerous vacant residential lots, and those lots are not always automatically connected when a new water main is installed. She said stubbing in lines that may never be used could be a substantial expense to the city.

Osborn said he purchased the property after the new main had been installed, but the previous owner did have a water line connected to the old main.

Barthel said, if the original property owner had a line that was not connected to the new main, it would have been the city’s responsibility to pay for the connection.

Osborn said he had paid the cost to dig up the street and have a line connected. He said he had no hard feelings either way if the council decided not to waive the fee.

Schroedl said the city planned to stub in every water line when a new main is placed in conjunction with the Main Street renovation project next year. She said city ordinance requires the city to provide the main line and the customer is required to pay the cost to tap into the main line.

“I see both sides of this,” Schroedl said.

Heyer said the property changed ownership when the utilities were likely not being utilized.

“That was likely taken into account during that sale,” Heyer said. “I think it is a good idea for all the connections to be made when mains are replaced.”

By a 3-1 vote with Heyer against, the council approved waiving the $150 tap fee and the $381 saddle cost at the site.

The council approved a request from the Ainsworth Bulldog Booster Club to hang and store Bulldog light pole banners should the Booster Club move forward with the purchase of the banners.

Booster Club representative Jake Graff said the Booster Club picked out two designs from the same company the city used for banners and would purchase seven banners of each design if the city was willing to hang and store the banners.

The council also approved a special designated liquor license application from the Ainsworth Elks for a Booster Club fund-raiser Aug. 18 in the Conference Center. Graff said the event had outgrown the Elks Lodge, and the Booster Club would like to host the annual event in the Conference Center with the Elks catering the meal and the drinks.

The council approved a Community Development Block Grant drawdown to the Central Nebraska Economic Development District in the amount of $3,442 for administration of the North Main Street paving project, and approved documents for another Community Development Block Grant application for downtown revitalization funding related to the Highway 7 project on Main Street slated for 2024. Schroedl said the downtown revitalization grant, if awarded, would help the city fund the lighting and landscaping for the Main Street project as well as improvements to the mini park.

The council approved renewing its worker’s compensation, liability, auto and commercial property insurance through the League Association of Risk Management for the 2023-24 year.

Schroedl said the premium cost to renew through LARM increased from $109,509 last year to $120,706 this year. By signing a three-year agreement, Schroedl said the city received a 5 percent discount on its premium.

The council approved several appointments recommended by the mayor to city boards and committees. Jim Wagner was reappointed to the Committee on Housing for a three-year term. Jerry Ehlers was reappointed to a six-year term on the Municipal Golf Course Foundation Account Committee. The council appointed Brandon Evans to replace Brett Duester and reappointed Robbie France to three-year terms on the City Park Board. Nichole Flynn was reappointed to a three-year term on the Sellors-Barton Cabin Advisory Board, and Donita Painter was reappointed to a three-year term on the City Board of Adjustment.

During her report, Schroedl said the city received $62,605 from LARM for damage to city infrastructure that was sustained during the May hailstorm. Damage occurred to the Conference Center roof, the library roof, the pool filter house roof, the concessions stand roof, the Legion Field Crow’s nest, pool house signage and a window of the UV garage at the wastewater treatment plant.

Schroedl said she planned to advertise for bids to repair all of the infrastructure as one project. The council would open bids during its August meeting.

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

* Care Center Board approves new stove and concrete

(Posted 1 p.m. July 11)

After receiving a more than $320,000 reimbursement from Medicaid that allowed it to pay off all the money it borrowed from its line of credit, the Sandhills Care Center Board of Directors on Monday moved forward with two upgrades to the facility the board indicated had been put off as long as possible.

The board approved the purchase of a new six-burner commercial range and oven at a cost of $11,558 from Direct Supply. Board member Shawn Fernau said the stove replacement was a no-brainer, as the current stove had been an issue for years. Fernau said two of the burners on the current range no longer worked.

The board also approved a $7,835 quote from Walton Concrete to replace the driveway and sidewalks in front of the care center building. Board member Denny Bauer said the condition of the current concrete created a safety issue that needed to be remedied, and new concrete would provide a better first impression to those visiting the facility.

Fernau said there was donated labor included in the Walton Concrete quote.

The board did not take action on two quotes received for replacing the shingles at the care center after the roof sustained damage during the May hailstorm. Board members learned the care center’s current insurance deductible is $100,000, so insurance would not provide any assistance to replace the shingles.

Bauer said, since it would likely be more than $50,000 to replace the shingles, the project would need to go out for bids instead of just receiving two quotes for the work.

Fernau said the odds of the roof leaking were slim, but he said he didn’t think the facility would be able to get by without replacing the shingles.

Board member Dr. Mel Campbell said he believed the board needed to look at a different insurance policy with a lower deductible after the roof is replaced.

The board tabled action on upgrading the Internet cable in the facility. The care center will not be able to receive cable television after Sept. 5 without making the upgrade, which will also include new wi-fi for the facility. The quote from Applied Connective to upgrade the equipment was $15,707.

Fernau said he had worked with a couple companies on commercial projects that may be able to provide a more competitive quote for the work.

The board also discussed a $23,587 quote from Applied Connective for a new security camera system. Deeming the camera system not as big a necessity as some of the other infrastructure projects, the board did not take action on that quote.

Fernau said he received a quote from Grant Stec to replace the underground sprinklers at the care center. The current system is not functioning, and Fernau said it was difficult to keep the entire yard watered and green. He said the project could be done in two stages, with the front yard equipped with sprinklers this year and the back yard next year.

The board did not take action on that item.

Greg’s Heating and Air was able to fix the facility’s air-conditioning system by installing a different compressor, so the board did not have to explore quotes for a new air-conditioning system for the facility.

In other business Monday, finalizing action that was approved during its June meeting, the board approved adjustments to its private pay rates to keep pace with changes in Medicaid reimbursement to the facility.

With Medicaid rates changing July 1 and the Department of Health and Human Services updating the way it classifies the care needed for residents, the board approved private pay rates for each category of care that are $50 per day higher than what Medicaid reimburses the facility.

Administrator Penny Jacobs said some residents paying privately would see a decrease in cost of between $9 and $40 per day due to the change in the way their level of care was classified, while other residents paying privately would see an increase.

Board Chair Tom Jones said, on average, the rates wouldn’t be much different than they are currently.

Campbell said the rates charged are all over the board but are based on the level of care required.

Jacobs said all facilities in the state are going through the update in the way care levels are classified. She said the facility does level-of-care assessments on residents quarterly, so the rates could change periodically if the level of care changes. She said Medicaid was also basing its reimbursement level on 2022 cost reports instead of the previous 2017 cost reports, which will result in an increase in reimbursement due to the cost to care for residents increasing substantially after COVID.

Fernau cast a vote against the rate change, with the other four board members voting in favor.

The board approved the 2023-24 care center budget as presented. The budget estimates 24 residents in the facility to begin the fiscal year, with the census slowly climbing before reaching 29 residents by May 2024.

Jones said the budget was prepared without taking into account funds that were approved by voters, which should begin to arrive in the first half of 2024. The budget also did not project any additional Medicaid reimbursement like the care center received this year since there was no guarantee the facility would receive any additional reimbursement during the next fiscal year.

The budget projects the care center being able to operate at break-even or better for most months other than September and March, which have three pay periods instead of two.

The budget approved Monday projects total revenue for the 2023-24 fiscal year of $2.87 million, with total expenses of $2.62 million for an operating margin of approximately $254,000.

Campbell said the projections in the budget were totally dependent on the number of residents in the facility.

Jones said the care center’s census has been fluctuating between 24 and 27.

Board member Dennis Bauer said the budget also did not account for any Medicare revenue for shorter-term rehabilitation stays. He said any Medicare money the facility receives would be a bonus from what was projected.

Jones will present the 2023-24 care center budget to both the Ainsworth City council and Brown County Commissioners for their review.

During June, the Sandhills Care Center generated revenue of $545,109, which includes the one-time $320,093 reimbursement from Medicaid. Expenses during June of $243,982 left the facility with a profit for the month of $301,126. Without the Medicaid reimbursement being factored, the facility would have lost approximately $19,000 during the month.

Jacobs said there were currently 25 residents in the care center, with 12 paying privately, 12 receiving Medicaid assistance and one receiving Medicare assistance. She said one resident was admitted during the past month, with three discharges.

She said the facility had hired help in the dietary department and had hired additional CNAs, but was still in need of nursing staff. An audience member asked about the status of the current director of nursing. Jacobs said the director of nursing had submitted a letter of resignation, but she had not accepted the resignation as of yet and planned to meet with the DON after she returns from vacation.

The board again discussed recent complaints from former employees regarding the way the facility’s policies and procedures are administered.

Campbell said the person he had talked to initially about reviewing the care center’s policies and procedures as well as recent terminations declined to undertake the work.

Campbell said the law firm Cline Williams was recommended to review the facility’s policies and procedures, as the firm has experience with long term care facilities.

Campbell said the proposed contract has a specialist from the firm reviewing the care center’s protocols and recent terminations. The cost for the work is $300 per hour.

An audience member expressed displeasure about the attorney only remotely reviewing the information. Campbell said driving time would be charged per hour if the specialist visited the facility in person and would add about $4,000 to the contract.

An audience member asked the board about creating a grievance board similar to what the county has in place to hear concerns from employees who are terminated.

Bauer said a grievance board is ok but has no legal standing.

Both Bauer and Fernau indicated they were in favor of contracting with the specialist to review the care center’s employee protocols.

“I think this will help us find solutions,” Fernau said.

The board unanimously approved hiring the specialist from Cline Williams.

In a final action item Monday, the board appointed Jones to serve as its chair, Bruce Papstein as the vice chair and Bauer as the secretary/treasurer. Travee Hobbs was reappointed as the board’s recording secretary. Jones, Bauer and Jacobs were approved as signatories on the care center’s accounts held in West Plains Bank, Homestead Bank, and Union Bank & Trust.

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

* Ainsworth to receive $1 million in additional state aid

(Posted 6:45 a.m. July 11)

As he begins to prepare the 2023-24 budget, Ainsworth Community Schools Superintendent Dale Hafer told the Board of Education Monday the district will receive close to $1 million in state aid following the passage of new legislation that awards funding on a per-student basis and increases reimbursement for special education.

The Nebraska Legislature passed bills during the 2023 session that provided all school districts with foundation aid in the amount of $1,500 per student, and increased the reimbursement districts receive for special education. Hafer said Ainsworth Community Schools will receive $621,928 in foundation aid and nearly $400,000 in additional special education funding.

“We are definitely going to be able to see a decrease in our tax request,” the superintendent said.

Hafer did caution the board that the additional aid was only guaranteed for the next two years. While he said the governor believes the additional aid will continue, the bills passed only covered the next two-year state budget. The superintendent said the board should be a little careful in case these additional funds go away. He said caps were also approved limiting the amount the board can increase its budget each year.

“I feel good that we can realize a significant tax request reduction while still making sure we are in good shape down the road,” Hafer said.

The board set a budget retreat for 7 p.m. Aug. 28. The school board adopts the 2023-24 budget during its September meeting.

Hafer also reported Monday Guarantee Roofing has finished replacing section 10 on the school building’s roof. He said the company also made temporary repairs to the top of the high school building and gym roofs that were damaged by high winds.

The superintendent said that section of high school building roof will be replaced next summer, and a more permanent repair to the gym roof will be undertaken at that time. That work will be covered by insurance.

Hafer said the old boiler has been removed, and the new boiler should be installed soon. He said the goal is to have the new boiler installed by Aug. 1.

In action items, the board approved the second reading of policy updates recommended by the Nebraska Association of School Boards, and approved the first reading of a policy revision regarding how credits are accepted for students moving into the district.

Hafer said the board last reviewed its policy manual in July 2020. He encouraged the board to review district policies on either an annual or biennial basis and to schedule those reviews for the same time. That way, he said when someone requests that the board review a particular policy, that request can be included during the next scheduled policy review.

Board chairman Brad Wilkins agreed that a scheduled review of the district’s policies was a good idea.

“The best time to review your policies is before you have a problem,” Wilkins said.

In a final action item, the board approved an option enrollment request submitted by Angela Burton to allow her daughter Abigail to option out of the district to Rock County Public Schools.

New Activities Director Luke Wroblewski introduced himself to the board Monday. He said many of the teams are holding summer camps, and he is getting his feet wet as to how the district operates.

The next meeting of the Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education is scheduled for 8 p.m. Aug. 14.

* Brown County Sheriff’s Department summary

(Posted 12:30 p.m. July 10)

JUNE 25

  • Received a report of property damage that occurred to a shed on South Main Street in Long Pine.

JUNE 26

  • The Brown County Ambulance transported a patient to the hospital.
  • Booked an inmate into the Brown County Jail to hold for another agency.
  • Responded to a report of reckless driving in Long Pine. Contact was made with the driver who received a verbal warning.
  • Received a report of a juvenile driving an unauthorized motor vehicle in Long Pine.

JUNE 27

  • Provided traffic control for a motorcade traveling across Nebraska.
  • During a traffic stop near Richardson Drive in Ainsworth a written warning was issued to the driver of an unauthorized motor vehicle for no valid registration or helmet.
  • Responded to a disturbance in the Long Pine State Park.

JUNE 28

  • Provided a civil standby in Long Pine for property removal.

JUNE 29

  • Brown County Sheriff’s office, Ainsworth Fire Department, Brown County Ambulance all attended a meet and greet at the Ainsworth Public Library for kids’ day.
  • Received a report of damage that occurred to the Ainsworth Fire Department building.

JUNE 30

  • Received report of a barking dog on Maple Street. No excessive barking was heard at this time.

JULY 1

  • Provided traffic control for a funeral procession.
  • During traffic stops in all of Brown County, citations were issued for 88, 84, and 78 mph in a 65-mph speed zone. Warnings were issued for driving left of center and speeding.
  • Received a report of an uncontrollable juvenile.

 WEEKLY SUMMARY TOTALS
INCIDENT REPORTS:  12
PHONE CALLS: 98
911 CALLS:  13
VIN INSPECTIONS:  10
HANDGUN PURCHASE PERMITS:  3

Monthly Summary for May
Incident Reports:  156
Phone Calls:  570
911 Calls:  55
Vin Inspections:  24
Handgun Permits:  4
Paper Services Served:  6

* Pillen declares disaster in Boyd County

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

Gov. Jim Pillen on Thursday issued a disaster declaration for Boyd County, in the aftermath of a damaging storm. Heavy rain resulted in severe flooding on June 23-24, taking a toll on local roads, bridges, culverts and sanitary sewer pipes.

The declaration allows for use of the Governor’s Emergency Fund, established under the authority of the Nebraska Emergency Management Act, to address repairs and debris removal. Damage to affected areas is estimated at $1.2 million.

* Main Street project highlights 2024 NDOT District 8 work

(Posted 11:15 a.m. July 6)

The Highway 7 resurfacing project in downtown Ainsworth highlights the 2024 work planned by the Nebraska Department of Transportation for District 8.

Released through its 2024 Surface Transportation Plan, the NDOT estimates the one-half mile of milling and resurfacing work on Main Street in Ainsworth will cost $4.57 million. That work is expected to commence in the spring.

Another substantial project on the one-year plan for District 8 is the replacement of a Highway 20 bridge near Long Pine. That bridge replacement project will cost an estimated $1.96 million and will result in a substantial detour for non-local traffic. The detour route would include Highway 7 from Bassett north to Highway 183, then south and connecting back to Highway 20 east of Ainsworth.

There are two additional bridge replacement projects planned for Highway 20 in District 8 in 2024, both in Holt County that are estimated to cost $558,000 each.

Another major project scheduled for 2024 in District 8 is the milling and resurfacing of a 12-3/4 mile stretch of Highway 12 from Burton east. That project, which also includes bridge work, carries an estimated $8.24 million price tag.

Two stretches of Highway 11, one in Holt County and one in Boyd County, are scheduled for milling and resurfacing in 2024. The Holt County stretch is 12.44 miles from the Garfield County line north at an estimated cost of $8.91 million. The Boyd County stretch runs from Butte north for 7.29 miles at a cost of $10.37 million. That project also includes bridge work.

A 5-mile stretch of Highway 97 in Cherry County from Merritt Reservoir north is also scheduled for milling and resurfacing in 2024 at an estimated cost of $4.32 million.

There are several micro-surfacing projects also included in the 2024 NDOT plan for District 8.

The Nebraska Surface Transportation Program Book contains the lists of state system projects, separated by each NDOT geographical district that are planned for construction within the next six years.

The 2024 Construction Program is published at $758 million, funded from state and federal highway user taxes and fees. The 2024-2029 Nebraska Surface Transportation Program and an interactive GIS map are now available at dot.nebraska.gov/projects/publications/program-book-2024

* New invasive plant species discovered in Brown County

(Posted 3:45 p.m. July 5)

Brown County Weed Superintendent Scott Erthum told the Board of Commissioners Wednesday he had found a new invasive plant species southwest of Ainsworth.

Erthum showed the commissioners photos of the yellow loosestrife plants he found approximately 2 miles south and 1-1/4 miles west of Ainsworth in a wet ditch. Erthum said yellow loosestrife is a cousin to purple loosestrife, another noxious weed that has been found in Brown County.

Erthum said, while yellow loosestrife was on the radar of weed superintendents, it had not been an issue in Nebraska to this point. The weed superintendent said he sprayed the patch that was found.

“This is the first of that one I’ve found here,” Erthum said. “It inhabits wet areas.”

He said seeds from yellow loosestrife can remain active for 20 years in the ground, so it can be difficult to control if it becomes established in an area.

Commissioner Jeremiah Dailey said it would probably be a good idea for Erthum to let landowners in that area know that yellow loosestrife had been discovered and to educate them on what the plant looks like so it can be controlled quicker if found.

Erthum said he would make contact with landowners in the area where the patches of yellow loosestrife were found. He said, like most of the invasive species in the U.S., yellow loosestrife originated in China and Eurasia.

Erthum told the board most landowners he has worked with on noxious weed infestations have been very cooperative, which he appreciated. He said he did issue a 10-day notice to one landowner to control noxious weeds. If the 10-day notice is not observed, Erthum said he could oversee the spraying of the problem plants and bill the landowner for the cost of control.

The weed superintendent said Brown County is a part of both the Sandhills and Middle Niobrara weed management groups and the interlocal agreements for both needed to be updated. The county has been a part of the Middle Niobrara Weed Awareness Group for 20-plus years.

“The idea is to bring up these agreements every three years so new officials can be brought up to speed,” Erthum said.

He said County Attorney Andy Taylor had agreed to help with the language on the updated interlocal agreements that would be presented to each county included in the agreement.

Erthum said the Middle Niobrara Weed Awareness Group, which includes Brown, Rock, Keya Paha and Cherry counties, only received $20,000 in grant funds for spraying projects for this year after receiving $125,000 the previous year. Since $20,000 was not enough to tackle a major spraying project, he said the funds would be used to provide cost-share funding for landowners to purchase chemicals for controlling noxious weeds.

Erthum said, if the four counties do receive the $10 million for fire abatement in the Niobrara River corridor, the MNWAG planned to apply for funding to control Canada thistle, which he said frequently springs up in areas where cedar trees are removed.

In other business Wednesday, the commissioners again discussed the possibility of passing a county ordinance to increase the height trees must be trimmed above county road right of way.

State statute dictates that trees must be trimmed to 8 feet above road right of way. While the commissioners could not pass a county ordinance under the state-mandated 8-foot threshold, the board could opt for an ordinance higher than 8 feet.

Commissioner Buddy Small said he believed 8 feet was not high enough for today’s machinery and cattle pots.

“We have the authority to establish an ordinance that exceeds state statute,” Small said. “If trees on private property are overhanging and causing a hazard, the county can remove them and charge the landowner.”

Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin said there have been issues with overhanging trees on the Meadville Avenue Niobrara River hill.

Commissioner Dennis Bauer said there were numerous areas in the county where overhanging trees cause a hazard, including a large cottonwood grove east of his residence.

Turpin said the ordinance needed to include a way for the roads department to enforce the standards. Commissioner Jeremiah Dailey said that was his concern with passing a county ordinance increasing the height.

Bauer said, “If the trees are in the right of way, then the county would trim them.”

The board agreed to have Taylor craft an ordinance for the commissioners to consider at a future meeting, where the board could then decide on the height that would be enforced.

In a matter that was tabled from the board’s June 20 meeting, Turpin said he researched the Wagoner Bridge across Pine Creek in northeastern Brown County. A property owner had approached the commissioners about replacing the bridge that was destroyed during flooding in 2019. Turpin said one county map did show the road, but there is no number assigned for the road and the bridge was not included among the county’s inventory of maintained bridges.

“There is a mention of the road in an original interlocal agreement with Rock County for maintenance,” Turpin said. “It was originally called the Lewis Road.”

Though the county had treated one side of the road as a county road, Turpin said there was no mention in county records of the bridge being owned by the county and the county did not maintain the road on the opposite side.

Small said Taylor had informed the board that, unless the county was responsible for the road on both sides of the bridge, the county was not responsible for the bridge if it was not included in the county’s inventory.

Turpin said the map does not show the road even making it all the way to the bridge.

“It is just difficult to say without records,” the highway superintendent said. “If someone actually lived there, it might be a different story.”

Turpin said, it was such an old bridge that the state probably would not have allowed it to stay open even before it washed out if had been on the county’s inventory.

“I wish there was something we could do to help,” Turpin said. “They are nice guys.”

Dailey said, if there was a permanent resident and the road serviced more than one property owner, it might be a different story.

All three commissioners indicated replacing the bridge would not be a priority for the county.

During his report, Turpin said he had approved a permit for an electrical crossing under county road right of way near the GJW south facility. He said the company was putting in some trailer houses near its south barns and was running an electrical line under the road to service the units.

Turpin said the roads department cleaned out drainage structures on the Bar 25 Road, which he said he hoped would keep hills from washing as bad as they had been. He said the department was also working to stabilize the Elsmere Road that had previously been built up following high water levels in 2019.

“We hauled some dirt to those areas to try and keep it from blowing as bad,” Turpin said.

In a final agenda item Wednesday, the commissioners approved a resolution transferring $5,000 from the county’s miscellaneous general fund to the reappraisal fund.

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

* June finishes shy of normal rainfall

(Posted 8 a.m. July 3)

Ainsworth Weather Observer Jim Baker reported June finished below normal in precipitation.

The full report can be heard below.

* State Patrol to focus traffic efforts on Highway 20

(Posted 7 a.m. July 3)

Troopers with the Nebraska State Patrol are teaming up with troopers from many other states for a campaign focused on patrolling U.S. Highway 20.

“Highway 20 is a major route of travel across the country and for vacationers coming to experience northern Nebraska,” said Captain Dain Hicks, Commander of Troop B, based at Norfolk. “This multi-state partnership is positively impacting the safety for Highway 20 travelers from Nebraska to Iowa and across the entire country.”

During the month of May, Nebraska State Troopers issued 114 citations on speeding charges to motorists on Highway 20, as well as citations on charges of no seat belt (4), improper child restraint (7), minor in possession of alcohol (1), and driving under suspension (1). Troopers also arrested one person for on a charge of driving under the influence of alcohol.

The campaign continues in July. This effort is made possible thanks in part to grant funding from the Nebraska Department of Transportation – Highway Safety Office.

“With the goal of improving safety and reducing crashes on all roadways, the Iowa State Patrol is thankful for the partnerships that have been made to make this project successful,” said Lieutenant Brian Beenen, District 9 Commander, Cedar Falls. “This coast-to-coast initiative involves over 40 law enforcement agencies across the country. We look forward to continued collaboration to make our roadways safe.”

Highway 20 crosses the entire continental United States, running from Massachusetts to Oregon. In Nebraska, Highway 20 runs through northern parts of the state from South Sioux City to Harrison.

* Keya Paha County Public Library receives grant

(Posted 6:30 a.m. July 3)

The Nebraska State Historical Society Foundation announced the recipients of the 2023 Statewide Grants Program. Recipients from 41 communities across the state will receive grants totaling almost $50,000. 

Among the recipients is the Keya Paha County Public Library.

“We are thrilled to help these local organizations preserve the history of their communities,” said Leslie Fattig, NSHSF Executive Director. “Reading through all the applications and seeing the broad need for these grants just reinforces our determination to grow the program in order to fund more of these efforts.” 

NSHSF received 74 grant applications requesting $131,873 to fulfill needs such as conservation of collections, public programming, outreach, exhibits, promotion of the facility and services, promotion of tourism and visitation, school programs and resources for the classroom and management of collections.

Many of these organizations are also included in the NSHSF WanderNebraska travel adventure program which kicked off its second year on May 26th.  This year’s program features 150 sites across the state of Nebraska and will run through May of 2024.  

* Recent cases from Brown County Court

(Posted 11 a.m. June 29)

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

Jessica J. Reitz, age 39, of Chadron, charged with attempting a Class 4 felony, fined $1,000; also charged with possession of marijuana less than 1 ounce, $300; possession of drug paraphernalia, $100.

Isaiah L. McCabe, 21, of Chadron, attempting a Class 4 felony, $1,000; possession of marijuana less than 1 ounce, $300; possession of drug paraphernalia, $100.

Chesney M. Reeves, 22, of Central City, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Yenny Roque Baxcajay, 27, of Ireton, Iowa, speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.

Joshua A. Richardson, 42, of Bryant, S.D., speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.

Randal E. Kingry, 66, of Omaha, speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.

John P. Peetz, 73, of Lincoln, speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.

Christian J. Burke, 23, of Little Falls, Minn., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25; driving left of center, $25; possession of marijuana less than 1 ounce, $300; failure to comply with a citation, $100.

Zachary W. Frazier, 29, of Ainsworth, second degree trespassing or defying an order to leave, $500.

Brent A. Goeken, 42, of Wood Lake, third offense driving under the influence, $1,000, also sentenced to 30 days in jail with credit for four days served, one year of probation, driver’s license revoked for two years and ordered to install an ignition interlock device.

Sharon M. Goff, 72, of Ainsworth, driving under the influence with a blood-alcohol content of 0.15 or greater, $500, also sentenced to seven days in jail with credit for one day served, driver’s license revoked for one year and ordered to install an ignition interlock device.

Jasmine A. Thompson, 23, of Pine Ridge, S.D., first offense driving under the influence, $500, also sentenced to six months of probation, driver’s license revoked for 60 days and ordered to install an ignition interlock device.

Michael R. Spotted Bear, 23, of Ainsworth, first offense driving under the influence, $500, also sentenced to seven days in jail with credit for two days served, driver’s license revoked for six months and ordered to install an ignition interlock device.

Joshua D. Dieter, 45, of Sioux Falls, S.D., possession of marijuana more than 1 ounce but less than 1 pound, $500; possession of drug paraphernalia, $100; attempting a Class 4 felony, $1,000.

Alexander D. King, 19, of Grand Island, speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.

Tristin L. Fobroy, 37, of Milford, speeding 16-20 mph over the limit, $125; no registration, $25.

Jeffrey D. Larson, 42, of Valentine, first offense driving under the influence, $500, also sentenced to six months of probation, driver’s license revoked for 60 days and ordered to install an ignition interlock device.

Nakoa L. Fletcher, 43, of Ainsworth, taking or possessing fish without a permit, $100.

Cipriano Longoria Herrera, 42, of Ainsworth, taking or possessing fish without a permit, $100.

Samuel Beya Matamba, 53, of Lexington, Ky., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

William M. Evans, 34, of Batesville, Miss., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Chelsey M. Hargett, 34, of Broken Bow, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Carlos A. Lopez Montoya, 29, of Ainsworth, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25; no operator’s license, $75.

Gregory M. Neuhaus, 70, of Grand Island, speeding 16-20 mph over the limit, $125.

Benjamin T. Wright, 30, of Omaha, speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.

Deborah L. Galloway, 71, of Kilgore, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25; passing in the same direction, $25.

* Nebraska sees lowest May jobless rate in nation

(Posted 9:15 a.m. June 29)

Nebraska’s unemployment rate for May is 1.9 percent, according to the Nebraska Department of Labor. The rate is down 0.1 percentage points from the April rate of 2.0 percent and is down 0.2 percentage points from the May 2022 rate of 2.1 percent. 

Nebraska’s May unemployment rate is tied for lowest in the country with New Hampshire and South Dakota. At 2.1 percent, North Dakota and Vermont round out the top five states with the lowest unemployment.

Nevada had the highest unemployment rate in the country at 5.4 percent in May, with California at 4.5 percent and Delaware at 4.2 percent also among the highest rates in the country.

Brown County’s May unemployment rate came in just above the state average at 2.0 percent. Cherry County matched Brown County’s rate at 2.0 percent in May. Holt County had the lowest unemployment rate in the area at 1.5 percent, followed closely by Rock County at 1.6 percent.

Boone County and Chase County shared the lowest unemployment rate among Nebraska counties in May at 1.4 percent.

Keya Paha County had a 2.2 percent jobless rate in May. Boyd County matched the statewide average at 1.9 percent. Blaine County had the highest unemployment rate in the state in May at 3.8 percent.

“The preliminary May unemployment rate is a historical low for Nebraska,” said Commissioner of Labor John Albin. “The total nonfarm count of filled jobs is at a historical high at 1,044,702, surpassing the prior high count of filled jobs in November 2022 by 1,009.”

Nonfarm employment was up 1,985 over the month and up 18,549 over the year.  Private industries with the most growth from April to May were leisure and hospitality (up 1,783 jobs), private education and health services (up 1,141 jobs), and mining and construction (up 667 jobs). Private industries with the most over the year growth were private education and health services (up 6,376 jobs), leisure and hospitality service (up 4,950 jobs), and mining and construction (up 3,950 jobs).

The national unemployment rate for May is 3.7 percent, up 0.3 percentage points from the April rate of 3.4 percent.  This rate is up 0.1 percentage points from the May 2022 rate of 3.6 percent.

FUTURE HUSKER – Ainsworth senior Carter Nelson (center) watches a video with his parents Sandi (left) and Jake (right), and his teammates following his announcement of committing to the Nebraska Husker football team Wednesday.

* Nelson commits to the Huskers

(Posted 12:15 p.m. June 28)

“Let’s get to the point. We are staying home. Go Big Red.”

And with that, Ainsworth High School senior Carter Nelson, the state’s top-ranked recruit for the 2024 class, committed to Coach Matt Ruhle and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln football team.

With media outlets from across the state as well as teammates, family members and fans in McAndrew Gymnasium waiting to hear Nelson make his long-anticipated decision, Nelson made the announcement at noon Wednesday.

Nelson thanked the schools who had offered him scholarships, his family, and his coaches and teammates. Of more than 30 Division I offers, Nelson had narrowed his finalists to the Huskers, defending National Champion Georgia, Penn State and Notre Dame.

With Nelson committing to the Huskers, Ruhle has landed the five highest-rated in-state recruits for the 2024 class. Nelson led the Ainsworth Bulldogs to an 8-0 regular season and the school’s first playoff win in 2022, and will lead the Bulldogs into the 2023 season as a senior. He was first team All-State as a junior.

KBRB’s Cody Goochey was on site Wednesday, visiting with Bulldog coach Jesse Owen and providing the audio for Nelson’s announcement. The audio is located below.

Carter took time Wednesday to visit with Cody regarding his decision to choose the Huskers from among all the schools that had offered scholarships.

* Valentine soldier returned for interment from Korea

(Posted 10 a.m. June 27)

A Valentine soldier missing in action since 1950 was recently identified and has been brought home for interment.

On Dec. 2, 1950, Private First Class Dale Dewayne Thompson, age 18, was reported missing in action near the Chosin Reservoir in North Korea during a battle with enemy forces. Thompson was with the Heavy Mortar Company, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 7th Infantry Division, when he was reported missing.

His remains could not be recovered following the battle, and there was no evidence uncovered that he had been taken as a prisoner of war.

On July 27, 2018, North Korea turned over 55 boxes containing the remains of American service members killed during the Korean War. The remains were taken to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency laboratory in Hawaii for identification.

Using circumstantial and material evidence, scientists on Nov. 28, 2022, were able to identify PFC Thompson from among the remains turned over by North Korea.

In 2019, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency began disinterring 652 sets of unknown remains associated with the Korean War that had been buried at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, better known as the Punchbowl. The unknown remains were recovered from the Republic of Korea (South Korea) and Democratic Republic of Korea (North Korea) in the 1950s and 1960s, and were buried unknowns after they could not be identified by the traditional forensic processes available at the time.

Given the large number of remains, the DPAA began to disinter the remains in seven phases over a five to seven year period. The phases are based on the geographic region where the remains were recovered and other criteria that provides sequential logic to this complex identification process.

Each of the seven phases include unknowns recovered from North and South Korea. The phases are also balanced between sets of remains that are more complete, those that are made up of fewer remains, remains that are not well preserved, or those that have been commingled with other unknowns.

Using this process, PFC Thompson’s remains were identified Nov. 28, 2022. Thompson’s remains have been transported to Nebraska and were taken by procession Tuesday to the Sandoz Chapel of the Pines at Valentine. A graveside service is scheduled for 11 a.m. Friday, June 30, at the Mount Hope Cemetery.

Representing the U.S. Military, Col. Bryan Schott and Sgt. Michael Ybarra will attend the graveside service. On behalf of the 7th Infantry Division, Col. Schott will induct PFC Thompson into the Order of the Bayonet, which was originally established in the 1950s in Korea to recognize the 7th Infantry Division’s non-infantry soldiers serving in direct combat. PFC Thompson is also receiving a Purple Heart, which Col. Schott will present Friday.

Thompson is survived by cousins Betty Schroeder of North Platte, Pat Mundorf of Lincoln, Sharon Strombaugh of Lexington, and Sally Nelson of Salt Lake City, Utah; and nieces Connie Otterness of Vero Beach, Fla., Gayle Henderson of Goddard, Kan., Janice Enright of Cape Coral, Fla., and Cathy Duncan of Valentine.

* Brown County Sheriff’s Department weekly summary

(Posted 8:45 a.m. June 26)

JUNE 18

  • Responded to a report of a suspicious vehicle parked in the eastbound lane of Highway 20, near the intersection of 4th and Wilson Street. Contact was made with the driver, and no criminal activity was found at this time.
  • Responded to a report of a physical disturbance on 4th Street in Long Pine. No citations were issued at this time and parties were separated for the night.  Deputies provided a civil standby later in the day for subjects to obtain their property.
  • Provided a death notification.
  • Notified owner of loose livestock near intersection of 430th Ave and 885th

JUNE 19

  • Notified owner of loose livestock on Highway 7, near mile marker 40.
  • Received a report of barking dogs on Pine Street in Ainsworth. The owner was given verbal warning to correct the issue.

JUNE 20

  • Released an inmate from the Brown County Jail after they received a personal recognizance bond.
  • Responded to an in-home death.

JUNE 21

  • Responded to a report of an abandoned vehicle on 424th Contact was made with the owner who was issued a citation for fictitious plates and no registration.
  • Notified an owner of loose livestock near intersection of 430th Ave and 885th Rd again.
  • Responded to a report of a motorhome blocking an alleyway near Oak Street in Ainsworth. Contacted was made with the owners and it was moved.
  • Responded to a request for motorist assist on Highway 20, near mile marker 240, of a motorhome towing a vehicle that had fallen off the tow dolly, which resulted in ruined tires on the towed vehicle. A tow truck and a tire repair company were called to the roadside for assistance.
  • Issued a citation for failure to register for sex offender registry.

JUNE 22

  • Contacted the Nebraska Department of Transportation to remove a deer carcass from Highway 20, near mile marker 226.
  • Received a report of a pivot watering the roadway near the intersection of 882nd and Norden Ave. Contact was made with the owner to resolve the issue.
  • The Brown County Ambulance was paged to Long Pine and transported one patient to the Rock County Hospital.
  • Responded to a report of a physical disturbance in Johnstown. Parties were separated, and no citations were issued at this time.
  • The Brown County Ambulance responded to a 911 call from Johnstown and transported one patient to the Brown County Hospital.

JUNE 23

  • Responded to a report of vandalism that occurred to a mailbox in Long Pine.
  • During a traffic stop on Highway 20, near mile marker 246, a citation was issued to a Nebraska driver for speeding 80mph in a 65mph zone.

JUNE 24

  • During a traffic stop on Highway 20, near mile marker 248, a citation was issued for speeding 79mph in a 65mph zone.
  • During a traffic stop on Highway 7, near mile marker 42, a citation was issued for speeding 89mph in a 65mph zone.
  • Provided traffic control for an alumni parade.

WEEKLY SUMMARY

INCIDENT REPORTS:  13

PHONE CALLS:  94

911 CALLS:  4

VIN INSPECTIONS:  2

HANDGUN PURCHASE PERMITS:  0

* Traffic Accident

(Posted 8:15 a.m. June 26)

The Brown County Sheriff’s Department investigated a vehicle-deer accident that occurred June 10 on Highway 20.

According to the sheriff’s department report, at 4:31 p.m. June 10 on Highway 20 near Wood Lake, a 1964 Cadillac, driven by Dennis Janssen, 48, of Rushville, was traveling east when the vehicle struck a deer in the roadway.

When the vehicle was contacted by the responding officer it was being driven east with a passenger on the hood. The driver stated he was trying to get the vehicle to Ainsworth following the collision and the hood would not stay latched. The deputy assisted the driver with getting a ratchet strap to keep the hood down.

No persons were injured during the accident. Damage to the Cadillac was estimated at $2,000.

* Area students named to UN-L spring Deans’ List

(Posted 7:30 a.m. June 26)

More than 6,400 University of Nebraska–Lincoln students have been named to the Deans’ List for the spring semester of the 2022-23 academic year.

Area students named to the Deans’ List include:

Ainsworth

  • Megan Jo Appelt, senior, College of Education and Human Sciences, nutrition and health sciences.
  • Grant Taylor, freshman, College of Business, business administration.
  • Libby Wilkins, sophomore, College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, agricultural leadership, education and communication.
  • Samuel Duane Wilkins, senior, College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, agricultural economics; College of Engineering, agricultural engineering.

Long Pine

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

Bassett

  • Jillian Mckenna Buell, junior, College of Journalism and Mass Communications, advertising and public relations.

Wood Lake

  • Ty Schlueter, sophomore, College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, agribusiness.
  • Shyanne Dawn Urbin, junior, College of Engineering, biological systems engineering.

Stuart

  • Cameron Sattler, sophomore, College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, animal science and pre-veterinary medicine.
  • Morgan Wallinger, senior, College of Business, accounting and agribusiness.

Atkinson

  • Emma Alder, sophomore, Explore Center, pre-health.
  • Grace Alder, sophomore, College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, biochemistry.
  • Lindsey Kate Jelinek, senior, College of Education and Human Sciences, elementary education.
  • Luke Olson, sophomore, College of Business, accounting.
  • Will Thiele, senior, College of Education and Human Sciences, secondary education.

Valentine

  • Logan Michael Cate, senior, College of Business, supply chain management.
  • Nathan Miller, senior, College of Arts and Sciences, psychology.
  • Dillion Muirhead, senior, Hixson-Lied College of Fine and Performing Arts, emerging media arts.
  • Ryan OKief, junior, College of Business, finance.
  • Kaylee Wenig, sophomore, College of Architecture, architectural studies.

* Ainsworth Lions Club meeting notes

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

The Ainsworth Lions Club held its regular monthly meeting at 5 p.m. Monday in the Ainsworth Senior Center.  Club President Dale Hafer called the meeting to order with 15 members and 1 guest present. 

A “thank you” was extended to Lions Rita and Roland Paddock for providing a meal prior to the start of the meeting. Jessica Pozehl, Assistant Director of the Brown/Rock County Emergency Management Office, addressed the club regarding the creation of a volunteer Emergency Management Team to assist with major emergencies in the two-county area. Twelve to 15 volunteers are being sought who would be available to respond to assist in case of such an emergency.  Orientation and training would be provided by the Emergency Management Office. 

Thank you notes were received from the Brown County Hospital Employee Council for providing a meal during “Hospital Week” and from the Post Prom Committee for the donation to the Post Prom Party.  The Lions Club Family Picnic is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. July17 at East City Park.  In case of hot weather or rain, the alternate site will be the Ainsworth Community Schools cafeteria. The program will consist of the installation of officers and directors for 2023-24. 

The District 38-I Cabinet meeting was held at Grand Island June 3. The Nebraska Lions Foundation sponsored the NSAA All-Class High School Golf Tournament held on June 19-20, with 16 girls and 52 boys invited to participate. To assist the District 38-I Individual Assistance Fund, the Lions Club purchased lottery tickets, resulting in having a winning ticket in the amount $75, which will be donated to the Ainsworth Food Pantry.

Roland Paddock reported all supplies have been purchased and the club is prepared to serve the meal for the Ainsworth Alumni Banquet. Connie Lentz announced the ESU 17 School Health Checks will commence September 11, starting with at Cody-Kilgore. The Lions Club provides a camera used for visionary screening. Connie Lentz and Bill Lentz, as part of the ESU 17 Health Screening Team, will conduct the visionary screening.

* Commissioners hear request to replace bridge

(Posted 7 a.m. June 21)

A cabin owner in northeastern Brown County asked the Board of Commissioners Tuesday whether the county planned to replace a bridge over Pine Creek that washed out during the 2019 flooding.

Mike Wagoner said he was unable to access his cabin by vehicle since the bridge washed out during the flooding.

“We had repaired it a couple times ourselves prior to that,” Wagoner said. “We don’t have vehicular access to our cabin.”

Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin said the bridge was one of the oldest in the county.

“It was an old, unique bridge,” Turpin said. “It was some type of truss bridge. That bridge was never on the county’s bridge inventory. It is similar to the Camp Witness bridge. That wasn’t on our inventory either.”

Brown County Attorney Andy Taylor asked if there was a county road on both sides of the bridge or if a county road stopped at the bridge.

Turpin said he was not sure if there were any records that would show whether the road was a county road. After departing to research county maps, Turpin said there was nothing on the county’s old map indicating there was a dedicated county road at the site. He said the county’s newer map does show a road but it did not go past the creek.

Wagoner asked if the county would be able to receive reimbursement from FEMA to replace the bridge. Turpin said, since the bridge was not on the county’s inventory and had not been regularly inspected, he wasn’t sure if the county could be reimbursed for some of the cost to replace the bridge.

“One thing they look at for funding is how much traffic the bridge serves,” Turpin said.

The commissioners took no official action on the matter.

In other business Tuesday, Sheriff Brent Deibler met with the board regarding the need to make repairs to the foundation of the sheriff’s department building.

Deibler said the northwest corner of the basement was leaking water any time it rained.

“The last couple times it has rained it has flooded the floor of one room and into another room where we store evidence and files,” Deibler said. “I don’t want mold in there or to have our files ruined.”

Deibler said the leak was on the higher end of the foundation, and there was too much water that runs in to just be able to try and seal it from the inside.

The board discussed whether the entire foundation wall on the north side of the building needed to be repaired.

Commissioner Jeremiah Dailey said, “You just as well dig the whole wall up while they are here. I am afraid if we fix one spot water will just come in somewhere else.”

Commissioner Denny Bauer provided Deibler with contact information for Epps Foundation Repair of Lincoln. That company recently performed foundation seal work on the courthouse building, and Bauer said they did a nice job on the project.

Deibler said he would make contact with the company.

The county received just one bid after advertising for a new pickup for the sheriff’s department, and approved the bid of $64,935 from Ainsworth Motors for a 2023 Ford F-250 super duty pickup.

Deibler said the bid included a topper as there was equipment he planned to store in the vehicle, including a drone to assist in search and rescue situations.

The board approved a subdivision in Sections 2 and 3 of Township 28, Range 22. Attorney Todd Flynn said the subdivision involved two amenable parties and involved two corners on a pivot.

Taylor said, since both parties were in agreement on the subdivision, he saw no issue with the application.

Elaine Menzel, representing the Nebraska Association of County Officials, provided the board with an update of NACO services the county receives as a member.

Menzel said NACO has done a lot of lobbying with the Nebraska Legislature for rural counties, and opened up American Rescue Plan Act dollars for more generalized use by counties instead of that money having to be used for more narrow purposes. She reminded the board the ARPA dollars need to be allocated by counties by December 2024 and spent by 2026.

Menzel said the inheritance tax is a frequent topic NACO finds itself defending with the Legislature.

“There is concern the Legislature will try to decrease it or eliminate it,” Menzel said.

She said a constitutional amendment was introduced in the Legislature that would eliminate the inheritance tax if approved by voters, but the Legislature did not consider the measure.

Menzel said NACO purchased land in Ogallala for a west office and event center for the organization.

Commissioner Buddy Small thanked Menzel for NACO’s work advocating on behalf of counties.

“Every time I have ever called NACO for assistance, you have always been there to provide it,” Small said.

The commissioners approved a county burial application submitted by the family of the late Scott Trofholz. For county residents who do not have funds available to pay for their funeral, the county provides basic services.

Taylor said he believed the application was appropriate in this case, as there did not appear to be funds in the estate to cover the cost of burial.

The board discussed a request from a county taxpayer about brush and trees overhanging county roads that can damage high-profile vehicles. Small said the taxpayer wanted the commissioners to write a letter to the Legislature asking that the 8-foot requirement be increased for tree limbs and brush to be cleared above county roads.

Taylor said state statute requires trees to be trimmed up 8 feet, but the county could pass its own ordinance if it wanted trees to be trimmed higher than 8 feet.

Small said the concern was cattle pots hitting branches and getting torn up. Bauer said most farm implements were now much taller than 8 feet.

“It probably needs to be higher,” Bauer said. “If we do it, we should just pass it ourselves. It might take 10 years for the Legislature.”

Dailey said, if the trees are in the county’s right of way, then it was the county’s problem. If the trees were not in the right of way, then it was the responsibility of the landowner to take care of it.

The board placed the item on its July 5 agenda to potentially take action on increasing the 8-foot requirement.

The commissioners discussed repairs needed to the courthouse building to keep condensation from forming on the heating and air-conditioning system and sealing the roof to keep bats from getting into the building’s attic.

Small said, since the issues were not with the roof itself, he believed the county needed to hire a general contractor and provide copies of the report from KPE so the contractor knows what they will need to do.

The board determined the scope of the work would likely exceed $50,000 so the project would need to be advertised for bids. With local contractors booked up, the commissioners discussed whether they could find anyone to do the work, as it would not be a pleasant job.

In final action items Tuesday, the commissioners approved four transfers from the county’s miscellaneous general fund ahead of the closing of the 2022-23 fiscal year June 30. The transfers included $2,985 to the reappraisal fund, $29,500 to the sheriff’s fund, $620 to the district judge fund and $94 to the institution fund.

The board reviewed correspondence sent to the county, including an invitation to the Nebraska Department of Transportation District 8 highway program hearing scheduled for 8:30 a.m. Friday in the Ainsworth Conference Center.

The board also received quarterly water well sample tests from the Middle Niobrara Natural Resources District for an area near Jones Finishing. While the nitrate test showed an increase in nitrates from 3.0 parts per million in the previous quarter to 6.4 parts per million during the most recent test, the nitrate levels remain below the EPA standard of 10 parts per million.

Bauer said the nitrate levels can vary from sample period to sample period. He said the increase for this sample was nothing to be concerned about as long as the levels don’t continue to trend up.

During his report, Turpin said the roads department was doing its best to maintain some of the rougher roads with the lack of moisture. He reported the Meadville Avenue shoulder project is complete.

“That project turned out well,” Turpin said. “Seeding has been scheduled.”

He said the department planned to run some dirt down to the Elsmere Road to stabilize areas where sand is blowing. Within the next month, he said the department planned to work on the Calamus River bank stabilization project that had been approved by the Army Corps of Engineers.

The highway superintendent said he received a request to relocate a portion of Raven Road near Roger Brede’s old place. Turpin said the request was to move the road away from the current resident’s yard.

“I would like to move it as well,” Turpin said.

He said he had permission from property owner Tate Schipporeit to use whatever ground was needed to relocate the road. Turpin said moving the road might also eliminate some auto gates.

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

* Brown County Sheriff’s Department weekly summary

(Posted 9:15 a.m. June 19)

June 11

  • Responded to a report of a disturbance at a hotel in Ainsworth.  Parties were separated for the night.
  • Received report of suspicious activity occurring to a mailbox.  A statement was received, and this is an ongoing investigation.
  • Responded to a report of a herd of cattle on Highway 20 near mile marker 231.  Deputies provided traffic control until owners could remove the cattle from the roadway.
  • Received report of cattle out on Highway 7, near mile marker 17.  Owners were contacted to remove them from the roadway.
  • The Brown County Ambulance was paged to the Sheriff’s Office to transport an inmate to the Brown County Hospital.  The inmate was later placed into emergency protective custody and transported to a medical health facility for further treatment.
  • Received a report of juveniles riding unauthorized motor vehicles within city limits.  Deputies were able to issue verbal warnings later in the week.

June 12

  • Received a report of dogs at large on Walnut St in Ainsworth.  The owner was issued a citation for dogs at large, and a city ordinance violation for failure to license dogs.
  • Received a report of a loose horse in Long Pine.  Dispatch was able to contact the owner to get it back in.
  • Booked an inmate into the Brown County Jail for a five-day court commitment sentence.
  • Traveled to Keith County to pick up a subject to be extradited back to Brown County for an arrest warrant.  This subject was then booked into the Brown County Jail.
  • Received a complaint from the City of Ainsworth for a city ordinance violation of overgrown weeds at a business on 4th St.  A notice to correct was issued to the owner.
  • Received a report of a suspicious vehicle on 434th Ave.  No criminal activity was found at this time.

June 13

  • The Brown County Ambulance responded to a page at an assisted living facility in Ainsworth and transported one patient to the Brown County Hospital.
  • Received a city ordinance violation complaint regarding expired vehicle licenses on Hunt St in Ainsworth.  Notices to correct were issued to owners.
  • Provided motorist assist on Highway 183 with removing a flat tire.
  • Received a report of a pivot spraying the roadway near 888th Rd and 430th Ave intersection.  Dispatch contacted the owners to resolve the issue.
  • Received a complaint regarding a property dispute in rural Brown County.  Both parties were contacted and advised to contact the Brown County Attorney.
  • Responded to a report of male subjects driving unauthorized motor vehicles within Ainsworth City limits.  Subjects were issued verbal warnings for driving of the non-street legal dirt bikes.
  • The Brown County Ambulance responded to a 911 call from the Brown County Fairgrounds and transported one patient to the Brown County Hospital.  The ambulance crew later transported a flight crew from the airport to the hospital to pick up this patient.

June 14

  • Received complaints from the City of Ainsworth for ordinance violations involving overgrown weeds, incorrect parking, blocking the roadway, and removal of debris on 3rd, Harrington, and Fullerton Streets.  Notices to correct were issued to homeowners.
  • Received a request from the Department of Health and Human Services for a welfare check on 3 juveniles in Ainsworth.  All were located and reported safe at this time.

June 15

  • Responded to a burglary alarm on 4th Street in Ainsworth.  It was found to be a false alarm.
  • Booked an inmate into the Brown County Jail for a 6-day court commitment sentence.
  • The Brown County Ambulance responded to a page in Johnstown and transported one patient to the Brown County Hospital.  
  • The Brown County Ambulance responded to a page for a request to transfer a flight crew from airport to hospital to pick up a patient.

June 16

  • Responded to a report of a loose dog on Walnut Street.  The owner was issued a citation for dog at large and failure to license with the City of Ainsworth.
  • During a traffic stop on Highway 183, near mile marker 197, a citation was issued to a Nebraska driver for driving under the influence of alcohol.  The driver was booked into the Brown County Jail and released after posting bond.
  • Received two reports of harassment that occurred to female subjects in Ainsworth.  This is an ongoing investigation.
  • Issued a verbal warning to a juvenile operating an unauthorized motor vehicle within city limits.  The parents of the juvenile were contacted to pick up the juvenile and remove the vehicle.
  • The Brown County Ambulance responded to a 911 call in Ainsworth and transported one patient to the Brown County Hospital.

June 17

  • Released an inmate from the Brown County Jail after serving a 5-day court commitment sentence.
  • Responded to a report of a suspected intoxicated male driving a golf cart in Long Pine.  The driver was issued a verbal warning.
  • During a traffic stop on Highway 20, near mile marker 242, a citation was issued for speeding 67mph in a 45mph zone.

Weekly Summary
2– Burn Permit
30– Incident Reports Were Taken
171– Phone Calls Were Received
10– 911 Emergency Calls Received
7– Titles Were Inspected
1– Handgun Permits Applied For
4– Paper Services Were Served

June 4

  • Responded to a report of vandalism in Long Pine that occurred to a rental property.
  • During a traffic stop on Highway 20, near mile marker 248, a Nebraska driver was issued a citation for driving under revocation and booked into the Brown County Jail. Bond was posted and the subject was released.

June 5

  • Responded to a request for a welfare check in Ainsworth. The subject was found and reported safe at this time.

June 6

  • During a traffic stop on Highway 20, near mile marker 238, a citation was issued to a Texas driver for speeding 80mph in a 65mph zone.
  • The Brown County Ambulance transported one patient to the Brown County Hospital.
  • Responded to a report of cattle out East of Ainsworth on Highway 20. No cattle were found.
  • The Brown County Hospital transported a patient from rural Brown County to the hospital.

June 7

  • Responded to a report of animal neglect on Walnut St.
  • Responded to a report of an in-home death.
  • Responded to a report of a disturbance on Wilson St. No criminal activity was found at this time.

June 8

  • Received a report of a civil matter regarding no payment received for pasture rent.
  • Responded to a request for a welfare check in Ainsworth. Both individuals were found and reported safe at this time.
  • Received a traffic complaint of vehicles driving around barricades set up on Main St in Ainsworth.
  • Responded to a report of a disturbance in Hidden Paradise. One male subject was issued a citation for driving under the influence of alcohol and booked into the Brown County Jail.
  • During a traffic stop on Highway 20, near mile marker 237, a Nebraska driver was issued a citation for speeding 82mph in a 65mph zone.

June 9

  • Released an inmate from the Brown County Jail after bond was posted.
  • Received a report of a business in violation of city ordinances with overgrown weeds. A warning was issued to correct.
  • Booked an inmate into Brown County Jail for holding for another agency.
  • Responded to a request for motorist assist on Highway 20 after a vehicle struck a raccoon and it became lodged into the grill of the car.

June 10

  • Responded to a report of a domestic dispute on 3rd St in Ainsworth. One male subject had self-inflicted stab wounds and fled the scene. The male subject was later located walking westbound on Highway 20.  The Brown County Ambulance was paged to transport the subject to the hospital.  After medical clearance the male subject was booked into the Brown County Jail for false imprisonment, domestic assault, and terroristic threats.
  • Received a report involving a minor two vehicle accident that occurred in an alley behind a Main St business. One vehicle had minor damage that occurred to a taillight.
  • During a traffic stop on Highway 7, near mile marker 37, a Nebraska driver was issued a citation for driving under the influence of alcohol and refusal to submit to a pretest. The subject was booked into the Brown County Jail and released after posting bond.
  • Responded to a report of a westbound vehicle on Highway 20 with a male subject riding on the hood of the car. It was found the vehicle had struck a deer and the hood wouldn’t stay down while they were driving to town to obtain a ratchet strap.
  • Received a report of suspected child abuse/neglect in Ainsworth. This is an ongoing investigation.

Weekly Summary
3– Burn Permit
21– Incident Reports Were Taken
135– Phone Calls Were Received
14– 911 Emergency Calls Received
3– Titles Were Inspected
0– Handgun Permits Applied For
0– Paper Services Were Served

* Recent cases from Brown County District Court

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

During Brown County District Court Tuesday, Daniel Badillo-Acosta, age 33, of Ainsworth, entered guilty pleas to charges of attempted sexual assault of a child, a Class II felony; and child abuse, a Class IIIA felony. Badillo-Acosta will be sentenced in District Court Sept. 12.

Also in District Court, Zachary Frazier, 29, of Ainsworth, entered a plea of guilty to violating a condition of community supervision, a Class IV felony. Frazier will be sentenced July 11.

Dylan Henson, 31, of Kearney, appeared in District Court on a motion to revoke post-release supervision. Henson was ordered to appear back in District Court July 11.

Julia Perdomo, 45, of Aberdeen, S.D., appeared in District Court for a pre-trial conference. A jury trial was scheduled for Sept. 26 for Perdomo on charges of possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute, a Class IIA felony; and possession of marijuana more than 1 pound, a Class IV felony.

Jeremy White, 38, of Fargo, N.D., appeared in District Court Tuesday for sentencing after previously pleading guilty to three charges. White was fined $500 for possession of a controlled substance (THC), was fined $250 for carrying a concealed weapon, and was fined $100 for possession of drug paraphernalia.

* Goochey named KBRB Athlete of the Year

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

Ainsworth High School graduate Cameryn Goochey has been selected as the 2022-23 KBRB Athlete of the Year.

Goochey was a 12-sport athlete during her Bulldog career, receiving 11 varsity letters. She is the school’s record holder in volleyball in blocks in a game with eight, blocks in a season with 67, and blocks in a career with 142.

She was named Second Team All-Southwest Conference in volleyball and recently participated in the Southwest Conference All-Star game.

Volleyball coach Jeri Graff said, “Cam is the best hype person I have ever had the honor of being around. No matter the score, she was always everyone’s biggest cheerleader, on or off the court, often being a key part of swinging momentum back in our favor.

“Cam leads by example, working hard during practice. You could see her constantly analyzing her skills during drills and games to make sure she was doing things correctly and improving every time.”

A four-year letter winner in basketball, Goochey finished her career with 379 points, 212 rebounds and 136 steals. She was selected to participate in the Southwest Conference All-Star Game, the NCN All-Star Game and the Mid-Plains All-Star Game.

Basketball coach Julie Micheel said, “No one worked harder than Camy. She is a versatile player I could sub in anywhere and I knew she could do what we needed her to do. Her effort goes above and beyond any girl I have ever coached. She is also a huge cheerleader and encourager on the bench and on the court.”

Goochey qualified for the Nebraska State Track and Field Championships three times in the long jump, placing seventh in the 2022 Class C state long jump.

During her career, she scored 203 points for the Bulldog track and field team, earning points in the 100 meters, the 200 meters, the 400 relay, the long jump and the triple jump.

Track and field coach Jake Nelson said, “Cameryn was always the one getting around to as many events as she could to cheer on her teammates each meet. She was always willing to try any event the coaches suggested for her.”

Goochey was named Academic All-State numerous times during her high school career, and received the John Nelson Sportsmanship Award among many other accolades during the All-Sports Tailgate Party.

Goochey plans to attend Wayne State College in the fall majoring in physical education. For being named the Athlete of the Year, Goochey receives a $500 scholarship from KBRB Radio.

The KBRB Athlete of the Year is chosen by the head coaches, A-Club and high school faculty at Ainsworth Community Schools. Criteria include participation in multiple sports, lettering in two varsity sports for at least two years, coach-ability, leadership, character, service, classroom work, personal conduct and remaining drug and alcohol free.

Each head coach receives one vote, with the A-Club having one vote and the entirety of the high school faculty combining for one vote.

Cameryn discussed her career with KBRB’s Graig Kinzie. The conversation is located below:

* Council declares 436-acre area as blighted, substandard

(Posted 7 a.m. June 15)

Following public hearings Wednesday, the Ainsworth City Council approved declaring a 436-acre section of the city as blighted and substandard and adopted a general redevelopment plan for the area.

Bobbi Pettit with Five Rule Rural Planning told the council declaring the area blighted and substandard will make the city more competitive for funds at the state level.

“You can declare up to 50 percent of land in the city as blighted,” Pettit said. “I am a big believer in incorporating all rural Nebraska into this. You have to have this declaration to use Tax Increment Financing.”

Pettit said, to declare an area blighted and substandard, several criteria must be met, including the average age of structures in the area being at least 40 years old.

“The average here was 70 years,” Pettit said. “This is not about hammering people’s individual homes or businesses. It is just about having tools available to make improvements.”

Pettit said, through the study, she was able to prove four factors were present to meet the substandard criteria. For the blight portion, she said the area met criteria including having deteriorating structures, inadequate street and utilities, faulty lot layouts and the existence of conditions that would endanger life or property during a fire.

City Administrator Lisa Schroedl said declaring an area blighted and substandard would not impact the assessed value of any property or impact property taxes.

“You are not harming any of the residents by doing so,” Schroedl said. “We tried to include a lot of properties on the vacant property registry.”

The area designated for the classification includes both sides of North and South Main Street as well as substantial portions of the city south of Highway 20 east of Main Street.

Pettit said, in addition to the city being able to use Tax Increment Financing to assist redevelopment projects in the blighted and substandard area, individual property owners could also apply for micro-TIF projects if the city were to pass a resolution.

Tax Increment Financing can allocate the property tax generated from the added value of an improvement project and use the additional tax dollars over a 10 to 15-year period of time to assist in the project. Pettit said the micro-TIF program is popular in other communities she has worked with. She said there is no expiration date once an area is declared blighted and substandard.

Following the public hearing, the council approved the 436-acre area as blighted and substandard, and also approved a general redevelopment plan for the area. Pettit said, by approving the general plan, the council was not approving any specific project.

“This makes it smoother when you do have a project that you already have a general plan,” Pettit said.

In other business Wednesday, the council approved a recommendation from the Ainsworth Betterment Committee to provide $36,020 to the Ainsworth Golf Course to remove old playground equipment and place a new playground set near the clubhouse.

The equipment includes several slides, swings and climbing areas. Schroedl said, since ABC funds would be used for the entire project, there may be an issue with the project since the company supplying the equipment required half of the funds to be provided ahead of the project and ABC funds can only be used as reimbursement after a project is completed.

Councilman Brad Fiala said he was in support of the project, but he did not want to create a precedent by providing ABC funds ahead of a project’s completion.

Audience member Rod Worrell offered to pay the 50 percent up-front costs if the city would then provide him with reimbursement upon the project’s completion to avoid the issue of having to disburse funds before the project is completed.

The council approved the Ainsworth Betterment Committee’s recommendation and agreed to reimburse Worrell after the project is completed.

The council approved a contract with Myers Construction for the North Main Street water, sewer and paving project. Schroedl said the contract is the same as the bid on the project submitted by the company that was previously approved. The council tabled action on a contract with Olsson Associates for the engineering costs on the project.

The council also approved closing one block of North Main Street from Highway 20 to Fifth Street from 1:30 until 3:30 p.m. June 29 for an Ainsworth Public Library summer reading event.

Schroedl said large equipment would be parked in front of the library for the kids to interact with as part of the summer reading program. She said, if Myers Construction is ready to begin work on the water, sewer and paving project prior to that date, the library would use the Ainsworth Conference Center’s north parking lot for the event.

The council approved a request from the Brown County Historical Society to continue waiving city utilities for the Coleman House Museum should the museum be moved to the site of the current Dixon House Museum.

Schroedl said the historical society was still tossing around ideas after receiving interest from someone to purchase the site where the Coleman House Museum is located.

“They are looking at demolishing the Dixon House and moving the Coleman House to that site,” Schroedl said. “The Coleman House has had city utility costs waived for water, sewer and garbage.”

Fiala said the historical society does not have a lot of funding to work with so any help from the city would likely be appreciated.
The council approved the request should the Coleman House Museum be moved to the new site.

At the outset of Wednesday’s meeting, the council approved Mayor Joel Klammer’s appointment of Bruce Papstein and the reappointment of Dr. Mel Campbell and Councilman Shawn Fernau to represent the city on the Sandhills Care Center Board of Directors.

Papstein’s appointment to the board is a joint appointment between the city and the county, and the Brown County Commissioners had previously approved appointing Papstein to replace Phil Fuchs, who has served as the Care Center Board’s chair the past few years. Fuchs indicated his time on the board would end at the conclusion of his term June 30.

Following an executive session, the council authorized Klammer to sign documents as part of mediation for a negotiated settlement between the city and Brahmer Contracting for work done on an addition to the city streets shop.

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

* Care Center pays off line of credit with state funds

(Posted 10 a.m. June 13)

After receiving more than $320,000 in additional Medicaid reimbursement based off its most recent cost report, the Sandhills Care Center Board of Directors on Monday voted to completely pay off the principal it had borrowed from its line of credit to operate the nursing home.

Administrator Penny Jacobs said the $320,093 payment from the state of Nebraska was part of federal matching funds the state received to assist city or county government operated nursing care facilities that had more than 40 percent of residents receiving Medicaid assistance.

Outgoing Board Chairman Phil Fuchs said, while this was a one-time payment and the care center could not expect to receive this level of funding every year, the influx would allow the care center to both pay off the money it has used from its $450,000 line of credit and make some needed upgrades to the facility.

“This was an unexpected payment we received from the state of Nebraska,” Fuchs said. “I suggest we pay off the line of credit and put the other $117,000 in our interlocal account.”

Fuchs said the facility would need to upgrade its air-conditioning system, as it has experienced problems recently. He said the care center also needed to replace a commercial stove in the kitchen.

Jacobs said maintenance personnel from the care center and the Brown County Hospital were looking for a contractor to try and obtain quotes for repairing or replacing the air-conditioning system.

The care center had borrowed $202,170 from its $450,000 line of credit that had been established to allow the facility to operate until voter-approved bonds were collected. Board member Tom Jones agreed paying off the line of credit was the most responsible use for the additional state funding.

“There is no need to pay more interest than we have to,” Jones said.

After unanimously voting to pay off the line of credit, the board opted to keep the remaining balance in the facility’s operating account instead of the interlocal account. After paying off the line of credit, the facility has about $122,000 in its checking account and current accounts receivable.

During May, the Sandhills Care Center generated $235,056 in revenue with expenses of $255,414 for an operating loss for the month of $20,358.

Jacobs reported there are currently 27 residents in the care center, with 12 paying privately, 14 receiving Medicaid assistance and one receiving Medicare assistance. Of the 27 residents, 14 are residents of Ainsworth, three are from rural Brown County, one is from Long Pine, six are from Cherry County, two are from Rock County and one is from Keya Paha County.

Jacobs said the care center admitted three new residents since the previous board meeting. One resident had died, and another resident will be discharged soon.

She said the facility had hired two CNAs with another in the works, as well as a full-time RN who would start at the end of the month and another part-time RN.

She said one employee had been terminated since the previous meeting for policy violations.

Fuchs said he saw a number of residents at the carnival on Friday who seemed to be really enjoying themselves.

Jacobs said the residents have been on several outings recently.

“We take every opportunity we can to get the residents out and about,” Jacobs said.

She said the staff planned to take the residents back to the carnival Saturday, but with some thunderstorms in the area they instead took residents on a road trip to Valentine for ice cream.

The board Monday reviewed Medicaid reimbursement rates and the facility’s private pay rates.

Jacobs said the levels of care determined by the state for nursing home residents are changing in October. Instead of having 34 levels of care, the number of levels will be reduced to 25. She said while the facility may see slight increases or decreases in reimbursement rates based on the new levels of care, the reimbursement from Medicaid on average will be about $5 more per day per resident.

She said the reimbursement rates the care center receives from Medicaid will also be updated based off the facility’s 2022 cost report instead of the 2017 cost report.

She said the new reimbursement rates will take effect in July. She said the board needed to review its private pay rates to make sure they are in line with Medicaid rates.

“There will need to be changes in the private pay rates so they coincide with the state,” Jacobs said. “We will need to send notice out to families.”

Fuchs said, if the care center doesn’t keep its private pay rates at or above the Medicaid reimbursement rates, the care center was in danger of Medicaid cutting its reimbursement.

“We did just increase rates the first of the year,” Fuchs said. “I would like to see the rates stay about the same as Medicaid. I don’t want to see us go too much higher if we don’t have to.”

Board member Dr. Mel Campbell said the board has tried to keep private pay rates as reasonably close to the Medicaid reimbursement rate as it can.

The board voted to maintain private pay rates at $50 per day above what Medicaid reimburses the facility, keeping in line with what has been charged previously. Jacobs said she would calculate any changes to individual private pay rates based on the new levels of care the state has implemented.

Campbell said he would like to revisit the rates during the board’s August meeting and asked Jacobs to provide projections if the board decided to have private pay rates be $30 per day higher than the Medicaid reimbursement rate instead of $50 per day higher.

With several current and former employees in attendance, the board discussed hiring a consultant to review the facility’s employee protocols amid recent complaints.

Campbell said he contacted the Nebraska Healthcare Association to try and find a consultant to assist the board with reviewing the facility’s employee protocols and review whether those protocols were being followed.

He said Mark Iverson with The Warriors Mindset of Omaha was recommended as someone who could assist the care center with reviewing its employee policies and procedures.

Campbell said Iverson has 20 years experience as a nursing home administrator with a facility in Omaha, and agreed to assist the facility with a review at a cost of $1,600 plus mileage.

“He would review the records and policies and spend a day here consulting with the administration and employees,” Campbell said. “The purpose would be to determine if our policies are appropriate and if they are being followed. He would provide recommendations to the board.”

Former employee Stacie Goochey asked the board what would happen to employees who had already been fired and are suffering now.

“The employee policy manual says we are supposed to come to the board if we have issues,” Goochey said. “We came to the board, and nothing happens. The public needs to know what is happening if nothing is being done after hearing about issues in executive session.”

Another audience member asked if former employees would be interviewed by the consultant for their input on how policies and procedures were followed by the administration.

Campbell said he didn’t know exactly what Iverson’s methods would be in reviewing the facility’s protocols.

Board member Dennis Bauer, who replaced Buddy Small on the Board of Directors Monday, said the price to hire Iverson was reasonable and it sounded to him like a review was a good idea.

The board unanimously voted to hire Iverson to perform the review.

After stopping a back and forth between former employees and the administration that broke out, Fuchs said, “We are not going to argue about these issues in a public session. Any issues regarding personnel can be addressed in executive session.”

Fuchs asked how many people in the audience wanted to address the board in executive session regarding personnel issues. Seven audience members raised their hands and asked to have their concerns heard by the board.

The board entered into executive session, first with the administration team, then allowing each audience member who requested a discussion with the board to be heard in executive session.

No action was taken by the board following the lengthy executive session.

The next meeting of the Sandhills Care Center Board of Directors is scheduled for 5 p.m. July 10.

* School Board hears request to change alcohol policy

(Posted 7 a.m. June 13)

The Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education reviewed numerous school policies Monday and heard a request to consider changes to its drug and alcohol violation policy.

The board held public hearings on the district’s student fee policy and parent and family involvement policy to open the meeting. Superintendent Dale Hafer said no changes were being proposed to either policy. He said 134 students qualified for student fee waivers during the previous school year. The qualifications to have fees waived are the same as qualifying for the free or reduced school lunch program.

During the community input portion of Monday’s meeting, Clint Painter asked the board to consider making changes to the district’s drug and alcohol policy. He provided the board with the policies for several area schools, and said Ainsworth’s policy was the harshest for first offenses.

“We had a couple boys get in trouble, and I am not trying to get them out of trouble,” Painter said. “I am just asking you to look at the handbook on the alcohol policy. I would like you to look at using the NSAA calendar instead of the full calendar. A couple schools have a policy with punishment in the summer months, but not many.”

Painter said he was not trying to take away personal accountability.

“I am not trying to change what has already happened,” Painter said. “I am just asking you to look at the policy and maybe make some changes down the road. Some of these kids need us. These two seniors are going to lose out on five or six games. I am afraid they could just decide to quit, and they need that mentorship. Maybe we could put in a drug and alcohol class, and if the kids complete that it would lower the penalty.”

Hafer said, with the board reviewing the district’s handbook, it was an appropriate time to have the discussion.

“With the handbook and policy reviews, we take a look at how we do things,” Hafer said. “The last time there was an update to the drug and alcohol policy was 2019. We always want to hear from parents, patrons, coaches and business owners.”

Board President Brad Wilkins said, the last time the district revisited the drug and alcohol policy, there was input from coaches.

“It is good to take a look at it,” Wilkins said.

Since it was not an agenda item, the board could not fully discuss or take action.

Several people provided updates to the board Monday. Nebraska Rural Community Schools Association representative Jack Moles visited with the board about action taken by the Legislature that affects rural schools. He discussed several bills that passed that will result in additional state funding to rural schools and relief for property taxpayers, including $1,500 per student in foundation aid from the state and increased assistance for special education costs.

Jennifer Hitchcock thanked the board for sponsoring her enrollment in the KBR Leadership Academy.

“I learned a lot about myself and the area,” Hitchcock said. “Thank you for letting me be a part of the academy.”

Hitchcock said she was able to incorporate some of the things she learned during the academy into her classroom, as well as bring in leaders from the area to visit with students on opportunities in the KBR area.

Board member Jessica Pozehl said, “I hope we can sponsor a faculty member or someone from the office each year. It is great for professional development. It helps us develop our own leaders.”

Amanda Ganser provided the board with a tour of the school’s new web site. Located at the same web address, Ganser said the new site will be more user-friendly for staff to post updates. She walked the board through updated features and other changes from the district’s previous web site.

Hafer said, “We want this site to be the one-stop shop for people to get all the information they need.”

The superintendent said the cost to update the web site was about $9,000, which the district paid for using federal ESSER funds.

Ganser said the new site also included a new mobile app that patrons can download for easy access to information and updates from the school.

During his report, Hafer said he was getting ready to begin work on the 2023-24 school budget. “We should see a significant reduction in property tax asking because we are finally getting some state aid again,” Hafer said.

Hafer said the new legislation passed capping the amount a district can increase its budget should not be an issue, as the district already puts together a conservative budget.

Hafer reported Guarantee Roofing is working on a section of the district’s roof. While on site, the superintendent said the company noticed two additional sections of the building complex’s roof sustained wind damage. Repairing those sections of roofing would be covered by the district’s insurance policy.

“There was about $100,000 to $120,000 worth of roof repairs due to wind damage,” Hafer said.

The superintendent said Dan Morrell and crew have started replacing the boiler in the school. Hafer said, when the old boiler was torn out, they saw it had been close to failing so the board made a good decision to replace it.

In action items Monday, the board approved increasing the price for student breakfast and lunch due to rising food costs. Breakfast prices will increase from $1.75 to $1.90 for the 2023-24 school year. Elementary lunches will increase from $3.15 to $3.35, while middle school and high school lunch prices will increase from $3.30 to $3.55. Hafer said between 46 percent and 47 percent of the district’s students income-qualify to receive either free or reduced-price meals.

The board approved paying invoices for the new football and track storage building at East City Park using depreciation funds. Hafer said the steel building would cost the district between $37,000 and $40,000 to construct. He said the Booster Club would take over from there, assisting in the cost to finish the inside of the building.

The board approved a contract for Joyce Eurit for an open special education position for the 2023-24 school year, and approved an option enrollment request from Melissa Stewart to allow her daughter Alaina to option out to the Rock County Public School District.

The board approved minor updates to the student-parent handbook and teacher and faculty handbook for the 2023-24 school year.

The board approved first readings of a policy revision regarding assignment of new students and updates from the Nebraska Association of School Boards.

Prior to the regular meeting Monday, the board held the second of its required Americanism Committee meetings.

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

* Ribfest recognizes top ‘smokers’ in the region

(Posted 7 a.m. June 12)

Ed Schukei and Jenny Denaeyer took home the top awards from Saturday’s Ribfest hosted by the Ainsworth Volunteer Fire Department. Denaeyer’s “Roll 4 Smoke” entry won the pellet grill division, and Schukei’s “Halsey Hillbilly” entry won the top prize for traditional smokers.

Ashley Babcock of Bassett took second place in the pellet grill division, with Casey Kettleborough of St. Paul third.

Trent Kinney of Ainsworth finished second in the traditional smoker division, with Makenna Koch of Ainsworth in third.

The ribs for the annual Ribfest event were donated by GJW LLC. Proceeds from the event benefitted the Ainsworth Volunteer Fire Department.

* Area students named to Northeast CC academic lists

(Posted 4 p.m. June 9)

Northeast Community College has released the President’s Honor List and Deans’ Honor List for both full and part-time students for the Spring 2023 semester.

To be named to the President’s Honor List, students must earn a grade point average of 4.0 and be enrolled for at least 12 credit hours. Some 187 students made the President’s Full-time Honor List this past spring semester. Students named to the Deans’ Honor List must have earned a grade point average of 3.75 or above and be enrolled for at least 12 credit hours. Two-hundred-twenty-four students were named to the Deans’ Honor List.

Another 343 students named to the President’s Part-Time list attained a 4.0 grade point average while taking at least six credit hours, and 104 students named to the Deans’ Part-Time list earned a grade point average of 3.75 or above while taking at least six credit hours.

Area students named to the Deans’ List at Northeast include:

PRESIDENT’S HONOR LIST – Full-Time, Spring 2023
Ainsworth – Madelyn Goochey.
Atkinson – Ellie Burkinshaw, Reghan Kerkman.
Bassett – Jade Johnson.
Johnstown – Kerstyn Held.
Newport – Edward Reynolds.
Springview – Ryan Painter.
Wood Lake – Holden Mundorf.

DEANS’ HONOR LIST – Full-time, Spring 2023
Atkinson – Nacesha Zahnd.
Bassett – Whisper Welton.
Newport – Heidi Gonzalez.
Stuart – Wade Paxton, Lexi Schroder.
Valentine – Wyatt Barnes, Becca McGinley.

PRESIDENT’S HONOR LIST – Part-time, Spring 2023
Ainsworth – Cameryn Goochey, Makenna Pierce, Emma Sears, Dakota Stutzman.
Atkinson – Leah Jockens, Abigail Mathis, Maci Nemetz, Madeline Rentschler.
Bassett – Brooklyn Buell, Kayla Emerson, Olivia Micheel, Mariah Ost, Gracie Swanson.
Long Pine – Emily Coble.
Naper – Paige Drueke, Kaylee Hinton.
Spencer – Amelia Hoffman, Elizabeth Kersch.
Springview – Heather Hespe.
Stuart – Savannah Kramer, Lacey Paxton, William Paxton.

DEAN’S HONOR LIST – Part-Time, Spring 2023
Ainsworth – Lauren Ortner.
Bassett – Adisyn Anderson, Tatelyn Smith.
Naper – Jacob Corrado.
Springview – Tate Miller.
Stuart – Andrew Yemma.

* Traffic Accident

(Posted 8 a.m. June 8)

The Brown County Sheriff’s Department investigated a two-vehicle accident that occurred May 28 in Ainsworth.

According to the sheriff’s department report, at 6:50 p.m. May 28 at the Subway parking lot, a 2014 Ford F-150, driven by April Wickett, 47, of Laurel, was backing from the parking lot and struck a parked 2008 Jeep Grand Cherokee, owned by Elaine Haszard of O’Neill.

No injuries were reported. Damage to each vehicle was estimated at $1,500.

* Council approves Main Street closure for carnival

(Posted 1:45 p.m. June 7)

The Ainsworth City Council met for a brief special session Wednesday, approving a resolution to close Main Street beginning on Thursday evening and continuing through Monday morning for the annual D.C. Lynch Carnival.

City Administrator Lisa Schroedl said the D.C. Lynch rides typically show up late Thursday night, then pack up and leave early Monday morning following the closing of the carnival Sunday night.

The resolution includes a detour route for Highway 7 traffic through Ainsworth. The detour route will take traffic from Highway 20 south on Pine Street to Road 877 and then west to Highway 7 south of Ainsworth. Schroedl said the detour route was the same one the city plans to use when Main Street is renovated in 2024 by the Nebraska Department of Transportation.

Councilman Brad Fiala said, “This should give us a good indication on how this detour route will work for next year.”

In addition, all vehicles are asked to be moved off Main Street Thursday night. Vehicles also need to be moved off Third Street from Main Street to the alleys east and west, as that portion of Third Street is utilized by the D.C. Lynch Carnival. Third Street will also be closed Saturday evening one block east of Main Street in front of the Ainsworth Fire Hall for the annual Ribfest event hosted by the Ainsworth Volunteer Fire Department.

Anyone with questions on the detour route or parking restrictions may contact the city office.

The council will meet for its regular June meeting at 5 p.m. June 14.

* Commissioners hold hearing on land access request

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

Several neighboring property owners were in attendance Tuesday as the Brown County Commissioners held a public hearing on a landlocked parcel in southwestern Brown County previously owned by the state.

Grant Kobes purchased the former Long Lake State Recreation Area from the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission and has attended several commissioner meetings to discuss accessing the property.

County Attorney Andy Taylor opened Tuesday’s hearing stating Kobes had formally filed a petition with the county for an Isolated Lands Easement. Per state statute, the county is responsible for providing access to property. Taylor said Kobes is formally asking the county to build an access road to his property. The cost to do so would be the responsibility of Kobes.

Greg Villwok, who owns property south of the site, said his family ranches to make a living.

“When folks from Omaha come in, they pay more for land than what we can pay for it as working land,” Villwok said.

He said he did not want an access road to the site going through his property, and he asked Kobes if he knew when he purchased the property that access would be an issue.

Kobes said the Game and Parks Commission initially indicated there was an easement in place for the public to access the site. However, Kobes said when the property sold and the site was no longer a state recreation area, the easement in place since the 1930s went away and he has been unable to obtain a new easement privately.

“The previous access point is underwater,” Kobes said. “I am happy to try and make it work well for everyone.”

Neighboring property owner Tom Milligan asked Kobes if he simply planned to turn around and sell the property after forcing the county to provide access.

Kobes said he planned to use the property himself recreationally, and had no plans to sell.

“I would like to build a cabin there at some point,” Kobes said. “I would like to clean up the property and maintain it better than the state did. But to have any taxable value, I need access to it.”

The site includes 35 land acres, with the remainder of the 80-acre parcel covered by Long Lake. The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission did not pay property taxes on the parcel. Kobes is responsible for paying property tax on the value of the property.

Paula Peters asked if the county would have to maintain the road once it is built.

Taylor said Kobes would bear all costs for the engineering and construction of the road, and the county would be responsible for some ongoing maintenance.

“One requirement of the state statute is that section lines be followed unless a landowner provides permission,” Taylor said. “After we take public comment, the commissioners will make a decision on where they think a road would work best. Then an engineer will come in to determine if that route is feasible.”

Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin said it may not be feasible for the roads department to use section lines to provide access to the property.

Taylor recommended the commissioners table the hearing until a future meeting, as he is required to notify all landowners who may be affected by the access issue. While most neighboring property owners received notice, Taylor said one potential site for access to the property is adjacent to land owned by the state of Nebraska. He encouraged the board to hold another hearing so he could provide notice to the state to offer the chance to comment.

The commissioners, with Board Chairman Buddy Small absent Tuesday, approved continuing the hearing during the board’s Aug. 1 meeting.

In other business Tuesday, the commissioners approved making a $175,396 payment on the county’s share of the Meadville Avenue bridge across Sand Draw Creek using American Rescue Plan Act funds. The board debated using the federal ARPA funding to make the payment or making the payment from the county’s inheritance tax fund.

Turpin said a payment of more than $60,000 had previously been made. The county is responsible for 20 percent of the total cost of the bridge project, which will amount to approximately $400,000 of the $2 million project.

Turpin reported the roads department has finished shoulder work on the new Meadville Avenue asphalt from the irrigation district canal north to Road 880, and had also completed shoulder work from Road 883 to the south side of the Sand Draw Creek bridge site. Shoulder work continues from Road 880 to Road 883, then the department will work on shoulders from the Sand Draw Creek bridge site north to the end of the asphalt.

Turpin said his budget request for the 2023-24 fiscal year would increase from the current year.

“There are a lot of things we need to get done, and the cost of materials is high,” Turpin said. “I just want you to be prepared.”

Commissioner Jeremiah Dailey said the roads department budget was cut by $90,000 for the current fiscal year.

The board approved making a $2,228,641 payment to Western Engineering for the Meadville Avenue asphalt project. The total cost of the project is $2.55 million, so Tuesday’s payment represented the lion’s share of the project. The county took out bonds at less than 1 percent interest to pay for the project over time.

The commissioners approved making an $8,966 interest only payment on the Meadville Avenue asphalt bond, and approved a $212,893 payment on the Brown County Hospital addition bond. When the hospital addition bond payments are complete, the commissioners plan to pay off the Meadville Avenue bonds over time through a property tax levy similar to what is being collected to pay for the hospital addition.

BKR Extension Educator Hannah Smith presented the board with the 2023-24 budget proposal for the Extension office. She said the budget request increased by $100 from the current year to $82,500. Brown County pays for 42 percent of the Extension office budget, with Rock County responsible for 33 percent and Keya Paha County paying 25 percent.

Smith told the board the Extension office may finish the current fiscal year with a $12,000 budget surplus due to being short-staffed. She said any surplus from the current fiscal year would be sent back proportionally to each county.

“We have never been at full staff in my four years here,” Smith said.

She said she was hopeful the University of Nebraska would be able to hire an additional Extension educator for the BKR office after relaxing some of the education requirements for the current open position.

The board also received an annual budget request from the Ainsworth Public Library in the amount of $11,000, which was equal to the current year’s allocation.

The commissioners acknowledged both requests. Action will not be taken until the board approves the overall 2023-24 fiscal year budget for the county in September.

The board approved continuing its membership with the Central Nebraska Economic Development District at a cost of $1,496, which is a slight decrease from the previous year and is based on the county’s census.

The board also approved a $500 transfer from the county’s miscellaneous general fund to the district judge fund.

The board received a letter from the Nebraska Department of Veterans Affairs acknowledging that Jake Graff meets the requirements and is eligible to serve as the veterans services officer for Brown, Rock and Keya Paha counties.

Prior to adjourning, the commissioners held an executive session to discuss job performance.

The next meeting of the Brown County Commissioners is scheduled for 1:15 p.m. June 20.

* Brown County Sheriff’s Department weekly summary

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

May 28

  • The Brown County Ambulance transported one patient from Woodlake, NE to the Brown County Hospital.
  • Responded to a report of animal neglect on Walnut St in Ainsworth. No animals were found in distress at this time.
  • Responded to a report of reckless driving of an unauthorized motor vehicle within city limits of Long Pine. The driver was issued a verbal warning.
  • Responded to a report of a one vehicle accident in a business parking lot in Ainsworth. No injuries were reported, and the vehicle had minor damage.
  • Responded to a report of a verbal disturbance on Walnut Street in Ainsworth. No citations were issued at this time.
  • Two warnings for speeding were issued on this day.

May 29

  • Received a report of a stranded motorist approximately 22 miles South on Highway 7. Fuel was taken to the motorist.
  • Received a report of a barking dog on Walnut St. A written warning was issued to the owners.
  • The Brown County Ambulance provided lift assistance to an individual in Ainsworth, and no transport was needed at this time.
  • Three citations and two warnings were issued for speeding on this day.

May 30

  • The Brown County Ambulance transferred a flight crew to the Brown County Hospital to pick up a patient. Other ambulance crew members provided standby for the Rodeo Bible Camp in Johnstown multiple days this week.
  • Received a tip from the Nebraska Crime Stoppers report line.

May 31

  • Received a report of harassment in Ainsworth. A written statement was received.
  • Released an inmate from the Brown County Jail after they posted bond.

June 1

  • Issued two city ordinance violation warnings to property owners for overgrown weeds and removal of debris.

June 2

  • Provided traffic control near the intersection of Moonlake Road and Highway 20 for a cattle crossing.
  • The Ainsworth Fire Department responded to a small structure fire in Ainsworth. It was quickly extinguished.
  • Provided a welfare check on a male subject in Ainsworth. He was reported safe at this time.
  • During a traffic stop on Highway 7, a citation was issued for speeding 80-mph in a 65-mph zone.
  • Received reports of cattle out on Wilson Street and South Pine Ave. Owners were called and removed them from the roadway.

June 3

  • The Brown County Ambulance transported a patient in Ainsworth to the Brown County Hospital.
  • During a traffic stop on Highway 20, a citation was issued for misuse of a school permit.

Weekly Summary
18 – Incident Reports Were Taken
120 – Phone Calls Were Received
16 – 911 Emergency Calls Received
 0- Titles Were Inspected
 1- Handgun Permits Applied For
 4- Paper Services Were Served

Monthly Summary for May
97-Incident Reports
642-Phone Calls
45-911 Calls
18-Vin Inspections
5-Handgun Permits
20-Paper Services Served

* Lions Club Board receives new officer slate

(Posted 3 p.m. June 5)

During its recent meeting, the Ainsworth Lions Club Board of Directors will welcome Steve Dike as its incoming club president for the 2023-24 year. Jerry Ehlers reported the slate of elected officers for the year, with Dale Hafer moving to the past president role for 2023-24.

Other officers elected were Treasurer-Phil Fuchs; Tail Twister-Vance Heyer; Lion Tamer-Rita Paddock; Membership-Bill Lentz; and Directors-Roland Paddock, Roger Lechtenberg, Connie Lentz, Mike Schrad.

The President-Elect, Secretary, and Recording Secretary positions remain unfilled. The results were reported to Lions Club International on May 1. Ehlers advised that Lions Club International will increase the dues for 2023-24. Therefore, the dues for 2023-24 will be $68, with $42 for a spouse. 

Karen O’Hare, representing the Ainsworth Child Development Center, presented an update of the status of the project to establish a daycare center in Ainsworth. Vance Heyer reported that the presentation of seedlings in recognition of Arbor Day was held on April 28 at McAndrew Elementary School. Heyer was assisted by Mirya Hallock in the distribution of seedling trees to 33 fourth-grade students. Since the seedlings were provided by the Middle Niobrara Natural Resources District, two representatives were present to demonstrate the proper procedures for planting the seedlings.   

Marcus Fairhead reported that 12 Lions Club members assisted with an afternoon set up for the tailgate party. Twenty Lions members helped with the serving that evening. Connie Lentz reported that the Highway 20 Roadside Cleanup had 10 Lions members participating under extremely windy conditions. 

Mirya Hallock presented information regarding the “Screening America Program” being hosted by the Brown County Hospital.  The Lions Club will provide 25% of the cost of the screening. 

The District 38-I Individual Assistance Fund lottery tickets were purchased by the Lions Club.   Should the club be successful in having a winning ticket, a club drawing would be held, with any cash prize donated to the Ainsworth Food Pantry.  

The Lions Club prepared and served a meal to approximately 75 hospital staff on May 10 in recognition of Hospital Employee Week, with nine Lions Club members participating, along with three Lions Club spouses.  Evan Evans advised that additional playground borders will be picked up in Kansas City this summer.  No additional rubber will be needed.

* Area students named to UNK Dean’s List

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

The University of Nebraska at Kearney announced students who earned a place on the dean’s list for the spring 2023 semester.

Students who are on the dean’s list must have completed 12 credit hours or more of classes with a 3.5 grade-point average or better on a 4.0 scale.

Area students named to the dean’s list for the spring are:

Ainsworth – Haley Schroedl, Raven Stewart and Tate Fernau.

Newport – Cora Hemmer.

Purdum – Elizabeth Smith.

Wood Lake – Lauren Ferguson.

Stuart – Jordyn Laible.

Atkinson – Alexis Monasterio and Kelsi Williams.

Butte – Heather Atkinson.

Valentine – Rhiannon Painter and Elli Springer.

* Portions of Meadville Avenue to close Monday

(Posted 8 a.m. June 1)

Brown County Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin reported portions of Meadville Avenue will be closed beginning Monday to allow the roads department to perform shoulder work in areas of Meadville Avenue where the asphalt was replaced.

Turpin said the roads department will begin hauling material to the west shoulder of Meadville Avenue, and will close 1 mile of the road at a time while performing shoulder work at the site.

The first closure will occur from the intersection of Road 879 to Road 880. Work will continue to progress northward to Road 883.

Turpin advised motorists to use alternate routes including 430th Avenue and 432nd Avenue until the shoulder work is completed.

* Kozisek receives law degree

(Posted 7 a.m. June 1)

Conner Kozisek received his Juris Doctorate degree from the New York University School of Law May 18. Degrees were awarded in Madison Square Garden.

Kozisek, a 2013 graduate of Ainsworth High School and the son of Mark and Joni Kozisek of Ainsworth, will begin a two-year fellowship with the Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights, focusing on voting rights issues.

* Traffic Accident

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

The Brown County Sheriff’s Department investigated a one-vehicle accident that occurred Wednesday, May 24, on Highway 183.

According to the sheriff’s department report, at 11:20 p.m. May 24, a 2000 Kenworth semi, driven by Jerald Olson, 33, of Colome, S.D., was traveling north near milepost 207 when the semi struck debris from a guard rail that was in the roadway.

The sheriff’s department determined the debris was in the roadway due to a vehicle striking the guardrail moments earlier.

No injuries were reported. Damaged to the Kenworth was estimated at $1,500.

* Brown County Sheriff’s Department weekly summary

(Posted 8:15 a.m. May 31)

May 21

  • Issued two warnings for speeding, and one warning for improper load securement. During another traffic stop on Highway 20, near mile marker 235, a citation was issued for speeding 78mph in a 65mph zone.
  • Received a report of harassment occurring to an Ainsworth individual. They were encouraged to provide written statements with details of the events, call at time of occurrence, and apply for a protection order.
  • Responded to a report of a loose dog on 1st The dog was taken to the Ainsworth Vet Clinic and later claimed by its owner.

May 22

  • Received a report of ongoing harassment and suspected theft. This is an ongoing investigation.
  • Issued warnings to city property owners with overgrown yards. We appreciate everyone’s hard work to correct these issues!
  • Received a report of consumption of open alcohol containers in East City Park. This is an ongoing investigation.
  • Responded to a report of a reckless driver on Highway 20. No citations were issued at this time.
  • Responded to a report of a barking dog on Ash St in Ainsworth. The owner was called and asked to resolve the issue.
  • Provided traffic control near the Highway 20 and 183 Junction until owners could arrive to corral their livestock.
  • Received a report of stolen lawn mowers. This is an ongoing investigation.
  • Responded to a report of a barking dog on Walnut St. Deputies contacted the owner who resolved the issue.
  • Responded to a report of an individual blowing their grass clippings onto Walnut Street. The issue was resolved.
  • Responded to a report of unauthorized juveniles riding a motorized scooter on Fullerton St. Juveniles were not found.

May 23

  • Received statements from an individual regarding harassment from a neighbor. This is an ongoing investigation.
  • Responded to a report of a barking dog near the 200 Block of 6th No barking was heard at this time. Contact was made with suspected owner regarding the complaint.

May 24

  • Responded to a report of an individual in a mental heath crisis. The individual was found to be in another county and in medical care.
  • Responded to a report of juveniles without helmets driving a motorized 4-wheeler near East City Park. Contact was made and a verbal warning was issued.
  • Responded to a report of a loose dog near Rodeway Inn. The dog was taken to the Ainsworth Vet Clinic.
  • The Brown County ambulance responded to an Ainsworth address and transported one patient to the Brown County Hospital.

May 25

  • Responded to reports of a vehicle accident occurring on Highway 183 near the Brown and Keya Paha County line Niobrara River bridge. One vehicle had struck the guardrail on the bridge causing debris to scatter on the roadway.  A second vehicle struck the debris causing both vehicles to be towed from the scene.  Both vehicles had single occupants; one driver was transported to the Brown County Hospital.  This is an ongoing investigation.
  • Received a report of vandalism that occurred to the public bathrooms at the East City Park. This is an ongoing investigation.
  • Received a report of harassment. This is an ongoing investigation.
  • Received a report of trespassing on private property in the Hidden Paradise area. Some damage did occur to the property, after review of the security footage.  This is an ongoing investigation.
  • Responded to a report of a disturbance on Main Street. Three juvenile subjects were issued verbal warnings.

May 26

  • Responded to a burglary alarm on Main Street. It was found to be a false alarm.
  • Served an arrest warrant for possession of a firearm by a prohibited person and use of a firearm to commit a felony on a male subject. The subject was booked into jail, and later posted bond and released.
  • Released a second inmate from the Brown County Jail after posting bond.

May 27

  • Provided traffic control near the 183 and 20 Highway Junction for a cattle crossing.
  • Provided traffic control for a funeral procession.
  • Ainsworth Fire Department was paged for a vehicle fire on Cedar St in Ainsworth.
  • One speeding citation was issued for 16-20mph over the posted speed limit on Highway 20. 3 warnings were issued for speeding, 1 for defective vehicle lighting, and 1 for driving left of center on this day.

Weekly Summary
1– Burn Permit
35– Incident Reports Were Taken
201– Phone Calls Were Received
7– 911 Emergency Calls Received
6– Titles Were Inspected
0– Handgun Permits Applied For
1– Paper Services Were Served

* Traffic Accident

(Posted 7:30 a.m. May 31)

The Brown County Sheriff’s Department investigated a one-vehicle accident that occurred Wednesday, May 24.

According to the sheriff’s department report, at 11:20 p.m. on May 24, a 2007 Dodge Durango, driven by Duane Reposa, 80, of McCook, was traveling south on Highway 183 near milepost 207 when the vehicle crossed the center line and struck a cable guardrail on the east side of the highway. Reposa was transported by ambulance to the Rock County Hospital for treatment of injuries suffered during the accident.

While a damage estimate was not determined, the vehicle became inoperable following the accident.

* Buell to serve internship with Rock County Foundation

(Posted 7 a.m. May 31)

For the fifth consecutive year, Nebraska Community Foundation announced a new class of Hometown Interns who will continue the program’s success.

This summer’s group of interns includes 21 college students serving NCF affiliated funds in 15 different Nebraska communities, including Jillian Buell, a recent Rock County High School graduate who will serve an internship with the Rock County Community Foundation.

“A common phrase I hear from rural community residents is that ‘there is a lot here, you just have to look,’ or ‘it’s not the place, it’s the people,’” Rachel Orth, who is a returning intern to the Keith County Foundation, said. “Prior to this internship, I brushed these sayings off, but because of this experience, every place I visit isn’t just some other town, and every conversation I have with others isn’t just about pleasantries and small talk, but instead they are a treasure trove for goodness and individuality. Through my work as the hometown intern coordinator, I want to help others realize, and be courageous in sharing, Nebraska’s hidden gems.”

Interns are brought right into the action, helping their foundations map assets and plan for the future. For many students, the experience led to the realization that they can do the work they love in the places they call home, with many saying they see their communities in a new light. Together, these efforts are helping people-attraction efforts across the state. At least nine previous interns have returned to Greater Nebraska after graduation to pursue a future in the places they love.

Emily Morrow credits her internship with reinforcing her inclination to return home. Through her experience working with the O’Neill Community Foundation Fund, she said she discovered her impact in Holt County would be more tangible than if she applied her talents in a larger community like Lincoln, Omaha, or beyond. She now works as West Holt Medical Services’ Marketing Director.

“My internship solidified my purpose in coming back,” Morrow said. “I’m very excited. I just got a house in O’Neill. I want to plant my roots and I’m not afraid to say it.”

Hometown Interns work with local NCF affiliated funds on a variety of projects tailored to their community and the interests and skillsets of the interns. While the specific tasks and projects will vary from one Hometown Internship to another, NCF will provide numerous opportunities for interns to connect throughout the summer to give them space to learn from each other, share ideas and foster appreciation for their hometowns while contributing to community development efforts at the local and statewide level.

“Hometown Internships are intended to connect young adults with the goodness and abundance that exists in their hometown,” said NCF President and CEO Jeff Yost. “Their work is to discover, through conversations and relationship building, all of the assets, skills and talents in their homeplace and begin to help other community members appreciate this abundance and use it to build communities of choice for every generation.”

* Councilman charged with firearms-related offenses

(Posted 3:15 p.m. May 30)

A 47-year-old Ainsworth man was arrested Friday on 10 felony charges relating to firearms.

Shawn S. Fernau was charged with five counts of first offense aiding and abetting possession of a firearm by a prohibited person, each a Class 1D felony. He was also charged with five counts of committing a felony that involved a firearm, each a Class 1C felony.

According to Brown County Sheriff Brent Deibler, an ongoing investigation led to search warrants being served Friday at 160 S. Ulrich St., a home owned by Fernau, and a commercial property at 116 W. Second St., also owned by Fernau.

The Brown County Sheriff’s Department, Rock County Sheriff’s Department and Nebraska State Patrol executed the search warrants. Fernau was arrested following the searches and booked into the Brown County Jail. He posted 10 percent of a $50,000 bond Friday and was released.

Fernau’s first appearance in Brown County Court has not yet been scheduled.

Fernau is a current Ainsworth City Councilman, elected to office in 2020. He also serves on the Sandhills Care Center Board of Directors.

* State’s April jobless rate second lowest in nation

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

Nebraska’s preliminary unemployment rate for April is 2.0 percent. The rate is down 0.1 percentage points from the March rate of 2.1 percent and is the same as the April 2022 rate of 2.0 percent. 

The rate is the second lowest in the country, trailing only South Dakota’s 1.9 percent rate. New Hampshire and North Dakota had unemployment rates of 2.1 percent in April, followed by Alabama at 2.2 percent.

The highest unemployment rate in the country belonged to Nevada at 5.0 percent. California had the second highest rate at 4.5 percent. Washington and Delaware’s unemployment rates of 4.3 percent were also among the highest in the country.

“The Nebraska April unemployment rate tied the historical low,” said Commissioner of Labor John H. Albin. “The state’s labor force reached a new all-time high for the second straight month.”

County level unemployment data was not available in April.

Nebraska nonfarm employment, a count of filled jobs, was 1,041,662 in April, up 3,851 over the month and up 20,439 over the year.  Private industries with the most growth month to month were mining and construction (up 1,887 jobs); leisure and hospitality (up 930 jobs); and trade, transportation, and utilities (up 814 jobs). Private industries with the most over the year growth were public education and health services (up 5,074 jobs), leisure and hospitality service (up 4,689 jobs), and mining and construction (up 3,912 jobs).

The national unemployment rate for April is 3.4 percent, down 0.1 percentage points from the March rate of 3.5 percent.  This rate is down 0.2 percentage points from the April 2022 rate of 3.6 percent.

* Area students complete nursing degree at Northeast

(Posted 9:15 p.m. May 28)

Associate degree in nursing and practical nursing students were recognized during a ceremony at Northeast Community College in Norfolk recently with the presentation of their diplomas. In addition, the tradition of nursing students receiving their pins from family members or a close friend who have helped them along their journey was part of the ceremony.

“Nursing school requires much dedication, long hours of studying, tedious homework, and early morning and late evening clinicals culminating with the nursing board exam,” said Dr. Karen Weidner, director of nursing programs. “It is an honor to recognize our nursing graduates for all of their effort and achievements as they begin their journey in the profession of nursing.”

The nurse pinning observance is the culmination of the students’ initial journey of professional nursing education. It is a bridge from nursing’s past to nursing’s future and is a time-honored nursing school tradition. It also signifies the official initiation into the brotherhood and sisterhood of nurses.

Dr. Leah Barrett, Northeast president, presented each of the graduates with their diplomas during the ceremony. Family members and friends distributed nurse pins prior to the distribution of diplomas.

In addition to the pinning ceremony, three graduates were presented the Essence of Nursing Award for their consistent academic effort, caring actions, positive motivation toward classroom learning and clinical experience, and professional behaviors. ADN graduates Ellie Burkenshaw of Atkinson was one of three Northeast Community College nursing students to receive the Essence of Nursing Award.

Area students graduating from Northeast Community College in the field of nursing were:

Long Pine

Emily Coble – An Associate degree in nursing.

Atkinson

Ellie Burkinshaw – An Associate degree in nursing

Naper

Kaylee Hinton – A Practical Nursing diploma

* Recent cases from Brown County Court

(Posted noon May 25)

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

Mark A. Hinesley, age 58, of Chardon, Ohio, charged with speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, fined $25.

Kimberley S. Bowen, 50, of St. Paul, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Lashonada S. Phipps, 36, of West Fargo, N.D., possession of marijuana more than 1 ounce but less than 1 pound, $500; also charged with no operator’s license, $75; driving left of center, $25.

Caleb L. Burton, 25, of Goodland, Kan., no valid registration, $25.

* Area students graduate from UN-L

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

The University of Nebraska–Lincoln conferred a record 3,753 degrees during commencement exercises May 19 and 20.

The 3,669 graduates are from 59 countries; 47 states, the District of Columbia and Guam; and more than 240 Nebraska communities.

The Bob Devaney Sports Center hosted a ceremony for students earning graduate and professional degrees May 19; Memorial Stadium hosted a ceremony for undergraduates May 20; and the Lied Center for Performing Arts hosted a ceremony for law graduates May 20.

Chancellor Ronnie Green, who plans to retire at the end of June, delivered the keynote addresses during the graduate and undergraduate commencement ceremonies. JoAnn Martin, former CEO of Ameritas and longtime university supporter, posthumously received the 2023 Nebraska Builder Award during the undergraduate ceremony.

Bob Kerrey, former Nebraska governor and former U.S. senator for Nebraska, received an honorary Doctor of Law during the ceremony. Nebraska Supreme Court Justice Stephanie F. Stacy spoke to the law graduates.

Area students graduating from UN-L include:

Ainsworth
Megan Jo Appelt, College of Education and Human Sciences, Bachelor of Science in Education and Human Sciences.

Atkinson
Kooper James Jelinek, College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, Bachelor of Science in Agricultural Economics.

Aaron Mark Johnson, Graduate Studies, Master of Science.

Cole Patrick Laible, College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, Bachelor of Science in Grassland Ecology and Management.

Wood Lake
Logan O’Kief, College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, Bachelor of Science in Turfgrass and Landscape Management.

Valentine
Shawna Houdek, Graduate Studies, Master of Applied Science.

Alvin Nathaniel Miller, College of Arts and Sciences, Bachelor of Arts.

Dillion H. Muirhead, Hixson-Lied College of Fine and Performing Arts, Bachelor of Fine Arts.

* Brown County Sheriff’s Department weekly summary

(Posted 9:30 a.m. May 22)

May 14

  • Responded to a request for a welfare check in Ainsworth. The subject was located and reported safe.
  • Responded to a report of an abandoned vehicle on 879th The vehicle was not found.
  • Responded to suspicious activity on Wilson Street in Ainsworth. No criminal activity was found.

May 15

  • Issued a speeding citation to a South Dakota driver on Highway 20.
  • Responded to a report of a male subject, with unauthorized access, entering a rural property in Brown County. The subject was unfound on the property at this time.
  • The Brown County Ambulance responded to an Ainsworth senior care facility and transported one patient to the Brown County Hospital.

May 16

  • Responded to a report of barking dogs on 7th Street in Ainsworth.
  • The Brown County Ambulance provided transportation for an aircrew to pick up a patient at the Brown County Hospital.
  • During traffic stops on Highway 20, multiple citations were issued for speeding and no valid registration or insurance.
  • Responded to a request for a welfare check in Ainsworth. The individual was located and reported safe at this time.

May 17

  • Responded to a report of an oversized load in need of traffic control to return to their designated route.
  • Responded to a report of a disturbance at a 4th Street business. No citations were issued at this time.
  • Responded to a report of suspicious activity on 6th Street in Long Pine. No criminal activity was found at this time.

May 18

  • Provided traffic control for a funeral procession.
  • Released an inmate for time served. Another inmate was released to Adams County, after the Brown County Jail held the subject on an active warrant.

May 19

  • Received a complaint from a property owner in Ainsworth regarding a civil matter with the City.
  • 9 Traffic Stops were made on this day resulting in citations for speeding, no valid registration or insurance, and improper or defective vehicle lighting.
  • Received a complaint involving recent drone sightings.

May 20

  • During a traffic stop near 4th Street and Ash Street, a citation was issued for speeding 49-mph in a 35-mph zone.
  • Responded to a burglary alarm on Main Street in Ainsworth. It was found to be a false alarm.
  • Responded to a report of two male subjects shooting from the roadway near 877th Road and 432nd Avenue intersection. Both subjects were issued citations for discharge of a firearm from the highway; and a report will be sent to the Brown County Attorney’s office.
  • During a traffic stop on Highway 20, near the 430th Ave intersection, a citation was issued for speeding 50-mph in a 35-mph zone.
  • During a traffic stop on Highway 20, near mile marker 244, a Nebraska driver and passenger were issued citations for minor in possession of alcohol.

Weekly Summary
4     – Burn Permits
18   – Incident Reports Were Taken
116 – Phone Calls Were Received
8     – 911 Emergency Calls Received
3     – Titles Were Inspected
0     – Handgun Permits Applied For
1     – Paper Services Were Served

* Traffic accident

(Posted 5:30 a.m. May 19)

The Brown County Sheriff’s Department investigated a vehicle-deer collision that occurred Thursday, May 11.

According to the sheriff’s department report, at 9:33 p.m. May 11 on Highway 20 east of Ainsworth near milepost 247, a 2010 Jeep Commander, driven by Elijah Kalambokidis, 26, of Ainsworth, was traveling west when the vehicle struck a deer in the roadway.

No persons were injured during the accident. The Jeep was considered a total loss.

* Fires in Canada causing air quality issues

(Posted 11:15 a.m. May 18)

Due to wildfires in Canada, smoke has begun to drift into the area causing low visibility and poor air quality.

Visit airnow.gov for real time graphics of airflow and air quality readings. Currently, the risk is moderate, but it is expected to increase throughout the day.

Use common sense, if the smoke looks dense outdoors then limit outside time, close windows in your home and vehicle and keep indoor air as clean as possible. 

Additional resources and information can be found on the North Central District Health Department website at ncdhealth.wixsite.com/ncdhd.

* Welke graduates from NCTA

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

Eighty-seven students earned degrees from the Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture May 4 during commencement ceremonies at Curtis.

Area students graduating from the NCTA include Ellie Welke of Long Pine, who received an Associate of Science degree in veterinary technology systems.

* Bassett residents asked to limit water usage

(Posted 7:45 a.m. May 17)

The city of Bassett’s water tower is being serviced and painted. The painting and servicing of the water tower will take place for the next three weeks. During this time, the city asks water customers to limit water use.

When watering lawns, the city asks houses with even-numbered addresses to water on even-numbered days and residences with odd-numbered addresses to water on odd-numbered days. Anyone with questions is asked to call the Bassett city office at 402-684-3338.

* Commissioners set hearing regarding access request

(Posted 3:15 p.m. May 16)

The Brown County Commissioners on Tuesday scheduled a public hearing for 1:30 p.m. June 6 regarding an access request for a recently purchased parcel in southwestern Brown County.

Grant Kobes, who had appeared at previous commissioner meetings during his pending purchase of Long Lake from the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, told the commissioners Tuesday the purchase had been completed and he was now requesting the county help provide access to the otherwise landlocked property.

Brown County Attorney Andy Taylor previously told Kobes he had to actually own the property before the county could become involved. Kobes presented the board Tuesday with the deed to the property after completing the purchase.

He previously told the commissioners he had been unable to obtain an easement from neighboring property owners to reach the site.

“I would like to move forward with what to do to get access to the property,” Kobes said.

With the request, Taylor said the commissioners were required to schedule a public hearing within 30 days. The board chose 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 6, during its next regular meeting to hold the hearing.

Kobes said the culvert the roads department replaced on Moon Lake Avenue had lowered the water level on the property, however there were still two or three areas on the former access road that had water across.

“The water level is down 3 to 4 feet since they lowered the culvert,” Kobes said.

In other business Tuesday, the Sandhills Care Center Board will lose two longtime members after the board voted to have Commissioner Dennis Bauer replace Commissioner Buddy Small effective June 1as the board’s representative on the Care Center Board. Small had served in that position since the Sandhills Care Center formed.

Another longtime member of the Care Center Board, current Chairman Phil Fuchs, submitted his resignation and will be replaced by Bruce Papstein July 1. That appointment is also subject to approval by the Ainsworth City Council, which is why Papstein’s appointment would begin a month later.

The commissioners also reappointed Tom Jones to another year representing the county on the Sandhills Care Center Board.

Since Bauer replaced Small on the Care Center Board, the commissioners voted Tuesday to appoint Commissioner Jeremiah Dailey to replace Bauer as the county’s representative on the North Central Development Center Board of Directors. Bauer currently serves as the vice chair of the NCDC Board. That appointment is also effective June 1.

The board also made several appointments to the Brown County Veterans Service Committee, and also approved a resolution hiring Jake Graff as the new veterans service officer.

George Kyser was reappointed to the Veterans Service Committee until June 30, 2024. Marvin Ulrich was reappointed until June 30, 2026, Chuck Irwin was reappointed until June 30, 2027, and Judy Walters was reappointed until June 30, 2028. Jack Anderson was appointed to the committee to fill the remainder of the late Tom Collin’s term, which expires June 30, 2025.

The board approved a resolution to utilize the county’s inheritance tax fund to make a $92,646 down payment for the new ambulance barn, with the Brown County Ambulance Association reimbursing the inheritance tax fund that amount during the 2023-24 fiscal year.

Budget preparer Caleb Johnson recommended the commissioners take that route so the county did not have to amend its current budget to make the down payment. The ambulance association is paying for the cost of the new ambulance barn over time through its operating revenue.

The board approved its vision insurance renewal plan through the Nebraska Association of County Officials, its 2023-24 Blue Cross/Blue Shield subgroup application through NACO, and its First Concord Section 125 annual renewal.

The commissioners also approved a resolution allowing the Ainsworth Lions Club to construct and maintain a well at the community fishing pond site on ground owned by the county to serve as a water source for the fishing pond under construction east of the Brown County Hospital.

The board approved having Walton Construction replace the concrete on the north and east sides of the courthouse after repairs to the building’s foundation were recently completed. Bauer said the county roads department could remove the old concrete ahead of the project. He said the estimate for the work was around $5,000, and the concrete will slope away from the courthouse building.

In a final action item Tuesday, the commissioners approved having an $8,966 interest-only payment on the Meadville Avenue paving project taken from the county highway fund. Treasurer Bruce Mitchell said the payment would be made in June.

“There is money in the highway fund to cover that,” Mitchell said.

With Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin working on roads Tuesday, Small read his report to the board. That report indicated the Meadville Avenue paving work was completed from the Ainsworth city limits to Sand Draw Creek. Western Engineering would next replace the asphalt from the Sand Draw Creek north.

Weed Superintendent Scott Erthum said driving Meadville Avenue with the new asphalt was a dream.

“It is wonderful,” Erthum said. “It’s really nice not having to dodge potholes. It is really an improvement.”

Small said he believed the new surface on Meadville Avenue was smoother than Highway 20.

The next meeting of the Brown County Commissioners is scheduled for 1:15 p.m. June 6.

* Brown County Sheriff’s Department weekly summary

(Posted 1:15 p.m. May 15)

May 7

  • The Brown County Ambulance transferred a patient to the Brown County Hospital.
  • Responded to reports of cattle out on Highway 7.

May 8

  • Received reports of cattle out near the intersection of 427th and 877th
  • The Brown County Ambulance responded to a 911 call in Ainsworth and transferred one patient to the Brown County Hospital.

May 9

  • Responded to a report of horses out on Highway 20. Traffic control was provided for the owners to safely remove them from the road.
  • Received a traffic complaint regarding reckless driving of tractor trailers on Highway 20.

May 10

  • Responded to a report of a male subject in a mental health crisis. The subject was placed into emergency protective custody and transported to a mental health facility.

May 11

  • Responded to a parking complaint of an unlicensed vehicle parked more than 72 hours on Main St. The owner of the vehicle was identified.  The vehicle was then removed from the street and licensed.
  • Received a report of harassment occurring to a female subject while at work. This is an ongoing investigation.
  • Responded to a report of a one vehicle deer collision on Highway 20 near mile marker 246. The vehicle was towed from the scene.
  • Released a male subject from the Brown County Jail on bond.

May 12

  • Received a request for a welfare check on a male subject in Ainsworth. The subject was found safe at this time.
  • Responded to a report of an unsupervised child near the intersection of 2nd & Cedar Street.

May 13

  • The Brown County Ambulance transported an aircrew to the Brown County Hospital to pick up a patient.

Weekly Summary
3– Burn Permits
14– Incident Reports Were Taken
125– Phone Calls Were Received
5– 911 Emergency Calls Received
4– Titles Were Inspected
4– Handgun Permits Applied For
2– Paper Services Were Served

* Area students set to graduate Friday from UNK

(Posted 11 a.m. May 15)

Graduate and undergraduate degrees will be conferred for 667 spring graduates during the University of Nebraska-Kearney commencement exercises at 10 a.m. Friday, May 19, in UNK’s Health and Sports Center.

Area students scheduled to graduate from UNK include:

Ainsworth
Ashley Fox, a Master of Arts degree in English
Benjamin Arens, a Bachelor of Science degree in biology with summa cum laude distinction
Tate Fernau, a Bachelor of Science degree in psychology with cum laude distinction

Bassett
Bailey DeVall, a Master of Science in Education degree in speech language pathology
Judson Kuchera, a Bachelor of Science degree in industrial distribution

Atkinson
Kelsi Williams, a Bachelor’s degree in general studies with magna cum laude distinction

Naper
Amber Bendig, a Master of Science in Education degree in clinical mental health counseling

Valentine
Kooper Reece, a Bachelor of Science degree in agribusiness

* Willow Lake boat ramp reopens

(Posted 10:15 a.m. May 12)

The access road and boat launch at Willow Lake Wildlife Management Area in Brown County has reopened.

The primitive, natural base boat ramp has been upgraded to an articulated concrete mat. These ACM ramps are particularly well-suited for sandhill lakes where poured concrete pads tend to shift and quickly deteriorate in the sandy substrate. Users now can access the 380-acre Willow Lake more easily and without the need for specialized vehicles.

Along with the ACM boat ramp upgrade, a new dock was installed. An Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant parking pad and sidewalk leads to the dock. Cobblestone was placed along both sides of the ramp and rock riprap was installed along 200 feet of shoreline to address erosion issues. An ADA-compliant parking pad and sidewalk also were added to the recently upgraded restroom onsite.

The project was made possible by a Sportfish Restoration Grant.

* Area students graduate from UNMC

(Posted 9:30 a.m. May 12)

Diplomas and certificates were conferred on 971 University of Nebraska Medical Center students during ceremonies held May 4 in Lincoln, Norfolk and Kearney and May 6 in Omaha and Lincoln.

Area students receiving degrees from UNMC include Josiah McAllister of Atkinson, who graduated with a Doctor of Medicine degree with distinction; and Conner Paxton of Stuart, who graduated with a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree with distinction.

* NCDC awarded Rural Workforce Housing Funds

(Posted 9:45 a.m. May 11)

The Nebraska Department of Economic Development announced Thursday the recipients of $22.82 million in awards through the 2022 round of Nebraska’s Rural Workforce Housing Fund.

Authorized by the Rural Workforce Housing Investment Act of 2017, the Rural Workforce Housing Fund helps communities create quality, affordable housing to accommodate growth.

The North Central Development Center was one of the organizations awarded, with the NCDC receiving $327,000 in Rural Workforce Housing Funds by providing $163,500 in matching funds for a total of $490,500 to go toward housing construction and rehabilitation.

“We are excited to be partnering with private businesses and our area foundations to construct homes in Brown, Rock and Keya Paha counties,” NCDC Executive Director Kristin Olson said. “Once we receive the contract, we will be looking for applications for interim construction financing to support those interested in building housing. Thanks to all the generous donors who provided matching funds for this project in a short period of time.”

The O’Neill Chamber of Commerce received $1 million in funds by providing $500,000 in matching funds. The village of Spencer received $700,000 in Rural Workforce Housing Funds by providing $350,000 in matching funds. A total of 27 applications were awarded statewide, totaling $22.82 million in state funding.

For the 2022 funding cycle, awards were available to eligible non-profit development organizations who supplied at least a 50 percent match. In many cases, local financial institutions and employers partnered with the primary applicant in providing the local match. Combined, the recipients contributed more than $12.1 million in matching funds.

DED administers the RWHF program on behalf of the state of Nebraska through a competitive application process. The department then partners with recipients to provide input regarding project design, development, and implementation.

“Growing rural Nebraska is a priority for our agency,” said DED Interim Director Joe Fox. “The RWHF supports job creation and helps attract residents to our rural communities through strategic investments in affordable, high-quality housing. We had an outstanding batch of applicants for this cycle of RWHF awards. Congratulations to the awardees.”

Thursday’s awards were made possible by a general fund allocation authorized by the Nebraska Legislature in 2022.

* Mayor breaks council deadlock to approve contract

(Posted 7:15 a.m. May 11)

Ainsworth Mayor Joel Klammer was forced to break two deadlocked City Council votes Wednesday regarding a contract for law enforcement with Brown County.

A city committee comprised of Councilmen Brad Fiala and Vance Heyer, Klammer and City Administrator Lisa Schroedl had been meeting for several months with representatives from the county and the Brown County Sheriff’s Department regarding the structure of a new law enforcement contract.

During the May 9 meeting of the Brown County Commissioners, the city proposed a contract with a tiered payment based on the number of officers employed by the sheriff’s department. That proposal was soundly rejected by the sheriff and the commissioners, who approved an agreement calling for the city to pay $23,000 monthly, $276,000 annually, to the county for law enforcement service.

Klammer said, with the county rejecting the city’s tiered proposal, the council needed to decide Wednesday if it wanted to continue in a contract with the county or go another route.

Councilman Shawn Fernau said he looked at the contract from a business perspective.

“If the end product is the same, I see their point of wanting the money regardless of the number of officers,” Fernau said. “I am ok with the contract if the service is provided. People who have talked to me don’t want to lose the presence of the sheriff’s department in town.”

Klammer said the contract, to him, boiled down to the service provided to the city.

“I am not sure you get the same service with four guys and paying overtime,” the mayor said.

Fiala said he had residents question him on why the city was being so tough on the new sheriff during his first year on the job.

“The contract is between the city and Brown County,” Fiala said. “We are subsidizing Brown County. It is nothing against the sheriff’s department.”

Heyer said, by having a contract with the county, the sheriff’s department enforces the city’s ordinances, which it wouldn’t do without a contract.

“That takes a back seat when they are short-staffed,” Heyer said. “The tiered system allows them the full resources to hire additional people.”

Councilman Dustin Barthel said he didn’t understand why the county would not come together to work something out with the city.

“If they can do the job with less people, I am good with it as long as people are being protected,” Barthel said. “I think we should give them a year.”

However, Barthel said he has been hearing complaints about the current response time of the sheriff’s department.

“My daughter works in a coffee shop, and if they have someone there harassing them they don’t even call the sheriff’s department because the response time is so long,” Barthel said. “If that continues and I hear that businesses have to have another number on speed dial, I won’t be agreeable.”

Heyer said he believed a compromise was beneficial for both parties.

“Historically, some of the things we ask for get put on the back burner when the sheriff’s department is short-staffed,” Heyer said. “This would give us accountability.”

Heyer made a motion to approve a tiered contract that pays the county $215,000 annually if the sheriff’s department has four total officers, $245,000 if the department employs five officers and the full $276,000 requested by the county if the sheriff’s department employs a full complement of six officers, including the sheriff.

Brown County Commissioner Dennis Bauer, who was in attendance, said he could not speak for the other two commissioners but the proposed agreement would be dead on arrival with the commissioners as far as he was concerned.

“Sheriff Deibler will pay overtime to make sure the city’s needs are met,” Bauer said. “I take him at his word.”

Fiala said he was concerned, if the city agreed to $276,000 this year, the price would just go up again next year.

Barthel said, at $276,000, it was about a wash price wise for the city to have a contract with the county or go out on its own.

“If they go up anymore, it is a whole different ball game,” Barthel said. “I want to give him (Deibler) a shot and not make it messy if we don’t have to.”

Fernau said he had not had anyone tell him they were not in favor of the city continuing its agreement with the county.

Heyer said what he had been asked by residents is what is the city receiving in service for the amount it is paying.

Fiala agreed, saying he has heard concerns from city residents on why they have to pay twice for law enforcement since city residents also pay property tax to the county.

“It benefits both parties to have a contract,” Fiala said. “The county has a take it or leave it attitude, and I am not going to go along with that.”

Klammer said the $276,000 request was a lot of money for the city. He said the city had done extensive research looking at what similar-sized cities across the state pay for law enforcement.

He said there were several examples of cities of similar size to Ainsworth paying $100,000 to $110,000 for law enforcement through agreements with their county sheriff’s departments.

“I think we gave a pretty reasonable offer to them, but I would like to be done with this issue,” the mayor said.

Fiala and Heyer voted in favor of a tiered contract, which would then have to be approved by the commissioners since the contract approved by the county board called for a flat $276,000. Fernau and Barthel voted against the tiered contract.

After contemplation, Klammer voted against the tiered contract.

Fernau then motioned to approve the contract that was approved by the commissioners, with Barthel seconding.

Heyer said the city has seen the sheriff’s department not spend its full budget in past years, with the excess money then simply getting folded back into the county’s general fund.

“Now we are getting told the sheriff’s department’s equipment is in disrepair,” Heyer said. “We have zero oversight over that department. Money gets absorbed back to the county when the budget is not spent.”

Heyer said he was not opposed to supporting the sheriff’s department.

“We just want some accountability,” Heyer said.

With Fernau and Barthel voting in favor of the contract approved by the county and Heyer and Fiala against, Klammer was again called on to break the council deadlock. He voted to approve the contract, which takes effect July 1.

In other business Wednesday, the council approved a bid from Myers Construction of Broken Bow for the North Main Street water, sewer and paving project.

After not receiving any bids during its first request, Jess Hurlbert with the city’s engineering firm Olsson Associates said he reached out to contractors and adjusted the completion date for the project.

The city received two bids for the project on the second request. Hurlbert said both bids fell within the engineer’s cost estimate.

Rutjens Construction of Tilden submitted a bid of $2.51 million for the project, which includes water and sewer line replacement under North Main Street from Highway 20 to the city’s wastewater treatment plant as well as street surfacing following the project.

Myers Construction submitted a base bid of $2.33 million, but provided an alternative that included placing 6 inches of concrete surfacing instead of 6 inches of asphalt. The bid for installing a concrete street was actually lower than the asphalt surfacing and dropped Myers Construction’s bid to $2.17 million.

Audience member Graig Kinzie asked Hurlbert how many times he has seen a bid for concrete come in less expensive than asphalt.

While Hurlbert said prices for both asphalt and concrete have been elevated recently, he said concrete is starting to become more competitive with asphalt due to higher oil prices.

“That is especially true if there is a concrete mixing plant close by,” Hurlbert said.

He recommended the council accept the bid from Myers Construction and utilize the concrete surfacing option. The council approved that recommendation.

Bill Jeffers met with the council regarding the city’s vacant building ordinance. Jeffers said he owns several rental properties in the city and questioned why the council had adopted the ordinance.

“I object to the fact that you have a six-month fee,” Jeffers said. “I would like to know the goals of the city. Are you trying to eliminate properties?”

Jeffers said he was constantly trying to work on his properties, and a six-month time frame to have all repairs made and properties occupied was not realistic. He asked if he was the only property owner being singled out by the ordinance.

Schroedl said 56 letters went out to property owners during the first round of notices. That number was down to 35 letters on the second round of notices.

Jeffers said he tried to keep rent reasonable on the properties he owns.

“It is low-cost housing,” Jeffers said. “A lot of people are behind on their rent. I believe in Ainsworth, and I work hard here. I don’t believe my properties are nuisances. I have had many of these properties since the 1980s. I don’t want to be taxed out of my business.”

Jeffers said he recently listed all of his properties for sale due to the city’s ordinance.

“Property taxes are about $100 per year,” Jeffers said. “This fee is $250 every six months. I can’t afford that.”

Jeffers said it was hard to find quality renters who don’t destroy the property.

Klammer said the city’s goal with the ordinance is to keep vacant properties from reaching the nuisance level.

“We want to work with property owners on their plans for their vacant properties,” Klammer said. “The goal is to have these properties improved and occupied.”

The mayor said, if the property is rented and someone is living in it, the property would not be considered vacant. He told Jeffers to work with the city office on plans for specific properties that received the notice.

The council Wednesday approved a recommendation from the LB 840 Loan Committee to award a $200,000 forgivable loan to the Ainsworth Child Development Center.

The loan is structured at 4 percent interest with the city securing the loan through the Ainsworth Child Development Center’s real estate. Schroedl said the loan was structured so that one-sixth of the amount was forgiven each year the facility is operational, with the full amount forgiven on June 1, 2029, if the childcare center is still in operation.

Heyer said every rural community in the state was dealing with childcare and housing shortages.

“Kudos to that group,” Heyer said. “They are way ahead of where a lot of places are.”

Heyer said having adequate childcare helps draw in people from outside the community, knowing they have a place they can take their children.

Fernau said, as an employer, he loses a couple of his employees at times every week due to having no childcare.

“You are doing a great job,” Fernau said.

Representatives from the Ainsworth Golf Course approached the council about the potential for increasing the city’s contribution to the golf course from $15,000 to $25,000 for the 2023-24 fiscal year.

Golf Course Board member Brian Delimont said the sun room area on the west side of the clubhouse was in bad shape, and the course planned to rehabilitate that portion of the clubhouse structurally and by installing new windows.

Todd Kicken said the southwest corner of the building can physically be moved, and the double-paned glass is fogged up and stained.

“It is in dire need,” Kicken said.

The council discussed potential funding sources for the course to pursue in addition to the request to the city.

The council approved a special designated liquor license for The Silver Circle bar for its annual dance during alumni June 24 from 3 p.m. until 2 a.m. June 25. The approval also allows for the alley behind the bar to be closed as well as Second Street between Main and Woodward streets.

Brittney Koenig with the Nebraska Public Power District presented the council with an update on NPPD’s operations and service in the city.

Koenig said all street lights are being converted to LED, which saves between 12 percent and 15 percent in energy usage. Koenig said NPPD has gone 10 straight years with no retail rate increases, and the utility’s power generation was now 56 percent carbon free.

Koenig said NPPD remitted $293,916 in lease payments to the city and $29,047 in city sales tax during the past year, with an additional $115,619 in gross revenue tax paid to Brown County in 2022.

The council approved allowing the Central Nebraska Economic Development District to proceed with a survey of community residents regarding their priorities for improvements within the community.

Amber Ross with CNEDD said the survey would be conducted at no additional cost to the city since it is a member of the district.

“In preparation for some upcoming projects, the state has a renewed emphasis on community participation,” Ross said. “We did a survey in 2020. CNEDD is emphasizing broadband right now at a regional level. I know streets are a hot topic for you right now. If this is not something you are interested in, I understand.”

Ross said the survey would be available online, and paper copies would also be available.

Audience member Rod Worrell questioned the participation rate the survey would generate since it was five pages long.

“This is a Bible,” Worrell said. “I wouldn’t expect many of these to get turned in.”

Fiala asked if a certain percentage of residents would be required to fill out the survey as had been required of some past surveys that forced the city to go door to door. Ross said there were no participation rates required with this survey.

The council approved having CNEDD proceed with the survey.

During his report, Klammer said he has heard from citizens concerned about vehicles driving on the Cowboy Trail and then cutting through East City Park.

“The posts the city installed have been pulled out,” the mayor said. “We will work with the Park Board on a traffic plan.”

During her report, Schroedl told the council the ambulance barn property would need to be surveyed before it could be gifted to the county. She said the city has contacted Niobrara Valley Consultants of Valentine to get an estimate on the cost of a survey.

The next meeting of the Ainsworth City Council is scheduled for 5 p.m. June 14.

* Sandhills Cowboy Hall of Fame announces inductees

(Posted 1:30 p.m. May 10)

The Nebraska Sandhills Cowboy Hall of Fame announced its inductees to the Hall of Fame’s 2023 class.

The Sandhills Cowboy Hall of Fame inductees include Mike Baxter of Brown County, Roy Stuart of Rock County, Jess Ramos and Lawrence Turner of Cherry County, Dale Prickett of Garfield County, Lawrence Tierney and R.P. Smith of Custer County, Joe Finney of Lincoln County, and the late Andrew Joseph Applegarth of Sheridan County.                             

The 18th annual Nebraska Sandhills Cowboy Hall of Fame banquet and induction will be held at 6 p.m. June 10 in the 4-H Building at the Cherry County Fairgrounds in Valentine.

* Hafer highlights School Board meeting items

(Posted 11 a.m. May 10)

Ainsworth Community Schools Superintendent Dale Hafer appeared on KBRB Tuesday to report on action taken by the Board of Education during its meeting Monday.

The audio is located below.

* Work begins Monday on Highway 183 near Springview

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

Weather permitting, work will begin Monday on Highway 183 south of Springview between mileposts 207 and 211, according to the Nebraska Department of Transportation.

Western Engineering Company of Harlan, Iowa, is the contractor for this project, which includes bridge deck repair, guardrail replacement, asphalt overlay, grading, culvert pipes, flumes and curb, luminaire replacement and seeding.

Traffic will be maintained with lane restrictions, a pilot car and flaggers, and temporary traffic signals. During bridge deck repairs there will be a 14-foot width restriction. Anticipated completion is September.

Motorists are reminded to drive cautiously in and near work zones, to buckle up, and to put phones down.

* April profitable, Care Center Board hears employee concerns

(Posted 9:30 a.m. May 9)

The Sandhills Care Center finished April more than $70,000 in the black as revenue outpaced expenses, but three pay periods in the month of March resulted in the facility borrowing more than $79,000 from its line of credit.

The care center generated $271,954 in revenue during April, with expenses of $201,801 for a net operating margin of $70,152 for the month.

Administrator Penny Jacobs told the Board of Directors Monday there were currently 25 residents living in the care center, down from the 29 residents reported during April’s meeting. Jacobs reported two residents had been discharged home and two residents had died during the past month.

Board Chairman Phil Fuchs said approximately $44,000 in private pay revenue owed to the care center would not be collected until June, which resulted in the care center having to use $79,169 from its line of credit as opposed to about $35,000. He recommended the board repay $44,000 of that money borrowed when those revenues are collected.

“We beat our projected income in March,” Fuchs said. “If we continue on those same lines, we should operate in the black for the most part except for the two months that have three pay periods.”

The facility repaid $12,000 from the line of credit taken to cover payroll in March, so the facility had used a total of $123,000 from its $450,000 available line of credit prior to voting Monday to use the additional $79,169 from the credit line.

The Sandhills Care Center pays employees every other Friday. With 52 weeks in a year, there are two months where the facility has three pay periods. March was one of those months, which Fuchs said resulted in approximately $90,000 in added expenses for that month.

Board member Tom Jones said the board knew about the additional pay period for March and that it would need to utilize the line of credit to cover having three pay periods.

The board voted to utilize the line of credit, bringing the balance to $202,000 used. The board plans to repay $44,000 of that total once the delayed accounts receivable are collected.

Jacobs reported Monday, of the 25 residents in the facility, 12 were paying privately, 11 were receiving Medicaid assistance, one was receiving Medicare assistance and one was Medicaid pending.

Jacobs said the facility had lost two CNAs and two LPNs during the past month and could use additional charge nurses. She said the care center would also need additional CNAs after the summer when students go back to school. She said the facility partnered with Ainsworth Community Schools for a COE student this year and would look to expand that partnership for the 2023-24 school year.

Several current and former members of the care center’s nursing staff voiced concerns over the administration and the working conditions in the care center.

Nurse Kim Schlager said she was traveling from Valentine to work in the care center and was concerned with some of the things she was seeing and hearing in the facility.

“There has been concern about all of the staff coming and going,” Schlager said. “We lost our care center in Valentine. This is the only facility we have for the area. I want this facility to succeed and be profitable, but I have a list of concerns. I am here to help, I just have some things I question right now.”

Schlager presented the board with a letter written by a former employee that addressed concerns.

Nurse Connie Goochey said she came on board to assist the facility with infection control and emergency preparedness.

“What I observe hurts my heart,” Goochey said. “I wrote a letter and gave it to Mr. Fernau. I am very disappointed. I feel we need mutual support for the nursing staff.”

Goochey said residents of the county voted to support the nursing home with additional funding for five years.

“If something isn’t changed, you will again be using agency staff from other states,” Goochey said.

Former employee Kayla Beegle said she loved working at the care center and would go back if changes were made.

“You are losing employees who have been there for years,” Beegle said. “You need to listen to your employees.”

Beegle said some employees were hesitant to speak up about issues due to a fear of retribution.

Following the public comment, the board entered into executive session to further discuss the issues addressed. No action was taken by the board following the executive session.

The next meeting of the Sandhills Care Center Board of Directors is scheduled for 5 p.m. June 12.

* ACS will again offer free summer meals to children

(Posted 1:30 p.m. May 8)

As part of its efforts to ensure children have access to healthy meals during the summer months, Ainsworth Community Schools announced its summer meals site will serve children ages 1 to 18 again this year.

Starting June 5 and running through July 28, all children 1-18 can receive lunch free of charge. No application, registration or proof of residency is required.

Lunch will be served by the A sign on the west side of Ainsworth Community Schools inside the doors Monday through Thursday from 11:45 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. Friday meals will be sent home on Thursday.

The summer meals program is funded by the USDA and run by school districts and local organizations. Stopping by a summer meal site with your family not only saves you time and money spent grocery shopping and meal prepping; it also helps support the school and the community.

* Brown County Sheriff’s Department weekly summary

(Posted 9 a.m. May 8)

April 30

  • Assisted Rock County Sheriff’s Office with a DUI
  • Received a report of toddler at large; successfully reunited with its mother.
  • Responded to a tripped alarm at the Conference Center; City Manager notified.

May 1

  • Received a theft report request of stolen property in rural Brown County. This is an ongoing investigation.
  • Provided traffic control for funeral procession.
  • Received a report of bullying. This is an ongoing investigation.
  • Responded to a report of underage tobacco use at Ainsworth Community Schools. This is an ongoing investigation.
  • Received a report of a person loitering at the Dollar General. Officer responded.

May 2

  • Parent contacted regarding minor child’s driving habits being a concern. Parent advised if caught by an officer a citation will be issued.
  • Assisted Game, Fish & Parks with a warrant.
  • Received a report of improper passing a school bus.
  • Responded to a 911 call where the caller could not be heard on the phone. No emergency was noted.
  • Responded to a report of reckless driving with minors in the back of a pickup truck.

May 3

  • Responded to a report of someone loitering at Speedee Mart. Individual was asked to leave.
  • Received a report of trucks losing hot mix/rocks on Hwy 20. The driver indicated that their company was aware and is making remedies as well as cleaning up existing spillage.
  • Received a complaint of rocks coming off an uncovered load.

May 4

  • Two inmates booked out of Brown County jail and released on time served.
  • Transported an individual to Faith Regional in Norfolk on EPC hold.
  • Transported an individual to Richard Young Kearney on EPC hold.
  • Booked an inmate into Brown County jail on a court commitment.
  • Responded to report of suspicious activity in Ainsworth. Individual contacted and was just pulled over to make phone calls.

May 5

  • Received a report of cattle out in Long Pine. The owner notified and cattle returned to pasture.
  • Received a report of stray dog roaming the halls of Ainsworth Community Schools. The dog was taken to the vet and the owner notified.
  • Responded to a report of a driver being disoriented and in need of medical assistance. The individual was located in Cherry County and transported to the Cherry County Hospital by Cherry County Sheriff’s office on mutual aid assistance.

May 6

  • Responded to a request for assistance regarding a physical altercation between two individuals. Individuals were separated and one agreed to spend the night with friends.
  • Provided traffic control for a funeral escort in Ainsworth.
  • Paged out a National Weather Service advisory issued by the National Weather service out of North Platte.
  • Received automatic notice of burglary alarms going off in a rural Brown County Residence. The owner notified and determined to be a false alarm due to power outage due to current weather conditions.
  • Responded to a semi off the highway near the Long Pine hills. Officers provided traffic control as the semi was pulled from the shoulder.
  • Responded to a report from Grand Island Police Dept. of missing child possibly being in Brown County. The child was not found in Brown County.
  • Responded to a report of a cow out on Hwy 7 south of Ainsworth. The cow must have returned to pasture as it could not be located.

Weekly Summary
2   –  Burn Permits
22  –  Incident Reports
149  –  Telephone Calls
16   –  911 calls
5    –  Vin Inspections
1    –  Gun Permits

* Area students set to graduate from Northeast

(Posted 8:15 a.m. May 8)

This year marks a milestone at Northeast Community College as on Friday, the college will hold its 50th commencement ceremony.

Three commencement ceremonies in the Cox Activities Center on the Norfolk campus at 9 a.m., noon, and 3 p.m. At 9 a.m., nursing graduates will receive their nurse pins and participate in commencement. The ceremony at noon will award credentials to graduates in Applied Technology and Health and Public Services programs, while graduates in Business and Humanities and Science, Technology, Agriculture and Math and Business and Humanities will receive their degrees, diplomas and certificates at 3 p.m.

As of May 4, a total of 923 graduates, including those earning more than one degree and those who completed their studies this past summer and fall, are to be listed in the commencement program. The 923 students earned 1,051 degrees; 67 students earned two degrees, 26 earned three degrees, and three earned four degrees.

Area students scheduled to graduate from Northeast Community College are:

Ainsworth
Kaitlyn Pozehl – An Associate of Arts degree
Dylan Graff – An Associate of Applied Science degree in business
Reece Dover – A diploma in welding

Long Pine
Emily Coble – An Associate degree in nursing
Oren Pozehl – An Associate of Applied Science degree in building construction

Stuart
Jenny Forker – An Associate of Arts degree
Wade Paxton – An Associate of Applied Science degree in building construction
Jason Fahrenholz – A certificate in general information technology

Atkinson
Cheyenne Cullen – An Associate of Arts degree
Mykenzie Daugherty – An Associate of Arts degree
Reghan Kerkman – An Associate of Arts degree
Ellie Burkinshaw – An Associate degree in nursing
Trinity Neal – An Associate of Applied Science degree in building construction
Jazmyne Neal – An Associate of Applied Science degree in early childhood education
Logan Wieneke – An Associate of Applied Science degree in utility line
Monique Lange – A certificate in drug and alcohol counseling
Cindy Root – A certificate in food service and dietary management

Naper
Gina McCarthy – An Associate of Applied Science degree in administrative professional
Kaylee Hinton – A diploma in practical nursing

Butte
Samantha Pickinpaugh – An Associate of Applied Science degree, diploma and certificate in health information management systems
Kannin Ellwanger – An Associate of Applied Science degree in heating, ventilation and air conditioning

Valentine
Renee Fisbeck – An Associate of Arts degree
Grant Fischer – An Associate of Applied Science degree in agribusiness
Kyle Lurz – An Associate of Applied Science degree in auto body repair technology
Wyatt Barnes – An Associate of Applied Science degree in diesel technology
Brianna Henkenius-Laleff – An Associate of Applied Science degree in early childhood education
Goeffrey Fisbeck – An Associate of Applied Science degree in information technology, a certificate in Cisco Networking Academy, and a certificate in information security

* Stutzman named Outstanding Fine Arts Student

(Posted 1 p.m. May 4)

Dakota Stutzman was named the Ainsworth High School Outstanding Fine Arts Student Tuesday, garnering a $750 scholarship.

Stutzman was chosen as the winner from among finalists Cameryn Goochey, Makenna Pierce and Ian Finley.

In addition to the Fine Arts Student of the Year, Stutzman was named the most valuable member of the Ainsworth Mock Trial team, which finished among the top six in the state.

Makenna Pierce was named the Newcomer of the Year in Mock Trial, and Addison Sears was named the Mock Trial Freshman of the Year.

In speech, Taylor Allen was named the Outstanding Varsity Speaker and Makenna Pierce received the Integrity Award.

Breanna McLeod received the John Phillip Sousa Award as the top member of the Ainsworth High School band. Ian Finley was selected as the Outstanding Senior, Cole Bodeman the Outstanding Junior, Emma McMurtrey the Outstanding Sophomore, and Colby Beegle was selected as the Outstanding Freshman in band.

Makenna Pierce received the National Choral Award as the top member of the Ainsworth High School choir.

Ian Finley was named the Outstanding Senior in choir, with Cole Bodeman the Outstanding Junior. Emma McMurtrey and Grace Goodwin shared the Outstanding Sophomore Award, and Colby Beegle was named the Outstanding Freshman in choir.

* Ainsworth Airport receives grant for hangar

(Posted 5 p.m. May 3)

The Federal Aviation Administration announced more than $17 million in federal grants were awarded to seven Nebraska airports, including more than $500,000 to the Ainsworth Regional Airport.

The $553,980 grant is providing a portion of the funding to build a new hangar at the Ainsworth Regional Airport. Hangar grants were also approved for airports at Burwell, Sidney and Wayne.

The Western Nebraska Regional Airport at Scottsbluff received a $12.1 million grant to rehabilitate the main runway, and the North Platte Regional Airport received a $2.9 million grant to reconstruct the airport’s taxiway.

The Norfolk Regional Airport received a $600,000 grant to install runway lighting, airfield guidance signs and a runway visual guidance system.

“We’re happy to be able to partner with the FAA Central Region in Kansas City to get this essential grant funding to our airports,” said Ann Richart, Director of the Aeronautics Division of the Nebraska Department of Transportation. “Our partnership includes lining up the appropriate grant funding, assisting the sponsor airport in applying for the grant, and working with the FAA to send grant funds to the airport as their project progresses. NDOT looks forward to working with the FAA in the future to ensure that our communities will be able to make maximum use of these federal grant funds. We also want to thank our members of Congress for their support.”

* Commissioners approve law enforcement contract

(Posted 9:30 a.m. May 3)

The Brown County Commissioners on Tuesday approved an agreement for law enforcement between the Brown County Sheriff’s Department and the city of Ainsworth.

Sheriff Brent Deibler said he recently received a draft of a negotiated agreement between the city and County Attorney Andy Taylor. Deibler said he made revisions to the draft proposal, which was what was being provided to the commissioners and sent back to the city.

Ainsworth City Administrator Lisa Schroedl said the city agreed to an increase in the previous contract with the agreement that the sheriff’s department would hire another officer to focus on enforcing the city’s codes.

“The concern for the city is there is no recourse if that staffing level cannot be reached,” Schroedl said. “It is hard to find people.”

Ainsworth City Councilman Vance Heyer said the city proposed a tiered contract based on the sheriff’s department’s staffing levels. The city proposed providing the full request of $23,000 per month if the department was fully staffed with the sheriff and five deputies.

Should the department have five staff members, the contract would decrease to $19,833 per month, and if the department had four staff members the amount paid would be $16,666 monthly.

“In 2019 we agreed to go from $200,000 to $240,000 with the agreement that a sixth position would be hired,” Heyer said. “If the officers aren’t hired we would not be responsible for paying that total.”

Schroedl said the contract structure proposed by the city was a middle ground, and provided the sheriff’s department with the resources it requested if it can become fully staffed.

Deibler said he would not agree to the tiered system.

“The service will be provided regardless of the number of officers,” Deibler said. “I am not interested in being penalized if someone quits or retires. The service will be covered by paying overtime if needed.”

Commissioner Buddy Small said his intent was to honor the contract as proposed by the sheriff.

“The sheriff has a big job, and I want to fully support him,” Small said. “They know what they need to run their department. I have no intent to bully the city, but I am 100 percent confident Sheriff Deibler will give the city everything they need.”

Heyer said he had no doubt the sheriff would do his job.

“This has all been a negotiation between our two boards,” Heyer said. “We don’t want to cut resources, we just have to look out for what our residents are paying for.”

Heyer said the $276,000 law enforcement contract took up a substantial portion of the approximately $450,000 in total property tax collected by the city.

“This is a big part of our budget,” Heyer said.

Commissioner Jeremiah Dailey said the previous administration had not kept things up.

“Every penny Sheriff Deibler is asking for is needed,” Dailey said.

The commissioners approved the contract as presented by the sheriff. The contract stipulates that it is null and void if not approved by both parties by May 12. It would become effective July 1 if approved by both parties.

Schroedl said the city would address the contract during its May 10 meeting.

The board also approved allowing the sheriff’s department to apply for a credit card to be used by the department.

In other business Tuesday, the commissioners met by phone with Susan Rice and Travis Connot from the National Park Service regarding a grant available for cedar tree removal in the Niobrara Scenic River corridor.

Rice said Brown, Keya Paha, Rock and Cherry counties could apply for the grant for wildfire reduction. A total of $10 million was available to the four counties.

Rice said the counties had to apply for the funds, as the National Park Service was not eligible.

“It is easier for each county to have its own grant instead of applying for one grant for all four counties,” Rice said. “We will help you write the grant, and the money will go to the county.”

Connot said the cedar tree removal could be conducted 3 to 4 miles from the river bank, and creating fire breaks would be a high priority.

Connot said landowners would submit an application to have cedar trees removed from their property. The applications received would be ranked based on their effectiveness for wildfire control, and each county would be responsible for awarding the grant dollars.

Rice said, if approved, the counties would have three years to spend the money, but the goal would be to begin removing trees immediately.

Deputy Emergency Manager Jessica Pozehl will serve as the county’s liaison to work on the grant application with the National Park Service.

Jake Graff will become the new Veterans Service Officer for Brown County after the board approved him for the position Tuesday. Veterans Committee member and former VSO Judy Walters said Graff had agreed to the position and was eligible due to his service in the National Guard. Walters said she believed Graff would be a good fit for the position.

The Veterans Service Officer serves veterans in Brown, Rock and Keya Paha counties, with the cost of the position shared between the three counties. The Rock County Commissioners approved Graff for the position Tuesday, and Walters said she would meet with the Keya Paha County Commissioners next week.

The board also appointed Jack Anderson to replace the late Tom Collin on the Veterans Service Committee.

The commissioners approved creating two new line items in the county’s budget to accommodate the bonds being taken out for the new Brown County Ambulance Association ambulance barn. Budget preparer Caleb Johnson recommended the board establish an other debt service line item for the ambulance building bond, and an other capital projects line item for the building.

Johnson proposed the commissioners make the initial $92,000 bond payment from its inheritance tax fund so the 2022-23 budget would not have to be amended. The ambulance association would then repay the funds to the inheritance tax fund, as the ambulance association is funding the bond payments for the new building.

The board approved renewing its Blue Cross Blue Shield health insurance plan through the Nebraska Association of County Officials. Deputy Clerk Becky Hardy said the premium was increasing by 3.98 percent from the prior plan.

The board approved continuing with Blue Cross Blue Shield, with the county providing 78 percent of the cost of the health insurance premium and the employee responsible for 22 percent. The board approved keeping the cash in lieu of insurance payment at 75 percent of the portion of the premium the county would pay.

The board approved a special designated liquor license application for Wandering Well of Hastings for an event May 20. Teresa Hampton with Wandering Well said the license would run from 3 p.m. until 1 a.m. May 20 during a wedding reception at the Carson Ranch. Hampton said the business would have security on site.

In a final action item Tuesday, the commissioners approved declaring May as Mental Health Awareness Month. Small said the request was made by the National Association of County Officials.

Small said he serves on the Region 4 Behavioral Health Board, and the board receives statistics for each county in the region on the number of people who are placed into emergency protective custody.

“It is alarming,” Small said.

Deibler said the mental health services provided by Region 4 are a necessity.

“Without these services, there would be loss of life,” Deibler said. “It is uncomfortable to deal with those situations, but the need is there.”

Deibler said he believed the sheriff’s department had saved two lives recently working with people having mental health issues who would have otherwise likely harmed themselves.

During his report Tuesday, Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin reported asphalt replacement work on Meadville Avenue began Monday. Turpin said Western Engineering milled down the asphalt and found sub-grade replacement was not needed, so they began placing the first layer of hot-mix asphalt.

“They are going to work south of the Sand Draw first, then go to the north end,” Turpin said. “We did ditch cleaning on Meadville Avenue ahead of the paving project.”

Small said the girders for the Sand Draw bridge project on Meadville Avenue would be trucked into the area May 10-11. He said it would be quite a thing to see, as the girders are 120 feet in length and weigh 52 tons.

Turpin told the commissioners Three River was upgrading phone lines in the county to fiber in various areas. He said he did not see any issues with the project and approved the company to work in county right of way.

Turpin said the roads department was patching holes on Moon Lake Avenue and was trying to maintain rough roads in the county, though that remained difficult due to the lack of moisture.

The next meeting of the Brown County Commissioners is scheduled for 1:15 p.m. May 16.

* NSAA unveils spring Academic All-State Awards

(Posted 7:45 a.m. May 3)

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

Area students receiving Academic All-State awards from the NSAA for the spring season include:

Ainsworth
Cole Bodeman and Cameryn Goochey in music, Trey Appelt and Logan Schroedl in boys track and field, and Cameryn Goochey and Dakota Stutzman in girls track and field.

Keya Paha County
Jameson Painter in boys track and field, and Karlene Kepler in girls track and field.

Rock County
Garrett May and Kol Otten in golf, Bralee Jepsen and Morgan Lewis in music, Raden Orton in boys track and field, and Brooklyn Buell in girls track and field.

Stuart
Anthony Heiser and Schuyler Mustin in boys golf, Chiana Tubbs in music, Cory Gubbels and Luke Ludwig in boys track and field, and Sydney Estill and Lacey Paxton in girls track and field.

West Holt
Isaac Pistulka in boys golf, Maci Nemetz and Madeline Rentschler in music, Carter Gotschall and Tyler Jelinek in boys track and field, and Maci Nemetz and Kelcie Osborne in girls track and field.

Sandhills
Kyle Cox and Ross Martindale in music, Kyle Cox in boys track and field, and Taylor Weber in girls track and field.

Valentine
Logan Muirhead in boys golf, Grace Maunu and James Woodraska in music, Connor Kreutner and Jack Lancaster in boys track and field, and Alexis Long and Malika Monroe in girls track and field.

* Culvert from 2019 flooding repaired in Rock County

(Posted 6:30 a.m. May 3)

During Tuesday’s meeting of the Rock County Commissioners, Roads Foreman Darrell Olson told the commissioners, due to weather, there are a lot of breakouts on county roads. Olson said the roads crew is addressing them.

The Jilg culvert from the 2019 flooding has been replaced.  The project will be turned into the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency and the county will then be reimbursed approximately $300,000.

Olson discussed repairs to equipment that were needed, and talked about listing the department’s AMZ machine as surplus equipment and contract out the sealing of cracks on the county’s paved roads going forward. Olson will research what the cost will be to contract for the sealing work.

Larry Buell with the Rock County Community Foundation met with the commissioners with updates.  The Community Center location needs changed.  They need to move it to the West 60’.  Buell said the plan is to break ground in July.  

Joe Conteras met with the commissioners to discuss the grounds position. The board approved hiring Joe Conteras for the grounds position.

Judy Walters met with the commissioners on appointing Jake Graff as the new Veteran Service Officer. Austin Beard has resigned from the position recently. The commissioners approved Graff as the county’s Veteran Service Officer.

Mitch Dean presented the commissioners with his annual weed report. The board approved the annual report as presented.

Sheriff Ben Shelbourn met with the commissioners to discuss purchasing an incinerator for prescription drug disposal. It was discussed that maybe surrounding counties might also have the need for prescription drug disposal. Shelbourn will contact other counties and ask if they would be willing to share in the cost of the purchase. The board tabled the item until its next meeting.

The board met with Susan Cook & Travis Connot from the National Parks Service by telephone to discuss a grant for cedar tree removal along the Niobrara River corridor that is available to Cherry, Brown, Keya Paha and Rock counties.

Kasey Foster representing the Bassett Country Club met with the commissioners for approval of a Special Designated Liquor License for the June Sandhills Ranch Expo. The board approved the license for June 20-22.

The next meeting of the Rock County Commissioners is scheduled for 9 a.m. May 16.

* Game & Parks survey shows severity of winter kill

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

Surveys by the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission show many Sandhills lakes fared better than expected after a harsh winter led to fish kills.

Deep snow over thick ice this winter caused oxygen depletion in many of the region’s most shallow and vegetated lakes, causing fish and the plants they rely upon for survival to die.

As surveys are completed, Game and Parks is developing a stocking plan to replenish the fish populations where needed.

Anglers looking for the most recent information about winterkill surveys may follow the NGPC Fisheries Facebook page. They also can contact Game and Parks fisheries biologists at the Alliance, Valentine and Norfolk offices.

Surveyed lakes with severe winterkill:

Brown County: Cozad Lake at South Pine Wildlife Management Area, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Tower Lake on Yellowthroat WMA.

Cherry County: Watts, Duck and West Long lakes on Valentine National Wildlife Refuge

Garden County: Smith Lake and Island lakes on Crescent Lake NWR

Rock County: Bassett City Lakes

Sheridan County: Smith Lake WMA

Surveyed lakes with partial winterkill:

Brown County: Willow Lake WMA

Cherry County: Pelican and Hackberry lakes on Valentine NWR

Rock County: Twin Lakes WMA

Surveyed lakes with minor or no winterkill:

Cherry County: Clear, Dewey and Rice lakes on Valentine NWR, Cottonwood-Steverson WMA

Garden County: Crane Lake on Crescent Lake NWR, Crescent Lake WMA

Grant County: Avocet Lake WMA

Lakes not surveyed with probable significant winterkill:

Garden County: Island Lake on Crescent Lake NWR

Rock County: Peterson Lake WMA

Sioux County: Agate and Boardgate reservoirs on the Oglala National Grassland

Lakes not surveyed with probable partial winterkill:

Cherry County: Shell Lake WMA

Sheridan County: Walgren Lake State Recreation Area

Lakes not surveyed with probable high survival:

Cherry County: Home Valley Lake

Grant County: Frye Lake WMA

* Brown County Commissioners Tuesday agenda

(Posted 2:45 p.m. May 1)

Brown County Commissioners
Meeting 1:15 p.m. Tuesday, May 2
Brown County Courthouse
Agenda

1:15 p.m.  Roll Call.

Approve minutes of the 4-18-2023 Commissioner meeting.

Kenneth Turpin – Road Department Update

1:15 p.m.   Susan Cook – (telephonic) National Park Service Superintendent – Niobrara Scenic River – Grant for Cedar tree removal – Small

1:30 p.m. Teresa Hampton – (telephonic) Special Designated Liquor License For May 20, 2023 @ Carson Ranch in Brown County – Hampton

1:45 p.m. Judy Walters – Veteran Committee Veteran Service Officer position

Request for Jack Anderson to replace Tom Collin on the Veteran Committee – Walters

Blue Cross Blue Shield Renewal rates for 2023-2024; Set employee contributions & Cash in Lieu for 2023 – 2024 plan year – Hardy

2 p.m.    Caleb Johnson – telephonic – Resolution to Establish other debt service fund, Ambulance building bond, and other capital projects fund, Ambulance building – Johnson

Sheriff Deibler purchase new cruiser, discuss law enforcement contract with the city – Deibler

Sheriff Office obtain credit card from Union Bank and Trust – Deibler

Resolution Declaring May as Mental Health Awareness month – Small

Review Brown County Road Department employee job performance evaluations and recommend merit raises – Turpin

* Brown County Sheriff’s Department weekly summary

(Posted 12:15 p.m. May 1)

April 23

  • During a joint checkpoint stop with Nebraska State Patrol 4 male subjects were booked into Brown County Jail on charges of possession of controlled substance.
  • Issued a speeding citation to a female subject in Ainsworth.
  • Responded to report of subject leaving a business on Hwy 20 who appeared to be intoxicated. Officers were unable to find the individual.
  • Received a report of child abuse from outside of Brown County jurisdiction. Individuals were advised to contact law enforcement in South Dakota.
  • Received a report of Blk cow standing along side Hwy 183 near Keller Park. The cow was pushed back along the fence and owner notified to come move the cow.

April 24

  • Received a report of calves out on the road South of Long Pine. The owner was advised and would get them in.
  • Two individuals with Brown County warrants were picked up in Dawes County. Coordinated with Dawes County jail on prisoner transfer to Brown County.
  • Responded to report of dogs barking near Pine St.
  • Received instruction from Ainsworth Volunteer Fire Chief Brad Fiala that there is absolutely no burning in Brown County until further notice. This includes covered fire pits in city limits.
  • Responded to a second report of dogs barking near Pine St. The owner moved the dogs inside.
  • 4 individuals bonded out of Brown County jail with court appearance dates in June.
  • Responded to a report of theft in rural Brown County.
  • Responded to a report of loud noises from an Ainsworth residence. Officers asked individuals to keep the noise down.

April 25

  • Brown County Ambulance crew transported Air crew from the Airport to Brown County Hospital and back to the Airport.
  • Brown County deputies transported an individual back from Faith Regional to Brown County jail on an arrest warrant.
  • Received a security call from an alarm from a local bank which was a false alarm.
  • Brown County Ambulance staff responded to a request for ambulance in rural Brown County. The individual was not transported.
  • Assisted a gentleman from Secure Collateral Management with a reposition he had trouble contacting owner.
  • Responded to a 911 call reporting a physical altercation in Ainsworth. Officers were able to deescalate the situation and individuals left the scene.

April 26

  • Ainsworth Ambulance transported a patient from Long Pine to Rock County Hospital.
  • Received a report of a stray dog on East 2nd St. The dog was not located at this time.
  • Provided traffic control for cattle crossing near Moon Lake Ave to cross Hwy 20.
  • Picked up an individual from Custer County being held on an Arrest Warrant from Brown County. The individual was booked into the Brown County jail.
  • Responded to a report of stray dog near 1st and Main. Officers were unable to locate the dog.

April 27

  • Responded to a report of a speeding vehicle with TX plates eastbound into Brown County. The driver was not located on Hwy 20.
  • Provided traffic control for a funeral in Johnstown.
  • Individual walked into the Brown County Sheriff’s office to complete a Voluntary Statement regarding harassment. This is an ongoing investigation.
  • Responded to a report of abandoned vehicle int the intersection of Woodward and Hwy 20. The vehicle was successfully moved to the side of the road until it could be towed away.
  • Responded to a report of dogs getting loose and in the neighbor’s yard. The owner was enroute home and put them back in his yard.
  • Responded to a traffic complaint about trucks parked the wrong way in front of the Post Office in Long Pine.
  • Released an inmate on bond.
  • Brown County Ambulance transported a patient from Brown County to Rock County and back.

April 28

  • Received a report of a possible identity theft call from local Ainsworth resident. The resident was advised to contact the Attorney General Fraud line and their bank as soon as possible.
  • Responded to several reports of an aggressive dog at Ainsworth Community Schools. The dog had already been put back into the yard and the owner was contacted about the dog getting loose.
  • Received a report of shooting from the roadway outside of Long Pine. This is an ongoing investigation.
  • Responded to a report of cattle out on Hwy 20 near Rauscher Avenue. The owner was notified, and the cattle were put back to pasture.

April 29

  • Received a black wallet found on Woodward St. Please call Brown County Sheriff’s office to identify and claim.
  • Provided civil standby while personal property removed from a residence in Ainsworth.
  • Brown County Ambulance transported an Ainsworth resident to the Brown County Hospital

Weekly Summary
0     -Burn Permits
18   -Incident Reports
182 -Telephone Calls
5     -911 calls
5    -Vin Inspections
1    -Gun Permits

* Burn ban temporarily lifted in the area

(Posted 9:15 a.m. May 1)

Ainsworth Fire Chief Brad Fiala reported Monday the burn ban that had been in effect for Brown, Rock and Keya Paha counties has now been temporarily lifted.

Landowners needing to conduct controlled burns on their property must contact their local fire department to obtain a burn permit. Conditions have improved to allow burning of brush or tree piles or prescribed burning on pastures.

Landowners are encouraged to closely monitor any controlled burns, as the potential still exists for fires to get out of control and spread.

The Niobrara Valley Preserve is conducting a controlled burn beginning at 11 a.m. Monday approximately 3 miles south and 1 mile east of the Norden bridge.

Anyone needing more information on burn permits or controlled burning may contact their local fire chief.

 

 

 

 

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